Mezcal Al Tocino

three strips of bacon

Before I even begin, let me get this out of the way: I am fully aware that there are people out there who believe that bacon is too damn trendy nowadays. To this I respond: a brick in the face.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to combine two of my life’s greatest loves: bacon and mezcal. Actually, I started thinking about this at least four months ago, but I am naturally lazy. Also, I really should have come up with this years ago, as the combination of smoked pig parts and this version of tequila (without the appellation d’origine contrôlée) is as intuitive as the proof of the Pythagorean theorem in Plato’s Meno, but I am stupid. Tomorrow finally became today, however, and I am happy to declare the experiment a success tempered by a high-school grade failure.

back window

I began with a bottle of Real De Magueyes Añejo, from San Luis Potosi. On its own this is a decent mezcal, maybe a bit sweet and not as smoky as something from Oaxaca, but really not bad for something in the $25 range. It’s just around the sweet spot for an infusion: something that’s not so bad that you wouldn’t drink it on its own, yet not good enough to make you feel like you’re paying an insult to its maker by messing with it. I removed enough volume (I’ll leave you to figure out how) from the bottle to shove three strips of cooked Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked (Dry-cured) bacon (cooled to room temperature), and let it sit in a dark cabinet for 4 days.

shit looks diseased

I then tossed it in the freezer for a couple of days to make the solids more manageable for filtering. I can’t imagine this part is optional, unless you’re a lunatic (as you’ll find out below).

Finally, it was time to re-bottle. I chose 7 oz swivel-top glass flasks for the target, just in case I lose my mind and want to use one as a gift.

prep area

The end product was still a bit sweeter than I wanted, so I pulled out some Benesin blanco (definitely from Oaxaca) and fine-tuned it to my palate.

i don't want no scrubs

The, er, fumes got to me on the third bottle and I decided that a special super-porky edition was necessary, so I muddled the bacon and topped it off with a little bit of extra-fine pig juice.

oh boy oh boy

oh boy oh boy oh boy

It turned out that this was too much for the gods, because a few minutes later I discovered that the seal on the bottles is indeed hermetic, and so the expanding fat had to make its way out in a more infuriating way (I may be Mexican, but cleaning floors is not in my nature).

oh boy oh boy oh boy

So, how is it? I don’t know… do you think you deserve this knowledge?

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Nopalitos para los mas Nopales

not so loco

La Palma recently started forcing cactus leaves onto its corn products. I wouldn’t eat the tortillas with just a dash of salt (unless you’re a vegetarian), but the huaraches are pretty spectacular.

Yes, I know I’ve been lost. I am trying.

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A Dish I Will Poop in Infamy

This is the worst thing I’ve ever done.

In betwen those two Chicharron gorditas what you see is Mac (well, Orecchetti) N’ Cheese… and a sausage.

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The BLT of the Post Racial Future

Behold the BLT of The Post Racial Future! Two chicharron gorditas, bacon, tomato, guacamole and no lettuce because the ‘L’ stands for ‘Love’.

I love you.

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Breakfast, Mexicant Style

The Top: Fried eggs, bacon.

The bottom: Huarache “sole” from La Palma Mexicatessen.

The jizzle: Sour cream and avocado salsa (also from La Palma).

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The Stable of Mexico

White people who don’t really know me very well like to introduce me to people they know who claim to be from Mexico City. In general, white people don’t understand that the only people who hate Mexicans more than the KKK are other Mexicans.

Most of these meets-n-greet turn into meets-n-who-the-fuck-is-this-asshole shortly after I ask these fellow “chilangos” what part of the city they’re from. This is because 95 percent of them are from The State Stable of Mexico. Yes, this is like me telling you I’m from NYC when I’m really from Jersey.

Yes, I understand that maybe it’s too complicated to explain to an outsider all of the ins-n-outs of the geography of your region of origin, and so you have adopted a standard answer to avoid further questions that may ruin the rest of your day (“Where is that?”)… but why you gotta lie to me?

Many years ago, my parents shamed me. They sold out and moved to El Establo de Mexico. ‘Cause you can ride your horse without worrying about picking up the poop, or something like that.

Imagine my surprise when they introduced me to a nice taqueria within their municipality. I may forgive my mother just for saving me from that late-night chicken salad sandwich. “Que, no quieres unos tacos?” Si se puede!

I offer no guarantee that I can get you there, since it was dark and we had to drive around in circles to bypass a couple of tractors blocking one of the streets (no, I am not embellishing), but maybe it is somewhere over here. I grabbed that location from an existing Google Earth map mark, but I feel that it could be accurate. (I don’t have any pictures either, as this was not a planned adventure.)

Their Al Pastor meat is cooked on a gas flame, but it is beautifully flavored. The salsas are not noteworthy, and their service is execrable, but yeah, these are good. At 5 pesos a piece, make sure you order in bulk so that you don’t have to queue up a whole year for seconds.

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The Three Kings of Tacos (Third Installment)

No, I did not leave Mexico City without eating tacos al pastor. Yes, I will disappoint you by confessing that my favorite ones in this massive metropolitan area are the best known. (My sister, whose boyfriend exported a trompo to Puerto Rico a few months ago, is feeling shamed as I type this sentence and doesn’t understand why—and won’t until she randomly finds this blog—till then she’ll just blame that strange sensation on being Mexican.)

I think that having an ultra-local al pastor favorite is a requirement for official post-Lebanese-migration citizenship in El D.F. If you can’t name at least one spot in your neighborhood that serves one that a visitor would not find repulsive, then you are like those New York dealers in The Wire, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you get shot just ’cause. This is probably why I rarely visit nowadays. I may have a passport, but I don’t have a land. Somebody get Milan Kundera, quick.

Still, I assure you that El Tizoncito serves the best tacos al pastor in Mexico City. Yes, they seem to waste a lot of money on lousy marketing (as evidenced by the flash animation of their logo through the ages) , but they still cook their meat with charcoal. No, they don’t tally your taco count by the number of paper squares on your plate anymore (they have too much crap on their menu now for that to work), but they still cook their meat with charcoal. Charcoal!

Your propane is weak. Charcoal, motherfucker.

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The Three Kings of Tacos (Second Installment)

If you’re an American citizen in Mexico and somebody stabs you and takes your passport… cheer up, chirpy! You have an excuse to visit the Embassy, which is conveniently located just a couple of blocks away from El Caminero (opposite the corner of Rio Lerma and Rio Poo—don’t let this be an omen).

Hopefully the stab wound won’t be fatal. You don’t want to miss this.

Also, if you’re bleeding heavily don’t get confused and end up in the location near the Revolution square. Yes, it’s run by the same company, and it almost has the same menu as the one near the Embassy (though slightly bigger, and therefore less focused, since it’s the larger restaurant), but their grills are seasoned very differently. (Also, the portions are inexplicably smaller, though the prices are the same.)

I know this grill seasoning stuff can be as believable as homeopathy, so just in case you have epistemic concerns there’s another explanation: The guys behind the grill, the man behind the register, the dude who brings your drinks… almost every single one of them has been working there since I can remember. (Even the welcome mat.) And I’ve been going there for… fuck, I am old.

Whatever you order, please get the consommé while you’re waiting. If you gave up on garbanzos after you discovered that hummus tastes better with butterbeans, it will make you believe again. I know it’s not a real consommé, in the French sense, since it’s not clear, but the fact that you care makes you a pedant. You’ll probably laugh at the coffee mug in which it’s served (I don’t think this is for iconoclastic reasons—they probably didn’t think they’d be making soup and so they didn’t buy bowls when they got started), too.

And don’t forget the cebollitas. They’re very, very fine onions. Again, it’s the grill. Trust me.

The tacos only come in large orders, so please arrive hungry. The smallest order is alleged to have three tacos, but you’ll probably count between 5 and 6 based on the number of tortillas you get and the amount of meat (no scientific instruments are used to dispense it). I usually go for the 9er Super Especial de Bistek, which is topped with a generous amount of cheese, onions, and bacon, and sandwiched between two piles of 3 million tortillas.

The bottom tortillas are completely worthless for actually making a taco. (Don’t try. I’ve seen grown Mexican men snap and confess deeply disturbing things when they fail, for example that they routinely overpay on police bribes because they just don’t like to haggle.) By the time you can see them they’ll be soaked in grease and meat juice, and torn to shreds. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not edible; they’re just a special accidental side dish that should never go to waste. I don’t have a name for it yet, probably for the same reason that the Old Testament tells you not to call The Baby Jesus’ father by his proper name.

Also, their red Salsa is the best damn thing ever created since someone decided that pain is a condiment. I’m slobbering as I type this. It’s gringo-safe, too, so don’t be shy.

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The Three Kings Of Tacos (First Installment)

If you have never been to Mexico City, or if you’ve been away long enough that your family will immediately notice how poorly you’re aging (about two years), these are the correct answers for the following two questions:

1) “What do you want to eat?”

Tacos.

Sure, you’ve had what you would consider “good” meals on a tortilla before but, unless you’ve been in La Capital, your deep Platonic intuitions about the form of the taco have always left your palate feeling tricked. Yes, I am trying to tell you that this is a consumption experience that will have you running past the shadows and stepping out of the cave. It’s infinity in the masa stuck under your fingernails, and heaven in a mouthful.

That said, if you believe in supernatural enlightenment, beware: it’ll prove you that you’re worthless for believing that the sacred is not mundane.

2) “Where do you want to eat?”

El Califa de San Cosme

Technically, it’s El Califa de Leon, but there are a few places with the same name in the city. However, this is the only one that sits on the famous pirate shopping strip known as San Cosme. (After you’re finished with your food, if you can ever feel like you are finished with your food, you should get yourself a Bolex watch and a DVD of somebody using a handheld camera to tape somebody else using a handheld camera to record a shaky copy of JCVD.)

Mexico City’s best taqueria (and by corollary The Best Taqueria In The Universe) has one of its simplest setups: A room the size of a matchbox, 3/4 of which are covered by a grill. A small walking lane towards the register that overlaps with the tortilleria (a masa bucket, a crank-powered contraption, and a woman who’s a genius with her hands—I haven’t inquired about a massage, but I assure you that all endings are happy ones here) and the eat-in area, which is framed by a narrow steel shelf.

El Califa has only two salsas, one red (which I haven’t eaten in at least 16 years so I am not going to tell you what’s in it) and a green tomatillo salsa that’ll turn your pupils red if you’re not careful. It’s not the spiciest soup in the universe, but it tastes so damn good that you can’t stop from pouring it on and on. If you want a drink, your choices are: Grapefruit soda, and Grapefruit soda. And Grapefruit soda.

Your meat choices are Bistek and Costilla. If you like your godly flesh on the fatty side, you’ll go for the latter. You’ll probably make this pick too if you’re the kind of person who always orders the most expensive thing on the menu (asshole). Let me assure you that there’s nothing wrong with slumming, as the Bistek is perfect. Their butcher’s hands are the gates of heaven. The lard rub they give to each steak doesn’t hurt either.

(I especially love it when you get a big order and the last few you eat (if you can manage to eat them slowly) have the tortilla fused with the meat. It’s an event of devastatingly beautiful harmony.)

Also, you couldn’t fake poverty if you were caught eating one of these. At 22 pesos, their Bistek taco is probably in the top 5 most expensive street foods in the city. Costilla tacos will run you 37 pesos each. With the exchange rate hovering around 14 pesos per USD, this may not seem like much to your whiteness, but chilangos take great pleasure in outknowing each other when it comes to good cheap tacos, with the fervor that alchemists once had for figuring out a way to turn shit into gold (though they are significantly more successful). I would estimate the current price threshold for a truly excellent taco to be about 5 pesos. Bragging about your intimacy with meat on a tortilla below that price point makes you either 1) a horrible liar 2) a cheap jerk, or 3) a giant Taenia Solium from space in a human costume. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, email me.

No, these are not Mexico’s $100 USD Hotel Restaurant “Kobe” Burgers. And I say this not just because San Cosme doesn’t resemble the Four Seasons lobby. The only people I know who think these tacos are expensive are the ones who haven’t eaten them. I’ve been there when people have happily paid for a full taco just to get a tortilla. (Did I mention the tortillas? You’re gonna have to travel very far to find a better piece of bread in this continent.) Serious food is not a luxury; it’s just food and that’s why you can always have it.

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Triste

Allow me to explain the complete lack of activity since… well, I don’t even want to look because I will grow sad, and all those years under Quine have left me unable to channel that kind of emotion into something that will convince you that flower-slapping is the only appropriate response to me.

The central problem for this project is location.   Yes, this place is home to a large number of the right kind of spics, but The Burrito is Napoleonic in its dominance of “taquerias” (‘burriterias’ just doesn’t sound right).  Mexican food in San Francisco doesn’t need to do be authentically mexcellent, because here ‘Mexico’ can signify in a (mostly) non-disparaging way even if there are no actual Mexicans around.  Maybe this is because San Francisco is a marvelous land of Enlightenment, or maybe it’s because the city is some kind of  giant (Cala) lilly white ass that sits on everything and doesn’t get up until it’s turned it into a permanent stain.

Burritos are inelegant solutions to problem of stuffing the face, but they are the default mode of discourse.  As long as no one finds the language offensive, this is not going to change.

You don’t even think of opening a real taqueria unless you’re a fucking Chilango pedant, and then you get carried away and try to make it a real gourmet experience, and you start drafting a wine list and then… Jesus Cristo, you’re an asshole.

Anyway, here’s what I need you to do: Tell everyone you know that Burritos were named after a popular Spaniard execution method.  First, they removed all the limbs off a rebellious indio and then they wrapped them in a blanked to be kicked around by a small donkey (a burrito, so to speak).  Of course, they poured hot salsa inside the blanket, to make the bruises sting.

Also, you should know that Metro Balderas recently re-heated the pastor meat they served me on a flat-top grill.  Amazingly, I did not maim anyone.

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