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SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudoMexican Flavors on the High Seas

Friday, November 26, 2010

Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods Cafe
2453 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782
(714) 259-0400

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Native Foods Cafe Tustin Storefront

Now this isn't a Mexican restaurant but part of my self-assigned job here at the blog is to tell people about Mexican food that exists in places they wouldn't expect and Native Foods Cafe has at least seven different Mexican dishes. This is also a vegetarian, oops, I mean vegan restaurant, but don't be turned off; as a meat-eater myself (although not the most carnivorous person ever) who tries to work vegan/vegetarian options into my diet from time to time I can tell you this place is worth a try. The only one of their dishes that seemed a little too vegan was their fajita platter (can they find a substitute for this dish's meat substitute?). I shouldn't complain since I've always been rather neutral on fajitas anyways.

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Pancho's Quesa-villa

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Taco platter

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Ensalada Azteca

My favorite out of all the ones I tried (yes, I made seven visits for this entry) was the Ensalada Azteca ("Fresh avocado, cucumber and jicama salsa atop organic quinoa, romaine and Chef Tanya's award winning mango lime vinaigrette. Topped with currants, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro."). They also have other items like the "Pancho's Quesa-villa" and "En-Cha-Cha-lada Bowl." Those are admittedly silly names for a dish but they make up for it by calling their self-serve salsa "Chupacabra Hot Sauce," after the mythical (or is it?) Mexican beast that sucks blood from goats.

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En-Cha-Cha-lada Bowl

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Chimichurri fajita platter

The ingredients were always very fresh (some meat-loving places could take a cue from them) and service was always very friendly with employees re-filling your drinks and bringing you anything you need. Also pay attention to their daily and seasonal menus. One time I had their soup of the day, which was a yam-jalapeño soup that went great with my taco salad.

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Yo Amigo Taco Salad

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Nuevo Native Nachos

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Drive Out Hunger


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The Drive Out Hunger campaign has been going on for about a week and a half now but tomorrow night, Wednesday the 17th, will be an especially big night for it where 20 gourmet food trucks will meet in the parking lot of Irvine Meadows (now blasphemously known as Verizon Wireless Ampitheater), collect cans of food as charitable donations, and numerous celebrities will be present to sign autographs for those who donate cans of food and other goods to help the hungry, needy and homeless. Admission is free and parking is free. Click the link for more info. The drive's goal is to collect at least 1,000 pounds of food to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank Orange County. Search your cupboards and see what you can bring to donate. Maybe even buy a couple new cans of food to donate.

If you want to donate but are unable to make it to any of the trucks you can donate online here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's Wahoo's

Wahoo's Fish Tacos
120 Main Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 536-2050

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and:

Wahoo's Fish Tacos
13791 Newport Ave, #4        
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 544-1154

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I first encountered Wahoo's Fish Tacos in 1994 when I was at Laguna Beach's Sawdust Festival to see an acoustic set by the Swamp Zombies and noticed a little taco stand with a walkup window there. I didn't realize at the time that this was part of a burgeoning Orange County-Based chain. Some people question if the food Wahoo's serves is "authentic Mexican." I simply see it as beach or surfer Mex with some Asian, some Brazilian and some Polynesian influence (it's not "Tex-Mex," a term that's applied to too many non-Tex-Mex places, since there's nothing Texan about it); or maybe that isn't a simple answer but my laissez faire attitude allows any restaurant to be whatever it wants to be without feeling like they have to pander to the many vague, often conflicting notions out there of what establishes authenticity. I've had many of Wahoo's fish tacos over the years but have lately grown partial to their Maui bowl. I also think I may have placed a few stickers on their famously bestickered walls during several visits.

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I recently learned through their Twitter feed that two of their locations, Tustin and Huntington Beach, are now offering breakfast. I went the very next morning to the Tustin one only to find it closed or at least doing a very good job of seeming closed. I went a few days later and this time it appeared open so I went in, saw their breakfast menu, and ordered their huevos rancheros. When I got it this dish was immediately recognizable as a Wahoo's item, on their signature ovular white plate, their signature black beans (this time with melted cheese on the top), and the main entree served as two fried eggs over corn tortillas, topped with cheese and your choice of red or green sauce and big dollops of sour cream and guacamole on the side. Pretty good stuff but I think next time I might try it with red sauce and ask for half rice/half beans instead of all beans. An employee there was about to eat her own breakfast so she let me take a picture of her Banzai veggie omelette. Other breakfast items include a Mexican scrambled egg dish, a "Tofurrito," and a machaca burrito.

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Call ahead of time to make sure they are open before you head there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Del Taco Fries and Tacos

A couple months back I stopped by the Del Taco near Disneyland and saw that they had a couple new items that were variations on their Deluxe Chili Fries. I tried what they then called the "Loaded Backyard BBQ Fries:"

Loaded Backyard BBQ Fries from Del Taco

Being a fan of barbecue sauce and chili fries this made a perfect mixture. Just today (Nov. 10, 2010) Del Taco's coupon mailer came showing that these "Loaded Fries" are now available at most Del Tacos:

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With the "Loaded Backyard BBQ Fries" having their name changed to "Beefy BBQ Fries" and the "Deluxe Nacho Fries" retaining their name. The mailer also showed some tacos I hadn't seen before, the Carne Asada Steak Taco and the Pollo Asado Chicken Taco:

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If anyone tries these before I do please leave a comment about them here.

UPDATE: I have since tried the Nacho Fries. They're like a spicier version of the normal chili fries. My preference would be for the barbecue ones.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

El Moctezuma

El Moctezuma #3
1740 W Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 456-0080

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Bringing this entry back up to the top to remind everyone of Johnny Automatic's review and also because I added my own pictures of El Moctezuma's first location.

Moctezuma's Revenge


El Moctezuma #3 - Exterior
Heeeeere's Johnny from Orange slowly becoming our #1 guest reviewer with review #4, this time of El Moctezuma #3:

On my first visit I was a little overwhelmed by the menu and a number of regional specialties I had not encountered before (despite decades of devoted Mexican food eating). I ended up trying a Huarache con pollo. You may think of huaraches as sandals and in most of Mexico they are, but they also are an oblong slab of fried corn masa topped with refried beans, chile sauce, cheese and in this case moist grilled chicken breast meat. The lady running the front end gave me chips and salsa beforehand, the salsa being a warm cooked salsa that was very chunky. I added some of this salsa on top of the huarache. The salsa punched up the flavor on what was a mild, fresh and flavorful dish. But I liked it more with the kick of some salsa. They have agua frescas and horchata fresh each day. What's available seems to vary. I had the Jamaica or hibiscus flower agua fresca that day. In a previous review I called jamaica fruit punch. I was copying right off the menu there but hibiscus is really what jamaica is.

El Moctezuma #3 - Chips and Salsa
I went back a second time with a group of six. My friend Luis is a computer programmer who previously lived in Mexico City and is from the Sonora region of Mexico. I wanted his opinion on the food and that got others interested. Luis has also been looking for a restaurant that had food like he remembered in Mexico. He tells me it all tasted the same here and it doesn't taste like home. So I took that as a challenge.

El Moctezuma #3 - Taco
Once again the chips and salsa came but today's salsa was different than the last time. This was a traditional salsa verde with a nice kick to it. I ordered the Burrito with Tinga filling ($4.95). Tinga is shredded beef in a chipotle sauce. This along with tasaja, cecina and tlayudas were all items I had either never seen on a menu or overlooked. The burrito was a big rice and bean filled burrito with lots of chipotle sauced shredded beef. The chipotle flavor was obvious but the heat was not overpowering. Barry ordered the carnitas burrito and ended up taking half of his home. So they are big burritos.

El Moctezuma #3 - Tinga Burrito
Tinga Burrito
Kay and Cary both ordered chile rellenos and hard shell tacos. Hers was cheese filled, his filled with chicken. They said they were like no relleno they had previously had. The egg batter was thin and light and did not overpower the chile and its filling. Kay said her relleno was the best she had ever had and that she was very critical of chile relleno quality. Allan made up his own concoction of a chorizo, potato and tinga quesadilla which they were happy to oblige. Luis, who usually eats vegetarian wanted to try their mole. So he got rice and mole. The mole sauce was quite good this day. Very smooth, full-flavored yet mild. He also noticed that they had two specialty quesadillas available. They had flor de calabaza and cuitlacoche. These are the kind of regional specialties you usually only see at some place like Gabbi's. Flor de calabaza is zucchini flowers folded with cheese into the quesadilla. Cuitlacoche is a black fungus that grows on corn ears, destroying the ear of corn but producing something more valuable. Luis ordered these to round out his meal and I ordered a couple more for the table. This was my first chance to try cuitlacoche though I had read about it for the past few years. It has a unique sweet, woodsy, mushroomy flavor that is hard to describe. Especially given it was the first time I had eaten it. The flor de calabaza was very tasty and my favorite of the two. What a special treat and surprise to see these available on our visit. These along with the other quesadillas ran $3. They are not huge quesadillas like you sometimes see, just as big as their excellent homemade tortillas are. A basket of those fresh tortillas came with our meals.

El Moctezuma #3 - Food
(two orders of chile rellenos, a carnitas burrito and fresh tortillas)

El Moctezuma #3 - Rice and Mole Sauce
(mexican rice and lots of mole sauce)

El Moctezuma #3 - Quesadillas
(quesadilla flor de calabaza & quesadilla de coitlacoche)

El Moctezuma #3 - Coitlacoche Filling
(coitlacoche filling)
The agua fresca this day was an excellent melon (cantaloupe to be precise). Luis had the tamarindo.

El Moctezuma #3 - Aguas Frescas
We all enjoyed our meals very much. Luis said this was the best Mexican food he'd had in the States and was going to bring his family back the following day. I suggested, that unlike any place in memory, this food seemed like homemade food. It was like something I would get if I was invited over to a family's house for dinner. Luis agreed. Don't expect pretty decor or fancy presentation. This is home-style cooking in a funky thrift store environment. The food is the star here. I look forward to returning and learning about some of the other regional specialties I haven't tried yet. For the uniqueness of the offerings, the love apparent in the preparation, the memorable flavors and market fresh specials I give this place 4 1/2 Speedys. You can get the other half a Speedy down the street for about $20 more a person.

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales
Thanks, Johnny!



El Moctezuma #1
809 N Fairview St
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 648-0402

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Cartchella


The Carts are Rolling in for the Foodie Craze


Costa Mesa CA – September 29, 2010 - It's not a food truck. It's a food cart! CARTCHELLA, the nation's first mobile food festival will be rolling into Halecrest Park in Costa Mesa on Saturday, November 6th. From 11pm – 6pm attendees can enjoy food from around the globe, all served from carts. The event is also set to include live entertainment from local bands, an array of unique vendors, and a wide selection of adult beverages. The event is sponsored by Rasta Taco, GRN Events, and Greer's OC.

Event organizer, Chrissy Gray of GRN Events expects Cartchella to be a roaming food cart festival. "We are setting up the event in Orange County to begin, but eventually would like to see it move from county to county. We are excited about the people we have working on Cartchella…a true one of a kind event!"

Wanting to fill a void in the "foodie craze" as an alternative festival opposed to the current food truck phenomenon, Mario Melendez, founder of Rasta Taco, conceived the event. "Many people seem to forget it started with a food cart and evolved to the food truck. Food carts, much like Rasta Taco's, have been completely overlooked. We aim to fix that."

All net proceeds from the event will benefit the Rob Machado Foundations, as well as the Kaiser Woodland Schools Foundation in Costa Mesa. The funds received will be used for faculty enrichment, facilities improvements, cutting-edge technology for state of the art teaching, and targeted program enhancements identified by the school Principals & testing results.

Entrance to the event is free and tickets for food will be available at the event site through volunteers from Kaiser Elementary School. Donations can also be made to Kaiser Elementary or GRN Events. For local companies wanting to be a part of the event, Cartchella is offering food cart and vendor booth space, both of which offer ongoing visibility within the local community. Please contact Mario Melendez at 949.842,6936, or visit Cartchella.com for further information.

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UPDATE: Here's some pictures of the event:


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