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.

Mariscos Las Islitas in Stockton, California: Rocksteady Dining while On Tour with The Delirians II

It was the second day of the tour and we found ourselves in the middle of “Buttfuck Egypt” as Angel Salgado, The Delirians singer called it. Its true, the lonely streets of Stockton may not be the premiere central California destination but at least you can find some semi-decent Nayarit style Mexican seafood.

Delirians Brunch Picnic
Picnic Brunch with The Delirians!

Earlier that day, we partook in an extremely delightful picnic brunch in front of our lovely Motel 6, courtesy of governor Arnie himself. I oversaw and planned the menu, it included entrees like Laura Schudder’s peanut butter and raw blueberries on whole wheat bread with Almond Milk, veggie tray, baked Tostito’s and black bean salsa. “Hey, you down to be The Delirians official chef or what?” said Jo Quiñones, the the smokin’ bassist of the band, haha. But now it was time for a hot dinner before the show.

bienvenidos a su vitamina
Bienvenidos A Su Vitamina

While the majority of the band members drank 32’s and recuperated before the set, Cuca, Carlos and I went out and explored the city a bit. Unfortunately everything was pretty dead, even on a Saturday afternoon! Luckily though, our randomly chosen motel for the night happened to be next to this attractive mariscos joint. “There are more than six cars in the parking lot, it can’t be that bad, trust” I explained to Cuca and Carlos.

Sooner than we knew it, we were sat and pounding Modelo’s as we waited for our Pescado Sarandeado. “Awh dude, I LOVE ostiones, let’s just get it, its on me!” said an excited Carlos when he saw the attractive “Ostiones Preparados” on the menu. Something about ordering raw oysters in the middle of Nor. Cal. didn’t sound good to me, especially with the huge disclaimer on the menu basically saying if we die, it is not their fault. It didn’t help that half a dozen went for $20+ on the menu. But like I said in my earlier post…sometimes you just gotta say fuck it!

ostiones preparados
Ostiones Preparados at Mariscos Las Islitas in Stockton

The oysters came in their full briny, glory, topped with a tablespoon of gunpowdery, chile-de-arbol salsa, cubed pepino, a couple of chewy, chopped octopus fragments and one butterflied shrimp. It looked expecially plump and pink atop the black and chalky oyster. I like to think the jet-black liquid that seeped out into the plate and stained your fingers worse than a leaky pen was natural for an oyster. And with a squeeze of lime, I engulfed it whole. Salud! “You all know that oysters make you wanna do it, right?” said Carlos. Luckily, we did not share the same bed that night….

pescado sarandeado
Pescado Sarandeado at Mariscos Las Islitas

Almost an hour later, our main course had arrived. Pescado Sarandeado is a whole, grilled fish that is marinated in a red chile sauce. I’ve tried some in the beaches of Ensenada, Vallarta and even found an astonishingly delicious version in L.A. Suffice to say, the version at Mariscos Las Islitas was good, definitely not the best, but awesome for Stockton standards I’m sure. We got three pounds worth of the fish, it was slightly charred but didn’t really taste of wood and smoke. The flesh was mealy but when combined with the chunky salsas and fresh pepinos, it was pretty bomb. I was just grateful to eat some hot food and seafood.

The meal turned out to be pretty expensive actually, more than $60 if I remember correctly, so that sucked. But if that is the premium to pay for semi-fresh seafood in Stockton so be it.

Later on that night, the Delirians played at the Plea For Peace Center along side the swaying east coast ska sounds of The Forth Right. No one really showed up but better for us, we all left early and had a midnight snack of In-N-Out where I had my first ever animal style fries (extra crispy of course)!

Role Call Group Shot at The Plea For Peace Center in Stockton

Anthony tearing it up
Anthony Medina (Keys) Devouring a 3×3 Right Before Going to Bed

post show snack
You Never Forget Your First: My Extra-Crispy Animal-Style Fries at the In-N-Out in Stockton.

Mariscos Las Islitas
319 S Wilson Way
Stockton, CA 95205
(209) 938-0939

In-N-Out Burger
2727 West March Lane
Stockton, CA 95219-6572
(800) 786-1000

Mariscos Chente: Sneak That Snook Baby

Chente Signage

I remember when Bill of Street Gourmet L.A first told me about this place. He would tell me about how Sergio, the Sinaloan cook was doing some damn complex sauces like no other chef in town. He would tell me how Magdalena, the Nayarit born owner and mother in Law of Sergio would go a couple of times a month all the way to Mazatlan just to get the utmost freshest seafood, since they both simply did not like what was readily available here.

And I remember the first time he brought me there, maybe half a year ago, and being blown the hell way. It must of been the first time I pleasurably ate shrimp since an unfortunate Charroleada incident in San Pedro (Ports-O-Call) where I had eaten a WHOLE tray of their “you buy we fry” Shrimp Fajitas, followed by a condensed-milk-stuffed Churro and then popcorn and then ugh.

These Mazatlan shellfish are somehow meatier and sweeter, rather than snappy and blandish like the associated rest. Of course, masterful sauces only elevate these properties such as Camarones Borrachos where the emulsified sauce is elaborated with a couple dashes of some Tequilita, even the basic ground pepper preparation en pimienta conjured deep feelings of swoon.

A couple of months back, they had unveiled a couple of new tricks up their sleeve:

shrimp albondigas
Albondigas De Camaron: Shrimp Meatball Soup

A seafood rendition of the Mexican soup meal classic of Albondigas, the rustic broth is loaded with celery, carrots and aromatic of shrimp shells. A pleasant sting is courtesy of ground Jalapeños, tomatoes and cilantro. The shrimp-only meatball’s are bound only by egg yolks and nothing more, which results in a firm, snappy bite.

Taco unveilings always excite me, here, the shrimp and fish varieties were decent if I hadn’t been spoiled by the ones we had in our Taco Task Force: Fish Taco Edition, a different style here with a thin breading, thinly shredded cabbage and a homemade 1000 dressing.

shrimp taco
Fish Taco: Love Me That Mayonnaise

The taco to behold here was the Taco Gobernador, fire grilled satchels of joy filled with chopped shrimp, sauteed onions and oozy Monterey Jack cheese.

tacos gobernador
Tacos Gobernador: To Govern The Rest

More soups that were showcased included a a nuanced Halibut soup filled with bone and skin on hunks of fresh, meaty Halibut.

sea bass soup
“Soup Is Good Food”-The Dead Kennedys

A Mixta brought forth more of that on shrimp, this time head on though, along with chewy octopus and more of that thick cut whole halibut. The broth here was also tomato based but without the Jalapeño heat.

mixed seafood soup
See Food, Lotsa Seafood

But all this only digresses from what I think is the restaurant’s real star, the Pescado Zarandeado.

The Sneaky Snook Effect: Zarandeado

The Robalo (Snook) Fish is also some “the goods” that Magdalena sneaks in, and when rubbed with Sergio’s emulsified fruits of labor, tis’ like no other fish in town. Soy sauce, mayonnaise, chilies, Maggi Sauce, Salsa Inglesa (Worcestershire Sauce) and sauteed onions blended into a alternate reality of Umami. Its an ugly fish and skinny at that, with a Piranha-like stare, but looks aren’t everything; an unparalleled, committed flavor is priceless nowadays.

Paloma en Jarrito

A Paloma (Mexican Squirt, Rock Salt, Grapefruit, Tequila) is Mexico’s unofficial national cocktail, after one sip you can’t stop (literally, salt only makes your thirsty for more!) And here, its served virgin and with the dirt taste notes of a Jarrito De Artesania, a handmade clay pot found commonly around Mexico in county fairs and events.

Snook and Tequila, the good things in life.

Mariscos Chente
4532 S. Centinela(at Gilmore)
Mar Vista, CA 90066

also in Inglewood
10020 Inglewood Ave
Inglewood CA 90304
No Pescado zarandeado at the Inglewood location and different chef.