Tag Archives: los angeles

‘Tis Tamales Season

tamales-22

‘Tis Tamales Season

This article was first featured in Life & Thyme.

The Time and Tradition of Mexico’s Holiday Dish.

I walk into Downtown L.A.’s Broken Spanish on a December day to a bustling kitchen prepping for evening service and a warm welcome from chef/owner Ray Garcia. It’s easy to be distracted by the array of dishes being built around me in the sunny restaurant—the aromas of braises and sofritos, heirloom tortillas, and mole sauces—all building blocks of the dinner menu so many guests will enjoy in just a few hours. But I’m here for something very specific: the tamal.

I join Garcia in the kitchen along with his cook, Rosario, who is smearing masa (corn dough) with admirable precision onto corn husks laid out in perfect rows. I am mesmerized by her skill. Having grown up in a Mexican household on the Texas/Mexico border, the Christmas tamalada—the assembly line of family and friends who gather around the holidays to whip up tamales—is familiar. Tamales were never lacking in our household; ours were purchased from the tamalero who still makes his requisite rounds to sell his homemade goods, of which my mom buys dozens. Although they’re enjoyed year round, in Mexican culture, tamales are mainly considered a holiday food.

Traditional pre-conquest tamales were filled with beans or squash, but there were also variations made with duck, turkey, venison, lobster or crab with some sort of chile or tomato-based sauce. Post conquest, Old World ingredients like pork, beef, chicken and cheese make an appearance, including sweet variations, as well as tamales wrapped in banana leaves, a plant native to Southeast Asia. French-style cookbooks of nineteenth century Mexico describe tamales as a type of delicate stuffed bread made of corn that Spaniards ate with gusto.

Today at Broken Spanish, Garcia introduces me to an intriguing new filling: braised lamb neck. A lamb tamal is new to me, but once he puts it on the griddle, the edges of the masa begin to caramelize and crisp, and the aroma rises to meet me; I’m totally in.bs tamales prep

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Cultivating California: The History of Wines in Los Angeles

sgabriel_winery

Cultivating California: The History of Wines in Los Angeles

This blog was featured in the summer 2017 edition of Edible LA.

Thinking of California wines, my mind goes straight to the lush, sun-drenched vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, and sometimes to the Guadalupe Valley in Baja. It never stays in Los Angeles, much less in Boyle Heights or the concrete channel that is the LA River. It’s hard to imagine those areas as the once beautiful acres of vineyards of the early 19th century. What happened?
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Cooking Art History: Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque

mayahuel

Cooking Art History: Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on October 13, 2016.

Growing up on the Texas/Mexico border my friends and would regularly go “across” during our high school lunch break for a leisurely lunch of Doritos con chile and a frozen margarita. Not exactly healthy – not to mention age appropriate – and little did I know that I was about to embark on a life long fascination with tequila and on a trip to Oaxaca in the early 2000s, would discover mezcal.
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Cooking Art History: Biting the Big Apple

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Cooking Art History: Biting the Big Apple

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on May 3, 2016.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum have complementary exhibitions on view through July 31st, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium. Each exhibit highlights a different aspect of the controversial artist’s complex body of work. LACMA focuses on Mapplethorpe’s relationship to New York City’s underground sexual and artistic scene while the Getty explores his fascination with classical forms.

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