Austin City Taco Co.

Every now and again, I make a sacrifice to demonstrate why I reign as OMG of the DFW, Second of My Name (was named after my Grandma Ollie), Slayer of Breakfast Tacos — and Mother of Panthera Onca Parvus (Mouse and Crazy).

Couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled to interview Juan Rodriguez, Austin City Taco Co. culinary director. Due to scheduling conflicts on my part, I ended up just popping into the Fort Worth taco joint on my own to see what all the hubbub was about (sorry we missed ya, Juan).

Let me be clear. I wasn’t there to try anything outside of the breakfast taco genre. Everyone’s already written a ton about their Austin-influenced combinations. What I was interested in was their non-traditional takes on the breakfast taco.

Would they eff up the basics, like chorizo and egg? Would my beloved potato and egg arrive as mashed potatoes and a squiggly line of black beans? Had I risen at the crack of dawn and driven 45 minutes from home only to return disappointed and in need of crafting my own breakfast tacos??? I would soon find out.

They tell you exactly who they are — an homage to Austin and their taco scene — which is sort of why I was a little worried when it came time to the tasting bit — because we all know how I feel about Austin’s breakfast taco game.

Gotta say, I loved the vibe. Plus, their assistant manager Drew and the morning crew at Austin City Taco Co. delivered the best-improvised tour of the joint. Even from my short interactions, I could tell they were huge fans of the product and the brand — which is always a good sign.

Their breakfast taco menu is short and sweet — thank God. Migas (which I’ve never understood but enjoy), Bacon and Egg, Chorizo and Egg, Potato and Egg, and the Midnight Craving, a kitchen-sink approach to the breakfast taco.

The Midnight Craving sort of reminded me of the “everything,” “hurricane,” or “suicide tacos” that I grew up with in South Texas — but fancier. Ain’t no one serving up “bacon jam” back home. However, I admit this was a glorious and winning combo of eggs, brisket, potatoes, queso fresco, bacon jam, buttermilk ranch, all nestled inside of a fresh, scratch-made flour tortilla.

The Migas taco arrived in a half blue corn and half flour tortilla set up, and it was pretty darn delicious.

The pop of lime from the fresh salsa paired with the creamy avocado perched perfectly above the mountain of migas was downright delightful. Not to mention, that half blue corn tortilla was the shiznit.

And, that Chorizo and Egg??? Well, they let the chorizo speak for itself, and it said, “Te quiero mucho, amorcito mío.” (issa good thing)

I think, though, my favorite part of the visit was getting a couple of slices of bacon just because. We didn’t order the Bacon and Egg, but Drew insisted we needed to check out the bacon.

Heavenly.

People, they candy their bacon lightly with brown sugar. Heavenly.

Look, I’m a stickler for traditional breakfast tacos, but the thing is, these guys aren’t pretending to be your local taqueria. If you didn’t like their tacos, then pay more attention.

Drew kept talking up the fact that all they want to do is serve good food. They’re upfront about the fact they’re not in it to set trends or serve up traditional anything — they simply wish to deliver hot, fresh quality flavors like “the cravings you want right now,” and that’s exactly what they served up.

So, while I still prefer the more traditional breakfast taco of San Antonio and South Texas, there’s no reason to hate on Austin City Taco Co. They’re not claiming to be anything but delicious — and I can attest that they are exactly that. Go get you some. It was definitely worth the drive.

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored in the social media post announcement. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

Happy National Taco Day!

In honor of National Taco Day… may the tortillas be perfect, the fillings be flavorful, and the salsita be perfectly picosa! ¡Viva! Continue reading “Happy National Taco Day!”

REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Verify Road Trip’s Breakfast Capital of Texas show was back on the air this week, and we’ve started up the conversation again. So, here’s a repost of the original Breakfast Taco Battle post right before the original air date – with an edit to remove the original air date from September 2016. Catch my submission video and behind the scenes info, too! Most importantly, pick up a breakfast taco this morning. You need one. I’m frying up some bacon right now. Continue reading “REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle”

Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Although the state food of Texas is officially chili, most Texans would agree that the breakfast taco should really hold that title.

Growing up in South Texas, the breakfast taco was a daily way of life and an even bigger deal on weekends when barbacoa came out to play. For those who aren’t familiar, barbacoa tacos fall into a special category, “solo el fin de semana,” or just the weekend. Much like menudo and pozole, barbacoa breakfast tacos are usually reserved for Saturday and Sunday only.

I remember we would head to my Uncle Turi’s (short for Arturo) house where we experienced our version of the culinary holy trinity, the trifecta of Sunday breakfasts: menudo, pan dulce, and breakfast tacos (barbacoa included). My Aunt Adelma has always been the official family “madrina de menudo,” the godmother of this most prized Mexican delicacy. She’s like a magician in the kitchen, and to this day, I have yet to figure out what she does differently that makes it so incredibly amazing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. But, I digress…

Even now, being in North Texas, it’s a Sunday tradition to bring breakfast tacos over to my brother’s house where everyone, including my 97-year old Grandma Ollie, gently tilts our heads to lovingly usher in the fluffy, yet toasted, flour tortilla, edges bursting with heavenly combinations of bean and bacon, potato and egg, chorizo and egg, and of course, barbacoa.

So, it should be no surprise that my history with and my passion for breakfast tacos recently lead me on a spectacular breakfast taco-filled journey when I was chosen to be a guest reporter for Verify, a television show that takes interested viewers on road trips to seek answers to life’s most pressing questions, like “What’s the Breakfast Taco Capital of Texas?”

For two days, we traveled through Austin and San Antonio, tasting the best breakfast tacos each city had to offer, and in the end, I had to choose which city would reign supreme in the Texas breakfast taco battle. Talk about controversial decisions. Anyone see what happened to the last guy who spoke up about the subject? Sensitive topic much?

And, during the week of September 12, 2016, the state of Texas will find out my decision, and hopefully, I won’t be banned from either city (or any city across Texas for that matter).

I love Texas! I love breakfast tacos! I love all tacos!

Now, one would think that after two days straight of nothing but breakfast tacos, it would have some sort of negative impact on my affection for the tasty Texas treats, and yet, no – it did not.

In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what happened.

The day I returned, and every weekend since (just as it’s always been) I either made or purchased breakfast tacos. For me, it’s about a sense of home.

I can remember early mornings at my grandparents’ ranch as a small child, watching Grandma Ollie masterfully lead a sort of ballet where each long, thin strip of bacon danced with her wooden spoon until they furled gracefully into their perfectly crisp positions in the cast iron skillet.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos bacon

Next would come the potatoes, every piece a blank canvas with nothing but that aromatic, smoky base as the paintbrush, adding the perfect amount of salt over each rich, caramelized cube. omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos fried potatoesThen, the beans would enjoy a bath in that bacony goodness until every one of them had weakened under pressure and transformed into the perfect creamy base for the breakfast taco, refried beans.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos refried beans

To this day, I still follow her steps when preparing breakfast tacos at home. The breakfast taco really means so much more to me than a humble meal in the morning or a Texas tradition, even. It’s about my culture, my history, my family – my own Texas experience.

Having to choose between two cities, knowing there were so many other Texas cities not represented, was extremely difficult for me. I found myself getting teary-eyed whenever I thought too long about not being able to include the Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi, my South Texas, in my decision. I felt like I was denying the existence of hundreds of little taco stands, taco trucks, breakfast taco joints, and too many family kitchens that were all more than worthy of having a shot at the title. I felt silly that this responsibility was weighing so heavily on my soul, and yet, I felt compelled to try and weave in my concerns at every turn – all because that’s how much it meant to me!

Poor David Schechter can attest that I must have mentioned the variety of breakfast tacos that weren’t in the running at least 50 times while on the road. By the end of the trip, I am positive I interjected my concerns on camera enough times to possibly make it through editing – next week will tell.

And, it was all for the love of my beloved Texas breakfast taco and the desperate need to represent my culture, my history, and my food family well. I truly took this decision to heart.

I’m a proud Texan. I love both Austin and San Antonio. So, when you watch the show during your evening news the week of September 12thon any Texas Tegna station, know that I took the responsibility seriously and had my own personal breakfast taco battle going on internally, one that wasn’t easily calmed with anti-acids.

In the end, I know I made the right decision based on a very clear set of criteria, and I’ll stand by that decision when it comes out.

For now, I’ll just sit back and have a snack… perhaps one of several breakfast tacos I brought back from this past weekend getaway to Austin and San Antonio.OMGs DFW Food - Texas Breakfast Tacos

 

Verify THIS!

UPDATE: Verify Road Trip will air the week of September 12, 2016 on all Texas stations listed in the video below!

If you’ve been anywhere even remotely close to my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages lately, you noticed I’ve been on a two-day breakfast taco adventure by way of WFAA’s David Schechter and his new show, Verify: Road Trip. I can’t shut up about it and for good reason! This experience was thuh-SHIZnit! It was the bomb diggity damn, and I absolutely loved every second of it!!

Wanted to offer up a little recap of our adventures and also give a HUGE shout out to David Schechter, Alex Krueger, Chance Horner, and Cameron Gott – the elite – the ultimate newscrew/superhero photojournaling/wicked Cirque du Solei balancing/mutli-task wizarding/kung-fu masters of bad-assery team who invited me into their inner circle for two days.

These guys were non-stop, and this was IN ADDITION to other things they were juggling from the home office in DFW while we were on the road. PLUS, they were super cool, funny, and they not only let me ask a million questions, but they offered up some killer advice within their responses. I was taking a friggin’ master class for two days with these guys – a la Oprah, yo. Just amazing.

We have NO IDEA how much work goes into news reporting, folks. No idea. It’s long hours, hard work, integrity-driven commitment to responsible research, and the ability to go with the flow. Be prepared for anything was the motto.

I got a taste of it for two days, and it was so flippin’ awesome but so flippin’ hard. These guys are quick on their feet, so intelligent and witty, constantly churning out ideas and working on the fly – their writing is just off the hook, and their camera work is crazy awesome. The two days were incredibly exhausting, and I just sat in the A/C most of the time while they were scouting locations and carrying equipment around in 90+ degree weather.

I have nuthin’ but love for these guys. Just killer. Nuthin’ but love.

So, here’s a sneak peek at what we did for two days, but if you want to know who reigns supreme as the breakfast taco capital of Texas, you’ll just have to watch any of the Texas stations listed in the video at 10pm during the last week of August!

Livin’ La Vida Taco

My head’s about to explode.

Four days ago, I was scrolling down Facebook and noticed a video in my feed with the title, “Are you a foodie?”

Naturally, I hit pause on the cat video and clicked on the foodie link. It was ABC affiliate WFAA’s David Schechter and a producer, Alex Krueger, asking for one foodie viewer to join them on a road trip to help determine the true breakfast taco capital of Texas.

If ever there were a task I was thoroughly qualified to exceed at, this was it.

To be chosen, you had to fill out a three-question survey and submit a video talking about why you should be the one taking up that last seat in the mini-van.

Here’s how it went down…

YOU HAVE ONLY ONE HOUR TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM A ZOMBIE ATTACK, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I would fry bacon, eat the bacon, and use the hot, rendered fat as a weapon against the zombies, in the hopes that I wouldn’t run into any vegan zombies where pork fat as a weapon would clearly be futile. I would leverage social media and the news outlets to spread the word and help others defend the world using the same method. This way, no matter what happened, people would either die happy or at least not waste pork fat before dying.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEAL? 
In Madrid, Spain, we were fortunate enough to eat at the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botín. It opened its doors in 1725, and there’s a reason it’s still open and even made its way into Hemingway’s novels. The crisp skin of the roasted suckling pig (cochinillo asado), the fascinating subtleties of the blood sausage (morcilla), the deeply rich and creamy chicken/ham croquettes (croquetas), and the noble cured ham (jamón ibérico) were like food of the gods. Sitting in those tiny chairs, pressed up next to our neighboring tables, listening to Madrileños whip their way through conversations, purposely closing my eyes with every succulent bite, imagining that very room where thousands of patrons had enjoyed a very similar experience… it was something I will never forget.

WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY?
Wow. Where do I start? So many colorful spices have been simmering a long time in the magical sauce that’s my life! Caroline McNinch, my smoking, 400 pound, denture-wearing, narcoleptic babysitter, introduced me to the poetry of James Whitcomb Riley when I was just four years old and spent hours teaching me the magic of spoken poetry, all while making the most amazing potato bread that she would promptly toast with a pat of butter straight from the oven. Once seated at the red, retro four-top in the middle of her tiny kitchen, we would swap turns coating the still-warm pillowy delight with sweet, homemade blackberry jam. She taught me how to enjoy life and find joy and humor in all things. My Grandma Ollie still inspires me today at age 97. She’s a pistol and loves to party. Frying bacon in a cast iron skillet on a brisk and fog-laden early morning at the ranch, my Grandma would have five-year old me watch from a stool as she prepared my Grandpa’s breakfast. She taught me love comes in many forms and can be leveraged as a seasoning. And, quickly after breakfast was done, she and my Grandpa would head out to work the ranch, teaching me hard-work and discipline combined with laughter, song, and love. My Grandpa was a World War II veteran and instilled a respect for our country and a passion for education in each of us. He introduced me to PBS, long before cable came to our town, and there I met Julia, Jacques, Rick, Paul, Lidia, Jeff, Martin, Ming, Charlie, Joanne, Sarah, Daisy, and many, many more amazing chefs, all focused on teaching me magnificent skills! I was hooked.

I was incredibly fortunate to have such powerful role models lay the groundwork for me at such an early age. While I could say I’ve been inspired by many a talented and remarkable chef, leader, and mentor, by far, the most inspirational were the ones who nurtured the sparks they could see when creativity met food met love met me.

VIDEO SUBMISSION:

And, guess what???Taco RD Trip OMGSDFWFOOD

We’re going on a road trip, baby!

Don’t worry – I won’t embarrass the family… or maybe I will… nowadays that makes for good television.

Beans, Bacon, and Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant

Marys VisionToday has been a pretty awesome day. A few days ago, I was notified that I was chosen as one of the top five finalists for Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant “The Mentorship” contest. And, today, they posted my video submission to their YouTube page. On March 9th, we shall see who gets to spend the day with Chef and Restaurant Entrepreneur, Tom Colicchio. He will be mentoring one very lucky individual, and my friend Mary has advised me to “start packing my bags” because I’ve already won. I love the positive thinking, and I couldn’t agree more with having a winning vision. While I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and Best New Restaurant, this opportunity is way more than just being a fan. It’s an incredible chance to change dreams to reality, as my Bear and I have long dreamed of owning our own restaurant.

At the very same time, the DFW area has been blasted with snow, frozen pellets of ice and other cold weather phenomenons that require copious amounts of hot chocolate and warm food to be consumed. So, this morning, I got the cast iron skillet out, heated up some butter tortillas from Central Market, got some bacon in the pan, and took my already-created Borracho Beans (drunk beans) to task with a masher to make refried beans!

The combination of bacon, beans and Bravo TV’s finalist news was the absolute perfect combination to celebrate while staying nice and toasty inside. I’m also posting today because my friend, Kerrie, has been asking about this Borracho Bean recipe for months now and will hunt me down to kill me if I don’t post sometime soon. So, here we go!

Borracho BeansBorracho Beans

1 lb dried pinto beans
1/2 medium white onion chopped
1 large tomato (or 1/2 package of cherry tomatoes will do)
3-4 uncooked bacon strips chopped
1 bottle of Mexican beer (Negro Modelo or Dos Equis preferably)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste
Water
6 quart pot (cast iron enamel preferred but not required – the pot will be roomy for the beans)

Separate then discard any broken or unappealing dry beans, as well as possible rocks or inedible pieces from the dry beans. Rinse the beans in a 6 quart pot with warm water, slush around and discard the water, leaving the beans in the pot. Add water to the pot to cover the rinsed beans, then place the pot on a stove top and boil rapidly for 45 minutes. Be sure to watch the pot and add water if it reduces too much. The beans must stay completely covered during this process.

Once the beans have boiled for 45 minutes, remove from the stove top, carefully discard the water only and gently rinse the beans again. (You can use a sieve, but I find that covering the top with the pot cover and being careful over the sink with pot holders usually does the trick.) Add the chopped onion, tomato, bacon strips, and beer to the pot, then cover the rest with warm water until the beans are completely covered with about an inch of water above bean level. Return the beans to the stove at medium heat.

In a separate skillet pan on medium heat, lightly toast the cumin seeds and black peppercorns until they become aromatic. Add the toasted cumin seeds and peppercorns to a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and add them to the molcajete. Crush the cumin seeds, peppercorns and garlic together until they become a paste. You can add a little water to make it easier once the peppercorns are broken up. Add the mixture to the beans, adding more water to the molcajete to help motivate the paste to leave the surface. Gently stir the simmering beans and leave to cook for another hour.

Towards the mid-end of the cooking process, add salt to taste. This is a controversial thing, as some say adding salt at the start makes the beans hard and others say you can’t add salt at the end because it doesn’t flavor anything. Well, I add right towards the middle of the end and it usually does the trick – happy medium. I’m positive there is a scientific reason for each method out there, but my way works. And, if it ain’t broke…

At this point, if you’d like to add salsa, jalapeños or additional seasonings like garlic powder, cumin powder or onion powder, you can. You can even add roasted green chiles which make a flavorful addition. However, I have found that simple really is best, especially if you want to make refried beans with the borracho beans. And, let them simmer but don’t boil to mush. The flavors must develop but the beans will get too soft if you keep them simmering for too long. Just keep an eye out and a spoon handy for tasting.

Refried BeansTo make refried beans (the right way, in my opinion), fry up some bacon in a cast iron skillet. Remove the bacon, leave the drippings in the pan and add the borracho beans, liquid and all, to the pan and let out all your aggression with a potato masher, creating a creamy, textured, bacony bean to eat with tortillas. The longer they sit on the heat, the thicker the beans will become, and that’s what you want. Don’t serve the beans too runny. That’s never fun for anyone. Add bacon to the bean-smeared tortilla, and you have my very favorite breakfast celebration taquito in your hands, my friend.

Here’s to hoping there’s another celebration taquito in my future. I’ll keep you posted!

Table 93 – Mexican Sugar

Mexican Sugar - Tacos de CarnitasThere are a handful of places I’ve visited where when I walked in, I “knew” the place was special.  I didn’t have to wait for the drinks or engage with our server.  I just “knew” it, and Mexican Sugar has officially fallen into that category.

Continue reading “Table 93 – Mexican Sugar”

FWD: Pulled Pork in Roasted Tomatillo Poblano Sauce

Last year a very good friend of mine who owns a cooking school in Colorado asked me for my Pulled Pork in Roasted Tomatillo Poblano Sauce recipe to share with her students / customers.  I quickly wrote everything out and forwarded it on its way.  Recently, I ran across my email, and I decided it fit perfectly with what I’m doing now and decided to share.  Below is the email I sent to Katy – the recipe is a work of love, and I’m inspired to make it again… maybe I’ll post some pics.

2 or 3 pounds of pork (tenderloin or pork roast – whatever tickles your fancy)
12 Tomatillos (medium)
4 Tomatoes (large)
4 Poblano Peppers (large)
2 Red Bell Peppers (large)
2 Onions (large)

Continue reading “FWD: Pulled Pork in Roasted Tomatillo Poblano Sauce”

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