Visiting chefs from CANIRAC Hidalgo in Hidalgo, Mexico. All photos by Bob Lee for the Los Angeles Beat.
Taste Of Mexico celebrated its fourth anniversary at LA’s Plaza De Cultura Y Artes last Saturday night, featuring diverse and delicious plates showcasing distinctive regional cusines. At $55 a ticket for unlimited tastes, including Montejo beer and Gran Centenario tequila, TOM is one of the city’s best values in food festivity. Lines were long for the most popular restaurants – Frida/Diego Tacos and Guelaguetza were two obvious crowd favorites – but moved briskly, with a massive number of vendors to handle the big group.
TOM president, event host and La Guelaguetza owner Bricia Lopez spoke passionately about the festival’s intent to bring Mexican cusine into the fine-dining spotlight, castigating the LA Food and Wine festival for not including a single Mexican restaurant in its lineup.
The quality and variety of the food on offer made Lopez’s point for her – this was a night for complex flavors achieved through traditional cooking methods, each region carrying its own traditions. I was thrilled to find the Estilo Mazatlan truck had Aquachile, an addictive concoction of marinated shrimp and cucumber slices. Guelaguetza’s mole remains a thing of rare beauty, deep, rich flavors capable of inspiring flashbacks to past lives. Birrieria Chalio offered a tasty stewed goat dish that lingered on the palate for what seemed like days.
While most of the vendors were local, CANIRAC Hidalgo traveled up from Mexico to offer us pastes, a unique potato-filled riff on the Cornish pastie that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in LA. I’d never known this regional cooking before but, there’s a Hiladgoan restaurant in Boyle Heights too, La Borrego De Oro, whose pit-roasted lamb was another major hit. It was a reminder that even we Angelenos who eat a lot of Mexican food are often just scratching the surface of what’s available in our own backyard.