So, I got out of work today with the intention of hitting up the taco cart for some Taco Tuesday delights. But rain, mixed with the A train not running up to my stop for some godforsaken reason, altered my plans. Luckily, we got a new taco joint in the neighborhood a few weeks ago that Elizabeth and I have been meaning to try.

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Villa Patron, just west of the 1 train on Dyckman Street has only been open for three weeks, but it seems like a nice joint. Moody lighting, plenty of space and a nice staff. Alas, it seemed a litle slow to get my taco quartet, but the wait was, thankfully, mostly worth it. I’m gonna do this a little different and break ‘em down individually.

  • The chicken taco was dry. Seasoned well, flavorful, but drrrrry. I’d probably try them one more time to see if they were always that dry. If they’re not, they’d be pretty damn good.
  • The al pastor taco (basically spicy pork with pineapple–hot and sweet) was the best of the bunch. Really damn good. An excellent mix of hot and sweet, with delicious pork. That hit the spot!
  • Fish taco! I, uh, forgot to ask what kinda fish it was. Pffft, whatevs. Fishies! I was happy to see they didn’t fry the hell outta the fish and instead cooked it nicely with a bit of spice, leaving the fish very moist and tasty. And they put enough fish in that taco to fill two tacos. Yeah!
  • Oh shrimp taco, why have you forsaken me? While not as overcooked as the chicken, the lil’ shrimp were dry and lacking flavor, acting more like taco filler than taco fiesta.

Each taco was $2.50, not a bad price for restaurant tacos, especially when they’re really hefty tacos. The plate came with radish and limes, necessary bits. I didn’t try the guacamole, salsa or anything else, but I sure plan to.

Will we eat tacos from Villa Patron again? Most definitely!

Sometimes I make salsa that is a little… er… spicy.  As in, not many human beings aside from myself can consume it, and I’m not even sure that I want to eat it.  Mostly, this happens when I OD on cascabel or habanero peppers.  In the words of a douchebag I once knew, it ends up being a little too “front of mouth.”  Or, just really effing hot, to the extent that the heat masks the flavor.

In that case, you can either add more ingredients to balance the flavors, or you can throw it away.  Since I’m never one to give up in the face of adversity, I tend to go with the former.  Today’s recipe arose after I realized that last night’s tomatillo salsa was too spicy for Ryan, and not as light and citrusy as I wanted.  After an evening of chilling, it still hadn’t mellowed in a satisfactory way, so I decided to take the plunge and buy some pineapple at the grocery store.

Original recipe:

1.5 pounds of tomatillos (those green things with the husk)

1/2 head of garlic

2-3 jalapeno peppers

2-3 dried Cascabel peppers

1/4 large Vidalia onion

Juice of 2 limes

Cilantro

Salt to taste

Preheat oven to “Broil”

Follow instructions in the previous recipe for rehydrating dried chile peppers.

Remove husks from tomatillos; wash thoroughly.

Place tomatillos, garlic, and jalapenos in a roasting pan.*  Roast until skin blisters and tomatillos soften, turning once so that both sides are cooked.

Remove from oven.  Remove seeds from all peppers.

Slowly combine all ingredients in food processor.  Salt to taste.

Uh-oh!  This Is Too Hot!

Now, if you taste this and say, “Holy crap!  How am I going to eat all of this?!?!  It’s a thermonuclear salsa war in my mouth!”–well, you might want to add some pineapple.

Pineapple serves the purpose of adding sugar and sweetness in order to control the heat.  Although fresh pineapple is always the best, there’s no shame in using canned (just get the kind in pineapple juice, rather than heavy syrup).  Today, I used a 20-ounce can, since I wasn’t sure of the quality of our local market’s pineapple.

Drain pineapple.  Set aside juice for mixed drink.  Run the pineapple through the food processor.

Slowly fold the pineapple into the salsa.  As you add the pineapple, be sure to taste the salsa.  When it gets to your desired sweet/hot nexus, stop!

*Tomatillos really should always be cooked, which brings out the sweet, citrus aspects of the fruit and blunts the acidity.  So, if you don’t want to roast or grill them, you can also boil them if necessary.

Salsa!

Salsa!

I love salsa; I love cooking. So, when the prices of tomatoes drop in the early summer, I crank out the grill and roast up… wait. I live in an apartment. Sigh. OK, I don’t grill my salsa veggies, but here’s what I do:

Medium Heat Roasted Tomato Salsa
–6-10 Roma tomatoes
–1/2 head of garlic
–1/4 large Vidalia onion
–2-3 Jalapenos
–Juice of 1-2 limes
–Handful of cilantro
–Salt & pepper, to taste
–1 large, dried Ancho pepper; 1 dried Cascabel pepper

Preheat oven to “Broil”

Rehydrate ancho and cascabel peppers in boiling water on the stove for 10 minutes; let sit another 10.

While the chiles are rehydrating, place tomatoes, garlic, and jalapenos in a roasting pan.  Broil until tomatoes are soft and the skin blisters (or, if you prefer, until it blackens).

Remove cascabel and ancho peppers from heat.  Unless you want your salsa rather hot, remove seeds from peppers.

Slowly combine all ingredients in food processor or blender (whichever you’ve got) until you reach the desired texture.

That’s all!  It’s pretty simple to make your own salsa, and there are endless variations on it.

Tomorrow:  Tomatillos!  My favorite non-tomato object!

Tacos at Midnight Doritos

Tacos at Midnight Doritos

While in the ‘burbs yesterday I spotted a bag of the new Late Night “Tacos at Midnight” flavor Doritos. I love Doritos…I love tacos…these should be the best things ever, right?

Well, they’re not that good. They don’t taste anything like tacos. Elizabeth says they sort of taste like Old El Paso taco seasoning, but my tongue either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. It’s a sort of hybrid flavor, but it didn’t do anything for me. Gimme cool ranch or the classic flavor.

Would we buy another bag of “Tacos at Midnight” Doritos? No.

Pork gordita

Pork gordita

On a more pleasant note, we diversified our selections at the Inwood taco cart yesterday with a steak burrito (massive and awesome!), a lengua, aka beef tongue, taco (one of the finest tongue tacos I’ve ever had) and a pork gordita. I’ve never actually had an authentic Mexican gordita, just the Taco Bell kind. The taco cart gordita was delicious, a mix of pork, lettuce and tomato, spices and sauce inside a thick, deep-fried corn tortilla. Foodgasm.

T&T!

T&T!

Of course, by T&T, I’m referring to tacos and tamales. And yes, I’m again posting about the taco truck–well, it’s really more of a taco cart–on Dyckman Street here in Inwood. We hadn’t tried their tamales when we last posted, but now with a few in my belly from repeated visits, I’m happy to report that they rule. The tamales come in only two flavors: chicken mole and chicken with green sauce.

Mole Chicken Tamale

Mole Chicken Tamale

They’re both killer, but I like the mole one a bit better. That said, they’re $1 each and so you’re pretty much required to get 2. Add those to a meal that includes magnificent tacos that have been getting better each time I go there and that makes for some magnificent eats. If you can make it up to the Inwood taco cart on the weekends, you won’t be disappointed.

As always, there are more photos on our Flickr.

Inwoods Taco Truck

Inwood's Taco Truck

I’d been feeling pretty crappy today, so when Elizabeth and I took a walk to run some errands, I was delighted to see the local taco truck make its first appearance of 2009. Located on the corner of Dyckman St. and Sherman Ave. way uptown in our neighborhood of Inwood, the taco truck is just one of the many awesome food carts and vendors located on the busy stretch of Dyckman (aka 200th St.).

Spicy Pork Taco

Spicy Pork Taco

I’d only had a chance to eat tacos from the taco truck once or twice before–and they were great–so I had to grab one today, even though I wasn’t really hungry. I decided to go all-out with a spicy pork taco, all the fixins, including spicy sauce, lettuce, tomato and guacamole. Oh, and it was good. Not the best pork taco and probably a little hampered by all the extra stuff, but the flavors were really solid. And I WILL be going back, quite a lot, over the next few months. Hooray tacos!

There are more photos on Flickr and we’ll post more about this taco truck as we experience all its wonders.

Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ryan: We went to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see Beirut a few weeks back and decided to grab tacos at Bonita, a Mexican restaurant we’d been to once before. Our first trip there was pretty underwhelming for me as I ordered the fish tacos and was left wanting more food–and tastier food. But this was about a year later, and with Tacos Por Vida in mind, I wanted to give Bonita another shot.

3 beef tacos at Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

3 beef tacos at Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Oh lord, what a mistake. We ordered glasses of sangria and they were watered down and overpriced. We ordered chips and salsa. Honestly? I can’t remember the salsa, but the chips were decent. Definitely overpriced ($6!) and we had to order the dang chips. What self-respecting Mexican joint doesn’t give you chips?! Oh, but their biggest affront was with their tacos. The three beef taco plate was only $11, but they were three of the tiniest tacos ever. The taco shells were, no joke, much smaller than any other tacos I’ve had here. I’m pretty sure they were the same size as the little tortillas that came with my entree at Rosa Mexicano. Baffling, to see them used for tacos.

Aside from being disgracefully small, the tacos just weren’t that great. The beef wasn’t cooked, spiced or even simply flavored in a way that would EVER make me want to eat there again. I’m actually a bit annoyed that we wasted our time and money at Bonita. Please, if you consider going there dear reader, don’t. Not worth it.

Chicken Burrito at Bonita

Chicken Burrito at Bonita

Elizabeth: I have to add something here.  I take full responsibility for urging the return trip to Bonita.  Last year, unlike Ryan, I quite enjoyed my food.  My chicken burrito contained nicely seasoned whole pinto beans, flavorful meat and a nice amount of cheese.  And–bonus!–it was warm and toasty on the outside from a light grilling.  I wanted another, or at least a different type of good burrito in this (relative) burrito wasteland of NYC.

As is obvious from the tone of this post, my repeat experience didn’t live up to my expectations.  For one, I’d recently had an amazing burrito at La Fiesta, and topping it would be unlikely.  However, Bonita’s burrito would have been a disappointment no matter what.  On my plate arrived a medium-sized burrito, a perfect proportion in my mind (I never understand why the slightly smaller version is never available these days.  Sigh.).  Instead of a medium-sized flour tortilla containing beans, meat and cheese, though, I soon discovered that the burrito consisted mostly of a giant tortilla wrapped in on itself.  At least one third of the burrito was nothing more than the flour tortilla, a providing a dry, tasteless and textureless experience.

Taco Truck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Taco Truck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ryan: Fortunately, my foodie night was sorta saved by the Williamsburg taco truck. For $2.50, I got a single beef taco. Ah! But you could fit two and a half Bonita (maybe all three) tacos into that one taco truck feast–it was a big one. And flavor? Yes! Was it spicy? A bit; not too much, but enough to give it a lil’ kick. The beef itself was probably of the same quality level as what Bonita was serving.

Beef Taco, Taco Truck Style

Beef Taco, Taco Truck Style

Elizabeth: I was somewhat stuffed with flour tortilla (I know, I know, it’s getting old. I’ll stop harping on it.), so I decided to forgo extra food.  But I was extremely cold, so I ordered a Mexican hot chocolate.  It had just the right amount of spice and warmth to really get the night back on track.

Ryan: We were going to hit the taco truck up initially, since it’s stationed right outside the subway, but we decided not to due to the weather. And I damn near froze my fingers off that night while scarfing down the taco on our way to the Beirut show. But ya know what? It was worth it. Hooray for the taco truck! To hell with Bonita.

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