Eat Drink Style Stepping Into the Colorful, Tasteful World of Mexico - Mexico City

Stepping into Mexico

It's 3:17 pm on any given day.

A Mexican man with a cowboy hat has his arms interlocked with his mother's, as they walk to church.

A taco truck is surrounded by herds of hungry construction workers and covered with fluorescent poster boards and chicken scratch – patiently waiting for their $1.25 delicacies from all parts of the cow and pig.

Four Mexican children wearing Catholic school uniforms hold both of their backpack straps as they await the bus. Taking pictures of each other with their silver cellphones.

A teen-aged Mexican girl hooks shiny new piñatas across the front entrance of her parent's gift shop with a pole.

A weary, sweaty Mexican man yields two heavy bags of oranges and paces up and down the corner of a busy boulevard.

An older Mexican woman dispenses fresh tamarindo and horchata juice from large plastic barrels resting on milk crates into styrofoam cups for $1 each.

A group of Mexican guys pull up to the intersection in an '88 Honda Civic, pumping the latest regatón beats.

On any given day, this is the life in Mexico. But it's also happening where we live. Here, in Los Angeles.

Ever since moving to the Silver Lake area, I drive through the Pico/Union and Koreatown area to get to work. If you weren't a native Angeleno or familiar with those areas, one might experience a sudden time travel to our Southern neighbor of Mexico. And that is the beauty of Los Angeles... large representations of many ethnicities. There is a close relation between Mexico and Los Angeles. You see it in forms of music, art, businesses, jobs and of course, food. There is the old adage: you can take a person out of their country, but you can't take the country out of them. It's so true. And for this Christmas break, J & I wanted to see just where the Latino part of LA stems from.

The first part of our trip took place in the Yucatan/Quintana Roo side of Mexico, by the Caribbean. To make a long story short: powdery sand, turquoise water, underwater caves, expensive taxi rides, expensive touristy food, fantastic seafood soup (caldo de mariscos) and lastly, the loss of our Nikon D70 (including the 450 photos we took), which was stolen from my backpack while on a bus ride to Cancun. But all of that changed once we stepped foot into Mexico City. With the purchase of a new Canon SD750 point and shoot digital camera, it was time to make up for what we lost. I think the majority of this posting can be done with minimal explanation , so enjoy the silence. My goal was to really demonstrate the vibrancy of this beautiful city.

Casa Comtesse Dining Room View

Casa Comtesse in Condesa Area
Not bad for a listing on This was not a hostel, but more so, someone's house. There are only 3 rooms in this 2-story condo. Full access to kitchen, food, alcohol and washer/dryer. All for only $50 a night. Even Crazy Gideon would be taken back by this deal. The guy running this is a French national and is totally cool. We didn't get to meet him, but his demeanor was well understood in his many check up emails. The Condesa area is almost synonymous with NYC's East Village. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars in this area.

Casa Comtesse Hallway

Casa Comtesse Dining Room

Casa Comtesse Bathroom View

Casa Comtesse Balcony View

Casa Comtesse Balcony View

Condesa DF Hotel

Condesa DF Hotel
A few blocks away from Casa Comtesse is the ultra-stylish Condesa DF Hotel. J & I walked over here on New Year's Eve for a drink at the bar. Unfortunately, we did not make the "Rico Suave" list. Oh well, next time.

Condesa DF Hotel

Condesa DF Hotel

Condesa DF Hotel

Mexico City Metro

Should I Spend 2 Pesos or Walk?
At 2 pesos per subway ride (that's 20 cents!), Mexico City has the cheapest method of transportation. Even cheaper than those stupid carousel/car rides outside of supermarkets which really don't get you anywhere but a free ride to Dorkland.

Palacio Nacional en Mexico City

Palacio Postal in Mexico City

Mexican Buildings

Kids Playing in Mexico City

Mexico City Buildings

Green Volkswagen Beetle Taxi

White Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico City

Man Dragging Bag in Mexico City

Mexico City Buildings

Street Art in Mexico City

Market in Mexico City

Street Art in Mexico City

Street Art in Mexico City

Street Art in Mexico City

Baby Doll in Mexico City

Strawberry Caipirinha

Shrimp Empanada

Cohiba Cigarettes - Made in Cuba

Montecristo Cuban Cigars

Juice Jugos Jugo

Mexican Waitress

Mexican Butter Mantequilla

Neveria Roxy Ice Cream shop in Mexico City

Taco Guy in Mexico City

Fresh Chicken in Mexico City

Blue Tacos

Quesadillas in Mexico City

Red Tables & Chairs in Mexico City

Tacos al Pastor

Salsa Roja & Salsa Verde

Pastor Torta

Tacos al Pastor

Taco Bistec with Nopales

Tacos al Pastor

Pollo ala Brasa

Mexican Baker Bread Lady

Mexican Coca Cola Bottles

Next up, my favorite part of the trip: Oaxaca.

Eat Drink Style Mammoth Snow, Food and Sounds. Chili and French Onion Soup Recipe.

After a 2.5 year hiatus, I finally went back up to Mammoth for a little R&R for New Years. Only my friends will know why I’ve been absent for so long and we’ll leave it at that. I know they’re laughing right now. Good times right? My friend L picked me up and we headed up the 14 & 395 freeway for one of California’s finest resorts. Places like Mammoth really make California the place to be. We have great food, a good music scene, tolerable beaches, lush vineyards, snow, silicone, collagen and plastic. Only a 4.5 hour drive, Mammoth was the perfect escape for the fourteen of us. We arrived around 2 am and immediately cracked open the liquor for a night of debauchery. What else can you do in a cabin? Board games? Hell no.

While the liquor flowed, I immediately jumped into my favorite part of any house – the kitchen. The bathroom is second. After spending $150 on my yellow Le Creuset pot, I had to make as much use of it as I could. Soups and stews immediately come to mind when stuck in a cold, snowy environment, like Mammoth. I decided to quickly make a Chili with ground beef because after all it was 2 am and I didn’t have all night to braise Osso Buco veal shanks. No beans. When you have fourteen hungry snowboarders couped up in a warm, three-bedroom condo, sleeping side-by-side, it would be to everyone’s best interest to skip on the beans. God knows what would have happened if a match was lit.

For the chili, I browned 4 lbs. of ground beef with olive oil, a little bit of butter and S&P on medium heat. I threw in a few pieces of bacon, one whole diced onion, 1 bellpepper, 2 minced garlic cloves and four large cans of whole peeled tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, and brought it to a simmer. I then added cumin, oregano, garlic salt and chili powder. I used water to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes. After about 45 minutes, it was ready to go. My favorite chili is from Wienerschnitzel’s and I find it easier to cook a dish when you have a recipe to follow. Wienerschniztel’s is heavy on cumin, and although I dumped a grip in to the pot, I was far from having the same taste. Oh well.

I’m sorry for the constant referencing of flatulence, but I really think elevation plays a big part in it. I had no beans in the chili and yet everyone still… well you could imagine the night. Just imagine the horns section of a high school band – tuba, trumpet, trombone and whatever Kenny G plays in an off-rhythm, 6-hour symphony.

It was 8 am, and the concert was finally over – time to ride the frosted mountains of Mammoth. It was beautiful… like perfectly, buttered and pureed mashed potatoes. I was a little bit concerned that I would be heading back to the bunny slopes after the first run because of my 2.5 years of inactivity. I actually did okay and gained my confidence back.

We broke for lunch at Canyon Lodge at around 12:30 to regain some energy expended from dodging snobby skiers who think they own the mountain and snowboarders lounging on the mountain like they were at a beach in Hawaii. I thought about bringing my chili in Tupperware and packing it in my backpack, but in case I were to eat shit, it wouldn’t have been good. I’d look like I was a Taiwanese, shaved ice topped off with some red chili. Even Bourdain would say that’s gross. We all know how ridiculously expensive lodge food could be, but man, after a few runs, EVERYTHING smells good and looks good. Over to my left, I could hear the sizzling of fresh hamburgers and hot dogs. I didn’t feel like a burger though. Over to my right, was a bar. Hmm. Beer for lunch? That actually sounds appetizing. I was kinda full from the instant oatmeal I had for breakfast. Naw. I didn’t want to have to pull over into the forest for a quick watering while on the trail. I went in to the crowded cafeteria and considered my options:

Grilled food. No.
Soups and salad. No.
Pizza. Mmm, that sounds good. $5 a slice? No thanks.
Mexican food. No, not after last night’s 6-hour symphony.
Chinese food. Okay, fine.

I got three egg rolls for $4 with a side of fried rice for $3. How Asian can I be? I can’t even stay away from rice for ONE WHOLE WEEKEND haha. Well it turns out that maybe I should’ve gone for the big, juicy hamburger. The “Chinese” food I ordered made Panda Inn taste like haute cuisine.

We got back from snowboarding at around 4 pm and we were all worn out. We had gone to the top of the mountain where the 40-90 mph winds blew needle-like snow into your face. Ouch. My lips were chapped and cheeks were stone cold, and the only thing to warm us up would be a group of hot chicks and a hot bowl of soup. For dinner, we decided to have beef/turkey spaghetti and French Onion soup.

I sliced six, large onions on medium heat till they were caramelized with two cloves of smashed garlic and four sprigs of thyme. The hardest and most crucial part in making FOS is the caramelization of the onions. Caramelization is the oxidation of the sugars in the onion – the result is a brown, nutty color and sweet taste to the onion. This takes 15-20 minutes and requires constant attention so that the onions are not burnt. Once they've reached the caramelized state, I added about 3/4 of a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, here I go again with the $2 buck chuck haha. Who cares. I simmered the onions and wine for about 10 minutes so the tannins (alcoholic acids) would evaporate and then added six cans of beef broth. Threw in another four sprigs of thyme and simmered it for about ninety minutes. Add S&P, garlic, oregano and dried thyme to achieve the desired taste. I forgot to use Worcestershire Sauce to give it that acidic kick but I think the FOS tasted okay. I also baked a few croutons using a La Brea Bakery baguette, olive oil, garlic and thyme, for dipping. Cheese was not used because the soup wouldn’t have been hot enough to melt the cheese. Restaurants usually throw the bowl of FOS into the oven with the cheese and crouton submerged in the soup, making the soup gooey and yummy.

As the night went on, I could hear the sounds of sobs and sniffles as the girls and one guy (AK) soaked up all the Kleenex tissues watching The Notebook, the clanking of beer bottles and glasses as us guys played card games for drinks and the ever so loud sound of the 'symphony'.

Good snow. Good friends. Good food. Definitely good times.

Eat Drink Style Kitchen Etiquette 101

In a coordinate effort with Daily Gluttony, I've posted a touchy subject regarding kitchen etiquette. I know this sign was made intentionally for me haha. Atleast three times a week, i'll be nuking some kind of stir fry that employs a little soy sauce and fish sauce. Yes, I feel bad but what can i do about it. I like the food. I can't eat 'safe' food all the time because it gets boring.

Another funny thing is when my coworkers marvel at my lunch, giving me the fake:

"Oh what is that? it looks so good!"

"Yeah right, you want some?"

"Uhhh. No I'm okay. I have my sandwich and salad. Thanks. "

Anyone else out there get funny looks? Or signs made ESPECIALLY for you?

Would this disgusting fruit cake be acceptable?????

Eat Drink Style ED&BM's New Years Fullfillable and/or Unfulfillable Wishes

The new year has arrived and so has everyone’s long lists of resolutions that might prove to be fulfillable – yet mostly unfulfillable. Of all the bad habits I have -- gluttonizing, drinking and smoking won’t even make it past the first week of my ‘temporary resolution period’. So might as well try to stick with something I can improve: anything related to food. Here are my resolutions for 2006. And I don’t think it’ll be too hard to follow through with them since they orbit the our food universe. God, I’m such a food perv.

Explore and cook more ethnic cuisines.
Almost every day of the week, you can find me sitting on my dining table with the Food Network on, eating some kind of stir-fry, rice and soup noodle dish within the Asian culinary realm. Tofu, papaya salad, fried rice, pad kee mow, Chinese beef noodle soup, etc. Frankly, I’m tired of it because it’s just too easy and fast to cook. And I think my roommate would appreciate a day or two each week of fresh air devoid of fish sauce, kimchee and shrimp paste. I’ve become really interested in Middle Eastern food (Persian, Armenian), Indian and of course, South American (Brazilian, Peruvian). Initially, I had been hesitant about eating Indian food because of lamb/mutton but love it now. Reading all the wonderful reviews about places like Mario’s Peruvian and Café Brazil has really whet my appetite for South American food as well. Time to save up some cash for all the new spices and spice rack. Personally, I don’t think I have the room to fit it in my kitchen.

Buy more cookbooks for research and motivation.
Some people deem cookbooks merely as instructional guides. Not for me. These precious gems should inspire and stimulate you. A lot of work has been put into perfecting a dish that may require no more than five ingredients. Why not four ingredients? Why not six? Because food is good in its simplest form. Mealcentric has written a great posting on how food has been bastardized by ‘trendy’ ingredients just to cause a commotion. Sure Vietnamese spring rolls are good, but do you really need to add Alaskan lobster into the filling and shave truffles on top of it? As good as it may sound, we’re dismissing the foundation of the dish: spring rolls. What I love about cookbooks is that you can try making a dish and adding your own twist to it to call it your own. Currently, there are a good 20 cookbooks on my Amazon wish list and I’m hoping to get as many of them as possible this year. Look at how many books J of Kuiadore has. They’ve played a huge role in her passionate pursuit for perfection and immaculate presentation of her dishes. J definitely inspires me. Looks like I’ll be going to Ikea very soon for a bookshelf and spice rack. Spiceflügenak rack: $79. Presentation is crucial and you can learn an awful lot from your culinary textbook. It's amazing how you can make a dish of macaroni and cheese look great with the addition of a parsley sprig and tiny, Canadian bacon cubes (brunoised). When your eyes become stimulated, so does your stomach. Ever heard the saying ‘Your eyes can be bigger than your stomach’?

Improve presentation and photography of my food.
God I cannot stand my photos. I shoot my photos on a reddish/brown dining table I got off Craig’s List with a standard, GE light bulb that emits vanilla/cream colored light, causing all my photos to look extremely red. I have to use Photoshop to adjust the color curves all the time. So annoying. I noticed a lot of people are fortunate enough to have abundant light coming into their houses. This may be the reason why my rent is so damn low in West LA -- because I have ZERO light coming into my batcave! Nor can I shoot my food on a weekend afternoon because, as most of you know, I’m busy on the weekends working. I’d love to have more fancy silverware to shoot on but I actually like my white dishes. It’s a canvas… all it needs is some paint on it. I’ll probably start out resolution #3 by buying a white light bulb and checking out more photos from Kuiadore, Delicious Days and Nordlijus.

Cook for as many friends as possible.
In addition to cooking, I like cooking for people during the week. For Christmas, I cooked a few dinners for friends as a present – which they really enjoyed. One of my biggest fears is cooking for more than four people because of my limited kitchen space but I think I can overcome it if I just sit down and plan things out better. A good cook can toss spices here and there, but he must know the cooking times of every ingredient so that they can all be plated at one time. Ok, it takes about 8-10 minutes to grill asparagus in the oven so I should start with the chicken because it takes 15-18 minutes in the oven to make it perfectly juicy. I prefer cooking at home versus a restaurant because first and foremost, it is MUCH healthier. Secondly, home cooked food means more to people. Thirdly, I can play anything I want from my iPod and avoid the Muzak you probably here at restaurants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the same restaurant, only to hear the SAME, EXACT music playing. The employees must go nuts. And finally, I can get completely wasted during dinner and just pass the fuck out. No chance of DUI there haha.

Meet the food bloggers.
The past six months have been really great. I’ve learned a lot about food outside of my own culture, and kitchen for that matter. Made it a point to try something different every time I go to a restaurant, instead of sticking with something safe. Since I started writing, Chicken Gizzard yakitori sounds way more comforting to me than say, a steak. You have all made me exhume my writing hand after reading all of your blogs. You guys can truly write and I admire that. I still cannot stand reading the food reviews in LA Times and LA Weekly. It seemed like it was a medium for self-absorbed writers to show off how many SAT words they’ve learned since going to Princeton Review classes. I appreciate eloquent writing, but only if there’s a reason for its usage. Most people do not speak like that – its not English. Shit like "Per our conversation..." Food is sustenance for life and I love reading about its connection to things that matter to you. Why is it that a simple bowl of Chinese porridge can make me happy and make me wanna call my mom? What I’m saying is that it’d be nice to meet everyone over a nice dinner someday.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks for reading.