This was not your ordinary taco fest! The first-ever Tacolandia in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium -- presented by L.A. Weekly and curated by Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) -- featured tacos with ant eggs, Matzoh albondigas with chipotle sauce, rabbit in a spicy green mole, cow udders, and smoked black mackerel paté. Oh, sure there was more traditional fare, such as carne asada and al pastor tacos cooked on the spit, but you can get those anytime of the day in this taco-drenched city.
The Palladium’s parking lot quickly filled as peopled enjoyed the concoctions of more than 30 "taco creators" from around Los Angeles, Orange County and Baja, including well-knowns like Bizarra Capital, Chichen Itza, and Mexicali Taco Co., plus street food from Guerrilla Tacos, Mariscos Jalisco, Tacos Kokopelli, and much more. Embodying the best of Los Angeles, Tacolandia was an urban sprawl checkered with street stands, old school taco trucks, hole-in-the-wall joints, and the more modern attempts from some of the top chefs in the country.
“Tacolandia celebrates mom and pops, my personal relationship with Baja California, traditional loncheros (catering trucks), and taquerias, at what is the tastiest and most approachable food event ever," said Esparza. "Street food should be inexpensive in price and luxurious in flavor.”
Here are a few of the tacos we enjoyed. And when you see the photos, don’t get jealous, just get over to L.A. and explore the world of Tacolandia. (We can't wait until next year!)
The line stretched past multiple booths for Tijuana's Tacos Kokopelli. They had their famed Kraken Taco, made with mesquite grilled octopus and topped with an inventive Mexican pesto of poblano chiles and cilantro. They also served a Portobello taco with cilantro, probably the best vegetarian taco at Tacolandia. Tijuana's not on the horizon for you? Then head over to Chef Guillermo “Oso” Campos new project in Los Angeles called Petty Cash Taqueria for a sampling, instead.
Soho Taco pleased many palates with their vegetarian taco and tender dry aged carne asada taco, but gave their fans an extra special treat with their lobster taco. Resting on a blue corn tortilla, the lobster was gently sautéed in butter and garlic, and then drizzled with home-smoked chipotle sour cream, aged cotija, and a delicate heirloom tomato pico de gallo.
Mariscos La Guerrerense of Ensenada was a festival favorite with two offerings on a crispy tostadas. The smoked black mackerel pate was topped with sweet scallops, while the sea urchin cebiche was crowned with delicate Pismo clams. Owner, Sabina Banderas, has over 50 years experience crafting her tostadas, tacos, and seafood cocktails, recently attended the World Street Food Congress in Singapore on behalf of Mexica, and we hear she makes a killer caracol tostada.
The 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Ricardo Zarate, is still making waves in the culinary world with Paiche, his Izakaya-styled restaurant. This past weekend, Zarate served up a super tender pork belly chicharron taco resting atop tacu tacu (a mixture of fried rice and beans) and adorned it with a huancaina sauce (spicy cheese sauce), jalapeno salsa criolla, au jus, and a choice of Serrano or tomatillo sauce. Zarate's staff suggested both for a perfectly balanced taco.
The busiest taco vendor was easily Mariscos Jaliscos and their award-winning tacos durados de camaron. Shrimp tacos, fried whole, and then topped with a tomato and cabbage salsa, the requisite slices of avocado help to balance the heat in this slightly puffed, hard shelled taco.