Saturday night Taste of Mexico presented their annual food festival at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, just west of Olvera Street. The Taste of Mexico Association was founded in 2010 by some of LA’s top Mexican restaurateurs – Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu of La Casita Mexicana, Vicente del Rio of Frida Mexican Cuisine, Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza Restaurant and Ricardo Cervantes of La Monarca Bakery to promote the authentic ingredients, flavors and traditions of Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles [Taste of Mexico website].
The evening started out with some exciting game dishes. One of our favorites, Petty Cash, served little oxtail tostaditos with sweet potato and almonds, while Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen served Panuchos de Pato with orange-achiote glazed muscovy duck. Tacos Punta Cabra had a lovely duck confit with avocado and smoked tomato consomme jelly on a sope. Aqui es Texcoco served Lamb Birria Tacos.
LA Beat’s old friends Dia de Los Puercos were cooking al pastor on a spit. Simple and traditional, but it was one of my favorite tacos of the night. We also loved Chichén Itzá’s Beef Shortrib and Pork Shoulder Salbute served on a fried, puffed tortilla. Tortas Brava’s dipped tortas ahogadas, which the LA Times named one of the top 8 tortas in LA, were not too spicy, but just perfect. Mexicano’s shredded chicken in mole rosa was memorable and filling.
As always, there was a wealth of ceviches and aguachiles. Con’i Seafood brought both with a head-on aguachile shrimp and a shrimp ceviche. Mercado yxta had a nice ceviche tostadita and a traditional carnitas taco. Cocina Condesa served my favorite shrimp ceviche, and guacamole with chapulines (grasshoppers or crickets) that were freaking everybody out. A girl asked me incredulously, “You’re eating that?” I replied, “They didn’t kill me the last time.” The Ceviche Project served a high-end tuna and uni tostada.
Guerilla Tacos was also serving seafood with a grilled whole calamari taco. Perhaps the most interesting and complex dish of the event came from El Coraloense, whose Changoneado Taco” was comprised of a shrimp ceviche topped with candied mango, chimoys, chile peanuts and a habanero aioli. They also had fish zarandeado with fresh cabbage, and serrano aioli. We were disappointed that our favorite truck, El Faro Mariscos, was sold out. But we got their card and now we know we can find them at Figueroa and Avenue 61, so we still scored. There were only a few vegetarian dishes, most notable of which was Gueleguetza’s trademark tamale with mole and vegetarian tostada.
For dessert we loved Mexicano’s three chese mini-flan, enjoyed Artesana Ice Pops and Pan de Muerto from Monarca Bakery that was fresh out of the oven. Loteria Grill made a really interesting sweet taco with peaches and mini churros. Oh, and we can’t forget the cotton candy.
There was a market section with vendors like Hecho a Mano, L.A. Chica, La Libreria, Mexico Collective and Lil’ Libros, who had an adorable children’s book about La Llorena. The grassy courtyard was reasonably mellow, with guests enjoying bands and Ballet Folklorico dancers as they nibbled their ceviches.
When we crossed over into the big parking lot area, that is when the party started. It reminded me of the big church fiestas of my childhood. But with tequila. Although we primarily limited ourselves to beer, we did enjoy the Margarita Gueleguetza made with mezcal and midori, as well as a Mango Enchilado Margarita from the Loteria Grill. Guests enjoyed a tequila tent, a mezcaleria installation by Mezcal Legendario Domingo, Mexican wines, and of course, Guelaguetza’s Miche Mobil. It was another outstanding event, and we can’t wait for next year!