My review of Astrid Hadad and Hoppo’s Dia de Los Muertos show at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on LA Weekly Music

This last Saturday I checked out the Dia de Los Muertos celebration that takes place atop Hollywood Forever cemetery every year. The headliners were Astrid Hadad and Hoppo (singer of Cafe Tacvba’s newish side project). My verdict?

Well…read my review on LA Weekly Music and pay especially close attention to my “Critical bias” confession at the end of the piece!

Click on any of the text underneath to read the whole thing on LA Weekly Music!)

Astrid Hadad
Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Better than…Halloween!

Traffic along Santa Monica Boulevard was a hell of a lot more congested than usual on Saturday afternoon, as Hollywood Forever Cemetery hosted the 12th annual Dia de Los Muertos festival. The traditional Mexican holiday honoring dead loved ones gaining on the other American holidays, in terms of popularity. Angelenos and foreign tourists showed up by the thousands to the unique theme-park-like event taking place atop an, of course, actual cemetery.

This year’s headliners included Rubén Albarrán — the notorious singer for famed Mexico City rock en Español band, Café Tacvba — with his newish spiritual slanted side project, Hoppo. Also on the bill was Astrid Hadad, a Mexican performance artist known by millions for her eccentric and progressive sound.

This cemetery party was mad crackin’ yo. There must have been more than three thousand inside, easily. Altars to popular dead artists were set up along…

MAN VS. BEER Tonight At Far Bar. 20 Japanese Craft Beers for $25. 7 PM. Augustfest!

This just in via the Chuy-Wire…Puro Pinche Pari!

Far Bar in Little Tokyo is hosting the last night of MAN VS. BEER. In celebration of their exclusive “Augustfest” celebration they will offer the chance to taste 20 different, unique Japanese craft beers for $25. Here is the the scoop directly from the website.

As part of the Augustfest celebration, every Thursday come to FAR BAR Lounge and get the opportunity to taste 20 differently unique Japanese craft style beers for only $25. There will be music, Japanese horror and Samurai Movies and free popcorn! Challenge yourself and if you can finish, get your photo on the “WALL OF FAME”. Come early as the fun begins from 7pm-midnight. Only at the FAR BAR Lounge!


Pues, hay que aprovechar! Not sure if this is true or not but I heard that the portions will be allotted to five oz. of each beer. Let’s see x20, that is, hmm, hold on, carry over the one….100 pinche oz. of thick, high Alcohol luxurious Japanese craft beer!

This probably isn’t a good idea, I am the spitting image of a latino-fangled Gumby at 6’3 feet tall and like 135 lbs. But fuuuuuuuuuuck it, one last hurrah before I go back to 13 units of hardcore schoolage next week.

In the words of my beloved East L.A homies, “You’re not doooooown! Ahhh, gonna be a little biiiiiitch or what?”

Haha. I’ll see you guys there at 7 PM sharp, and wish me luck.

Cheers and more beers!

La Feria del Nopal 2011 Happening This Saturday at Juan’s Restaurante (Baldwin Park)

Folks, it is that time of year again! Las Ferias del Nopal is coming back to town!

Some of you might remember my announcement last year of the cactus celebration on LAist. Well, this Saturday will mark it’s second year of celebration!


(taken from their website)

La Feria del Nopal (Cactus Festival) is a community event hosted by Juan Mondragon, owner and executive chef of Juan’s Restaurante. The purpose of the event is to expose the community to the benefits of cactus consumption. La Feria del Nopal was held for the first time last December. The event turned out to be a success, which prompted Juan to make it an annual affair. While the event is still in its early stage, the support for it has been growing at a steady pace. This year, La Feria del Nopal will be held on Saturday, August 20th, 2011 from 12 – 8 PM.

What to expect if you come? Well, from what I could remember last year? Fresh nopal salads, nopal flavored-flan’s, nopal flavored polvorones (Mexican shortbreads), nopal-based agua frescas and of course…handmade nopal tortillas!

Also, traditional Aztec dancing and a whole evening filled with musical entertainment.

Ensalada De Nopales
Cactus Salad

Agua Fresca De Nopal Y Piña
Agua Fresca de Nopal y Piña

Fresh Handmade Nopal Tortillas!

Did I mention that Juan Mondragon (owner of Juan’s Restaurant) is actually a personal chef for a bunch of celebrities too? So, don’t be surprised if one of his star customers decides drop by. (check out his facebook profile if you don’t believe me!)

I love nopal, it’s actually a comfort food for me that makes me feel happy. I grew up eating the stuff, and recently, enjoy it more for the sheer detoxing, anti-diabetes health benefits of the slime-tender vegetable!

So, if you have time, shoot on by to the eastern wastelands of Baldwin Park and eat some nopal to be healthy!

Hay nos vimos!

Juan’s Restaurante
4291 Maine Avenue
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
P. 626.337.8686


This just in from a returned phone call by Juan Mondragon of Juan’s Restaurante!

Aztec and Mayan dancers are being flown in from Mexico, yes, folks, there will be free limpias, cleansing and dancing!

Pambazos in Mexico City: The Street Food Sandwich To Rule Them All

As soon as I got to Mexico City, I stopped at my friend Edwin’s house. His name on facebook is Edwin “Beerman” so you can only imagine what was to follow shortly thereafter for the rest of the evening.

leon shot
Leon: Mexico’s “Munich Style” Dark Beer

Several innumerable oversized caguamas later, the Mexican beer munchies came a knockin’. Luckily, Doña Loreto, colonia Ahuizotla’s resident nocturnal Pambazonera was located down his street.


She doesn’t even start setting up until 9 PM but there were already people lining up waiting for her shimmering flat top to heat up.

the pambazo scene

She specializes in quesadillas and pambazos, sencillas (as is) or tricked out with a fat scoop of her homemade guisados.

pambazo opened

I opted to order mine with slivered sautéed champiñones (mushrooms) in addition to the traditional stuffing of Mexican chorizo spiked, fried mashed potatoes. I was lightly drooling as I patiently waited for the red-chile-sauce drenched telera roll’s edges to crisp up.

Fortunately, I was beer goggling it sick and didn’t think twice about the amount of creamy, unrefined lard she must have spooned over it, on both sides of the halved pieces of bread of course.

Around maybe seven eternal minutes later, the fried sandwich was finally ready. A pambazo is a unique individual in the pantheon of Mexican street food. Some people describe it, as a “Mexican French Dip” but that isn’t quite politically correct for this day and age, it certainly deserves much more respect than that. A pambazo is a proud sandwich transsexual who wished it were born an enchilada and damned it will be if it lets gastronomy norms get in the way of that.

Who’s to say it has to be tortilla and not a piece of bread that has to be drenched in red chile and griddled in order for it to be stuffed with cheese or potatoes? Hell, let it do whatever it wants. If it wants to have multiple toppings, so be it! Salty, crumbly cotija cheese, thinly shredded crisp iceberg lettuce and thick Mexican crema? Si se puede! Especially, if it’s still soft and moist on the inside while the edges are golden brown and crisp.

pambazo full body
Equality for all!

*Pambazos can be found pretty much everywhere tacos roam in Mexico City

Good Morning Merida! A Typical Breakfast at a Local Mercado in Merida, Yucatan

The early bird gets the worm, but in Merida, the early [loud and tropical!] bird gets things like Panucho’s, Salbutes, Papadzules, Polcanes, Mondongo and much, much more…

It’s a little known fact amongst seasoned travelers and thrifty backpackers alike that to truly experience a destination, you must bypass the boundaries of the popular tourist zones. The food at La Chaya the night before was absolutely fine but I knew that if really wanted to eat like the locals, I had to visit the local mercado de comidas.

mercado hustle

The local mercado is where the workers who work those tourist destinations eat at, there will never be any air conditioning or glossy menus here and you will eat off a plastic bag-lined, weathered plastic plate. But if you are like me, you will consider the almost unbearable tropical heat and humidity just another terrific ambiance factor for the Mercado actually.

Not to mention the food will also be about ½ the price. The portions may not be as large but you can rest assured knowing that the flavors of the food not be either dumbed down or jacked up. See, the food at a mercado is made specifically to satiate the town’s working-class residents, people who most likely have lived in that town for generations and know what a dish should taste and look like. Hence, the food at a Mercado is almost always… bomb!

Our hotel Residencial was fortunately located about eight blocks away from the town’s zocalo, adjacent to the towns local Mercado.

A mercado will always have more than a handful of stands and most of them will be slanging the same thing. It can become a bit of a daunting experience to choose one with each one of the vendors trying there hardest to get you to eat with them over the rest. I usually settle with the one with most people, as the food will be more often rotated, ie. fresher. But whatever you choose, chances are it’s going to be pretty good.

La Lupita Signage

My family and I sat La Lupita’s, one of the cocina’s located inside the mercado as opposed to the ones you initially walk by on the outside. I am pretty infatuated with my roots and culture but even then, I need a break from the almighty tortilla once in while. Fortunately in Merida, they also have some quite exceptionally crusty French baguettes that are used for tortas instead of the more fluffier telera or bolillo rolls.

Merida Mercado offerings

The display case with the morning’s offerings was pretty exciting, boasting a colorful array of things to sample. Being a full time advocate for the beyond-thanksgiving consumption of turkey, I was ecstatic to realize that Pavo in Yucatan was just as common a filling as Al Pastor or Asada is in the rest of Mexico.

torta de relleno negro

I jumped at the opportunity to have the meaty fowl as a breakfast option, especially when bathed in that wondrous, jet-black Yucatan Relleno Negro mole like sauce and propped atop some toasted baguette. Exercise a bit more caution with the salsas on the table though, they will tentatively have some sort of habanero effect in them.

The delicate petite sandwich didn’t quite satisfy my voraciously curious tummy so I ventured into the neighboring stand to see what else I’d find.

Score! They had yet another exclusive turkey rendition! This time, the roasted whole bird was drenched pickled in a vinegary, onion-heavy marinade called escabeche.

Yucatan offers many more cool-sounding, carby vehicles to enjoy these fillings with, its not just tortillas or bread anymore in the land of the South. No, there are things like Panuchos, Sambutes and Polcanes. I didn’t know what the hell any of these really were so I decided on the craziest sounding one to try naturally, “un sambute de pavo en escabeche por favor, con todo!”

Salbute de Escabeche de Pavo
It turned out to be quite the lovely surprise. A thick, handmade pocket of yellow corn dough that is fried medium hard and then topped with the filling of your choice. It reminded me a lot like a Mexican version of the Indian street food classic, Pani Puri.

Another plus of eating at a mercado is the high probability of a roaming vendor stopping at your table to offer you some of his home cooked bounty. Like this dulces tipicos hawker that stopped at ours. I forgot what each of their names were but I got one of each of course. My particular favorites were the meringues, the crisp meringue clouds that exuded sweet syrup and were still creamy on the inside, this piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) taffy with bits of chewy young coconut baked within it and the chili pepper-shaped pumpkin seed candy that had a similar texture to Italian Marzipan even.

dulces tipicos de yucatan

Ahh…pansa llena y corazon contento!

Alambron Tacos y Guisados: My Dad & Tijuana Airport Food (Live-Blogging)

I never really realized but my father, little sister and I have kept an unofficial tradition of going back to Mexico City every summer for the last four years. The reason? To persuade my dad’s friend Don Aurelio to maintain the remnants of his lost empire for yet another year, a couple of dingy apartment structures in the ghetto Ahuizotla region of town. And although I can’t really get past even a single conversation with him without blowing his dynamite short temper, he always decides to bring me back with him for some reason. In his defense, he is 70 years old and is always right anyways.

Anyways, so this year is the first that we flew out from an airport other than L.A.X. Tijuana International Airport to be exact. Oh, how exciting! A bonus round of delicious authentic Mexican food! After all, we all know that Tijuana is no joke when it comes to good food and drinks thanks to the relentless documentation of it that Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA has done recently. Well, yeah…but not so much when you come with an overly paranoid father who deems it absolutely necessary to check in no later than noon for a flight that takes off at seven in the afternoon.

My poker-head brother has been rubbing off on me. The guy plays online poker for entire days sometimes. Although I’m not as addicted as he is, I did find myself killing a fair amount of time on, this new internet café that is pretty cool.

We took the first “Crucero” bus (8 AM) out of L.A and way sooner than later we found ourselves at the airport and hungry for some lunch. My mind was lucid with suggestions for lunch, perhaps some Aguachile de Callos de Hacha (raw scallops in a green spicy sauce) from Mariscos Ruben? Maybe a quick torta to go from the famous Tortas “WashMobile” that I’ve read so much about? With six hot and humid hours to kill, in true parent fashion…my dad would say otherwise.

menu signange

My sister and I walked up and down the tiny Tijuana airport terminal desperately. Anything that wasn’t cold and refrigerated between two pieces of soggy bread would suffice. We eventually went with the only place that had any aroma at all coming out of it, Alambron Tacos Y Guisados.

salsa bar

Alambron ambiance

A display counter filled with a golden brown taco strata and a huge sign bearing “Barra de Salsas” couldn’t be wrong, right? Score! And there it was on the menu, the Tijuana exclusive, highly elusive Tacos De Marlin.

tacos de marlin

The one food that I miss most from our local frontera town is smoked marlin. The meaty big fish is smoked, sold in chunks then usually rehashed with tomatoes, onions and spices. You can’t really get it in the U.S unless you smuggle it in yourself but in Tijuana it is an just another average taco filling. Lucky!

The order here came with three griddled, grease-slicked beauties and a delicate salad of chopped iceberg lettuce, peeled cucumber and a zesty creamy aderezo (dressing). Combined with the all-you-can-suffer salsa bar’s accoutrements of chunky green, red salsas and the brined purple onion-habanero slaw…like my compa chuy would say “amanos chikiadoooo!” The tacos were bomb as expected, imagine a peppery bacon if it was made of fish.

An honorable mention goes out to my dad’s Lengua en Salsa Verde guisado dish, probably the best tongue dish I’ve had thus far in my life when I think about it. It was as tender as braised short rib. My little sister’s Tortitas de Carne con Nopales were not bad either. The tiny, egg cakes whipped with shredded beef were meaty, stewed with sour cactus strips and a surprisingly delicious red chile concoction it was downright impressive. The overall excellence of the meal was aided by the tall stack of steaming tortillas, al-dente rice and wonderfully seasoned paste of beans that come with every plate, “aqui si te dan tortillas a llenar, no como en Los Angeles que no mas te dan hay lo que sea”. Yeah dad I can tell you liked it; you finished my sister’s plate too!

Tortitas de Carne at Alambron
Tortitas De Carne con Nopales at Alambron
lengua en chile verde
The Lengua Plate is Killer at Alambron Too

The only downside is that this little place is at an airport; the food for all three of us came out to nearly thirty bucks! Leave it to a random restaurant at the Tijuana airport to show up most Los Angeles Mexican food as a whole and to prove to me yet again that my dad is always right.

The Pops

Tijuana International Airport
Carretera Internacional
Tijuana Baja California
Zip code 22300

East L.A Meets Napa This Friday! Carnitas and Cabernet!

Damn, this year went by pretty fast, huh?

Well, its that time of year again for everyone’s favorite food and wine event! The 6th annual East L.A Meets Napa celebration is happening this Friday evening at Union Station! From 6-9 PM, get drunk and full as f*** for a good cause!

its not always 40 oz.
It’s Not Always 40 oz!

And I’m not just using “everyone’s favorite” as a generic term foo. For some reason, everyone–Eastsiders and Westsiders alike–tend to dub this event as their “favorite” every time they they meet me. Compared to the rest of these traditionally stuffy, snobby food and wine events I guess? It must be out latin passion eyy! haha.

No but seriously, this event is pretty fun. It wrangles together most of the cities current top Mexican restaurants and some pretty top-notch latino-owned wineries. Also, its pretty funny to see all the powerful brown politicos dancing salsa and grown up hoochie-mama’s taqueando and getting all barras! Support the cause ese!

un taco de cevichazo y nopalitos
Ceviche and Nopales From Last Years Offerings

cacaos taquiza assortment
A Taquiza Plate from Cacao Mexicatessen (taken last year)

I’ve been covering this pachanga for the past three years and trust me, this shit cracks!
Check out my past coverage.

East L.A Meets Napa (2009)

East L.A Meets Napa (2010)

Here is the info, I know the ticket is a little pricey but its worth it! I promise. C’mon its for a good cause!

(taken from the email they sent to me)

Carnitas and Cabernet Converge as East LA Meets Napa Celebrates

the Cuisine of Michoacán

What: AltaMed’s Sixth Annual East LA Meets Napa celebration returns to Union Station to pay tribute to the regional cuisine of Michoacán – considered by some to be Mexico’s soul food. The event will feature the diversity of Los Angeles’ Latin cuisine and fine wine from Latino-owned or -operated Napa Valley wineries. A total of 60 wine and food pairing stations will feature the best wine and food Southern and Northern California has to offer.

East LA Meets Napa showcases the contributions of Latinos to California’s multi-billion dollar food and wine industry. The event provides culinary enthusiasts with the opportunity to support AltaMed’s mission – increasing access to quality and culturally relevant health and human services to underserved communities in Southern California. AltaMed provides quality care without exception.

When: Friday, July 8, 2011

6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Where: Union Station

800 N. Alameda St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Who: Cástulo De La Rocha, President and CEO of AltaMed

Wine Industry Representatives from Napa Valley and

Latino Winery and Restaurant Owners

Music by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Visuals: 1,400 guests enjoying fine wine, fantastic Latin food, and dancing to live music amidst the backdrop of historic Union Station.