I heard about Taste of Mexico with less than twenty four hours to spare. Usually my last-minute plans are the best ones, though, and Friday night was no exception.
In it’s third year running, Taste of Mexico is put on by an organization of authentic Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles. It’s grown from just four founding restaurants (La Casita Mexicana, Frida Mexican Cuisine, Guelaguetza Restaurant, and La Monarca Bakery) with just 850 guests, to twenty-six restaurants and 2000 guests this year!
Walking into the courtyard of La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles, we were greeted with sensational smells, energetic mariachi, and throngs of smiling guests underneath the twinkling lights and starry sky. I felt like I died and fell into my culinary dream.
Happy to be there, but feeling the need to take the edge off after battling LA traffic, we headed straight to the mezcal tastings. For those of you who don’t know, mezcal is made from the maguey agave (while tequila is made from the blue agave plant). It’s usual sipped straight-up and has a similar taste to tequila, but is generally a bit more smokey. Hence: it’s freaking delicious.
It only took a couple of shots on an empty stomach to quickly move on to beer and go in search of some delicious tacos. Victoria and Tecate cervezas in hand, we were reading to get our samplin’ on!
Everywhere you looked there were tacos, ceviche, albondigas, salsas, tiny margaritas, grilled pulpo (octopus), big pink prawns, MORE tacos. I don’t know how we ever settled on where to taste first. The Ceviche Project definitely caught my eye. They were serving up kampachi and erizo ceviche with chives, pineapple, avocado, jalapeno, onion, and escamol salt. Um, can you say DELICIOSO!? I tried but my mouth was too full of epic flavors.
On to the next one, on to the next one! We continued to take down tacos like it was our job. Stand out plates were from Yuca’s for their signature conchinita pibil with pickled red onion (Taco ‘Bout Good!), Guerrilla Tacos for a freakin’ amazing taco of swordfish belly with heirloom tomato and pickled radish, and of course Tacos Punta Cabras for the cauliflower and ceviche tostada with cashew and pineapple salsa.
I can’t name our favorites of the night, though, without mention of La Monarca Bakery. They had a ridiculously amazing caramel latte flan, insane flakey bunelos, and a big ol’ basket of delicious sweet buns. They have four locations, but thank god one of them is in Santa Monica because Mike and I are dying for more!
Full to the brim, we ended the night by nursing a few more cocktails and enjoying the mariachi. We have so many new restaurants to try next time we get a craving for Mexican food (um, basically every night), and had left very inspired, very full, and very happy. Until next year!