Sunday, September 9, 2007

Los Angeles, day 3

Late Thursday morning I was headed for the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City when I happened to pass a Oaxacan place I had heard about and stopped in to check it out. It's more of a restaurant than a stand, and I took a seat in the semi-outdoor dining room, which is separated from Venice Ave by only a clear plastic wall and a bus stop.

I told the waitress I wasn't very hungry, but that I wanted to try something particularly Oaxacan. She was happy to make a couple of suggestions, and I decided on a memela, one taco de tazajo, and a glass of horchata. In a moment she returned with the horchata, along with fresh chips and some delicious crisp, spicy, dark salsa, which was surprisingly refreshing in the heat of the morning in the basin.

The memela, a thick fresh corn tortilla covered in beans, lard, and cheese, was fantastic. And the tezajo, beef cooked in the regional style, was also good, even if a little tough.

But the highlight of the meal really was the horchata: quite sweet, but still distinctly ricey, and topped with a pinch of crushed nuts - easily the best I've had.

I had hoped to pick up a sweet tamal to go, but unfortunately they wouldn't be done for another hour. I thanked my hosts for the good meal - and the horchata in particular - and contently got back into the traffic. I didn't even really mind that the museum was closed.

Los Angeles, day 2

After work Wednesday, I headed to Los Feliz to check out a taco stand on Hillhurst Ave recommended by my friend Jack.

Yuca's was opened by Jaime and Socorro Herrera in 1976 and has been meet with great praise almost ever since. Hanging out at my table in the canopied dining area for just a short time, I could tell this taco stand was a staple of the mostly norteamericano neighborhood surrounding it.

Given that Yuca's specializes in Yucatan style cuisine, I decided on tacos de cochinita pibil. The tortillas may not have been handmade, but they were good, and they were doubled up, which I always apppreciate. And the shredded pork was wonderfully fruity and more tender than any I think I've had. Altogether, a great meal.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Los Angeles, day 1

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Southern California. Having never seen that part of the country, I was pretty excited about the trip - to see the desert, the Pacific Coast Highway, and of course, the tacos.

I arrived late Tuesday afternoon, dropped off my things at the hotel, and headed straight to East Los Angeles, intending to check out King Taco, an old chain of LA taco stands that seems to be well-loved. I pulled onto Olympic Blvd around dusk and there, among the smog emission stations and carnicerias, taco trucks were lining up for business along the sidewalks, and I changed my mind. My first stop was El Korita.

I was a little self concious in my flashy rental car, and being the only gringo on the block, but the warm smile of the man walking up to the truck at the same time and offering for me to order first (wearing a black shirt in the photo) put me right at ease. I ordered one taco al pastor and one de lengua, then stepped into the grocery across the parking lot for a bottle of Coke.

In no time my tacos were ready, and served through the window of the truck in beautiful, fresh, handmade tortillas with onions and cilantro. The lengua was tender and delicious, and the pastor, mildly sweet and spicy and juicy and cut from the rotisserie behind the window of the truck and, may have been the best I've had.

Dinner on the trunk of my rental car:

Though satisfied from El Korita, I was excited to try more, so I stopped at a truck across the boulevard and ordered two more - one chorizo and another al pastor. The man preparing the food signed through the window to ask whether I wanted roasted jalapeƱos and onions and I smiled back and nodded yes. I picked up the tacos and got back on the freeway.

As the sun went down, I drove west toward Santa Monica and took in the city. I parked on the pier, found an empty bench by some guys fishing, and sat down for the rest of my meal. The tacos may have suffered a little from the forty minutes in the car, but along with the friendly faces on the pier and the cool ocean air, it all made for a great welcome to the west coast.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Los Parados

I found myself on Ashley Phosphate Rd yesterday afternoon and stopped by Los Parados, an old favorite spot that I hadn't visited in almost a year. In that time they've grown from a small place with a few tables and a bar looking into the open kitchen to a much larger restaurant that includes the adjacent storefront. Thankfully, their delicious tacos al pastor seem not to have changed a bit.