Thankful (But Not for Grasshoppers)

I had just finished my last post about my pal Mike and his wife Bridget harassing me from Oaxaca with their photos and videos of delicious meals, when they returned — bearing gifts!

There was a lovely and colorful dishtowel, a jar of black mole paste which to this cook is as good as its weight in gold, and there was a small jar of chapulines — roasted grasshoppers.

Chapulines

Chapulines

On the adventurous eater scale of 1 to 10, I consider myself about a 7. I’m no Anthony Bourdain. But I’ve recently been venturing more deeply into the euphemistically named world of “variety” meats, have sampled the slimiest offerings the world’s oceans put forth, and am a fan of such culinary curiosities as Japanese fermented natto and the stinking durian. There’s not a lot I won’t try, at least once. But one taxonomic class I have steadfastly resisted ingesting is that of the insect. More

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When Mike Goes to Mexico

My pal Mike likes to taunt me with photos and videos of his business trips to Mexico, which are frequent. See, if you haven’t been paying attention to previous posts, his business is Mexico — mezcal, that is: Del Maguey, the best in the world.

Mike in Mexico

Mike in Mexico

His provocations are most often in the form of eyewitness video accounts of parades in Oaxaca, where there seems to always be a parade in progress, or photos of voluptuous window mannequins with whom he is certain I am a perfect romantic match. More

Tacotopia, Episode #4: Air-Dried Pork?

People — gringos, primarily — are often shocked when they order a taco in Mexico for the first time, and are presented with a tiny little affair with almost nothing on it.

“But where’s the cheese?” they say, their Baja Fresh faces in a glum state of disbelief, “Where’s the lettuce and the tomato and the sour cream and the six choices of salsa?”

Dried pork tacos

Dried pork tacos

It’s a similar conundrum to pastas in Italy, where oftentimes the best offerings are simple affairs (the famed cacio e pepe, for example) composed of just a few of the finest ingredients. I remember the first time I ordered a cheese sandwich as a boy in Paris, and was dumbfounded at the chunk of baguette that arrived with nothing more than a smear of camembert. And it was a revelation. More

Jon, Redeemed

Long-time readers may recall with a chuckle posts from the past about our pal, Jon — who, it always seemed, had ten thumbs when it came to cooking.

Or perhaps rather, it might’ve been a convergence of confusion and disinterest when it came to matters of the kitchen, as he made periodic attempts to host us for under-prepared dinner parties, or arrived triumphantly at a friend’s dinner party with a huge slow cooker full of his famous Jack Daniels-and-Coke sausages. (Recipe, in Jon’s words: “Jack Daniels, can of Coke, polka kielbasa. Cook the shit out of it.”)

Presenting dinner by Jon

Presenting dinner by Jon

We love Jon. So it is always with a bit of culinary trepidation but joy in our hearts that we accept a dinner invitation, as we did the other night. I typically offer to bring something, hoping he’ll ask me to bring the entire dinner (as he sometimes does). But this time he was firm: “Don’t bring anything.”

I obliged… mostly. (Preferring to not take chances on the beverage front, I did bring a bottle of wine.)

Jon would be serving tacos. In the past at Jon’s, we have had pizza and hamburgers, and he has often sought my help: “What do we need to do to make this taste good?” That would not be the case this particular evening. Jon opened the door and welcomed us with a heretofore unseen confidence.

For appetizers, there was cheese and crackers — the former, deftly sliced and fanned across the plate; the latter de-boxed with an almost theatrical flair.

“Can I get you a taco, Seanie?” he asked. I nodded enthusiastically, excited to watch his next move.

The taco

The taco

And then he presented it: a perfectly executed gringo American taco. The store-bought taco shells were crunchy, yet yielded just enough to the bite, revealing a layered interior of toothsome, authoritatively spiced ground beef, chewy and briny grated cheese, gossamer cubes of red tomato and the cooling crunch chiffonaded (i.e. chopped) iceberg lettuce. And, presciently avoiding another typical pitfall of the gringo American taco dinner, Jon provided plenty of everything — since there were thirteen of us, and you can’t eat just one of those tacos… nor two… nor three.

I could almost hear the collective cheer rising from Jon’s East Coast family, who had gotten used to reading about his foibles and missteps on this very blog. Jon was triumphant, having redeemed the family name and his own culinary dignity.

We looked forward to future dinners at Jon’s. What would he pull out of his chef’s hat next? Spaghetti and meatballs? Stir fry? Soup!??

Jon’s recipe: “Get some boxes of taco shells and a package of taco seasoning. Make the ground beef. Scoop some beef into the taco shell, top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. And some onions and guacamole if you like.”

Consider the gauntlet thrown down — especially you East Coast Bucks!

 

Wild Agave

“We want to have you guys over when we get the place cleaned up a bit,” my pal Gordon had been telling me for five or six years, over the course of two different “places”.

The time had finally come. Gordon and spouse Lori, who had moved into their “new” house a year or so before, were far enough along in their renovations that they now felt comfortable hosting. But nothing ever being simple, we had been trying to schedule this particular dinner party for a matter of months.

The mezcals of Del Maguey

The mezcals of Del Maguey

The theme would loosely be “Mezcal & Mole” — or, at least, that was the subject line of the group texts bouncing around during the protracted planning phase. More

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