Tag Archives: mexican

Global Diner: Anepalco’s Cafe’s Chilaquiles


PHOTO by PRISCILLA IEZZI / ORANGE COAST

The October issue of Orange Coast marks the debut of my new column, Global Diner. Each month I’ll be examining an outstanding international dish among Orange County’s vast expanse of mom-and-pop and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. This time, it’s the spectacular chilaquiles at Anepalco’s Cafe in Orange:

Chef Danny Godinez’s dish is a marvel: The fried mass of tortillas is formed into a thin cake, topped with a fluffy omelet and dressed with avocado mousse, pico de gallo, crema, and sprinkles of cotija cheese. It’s surrounded by a pool of brilliant brick-red sauce that tastes of smoky, toasted chilies. The tiny Main Street cafe serves an equally good second version, chilaquiles verdes, made with a tomatillo-based sauce and sprinkled with a scattering of pumpkin seeds. Both iterations are precisely prepared, their contrasting flavors and textures balanced in every bite.

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Leftovers: Guisados

The wonderful stews and braises of Guisados for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by ANNE CUSACK / L.A. TIMES

Ricardo Diaz is on his way to building a culinary empire with Mexican restaurants that innately reflect the attitudes and fluctuations of the Angeleno appetite.

Three years ago, Diaz and his in-laws opened Cook’s Tortas in Monterey Park. There, sturdy, rustic rolls are baked on-site, everyone sips pineapple-celery and watermelon-mint aguas frescas and dessert brings soft corn cakes and biscuits smeared with loquat marmalade. For every diner who longs for thetorta of grilled chicken, salsa, avocado and fried sage, another loves grilled skirt steak, dry-aged chorizo, nopales and guacamole. The restaurant is the all-inclusive ideal of what a modern Mexican cafe should be in Los Angeles.

Guisados, Diaz and business partner Armando De La Torre’s new Boyle Heights taquería, shares a similar universality. Here, guisados achieve ascendancy; these are humble stews and braises that you’d otherwise most likely find simmering atop a home stove.

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Leftovers: Antojitos Carmen

Huaraches, quesadillas and weekend-only migas: Antojitos Carmen finds a permanent home in Boyle Heights. For the  L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES

The way it used to be, on almost any given evening an irrepressible assemblage of Mexican food vendors would flood a Boyle Heights parking lot in what seemed like seconds. Empty tables suddenly were covered with tubs of masa and astringent salsas, and griddles glowed with immediate heat. Before you knew it, diners would be perched on plastic chairs and crumbling curbs, their fingers stained an inky, huitlacoche-rich black. Couples quickly huddled around cups of goat consommé as kids eyed the cinnamon-dusted ridges of freshly fried churros. It was a mesmerizing sight, one that transformed a patch of otherwise-empty asphalt.

When authorities shut down the not-quite-nightly Breed Street food fair some months ago, vendors were forced to accept a more itinerant existence. Where there was once an unrivaled concentration of street-food specialists is now a diaspora of barbacoa masters and pozole purveyors dispersed across several Eastside blocks. Veteran vendor Antojitos Carmen, meanwhile, found a permanent place for its movable feast.

It’s still sparse — not much more than a half-dozen brick-red booths staring out onto César Chávez Avenue — but Antojitos Carmen the restaurant is home nevertheless. After two decades spent hunched over sidewalk fryers, the Ortega family was recently able to move its operation indoors. The month-old restaurant already feels lived-in: Photos of Carmen Ortega’s hometown of Yurécuaro, Michoacán, adorn the walls; regulars pick up orders with mere nods of the head.

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Leftovers: Fuego at the Maya

The makings of Long Beach’s own Mayan Riviera for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Fuego looks out onto the Long Beach of everyone’s oceanfront dream, a seaside theater where pelicans dive with hungry, graceful precision and pleasure-seekers boat by on the last winds of summer. It’s a scene so idyllic it’s nearly unbelievable, almost as if it were constructed and choreographed by a television crew trying again to approximate Miami. For Fuego, the newest tenant of the equally new Hotel Maya, it’s fitting, a perfect backdrop for the restaurant’s high-end exploration of coastal Mexican cooking.

But that sublime setting doesn’t diminish the difficulties of upscaling a cuisine so common in Southern California that even less-than-serious eaters possess a passable understanding of its regional distinctions. As a result, successful Mexican fine dining must undeniably out-cook our taquería favorites and also compete directly with modern masters like La Casita Mexicana in Bell and Moles La Tia in East LA. Chef Jesse Perez is, by and large, up to the task.

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Leftovers: Rollie’s Bakery and Café

Bolivian basics for the LA Times:


PHOTO by GINA FERAZZI / LA TIMES

The wall of sweets inside Rollie’s Bakery Café in Tustin — a collection of shell-shapedconchas, rows of cinnamon-crusted confections and a group of fluorescent pink pastries — is deceiving. The year-old restaurant is part panadería, but it has also evolved into something more anomalous: a rare outpost of Bolivian cooking.

That Andean element crept slowly into the kitchen: In its nascent months, Rollie’s operated only as a bakery, serving the sugary Mexican staples that satisfy those not quite close enough to neighboring Santa Ana. Slowly, however, the restaurant began adding Bolivian dishes until it arrived at a set of parallel menus — one each for Roland Guerra and his wife, Ebie.

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Leftovers: La Chiva Loca

Drowned sandwiches from this week’s District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

These are the wet weeks of the California winter, a time in the state’s single season when morning mist gathers on your hair like dew on grass and when even the driest roads can suddenly become rain-slicked crash courses. Within this short window of weather, appetites actually shift as we turn to steaming soups for some solace during these waterlogged times. But bisques and stews won’t sustain you alone. Thankfully, Downey’s La Chiva Loca is dedicated to the torta ahogada, a sandwich that provides a completely different way to get warm.

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Leftovers: Moles la Tía

 East LA’s mole master from today’s Times:


PHOTO by BARBARA DAVIDSON / LA TIMES

The multitude of moles at East Los Angeles’ Moles la Tía might just complete a culinary color wheel: Circle through the menu and you’ll find the cheery yellow of the passion fruit mole, the herbaceous green of the finas hierbas mole, the pristine ivory of the velo de novia mole. These sauces don’t seem so much cooked as they do composed, every ingredient mindful of its place in the restaurant’s oeuvre.

Housing these often extraordinary moles is a dining room with familiar design ideas (a clean and classic terra cotta-colored space), but also a telling aesthetic: On the walls hang landscape paintings and portraits cut with cubist corners, each crafted in a sort of fractured geometry that pairs with chef Rocio Camacho’s modern moles.

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