Monday, April 20, 2009

Gourmet Mobile Food Vendors?

I mostly cruise older neighborhoods, those passed over by chains, looking for ethnic finds, mobile or not. Maybe I need to be cruising the Galleria area, Memorial Villages or First Colony, looking for more upscale offerings like these?

Here's more on Holy Cacao.

Actually I think the concept is not so new nor so uniquely 'Austin.' I remember reading a few years ago (at least 2005 or before) about the taco trucks of LA and some of them sounded pretty upscale to me. has done a number of features on NYC taco trucks and food carts; here's one on the Treats Truck.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Antojitos Hondurenos - revisited

Antojitos Hondurenos, parked a block north of 59 on Fondren, in front of what used to be a Grandy’s. A very large bus...

With a rather small menu....

The obscured Refresco is Banana, the item at the top of the Menu is Pollo con Tajadas.

Add this one to the list of our international taco trucks; I just spotted it recently. They weren’t able to do tacos the first time I stopped in (Honduran tacos are rolled, like Mexican flautas) so I went for, from the top left, a Pastelito de carne, Enchilada, and Baleada.

Baleadas are a popular street snack in Honduras and I always have one at Las Hamacas. It’s a thick, warm flour tortilla, folded over a filling of refritos rojos, crema and cheese, a very satisfying comfort food snack. This version was very large and the tortilla was very dense and dry; on my first bite I thought “I’ve been served a buckwheat pancake baleada.” The whole thing was quite dry; the refritos are apparently made with minimal fat and there was very little crema and queso; the queso was possibly powdered, at any rate finely ground instead of crumbled.. This was a disappointment and i wouldn’t order one again here.

The pastelito was better; there’s a small fried meat pie buried under there. At least it’s supposed to be meat - I got only a small taste of meat in the filling which was a pale green mush. I’me sure mashed potatoes or maybe casava were part of it but couldn’t figure out what else there was, maybe mashed peas? On top was a generous amount of finely shredded cabbage, pickled red onion (and one slice of a red, pickled cucumber), some pickled jalapeno, and, unfortunately, the powdered cheese in a tomato/chili sauce that had a very modest amount of heat. This was not bad, better than the baleada although the pastelito got soggy from the topping.

The enchilada was the best thing I had. Honduran enchiladas are like Tex-Mex Tostadas in appearance and taste, minus any refritos. The carne molida was mildly seasoned but much like taco meat; there was some dice of boiled potatoes in the mix also.

I also tried the Uva, pronounced OO ah, a Honduran fresco which turned out to be a grape soda. The label says made with either sugar or corn syrup; mine was sugar. It was mildly carbonated. The Mirindo is an orange soda according to the man but I don’t know if the Banana and Horchata are bottled or what. I was expecting something like Mexican aguasfrescas or licuadas.

This came to $7.25 (there’s no price list posted). The man at the window, the manager, perhaps owner, spoke pretty good English so there was very minimal problem communicating. He said they will be open 7 days. I’ve seen them with a good line around lunch time.

Reeling from a visit to a spectacularly awful, overpriced taqueria a few days later I was a bit shy of trying any place unproven but gave this place another try and went for the Chuleta con Tajadas. Antojito? This was a full meal, not an appetizer. Two small, breaded pork chops, a little past medium but not too dry, with the side of shredded cabbage, tomatoes, red onions, mild, pickled jalapeno slices and mayo/chili sauce dressing, all on a bed of sauteed plantanos covering the entire bottom of the container. A generous amount of food for $7.50.

I recommend the Chuleta and Enchilada especially and I’ll be back to try some of the other offerings in the future.

Update 8/23/9 - visited again and again had the Chuleta con tajadas. The portion was perhaps a bit smaller, there was no tomato or jalapeno, and the pork chops were very salty, otherwise this remains a very good choice.

According to the t-shirts being worn by all the staff this location is 7171 Fondren and there is another unit at 9713 Airline. I have not been to that location.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mas Enchiladas

The quest continues....

Enchiladas en Mole, La Guadalupana, 3109 Dunlavy

This is a very popular small, family run restaurant in the Montrose that gets lot’s of positive reviews. It’s not convenient to me so I’ve only been twice. My first visit, more than a year ago, I had the Mole Poblano con Pollo. According to local food explorer Jay Francis, La Guadalupana is one of the few restaurants locally that makes their moles from scratch instead of using a commercially prepared product. While that meal was good I wasn’t wowed by the restaurant and hadn’t been back until recently while checking out enchilada dishes. This time I had the Enchiladas en Mole and I liked this a better than the other dish. Shredded chicken (dark meat I think) was wrapped in tortillas, covered with a very chocolate-y mole, topped with shredded lettuce, onion, slices of avocado and grated Panela cheese. The rice and beans as well as the two table salsas were all good though nothing remarkable; both the salsas were mild.

Since I’ve only been to this restaurant twice I’m not going to attempt a fuller review other than to say I really like the bakery section. I understand the owner, Trancito Diaz, was a pastry chef at the Houston Country Club for years and there’s much more than just pan dulce here; the French pastries are very good. Many people online have commented on spicier dishes on the menu but everything I’ve had so far just registers as mild on my taste buds.

Enchiladas Michoacanas de Cordoniz, Taqueria 100% Michoacan, 10001 W. Bellfort, Suite A

Taqueria 100% Michoacan has gone out of business.
While searching for mentions of enchiladas I came across a review of this place written by ... me! I went to this place several times over a year ago, shortly after it opened. I remember being impressed by the place but had forgotten I had ever tried an enchilada dish here. I had the Enchiladas Michoacanas con pollo back then and was impressed; though I didn’t mention it in my review I think I remember now that the enchiladas were folded twice into the shape of a wedge, which makes them enchiladas dobladas. A roasted chicken drumstick was on the side. This time I decided to try the version with quail.

After several visits back then I had decided to move on and try other places here on the Southwest side but I remembered the taqueria and pass it from time to time. It’s a bit pricier than most taquerias and the menu is a little more adventurous, I’d say; perhaps an applicable word is ‘authentic,’ though I hate to use that word. Portions also are modest, at least on the dishes I’ve ordered which are the ones that look the most ‘authentic’ and unique to me. They do have a Tex-Mex section of the menu with Enchiladas Tex-Mex, a Texas Plate (Carne Guisada), and Enchiladas Suizas de Pollo o Fajita. There also are Enchiladas Tipicas on the Platillos Tipicos section of the menu but no description of what that means. I’m kind of surprised the place has survived as there is not much residential nearby; the strip center has remained largely empty, although there is a Michoacan oriented general merchandise store and Tortilleria Milpa Real has recently opened after having a sign up for about a year (Tortilleria Milpa Real has gone out of business).

Oh yes, about the food. This was very good. The wings and legs of the quail were dry and over-cooked but the breast meat was juicy and flavorful. I noted a textural difference in the enchiladas. I understand there are two ways to ‘enchilada’ a tortilla. One involves frying the tortilla in fat to soften it up and make it pliable, then enchilada-ing it, submersing it in chile sauce, then filling it and rolling or folding it. The other method involves dipping the tortilla in the chile sauce first and then frying it. I’ve not yet attempted these two methods at home but I’m guessing the latter method is used here, producing enchiladas that have a crispier, toastier, drier texture and taste that I liked. The textural and flavor contrasts provided made the dish more interesting.

This was topped, besides the chile sauce, with lechuga, translated lettuce, tomato, crema, queso, avocado and some strips of very vinegary jalapenos. Every dish I’ve had here with lechuga in the description has actually had shredded, raw cabbage, not lettuce. A little bit of raw cabbage goes a long way and I could have done with a little less of that; also, some of the tomato dice was from right around the stem and should have been thrown out; the vinegary jalapeno strips really stood out. I think the potatoes were enchiladaed also and were good.

On my first visit, with the Enchiladas con Pollo, the refritos were wonderful, made with frijoles rojos of some sort and seemingly with a little chile and cumin added. Every other time I’ve been there the refritos have been pintos with grated cheese; good but not outstanding. The table salsa is rather bland, the chips store-bought. The salsas brought to the table with the meal in squeeze bottles are more interesting but I didn’t see how they went with this meal and didn’t use any, just sampled a little on the plate.

While it’s not Five-Star dining I give this place a little extra credit for putting something other than the same-old, same-old sides on the plate; I wish others would do this also.

Enchiladas El Chon, Teotihuacan Mexican Café, 6579 W. Bellfort

This is another very popular restaurant that I’ve only been to twice, the first time four years ago right after this location opened. I wasn’t very impressed; the carnitas I had was pretty tough and I had a great deal of trouble understanding the waiter who spoke very fast - and he was speaking English! This time around I had much better luck with the servers, two very pretty, smiling young ladies took very good care of me. There are seven options available on the Enchilada section of the menu and I chose this one with shrimp and scallop, covered with a tomatillo/Monterrey Jack sauce.

There was a time, not more than a couple of years ago, when melted cheese was one of the major food groups for me and I would have been very glad to see this dish brought to the table but my tastes and eating habits have changed and I was a little perplexed. Everyone says Teotihuacan is ‘real Mexican,’ not Tex-Mex but I typically think of enchiladas smothered in melted cheese as Tex-Mex. The tortillas themselves were soggy to the point of being mushy, an unpleasant contrast to the more toothsome tortillas at Taqueria 100% Michoacan. At first I was pleased that the shrimp seemed to have been fresh, not frozen, small but with good texture, but as I made my way through the dish I became convinced they were frozen as a more rubbery texture asserted itself. The scallops were pea-sized. The shrimp also were apparently just boiled without any seasoning; I thought the dish would have been much improved if they had some seasoning or were grilled. I didn’t care for these enchiladas much at all.

The two salsas, however, were good, especially the creamy salsa verde with small bits of ripe avocado, but the red table salsa, slightly smokey and with more heat, was good also. The refritos were above average in taste and the Spanish Rice had a nice fresh tomato taste instead of the usual cooked tomato taste which I liked.

I’m a contrarian in many things in life and my taste buds seem programmed that way too. I haven’t ever had any of the grilled items that some people say are this restaurant’s strong points (nor eaten at the original on Airline which might be a bit better) but I’m not as taken by this place as I would have expected from all the positive reviews it gets. I do think, however, given the same sides I might have enjoyed this meal more if I'd chosen different enchiladas.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Altamirano - again

8338 Southwest Freeway @ Gessner

As the fervor of my enchilada quest intensifies I’ve been recalling meals eaten years ago, going through menus collected over the years, and I remembered the Enchiladas estilo Altamirano I had at this place. It’s a neighborhood taqueria I’ve been to many times (and posted about very early on the blog). Like the Jeffersons, I’ve moved on up, or so I thought!

Looking over the menu I have from this place I noted the Enchiladas Estilo Tierre Caliente; there was no explanation of what was involved other than that the plate included rice and beans and I couldn’t find any discussion online of what enchiladas Tierre Caliente style might mean so I went to find out for myself.

When last I was there I had noted the business card identified the business as offering authentic Mexican and Honduran cuisine but the menu was still the same one it had always been - all Mexican. They have now installed a new menu with some Honduran specialties included - Baleadas, Bandeja Altamirano, Frescos Hondurenos - and gone are the Tierre Caliente enchiladas.

The other enchiladas on the menu sounded too much like Tex-Mex from the descriptions so I went instead for the Pollo Frito, one of the Platillos Hondurenos.

When it first was presented my thought was there had been some mistake, but no, there were two pieces of fried chicken underneath that Central American curtido. Not only that, they were pretty good. I was afraid they would be soggy but they weren’t owing partly to the fact the drumstick and thigh were not battered (I think not even coated with flour) and so couldn’t soak up much moisture. The leg piece was a bit overcooked but very tasty. The thigh, which I got to second, was a little soggy due to the skin itself but otherwise a very fine piece of fried chicken.

My Chicken Fried Odyssey began after I got a spectacularly good piece of fried chicken at a taqueria in Baytown over a year ago. Since then, I’ve never been able to equal that experience, either by returning to the same place or at any other taqueria or Central American restaurant, and had given up. At last! The meal was a very pleasant surprise, and reasonably priced at just $7.

The curtido was very good - shredded cabbage, slightly wilted, with diced tomatoes and red onions, smaller dice plus strips of jalapeno and nopalitos and cilantro, topped with a warm tomato/ranchero sauce. Basically you get your cole slaw on top of the fried chicken here. Underneath it all were banana chips - slivers of banana only slightly sauteed, not crisped or caramelized. The sweetness of the bananas was a nice complement to the spiciness of the curtido and the saltiness of the chicken. Some of the leftover curtido was even better the next day as the flavors came together a little more and the cabbage lost a little more of it's edge.

The table salsa was served steaming hot from a crock pot and was basically a ranchero sauce. The restaurant was busier than I’ve ever seen it and the sole waitress was kept very busy but was always very pleasant and accommodating.

I’ll gladly go back and have this again. I’ve been trying taquerias all over town thinking I’d find better ones elsewhere but I am once again impressed with this one.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Burt's Meat Market and Hot-To Go-Cajun Deli

5910 Lyons Avenue

After stocking up at Canino's and El Bolillo this week I made my way over to Burt's for the first time in quite some time. The place has been refurbished, new flooring, improved lighting, seemingly more space (I think they removed some of the display racks in the tiny grocery section). The biggest improvement is the menu, now on professionally printed placards hanging down over the counter. It used to be you had to wait until you were right at the front of the line before you could see the menu on pieces of paper somewhat randomly tacked on the wall to the left and had too little time to peruse it before it was your turn to order. It's still too much to take in. I had never known until a recent Press review that Burt's was known for it's pan sausage and I was looking for a pan sausage sandwich or something but didn't see one so I bought a pound and brought it home. That's some seriously good breakfast sausage.

In the spirit of the day I tried a couple of new things. My four course meal included a bacon-wrapped jalapeno sausage popper, spicy, smoked, loose boudin, a mess of greens, and chicken and dumplings. I've seen the latter before but always passed on it because I prefer drop dumplings but I thought I'd give it a try. It was good but I still would prefer drop dumplings so I'll probably not get that very often. The popper I don't think I'd ever seen before. One problem with Burt's is that things like that sit out under a heat lamp and may get dried out but this was not a problem - that sausage link (one Burt makes?) was very, very juicy and tasty. Not only that, the jalapeno was not stripped of seeds and was really spicy, putting my saliva glands into overdrive trying to cope with the heat. I should have fluffed up the boudin before snapping the pic - they stuff so much into the containers it got squshed down. The greens were from the bottom of the pan and included a huge amount of bacon; it took the server close to 5 minutes to fill that 2 c container as she had to drain each ladle of excess pot likker carefully before adding it to the container.

I picked up a business card which has a website listed,, but I can't get it to come up.

Here's an earlier review on the blog.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Celaya Meat Market # 5

13210 Bissonnet @ Synott and 8 other locations


A now closed location of one of these was visited by the Carniceria Connoisseur in the Press last year and I’ve been intending to check this one out for some time but just got around to it recently.

Browsing the cramped aisles of this small grocery store/meat market/taqueria I was happy to spot Salsa Huichol, a hot sauce I had been looking for all of about 2 days since reading about it online. It’s made from cascabel peppers grown in the Huichol Mountains of Nayarit, blended with naturally fermented vinegar and spices. Vinegar is listed last among the ingredients. According to the website recipes it’s good with seafood and it’s a welcome addition to the hot sauce cabinet.

I also spotted a can of Maiz Morado, purple maiz. I don’t know, maybe this is widely available at markets around town too, but, like the salsa, I’ve never looked for it nor noticed it before. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with this in soups and stews and ‘popping’ it but it got shoved to the back of a lower shelf in the fridge and forgotten about and went sour before I got around to finding a recipe for the Chicha Morada, the purple maiz drink of Peru that I sampled recently at Pollo Bravo.

The meats on the steam table in the taqueria didn’t look all that good but I tried a platillo anyway. The ladies have resolutely tried to speak English with me, offering only one word descriptions of the dishes such as ‘beef,’ ‘pork,’ etc. usually. The meat I selected which looked most interesting was ‘pork with potatoes.’ It turned out to be pork country style rib sections in a chile sauce with potatoes and was actually pretty good, the meat very tender. There were also the usual rice and beans but I spotted a vegetable dish with large chunks of cheese that looked interesting and, hoping to avoid the inevitable, asked for the ‘vegetales.’ Apparently Celaya is like Carniceria La Michoanan and you get 2 meats on a platillo ($5.49) so I got the vegetales and the rice and beans (which were just the usual suspects).

The servers just call this ‘cheese’ but an appropriate name might be calabacita con queso de soja. It’s a variation on one of my favorite recipes from the first Diana Kennedy cookbook, Calabacita con Jitomate, with the surprising and pleasing addition of tofu - a Mexican vegetarian dish. It was the highlight of the meal. The large chunks of tofu went very well with the calabacita, tomatoes and onion, although it took me some time to convince myself it was tofu. Going by the texture, lack of milky or cheesy taste, and firm, definite edges to the chunks, I finally concluded that’s what it had to be.

I had read up on Celaya online before visiting and knew that it was located in Guanajato, was the site of a decisive battle in the Mexican Revolution, and was the birthplace of cajeta, the goat’s milk version of dulce de leche, but on my first visit I totally forgot to look for any. On a second visit, however, I found two products, a jarred version produced by the Mexican food conglomerate Bimbo and a wafer produced in Monterrey (CORRECTION BELOW). Both of these have corn syrup in addition to sugar, however; I’m hoping to find a version with just sugar. The Bimbo product is undoubtedly widely available, perhaps even at some Walmarts. Like most taquerias and other Mexican markets, the area around the check-out is cluttered with lots of impulse-buy displays, which is where I found the wafer. They may have other varieties of cajeta that I haven’t spotted yet.

This time around, getting as weary of rice and refritos as I am of potato salad and beans at barbecue places and french fries everywhere in the universe, I just went for tacos. The ‘beef’ on the left looked like barbacoa but tasted more like fajitas (there was another pan that looked like fajitas); the ‘pork’ was al pastor, the ‘cheese’ was again the best item and it seems to be quite popular. A guy in front of me in line was getting a pint to go while the guy right in front of me was getting three ‘cheese’ tacos. It did seem to me that the ‘cheese’ this time had a little more of a cottage cheese like texture -- maybe they make it both ways. The other meats I sampled this time were a little tough, there was no pineapple in the al pastor. I found no other examples of cajeta on this visit; in fact, there were none of the ‘wafers’ available either.

I stopped by again on a Saturday. The parking lot was full and all the tables in the taqueria were occupied. Like most canicerias, Celaya does some meats only on weekends and one of their specialties was barbacoa de chivo, so in addition to 3 tacos I picked up a half pound of that to go. I think I inadvertently wound up with the same meats in my tacos this time around except the one I had really wanted, the ‘cheese’ was not available. A really interesting looking one, though, was the one on the bottom which was almost black and very moist and appeared to have a granular texture. I understood it was pork of some sort and heard the name mordita pretty clearly, or so I thought, and expected to be able to find out just what it was online since they were unable to explain it further to me. It was abbreviated ‘mor’ on the ticket and I guessed from the color and exterior texture that it might involve pig’s blood but I have not been able to find anything that seems to fit in articles about Mexican foods and Spanish dictionaries online. Although the first few bites didn’t reveal any meaty texture, there were some pieces of meat deeper in the taco. There were large pieces of pepper in the pan but none of them wound up on my taco. If I ever see it again I’ll have to ask some more questions. POSSIBLE CONCLUSION BELOW.

The barbacoa de chivo was moist and flavorful, among the best I've had; I used it over the next couple of days, along with some of the great corn tortillas from El Bolillo and the salsas from Celaya, to make some very good tacos at home.

The tacos here are on smallish tortillas but have reliably included 2 ounces of filling and are only a dollar apiece so they’re a good bargain. You can have a pretty good meal for $3. The barbacoa de chivo, pork with potatoes, and ‘cheese’ have been the best items I’ve discovered here but other than that I think there are other carnicerias that are better options.

According to the imprinted plastic bag, there are 9 locations including Tomball, Conroe and Porter, plus 2 on FM 1960. There are several Celayas listed on but from the reviews they appear to be sit-down restaurants, not meat markets

The Hot Sauce of the Month Club page on Salsa Huichol.

CORRECTION: I mistakenly assumed that Obleas was a brand name but the word means wafer and refers to a type of candy made in Nuevo Leon, made with goat's milk but apparently not the same thing as cajeta? Obleas are also found in other cuisines of South America. My education continues!

Also I've come to the conclusion the word I heard as mordita was perhaps morcilla which would mean blood sausage and would make sense.