Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tijuana [Part 1]

I've come to the conclusion that, even though Bill Esparza may think I have "blogger chops" when it comes to eating, I am not so cut out for the actual blogging thing. But it doesn't feel right to bow out without first posting about Tijuana.

I started reading Bill's blog, Street Gourmet LA, early this year. It quickly became my favorite LA food blog, partly because it was about delicious, fast, cheap food, but also because Bill writes about culture as well as food. His posts on restaurants in Mexico and Latin America didn't just make me hungry, they made me want to travel.

So when Abby of Pleasure Palate gave me an opportunity to join her in Tijuana on a weekend food tour organized by Bill, I jumped on that chance like Vivian on Totoro merchandise. It turned out to be an amazing weekend, with so much good food I can hardly believe it. See for yourself!

First stop: Tacos El Franc, home of some freaking delicious pork adobada/al pastor. I'm sorry, did you want to look a little more closely at that?

Yeah. This trip was going to be awesome. I spent whole minutes just staring at the spit. And the pork tasted as good as it looks. Juicy, flavorful, with an amazing char on the outside.

I had three items here: an al pastor taco, a cabeza taco, and a mulita, which is somewhere between a quesadilla and a taco. That is to say, it's awesome.

Before dinner, we stopped at La Diferencia for tamarind margaritas. I'm not much of a mixed drinks person, but these were insanely good. Not overly sweet and perfectly tart.

For dinner, we were headed to Tacos Salceados. I'd read about it on Bill's blog. In fact, that post was likely what convinced me to sign up for the trip in the first place. Let me show you why.

Behold: the quesataco.

Yes, that is a corn tortilla with fried cheese wrapped around the filling of your choice, and topped with fresh avocado, cream, and salsa. If you are anything like me, your reaction to this is that the quesataco sounds like the best idea ever, and you are wondering how soon you will be able to try such a magnificent concoction. It is indeed glorious. I had three of these bad boys: a New York steak and scallop quesataco, a shrimp quesataco, and a sweet quesataco. I do not recommend three quesatacos for the faint-of-belly. They are massive, and also topped with fried cheese, in case you forgot. Only those with unreasonable appetites like me should attempt such a thing.

I was able to snag a seat at the counter, where I could observe both the preparation of the food and the chicas in our group flirting brazenly with the cute taquero in the black shirt. One thing that is immediately evident from watching these guys is the amount of dedication and care that goes into this preparation. That turned out to be a theme at each place we visited, and it really seems to have made a difference. Each filling was paired with two or three excellent salsas. Even the condiments were impressive. I wish every meal came with complimentary plates of grilled pickled onions and fresh cucumber topped with cream.

The escabeche in particular was superb, delicately seasoned with herbs and locally produced olive oil. It could have been an afterthought. With such great tacos, who would blame Tacos Salceados for having mediocre escabeche? But this too was prepared with great care. It's one of many simple things which captures how great the trip was.

Stay tuned for chilied shrimp tacos, aguachile, tortas, and other incredibly delicious things!