Saturday, January 31, 2009

29 Tacos: PETA would be happy

Tonight's tacos were missing one thing I typically consider an essential ingredient: some part of a dead animal. This did not happen because I have turned into a crazy hippie, mind you, but rather because I didn't have any meat and was too lazy to go to the store and get some. You know, I am all for treating animals kindly, and I would be more than happy to refrain from eating them if only they didn't taste so damn good!

I saved your ass tonight, you little ingrate.

Seriously, I doubt I would have eaten lamb tacos, but you get the point. Some poor defenseless farm animal gets to live to fight another day because I was too lazy to drive to Safeway tonight. PETA should applaud my effort (or lack of effort, depending how you look at it). After all, I am a member of PETA myself:
People who
A lot

Anyway, let's talk about them tacos. They weren't all that bad, believe it or not. Some canned pinto beans cooked up with cumin, pepper, and chili powder can serve as a decent meat replacement. With fresh tomatoes off the vine, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, and avocado, these tacos earned a very respectable average rating. 5/10.

Vegan tacos: oh how the mighty have fallen. I'll have to eat a 28 oz. porterhouse steak now so I don't feel like such a hippie.

3 tacos consumed.
29 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 341 tacos.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

26 Tacos: Who is César Chávez?

Today's taco stop was the Chavez Supermarket in Sunnyvale, CA. I wonder if this place was named for César Chávez. Who is/was César Chávez? I don't know, but I do know that he's important enough to have a street named after him in San Francisco. I don't think anyone actually knows who César Chávez is/was, except the person who named the street and his parents (who may have named the street themselves). Oh well.

Not too shabby for a supermarket.

On to the tacos. They were legit to say the least. I ordered three tacos: one pollo asada (grilled chicken), one al pastor, and one carnitas super taco (with guacamole and crema). All were excellent. The grilled chicken had a great smoky taste. The al pastor was freshly shaved off a spit roast and was very juicy. The carnitas was also succulent and tasty. All were served with pinto beans, onions, cilantro, and a spicy red salsa. I would score the two "porkers" (the pork tacos, not your mom and sister) 8.5/10 and the chicken (the taco, not your girlfriend) 8/10. As a side note, super tacos are definitely the way to go here if you're not on a diet and willing to for over an extra buck and change.

Come on, you know who this guy is, you ignorant bastard.

For the record, César Chávez (1927-1993) was a great civil rights and labor activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and did a lot of other awesome stuff. No disrespect intended. He was the man ("the man" as in a person I admire, not "the man" as in "let's stick it to the man").

3 tacos consumed.
26 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 327 tacos.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

23 Tacos: Tacos and gas - a bad combo?

On Sunday I found myself in Redwood City, CA around 1 in the afternoon with tacos on the mind. I remembered that a friend had recommended a local joint called El Grullense (literally "the flamingo").

El Grullense Redwood CityWARNING: If you do not enjoy really bad gas station-related humor, do not read the next paragraph.

I had my doubts about this taco joint because it didn't look like much and it was situated in a gas station, but based on my friend's recommendation, I was pretty "pump"-ed to try it. The tacos were fairly small, not much bigger than Taqueria Latina's in Sunnyvale, but despite that, they were surprisingly "filling." The meat was well-cooked and packed Vin "Diesel"-sized flavor. These were not the best tacos I've ever had, but they definitely didn't "tank." Best of all, even though I expected some unpleasant after-effects, these tacos did not give me "gas."

El Grullense tacosSurprisingly, El Grullense only gives you one kind of gas: the unleaded variety.

Ok, now for the obligatory taco rundown. Of the 7 tacos I shared with one other person, I ate the lion's share (5 tacos +) because the other person had eaten non-taco foods for some strange reason shortly before.
7) Tripas (tripe). Not bad, but the calamari-like rings did little to hide the fact that I was eating digestive organs. 5/10.
6) Lengua (tongue). I wish I wasn't so squeamish about these weird cuts of meat. Hopefully getting a lot more taco-eating experience will fix that. Not bad for cow tongue. 5.5/10.
5) Cabeza (head meat). Like steak, very tender, but a little too much fat for my liking. 6.5/10.
4) Carne asada. A consistent bet at any reasonable taco joint, this place is no exception. 7/10.
3) Al pastor. Nicely done and well-spiced. 7.5/10.
2) Pollo. Very flavorful chicken. Not gamey or off-tasting at all. 7.5/10.
1) Carnitas. A winner, quite tasty. 8.5/10.

I would like to add the the green tomatillo/chile sauce at this place is excellent. The carrots on top were an odd choice however.

5 tacos consumed.
23 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 300 tacos.

Monday, January 26, 2009

18 Tacos: A taco to remember...or not

For much of the day on Saturday, I found myself in San Francisco's Haight district on an epic all-day pub crawl for a friend's birthday. Now if you've ever been to the Haight or read about it, you are probably aware that it is a place where a lot of people do a lot of things they don't remember later. The Haight is full of hippies, and hippies put all kinds of chemicals that have no business being in their bodies into their bodies to provide temporary relief from this cruel world full of all the things they detest (veal, Republicans, war, non-hybrid SUVs, razors, animal testing, showers, etc).

Being somewhat of a straight-laced individual myself, my poison of choice was not the kind of thing that makes you see yellow monkeys dancing around purple toadstools all day; it was good old CH3CH2OH - "ethanol" in layman's terms, or just "alcohol" in even layerman's terms. Lots of it.

One thing you may not know about alcohol is that it makes you hungry for tacos. Other things that make you hungry for tacos, in my experience, are breathing, hearing the word "taco" in any context, and going more than 4 hours without eating tacos. Nevertheless, according to witness accounts, a time came when I suddenly decided that I absolutely had to have a taco immediately. This place called El Balazo was right across Haight St. and I made a beeline for it. There was no stopping me.

El Balazo tacos
Approximately one of these tacos allegedly ended up in my stomach.

Since I shared this platter of two tacos with my girlfriend, I am going to count this as one taco consumed. How were these tacos? Hell if I know, but I'm sure they seemed pretty damn good at the time. ?/10.

1 taco consumed.
18 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 253 tacos.

Friday, January 23, 2009

17 Tacos: Sloppy seconds

I made a great discovery last night: there are these things called spices that can make food taste better. It's incredible! Last night I added cumin, chili powder, coriander, and a small amount of garlic powder, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. What a difference in flavor! The chicken thighs sprung to life like a chicken out of an egg (which would probably later be slaughtered and used as taco meat). With these spiced chicken thighs, along with corn tortillas, taco cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, Newman's Own salsa, and jalapeno peppers, these homemade tacos turned out to taste considerably better than average.

After wolfing three down, I packed up the rest (two tacos' worth) for lunch the next day. You know what that means: sloppy seconds. How well do tacos hold up as leftovers, you wonder? The suspense was killing me. Some foods, such as the legendary manicotti my great-grandma used to make circa 1960, were supposedly even better reheated than freshly cooked. Other foods, like sashimi, or most Japanese foods for that matter, show a marked decline in quality after mere hours of sitting out. What about tacos?

The very boring answer to that question is that tacos are sort of in the middle of the pack: they're still pretty good the next day, but not quite the same as freshly prepared. You can store tacos for a couple of days, as long as they're not fish tacos (after 12 hours, eat fish tacos at your own risk).

Sloppy seconds: it could be worse. A lot worse.

I regret that I didn't take a picture of the original tacos. At the time, I was ravenous and blogging was the last thing on my mind. Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment when it comes to tacos. Sue me. (Seriously, don't actually sue me.) The original tacos basically looked the exact same as the ones in the picture, except they had chopped cilantro on top. Use your imagination.

If you've ever seen the TV show "Step by Step," you may know that the theme song for the show includes the lyrics, "We'll make it better / The second time around." That may be true for Suzanne Somers and the gang (although personally I think she was better the first "time around" - it was all downhill after "Three's Company"), but not so much for tacos.

As Borat would say, "In my country they would go crazy for this one. This so much."

Let's recap.
Things that are better the second time around:
-My great-grandma's manicotti
-Whatever "it" refers to in the "Step by Step" theme song
Things that aren't as good the second time around:
-Chicken tacos
-Suzanne Somers

First time: 6/10.
Sloppy seconds: 4.5/10.

5 tacos consumed.
17 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 270 tacos.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

12 Tacos: Three little ponies

Tres Potrillos
The next stop on my historic taco-gruffling quest was Tres Potrillos in Sunnyvale, CA. This place's name translates roughly as "three little ponies," although I think the name has a little less wimpy of a connotation to a native speaker.

My Little Pony
I doubt this type of abomination comes to mind when most Spanish speakers hear the word "potrillo."

I could keep going on this tangent, but you didn't come here to hear about the lamest toy/TV series ever invented (and no, I haven't forgotten about "Care Bears"), you came to hear about tacos. I applaud you on that.

So I rolled up to Tres Potrillos around a quarter after noon on an overcast Wednesday and was faced with a rather formidable line, about 10 people deep. Evidently the people of Sunnyvale were hungry, and they were hungry for one thing: tacos. After allowing the other taco-crazed madmen and madwomen who had arrived before me to order, I stepped up to the counter and ordered three "super tacos": one pollo, one carnitas, one al pastor. Each one cost $2.35 and came with onions, cilantro, cheese, guacamole, salsa, and crema. These tacos were far from minimalist - they came loaded with goodies and ended up being quite a mess to eat.

Tres Potrillos tacos
These super tacos say, "Screw minimalists!" (with apologies to Mark Bittman).

Here is the rundown on the tacos themselves, from worst to best:
3) Carnitas. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty good, but the meat was a little too fatty for my tastes. 6.5/10.
2) Pollo. The chicken was very tender. Flavor was not out of this world, but come on, it's just chicken. 7/10.
1) Al Pastor. This one totally stole the show. The pork was really juicy, sort of like the kind you get in a top-of-the-line doner kebab sandwich. It was seasoned well and had an awesome fruity sweetness. 9/10.

As a side note, the salsas at T.P. (pretty unflattering acronym, isn't it?) were unbelievable. After I finished eating my food, I had a half ounce or so each of both the roasted chile de arbol salsa and the salsa verde left over. I downed them like shots of liquor, straight up, no chaser. Count it.

3 tacos consumed.
12 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 209 tacos.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

9 Tacos: Bar-TAC'O-bama

BartacobamaAnother masterful use of the Windows Paint program.

Today is quite the historic day. As you may or may not be aware, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. This event was historic for a few reasons:
-He is the first black president.
-He is the 44th white president.
-He is the first president since 2001 not to be named "George W. Bush."
-He is the first president since Calvin "Calvin TACO-olidge" Coolidge whose name can be easily manipulated into something involving tacos.
Historic indeed!

Where was I again? Ah yes, sweet sweet tacos. Like beer, they're not just for breakfast anymore. In fact, even breakfast tacos can be eaten at any time of the day. Cooking eggs is usually faster than cooking meats, and when you're in a pinch and short on time, breakfast tacos can be a phenomenal replacement for Spaghetti-O's or Swanson's dinners.

Last night I was a little short on time, but seeing how the inauguration was this morning and it seemed unlikely that I would be able to eat tacos today, I decided to whip up some quick egg tacos to celebrate the beginning of a new era for our nation. These tacos simply consisted of two corn tortillas, two eggs, one tomato, one jalapeno, some shredded taco cheese, some Newman's Own black bean and corn salsa, pepper, and cumin. I cooked the eggs more or less over-medium, leaving the yolks just a tiny bit runny.

These egg tacos were sort of like the girl you meet at a bar when you realize it's almost closing time, you're pretty shit-faced, and your options are less than ideal. Have you done better before? Definitely. Could you do better? Probably. Would they not look as good if you weren't drunk? No question. But are you complaining? Hell no. 3/10.

NOTE: The rating scale is compared to tacos only, so a 3/10 as far as tacos go would probably be about an 8/10 if compared to all foods.

egg tacosThese egg tacos may not be the hottest thing at the party, but let's be honest: you wouldn't throw 'em out of bed.

2 tacos consumed.
9 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 164 tacos.

Monday, January 19, 2009

7 Tacos: Standing up for the little guy on MLK Day

When it comes to companies, you can pretty much break them down into 2 categories: 1) nice companies that appreciate the great contributions that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made towards equality for all people in this country, which give their employees this day off, and 2) evil companies that have no respect for humanity whatsoever. I work for the second type of company. Fortunately, the deep state of depression that results from having to work on a national holiday has many known cures, exactly one of which is legal in the state of California. That cure is tacos.

Taqueria LatinaA sight for sore eyes

Enter Taqueria Latina. This little hole-in-the-wall taqueria in Sunnyvale, CA is less than a mile from where I work and is no slouch when it comes to tacos. I am thankful that this place exists near my office in about the same way that I'm thankful that oxygen exists in the air around me. Taqueria Latina is somewhat of a secret weapon of mine: their tacos are small and cheap, so it's a great place to get your numbers up when you're keeping track of how many tacos you eat. Needless to say, this place will be making a large number of appearances on this blog.

Now some of you may be saying, "Wait a minute. Isn't eating smaller tacos sort of cheating?" The answer is that no, it is not. Does a midget count as half of a person? If not, then why should a smaller taco be considered inferior? Have you (much like my company) learned nothing from Dr. King? Are not all tacos are created equal? Ignorant taco racists be damned, I am going to take the more honorable path here and declare that for the purposes of this blog, little tacos from Taqueria Latina, big tacos from La Taqueria, and all tacos in between shall each be considered as exactly one taco. No exceptions.

Anyway, on the menu for today was 5 tacos, all with different meats: pollo (chicken), pescado (fish), chivo (goat), al pastor (pork), and carne asada (steak). All were satisfying, with juicy, well-seasoned meat, onion, cilantro, and excellent hot sauce. If I had to rank them from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best, I would have to go as follows:
5) Chivo ($1.25). Sort of halfway between chicken and beef, the goat meat was little gamey for my tastes, but still not bad. 5.5/10.
4) Pollo ($1). This also has an ever-so-slightly gamey taste, which you usually don't get from chicken. Still, chicken can be dry and bland, but this chicken is tender and well-cooked. 6/10.
3) Pescado ($1.50). They pretty much throw a tasty, well-spiced 2-ounce whitefish filet on the tortilla and throw on the usual fixins. Price is a little higher, but it's worth it. 7.5/10.
2) Carne Asada ($1). The heavyweight of the bunch, this taco is pretty much everything you want it to be. 8/10.
1) Al Pastor ($1). You can't really do much better than this for a buck nowadays, even at the Dollar Store. With excellent seasoning and a little fruity flavor, Taqueria Latina's al pastor taco packs a lot of punch despite its diminutive stature. 8.5/10.

bag o tacosIf Dr. King were alive today, I'd like to treat him to a delicious bag o' tacos like this one from Taqueria Latina.

5 tacos consumed.
7 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 134 tacos.

2 Tacos: The mission The Mission

What better place is there to start a great mission than a place called The Mission? That's exactly what I did yesterday. I found myself driving around San Francisco by myself (no idea how I got there) and decided, as I often do, that it was time for some tacos. I had heard about this place called La Taqueria, which was famous for two things: 1) an incredibly creative name, and 2) awesome tacos.

As I was sitting at La Taqueria, which is located in SF's Mission District (a.k.a. "The Mission"), a thought crossed my mind: "I should do this more often. In fact, not only should I do this more often, I should make it my MISSION." With that, 500 Tacos was born.

La Taqueria tacosThe tacos I should have ordered are pictured, not the skimpier ones I actually did order.

How were the actual tacos? They were big and they were great. The chicken taco was fairly standard but the meat was a little flavorful than usual. I'll give it a 7/10. The carnitas taco, however, was outstanding. The meat was juicy and succulent, reminding me of a Mexican version of good Southern pulled pork. 9.5/10. Toppings were fairly skimpy on both tacos despite their considerable size, and I regret not ponying up for some guac. The bill was a little steeper than I would have liked: $3.50 for a bare bones taco and significant surcharges for all the toppings you would want. Still, do not be surprised if La Taqueria makes an encore appearance at some later time this year.

2 tacos consumed.
2 total tacos this year.
Current pace: 41 tacos.

0 Tacos: Intro and F.A.Q.

Taco Bell mascot
It's always good to start off a new year with some sort of purpose. Some people resolve to lose weight, be a better person, cure a type of cancer, or contribute to world peace. Those are great goals and all, but I have something a little bigger in mind: I am going to eat 500 tacos in 2009. That's 41.67 tacos per month, 9.59 tacos per week, 1.37 tacos per day. I'm also going to talk about all kinds of extremely interesting taco-related stuff. Now I've already eaten about 22 tacos this year, but I'm not going to count those because they were not documented properly, so as far as you know, I could be lying about eating them. Hell, I probably am lying. I do that a lot. It's fun to see if you can get away with it. For example, if someone asks me, "How tall are you, about 6-foot-1?" and I really am 6'1" (I really am), I might say, "No, I'm 8-foot-7." To that, they might say, "No you're not. I'm 5'11" and you're barely taller than I am." and I would admit defeat, saying something like, "Damn it! You got me." Sometimes you can really fool people though, and that can be really rewarding.

I realize we're already well into the new year, and for that reason I'm going to count the two tacos I ate yesterday at La Taqueria in San Francisco as tacos #1 and #2. Deal with it. Those tacos were awesome. The post will be coming soon.

Now, before we get started, a few FAQ...

Q: Why tacos?
A: There is no greater food in the world. I could have called this "500 artichokes" or "500 crab rangoons," but that would just be silly and not enjoyable. The flavor of tacos is unrivaled, and tacos have a sort of star quality that you rarely see among other foods. Does Jennifer Lopez sing a song about granola bars, potato skins, or pumpkin pies? No, she sings about tacos. It is NOT a coincidence.

South Park J-LoJ-Lo and I love tacos. If you don't, then seriously dude, just shut up.

Q: Are you a Mexican?
A: Only in my taste buds. I wish every day that I could claim to have descended from the great people who invented this unbelievably delicious gift from the gods, but as far as I know, I'm a pretty boring, standard, run-of-the-mill American whitey. My family's origins are Italian, German, Irish, and possibly a small amount of Pennsylvania Dutch.

Q: Aren't you going to get sick of eating tacos?
That is a stupid question. In short, no. When I was in college, I once successfully completed the "Taco Bell Challenge," in which you have to eat $20 worth of Taco Bell tacos and 40's of malt liquor in 90 minutes. After emerging victorious, then throwing up a massive amount of material that amazed all spectators after time had expired, do you know what I wanted to do next? Eat a damn taco, that's what.

Q: Who the hell do you think you are?
A: An unstoppable taco-eating machine, one of the great heroes of the modern era, and nothing less than a legend. I feel sorry for those of you who doubt me. This is happening.