Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Calling it quits

I regret to announce that I am going to be calling it quits on this epic quest - or the blogging portion of it at least. Ends up blogging about tacos is not all it's cracked up to be. A few unfortunate side effects are likely to happen:
1) You waste a hell of a lot of time blogging and worrying about tacos rather than less exciting things like your job.
2) Eating tacos becomes a chore, and times come when you actually want to avoid eating tacos just so that the backlog of blog posts doesn't become longer.

If something is going to lead me to eat fewer tacos, then I sure as hell don't want to do it.

Make no mistake, I am still going to eat 500 tacos this year. As of today, I'm already at 122, believe it or not. But I may not be here to chronicle the at best moderately impressive feat.

Til next time, keep wolfing down those tacos, and I promise to do the same 10 times over.

I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

81 Tacos: Phoning it in

Trip #2 to El Taco de Oro in Alviso, CA. This time, however, I went in the building rather than just hitting up the truck. I soon realized that I had committed a serious faux pas: ordering takeout from a place that was intended to be sit-down. Despite looking like the hands-down biggest taco dork on the planet, I proceeded with my mission and ordered four tacos - three regular and one super.

El Taco de OroThey phoned it in on their restaurant labeling, so why can't I phone it in on this post?

To make matters worse, I forgot my camera and had to use my cell phone to take photos. To make matters even worse, I am feeling extremely lazy today. So in more than one way, I'm going to phone this one in.

Four tacosYep, tacos. The carnitas one is the "super taco" with lettuce, tomato & crema.

Finally, the phoned in rundown:
4) Pollo asado. Nothing special. 5.5/10.
3) Carnitas. Good. 7/10.
2) Al pastor. Great. 7.5/10.
1) Carne asada. Awesome. 8.5/10.

Good stuff. More research is needed to decide whether the truck or the building is superior. The truck, however, is a hell of a lot quicker.

4 tacos consumed.
81 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 352 tacos.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

77 Tacos: A ruby in the rough?

Thanks to Yelp, I was recently able to sample some of the offerings at the elusive Ruby's Taqueria in Sunnyvale, CA. This place was way out in the far reaches a residential neighborhood where the last thing you'd expect to find is a place like this. To get there, you must go through an arduous test to prove your worthiness: a two-mile drive down a straight, wide road where the speed limit is 25 and you just know that the jacket is going to be sweatin' you (translation: cops will come after you) if you push that needle past 30. You want to rev it up to 70, but your paranoia won't let you. So you wait, and wait, and waaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiit.

Finally in the distance, after you've wasted half your day driving these two miles, Ruby's Taqueria appears in the distance like a shimmering oasis in the middle of the Sahara. You get there and you're greeted with none other than.......a full parking lot and a 15-minute line that stretches out the door. Oh well, I guess the secret's out.

Ruby's TaqueriaThis place was way out in the cut

Were these tacos deserving of the name "Ruby?" Again, as with the "tacos of gold," no. They were better than that. Who would want to eat a ruby? What could you possibly hope to get out of it other than a chipped tooth and a shiny red kidney stone? I'll eat my carne asada - you can have the gemstones for dinner. The tacos weren't top-notch, but definitely second- or third-notch, depending on how many notches there are total.

Ruby's tacosYes, I was too lazy to take two seconds to put the meat back on that one taco for a better picture.

Here's the rundown:
5) Tingo de pollo. This "spicy chicken" was decent, but not spicy enough for a real taco fiend like myself and a little salty. 6/10.
4) Rajas de chile. This weird concoction of roasted chilies in a strange yellow sauce was surprisingly tasty. I almost didn't miss the meat. 7/10
3) Carnitas. Ruby's cuts their carnitas off a big pork chunk, making it a little less painfully fatty than usual. 7.5/10
2) Carne asada. Tasty, but nothing particularly special. 7.5/10
1) Al pastor. Freshly shaved off the spit, the reliable A.P. emerges as the champ again. 8/10.

5 tacos consumed.
77 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 370 tacos.

Friday, March 13, 2009

72 Tacos: The bomb?

Taqueria La Bamba in Mountain View, CA was probably named for the song "La Bamba." You may think "la bamba" means "the bomb." If you do, then you are terribly, terribly wrong. In reality, the translation of "la bamba" is something you would never guess: "the bamba." It's sort of similar to how "el niño" just means "the niño" (source: Chris Farley). Rather boring. It turns out that "bamba" is nothing more than the name of a dance. An incredibly silly dance that was designed for the sole purpose of giving you another way to humiliate yourself in public. The Spanish translation of "bomb," on the other hand, is "la bomba." Big difference.

"La bamba" or "la bomba?"

So what exactly is Taqueria La Bamba getting at with their name? We may never know. All I know is that "la bamba" belies the quality of their tacos. They are not silly or humiliating in any way. In fact, they're some of the best I have had yet - stuffed with the juicy, satisfying animal protein that we all love. A much better description would be "la bomba" - the bomb.

Here is the rundown.
4) Chile Colorado. Even the worst of the four was no slouch. The marinated beef chunks weren't quite as flavorful as the other meats, but they were tasty, and this taco was interesting in that it included some exotic toppings like rice. 7/10.
3) Carne asada. Flavorful grilled beef chunks with onions, cilantro, and hot sauce. Good stuff. 8/10.
2) Carnitas. "Carnitas" means "little meats," but there was nothing "ita" about this carne. The taco was loaded and bathed in hot sauce, and the meat was tender and tasty. 9/10.
1) Al pastor. Absolutely phenomenal. Succulent, slightly charred, fruity-tasting pork chunks with sauteed onions adding a nice finishing touch. 9.5/10.

There was nothing "ita" about this "carne."

4 tacos consumed.
72 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 365 tacos.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

68 Tacos: The golden taco

The little town of Alviso is about as isolated as it gets in the Bay Area, which is home to over 7 million people. Bordered by the San Francisco Bay on the north, about 1/2 mile of hilly plains and then the CA-237 freeway to the south, and swamplands to the east and west, Alviso is not exactly an action-packed hot spot. However it does do one thing well: tacos. Along the main drag, N. 1st St., sits the El Taco de Oro taco truck, parked right in front of the El Taco de Oro Taqueria. For those of you out there who are Spanish-illiterate, "el taco de oro" literally means "the taco of gold."

El Taco de Oro truckTruck yeah!

Rush LimbaughWhen you roll up to this joint, you will find yourself immediately faced with the quandary of whether to patronize the truck or the building. Some people ponder this question for hours before finally deciding on one or the other. I, however, had my mind made up before I got there and had no time to second-guess myself. I made a beeline for the truck like Rush Limbaugh for the last piece of cheesecake.

So, were they good enough to be called "tacos of gold?" No, they were much better than that. Seriously, who wants to eat gold? It's metallic, awful-tasting, and expensive as hell to boot.

El Taco de Oro tacosNot even the radishes and lemon wedges were spared.

Here's the rundown:
5) Pollo asado. Pretty solid, but not spectacular. 6/10.
4) Al pastor. Not quite as flavorful as other places' tacos of this kind. 6.5/10.
3) Carne asada. Meat was not quite as tender as I would have liked. 6.5/10.
2) Pollo. The chicken was great and it was the only one with salsa verde (green sauce), making for a nice mid-taco scarfing session change of pace. 7.5/10.
1) Carnitas. I didn't even recognize this as carnitas initially. It was excellent though, and came without the usual sensation of instantly clogging your arteries and expanding your waistline. 8.5/10.

5 tacos consumed.
68 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 388 tacos.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

63 Tacos: Don't blow out the jalopy for it

The other day I went to Tacos Jalapa in Sunnyvale, CA and thought to myself that "Jalapa" looks a lot like the word "jalopy," which is an underrated word for "car" that has really fallen by the wayside in the past 20 years or so. I guess kids these days are too lazy to say polysyllabic words like "jalopy," "automobile," or even "auto" when a simpler option is available. This is a shame because using those mouth muscles more for things other than wolfing down super-sized Big Mac combos would definitely fight obesity. Oh well.

Speaking of jalopies, or cars, they are quite remarkable machines that can efficiently transport you from your current location to the taco-producing destination of your choice. However you must consider a few things when deciding how far you should drive your vehicle to reach a taco destination of a certain quality:
1) Gas prices
2) Car depreciation (Probably negligible on that old junker you drive).
3) Time value (I value mine at about 4 cents an hour).
4) Carbon emissions, climate change, global warming, blah blah Al Gore whatever.

Tacos Jalapa over the top of my jalopy

Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted by myself, I was talking about Tacos Jalapa. I ordered 5 tacos, which I would break down like this:
5) Cabeza. A little gamy/offaly for my tastes. If you're a head meat kind of guy it may be up your alley. 4/10.
4) Pollo. Pretty standard. 5/10.
3) Carne asada. A little more rubbery than I'd like, but not bad. 6.5/10.
2) Fish. Nicely grilled whitefish, not too fishy. 6.5/10.
1) Al pastor. Good, but not quite up to the level a taco snob like me is accustomed to. 7/10.

The tacos were pretty average, but extra points for stuffing 'em full and having very legitimate green and red salsa.

Was Jalapa decent? Yeah, the tacos weren't too bad, but probably not worth the jalopy ride considering all the other great options in the area.

5 tacos consumed.
63 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 365 tacos.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

58 Tacos: Now I'm cookin' again

Just when I thought I couldn't get in any more of a taco rut, I go and do something like this...

"Dumb and Dumber" references aside, the time had come for a massive taco undertaking. You see, the birth of "500 Tacos" has been both a blessing and a curse in some ways. It's a blessing in that it makes me write about and think about tacos all the time. That is a good thing. Unfortunately, on several occasions it has also gotten me to the point where I'm behind on posting and am afraid to eat tacos because I know that it will further increase the posting backlog. That is very, very bad. Anything that causes a person to reduce taco intake is at best tragic, and at worst FATAL. Yes, fatal. As is the case with with food in general, I am pretty sure that completely abstaining from tacos from too long a period of time can be deadly.

bare chicken tacosVegetables suck and are terrible for you. I don't blame you if you stop piling and start eating at this point.

So there were actually two separate meals of six tacos each, and in each case I wolfed down three tacos immediately and gruffled down the other three the next day for lunch. Forgive me for not including pictures of all 12 tacos, but they all looked almost exactly the same and I wanted you to be able to stay awake to read the rest of this article.

loaded chicken tacosWhen it comes to tacos, don't be a chicken about chicken.

As far as seasoning goes, I've found that it's usually best to throw in the amount you think is right, and then throw in the same amount on top of that. If you're not choking and sneezing while standing over the pan, you need more spices. Well-seasoned chicken tacos can be damn good. This lot gets a solid 7/10.

Quick notes on beer pairings:
With the first three tacos in the first batch, I drank a Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic. This odd wheaty, fruity bastard love-child of a lambic and a hefeweizen doesn't pair very well with itself, let alone a plate of tacos. Not highly recommended.
With the first three tacos in the second batch, I drank a Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. This one was pretty money, sort of like a newly minted $100 bill. The bitter, citrusy hops and sweet malt went awesome with the heavy seasoning. A solid pick.

12 tacos consumed.
58 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 341 tacos.