“…she still seemed to be travelling, still sailing into Acapulco harbour yesterday evening through a hurricane of immense and gorgeous butterflies swooping seaward to greet the Pennsylvania – at first it was as though fountains of multicoloured stationery were being swept out of the saloon lounge — glanced defensively round the square, really tranquil in the midst of commotion, of the butterflies still zigzagging overhead or past the heavy open ports, endlessly vanishing astern, their square, motionless and brilliant in the seven o’clock morning sunlight, silent yet somehow poised, expectant, with one eye half open already… lightly dreaming, looking forward to the fiesta later…”
– Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
It was my fifth day in Paris and I had already injured myself in a reckless competition. This involved feats of “manliness” and too much rosé. I know – rosé and manliness may not go hand in hand. But that night they did, to the tune of an emergency room visit for serious wounds on my ankle. I was effectively gimped in Paris. My roommates disagreed, calling it a “mere flesh wound” for which fifteen stitches were fifteen too many. To brighten my spirits they offered to take me to dinner. So I hobbled down the 88 stairs and onto the streets nurturing a limp, bloody sock and all. To make me feel at home, they took me to the one Mexican restaurant in all of Paris. With steak like leather, no jalapeños, and “Spanish” rice, which really was white rice from Spain. Tequila shots were bought and more than a few euros were thrown at the Moroccan Mariachis, all of who surrounded me, at my roommates’ bequest, to serenade me with the timeless classic, La Cucaracha.
It may be one of the embarassing meals of my life. But truly memorable.
The greatest Trojan Horse any country has remains its culinary endeavors. To the rest of the world, American cuisine can override their opinion of American Ignorance(tm) and foreign policies. After all, McDonalds, despite all its misgivings, brought the Big Mac, Fries, and a Coke all across the world. A country may not want you there but they will want your food.
Truly, if anything is an ambassador for Mexico it is the cuisine. Not everyone is fortunate enough to meet a Mexican (and if they did, they’d be having too much fun and talk of visiting within five minutes). Tacos have reached a near universal love, not just for their ease of assembly or relative simplicity, but the combination of spices. Chips and salsa dominate this entire continent and can be found in the smallest of podunk towns. Even the staunchly anti-immigrant regions of this country get down with some enchiladas and Tecates. They may “hate” the “immigrants” (but really, los originales never left), but goddamn, they love our culture. Who needs politics when you got cerveza y chile colorado, amiright?
The Taste of Mexico will take place on Friday, November 30 at Vibiana in downtown LA. But it’s more than just a “Taste” of Mexico. It’s a large chunk of Mexico that many Mexican Americans and Mexicans might never get to experience. It seems as if no region will be left forgotten – from Tijuana to Tulum, you will get a bite or a drink of almost anything. I stress anything.
How do I begin? We were treated to a media preview a few nights ago and, if that is anything to judge by, this event can’t be missed. I brought my trusty photographer / filmmaker / fellow food lover Aaron Lomeli to chronicle and sift through my opinions. Victoria cervezas (my favorite, truly) and mescal cocktails were handed out, tasting previews for the inevitable deluge we will experience during the all-you-can-drink event itself. La Monarca, a bakery with locations ranging from Santa Monica to South Pasadena, has some of the lightest tres leches I’ve had stateside. We tried, from my Eagle Rock local faves Cacao, a sea urchin and pork tostada far unlike anything I have ever had before. Highly acclaimed restaurants such as the mainstay Guelaguetza (if you haven’t been there, stop reading this article and get down with their mole and mescals) and La Casita Mexicana, Bell’s finest, will show off their classic flavors. Variety will be plenty. Be it Guisados’ and the drenched, stewy splendor, or enjoying some aguachile from Coni’Seafood (don’t miss it, seriously, as this might have been the best aguachile I have ever had), the city is an oyster and you will be collecting the pearls. I’m leaving out so many favorites, I know it, but that will be half the fun: Finding new favorites, different experiences, lovely ones, with people who care about not just the food but each other and supporting this community. Not just of food lovers and chefs but the city itself, without divides, enjoying the company of your fellow Angeleno.
The Taste of Mexico will be at Vibiana on Friday, November 30th. Mariachis, mariscos, mole, and mescal are just some of the many highlights of this great event. Don’t miss it – I certainly won’t.