So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”
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”
Once a year I get this harebrained idea (which I believe stems from my upbringing) that urges me to spend two 19-hour days back to back, standing in a hot kitchen, working with argumentative ingredients that ultimately result in a severe backache and the euphoria that comes from eating a homemade tamale with a hot cup of coffee. Continue reading “To Tamale or Not To Tamale… That is the Question”
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.
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. Then, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Holy mackerel, is this place good.
Look, I will be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for anything fried, chocolatey, or bacony; so, Ida Claire already had a leg up on the “OMG! Love!” list with me, but I’m no sell-out. Just because you say you’re deep fried and delicious doesn’t mean I’m taking the bait.
Okay, so technically I had to take the bait because I needed to try it, but that didn’t mean I was gonna like it! Continue reading “Ida Claire This a Winner”
A couple of months ago, I decided to do a little chocolate research when preparing an important birthday gift for my BFF. As all good food researchers know, taste testing is a critical part of the process (or at least that’s what I tell myself). The goal was to find a variety of the most uniquely special, hand-crafted, world-class chocolates that would be worthy of a gift for someone so uniquely special to me. Continue reading “Sublime Chocolate is… well… Sublime”