Celebrating Dia del Los Muertos – FREE Taco

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(Photo by Tacos Tu Madre)

Celebrate Day of the Dead at the new Tacos tu Madre in Westwood. It officially opens on November 1 with Free Taco Day!  This new inventive new concept envisioned by Joshua Pourgol and Oliver Mateen. To celebrate the launch of Westwood’s new Mexican street fare inspired walk-up window, guests can swing by for a free taco from 8 a.m. to midnight. Just show the cashier that you are following @TacosTuMadre on Instagram.

(Photo by Tacos Tu Madre)
(Photo by Tacos Tu Madre)

FREE Taco Specials Include:

Crispy Fish with shaved cabbage, citrus crema, house-made red pepper aioli, and pickled red onions.

Carne Asada, Carnitas or Grilled Chicken with pico de gallo, avocado coconut cream sauce, house-made red pepper aioli, and chili lime queso fresco.

Crispy Katsu Chicken with shaved cabbage, katsu sauce, house-made red pepper aioli, crispy onions, and pickled red peppers.

Birria Style Lamb with pico de gallo, avocado coconut cream sauce, house-made red pepper aioli, and chili lime queso fresco.

Pastor with pico de gallo, avocado coconut cream sauce, house-made red pepper aioli, chili lime queso fresco, and grilled sweet corn relish.

Chorizo & Egg with guacamole, fried egg, and chili lime queso fresco.

(Photo by Tacos Tu Madre)
(Photo by Tacos Tu Madre)

Located on Westwood Boulevard, the modern Tacos tu Madre has curb appeal with its eye-catching Day of the Dead inspired mural commissioned by The Art of Chase, a Belgium-born, critically acclaimed artist and designer who has painted more than 250 murals in cities around the world.

Under the direction of acting Creative Director Lauren Kessler, the grey and black color scheme, modern tables and ample counter space inviting patrons to sit or stand while they eat.

Tacos tu Madre isn’t a typical taco stand, it has an elevated breakfast, lunch and dinner rotating menu.

945 1/2 Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, and is open daily from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m., and until 3:00 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.

 

Creative Mexican Street Food and Cocktails at Cocina Condesa

It didn’t bother me that I was drinking out of a paper bag while dining at the new Cocina Condesa in Studio City. ButDSC_0478 rather than hiding a 40 oz. Modelo, the bag actually carried the crazy fun, barrio-inspired Boyz In The Hood cocktail, one of the most popular beverages at this new street food taqueria.

The cocktail is a refreshing twist on the classic gin and tonic created by executive mixologist and expert of agave spirits, Gilbert Marquez. His inspiration for this unique libation and whimsical presentation came from growing up in a blue collar neighborhood in Orange County and witnessing locals drinking malt liquor in a paper bag while walking down the street.

Marquez creates a fun, fruity cocktail served in a plastic bag with a straw, reminiscent of the delicious bags of sliced fruit peddled by street vendors. The bag carrying the banana Platanito cocktail includes bananas, lemon, cinnamon, simple syrup and fizz and arrives in a small pine wood crate as a holder.

As a brand ambassador for Illegal Mezcal, Marquez has traveled throughout Mexico and Latin America studying the agave plant and the art of mixology. He melds his expertise with his own personal style, creating unique garnishes and containers for his Latin cocktails.

His margarita Condesa is made with Damiana, a liqueur made from a shrub in Baja California. He told me it’s named after the Central American goddess of love. Since the bottle is shaped as the fertility goddess, it is usually gifted to a bride and groom at their wedding. To make this margarita, the bartenders mix Damiana with tequila, lime, simple syrup and salt. Then they rim the glass with sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper. The refreshing drink and tangy rim perfectly complement Chef M. Elena Vega’s street food.

We sat at a table inside the brightly colored restaurant that features refurbished wood on the walls and intricate concrete and wood accented flooring. The outdoor patio in the front is a prime spot to sit during sunset and in the warm summer evenings.

Wooden bowls arrived at our table with crunchy tortilla chips and a smoky brick colored salsa. Chef Vega’s DSC_0479guacamole is made with avocado, Mexican spiced dried mangos, cotija cheese, lime and toasted crickets. Yes, crickets. They are small, crunchy and complement the smooth creaminess of the dip.

Each dish we ordered arrived in a beautiful wooden serving plate. Vega’s beloved grandfather was a carpenter and she fondly remembers the feel and smell of his wood creations. She wanted to incorporate this sensation with her cuisine, inspired by years of cooking with her grandmother in the Mexican seaside town of Tuxpan in Nayarit. Because she and her staff put so much talent and time into the food, she is proud to show off her work in such beautiful crafted pieces.

Vega’s grandparents owned a popular, family-owned restaurant in Mexico called Restaurant el Costeno, from which she draws much of her inspiration. One of her specialties is corn. She makes a unique corn risotto served with slow roasted chicken, and has won numerous awards for this dish. Vega uses the entire ear of corn, cuts the tips of the corn kernel, scrapes the pulp, and adds onion, wine and other ingredients as you would add to make a risotto, except for the rice. Then she chops the stem and seasons the delicious simmering corn with salt and pepper. It’s spectacularly tasty and different from any corn dish that I have tasted.

There are at least nine street tacos to choose from on a daily basis at Cocina Condesa. On Taco Tuesday, patrons may order any two tacos for $5. Choose from a variety of tacos that include Al Pastor (succulent pork); Carne Asada (skirt steak); vegetarian cactus or Carnitas made from braised pork shoulder. While the tacos are served in traditional street style in corn tortillas, Vega and her team will serve them Paleo-style in Boston lettuce leaves when requested.

DSC_0481Be sure to order her street corn brushed with lemon aioli, cotija cheese, chili and lime — an amped-up, flavorful rendition of classic street corn on a stick.

Other restaurant specialties include chocolate mole chicken enchiladas, corn masa crepes, sopas, tortas and empanadas.

The menu features a variety of salads, including a healthy, grilled, chili glazed salmon with mesclun spring greens, orange sections, red onion, cucumber, avocado, jicama, and pine nuts dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and served in a large wooden bowl.

The servers at the newly opened restaurant are very personable and eager to please. It’s a fun, casual dining spot to go to before or after the Hollywood Bowl or to meet friends for cocktails served in a brown or plastic bag with a side of roasted crickets to perk up your guacamole.

Open at 11 a.m. for lunch and Happy Hour is from 3 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Dinner service begins at 4 p.m. $$ 11616 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818) 579-4264.

This article was published in the July 16, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

What’s New At This Year’s LA Street Food Festival

IMG_6004Wow! This year the LA Street Food Festival was impressive with over 100 vendors. It ran more smoothly than in the past few years and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face.

Here’s what’s new, innovative and worked well at this year’s festival at the Pasadena Rose Bowl –

1. New Hours – Gates opened at 3 p.m. this year. Fortunately, it wasn’t a scorching hot day. The festival continued until 8 p.m.

2. This year, guests were offered a cardboard tray that looked like a individual size pizza box. It had a drink and shot holder and space for at least three small plates. Ingenious. It’s called a FreeHand ThumbTray and was a big hit at the festival. There were a few of the sponsors and participants advertising on the tray. As we all walked around the Rose Bowl their name was  communicated in a unique way. To learn more, go to www.freehandtrays.com or http://www.carryoutsupplies.com.

3. The layout included the historical Rose Bowl field this year. They even had a Rose Garden VIP Lounge down on the turf. Guest could enter through selected gates and take a seat in one of the stadium seats or take a nap before indulging in more food and beverages.IMG_5981

4. There was a separate VIP line at Gate F and a General Admission entrance at the opposite end of the stadium at Gate C. This helped give the illusion that the lines weren’t as long in the parking lots and at the entrance.

5. The $90 VIP ticket allowed foodies 90 minutes (that’s $1 a minute, and worth it) to enjoy the event before the General Admission crowd entered the festival. The lines were much shorter for VIP guests to enjoy all the food trucks and tents, plus gain full access to two VIP areas – one in the Garden Concourse near the main stage and the other down on the Rose Bowl field. The Coachella style Garden VIP area had Celebrity chef Phillip Frankland Lee creating innovative plates and lounge furniture by West Elm to kick back with some creative fare and tasty cocktails. IMG_5992

6. Upon entering, guests were given an easy to read illustrated map of the festival. The Latin cuisine tents were designated with colorful fiesta flags, beer tents were dotted along the pathway with steins of foamy beer. Asian cuisine was marked with a Chinese take-out box with chopsticks. American dishes were noted with American flags and the European area was a wrap. Desserts were ice-cream cones, donuts and creamy floats with a straw.

7. Instead of free bottled water, they gave away boxed water. I learned that The Boxed Water container is far more sustainable than plastic bottled water. About 76% of the box is from a renewable resource – trees.

8. New Additions to the festival this year were Osso, IMLI, Berliners, Tacoteca, Sweetfin Poke, Scratch Bar, Gadarene Swine, Bachi Burger, and Thee Elbow Room. I really enjoyed the chefs at the artisanal French Food Truck serving IMG_5922Croque Madame and open face Croques with foie gras shredded on top.

9. Veggie festival-goers gorged on One Veg World barbecued Dragon fruit sliders and Chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s Gadarene Swine’s veggie shots in the serene VIP Lounge.

10. Plenty of Alcohol – There was the Tequila Tasting Tent in the Latin area with pours of Angel Bendito Tequila, Corazon Azul, Tequila Don Nacho and a Michi Mobil serving micheledas. Beer aficionados sipped generous pours from Angel City Brewery, Firestone Walker, Stella Artois, Goose Island and Singha. Cocktails were served at Church Key, Venice Whaler and Corner Door booths.

11. I cooled down at The Ice Cream Social area grabbing tastes from the McConnell’s truck, Sno Creamery tent, Choctal, and Salt & Straw. IMG_6001

12. I loved the new addition of an air-conditioned comedy bus. Hot or weary guests entered a former prison bus, now decorated like a nightclub lounge, to sit back and laugh at a few jokes and comedic routines. I’m already looking forward to next year’s La Street Food Festival in July 2016!