Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Viva Mexico! Taco Tour Redux

Now, since I'm sure you're all dying to hear about it: Taco Tour!!

To start with, the sniffles I had contracted pre-trip didn't leave. In fact - they are still lingering around as a nice deep cough. Still. Lovely. 

But at least I had regained my tastebuds by tour time. Thank goodness!

One note about touring anywhere around the holidays - be prepared for things to be closed. Our Eat Mexico tour, as listed in the glossy brochure we were handed when we met our guide, listed 6 taco stops and one tortilla shop stop that we were supposed to make. We made 3 of the 6 and the tortilla shop - with a bonus stop for blue corn Tlacoyos. And we didn't get the promised agua fresca or ice cream. Sad face.

We did get a nice extended stop in this market, in the Roma neighborhood, tasting lots of interesting fruits. 

Like this crazy black mushy one - when whole, it looks like a giant, round avocado. But when you cut into it, the insides are mushy black goo. Which is apparently best when mixed with orange juice and rum. Good to know. It tasted nice and sweet without the rum too.

I'll put together an extended post on the tortilla shop. It deserves it. If you've never seen these little tortilla factories before, they are totally worth checking out. You might even have a few in the town you're living in now (I know of at least 5 around here).

Our tour guide, Paco, knew everything about everything. He was raised in Mexico City, fought bulls when he was younger, played chess professionally, and now teaches people about his native food for a living. A pretty sweet gig!

And now for what you've all been waiting for - the Tacos!

First up was the Mole Verde, from a place called Tixtla.

Here's what the menu says about them (hopefully you know Spanish!):

Here's the actual taco I ate. It was great! As opposed to the usual heavy, dark mole, this one was light, herbal, and I could easily have eaten 20 more of them. Apparently the green color comes from special herbs from the region of Tixtla (the place's namesake). A pretty unique flavor. And the chicken breast was nice and tender.

They had all sorts of sauces. I chose to put a large heaping spoonful of the green sauce on a tortilla chip before the tacos came - and I nearly died. Five minutes later, when the coughing subsided, I decided to leave the spicy sauces to Mr. S. He happily spooned some onto his taco. I ate mine plain.

Our next taco was the Carnitas Taco. It came from a nice little corner taqueria, across the street from the market. The pile of pork in the window set my mouth to watering as soon as we approached it.

And when I saw this sign, I knew I had found my new favorite taco place. And possibly the design for my first tattoo.

It's a piggie in a pot! Aaaaaah! I seriously might need this printed on an apron. Or on a canvas to hang in my kitchen. Or all of the above.

And here's the taco. Soooooooooo delicious. Tender chopped pork, topped with a bit of onion and cilantro. Add a bit of salsa from the large dishes on the counter and you've got a magnificent bite.

If you decide (like any sane person) that you now are in need of massive quantities of this pork of paradise, you're in luck! It comes in Karnipacks. Which might be my new favorite word. Ever.

The next thing we tried was the Tlacoyos. I thought at first that these were like Huaraches, a flat corn base, piled high with delicious toppings. Boy was I wrong. 

They're actually closer to quesadillas, or Salvadorian Pupusas. Inside the oblong blue corn masa is either cheese, beans, or chicharon. The little oval of deliciousness is then cooked on a large flat grill.

Once it's nice and toasty, it gets split open on the top and stuffed with cooked cactus, cheese, chicken, pickled veg, huitlacoche, cilantro, onion, and all sorts of other interesting things.

It's supposedly been around since the Olmecs, one of the first little masa-based snacks on the planet. And here it is in all it's Tlacoyo-an glory:

Oh yeah. So many combinations. I really don't know why I'd never heard of these before. And why I don't see them sold everywhere. 

Perhaps this will be the new food trend of 2013? It's got my vote!

Our final taco was Cochinita Pibil. From this storefront across the street from the market.

Cochinita Pibil is pork (again. I love how these people love pig!) shoulder, marinated in orange juice, annatto seed, and some other mysterious spices. All wrapped up and cooked in a banana leaf - making this stuff uber tender. They suggest topping it with pickled red onions, lime, and the region's famous habanero pepper salsa. I left out that last one.

The tacos that were on the list that we didn't get to try were Tacos Guisados (which I've never heard of), Tacos Arabes (which I've never heard of either and am totally bummed on missing. May have to quest after some here in the states), and Tacos Al Pastor (one of Mr. S's favorites that we eat often).

We then walked for many, many blocks to visit Helado Obscuro. They were closed. But judging by their Facebook page, it would have been an awesome treat. 

We finished up by opting for the microbrew stop. Paco took us to La Belga, a little tiny store, with beers stacked to the ceiling!

See? I wasn't kidding. There were many Mexican brews to choose from, most of which come from tiny places that don't distribute beyond the immediate area. 

We chose our beers from those that they had in the fridge and swilled them in the street. A great end to the tour!

Since we missed so many stops and ended about 2 hours early, the owner of Eat Mexico, Lesley, called us later that evening and offered a partial refund. We really did enjoy the tour, and I feel sketched out by refunds, so I think next time we're in Mexico we'll just set up another tour with them - with a discount, perhaps?


  1. what a nummy tour! Thanks for reliving it here. Only now I'm hungry for lunch hours too early and there's no chance I'll find that kind of taco anywhere near me.
    Pat Z

  2. Oh my god, I am drooling. I freaking love tacos. If I were to pick a last meal, it'd probably be street tacos. I really want to make an "herbal mole" like you described, it sounds heavenly!

    1. I asked about the herbs in the mole and they just used the phrase "regional" which probably means "who the heck knows the name, but we've been using them for this specific sauce for the last 500 years or so". So I really can't help you too much on that one! Good luck with it though. Hope to see it posted on your blog soon!