Monday, June 8, 2009
Bad news, everyone. Since May Project is officially over, the anonymous donors funding my project have pulled out their support. And since I am but a poor teenager, I do not have the funds to continue going out to meals three or four times a week. Plus, I was getting really fat. This is the reason it has been almost a week since I have posted. However, I am going to try to post at least once or twice a week because, let's face it, there are not enough reality TV shows in the world to keep me occupied for the entire summer.
But there are some days--days when Hell's fire drops a few degrees, days when a mutant pig is born with vestigial wings--when my parents are willing to take me out to eat. Like today, for example. For some reason my entire family was free from work or school at about 3:00 PM, so we all went out for a really, really late lunch at a restaurant called El Taconazo located at 2350 W Cermak Rd. According to a woman that works with my mom, this is the best taco dive in the city.
The first thing you see when you enter the restaurant is a transparent plastic display case filled with weird orange desserts:
Aren't they bizarre looking? They look kind of like orange horse hooves! But they're not. They're called "Camotes" which means sweet potatoes, but they are not sweet potatoes like I eat on Thanksgiving. Well, the inside may be like what I eat on thanksgiving, but the outside is a sweet coating containing honey and butter. They are fairly common Mexican desserts.
Once you tear your eyes away from the orange horse hooves, you see the remainder of the restaurant:
The restaurant is covered in different decorations. The main one is not even a decoration at all, but rather one of three giant menus displaying all the types of food served at El Taconazo:
This menu is on the back wall of the restaurant, and another menu is on the front wall of the restaurant. You are never handed a menu, so instead, you read the different types of food off of the menu on the wall that you are facing, which was sort of interesting. I have never seen a restaurant work like that before. I guess it saves paper...
Upon being seated, you are served tortilla chips and three types of salsas:
The chips were good, but not fantastic. They were rather thick and kind of hard to chew because they cut the inside of my mouth. The salsas, however, were SO good, but SO spicy. My mom took a bite of one and started to turn bright red and started gulping water. Which actually does not help anything. See, things taste spicy because of chemicals, in this case capsicum, that react with your taste buds to make you feel like your mouth is on fire. So, your natural inclination is to drink water to put out the "fire" in your mouth because it is cold and your mouth feels hot. However, water just spreads the capsicum around your mouth. You really should swish your mouth out with vodka because the alcohol neutralizes the capsicum. The point of me going all Bill Nye the Science Guy on you was to inform you that drinking the water actually made my mom turn redder and cough harder.
There were three types of madness-inducing salsas. The first was salsa roja (red sauce) which is usually just tomatos, onions, chile peppers and cilantro (an especially disgusting and evil herb):
The next type of salsa was salsa taquera (or taco sauce) which is made with tomatillas, not tomatos, and morita chile:
The third type was salsa verde (green sauce) that is made from green tomatillos. This was the one that made my mom turn red:
According to the woman who recommended this restaurant to my family, El Taconazo sells the best tacos in the city. So between the four of us, we tried every taco that was not mondongo or sesos or lengua. But purely for educational purposes, here are what those three dishes look like:
Mmm doesn't that look good? Ooh that mondongo looks delicious; man do I love cow stomach... And the sesos... brains... And the lengua? Oooh, the best part is that it can taste me as I swallow it. Yep, stomach, brain, and tongue. This is why you should always read the descriptions at restaurants where you don't speak the language in which the menu is written.
My mom ordered two tacos. The one on the left is a carne asada taco, and the one on the right was a chile relleno taco:
Carne asada means "roasted meat" but usually it refers to roasted beef. It is usually either skirt steak or flank steak roasted with spices and put in a taco or a burrito or sometimes even eaten plain. The dish is primarily served in Northern Mexico but it has become very popular in America. The carne asada taco was very good. My mom's taco was served with an avacado covering it, which is awesome because avacados are delicious. I guess this was kind of like serving the taco with guacamole, which is a type of "mole" sauce (not the type of mole sauce served with cocoa that we are used to) made with avacados. I also ordered the carne asada taco, but I ordered it con queso, which means with cheese. So instead of an avacado on top, I got mine with cheese. This is carne asada without the lettuce, tomato, evil-herb covering:
The other taco is a chile relleno taco. Chile relleno literally means "stuffed chile" which is what a Chile relleno is. The chile is not always super spicy, but it could be. Usually, the chile is a poblano chile stuffed with cheese and/or meat. Chile relleno is not always served on a taco, in fact it is rarely served on a taco. But apparently sometimes it is served on a taco. But when it is not served on a taco, this is what it looks like:
My dad ordered three tacos. The one on the far left is the chile relleno (so we'll skip it) the one in the middle is a chorizo taco, and the one on the right is a barbacoa taco:
Chorizo is a Mexican pork sausage. It is usually pork mixed with pork fat, which means it is really bad for you. But like all bad-for-you foods, it is absolutely delicious. It is super salty, which means that I like it a lot, and this restaurant ground it up so that it felt like ground beef in texture, but it was much saltier and it was roasted so that it got a little charred, which is just how I like it. In case you can't tell, I certainly cheated on my meal with my dad's chorizo taco. This is what chorizo looks like:
The other taco was a barbacoa taco which is slow-cooked barbecue beef. Barbacoa was the original Mexican barbecue. It was originally made with sheep meat, but now it is made from cow meat. Barbacoa de cabeza is made from parts of the cow head. Mmm cranium...:
I also ordered three tacos. On the far left is the carne asada con queso taco. In the middle is a carnitas taco. On the far right is a picadillo taco:
The carne asada con queso taco we will skip since my mother had it. It is the same thing that she ate, except without the avacado and with cheese, or "con queso." So copy and paste the entry from above, and then add cheese. But the carnitas taco is new. Actually, it is not that new. Carnitas is basically barbacoa, but with pork instead of beef. It is cooked in the same way, seasoned in the same way, but it has a different flavor and texture because of the difference in the meat:
Picadillo is completely new. It is mainly ground beef with maybe a few vegetables, but it is very heavily seasoned. Picadillo comes from the Spanish verb "picar" meaning "to mince" or "to chop" which is what picadillo is; it is minced or chopped beef:
My sister ordered two carnitas tacos, but we have already talked about carnitas, so we can skip her.
We did not order dessert because we were very full, however there was a station at the front counter where you could order flan:
Flan is the most spectacular dessert every created. It is kind of like cheesecake mixed with creme brulee. Creme brulee is an egg custard covered in a caramel top that has been hardened, usually with a blowtorch (hence the "brulee part"). Flan, on the other hand, has a soft caramel top, sort of like cheesecake. Flan is eaten all around the world and goes by many different names, such as "creme caramel" or "caramel custard." In many Spanish-speaking countries, or rather, where it is called "flan," it is served with dulce de leche:
Our meal totaled to a little under $30 for four people, so it is cheap and well worth the trip. I strongly recommend that people go there. And when you do, please tell me how the sweet potatoes are! Oh, and also, let me know how the beef stomach tastes!