Corazón y Miel: Yet Another Powerhouse in Bell

Revolution XPA and Botanas in Bell
Revolution XPA and Botanas in Bell

As if the city of Bell needed another Mexican powerhouse, they got one. Though, this one isn’t your traditional Mexican cenaduria and has craft beer on draft too. I first caught wind of Corazón y Miel when I covered it for Grub Street last month. Besides that it was a spinoff from a former Salvadoran American chef at Animal named Eduardo Ruiz, I didn’t really know what to expect, because well, let’s just say that, that part of L.A. isn’t exactly known for their thriving food scene. But after my meal there, it is my civic duty as a born and bred Eastside resident to report.

It is made clear that the meal will be something different when you are served a bowl of chile-lime fried peanuts, peas and chickpeas instead of the usual totopos and salsa. Whenever I visit Mexico, snacks or botanas such as these are the things I look forward to the most, they are usually complimentary and can range from things like sliced jicama fruit to shrimp broth, as long as you keep drinking. And that’s exactly what these salty, addictive treats do: pique your appetite and make you want to order a lot more food and drinks. The menu filled with almost too-good-to-be-true underpriced innovative takes on Latin classics will confirm that yup, this will pretty much be one of the most memorable Latin restaurant meals that you will have in Los Angeles.

Ambiance at Corazón y Miel
Ambiance at Corazón y Miel

We visited on one of their opening days, so most of the eating customers that night were close friends and family. Including a worried mom of one of the crew members who saw us snapping photos. “I’m sure everything will be successful,” my girlfriend Paola assured her.

The bar
The bar
Entrees Menu
Entrees Menu
Antojitos Menu
Antojitos Menu
Cocktail Menu
Cocktail Menu

We started off with some of their cocktails, okay, a lot of their cocktails.

new experimental cocktail not yet on menu, with habanero, carrot juice, campari. bomb.
An Experimental Smooth Cocktail with Habanero and Carrot
Mientras Me Caso
Mientras Me Caso (While I get married): Their Take on The Classic
Don't Fear the Piña
Fear the Pineapple: Mezcal
Homemade Sangrita
Homemade Sangrita

I’m proud to announce that each and every one of them was extremely nice, rivaling the complexity and easy drinkability of other popular Mexican themed bars, maybe even better.

Along side these drinks, we were served a bunch of their appetizers.

Carnitas
Carnitas
Patatas Fritas with "Scallion Ash" Dip
Patatas Fritas with “Scallion Ash” Dip
Jalapeño y Tocino: Their Ode to the Mexican American Street Food
Jalapeño y Tocino: Their Ode to the Mexican American Street Food
Ensalada de Cueritos, served with a taster of Coronado Brewing's Wit
Ensalada de Cueritos, served with a taster of Coronado Brewing’s Wit
Fried Avocado
Fried Avocado

Who would have thought that the city of Bell would be responsible for a deconstructed Carnitas plate? A good one at that, crispy with a thick layer of browned bread crumbs and a tender inside. It’s what a traditional french forcemeat would look like if it took a vacation in Mexico and ended up falling in love with a Milanesa Poblana. Then there are the little things, like the “scallion ash” dip that accompanies their potato chip like Patatas Bravas. It’s nothing too crazy, but the smokey, powdery, intensely oniony charcoal-colored dip is cool enough to keep you slightly excited about their food in general.

Lamb Burger on homemade Cemita Buns: Yup
Atlantic Burger on homemade Cemita Buns: Lamb Burger, Yup
Vegetarian Mole with Fried Hominy
Vegetarian Mole with Fried Hominy
Pan con Chompipe: Chef Eduardo's Tribute to his Grandma
Pan con Chompipe: Chef Eduardo’s Tribute to his Grandma

Main courses are on another level as well. For $10, you will get a whopping fistful of a burger with Mexican, Salvadoran and American roots. The patty is thick, medium rare and it’s lamb. The bright Serrano curtido topping will remind you of the stuff that you pile on top of your favorite greasy pupusa, and the sturdy, slightly sweet sesame seeded cemita bun will not fall apart. The main star of the menu–that also happens to be the most expensive at $16–is the Salvadoran classic known as Pan con Champipe. A turkey leg that is braised until it falls apart, topped with a gravy boat full of tart, tomato salsa, pickled stuff and then disproportionally placed atop a fluffy bolillo roll smothered with mayo. It can feed two, easily.

By this point, we were stuffed beyond belief but realized that we still hadn’t sampled the Ceviche, and when you have a significant other that was raised in Puerto Vallarta, this is unacceptable.

Ceviche de Corazon with Soy, Ginger and Fried Peanuts
Ceviche de Corazon with Soy, Ginger and Fried Peanuts

Their Ceviche is $9 and comes packed with fork-tender octopus and satisfying large shrimps, despite that they add the flavors of soy, ginger and fried peanuts, it still stays relatively true to ceviche and doesn’t lose the battle with sashimi. I’ve always loved the toasted Peruvian corn element on ceviches too.

When it comes time for dessert, you will probably be stuffed beyond belief. But alas, do not skip and just go for a run later in the week.

Niños y Buñuelos
Niños y Buñuelos
Pastel de Leche
Pastel de Leche

Specifically, the Niños y Buñuelos dessert, fried puff pastry stuffed with perfectly ripe bananas and served with caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It sounds like a lazy afterthought and tacky as hell but actually awesome, flaky, almost like phyllo and barely sweet. The Pastel de Leche is cool too, but not as unforgettable as the former.

I’m really happy for these dudes and wish them all the best on their first brick and mortar endeavor. I know it’s quite a leap from their past catering career, especially in the area. A lot of people probably told them it was a bad idea but I’m glad they didn’t give a fuck and decided to open up.

Corazón y Miel
6626 Atlantic Ave
Bell, CA
90201

(323) 560-1776

Me So Corny: Uchepos, Michoacan’s Famous Sweet All-Corn Tamales Spotted in Highland Park

Feli-Mex Market in Highland Park

Like every good gentrifying hipster, I try my best to shop locally and demonize big chain supermarkets as much as I can afford to. Which is ironic because I’m broke as hell these days (fyi, for any lurking eyes that reads this post and can hook it up with any type of work). But amidst my neighborhood browsing, I found a place that sells the elusive Tamales Michoacanos known as Uchepos.

Pan Calientito [y Tamales!] Todos Los Dias
Pan Calientito [y Tamales!] Todos Los Dias

I think it was the window painting of the iconic mustached Mexican Panadero pulling out tray full of burnished bolillos that lured me in.

Uchepos: The best tamal ever created
Uchepos: Perhaps The best tamal ever created

It turns out they sell a couple of regional Mexican specialty foods, the most special being Michoacan’s notorious all-corn tender tamales on weekends made by an old Michoacana lady. These corn pouches of love are exclusively made with a little butter, a pinch of sugar and whole lot of freshly ground corn kernels – no nixtamal! Which results in a sweet, soft polenta-like tamal resembling a savory corn pudding that is on the edge of being dessert.

On their own they are fine but served with the traditional Michoacano accoutrements of thick, tart salsa verde, a mountain of salty, sharp Cotija cheese and a fat ass dollop of Crema Mexicana, they ain’t nothing to fuck with. Sweet and salty, and so delicately tender, bursting with fresh corn flavor. I usually buy two pairs of them with its toppings there too then head back home to pig out. They pair beautifully with a brimming mug of strong Clever Coffee dripped coffee.

To reiterate, these are only available on weekends (Friday-Sunday) and they are known to sell out by early afternoon so if you really want to experience them, you gotta bust that early ass breakfast mission. Ask for them at the front counter, they have a basket of tamales there with other fillings that aren’t bad if they are out already. The Uchepos are something like a buck and change a pop.

To this day, I haven’t seen these type of Tamales anywhere else in LA. Though, Las Brisas De Apatzingan in Orange County makes them daily and they are a little better there. I almost kept this little gem to myself, but whatever man, YOLO.

Uchepos, the money shot
Uchepos, the money shot

Feli-Mex Market
Corner of Figueroa Boulevard and Avenue 55

El Faisan y El Venado: Yucatán Food Beyond Cochinita Pibil in Northeast L.A.

There comes a time in every young writer’s life when you just say fuck it, and move out of your parents house with your awesome significant other and try to take over the world together, in high hopes of pursuing your dreams in the creative field and making enough for rent as a writer. For me, that time lagged it a little bit and just happened last year. We moved to a New York-sized studio, in Angelino Heights. Though, the speed of gentrification there was a little too fast, well for me at least, pushing us out since we eventually got tired of paying the stupidly overpriced rent and had enough of our inconsiderate landlord.

Though I am thankful for his inconsiderate actions, as I found my dream quarters in the hills of Highland Park, just a few blocks away from places like El Faisan y El Venado.

El Faisan y El Venado signage

The place caught my eye as soon as we drove by looking for a now-defunct, birria truck that was once favorited by J. Gold. Though, we waited until we were more settled in the neighborhood to check it out.

Ambiance at El Faisan y El Venado
Ambiance at El Faisan y El Venado

I love me some Yucatan food but haven’t really found a solid place that came close to the stuff I had when I was down there a few years ago. Except for that one time that Gustavo Arellano took me to an awesome Yucatán bakery somewhere in his hood that I forgot the name of. I know I’m supposed to love Chichen-Itza here in L.A., but as much as I respect it and the family behind it, I haven’t really ever been crazy wowed by their dishes (though their house-rendered manteca is the best in L.A.).

So, when I saw El Faisan is El Venado sporting a sign that claimed Yucatán food, I got excited. The place is tiny, with about 20 seats in total. It used to be a Mexican restaurant specializing in the food from Puebla but a Yucatán man by the name of Angel acquired it a few years ago and revamped it. It’s now a bona fide, too-cool-for-credit-cards Yucatan restaurant, widescreen television bumping heavy cumbia and everything.

Breakfast and lunch menu at El Faisan y El Venado
Breakfast and lunch menu at El Faisan y El Venado
Dinner menu at El Faisan y El Venado
Dinner menu at El Faisan y El Venado

The only employees I’ve seen working there is Angel, his wife and another line cook in the kitchen. So, one of them will probably serve you. It is apparent that this will at least be a decent Mexican restaurant as soon as you taste one of their totopo chips from the welcome basket. Thick-cut, crunchy triangles that are on the ultra browned side, with a deep corn flavor. You’ll notice the chips are flaky, flecked with shards of salt and puffed up like puff pastry, a product of a deft hand in frying no doubt but more importantly, the tortillas they use for chips are probably on the thinner, better-quality side.

Totopos fo

As we are every time we sit at a  new restaurant, we were famished beyond belief so we got a little crazy with the ordering, we sampled a few things: a taco de Cochinita Pibil, a Panucho, Escabeche Oriental, a tamal colado and a Brazo de Reina tamal. The last two being only available on the weekends. The menu is pretty small, which is usually a good sign for specialized regional places like this one.

Cochinita Pibil at El Faisan y El Venado
Cochinita Pibil at El Faisan y El Venado
A Panucho
A Panucho

The basics were decent, the cochinita pibil was oozing with its notorious citrusy, porky juices. Though, the usual LA taco paradox of crappy Guerrero-esque tortillas weighed it down. They used shredded chicken instead of the usual turkey for their Panucho, but the core puffy tortilla was light, puffy and spot-on.

Brazo de Reina at El Faisan y El VenadoBrazo de Reina at El Faisan y el Venado: Not as dense with a soft-cooked egg
The classic dense tamal Yucateco, flavored with the lightly-floral yet meaty Chaya leaf was a lot softer than other ones I’ve had in town, and for once, the egg was not overcooked to the point of powdered sulfur. Instead, still tender.

Tamal Colado at El Faisan y El Venado: Pudding-like

But the joint’s true standouts are the Tamal Colado and Escabeche Oriental. Tamal Colados had their comeback last year when they were picked up and adapted by Alex Stupak at Empellón Cocina in New York. Though, many people still don’t know about them. It’s yet another Southern Mexican treat, basically a banana leaf tamal where the masa has been strained and then boiled, which then creates this pillowy, gelatine-like cloud of earthy corn. It’s airy, fluffy and unlike any other tamal you’ve had before, here they have a pork and chicken version.

At first, I just glimpsed past the unique sounding “Escabeche Oriental” on the menu, and had actually ordered something else. A rookie move, but that’s what happens when you forget your blogging roots! Fortunately though, I have a relentless mind that rarely ceases to be be satisfied and asked about the dish a few minutes after ordering it. “Oh, es una delicia, bien rica!” Angel said, going on to describe it as turkey leg that is cooked with a bunch of charred chiles, spieces, pickled onions and seasoned vinegar. I immediately and annoyingly, asked if it too late to change my order. It probably was, but Angel didn’t care and still switched my order without a a single quibble.

Tamal Colado at El Faisan y El Venado: Turkey leg, roasted with Yucatan pickled onions
Tamal Colado at El Faisan y El Venado: Turkey leg, roasted with Yucatan pickled onions

His enthusiastic response was not exaggerating it, in the least. To think, that I almost missed out on this! The hulking traditional drumstick was served with a pile of onions, charred chiles guerros, half a ripe avocado and a bunch of tangy turkey juices enhanced with cracked black pepper and vinegar. The flavors were similar to Jamaican Jerk Chicken, but enhanced with the big ol’, bad, bold tropical flavors of El Yucatán. With a big steaming pile of tortillas, this Yucatán plate was among the best I’ve had in this city yet.

I remember I went to a Mexican food panel a long time ago and hearing someone from El Yucatán say: Someone that is from El Yucatán will always say that are Yucateco, not Mexican, because of the way different techniques and ingredients that only exists in that state of Mexico. After eating here, I understood their prideful solidarity in Mexican gastronomy.

El Faisan y El Venado
231 N Ave 50
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 257-1770

Ever wanted a whole year’s supply of Homeboy Salsa? Handle this contest then!

Totopos foYour salsa dreams come true

Feeling lucky? While procrastinating my Friday away on Facebook, I spotted a particularly awesome contest that ya’ll might like, “ya’ll” being the few of you Glutster.com readers that are still out there after I lagged it so much!

Anyways, so Homeboy Industries turned 25 this week and they are in a giving mood. To celebrate, they are giving away a whole year’s supply of their popular salsa. According to the contest’s website, “one container of Homeboy Salsa per month, no more than twelve containers in one calendar year.”

I don’t remember how their salsas taste like exactly but they are not bad at all, no purchase is necessary or anything so why not?

Planned Parenthood LA 2013 – March 7, 2013 – Santa Monica Civic Auditorium – Go!

spex_727

Leave it to my favorite food event in Los Angeles to get me to blog for myself again!

Anyways, yup, it’s about that time of year again. This is one of the few food events that I actually endorse. Why? Because well, there are A LOT of people that depend on Planned Parenthood for their free or low-cost birth control. At least, in the part of town that I grew up in where that kinda was the only option. Though, even though their services help so many, they are still demonized somehow and need all the support they can get.

As always, this lineup of restaurant and chefs that are participating is bad ass, including AOC, Craft, Rivera and the rising star, Superba Snack Bar.

I’ll be there covering the event. They’re having two sessions, an afternoon session and an evening one, so no excuses!

For ticket information, check out their website.

Thanksgiving, Cabral style: The story of my mom’s turkey on Saveur’s Thanksgiving issue

Photo Credit: Todd Coleman

Between taking Stat 50. and English 1C classes, moving out for the first time, getting involved in a stupid amount of multiple new (paid!) projects and my blog getting viciously infected with Malware, my blogging has suffered severely – almost beyond repair.

But, I refuse to give up! After all, if it wasn’t for this little blog, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. Thus, I will now reveal that after many hours of lost sleep, this blog is finally getting a revamp! A whole new makeover. Estimated to be unveiled January 1st 2013! Of course, more regular writing is will come with that!

For now, I will leave you with this. It is the story of my mom and my family’s Thanksgiving Zacatecano-American turkey tradition – on this month’s Thanksgiving issue of Saveur!

mom

It’s pretty crazy, growing up I always knew her turkey was something special, rubbed with a spiced chile rojo paste and then served with chile’d turkey drippings. I always felt the pressure of recording her recipe for future generations, leave it to a national food magazine to get me to stop procrastinating and finally do it.

Cabral Turkey

Mexican Snack Foods – My latest for Saveur Magazine is out now! (The Mexico Issue: August 2012. Issue #149)

Saveur’s “The Mexico Issue” is here and guess who has a featured story on it? Yup, I’m sharing them glossy ‘ol food pages with Gustavo Arellano, Rick Bayless, Patricia Quintana, Diana Kennedy, etc.

This time, I write about Mexican snack food culture and how each and every candy, chip and caramel “is rooted in the spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors of the country’s cuisine.” Whether it’s in interbred history of those crunchy Cacahuates Japoneses or the ultra-tary flavor of a Limon 7 powder candy packet — they’re all here. Obleas, Cocadas, tamarind-paste-baed Pulparindos, all that glorious stuff.

So, go to your local newsstand now, whatever that means. Or just click on this link and read the whole thing online. But no matter what, make sure you have a corner liquor store or Mexican grocery market nearby!

Thanks to my girlfriend that was born and raised in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (who also has an awesome foodblog linking food with ethnography) for being my insider source.

*Header photo by Todd Coleman of Saveur