Potato & Fish Tacos at Tacomiendo in West Los Angeles – America’s 17th Best Taco

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I love tacos.  I really do.  But I have become pretty snobby about them.  I usually get fish tacos (as I do not eat meat or chicken) and I prefer it not be fried.  Though I’ve had some might fine fried babies.  So – when I saw an article listing the “35 Best Tacos in America” – I knew I had to try any local ones on the list.

#17 was Tacomiendo.

17) Tacomiendo, Los Angeles: Potato Taco

At the no-frills, order-at-the-counter Tacomiendo, where you’ll hear much more Spanish than English spoken, the tortillas are homemade, the prices are reasonable, and the tacos are big. Burritos are a favorite here, but the tacos get high marks, too — and if you don’t mind carbo-loading, the unusual potato taco, potato chunks and cheese in a crispy shell, is certainly memorable.

They specifically mention which KIND of taco won at each joint.  As it turns out, Tacomiendo is over at Pico & Gateway – an area you couldn’t pay me to trek to under normal circumstances but my dog, Dexter, is undergoing physical therapy at Two Hands Four Paws which is only a few blocks away!  So, yesterday, as Dex had his day at the spa, I hopped over to Tacomiendo & ordered me some tacos (to steal the vernacular of my badass boyfriend, Miles).

There is a boatload of construction over there & it was a very confusing few blocks to navigate but, eventually, I spotted the place, tucked into an auto court sorta strip mall – on the southeast corner of Gateway & Pico.  Here is the outside.

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And here is the rest of that mall as seen from inside Tacomiendo.

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ALL car places so Tacomiendo can be easy to miss.  The obscurity of the place & the strip mall exterior actually raised my hopes about Tacomiendo.  I mean – who would even SEE this place, let alone put it on the list of “must try” taco spots?  If it was singled out – it must be incredible!  So – I ventured forward.

Here is the interior.

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There is a little salsa & other appropriate toppings bar over on the left on the yellow wall.

I looked at the menu overhead & couldn’t spot potato anything so I asked when it was my time to order.  Yes, I was told, they do serve a potato taco but it comes in a hard shell.  I was informed of this as if it would make me reconsider.  But – I was here expressly to try America’s 17th best Goddamn taco & I had good information that it was the potato taco here at Tacomiendo – so, undeterred, I ordered it.  I also ordered a fish taco & a Diet Coke (even though I think Diet Coke is tantamount to drinking engine fluid – as far as how good it is for you).   I paid my bill.

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Lunch for $7?  Not bad!  It seems the potato taco might be considered an appetizer.  Hmm.  I went to the salsa bar & stocked up & ate a bunch of these carrots & jalapenos.

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Pretty soon, a woman delivered this little basket to my table.

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That is the potato taco on the left.  The fish taco was a purist’s dream as it came in a homemade soft taco shell – naked.  Solomente grilled fish.  I topped it with cilantro, onion & two salsas and squeezed two limes over it.

Then I bit into the potato taco.  It seemed to be filled with a cheesy mashed potato.  Tasty – but not remarkable.  The potato taco at Senor Fish is better, in my opinion.  In fact, I preferred the fresh & delicious fish taco to the potato variety – primarily due to its simplicity & the wonderful homemade taco it was wrapped in.

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So – there you have it.  Both tacos were good enough to order again but I definitely preferred the fish one.

How anyone can list the 35 best tacos in America is beyond me.  I would have a very hard time listing the 35 best in Hollywood alone.  Taco stands are EVERYWHERE.  But there are a few more local joints on this list & I aim to try them all.  So far – the taco to beat (if you ask me) is the INSANE lobster taco here – at Benny’s in Venice – the best taco I have ever had.   Not sure how they missed that bad boy.  But – as I said – I will try the others they suggest & I will keep you posted on any changes & developments!

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Lobster taco at Benny’s in Venice.

One-Pan Whole Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes & Cauliflower (Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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OK – so, Martha Stewart has, it seems, caused quite a stir with her one-pan pasta recipe.  One pan?  One STEP?  Sorta.  Once you prep the ingredients (meaning – cut the vegetables) this is easier than making Kraft mac & cheese.  I added cheese & the awesome Red Boat fish sauce – but omit these for a vegan variety.

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I keep mentioning this Red Boat stuff because it is a very fancy fish sauce.  Here is what Red Boat says about itself:

In Vietnamese, nước mắm means literally “salted fish water.” Red Boat “nước mắm nhi” is the secret ingredient in South East Asian cooking. The savory, sweet, and umami-laden sauce gives dishes a unique, rich and satisfying dimension.

Red Boat is an all-natural, first press, “extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce. It does not contain added water, preservatives or MSG. Made from a two hundred year-old, chemical free, artisanal process, Red Boat uses only the freshest cá com (black anchovy), salted minutes after leaving the sea then slow aged for over a year in traditional wooden barrels. Red Boat anchovies are sourced exclusively from the crystal clear waters off the Phu Quoc Island archipelago.

In the past, this top grade fish sauce was reserved for our family table in Vietnam but we are very excited to share our family secret with you. With pride we bring you the only authentic Vietnamese Phu Quoc fish sauce available in the United States.

Whether you are a master chef or enthusiastic home cook, we guarantee you the highest quality product and the best results.

Anyway – it smells just as gross as any other fish sauce – maybe even grosser – but it adds a subtle, salty flavor (like minced anchovies would) and not some disgusting fishy thing.  Ever seen Clamato?  I used to joke about that stuff.  I’d say, “You know what’s wrong with this Bloody Mary?  It doesn’t taste fishy enough!”  Then I tried a Bloody Caesar and I stopped cracking wise.  Well, Red Boat adds a delightful depth to dishes that need a little added oomph – so I recommend strongly that you try it.  Eh – but if you can’t find it or if you are vegan – blow that shit off.  See how easy I am?

So, anyway, Martha dropped this one-pan-pasta bomb on the world & I just had to try it.  For some reason, every recipe I saw used 12 oz of dry pasta.  Who the fuck cooks 3/4 of a box of pasta?  And one recipe made the LUDICROUS assertion that a recipe using 12 ounces of dry pasta was enough to feed six.  SIX!  This person must also believe that a box of Kraft feeds four or that there are 25 servings in a standard tub of Cool Whip.  Seriously.  TWO ounces of pasta per person?  In my world, a pound of pasta MIGHT feed four.  Might.  But I digress.

Because all the recipes used that bizarre 12 ounce suggestion – I had to wing this a bit.  I had 8 ounces – and it was 8 ounces of whole wheat angel hair.  I do not recommend using angel hair.  It cooks in 5-7 minutes and, I fear, is a tad on the fragile side for this kind of preparation.  Go with a spaghetti or linguine if you try this.  And try this you should because it really did work & it was damned tasty.

I used cauliflower because I had it.  You could sub that out for anything really.  Try shrimp or a puttanesca or whatever you have around that you feel would work on pasta.

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One-Pan Whole Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes & Cauliflower (Vegan)

Serves 2 hungry people

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces dry pasta (spaghetti or linguine or penne)

1/2 large onion – sliced thin

4 garlic cloves – sliced thin

3 tomatoes – diced

3-4 sprigs basil – chopped

1/2 small head cauliflower – cut into small florets

1 TBS olive oil

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 TBS oregano

2 tsp fish sauce (omit if you are vegan)

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp each of S&P

GARNISH – with chopped basil, crushed red pepper & (vegan) Parmesan

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DIRECTIONS

Put everything in a pot large enough to lay the pasta flat.  Bring to a boil and, stirring frequently, cook as long as the pasta directions suggest.  This should result in a pan of cooked pasta in a creamy sauce (as the starch from the pasta blends with the stock).  If it seems too wet, cook it down a bit more or add Parmesan to make that moisture into an even creamier sauce.

Garnish as you will & be amazed at how well this experiment worked!

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Easiest Spicy Thai Coconut Salmon Soup for the Slow Cooker (with a Vegan option!)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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vromans front

vromans back

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Seriously, people.  If you can slice an onion, you can make this soup.  If you have a crock pot (and I got a huge one for ten bucks and you can, too.  Look HERE) this is as easy as throwing the ingredients into the pot.  If you do not, this can be done stove top very easily – you just can’t leave while it cooks.  But, I used a slow cooker & shoved the ingredients in there, took my dog, Dexter, to his physical therapy, had a meeting with an agent, ran some errands & came home about 5 hours later to a house that smelled as if I had a loving wife who had cooked all day who was waiting here to serve me this delicious, amazing soup.

I used some old, freezer-burned salmon fillets from Trader Joe’s.  I threw them in frozen, whole, skin on.  I came home & scraped the skins off & broke up the fillets with a spoon & voila!  If you are vegan, you can opt for other veggies (potato, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower or broccoli – whatever) instead of fish and omit the fish sauce.  Or – if you eat meat or fish but hate salmon – use shrimp or chicken.  Go nuts.  Customize as you will but TRY THIS SOUP.  So yummy!

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Easiest Spicy Thai Coconut Salmon Soup for the Slow Cooker (Vegan option!)

INGREDIENTS

3/4 pound (or more if you want it heartier) of salmon (or shrimp or chicken or vegetables like potato, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli)

3 TBS red curry paste

2 (13.5) oz cans of lite coconut milk

3 cups vegetable stock

2 TBS fish sauce (Red Boat – if you can find it – maybe at Whole Foods – if not, any fish sauce) – OMIT this if you are vegan

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2 TBS brown sugar

3 carrots – grated or chopped

10-20 green beans – trimmed & chopped

2 jalapenos – seeded & diced (optional)

1 onion – sliced thin or chopped

3 TBS peanut butter

1 TBS fresh ginger – minced (jarred is fine)

1 cup peas

juice of 1 lime plus extra for garnish

1 large fistful of cilantro – chopped plus more for garnish

Sprouts as garnish – optional

Rice (cooked) – to serve with the soup (I used black rice)

DIRECTIONS

Put everything EXCEPT the peas, cilantro & lime juice into the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours.  Add the peas, cilantro & lime juice.  Cook until warmed through (twenty minutes – more maybe if the peas are frozen still) & serve with more lime & cilantro & a side of rice.  I served mine over the rice.

Stove top – kinda do the same thing but let it simmer covered for about an hour & then add the peas, cilantro & lime.  If using raw chicken – be sure the chicken is cooked through.

TRY not to eat twice as much as you need.  I dare you!  I bet you cannot.  🙂

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Asian Flavors at Bamboo in Sherman Oaks, Frontier Wok in Burbank & Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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My boyfriend, Miles, has a confusing palate.  At times it is confoundingly conservative & inflexible – expecting each restaurant to serve a standard dish (fried chicken or green pepper beef) exactly as he has come to expect it at his favorite Little Rock haunt.  The tiniest variation can inspire him to push his plate away.  He hasn’t tried arugula and regards it with suspicion.  Goat cheese?  No way!  Vegan food?  He is burned out on it – despite living in Arkansas (not exactly famous for pioneering vegan food) and despite the fact that he is a degenerate carnivore.  Still, he eats sushi & oysters on the half shell and other things like that – things you would never expect him to enjoy.

That said – he is still wary of Thai food – though he eats it.  It is CHINESE food he always requests.  Now, I live on the edge of Thai Town.  In Los Angeles, Thai food is everywhere – especially in east Hollywood – and it is typically cheap & almost always pretty good.  Chinese food, on the other hand, is often expensive & seldom good.  Chinese food in Hollywood is most commonly found in strip malls at establishments that boast serving “Chinese food!  Donuts!  Hamburgers!  Tacos!”  Panda Express is the high end of the Chinese fast food world.  Ew.

Still, frustratingly, Miles’ response to my query, “Whattaya wanna get for lunch?” remains, “Chinese?”  And, something in me tells me that Miles will more likely respond positively to an average Chinese restaurant than a really good Thai restaurant.  Standard beef & broccoli?  Yum, says Miles!  But a Thai mint leaves beef or some such – will be unfairly compared to its Chinese counterpart & likely disappoint.  Mint?  With beef?

So frustrating.

Ugh.  So – I hunt & hunt for decent Chinese that doesn’t require a trip downtown.  Chi Dynasty (in Los Feliz) is very good but it is costly.  In fairness, their portions are enormous but I like to mix it up a bit & try new things.  Especially as I am always feeling pressure to find content for this blog.

I took him to Frontier Wok in Burbank once.  It was pretty crowded at lunch, despite the bizarre frontier-like exterior of the building & this seemed a good sign.

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Miles has incredibly bad food karma in that – his order gets fucked up most of the time.  It really does.  I need to start placing his orders for him because, of all people, he is least likely to roll with an incorrect side dish & he doesn’t like to remind a server if something he ordered didn’t show up.  His standard order at his local Chinese joynt is – green pepper beef, beef sticks, egg rolls & hot & sour soup.  He placed that order almost exactly (Szechuan beef instead of green pepper beef & less the beef sticks) at Frontier Wok.  They never brought the spring rolls.

Here is the menu.

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I ordered a veggie soup & Kung Pao shrimp.  I find Chinese immensely uninspired as a food group but the soup was pretty tasty.  Miles approved of the hot & sour soup.

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Here is the beef dish.

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It looks pretty good to me but Miles was unimpressed.  My shrimp was really good, though, as a Kung Pao dish goes.

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The little salad was barely more than a garnish but there was lots of food & we both took some home.  Personally, I’d recommend Frontier Wok to a person looking for predictable but good Chinese – though I don’t think I will get Miles over the threshold again.

Next effort at Chinese?  Bamboo in Sherman Oaks.

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Bamboo has two large dining rooms & the interior is far prettier than Frontier Wok.  I didn’t bother with the menu as it looked like any menu at any Chinese place.  Miles ordered – wait for it – egg rolls, hot & sour soup & beef & broccoli.  I got Kung Pao scallops or something.  The hot & sour soup was vegetarian so I got to have some.  It had been years since I’d had it at a restaurant.   (I make a veggie hot & soup soup.  You can too!  My recipe is HERE.)

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Here is the food at Bamboo.

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They offered brown rice which I appreciated.  And they served tea – another Chinese restaurant staple I have not had in years, if not decades.  Miles seemed to like the beef & there was enough there for two, easily.  My scallops were right on par with the Frontier Wok shrimp  – though both of us found the dishes a quite a bit less spicy than they could have been.  Hilariously (to me), Miles declared the side salad seen here:

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to be “almost insulting,” and he pushed it away.  That cracked me up – maybe because the little salads are never more than a decoration and also because it just seemed very Anthony Bordain of him.   Taking offense at a Chinese gesture at salad just hit my funny bone.

So – the only real success I have had with Miles & Chinese (so far) has been Chi Dynasty.

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With Miles safely back home, I was free to try something a tad more adventurous.  My friend Dave has been prodding me forever to try Highland Park’s Good Girl Dinette so, this Sunday, I joined Dave & his wife Rose there.

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Good Girl Dinette is a modern take on Vietnamese food – meets diner food – two of my favorite things!  And even better, these hipster joynts seldom disappoint with their vegetarian & vegan options.

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My only complaint is ANY PLACE with bare walls.  I have so much great art that I cannot hang due to lack of space that when I see a place like this – I feel it in my gut.  I get surges of anxiety just looking at those white expanses.  But the menu was really interesting & pulled my attention away from those taunting bare walls.

Eventually, I opted to try the mini-size pho & the mushroom banh mi with spicy fries & a side of (I think) cilantro aioli.

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All of it was fantastic!  The fries were wonderfully heavily dosed with garlic & herbs & the aioli was awesome!  The bread for the sandwich was as good as it gets & Good Girl serves a far better veggie banh mi that they do at the wonderful Golden Road Brewery.  The pho was tasty & substantial, despite being the mini-sized version.  I ended up taking the soup & half the sandwich home.

Dave got a white nectarine hand pie & some roasted pork hash.

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I tried the nectarine pie & it was buttery & flaky & delightful!

Rose ordered one of their homemade sodas.  The soda of the day was pink grapefruit juice – which they basically just carbonated & Rose loved it.  She also got chicken curry.

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I couldn’t try that either but Rose seemed quite pleased.  Then – the kitchen brought us two free desserts!

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Those top two images are a dose of Fosselman’s ice cream with and OUTRAGEOUS caramel sauce & some crunchy stuff in the CUTEST glass Weck’s jars.  Just stupid awesome.  And the other is an orange bread with oranges & whipped cream.  It was lighter & far more delicately flavored – more along the lines of what I would generally prefer as dessert (as I am not a sugar freak).  But that ice cream – and the presentation in those lidded jars – just made us all crazy.

And finally, I spotted these for sale in the corner.

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In a bizarre coincidence, just the evening before, I had been searching for pasta recipes using ether arugula or avocado.  I came across one which I have since tried (see below)

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and which I will soon post – but that required this special fish sauce.  I had another brand already & sniffed it & could not IMAGINE wanting it as a primary ingredient in a pasta recipe so I just made a pasta with both avocado & arugula.  But when I saw this at Good Girl the next day?  I could not resist.  And I made the pasta with it.  And it was crazy good so when I post a recipe using it – TRUST ME!  And – in all honesty – I think any fish sauce will do but this Red Boat is the fish sauce equivalent of a high end balsamic vinegar.  Some can tell the difference – others not so much.

So there you have it.  Now I am going to pick my mother up at the airport!  Have a great day!!!!