The Great American Al Pastor Taco myth busted at El Carboncito and a walk along El Malecón (Puerto Vallarta)

My poor little blog, it got me tv shows and writing gigs and now — I have neglected it. My bad, to any Glutster readers, if there are are still any out there. The problem has been an internal one for me, trying to juggle and take school seriously while trying to hustle in the paid food writing world. To write and make some gas money or write for myself (SANS-EDITING) and feel awesome about it?

Well, what ended up happening was just me pretty much half-assing everything and not coming through successfully on any front, nor academic or writing. I failed math my math class yet again and fell behind in writing. But thanks to a recent “WTF” epiphany, I’ve realized my lazy ass ways and will now strive to change them. Yes, Gustavo Arellano, if you are reading this, your wish has come true for more Chicano bloggers as you and I type!

El Malecón
El Malecón” in Puerto Vallarta, bustling

That being said, I’m going to base my next series of posts on my recent discoveries of awesome food in Mexico, San Francisco, Portland and wherever else the tasty will take me. In other words the pitches and stories about food, booze and music that Saveur didn’t buy, haha. Oh, the joys to write so freely and with so many grammar and syntax mistakes. Now, if I go broke, that is all your guys’ fault!

For all the right reasons, I found myself in the lovely city of Puerto Vallarta this last new years eve. I was introduced to the local people, food and traditions of such an underestimated part of Mexico. Vallarta is not as corporate as Cancun, at all and in terms of regional authentic foods and drinks, it’s pretty much undiscovered as fuck with some pretty eccentric street foods readily available. Even at El Malecón, the city’s Universal Citywalk of sorts complete with a Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and all, you will find drinks such as Tuba, a fermented coconut fizzy drink sprinkled with pecan and apple pieces that made its way from the Philippines during the Spanish conquest — now accustomed in the costeño tradition because of all the dang coconuts that grow everywhere.

tuba nayarit
refreshing Tuba

Walk a little deeper into La Zona Romántica and ask for the locals price on such things as local oysters from the neighboring coastal state of Nayarit or Ceviche de Calamar, local calamari treated with ketchup paste, lime and cilantro. The ceviche, in Vallarta fashion, is made with tons of shredded carrot and finely ground fish, although no Tilapia here, think Dorado or Red Snapper fish caught earlier that day. Yup, tis’ all common street food in the city of Bugambilias flowers blossom pridefully. As a matter of fact, there is a small CANIRAC walk of fame dedicated to Puerto Vallarta for it’s awesome hospitality and local cuisine

canirac ode
local ostiones
Local oysters from Nayarit for about $6 US for half about a dozen
tostadas combo
Tostadas de ceviche: Street Food in Vallarta

But as the night gets deeper and the beer and tequila munchies start to creep in, there is really only one place you need to know about. El Carboncito in the north end of downtown on Honduras street. This place changed my life, ie. my beliefs in the al pastor taco system.

Tacos del Al Pastor at El Carboncito in Puerto Vallarta

The tacos I grew up in Los Angeles, the city of Mexicans of every generation a’ plenty — was not this. In Los Angeles there are trompo’s, the prized vertical spits in the Lebanese Shwarma style that every self proclaimed taco expert swears by. But they are seldom ever sliced directly off the spit into a tortilla to eat directly as is. No, they are usually finished off in a pan, just like any other standard taco meat, right? As long as there is plenty of caramelized onion, achiote and citrus flavor?

Well, not really, a real taco de al pastor is three or four paper-thin slivers of pork on a tiny tortilla with a squirt of salsa, dash of cilantro, onions and lime. They are less flavorful things in this world that can be engulfed in a single bite and in dangerously large amount like this. But the most important part of the taco is a tiny one; the tiny chunk of cooked fresh pineapple atop each corn cake. It might be the meat-tenderizing/digestion enhancing bromelain in the fruit or just the same pineapple-pork phenomena that occurs in Hawaiian pizzas, whatever it is. There is no way to have an al pastor taco ever again.

Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses: Mundane Mexican No More II

It brings me immense joy to announce that Rocio Camacho, the self proclaimed artisan Mole matriarch of Los Angeles–has finally opened up her own restaurant.

Rocio's Mole de Los Dioses
Rocio and her restaurant

Almost four years have passed since I first met Mrs. Camacho
. Those of you OG “Teen-Gluts” veterano readers of mine might remember my notorious post on her breakthrough project at Moles La Tia in East L.A. Hell, ya’ll better! Jonathan Gold even gave me props in his review, ‘member now?

She’s done her time, revamping and consulting for a fair amount of Eastern Los Angeles restaurants like La Huasteca in Lynwood and Juan’s Restaurante in Baldwin Park. But now, she’s doing things 100% her way, finally.

The restaurant is located in the city of Bell, just north of Gage Avenue, along the industrial strip of Maywood Avenue. Actually, the place is located just a handmade-tortilla’s-throw away (frisbee style though!) from another highly respected regional Mexican cuisine establishment.

The informal invite was courtesy of a midweek wall post on facebook briefly stating the address with the additional comment of “a partir de las 10 va empezar la danza azteca los esperamos.” (from ten onwards, the Aztec Dancers will start, we’ll be waiting.”

Aztec dancers? God-quality Mole’s? Mark me down for that party!

But as per Sunday lazy-ass-Javi rule, of course I slept in and missed the whole ceremony done by Kalpulli Tlaltekuhtli, the clan of Aztec Dancers she hired. But I did get to see them bless the establishment with copal and lots of good vibes so that was pretty cool.

The place is cozy, small, one of them restaurants that look like they used to be a residential house before or something. You will go there to eat her food and you will park for free parking across the street too.

Tamarindo con Serrano

I brought my mom along for the morning mole cruise and were immediately introduced to her signature bad-ass aguas frescas as soon as we sat. Today it was to a Tamarindo con chile de Arbol drink, yes, just as good as it sounds, and then some eight day old Tepache.

Chef came out and greeted us; she almost did a cartwheel on her way over. “Ohh, tienes que probar nuestras Conchitas que una panaderia nos hace no mas para nosotros!” (Ohh, you have to try our Conchitas that a local bakery makes just for us!)

conchitas con cafe de olla
conchita bite
Conchitas con Cafe de Olla

Soon after, two little fluffy bread pillows crusted thick with layers of vanilla and chocolate Mexican strudel topping came hovering our way. Along with them came a couple of steaming mugs filled with Cafe de Olla, the piloncillo sweetened, cinnamon spiced rendition of coffee that is the premiere choice for rancheros. ‘Twas bomb, the conchitas were somehow not really sweet or buttery like their usual mass panaderia counterparts, no, these were more like a dinner roll who got the morning shift and tried his most sincere effort filling in.

barbacoa taco de rocio
Barbacoa Taco’s

I considered this work so set aside my preferences and asked the chef to send out whatever was new or whatever she wanted me to taste. My mom however confidently ordered a pair of barbacoa tacos. Not too shabby and not sheisty on the meat, all the better when the meat is actually pretty damn tender and the tortillas are handmade. In true Mexican fashion, she ordered for more tortillas and rationed out the filling amongst them.

mole de mezcal y betabel con ternera
Mezcal, Chipotle and Beet Mole + Green Mole smothering some grilled veal

Chef sent out her newest mole creation, a pasty and full bodied mole made from nuts, thickened with beets, spiced with chipotle and flavored with Mezcal. I forgot what god name she gave it but it was unlike anything I’ve had before. It exhibited the same contrastingly sweet responsibility that a traditional Demi-Glace has towards veal but even more so, outdoing itself with its mucilaginous smokey heat and exceedingly satisfying texture. The juice-seared thin cut of veal was an upper class carne asada that had been “green-washed”. No rice and beans for this affluent chop, just baby greens….baby. The mole verde was their only to provide a bland comparison to take refuge in as you scooped up chewy tortilla piece after piece smeared with the godly paste.

And now a moment for her tortillas. Yes. Her chewy and thick hand-clapped corn disks of gold that she makes a la minute certainly warrants a paragraph of its own. She’ s a yellow corn type of ‘gal and she would not have it any other way, ever. Despite the fact that she is the head chef at her establishment and had three other cooks working under her, she still clapped out most of the tortillas herself. They are complex enough to be a meal in themselves when served alongside any of her bare mole sauces. Jonathan Gold once described them as “better than some of the entrees at Michelin-starred restaurants.”

Guacamole con Maracuya y Habanero
Guacamole with Passionfruit and Habanero

She implemented a new varied guacamole program on her new menu as well. I expressed a profound interest in her “Diosa Sangre Ardiente” guacamole, a guacamole she makes that has fresh passionfruit flesh and habanero pepper. I know dude, seriously. She serves the fruity guacamole on the half-shell with warm, freshly fried chips using the same tortillas from earlier, they puff up into a an Indian Paratha like texture and shatter ever so deliciously in your mouth as you chomp on them.

Tejocotes y Calabaza con Piloncillo
Piloncillo braised tejocote fruits and pumpkin

Camacho wants to make eating at the restaurant available to everybody and decided to keep her prices extremely friendly. I’m talking less than $5 for a complete breakfast plate or the earlier Guacamole plate friendly, and less than $15 for a generous entree friendly. The menu is DIY, it is set up so you can choose your own protein and choose your own sauce too. She will also have other pre-hispanic favorites such a “Sopa de Piedra”, a minimalist seafood soup she will serve bubbling in clay pot. And last but not least, she will be bringing the delicacy of “Carne de Chango” direct from La Sierra de Los Tuxtlas to Los Angeles. A dish from the Catemaco region of Veracruz, the charred sugar cane and guayaba leaf smoked pork meat is made to mimic the flavor of the monkey meat delicacy of my decolonial past.

Although the edible sweet ending to this meal was a bowl of hot piloncillo-braised tejocote fruits and tender pumpkin. Upon licking my guacamole plate clean, I felt the very same happy feeling that I felt when I first tasted her food. A feeling of ease with myself and my palate. Here I was, eating with my mom, the very same type of food she thought was just an unhealthy obsessional food phase I was going through at first. Except now, it was a full blown, fully accepted–and embraced–passion.

Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses
6242 Maywood ave.
City of Bell CA.

Open 7 days a week 7 AM to 10 PM.

MoKo (Culver City): The Inevitable Post

Why “inevitable” you ask?

Well, this is the first comped (partially) meal review piece I decided to happily write since that whole LA Weekly “Meet your Blogger” drama that happened more than a year ago.

I like to think as that experience as my personal christening celebration into mature, realistic food writing actually. It opened my eyes to the capitalistic dangers of food blogging, well actually, it just taught me to be hell’a more careful with the words I choose to use during a recorded interview.

Naturally, it took me a while to deal with this. I decided to take a comped-meal sabbatical for about a year. I was traumatized, not even opening some of the many invites I would get daily. But I knew that I had to reflect deeply and establish my own very set of concrete writing ethics if I was going to get anywhere in this relentless career, ethics that I would follow for the rest of my life.

Well, I faced them, meditated on them and finally–found them.

As a budding, full-time student food writer that solely depends on financial aid and scarily haphazard freelancing stipends (yes, that still lives with his parents too) , sure a free feast sounds downright divine sometimes. But, recently, I have been learning to finally–prioritize my life. Well trying my hardest anyways (hey! I have a whiteboard now, ok?!). The more I do this, the more I realize, that a free meal with free expensive booze and luxury ingredients just isn’t worth it for me sometimes, especially as I dig my unique food writing niche deeper with every article I publish.

Don’t get me wrong, like the late DC 80’s Hardcore Punk band, Minor Threat sang, “[This} ain’t the first, I hope [this] ain’t the last, because I know we are all heading to that adult crash!!”

I will still do them. But, as with any other thing that you do too much and eventually becomes unhealthy–with moderation. After all, isn’t that the reason why food blogger’s continue dedicating hours and hours of their time to writing? To spread the news of good food? To bring appreciation to the proud, few, fierce people who work seven days a week sometimes, for the sake of good food and drink?

Thanks to Eddie Hah of Biergarten for pushing me until I finally tackled and assessed this personal conflict, and also for inviting me out to this. Now without further adieu, I give you my unabashed review of moKo in Culver City.

moko 1
moKo as you walk in

So, when a chef that names a burger after you invites you out to dinner, YOU SAY YES, no matter what. And because you are dining with a chef, you know that the dinner will not be a question of whether to indulgence or not but more a question of much indulgence will be partaken in that particular evening. I was excited–I had eaten fruit all day too–so was ready.

moKo (short and hip for Modern Korean) is pretty new but it is certainly not unpopular in the foodblogging circle of LA, it’s been a pretty hot topic actually amongst my colleagues. When it all boils down though, there really is only one way to truly find out if a restaurant is “worth it” or not, remember? Go find out for yourself!

So we all know that the space use to belong to the similarly themed Gyenari restaurant, and also that Culver City has become a pretty sweet dining destination and all that fluff stuff. So onwards, straight to the food!

moko ambiance

The place is nice, you’ll notice this immediately. The dining room is made up of a bunch of chic booth’s, black with cream-colored cushions and red outlines, a certain New York art party sense of coolness is established with the red brick foundation on the walls around you. The music was cool, from what I could remember. By cool, I mean Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” being bumped at sometime through out the night.

Chef Gary Robins is the kitchen shotcaller, yes the same Robins that outdid himself on a recent post I wrote. After doing a brief pop up last year at Georgio’s Cucina, he was now here. Lucky for us that night.

Eddie Hah is a big fan of the guy. And I can see why as our first dish makes its way to the table.

moko 2

Banchan gets the cheffy treatment and is known as “Market Banchan” here. There is still kimchi but there are also things like Beets sautéed with jujubes and apple smoked bacon. Now, the fact that these are priced is probably the source of disarray for most people, especially with our Angeleno AYCE KBBQ habituated culture. If you are curious, it will cost you, three for $7.5, five for $12 and seven for $16. Get the first option and get the glossy dark, marinated lotus root. Crisp and sweet since its brined with honey.

Cocktails were to be had of course, even if I was the only one drinking that night.

moko cocktail
Thai Basil Cooler

I settled on the the cooler, which comprised of Thai basil, Damrak gin, St. Germain, lemon & agave ($11). It was subtle, refreshing and dangerously easy to drink, paired well with the food too.

moko first crudo
moko tuna crudo
moko last crudo

Now, if it’s one thing that I remember from Chef Robins, it is his take on crudo dishes. He seems to quite the deft hand with seafood. The Hamachi was particularly the most buttery, flavored with yuzu citrus jus with pickled, jalapenos and crisp garlic ($13). The server came out and told us that chef was breaking down a whole Tai Snapper for us too. And he prepared that sucker with some asian pear jus and pickled ginger ($12). Like I said, he is a bad ass with seafood. The last one was the most traditional of all, Ahi Tuna with yuzu and soy, but even then he souped it up a bit with some blood orange infused olive oil ($12).

moko baos

Next up were his own take on Ssam, the leaf-wrapped favorites of Korea. Although, here, Robins applied the Chinese Bao approach to them. The one with Sesame Duck Confit, slivered juicy mango, wild arugula with ginger aioli and chipotle jang ($6 each) was my favorite for sure. It doesn’t hurt that chef made the bao’s himself. Mmmm….edible clouds.

moko korean pancake-pizza

Now, this particular dish was the one that swept me off my feet. Chef Robins is doing to Korean pancakes what Nancy Silverton did to Pizza’s in Los Angeles, redefining them and giving them the gourmet treatment. Actually, he is treating them like pizza’s too. He topped the zucchini and golden squash based one like you would a fine pizza with grilled shrimp and a zesty sesame tomato chutney ($13). Golden brown and crisp in the most delightful way humanly possible.

Next up was Robins rendition of the ultra-traditional dish of Bossam.

moko charcuterie

I forget the cut of pork it was and how it was prepared but I do remember an awesome shrimp and scallop flavored mustard that came along with it. He plated it like a charcuterie platter with some rosemary thick and tasty focaccia bread toast he baked himself too.

moko bomb foie gras dumplings
Foie Gras Mandoo

Another table favorite were the pan fried duck and foie gras Mandoo dumplings with sour cherry dipping sauce ($12). These were the Korean version of a perfect xia long bao dumpling. They were juicy as hell but there was very little actual foie gras in it if that was the only reason you ordered them for.

We got a couple more dishes after but that was it for the hosted part that chef Robins cooked us himself. But like I said, Eddie Hah REALLY admires the guy so we still ordered some more food. Food that he paid for. They also have these state-of-the-art tabletop grills with vacuum’s underneath them that suck up all the annoying smoke usually encountered at a KBBQ place. So, they offer souped up, premium Korean BBQ options as well.

moko kbbq
grilled prawns
Premium Korean BBQ at moKo

Eddie opted for the Giant Blue Prawns ($9 each), Marinated Kalbi ($18), Apricot-Marinated Duck ($18) and of course, in true hedonistic chef fashion…marrow ($8) !

I forget the name of the country where the prawns were flown in from but it was somewhere exotic-sounding I remember. Where ever they were from, the prawns flown in fresh and literally smelled like the ocean (not Long Beach type of ocean, more like Cancun ocean foo). They were delicious, they tasted really sweet, literally sweet, not metaphorically sweet. The duck was my second favorite, tender and steak-like.

moko bbq marrow
moko marrow on homemade toast

The luscious bone fat shimmered and curdled up as it stood on the grill plate waiting to get scraped out and eaten atop some more of that crispy homemade rosemary focaccia toast. By this point, I was beyond stuffed, which made the marrow’s distinctive flavors and textures all the more noticeable. Mmmm…marrow.

Finally, it was time for desserts.

lychee semifredo
Frozen lychee parfait

moko diy smores
moKo Housemade DIY S’mores

green tea shortcake
Green tea shortcake

The s’mores were the knockout of the sweet league, they utilized the tabletop grills even more beautifully. Chef Robins baked the graham crackers himself with almond flour, they were more of a shortbread than anything else and were amazing. Instead of Hershey’s, there was a pre-melted chocolate ganache to smear with, and the marshmallows were flavored. Of course, they were also made in house.

To this day, that meal holds the record for the longest dinner (and perhaps my most gluttonous one too), we got there a little after six in the afternoon and didn’t walk out until almost midnight. But when the food is as tantalizing and deftly executed as moKo’s, I didn’t mind. I am glad that Chef Robins has found a home for now.

Most of the meal was free, sure. But I wouldn’t had been able to afford it otherwise so, there you go, the inevitable post!

(Disclaimer: I ate this meal like three month’s ago.)

9540 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Neighborhood: Culver City
(310) 838-3131

The Glutster Burger Featured as Best “Fusion” Burger in Los Angeles Magazine!

best ethnic inflenced burger
Not a bad way to be welcomed back to your hometown, right?

Home, sweet home…kinda. Ok, so I left my heart in el rancho, drenched in freshly-extracted pulque along side thick, homemade tortillas. But until I man up and realize my subconscious dreams of moving to el rancho myself. Me tengare que aguantar! (I’ll bite my maseca-based tortilla tainted lips!)

In other news, I broke my five day internet fast to find out that the burger that has been cursed with my title actually won “best fusion burger” on LA Magazine!

Our favorite ethnic-influenced variation is The Glutster burger at Biergarten in Koreatown. Cocreated by blogger Javier Cabral (aka the Glutster), the all-pork slab is joined by guac, pickled onions, epazote aioli, chipotle black beans and fried green tomato slice on a King’s Hawaiian sweet roll.”

Yees! Pretty awesome right?

But none of this would had been possible without the excellent burger’ing skills of Eddie Hah, so a huge thank you to him!

Eddie and his Chosun One
Eddie Hah: The Burger Maniac

Now, to go celebrate by eating one, or two with a beer or five.

the glutster money shot
The Glutster Burger

The magazine is out now so go out and buy one! Or else, just wait until the internet version is available on the Los Angeles Magazine website


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

How Low Can A [Food Writer] Get?: A Flustered Five-Year Blogiversary Post

I tend to dwell and dwell hard. Some things just really are a trip if you think about the many other ways you could had handled a certain situation, in particular, the ones that turned out for the bitter-ass worst. But see, the problem with me is that, well, I dwell until I hit something hard. And when you get to that point…there is no turning back. I have grown to accept this neurotic quality of mine but it still wrecks some emotional havoc sometimes.

It was yet another night of senseless partying, the fifth day in a row to be exact. I now knew why the “#partylikeajournalist” stupid twitter hashtag existed. Although, technically I wasn’t a “real” journalist (ie. not getting paid–or correctly paid–therefore, not “real”) it sure as hell felt like it with all this OC Weekly and Saveur stuff happening as of late.

It was Sunday, 1 AM, and I found myself fairly intoxicated with the two people who knew me best in my life for who I really was and not for who I was in my blog or twitter. Both…just friends. In our drunken reverie, they actually walked in to the Ralph’s on 9th and Flower and bought a copy of Saveur Magazine (Issue #138). The one that featured a cover story I produced entirely by myself. They asked me to “autograph” it. I did.

critical coleslaw
The Critical Coleslaw that Started it All

Several Mexican beers later, it was 4 AM and they found themselves hungry for the elusive “Fourth Meal” of the day. And in true “triiiiip-oooouut” fashion, we found ourselves in the birthing grounds of my entire “professional” food writing career: The Pantry in Downtown Los Angeles. “How does it feel man? To come full-circle?” my buzzed friends would ask me. And as I scooped The Pantry’s signature, soupy, slightly-sweet coleslaw on top of their thick-cut slices of grilled sourdough bread in their “Pantry Set-Up” menu option, I stared back and stayed quiet–I didn’t know how to respond.

Nighthawks at the Café was my first ever assignment from Saveur, it was published in issue #127, otherwise known as the “L.A issue” exactly two years ago. It was a 200-word assignment given to me by the editors of Saveur. I guess they must had liked me.

Exactly five years ago this day, I started “Teenage Glutster” as an alternative coming-of-aging distraction
. I fell in love with good food instead of a girlfriend, and I fell deeper in love with my old love…prose. Jonathan Gold became my weekly food sherpa and I did not want to end up venting away on snobby, message-board sites like chowhound and yelp. Foodblogging became my direct output for my unbalanced teenage emotional upbringing. My friends smoked lots of weed and drank 40 oz. to medicate themselves, I took one puff and drank one beer…and then left home early to write about it.

Now, I am twenty-two and find myself jobless, and staying home to write this post instead of going to a match class that I already failed three times. I remain stubborn on my passion of food writing and refuse to let go of my dream job of one day, making a living out of it. Hell, I already got a cover story on Saveur, right?

Well, not so much. For as far as neat and awesome that feature may have been, as much painstaking time and effort I may put into writing every single word and recipe, the ultimate question arises….now what? My great Zen teacher, Edward Espe Brown of San Francisco Zen Center, used to tell me “As a cook, you are only as good as you’re last dish”, so if you’re a writer…are you only as good as your last piece of published work?

I can’t, won’t will not be a one-hit food media wonder but as my inbox remains without reply of L.A Times, Saveur and other food powers and my bank account keeps on shrinking, as I continue to fuck-up in school and have problems taking it seriously, I ask myself….how much longer can I last?

How much longer can I last before I just give in, like a normal member of society? How much longer before I just get a job at a 9-5 to at least have some money to buy lunch with? In the brilliant words of the great 80’s Hardcore punk band Bad Brains in their song “How Low Can A Punk Get?”

I didn’t mean to rip off
I thought it was a get off of mine.
I tried to make the scence off.
The plan was doomed to set off on time
The time that I was wastin’
I spent chasin’ in the pits.
And now I pay the price
To make the sacrifice of a fool.

I was on me.
I choose not to be
Cheated on part of thrill.
Bargained was not fulfilled.
Lost in a crazy scheme
That got strapped up in my dream.
And now my time’s run out.
Oh, what’s it all about?

“Hopefully, this is the start of something special.”

–The Teenage Glutster on his post “Yay”, (published on May 13, 2006)

The Tables Have Turned! A Collection of Reviews on My “Glutster” Burger at Biergarten From Fellow Bloggers

So, as you all may have heard, I recently had a burger named after me at Biergarten, an awesome Korean-German Gastropub in Koreatown L.A. Now, If you hadn’t had the chance to go try it, you are lagging it, go try it now! Seriously, Eddie Hah must had done something right because I haven’t heard one single complaint yet! Well, except having “too much Guacamole” from my ex-brother-in-law, haha.

In the meantime, here are a few honest reviews from fellow blogger homies to hold you over…

Caroline On Crack Ate Me

Caroline on Crack called my burger “great”, [liking] [the] “spiciness and the creamy guac… accompanied with a bit of tang from the pickled onion and even char on the pork! She even goes as far as saying [it] “almost tasted homemade.” Although, she doesn’t recommend eating me “on a first date.” haha.

The Minty Ate Me

The Minty ate me as well. Although she was a bit skeptical at first due to the excessive use of high-calorie toppings of it all, she admitted “It was…good. Great, even! Yummy! I was surprised. And people eating the Glutster around me were also happy with their burgers.”

The Glutster Deconstructed on A Hamburger Today

The hamburger foodblog by Serious Eats, “A Hamburger Today“, indulged in me as well. Calling it a burger with a “delicious melange of Mexican flavors.”

And last but not least, my close friend and now successful ice cream entrepreneur Mattatouille featured my burger in his blog post titled “Good Things I’ve Eaten Lately.” Calling Biergarten’s new menu “the most exciting thing happening in Koreatown at the moment.”

Well, there you have it! If you get a chance to try it, please let me know what you think in the comment board.