Taco Category

(food)porn ed. 2012 – Part 3

I found some of these juicy bits hiding in my archives. Wow, I’m flush out now after poring through hundreds of photos.

Guess that means I better get eating!

(food)porn ed. 2012 – Part 2

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 4

Needless to say the soreness of my joints welcomed a jacuzzi, sauna, and steam in the morning; all the more because I was about to head out for my first open-door helicopter ride. The forecast showed heavy clouds, strong winds, and rain, but there was no turning back now. I was off to Inter-Island Helicopters for a private 60 minute tour of the island in their peacock blue Robinson R-44.

Inter-Island provided exceptional service despite the shoddy weather and it did make for an exciting ride. I actually enjoyed the pitching and weaving of the helicopter, as well as, the occasional sea and rain sprays across my face accompanying each turn. It made for the kind of ride I was hoping to experience! The Napali Coast looked mysterious and even more dangerous with the misty tumultuous weather. I don’t think I could ever tire of the views.

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After my flight of boisterous fancy, I had a roaring appetite. Jordan and I decided to let our bellies lead us through the day. We got in our midnight blue Camaro convertible, and headed toward Hanapepe and Lihue where we could stop at a local sporting goods store and hopefully, enjoy some local comfort food.

On the way to Hanapepe, we spotted Paco’s Tacos food truck parked in an empty parking lot. We figured, meh, probably nothing anyway. Let’s keep moving.

Pfft! Yeah, right!

These tacos were some of the most memorable morsels from our whole trip. Super fresh, grilled mahi-mahi tacos with shredded cabbage, lime, pico de gallo and cilantro sauce. And equally good carnitas and carne asada tacos. Hit da spot.

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After admiring some especially kitschy refrigerator magnets at a local store, we drove to Lihue to hit up Haimura Saimin. Saimin is a Hawaiian original that mixes Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino flavors, into a big bowl of steaming savory broth. It’s Hawaiian comfort in a bowl, and the joint speaks for itself. It’s the epitome of a tropical island diner complete with a menu just as small and quaint as the place itself.

I highly recommend ordering a bunch of chicken skewers and putting the chicken pieces right into your bowl of saimin, along with generous amounts of hot mustard, hot sauce, chili vinegar, and a little soy sauce. Own your saimin!

We ordered the lilikoi chiffon pie for a little sweetness. Imagine if you scooped a chunk of bubbles from the top of a bubble bath, sprayed it through with tangy sweet passion fruit, and topped it with fluffy whipped cream. It was an ultra-airy end to a heavy, savory lunch.

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Last spot on our food tour was Fish Express which is a full-on local “deli” that offers a wide variety of fresh Hawaiian fare including local fish, poke, fish jerky, and raw seafood. And if you’re lucky enough to get there for lunch (which we weren’t unfortunately), they also offer Hawaiian-style sandwiches and gourmet lunch entrees like fish “blackened with guava basil” or “macadamia nut crusted [fish] with lilikoi.”

We decided on a bunch of funky pokes and ahi peppered jerky to go. And we also were pleasantly surprised to find boiled peanuts – one of Jordan’s all-time favorite snacks from the South! Who would have thought we’d be eating boiled peanuts and kimchee octopus poke in a parking lot of a Kauai-ian deli in the middle of the Pacific?

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Ok, I lied. We still had some room left for another sweet. After a little mobile research, we pulled into a strip mall parking lot and walked into Tropical Dreams which offers super-premium gourmet ice cream. Started by husband and wife team John and Nancy Edney who source more than 50% of their ingredients locally and are dedicated to using environmentally-friendly and sustainable means of production for their ice cream, this was the best ice cream I’d ever had. I mean, EVER.

The proprietor of the place – a “expat” from NYC named Daniel – was feeling extra chatty (queue teenage son’s eye roll), so we got foodie star treatment! While giving us taste after taste of the incredibly delicious ice cream, Daniel proceeded to illuminate us on his strong opinions on fiber optics, entrepreneurial ventures, Kauai, and why Tropical Dreams covers their ice cream bins with lids despite snotty tourists turning their noses up because they can’t see all the flavors on display.

After I literally tasted every flavor, I landed on chocolate coconut almond to which Daniel insisted he add a generous dollop of peanut butter. This was seriously flavorful ice cream. If you’re ever on the Hawaiian Islands, definitely try to find a Tropical Dreams shop!

Sigh, wish I could have gotten a better picture. This definitely doesn’t do the real thing justice.

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After a much needed nap back at the ranch, we couldn’t believe it but before we knew it, we were getting in the car again to go to dinner at Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill.

I know.

But it’s OK. We were on vacation. Isn’t gluttony a virtue when you’re on vacation?

It might have been the full belly talking, but I wasn’t too hyped on going to Josselin’s despite all the positive recommendations. Although I’d been eating very well, I wasn’t so sure that fine dining restaurants on Kauai were doing anything that interesting beyond dishes that could satisfy the greatest common denominator of flavor palates visiting the island day after day.

Thankfully, I was proven wrong by some dishes at Josselin’s! It started with the “muffin” assortment which included miniature biscuit-like rolls flavored with ginger, Thai curry, and cilantro. I know I’ve got a bread “thing” but these really perked up my taste buds.

The watermelon salad was disappointing, but the naan with spicy merguez, roasted eggplant, and mint was a huge win.

What was truly the pièce de résistance, though, was the 36-hour braised pork belly with apple kimchee and Lehua honey – an unbelievable, locally sourced honey from bees that feed exclusively on the Lehua flower which only grows on the ohi’a tree.

The honey glaze created a sweet candied shell keeping the wonderful juices inside every chunk of pork you pulled off with your fork. No knife necessary. The kimchee splashed spicy and tart refreshment at the back of the throat, whilst the salty sweetness of the meat meandered over the tongue. Chestnut, vanilla and basil also remarkably came through each bite.

The experience was kind of astounding. In fact, it was so exceptional that we finished off most of it, despite our stomachs being full to bursting.

Needless to say we did not order any dessert! And this time I’m not lying!

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 2

It was sunny but a bit colder, and definitely more windy on our next February morning in Soho, but nothing was going to keep us from a morning lunch on the Lower East Side at Katz’s Deli. That’s right. I said “morning lunch,” not “brunch.” Once you see what we ate, it’ll make more sense.

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St

Given that Chicago has its own famous Jewish deli/cafeteria called Manny’s, the comparisons were inevitable. But it’s like Sophie’s choice over here, so I’ll just call out the stand outs.

Pastrami – Katz’s by a long shot.
Beef stew – Manny’s. It’s the gravy.
Lox and Bagel – Manny’s. Good at Katz’s but where’s the onion and tomato?
Knish – Katz’s. I’m no expert on Knishes but the chewy yet crispy texture of the dumpling, and really savory and peppery potato mash of Katz’s was highly memorable. I can’t remember how my last knish from Manny’s tasted, but that could just be my bad.

Looks like it’s a tie in the end. I guess it’ll take some more field research. Oh darn.

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Katz’s Deli in NYC and Manny’s in Chicago – two culinary institutions that I hope stay around forever and forever.

I weep for the pastrami I’ve consumed in the past as it’ll be hard to go back, if at all. Seriously, it’s as good as the legends say. Maybe even better.

If you’ve never had the delight of eating a knish, put it on your to do list. If you like savory mashed potatoes and fried dumplings, run don’t walk.

Oh and a side (or platter) of homemade beef stew doesn’t hurt either especially when you’ve got a chewy bit of knish to sop up all the brown gravy.

I admit it was hard leaving Katz’s without trying some other things like the matzo ball soup, chopped liver, cheesesteak, corned beef, and so much more, but people now were piling in and the love needs to be shared even though you really just want it all to yourself. Plus I think I needed to change into stretch pants.

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New York has the best toy store for those of us who love collecting art/urban vinyl toys. It’s called Toy Tokyo in the East Village and it’s simply put – a mecca of ultimate toy awesomeness. Managed by a staff of genuinely cool dudes like Lauren and David, Toy Tokyo never lets me leave empty handed. This time I scored big time with this Sam Flores vinyl figure. Check it!

I was still reveling in my find – annoying Jordan with the fact that “I got the last one!” – as we walked underneath some magenta awning for a snack.

East Noodle Robatayaki
119 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl)

This is our go-to place to sit down and have a drink and/or snack and revel in the toy purchases we just made down the street. It’s straightforward, super casual, and tasty if you’re looking for some charred and juicy nibbles of meat, veg, and seafood cooked on the robata or Japanese grill. East Noodle also offers steaming bowls of pretty tasty ramen. And for those of us who spent their load on toys, it’s cheap!

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Now it was time to visit my second favorite store in NYC – Forbidden Planet – which is one of the best comic book stores in the nation. It’s a bit of a trek north in Greenwich Village, but walking myriad blocks in NY don’t seem to phase me at all. Everywhere you go there’s something interesting going on…or being cooked…in a truck.

A-Pou’s Taste Truck
This was such a lucky find – Taiwanese potstickers! Turns out the owner Wen Pin won the Vendy Award for “Rookie of the Year” in 2010. These rectangular potstickers were so savory, porky, chewy, and umami-y to the max. Dip it into a little seasoned sriracha on the side and wooooo!

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It was dark outside by the time we headed back down south to call it a night. Of course walking down Broadway is such a bad idea if you’re trying to get home. Uh, hello, shopping! My legs were screaming at me to stop, but I kept telling myself that all I needed was a quick pick-me-up. Espresso? Gelato? Falafel? OMG, tacos!

Tribeca Taco Truck
What another great find! Some swear these guys have THE best tacos. Maybe it was the chilly night, maybe it was my need for a hot snack, maybe it was that my legs were turning to jelly, or maybe it was the Tribeca Taco stuffed with chorizo AND al pastor topped with cilantro, onion, picante rojo and salsa verde!

Jordan and I took our taco babies back to the hotel, plopped down on the bed, opened the steaming styrofoam and went to town. Super flavorful and kicked up with heat, the tacos were warm and soft and perfectly balanced with the richness of the chorizo, the toothsome tenderness of the al pastor, and the tart and refreshing cilantro, onion, and salsa combination.

The end to a perfect day. Adios Nueva York! Te amo!