Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tijuana [Part 2]

Our first day in Tijuana had exceeded my already high expectations. But the second day? It was, to borrow a phrase from Teddy Roosevelt, "just constant epic awesomeness".

We started the day at El Mazateño for seafood tacos. As good a breakfast as I can imagine.

Like the escabeche at Tacos Salceados, this complimentary broth had a lot more depth of flavor than you would expect from something so non-central to the meal.

It was at this stop where I learned, from Bill, to use "taco" as a verb. Here is my taco de camaron enchilado, or chilied shrimp, pre-tacoing. And here are my taco-ing supplies:


One of my favorite tacos from the trip. Seriously. And this is a trip during which I must have eaten around 20 tacos, all delicious. Spicy, chewy, crunchy (thanks to the lightly fried tortillas), and creamy all in the right ways.

The smoky, creamy marlin taco was no slouch either. I also got to try a little of the fish taco, which had an incredible seasoned batter. Everything I'd eaten so far was ridiculously good, and this was only the first stop of the day.

We headed next to Tacos El Poblano to try some carne asada tacos.

Here they use a blend of different cuts of beef cooked over mesquite, unlike the flat top prepared carne asada in LA.

Ok, you can't see the meat here. But it was delicious. The char on the meat makes all the difference.

I also had a tostada, which had a much smokier flavor than the taco. It was nice to experience the carne asada in two distinct ways.

Our next stop was Tortas Wash Mobile, a shack named after the adjacent car wash that has since closed.

They do one thing at Tortas Wash Mobile, which is make the best damn sandwich I have ever had.

The ingredients are simple: a ciabatta-like house made roll toasted on the grill, butterfly cut steak grilled over mesquite and left to rest in its own juices, a bit of mayonnaise, vinegary tomatoes and purple onions, and creamy guacamole. It may sound simple, and it is. It's also perfect.

Okay, they don't only make amazing tortas. This horchata was ridonkulously good, with a beautiful creaminess and a subtle yet rich flavor. If I could have just one meal from Tijuana available to me in LA, it would be a torta and horchata from Tortas Wash Mobile.

For my companions, this was about the time that belly fatigue began to set in, hard. After a full morning of non-stop taco consumption, finishing this torta proved beyond the limits of a normal human being. What my companions began to realize at this time is that I am not a normal human being. According to Wasima at Tiffin Unboxed, I sat on the trolley enthusiastically eating my torta, totally tuned out to the fact that my companions were watching me in awe. It's an image in which my husband finds endless amusement and about which I waffle between pride and embarrassment.

Bill made a change in plans and instead of another taqueria, we went to El Conchal, a shack across from the Mercado Hidalgo, for some incredible Sinaloan style seafood.

The aguachile, served in a molcajete, was sublime, with spicy yet delicate raw shrimp and scallops. We also had fresh clam on the shell. A delicious respite from the heavier fare earlier in the day.

Aaaaand, sadly, those were the last my pictures for day 2. We stopped by Caesar's, the original birthplace of the Caesar salad, which had been recently reopened by Chef Javier Plascencia, and a brewery for some drinks and snacks.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from our amazing meal with Chef Javier at Erizo Cebicheria. Suffice it to say that if you ever have the chance to eat his food, do not miss out. Our nine course tasting menu included tostaditas with different types of ceviche, a mindblowing octopus carpaccio, scallop ceviche in squid ink, a dreamy sea urchin "cappuccino", tacos with swordfish prepared like cochinita pibil, sopes with abalone chorizo, and seafood risotto. So much deliciousness and creativity. An outstanding experience.

We started day 3 of awesomeness with Tacos Aaron, which specializes in tacos varios or tacos de guisado. As Bill says, this style of taco "represents Mexican home cooking at the taco stand." Bill recommended the milanesa, chorizo español con huevo, and the chile relleno tacos.

I loved these tacos. They practically taste like comfort, and instantly evoked feelings I normally associate with foods I've eaten since childhood.

Tacos Aaron is one of two trucks we visited that day. The other was the legendary Mariscos Ruben.

As Bill likes to say, "Mexican Twitter is parking in the same spot for 20 years."

It is a testament to the quality of Bill's selections that each of them managed to impress despite competing for attention with each other. The marlin taquito was smoky, crunchy, and delicious beyond belief. The almejas gratinadas, or clams au gratin, are good enough to make you weep.

How else to close but to thank Bill, again, for the amazing trip? I came with high expectations and was still surprised at every turn. I cannot wait to do a trip like this again.