Get full and faded at East L.A. Meets Napa 2012! (Union Station, July 20, 2012 6:00 PM)

It’s about that time of year! Yup, East L.A. Meets Napa is this Friday and the tickets are going fast, well, I’m guessing they are, the event always runs out of food early every year.

It’s definitely among the most unique food events in Los Angeles, it sounds exactly as the title implies: East L.A. (the Chicano elite and the restaurants in the Eastern Los Angeles where they like to eat at) meets Napa (Latino-owned vineyards in North California).

It takes place in the pretty cool, low-pro courtyard outside of Union Station and there is usually a “Latin” band to accompany, complete with a waxed dance floor. If anything, just go to witness the spectacle of buzzed veteranos in guayaberas at a food event.

I’ve been covering the event for the last few years, here are some past links on Teenage Glutster so you can know what to expect.

East L.A. Meets Napa 2011

East L.A. Meets Napa 2010

East L.A. Meets Napa 2009

Ahí nos vemos!

Ask the Glutster: Where are them non-holiday season tamales hook ups???

Hey Javier,

How are things going?

I’m looking for some recommendations for food for a house party of 35-40 people. Who would you suggest makes good platters of tamales? I know it’s typically a Christmas thing, but they’re an easy party dish.
If you have any other ideas, I’ve already done taco research. Any good churros?
Thanks and I hope you’re well.
Best,
Neil

Yooo!

I know it’s kind of overdone and you’ve probably heard this before but Guelaguetza always has  a steady supply of them banana leafed bad boys. Also, the most central location for most Angelenos.

But if you want to get some truly awesome shit and go out of your way a little, let’s go eat at Rocio’s Mole de Los Dioses and I’ll introduce you to Rocio. She’ll whip you up however much you want of them steamy, corn love nuggets with extra Oaxacan TLC.

And lastly, my top recommendation of all: LAS BRISAS DE APATZINGAN in Santa Ana.

Gustavo Arellano brought me here for dinner when he asked me to give a lecture at his Cal State Fullerton class and they proved to be the best damn tamales I’ve ever had, almost like them more than my moms! Well, they are different. The thing is that these are “Uchepos,” those  freshly shucked corn (no masa here homie) based sweet tamales from the underestimated state of Michoacan. The texture is like hot pudding and you top each one with tart tomatillo salsa, a dollop of Mexican Crema and imported stinky, salty Cotija cheese for a sweet and salty nutritious dessert/dinner. My girlfriend and I religiously come here on the first Saturday of every month just to buy a dozen to take back home, we freeze them and ration them out through out the month, haha.

As for churros, hmm, I’ll get back to you on that shizz, last time I saw Salinas Churro truck was at a random backyard, probably getting some mecanico work done. But its too hot for fried dough anyway man!

Lemme knowwwwww.

-Javi Lokes

changed sides tamale

(Header photo taken by Paola Briseño (Research and Kitchen).)

Guelaguetza
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Rocio’s Mole de Los Dioses
6242 Maywood Ave., Bell.

Las Brisas de Apatzingan
1524 South Flower Street
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(714) 545-5584

Five vital tips for food bloggers learned at Camp Blogaway

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be on the good side of a particular food blogging professional by the name of Patti Londre. She’s been around the food media block a few times and recently decided to create a pretty special retreat called Camp Blogaway. It takes place once a year in the San Bernardino wilderness and its campers are an indulgent few, eager food bloggers looking to break into the growing statistic of profe$$ional food bloggers.

camp blogaway hike
the camp walkway
cheese research
wine work

Call it a justified fat camp if you want, I’m sure no one would get offended. There was Kerrigold premium cheese and premium-er wine Wente tasting, spicy Italian turkey sausages in papillote for dinner and just about all the ripe Ataulfo mangoes you can eat thanks to the girls at The National Mango Board.

camp blogaway dinner

our cabin

The topics included in the aggressive 7 AM – 9:15 PM agenda of food-focused sessions varied from heartwarming talks on “How Blogging Can Alter Your Life’s Course” by Ben Rhau of the Bert Greene Award finalist food blog You Fed a Baby Chili and an eye-opening “Seven Deadly Sins of Bloggers” by Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy, to a tense food photo constructive criticism session in the form of a one-by-one brash bashing of individually submitted photos by the food styling veteran Denise Vivaldo.

Anyways, here are the top five things I learned from the whole experience.

1) Only seven out of 100 food bloggers are men.

I know this because I was one of the seven in this retreat! Along with Gerry of Foodness Gracious and a few other cool dudes in our cabin. I know there are brilliant dude food bloggers out there, so why aren’t there more of us out there representin’ man?

2) It is possible to make a living out of blogging, you just gotta work your ass off by either creating recipes for companies with a lot of money or had started blogging before everyone else did.

Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen revealed how blogging has become her main source of income. At one point, posting recipes five days a week to get that traffic up, going and strong. Also, she is firm believer in HIRING someone to do your web design and lay out, although, it might be an investment, it is totally worth it. Being a blogger as a profession ain’t easy, but it is possible, just gotta hustle.

3) Don’t undersell yourself and your precious work!

Amy Sherman was the motivational speaker of the event, advocating to charge big name corporations and affluent companies for every single word and tested recipe you do for them. Although, there are a few exceptions, like if you really like a product and it the free food is enough to continually “feed your family,” like Cheryl D. Lee of Black Girl Chef’s Whites pointed out.  Although, that’s not what the “Working Relationships – Panel of Corporate & PR Reps” session advocated. Hmm, the point is that your blogging time is precious, so be cautious of how you spend it.

4) Bloggers get burnt out on blogging, doesn’t mean you have to quit blogging forever, just find some inspiration for writing elsewhere.

Kelly Jaggers of the Texas based Evil Shenanigans food blog and Erika Kerekes of In Erica’s Kitchen food blog led a refreshing conversation on perhaps the number one reason why bloggers of any genre are not successful — blogger burnout! We all know how that feels like. When you start to put blogging in the end of your to-do list, when going to sleep earlier sounds better than staying up to write and reaping the glory of people commenting and your followers commending you the next morning. They compiled a 30-idea list to get you out of that rut, including suggestions like “do a roundup of your own recipes featuring a specific ingredient or category” and “asking friends to guest post.”

5. Revamp your blog, keep things fresh!

Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama and Dara Michalski of Cookin’ Canuck showed everyone how to keep things aesthetically  fresh on their blog. They provided a premium checklist of things to make sure your blog is offering to readers in order to keep them coming back for more. Questions on the on the vital list varied from “Does [your blog design] help tell your ‘story’? (i.e., Is it YOU?)” to a mini-list of “Items to consider adding to your blog:” filled with things like printable recipes by the way of Ziplist and a FAQ page.

nicole at camp blogaway

camp blogaway swag

If anything else, this retreat is fun as hell and the clear air will do you good. Plus, you will get at least 50 lbs (not kidding) of SWAG that might or might not include a stainless steel knife and cutting board from Cutco, a dozen Ataulfo mangoes and an OXO Good Grip cherry/olive pitter.

A big thank you to Nicole of Presley’s Pantry (pictured above!) for convincing my hardheaded self to go this year and Pamela of Señorita Vino for driving all of us up there!

groupphoto-2

guys

(last two photos courtesy of Camp Blogaway website)

 

A Taco Dorado de Ternera for The Soul at Birriería Aceves (Mercado de Abastos: Guadalajara, Mexico)

“What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?” is a question that every food writer gets every once in a while. And while I tend to brush it off due to the mere impracticality of the bold question, I’ve been thinking about it recently.

First of all, for such an answer to even exist, there are usually a number of undisclosed intangible factors in the food that comes to mind: the nostalgia, the cultural aspect, the significant others eating with you etc. Secondly, we all must eat three (or more!) freaking times a day, multiply those three times however days old you are and you’ll understand why the question is a little far-fetched.

Well, all this is basically true until — you actually eat that best thing you’ve ever eaten.

Taco de Ternera

What this is, ladies and gentlemen, is that best thing: A taco of Birria de Ternera from Birriería Aceves in the Mercado de Abastos in Guadalajara.

I think the fact that this was the only food stand with a ten minute wait among a dozen others open gave the awesomeness of this place away. The guy dry-roast’s chunks of fatty ass veal, then throws a fucken ladle-full of umami-laden birria broth on top of the crisp-skinned tenderness. And to finish it off, wraps the roasted baby cow  in a sturdy handmade tortilla that is then pan fried ’till brown and crisp. It produces this kind of Xia Long Bao pork belly-like lipid anarchism in your mouth. Squeeze a little lime on it with a few tablespoons of table-oxidized minced raw onion (no cilantro!) and you get “the best thing you’ve ever eaten.” Apparently, this style is common in Jalisco and is recognized as “Birria tatemada,” which translates over to a combination of blackened and/or smoked Birria.

Yup, blackened and smoked fucken Birria made from local Mexican veal.

And the intangible factor for me this time around? Scarcity! My significant other had inhaled her half and I was taking turns between my half of the beauty and a bowl of roasted goat Birria in broth to make the decadence last. Then, out of nowhere, the cutest little girl came asking for money to buy food. Naturally, my table-mate handed her my half-taco on the premise of burgeoning Mexican capitalism and being able to afford another taco.

We obviously did not know the greatness of Birríeria Aceves, they had sold out of all food right after we ordered ours at 11 AM sharp. The little girl nibbled on her winnings and ran off to another patron who didn’t spare even a quarter of a lime.

birria tatemada
At least I had a 1/2 bowl of Birria.

And that was that, the best thing I’ve ever eaten. As a consolation, I did eat a pretty decent quesadilla a couple of food stands over. It was griddled in the same manner but instead, stuffed with pickled squash blossoms and queso Adobera, a local cheese with a similar meltability like Monterey Jack. With a side of nopalitos and guacamole, I was good. Plus, the Tianguis de Tonalá was our next stop and there was plenty of munchies and drinks to be had there too,  I was sure.

quesadilla at mercado de abastos in Mexico City

For dessert, we stopped at a dulceria attached to the Mercado and picked up a sugar-free Mazapan made of pepita seeds. Oh well, on to the next best thing to eat.

Birriería Aceves
In the Mercdo de Abastos of Guadalajara.
Between Calle Nance and Mandarina.

Local, Grass-Fed Chevre Burgers At Humboldt Brews

I found myself at Humboldt State University over this last 4/20 weekend. No, not for the reason you are thinking, it was for a fencing tournament. Actually, The 5th Annual Redwood Coast Assault of Arms, an official national tournament held by the Historical Fencing Association. Along with seven other of my Salle Lancier (Pasadena City College’s fencing club) colleagues, we were invited to come up to defend the name of our lovely community college.

Well, most of us ended up getting slaughtered. Literally too, as was apparent by the epees this school of fencing uses, the tips actually have three sharp little teeth that are made to “cling on to your clothing” and create an “uncomfortable feeling.” Unlike the electricity-assisted, sport version of the dueling weapon sport that is more popular and made it to Olympic status that only has a flat screw top.

historical fencing epee tip
These dudes are hardcore.

There are only two cool things that came out of this trip. First, enjoying the edible splendors of their hippy student market (it hast stuff like crystallized ginger sheep’s milk yogurt and puffed sorghum “popcorn,” available daily?!) Second, eating and drinking at Humboldt Brews.

market goods
Pre-Fencing Breakfast of Champions

Humboldt Brews is disguised as the local collegetown pub but it’s the pride and joy of the city of Arcata really. And while the rest of the 20+ fencers that participated in the tournament feasted like lumberjacks at the local historic restaurant, Old Samoa Cookhouse for the dinner reception, I asked to get dropped off and go solo at Humboldt Brews for a burger and a beer. As soon as I walked in, I knew my anti-social decision was the correct one. I sat at the bar and the cook had long hair, wore shades and was listening to “Iron Man” at a decibel level that would rival that of a metalhead cooking lunch on his day off.

I opted for their “Shroomers Delight” burger: 1/3 lb Humboldt grass-fed beef, roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms, a thick smear of Cypress Grove local chevre on soft buns with a steak knife stabbed in it. The meal came with mixed greens, tomato, red onion and their “Pub Fries,” which is basically their own unfussy rendition of fresh-cut Pomme Frites, for about $12.

last burger pic

The burger was bomb. Under seasoned, but in a consciously healthful way. Since well, grass beef doesn’t need much salt. Unsurprisingly, their medium rare was more “well” done than rare. The buns were amongst the softest I’ve had, as far as burger standards go. But all this just digresses from the fact that there was a thick, white, opaque dollop of local Cypress Grove chevre on a freaking burger. Chevre is the missing link on burgers. It works double shift; soft and creamy enough to replicate what a mayonnaise or aioli would do, and richly flavored enough to satisfy that tangy richness that a slice of cheddar or any other hard cheese would impart. The mushrooms and peppers were ample as well, barely cooked and unmushy.

To further the heavy metal feeling of the dinner, I washed the beast down with a “Back in Black” Black IPA from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. I am in the “Black IPA” phase of a budding beer enthusiasts at this moment and this was by far my favorite. It’s just something about the corequisite flavors of malt and hops in the same cup of beer, for the beer geek that wants it all.

The meal set me back only $17 and it turned out that the bartender is close friends with the owner of Cypress Grove cheese, yes creator of Humboldt Fog cheese. She informed me that the owner “was a single mom who did every step of the process by herself,” including driving down to San Francisco and distributing her cheese weekly. And that she recently, “sold her company for millions to Swiss dairy.”

Well, I may have not discussed the subtleties of an inquartata fencing pose with the rest of my fencing adversaries but I did eat one of the best damn burgers of my life thus far.

Humboldt Brews

856 10th St. Arcata, CA 95521

707.826.BREW

 

Ask The Glutster: Where does a prospective starving student eat near USC?

Gluster,

I saw your site last year and I have been saving it, so I can pick the best lunch spot. I don’t get to LA often because I am far to the North. I have to go to USC tommorow. Any advice on restuarants within 10 min drive from USC.

Thanks,

Anthony

A fan of your site.

Anthony,

First of all, thanks for reading and keeping it old school, means a lot, gonna try to write more exclusive theglutster.com stuff.

Well, I might be seeing you there in the near future man, I just applied and am waiting to hear from them soon.

Foodwise, I hear that Manna’s is the shit for starving student dining, in particular their lunch buffet. It’s an Indian food joint so you can pretty much forget about dinner that night if you eat according to your “growing body,” haha.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/manas-indian-cuisine-los-angeles-2

But if you really want something awesome and different, drive a little farther south until you hit The Pelican, a Belizean food joint. I was supposed to do a few review for the CRA-LA until they were put on the cutting block. So now, it’s all yours, and anyone else that still reads this old blog.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-pelican-belizean-cuisine-los-angeles

I’ve been there once, they have some interesting stuff, like red snapper steamed almost Jerk-style with onions, except with a hell of a lot more clove. Or some really Mexican-like things, like fried tacos stuffed with ground fish and eaten with slightly fermented onions. Also, pretty cheap, less than $10. Although, from what I remember, there was only one guy working the place and he had a little attitude, but fuck it, you’re here for the food.

Lates! Let me know where you end up and how it went.

Cheers, and more beers.

Photo by Paola Briseño

ADDENDUM:

(Taken from commenter Jin because she is awesome)

“Don’t forget the mercado la paloma where mochica and chichen itza live. they’re not too expensive and very worth it! also, there is a juice bar there as well as affordable thai food. there is lemonade at the usc campus that’s pretty legit, and across the street is health hut in the uv where the juices are cheaper than jamba juice. their salads and sandwiches aren’t bad either. bacaro has great happy hour at 5pm where all the food is $5. the burger there is amazing. just up hoover and olympic is the olympic cheonggukjang, which is my fave korean restaurant”

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.