4 Great Baja Chefs Coming to Tacolandia
If you're planning on spending the afternoon of June 23 watching a baseball game (the Dodgers will be in San Diego anyway) or catching a matinee of World War Z, you maybe haven't been paying attention. You have tacos to eat. TiVo the game, watch the movie later, after you've spent the better part of the day stuffing yourself with sea urchin tostadas. From about noon to 5 p.m. Tacolandia will be going on in the Hollywood Palladium parking lot. Because these days the best food is mostly found set up outside on concrete, isn't it. And there will be mariachi music. And Miss Latina Los Angeles. We could go on.
And while there will be plenty of stellar folks from this town, there will also be four chefs who've trekked up from Baja to bring you their remarkable cuisine. (Next time, maybe go to them, right? Tijuana is only 150 miles away.) Turn the page for a brief preview of what you'll be eating in a few weeks.
4. Mariscos El Mazateno
A family-run Sinaloan-style taqueria located in northern Tijuana, Mariscos El Mazateno has specialized in the fried shrimp taco for which it is named for the last decade. In their large and airy and perpetually crowded Tijuana shop, repeating plates of marlin tacos and glorious camaron enchilados, styrofoam cups of shrimp consommé, clusters of beer bottles and aguas frescas and bowls of limes and shredded cabbage and bottles of hot sauce fill the communal tables. It's a place that, despite the crowds, you never want to leave, like the best patio party on earth.
3. Tacos Kokopelli
Chef Guillermo Campos Moreno, better known as Oso, runs a street cart in Tijuana -- that is, when he's not up in Los Angeles helping to open the new Bill Chait and Walter Manzke project Petty Cash, which is where the chef has been cooking lately. Moreno is a product of Tijuana's Culinary Art School and has staged at three-star Michelin restaurant Oud Sluis in the Netherlands. Not a bad route to take on the way to a taqueria, which Moreno opened with his brother Pablo Campos and Orlando "Cricket" Miguel del Monte. (There are now two locations in Tijuana.) Among Tacos Kokopelli's specialities: the gringos en vacaciones, a taco composed of a grilled Anaheim chile, melted cheese, pickled onions and avocado; and the Kraken taco, with mesquite-grilled octopus.
2. La Guerrerense
Sabina Bandera González has been running her glorious seafood tostata stand in Ensenada for longer than most of you have even been eating tostatas, specifically about forty years. Those lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time have had her justly famous sea urchin tostada, perhaps at the L.A. Street Food Fest, where Bandera keeps winning awards, or at the late and much lamented Playa, where Bandera guest cooked last year. If you've only seen the bacalao or sea snails or Pismo clams or slices of octopus, spritzed with lemon and hot sauce and liberally covered with spoonfuls of González's homemade salsas, on Anthony Bourdain's show ("Many say it's the best street cart in the world,") then it's reason enough to spend your afternoon in the Palladium parking lot.
1. Javier Plascencia
If you read The New Yorker, or these pages, or many food blogs in this town and points south, you'll recognize Javier Plascencia's name. The chef is to Tijuana kind of what Grant Achatz is to the Midwest: part brilliant innovator, part regional savior. Plascencia has also trekked up here quite a bit, to cook beef cheek tacos and octopus terrine at Test Kitchen, among other happy occasions. Plascencia's cuisine is astonishing, and his Tijuana restaurant Misión 19 is alone worth repeated trips across the border. (Imagine something like a Mexican incarnation of Michael Cimarusti's Providence, at maybe half the price.) As for what Plascencia will be cooking at Tacolandia, well, does it matter?
Tacolandia: Sunday, June 23, from 12 noon - 5 p.m at the Hollywood Palladium parking lot on 68 Lexington Ave (between 25th and 26th Streets). General admission is $20; VIP is $40. Tickets are still available and remember that you'll need to bring an ID if you want booze with your tacos.
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