Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cochinita Pibil Tacos- Once Campeon!

I lived in Manizales, Colombia for four years where I became a fan of Once Caldas. Last night my team won its third championship in fifty years. Though I missed out on the celebration, there was a miniature celebration in my mouth thanks to Jaquie's amazing tacos

What better food to eat while watching your hometown soccer team win the championship of a lifetime than cochinita pibil tacos, currently my favorite food.

I first tried cochinita pibil when Jaquie brought some back frozen from Texas. She won't disclose the recipe but here's one from the food network.
First you need pork loin. After browsing every meat section of every supermarket we've visited in the past three years, we finally found pork loin. Good Luck for those who live in NYC.

The pork is roasted in the oven, shredded and cooked with achiote, orange juice and pineapple juice. The pork is then topped with habanero pepper (very spicy) and lime juice marinated onions and served on warm corn tortillas. These tacos are a wonderful delicacy. The first bite reveals the pork with it's acidic fruity essence. The onions deliver a limey spicy sting that dances with the pork to produce a joyous Mmmm.

To neutralize the heat and because avocados are just so freaking good, Jaquie mixed together some pico de gallo with avocado. My fifth and sixth tacos had this as a topping because i'm not as brave as Jaquie when it comes to habaneros. 

To wash down all the great food, the beers we picked up were Mexican Tecate and Colombian Aguila to honor the tacos and my team. Five beers and Six tacos later, I was still yelling... ONCE CALDAS CAMPEON!!! 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Delicious Chimi Trucks, Where Are You?

Ever since I started writing this blog, my calorie consumption has increased a tiny bit. Workout routines were boring me, so I decided to join a zog sports soccer team. Soccer is a huge part of Latin American culture. If you ask me, it's one of the three elements that define Latin passion. The other two being music and food. Five minutes into our first game, I sacrificed my right ankle to stop a goal. I crawled off the field in agony and served my team as the limp cheerleader. In the second half, a teammate needed to catch his breath and I decided to hop on the field to serve as a momentary distraction, probably not my smartest choice of the night.

As easy as I limped off, I hopped toward an assist and scored a goal with my bad foot. My foot felt the agony, but my heart screamed "GOOOOOAAAALLL!!!".

I immediately had flashbacks of watching the 1990 world cup at my Aunt's house in Colombia. Freddy Rincon (Colombian Striker) scored the first goal any team had scored on Germany that year.

I remember the empanada I squished in my hand as I jumped up and down celebrating with the family. The celebration continued with beers, aguardiente that I managed to steal a few sips of at my 10 years of age, and fritanga (fried meats, potatoes and yuca). Though very greasy and fattening, fritanga is the perfect food to fuel a night of celebration.

Speaking of fritanga, as I limped to the subway on 215th street on the tip of Manhattan, I saw glowing lights in the distance. As I got closer, I realized that what looked like a strip club was actually a famed chimi truck (Dominican meat sandwich truck). Since it was my first time eating from a chimi truck, I ordered a regular chimi and snapped a few pictures on my phone.

Pig skin, pig ears and pig snout were sitting hot ready to be served along with other frituras (Dominican name for fritanga). Had I not sprained my ankle, my appetite might have allowed me to consume the frituras but the chimi would have to do.

Based on my preconceived notions of what a chimi sandwich should taste like, I'm assuming there are better options out there. This tasted like a sad meatloaf sandwich with overwhelming ketchup and bbq sauce. So, I want to plead somebody to point me in the right direction of a true chimi truck that will, hopefully, drive me to revisit this whole post.

Anyway, completely off the subject, I would like to state that I <3 New York. I just saw an African American guy wearing a Mexican sombrero and holding a bicycle seat on a subway platform. What a city...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tacos and Grasshopper Quesadillas at Toloache

So you think you've tasted real Mexican food. But have you? A recent surge of Mexican eateries would suggest that you probably have, yet many restaurants that claim to be authentic still offer the foods popularized by the fast food or tex-mex food culture. I don't blame these restaurant owners because it's the simplest and surest way to capitalize on customers that want some "Mexican Food". Yet, I truly respect the restauranteurs that are keeping it real and pioneering the authentic Mexican food movement. Today I’m going to tell you about one of these places.

Toloache (251 W 50th St New York, NY 10019 (212) 581-1818) is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in New York, and it’s also a flower that is used to make love potions. While you might wonder whether they spiked our drinks to make us fall in love with the place, there was no love potion needed. The environment is very warm and welcoming; it makes me feel as if I am at a family member's house. Sitting at the food bar made us feel more at home as we interacted with the woman in charge of making the guacamole along with some other key dishes including our carefully chosen grasshoppers (I know you just can't wait but keep reading).

There is a choice of three different types of guacamole but one stood out to our fire breathing liking. The Rojo-Spicy is made with the usual suspects (onion, avocado, tomato) and chipotle peppers served with queso fresco on top. For the record, this is one of the better guacamoles i've tasted even if it looks like it’s been sitting all day because of it's dark color. Thankfully, the color is from the dark red color of the chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeƱos).

Toloache is also where I first tasted huitlacoche (corn smut) which is a fungus that grows on corn. It may sound gross but it has the deepest, richest flavor of any plant or mushroom I have tasted. Here's a picture of how it looks on corn. But really, the pairing of the huitlacoche and the acidic nopales in these tacos made for an instant hit.

We also tried the veal tacos which Jaquie enjoyed very much. I thought it was gamey at first, but adding some lime juice complimented the great flavors that were meant to be in the spot light.

(Drum roll)... A few years back, I ate sour cream and onion grasshoppers as a dare while everyone around me screamed "EWWWWW". You may or may not think that eating bugs is disgusting but, believe it or not, this is the true spirit of ancient latin food. Before the conquistadors introduced pigs, chickens and cattle to the native diet, bugs were an important source of protein.

While my first experience wasn’t exactly exceptional, I could eat Toloache’s quesadilla de chapulines (grasshoppers) again and again. The chapulines themselves were nutty and I detected a chili seasoning though Jaquie thought I was crazy and the lady behind the bar said they were only seasoned with lime, salt and olive oil. Who am I to argue with two Mexican ladies about Mexican food?

This was my fourth visit and the food was once again outstanding. I had the Toloache margarita, which had hibiscus and muddled blueberries, which lended a natural sweetness and sealed the deal for the overall dinner.... Or at least that's what I thought until the waiter brought us two glasses of tequila on the house to end the evening on a fantastic note. This moment marks a benchmark of the first free drink beyondburritos recieves.

I strongly suggest that you try Toloache and allow yourself to venture slightly outside your comfort zone or stick to the delectable dishes that are more customary. Prices are in the mid-range with an order of tacos ranging from $10-$15 and entrees from $20-$30.
Toloache on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One, Two, Three Tacos WOW!! at the Old Ball Game

A visit to Citi field is only complete with some ballpark food. Even though hot dogs, pretzels and cracker jacks have been the staple foods of New York baseball since I can remember, a little diversity is certainly welcome. The dawning of a new stadium for the Mets opens the opportunity to satisfy the diverse taste buds of this equally diverse fan base.

I would have expected Dominican food to be the representation of Latin food since most of the Mets players are from the Dominican Republic, and they are the 2nd largest Latin nationality in terms of population in New York. I guess the truth still stands that Mexican cuisine is the reigning ambassador of the Latin food world across the U.S. (hence the name of this website).

Though Citi field would benefit from some mangu (popular Dominican plantain-based dish), it needs to be said that the Taqueria in the outfield food court has done a good job of mass producing some tasty tacos. In the seventh inning Jaquie and I descended from our nosebleed seats to wait impatiently on a long line for our Metsican treat.

The elusive elote was the best I have tasted and even tops the elotes I had in Jackson Heights. It was everything you can ask for from a piece of corn, juicy, sweet and delicately crumbled cheese and chili powder with every bite.

Believe it or not, the steak tacos score a 7 out of 10 on Jaquie's authenticity scale mainly because of the poor quality of the tortillas. The steak was seasoned just right and the cilantro and lime brought out its fiery flavors. The chicken mole tacos tasted nothing like mole though they were still pretty good solely based on flavor.

Taco numero uno (#1) on my list of Citi field tacos was the taco al pastor (pork taco). The meat was shredded tender and cooked with a spicy flavorful sauce. Again, the cilantro and lime highlighted everything. While not very authentic, they were a nice variation from the typical ball park cuisine.

The Salsa was medium spicy. If I remember it correctly, it was completely gone after the tacos were done; it ended up on our fingers and in our bellies.

Along with the must-have beers and our thunderous screams cheering on the Mets, the food at Taqueria made for a great night at the ball game. Not to mention that the Mets won the game in extra innings, a successful end to an enjoyable evening.