Let’s Taco-about Tortillas

Tortillas? Corn or flour? Soft or hard shell?

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Last Class Dr. Alvarez blessed us with fresh corn tortillas and to say It made my morning would be an understatement. The corn tortillas were surprisingly still warm and I stole two from the pile. I sat in my chair, held the tortillas close to my nose, closed my eyes and breathed in a long whiff.  I pictured grains running between my hands, the tortillas gave off a corn and earthy and grainy smell, similar to fresh plie wood being cut. The tan-colored tortilla felt strong in my hand but had the flexibility to it. It easily tore apart with light force but could handle chicken, guacamole, salsa, onions and more. In fact, laying on the napkin in front of me, the tortilla was crying to be filled with chicken, salsa and sour cream or maybe I were dreaming that.

Dr. Alvarez mentioned tortillas can make or break tacos, they should not be rubbery or plastic tasting but should be fresh and made that day! After class that day, I went home and threw out my cheap key foods corn tortillas, because life is too short to have bad tortillas. Also, so once you try a fresh corn tortilla there is no going back!

Taqueria Coatzingo

Another Restaurant Alert!

Last week I took the trip out to Jackson Heights to visit Taqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt Avenue. This restaurant put my expectations of Mexican dishes very high. The last restaurant I went to I was craving more “oomf” and flavor and Taqueria Coatzingo gave me so much flavor, my taste buds were dancing!

When I stepped into Taqueria Coatzingo I was greeted with smiles and Spanish and English hellos. A waitress gestured for me to pick any table and I flashed a shy smile at her. Immediately after choosing a table a fresh basket of corn chips and salsa was presented in front of me. I put the three-page menu aside and scarfed down a handful of chips. The chips were warm and the salsa just spicy enough to enjoy without struggling. After stuffing my face, I opened the menu, Mexican dishes were listed in Spanish and English translations were provided below. Although I haven’t been to many authentic Mexican restaurants, I had a good feeling whatever I was going to get because the menu was in Spanish. The menu listed tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, and more, I had to have my waitress give me more time to choose a dish.

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After studying the menu like I was going to be graded on it, I chose spicy pork tacos and my friend went with pork Chalupas. While waiting and munching on chips and salsa, I watched the four waitresses zip around the dining room, taking orders, balancing trays of sizzling dishes and conversing with each other in Spanish. These women were professionals. Coming from working in the restaurant industry, it is not easy to be a waitress, the memorization, balancing of dishes, bussing tables all can cause stress. But the waitress the entire time I was there had smiles and shared jokes between themselves all while serving their tables.

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After about 10 minutes our dishes arrived. My eyes grew big and my mouth watery, starting down three beautiful tacos sat in front of me. I did not waste a second and took a bite like a dog being given a piece of food at the dinner table. The guacamole on top of the taco with the spicy pork created delicious goodness in my mouth. After many bites, I could not put my finger on the spice I was tasting, it was almost a sweetness to every bite, I assume it was spice but could be something else! I enjoyed the jalapeno, radish, and slice of lime that I was given on the side and appreciated each taco having two tortillas, the first time I saw this! Do most authentic Mexican tacos have two tortillas? After my second taco, I knew the third one had to be taken to go and the waitress kindly wrapped it up for me. Which I ate later that night and was still very delicious. If that does not make you want to try this Jackson heights gem I don’t know what does!

Taqueria Coatzingo I will be back!

 

El Patron

Last week, I visited my first restaurant for the Taco Literacy class. On a quiet Wednesday night, I ventured to El Patron on Northern Boulevard in Flushing Queens. The Mexican grill is known for its tequila margaritas served from an actual Patron bottle! Although I did not order their famous Patron Margaritas, I have tried them and make sure you have a designated driver if you are interested in ordering one!

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El Patron has a spacious two-floor dining room with a small bar, the dim lighting, and the casual scene makes it a perfect place for a first date. Chips and salsa are complimentary but I recommend ordering the freshly table-side made guacamole!

Not a surprise, I ordered the chicken tacos and my boyfriend ordered the combo Patron, which serves pork tostada, pork taco, chicken enchilada with rice and beans on the side. Our food came out in a quick manner. My chicken tacos were tasty but left me craving more flavor, which is disappointing because it is a Mexican restaurant. The rice and beans side could have used more flavor also. The Patron combo was great if you can’t decide what to order or want to split a dish with a friend. Again the dish was not bad but I was looking for more flavor!

 

All in all, El Patron is not on the top of the list for must-try Mexican restaurants in the Queens area. But if you are looking for a fun casual Mexican restaurant with not high expectations of the Mexican dishes, this place is for you!

 

 

Tamarinds and Pulparindo

Hey Taco Lovers! Two weeks ago Dr. Alvarez introduced the class to Tamarind, which is an indigenous raw fruit to tropical Africa. It can be eaten in its raw form or enjoyed in a variety of culinary uses.

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The raw fruit displays a brownish bumpy rough surface with a hard shell. After cracking its shell you can find the brownish seeds inside. The taste is a combination of sweet and sour, reminding me of a sour patch kid but much better. It’s a naturally tasting sour fruit so it has many uses.

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Tamarind varies in culinary uses such as seed oil, alcoholic drinks, teas, medicine, and even candy. But it’s mostly enjoyed as a fruit. Pulparindo is one-way Tamarind is used. The Mexican candy is gummy like texture, that has a spicy kick.

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I enjoyed trying Pulparindo but do not see myself grabbing it when craving candy. I am more of a chocolate lover than a candy lover!

Beyond the Plate

 

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Hello Taco lovers! After having a hiatus due to the flu season, I am back to my regular postings. Before joining Taco Literacy class, I surprisingly was already a taco lover. I have been spoiled by growing up with parents that have huge green thumbs and an abundant garden for the past two years. So with my parent’s fresh organic produce and my love for tacos, I began to experiment with cooking. Which is very uncommon, because I am more of a baker than a cook. Nonetheless, I began experimenting with pan-frying beer-battered fish, making my own special spicy mayo sauce and making fresh salsa! I quickly became obsessed with making salsa! I use one large onion, 4 fresh tomatoes, freshly squeezed lime juice, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cilantro.

By experimenting with taco making, it lead me to become a more confident cook. The end product of my dish gave me so much happiness and a drive to continue cooking. Now that the semester has picked up and I am searching for restaurants to visit, trying new dishes, and exploring the Mexican food culture, I have been trying to think about the relationship a person has to cooking. Who is behind the plate in front of me and does the dish represent more than food?

Personally, I believe it goes beyond the plate and food is more than just nutrient, it’s a creation and unites people together. I gained satisfaction in helping my parents grow their own garden and help create dishes because yes it was fun but also I am in control of the process and the creation. My goal for this semester when I visit restaurants and explore the Mexican food scene is to push myself to engage with the people that are serving me the dishes and their relationship to the restaurant and the food.

 

Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

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When Dr. Alvarez asked me to speak on the appropriation of cultures specifically the Mexican culture, I was embarrassed. Only due to the ignorance I had. I have been very lucky to travel throughout Europe and North America trying all different kinds of foods and traditional dishes. I would pride myself on being adventurous and trying different cultures’ food. After watching the video on Cultural appropriation shown in class, I began to question if feeling prideful and showcasing my cultured esthetic was insincere and rude. I had this “come to Jesus moment” while watching, I too have been guilty of appropriating cultures. I do not see an issue with enjoying various cuisine, but I would like to step outside myself and pay respects to the culture that is sharing their food with me. Therefore, maybe dig deeper into the culture’s history, or educate myself more on their involvement in my neighborhood. If I care enough about this culture’s famous dishes, I should care about their culture as a whole and any issues their facing.

After class on Thursday, I surfed the internet watching various videos on Culture Appropriation and read about 5 different blogs, which were varied in opinions. The video below stuck out to me because the host Danielle Bainbridge makes it clear, Culture in itself involves sharing, it is this possession shared among a community. Yet here we are in the 20th century trying to make sense of this issue and fix it. Do we stop enjoying other cultures completely or try to find a solution. I believe if there could be any solution it would be to educate others and ourselves on the cultures we are respectably enjoying. Make time to learn about various cultures, because people only fear what they do not understand. If only we have humans took the time to educate ourselves on what seems different to us, the less hate we would have. (or I hope)!