Huitlacoche – Aquí es Texcoco and Olympic Mercado

I wonder how many gringos had huitlacoche for both lunch and dinner yesterday? Well, I did.

Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on the corn plant, and the unappetizing english translation is corn smut. It has a rich mushroomy, corny sort of flavor that gives a delicious earthy undertone to other foods, particularly tortillas and cheese, in my experience.

I’ve heard it called Mexican caviar, and although I had tried it a few times before, I really started to focus on it after reading the wonderful novel Policía de Ciudad Juárez by Miguel Ángel Chávez Díaz de León. His main character is fascinated amost to point of obsession with huitlacoche, and orders it wherever he can find it.

I had two entirely different experiences with huitlacoche yesterday.

P1060422-002

The first was at a food stand in the Olympic Mercado, where Los Angeles vendors set up shop on Saturdays. I had a huarache de huitlacoche. It is called a huarache because the masa is formed in the shape of a sandal, like a super-thick tortilla. (No, I haven’t yet figured out the difference between a huarache and a chancla, which translates a flip-flop sandal) The corn aspects of the huitlacoche flavor blended beautifully with the toasted corn flavor of the huarache, and they were balanced nicely by the melted cheese.

P1060624-001

In the evening, I drove out to Bell Gardens, near Commerce, to Aquí es Texcoco for their spectacular roast lamb. I’ll tell you about that in another post, but right now, you need to know about the “quesataco” de huitlacoche.

In one of the most unusual presentations I’ve ever seen, they brought out sort of a quesadilla that didn’t have a tortilla wrapper, but rather crunchy, toasted cheese instead. Filled with melted white cheese and huitlacoche, it was one of the most delicious things I’ve put in my mouth this year. Interestingly, I found that taking a bite of tortilla with it brought out the flavor of the cheese and the huitlacoche even more.

Here’s the website for Aquí es Texcoco: http://www.aquiestexcoco.com/

And the Olympic Mercado is where it always is – on Olympic Boulevard east of the fashion district.

Advertisements

YXTA – Gringas al Pastor

P1020464-001

I’ve passed by YXTA a number of times, but never had the opportunity to try it. I was curious, though, for two reasons. First, how in heck do you pronounce YXTA? Well, you do pronounce the X, so it sounds like “eeks-ta.” Second, what is an attractive, upscale-looking restaurant doing in that dreary stretch of downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by warehouses, distributors and factories? The answer to that is now a moot point, because YXTA is worth a trip, no matter where it’s located.

I was invited to a preview of AltaMed’s annual fund-raiser East L.A. Meets Napa, and we made a stop at YXTA for their wonderful tacos, and a sampling of Trujillo wines. The US vs Belgium World Cup game was playing on the TVs as we arrived, which fit perfectly with the casual restaurant/bar atmosphere, and added to the fun mood of the outing. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long enough to see the disappointing outcome of the game.

I’ve seen Gringas on menus in Mexico, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen them this side of the border. As we all know, a gringa in Latin America is an American, or english-speaking woman. In food parlance, though, it is a special type of taco. Wikipedia says the name may come from the dark spots on the grilled tortilla that resemble the freckles on a gringa’s skin.

The gringas at YXTA were beautifully roasted marinated pork (pastor), served on a flour tortilla with lots of gooey melted cheese, onions, cilantro, chile de arbol salsa and avocado salsa. The treatment was sort of like a quesadilla, but it packed a flavor punch way beyond any quesadilla I’ve ever been served – and that includes the Olympic Mercado where all the street vendors appear on Saturdays, not that far from YXTA.

I’m looking forward to seeing what YXTA is serving at the July 18 East L.A. Meets Napa main event. I’ll be delighted if they go with the Gringas, but whatever they decide, I know I’ll be a happy guy.

Here’s the website: http://yxta.net/