Last Saturday afternoon some of the best chefs in Los Angeles gathered at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes along with visiting chefs from Hidalgo for Taste of Mexico‘s Farmers Market. The purpose of the event is to promote awareness of the country’s regional and upscale cuisine. Like a real street fair or farmers market, there were paletas, churros, pan dulce, fruit and aguas frescas along with a variety of savory dishes and cocktails.
Mariscos Jalisco, one of the most popular traditional taco trucks in LA, served their signature shrimp tacos with crisp shells drowned in salsa roja. Mariscos Jalisco is a frequent finalist in LA Taco’s annual Taco Madness contest, and food writer and “Tacorazzo,” Bill Esparza, has given the truck his stamp of approval by selecting them to participate in the Tacolandia event. El Borrego de Oro had soft tacos filled with the flavorful, tender lamb barbacoa that gives them their name along with little cups of lamb consomme. The restaurant cooks the lamb Hildalgo style by burying it. They also served Pulque, an alcoholic drink that dates back to the Mesoamerican period. It is made by fermenting the sap of an agave cactus, unlike mezcal and tequila, which is made from the heart, or piña, of the plant. El Borrego de Oro has plans to open a third restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. We can’t wait!
Mexicali Taco and Co. had one of the most upscale tacos with their Taco Campestre: Black Angus New York steak grilled over mesquite, salsa negra de chiltepin, and avocados from Mexico. The beef was so tender you barely needed teeth, and the addition of a tiny tomato to explode in your mouth was inspired. La Casita Mexicana mixed it up with much-appreciated chilaquiles rojos. Jimmy Shaw of Loteria Grill presented a variety of tortas, including steak and chorizo, and ham and cheese.
Loteria Grill also stirred up some Green Cocktails with Mexcal El Silencio, cucumber, lime, agave nectar and mint. You could also enjoy micheladas by Montejo served from Guelaguetza’s Miche Mobil. One of our favorite tequilas, Centenario, offered shots of blanco, anejo, and reposado.
Artesana/Artesian Pops made creative paletas like watermelon lemongrass, Vietnamese coffee, and grapefruit-hibiscus. The treats were so refreshing, frozen in adorable little snack sizes. Northgate Gonzalez Fruit set up a fruit cart and cut fresh summer fruits to order. The Got Milk? campaign served little cups of horchata-flavored rice pudding, which saved my taste buds after I decided the bright orange salsa at Frida’s would look pretty in my pictures and poured it on. Later the owner of Monarca Bakery clarified, “Oh, orange like habaneros?” Yes. Exactly like habaneros.
Monarca Bakery served pan dulce like mini conchitas and cuernitos along with café de olla, coffee that had been cold brewed overnight with spices and then strained. Across the lawn Compañía de Café countered with Libra Cake de Abuelita, Azulejo Cookies and Paleta Cookies. Northgate Market brought produce and Pan de Muertos, keeping in the Farmer’s Market theme.
There was a short presentation by Bricia Lopez, who was joined by the chefs as she emphasized the importance of Mexican cuisine being accepted by the mainstream restaurant community. She ended by saying, “Now a man is going to come up here and say a bunch of words in Spanish.” Guests picnicked on the grass to the sounds of cumbia DJ collective Dinamita. There was face painting for the kids, which is probably more fun for the adults to see since Calavera makeup has become such an art form. Taste of Mexico is probably the best deal in town; we definitely got our $35 worth and more. The afternoon wrapped up slowly as everyone prepared themselves to do it all over again at the evening’s festivities.