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Here’s what I know about poutine:
- Traditionally it’s a dish comprised of fries, gravy and cheese curds.
- It hails from rural Quebec, but can now be found Canada-wide—they even sell it at McDonald’s.
- It was invented in the 1957 by restaurateur Fernand Lachance. He shook up a bag of cheese curds and fries, and violà, poutine was born.
- In the 50s,“poutine” was slang for “a mess,” which is exactly what Fernand said when he saw what was in the bag.
- Up until a few years ago, poutine was considered pretty low-brow in Quebec, served mostly in greasy spoons, but like a lot of other comfort foods, it’s made its way onto some fancy restaurant menus. You can even get it with foie gras for $23 at at famed Au Pied Cochon in Montreal.
I should also add that it’s freaking delicious, which is why I was—and I never use this word—stoked when I got an invite to try out The Poutine Truck, Debbie Lee’s (also of the Ahn Joo truck) newest food project. Even better was that this gravy fries extravaganza was to take place at Echo Park’s City Sip, where Four Brix wine would be paired with each poutine course.
The Poutine Truck offers traditional and more laissez-faire varieties of the dish. The abbreviated menu gives you the choice 3 gravies (brown onion beef gravy and chicken or veggie veloute) and 3 locally-sourced, organic cheese curd varieties (plain, garlic herb and firehouse), which are generously laid upon freshly cut and made-to-order Kennebec potato fries. You can also take your poutine to the limit by adding bacon, chicken or flatiron steak.
If you ask me, 2010 was Heirloom-LA’s year. The catering company, armed with its “farm-to-plate” ethos and lasagna cupcakes, was suddenly everywhere—food blogs, coffeehouses, wine bars, neighborhood grocers… you name it. They even showed up on this blog when I tried and loved their hearty Wild Boar Bolognese.
As it turns out, this year might be even more momentous for Heirloom-LA, seeing that they just launched a food truck. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to get excited by the latest food-on-wheels concept, but Heirloom does it right. For one thing, Heirloom’s food is locally sourced from small farms, and for another, their menu will change daily. None of the usual food truck doldrums here.
Ever since my Flor de Michoacan paleta post, I’ve gotten a ton of requests for more Tulum restaurant tips. Instead of writing a bunch of emails, I decided to make a little eating guide with some food photos I took when I visited the small Mexican beach town last Christmas. For part 1, I’ve included all the places I love in the puebla (as opposed to the beach).
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have Tulum food advice, help a fellow traveler and write it in the comments.
El Tacoqueto, Av. Tulum (it’s a red building with a thatched roof)
Popular with locals, El Tacoqueto is a place we always make sure to visit every time we’re in Tulum. This little red, thatched-roof restaurant is located on the main drag and offers some of the best “home-cooked” food in town at great prices—two people can eat for about $10. When you walk in, you’ll see a big, open kitchen, where women reside over large stainless steel pots of soups and stews. There’s no menu, so just walk up to the kitchen and take a look before you order. The mole is great (pictured at the top of this post), the soups never miss, and sometimes they even have chile rellenos.
There’s something going on in the 99 Cents Store parking lot in Highland Park. And it involves food. Every Tuesday night from 5:30 to 9, Figueroa Produce hosts Din Din A Go Go, billed as a “weekly food truck feast” with vegan-friendly options. A little more than a month old, the event has become an event, attracting a wide variety of local Highland Park residents—young folks, old folks, hipsters, families and more than a few dog owners.
I made my way over last Tuesday and, after finagling a parking space, I found a good selection of quality food trucks, including Ahn-Joo, the popular Korean snack bar on wheels, Lomo Arigato, serving Peruvian-Japanese fusion, The Dim Sum Truck and the Filipino Tapa Boy. Also present was a really friendly vibe aided by the most popular conversation starter of the night: “where’d you get that?”
Last summer I had a dramatic mole experience at the 3rd Annual Feria de Los Moles. Well, a few actually, but the most pivotal of all happened when I sunk my teeth into a succulent piece of pork souped-up in Pueblan mole verde from Antojitos de mi Abuelita. “Divine” is the only word that accurately describes the moment.
And the only word that can describe the moment I found out that the North Hollywood food truck would be showcased at the last installment of Street Food Mondays is “YAY!” It was enough to make me leave my house on a Monday night. Hosted by Street Gourmet LA’s Bill Esparza and Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food, Street Food Mondays brings the city’s best street food to Kleiman’s Angeli Caffe in the form of a 3-course meal.
With the Breed Street food vendors now dispersed, you really have to drive around Boyle Heights to find the best stuff. My tactic is to search out the stands with a bit of a crowd, the thinking being that most people won’t stand in line for bad food.
That’s not a foolproof theory, but it proved accurate when I spotted Balbina on a recent Friday night. On a corner, just off E. First St (email me for exact location), Balbina serves up a a full menu–which includes flautas,pambazos, huaraches, sopes and quesadillas, to a steady stream of regulars and newbies like me. The promise of thick, hearty tortillas handmade on the spot are a big part of the allure.
Last time I went to the LA Street Food Fest, I didn’t even get in. This time, it was more organized, and I actually ate some food. The lines were pretty long, but spirits were high on the Rose Bowl field, and I was able to try some great stuff.
Here’s the rundown:
First up was Boyle Heights’ Antojitos Carmen, formerly a popular Breed St. vendor and now a brick and mortar presence on Cesar Chavez Ave (map it). Well worth the wait, they were serving up potato tacos and enchiladas. The tacos dorados, filled with a mixture of potatoes and cheese, were the highlight. I couldn’t help but flood the plate with the delicious salsas.
Downtown Dogs’ hotdogs remind me of Chronis‘ on Whittier Blvd. Maybe it’s the snap that happens when you take a bite. Whatever it is, it’s a good dog, and tater tots are always an easy sell. I wanted to try the Dogzilla stand as well since their doing their version of Japa Dogs, but the line was excruciating.
Highland Park has been called “the taco capital of Los Angeles” a well-earned title, considering the innumerable taco trucks, stands and shops that line its streets. No matter your poison— al pastor, carne asada, tripa, chorizo, cabeza…you’ll find it here without much trouble.
While most of the “Best Tacos in HP” attention gets lavished on La Estrella, my vote goes to the unnamed stand on York Blvd. and Outlook Ave., which serves one of one of the best al pastor tacos I’ve ever had. No kidding. They’re juicy and a little fatty with a sweetness that’s complemented by the heat of fresh salsa. We actually found this place during an obsessive search to find some worthy tacos after a trip to Mexico City ruined us.
They set up at night in front of the tiny blue East LA Auto building across the street and a few blocks up from Villa Sombrero. The stand features a spit topped with the very necessary slab of pineapple. If you’re lucky (or if you just ask nicely), you’ll get a big, sweet, citrusy chunk sliced along with your pastor, which is chopped up and cooked to tender-with-crispy-bits perfection while you watch and yearn.
The only downside is that the tortillas are not made on the spot. They are, however, dipped in the grease of the giant pan where the chorizo, tripa and maybe a corazone or two, sizzle. The result is a moist, greasy (but not too greasy) tortilla with a slight meaty taste. Delicious and addictive.
I got my Coco Fresco from the guy off exit 43 on the 110, but they’re all around right now. Just ask your local street fruit vendor. The juice is sweet with lots of Vitamin C and Calcium. Delicioso!