The Birth of Saké

JapanWe are very excited to learn about the film “The Birth of Saké’,” a new documentary that explores how sake is handcrafted at a family-owned Japanese brewery named Tedorigawa. Erik Shirai funded the film through a Kickstarter, and it is now showing at the Tribeca Film Festival!

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D’Amato’s, an old school Italian bakery on West Grand Avenue

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ItalyD’Amato’s (1124 W Grand Ave., Chicago, IL) is the type of place that hasn’t changed in decades. Like Bari, D’Amato’s is carrying on the tradition of the old Italian enclave that once existed (and now exists in pockets) on West Grand Avenue in Chicago. Carrying it one step further, this cash-only place has a ornate, copper cash register from the 1920s. We tried to get a video of it in action, but we were so mesmerized that we couldn’t even get a proper shot. However, go take a look for yourself, we know you will be mesmerized too.

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The stock in trade at D’Amato’s is classic Italian American baked goods and thick squares of coal-fired Sicilian pizza. They are known for their cannolis – you can even get a giant cannoli filled with miniature cannolis, one of our favorite things in existence. For Lent, they also are famous for their zeppole, the Sicilian fried doughnuts, which were superlative. We also tried another assortment of Italian treats including sfogliatelle and chocolate dipped cookies. Everything was tasty but the zeppole were standouts, and we really look forward to trying their Sicilian pizza!
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Going to San Francisco!

One of our members will be in San Francisco for the week, and is very excited to try some new eats. We are ashamed to say that we haven’t been back there since 2010! We are looking forward to some Blue Bottle coffee at the Ferry Building, Burmese food, and maybe the famous burritos at La Taqueria. Do you have any recommendations?La Taqueria

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Hot Cross Buns around the world

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns by Sarah Horrigan

Hot Cross Buns are a sweet treat traditionally associated with Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. These little doughy goodies are sweet rolls with currants and a signature cross made out of icing on top. Their origin is could possibly go as far back as ancient Greece, but they really came to fame in England, when a law was passed prohibiting the sale of spiced breads at any other time but funerals, Christmas and Good Friday. In the intervening centuries, the laws fell, and hot cross buns have spread across the world, even becoming popular year-round. They are now available all over the English speaking world, and 70 million were sold by British supermarket chain Tesco on Easter weekend alone in 2010. The classic recipe is pretty similar all over the world: check out this recipe for Trinidadian hot cross buns, and another classic take from the UK. Though classic is good, why not try a chocolate-orange variety, too?

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A view of Lisbon at Noobai Cafe

portugalWe were enjoying a coffee at the quiosque by the Santa Catarina Miradouro, a classic Portuguese lookout point, when we noticed Noobai (Rua de Santa Catarina, 2715-311 Lisboa, Portugal), a location with an even BETTER view. We knew we had to get there on our next visit to the area. Noobai has two tiers of terraces, so obviously the best time to visit is on a nice day (or night – Noobai is open most days noon until 10 PM or later on weekends). However, even if you are not lucky enough to be in the area on a sunny day, there is also indoor seating and a retractable tarp cover on the lower balcony. We ended up visiting Noobai on a day with patchy rain so we were grateful for the tarp – we stayed dry.

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The menu at Noobai is pretty diverse, in the quiosque model, focusing on coffee drinks and fresh-squeezed juices including papaya and pineapple. There are also plenty of sandwiches and more substantial options like Thai noodles or a hamburger (more and more popular in Lisbon). They also have brunch, another American import that is starting to catch on in Lisbon. The small  “Vitamin brunch” was billed as yogurt, granola and fresh fruit, accompanied by a peanut and chocolate cookie. Check out the size of the yogurt we got – it seems like there was at least a pound! We were not expecting the giant size (€8.50) so unless you are super hungry maybe consider splitting one. There is also an “Energy brunch” with eggs, salmon and bacon for the heartier appetite.
Noobai
Noobai is a modern version of a quiosque, and it is a perfect place to while away the afternoon, with either a full meal or just a drink. We enjoyed our mint and pineapple juice as we watched the boats and construction on the Tagus river. Set right in the side of the hill, you get a view of Lisbon that is second to none. Even if it raining, you can enjoy yourself.

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Colomba Pasquale / Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter dove bread

ItalyItalians are all about festive breads for holidays: Christmas has Panettone, and Columba di Pasqua (“Easter Dove” in English) is brought out for Easter. Like panettone, this Milanese bread is made with yeast, and filled with candied citrus peel, however what sets it apart is its unique dove shape and a generous topping of pearl sugar. Also like panettone, it is a little hard and time-consuming to make, and requires a yeast starter. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth an effort, and King Arthur Flour has a great and detailed recipe. They are typically baked in dove-shaped paper or metal pans (though the King Arthur Flour recipe goes freeform), but if you don’t have those, you can buy your Easter dove at many Italian bakeries, Eataly, and even Trader Joe’s.

Colomba di Pasqua

Colomba di Pasqua by Nicola

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Real Italian Sandwiches, Real Old School, at Bari

ItalyBari (1120 West Grand Avenue #1, Chicago, IL) is one of those old school places that seems impervious to time. Bari sells, as you would guess, sandwiches, and has been open since 1973. These sandwiches come with a variety of meat and cheeses, including turkey, mozzarella, roast beef and prosciutto. You can also get sides like olives, pasta salad and Italian wedding soup. However, what really sets Bari apart is their quality ingredients, the low prices and the sheer enormity of the sandwiches. For example, my favorite go-to Bari sandwich is the prosciutto and mozzarella on focaccia ($10) – which comes on an entire round LOAF of focaccia. For 10 dollars you can easily feed 3 people on one sandwich (sandwich doesn’t even seem to be the appropriate word here…maybe platter?). The subs also come in a variety of sizes (9″, 12″ and even 3 feet), so you don’t have to be quite as gluttonous – though many of the 3 foot sandwiches are still under $20. We ordered Bari for lunch at work (it is on GrubHub and delivers to the loop FYI), and everyone at work brought home leftovers.

A single focaccia sandwich from Bario

A single focaccia sandwich from Bari

However, the sandwiches are only one component of the Bari experience. It is also a full Italian deli – you can get imported meats and cheeses by weight, homemade pasta sauce and sausages, along with olive oil, pasta and canned goods. If you are a fan of heat, don’t forget Bari’s famous extra hot giardineira, a classic topping for any Chicago sub. While waiting to check out, you can even get a copy of Fra Noi, the Chicagoland Italian newspaper or chocolates. Going to Bari is like stepping into the Grand Avenue of the past, and it’s a lot of fun! You certainly wont leave hungry.

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Two Matzo Brei Recipes for Passover

Passover is almost here, which means it is time for all manner of unleavened treats – most importantly among them – Matzo. Matzo (also spelled Matzah or Matzoh) is a thin unleavened cracker, that can be used as a vehicle for almost any topping, savory of sweet. One of the more homey and filling dishes involving matzo is matzo brei, which is a fry-up of matzo with eggs, in some ways similar to a Spanish frittata. Tasting Table has two recipes for matzo brei: one savory, with peas and arugula and one sweet with cinnamon. 

Matzoh Brei in progress

Matzo Brei in progress by ShellyS

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Our Official Afternoon Tea in London at the Park Terrace Restaurant

united_kingdomTo finish up tea week, we are going back to the source: London! When reading up on tea history for our trip, we finally learned the difference between a high tea and an afternoon tea. High tea is a heartier meal and is actually considered less sophisticated than the lighter afternoon tea, which has small finger sandwiches and pastries. After much deliberation, we selected the setting for our official London teatime: the Park Terrace Restaurant at the Royal Garden Hotel (2 – 24 Kensington High St, London W8 4PT). This modern but elegant restaurant featured a view of Kensington Palace grounds, which sealed the deal.
TeaSelection
Front and center at this tea time was the tea, which we really appreciated. To help us make up our mind, the tea butler (who knew there were such roles?) presented us with a tea tray with little glass jars of each of the dozen or so teas from Emeyu. We selected the Pu-erh Chai Tea, and the enigmatically-named Leaping Tiger tea – white tea with mango and cornflowers. Other selections included a blooming jasmine and amaranth tea, red fruit infusion, and Lapsang Souchong as well as Japanese and Chinese ceremonial teas. Moreover, we were impressed that the selections even came with brewing temperature instructions. After we ordered our tea, our little tea sandwiches came out in quick order: tuna, chicken, tomato salsa, cheese, and egg salad. These were classic tea sandwiches, simply prepared on crustless bread. Not terribly innovative, but perfect for an authentic London tea experience.

TeaSavories

Then came the high multi-tiered dessert tray, the perfect emblem of a classic tea time. Naturally, there were scones – two cinnamon and two raisin – which were delectable, as was the Devonshire cream we slathered on them. Why can’t we make scones like this at home? In addition to the scones, there were a staggering amount of desserts. First, unexpectedly were four slices of pound cake: chocolate, lemon, banana and cranberry nut. Basically, we used these as additional vehicles for the Devonshire cream, though they were tasty in their own right. Crowning the dessert tray were elegantly-presented petit fours: raspberry layer cake, a tiny dark chocolate tart with a white chocolate straw, lemon cream cake, and a coconut canele. Everything was delectable and perfectly formed, especially the photogenic multi-layered raspberry cake and the chocolate tart.
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We relaxed in the elegant setting, taking in a view of Kensington Gardens. And were we ever full – we were totally floored by the amount of food. The restaurant actually even gained a piano player at the end of the tea, which added to the ambiance. We were very pleased by our tea at the Park Terrace, it was a classic experience without being overly formal or stuffy. At £26.00 per person, you can have the classic tea experience without succumbing to exorbitant London prices.
TeaParkTerrace

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Afternoon tea at the Langham in Chicago

united_kingdomThe Langham hotel in Chicago has quite a few things going for it, not only is it located in an iconic Mies van der Rohe skyscraper, it has also been named the top hotel in the US by TripAdvisor. When we were researching the top afternoon teas in Chicago, one name that came up repeatedly was the Langham. We figured the British pedigree of the Langham name wouldn’t hurt either for an excellent afternoon tea experience. The setting for tea in the Langham’s Pavilion (330 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL) was absolutely gorgeous, and was a stunning mix of classic and contemporary design in black and white. And if you looked up, there is even a constellation of shiny metallic sculptures floating overhead, giving an ethereal effect.

Langham Tea

The Interior of the Pavilion

A pianist on a white grand piano added to the ambiance, and kudos to him for playing instrumental covers of Sam Smith and Adele. We were seated at a table for four, with comfy white leather chairs and sofas, and a little vase of violets. The view over the Chicago river, wasn’t bad either. Our enthusiastic server introduced us to the tea selection, and we were pleased to learn that we each got two teapots, to be brought out subsequently. There were a wide variety of teas for all palates: vanilla rooibos, “English Flower” rose and chamomile infusion, Moroccan mint, Black tea with Peach and Marigold flowers, Sencha and Darjeeling. There was also a special reserve tea on the menu (which changes every few months) – the Wedgwood blend – which was a blend of Indian and Kenyan black teas. It was described by our server as being closer to coffee in flavor, with a malty taste (intrigued, at least one of us had to get it).

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Savories

After our tea orders had been taken, our four little savory items were brought out on a separate plate. The selections of the day were: “Coronation” chicken salad on a mini brioche roll, Cucumber, watercress and piquillo pepper sandwich, Smoked salmon rillette, and truffled egg salad. All of these dishes were a cut above, and we liked that each had a unique spin on the typical crustless tea sandwich. A standout was the egg salad, which was served in an eggshell! Everything was delicious and well presented, and had us ready for “dessert.” Each person received an individual pot of tea, with an adorable accompaniment of mini pots of honey. In keeping with the attention to detail, the tea serving was made custom for the Langham itself.

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Sweets

Next, came the tiered serving tray – also in signature Langham china – with four tiny, elegant pastries and two scones apiece. The two scones, raisin Earl Grey and plain, which were hot out of the oven, and each came with little pots of Devonshire cream and homemade blueberry jam. The scones were light and flaky, and were an absolute dream, especially with the clotted cream, which we devoured. The four little pastries were also adorable: “Queen’s Perfection” chocolate cinnamon cake, raspberry Charlotte Russe, a shortbread citrus cookie, and almond and coconut “Manchester” tart with cherry. The multi-layered chocolate cake and Charlotte Russe were particularly stunning and delicious. The thing with teatime, it always looks like there are measly little portions of delicate food, but by the time you get to the end, you are completely stuffed. The scones put us over the edge hunger-wise, so we were unable to finish all of the petit fours, but the few we had left were just as good that evening. Fortunately, you can get your extra treats boxed up to go.

Langham Tea

Scones and pink “English Flower” Tea

And lest we forget, the tea itself was delicious, the Wedgwood blend was a favorite, as was the sweeter vanilla rooibos. We also appreciated that the server brought out the unflavored black teas with our savory dishes, and more flowery or flavored teas with the dessert. The bright-pink, rose tea (pictured above) was a perfect accompaniment to the sweets. Throughout the entire teatime, the attention to detail at the Langham was impeccable. We were celebrating a birthday, and because we mentioned the special event, we got an extra chocolate cupcake with a candle, and some chocolate bars for the birthday girl to take home. Though expensive ($50 apiece) we really felt that the afternoon tea at the Langham was a worthwhile, special experience. The service, food and atmosphere were all superb. If you are looking for a refined tea with all the trimmings, definitely visit the Langham.

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What is Tibetan Butter Tea?

TibetWe first encountered Tibetan butter tea at the now-closed Taste of Tibet in downtown Madison, WI. We consider ourselves adventurous eaters, so along with the stews and dumplings, we decided to try the national drink of Tibet – po cha or Tibetan butter tea. True to the name, this tea is strongly buttery – but what you may not expect is that it is also a bit salty and sour. We have had salty, creamy drinks before, like ayran in Turkey, but never one like this! It is simple enough to make, with strong black tea and a pat or two of butter (often Yak butter in Tibet), which is then mixed to give a frothy texture. This rich drink is a staple of the Tibetan breakfast, and seems pretty similar to the trend for “Bulletproof coffee” or coffee with butter. Maybe Tibetan butter tea is the original bulletproof drink?

Tibetan Butter Tea

Tibetan Butter Tea by The Gonger

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How to make the perfect cup of tea

united_kingdomIt’s tea week at Eating the World! We have been to two afternoon teas in Chicago recently and have tea on the brain. With tea in mind – how does one brew a perfect cup? Seems like it may be a pretty subjective thing…. but turns out there are actually legal standards to a perfect cup. The British Standards Institution has recently released their new guidelines of how to make a proper cup of tea. As might be expected, these rules are not without controversy (milk goes in first or last?). What do you think? We think we will take our tea how we usually do (with honey!)

Postcard Teas Cups of Tea

Cups of Tea at Postcard Teas, London, England

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St. Joseph’s Day Tables and Treats in Chicago

ItalyToday, Italian-Americans are partaking in a celebratory feast of St. Joseph. This weekend, elaborate, food-filled St. Joseph’s day tables went up all over Chicagoland (and Italian communities scattered around the world), and people are partaking in special holiday treats like zeppole, pasta di San Giuseppe and pasta con sarde. Some of Chicago’s more traditional Italian bakeries, like Alegretti’s in Norridge, turn out special treats for the influx of visitors on this holiday. Eater Chicago even has a map of 10 bakeries where you can get your St. Joseph’s Day treats (a handy list for any baked good need, really).

St. Joseph's Day Table

St. Joseph’s Day Table / San Guiseepe in Sclafani Bagni, Sicily by La Tartien Gourmand

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Brunch with a Swedish twist at Tre Kroner

sweden_flagTre Kroner (“Three Crowns” in Swedish), a local Scandinavian bistro, has been on our to-do list for quite a while, but it was just far away enough to keep eluding us. We finally found the perfect time to go, when we were looking for a place to catch up with a friend for brunch. Now we are usually pretty skeptical of brunch, but Tre Kroner seemed laid back enough to give a try. Tre Kroner (3258 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) is located in the quiet North Park neighborhood, and is adjacent to one of the cutest stores around – the Sweden Shop (3304 W Foster Ave) which sells all manner of Scandinavian design items, cards and food. We could spend hours just browsing around – you won’t be disappointed.
TreKroner

The first thing you will notice when you walk in to Tre Kroner is the cheerful gnome mural, and the strings of flags displayed on the walls, giving it a very homey atmosphere. Though they do breakfast, lunch and dinner, they seemed to be pretty popular for brunch, and we just barely squeezed in (no reservations accepted, so prepare for a wait). The menu at Tre Kroner is pretty varied, but there is a marked Scandinavian flavor throughout, and especially on the dinner portion which includes seafood staples like Gravlax and pickled herring. However, for brunch, we knew we absolutely had to order the Swedish pancakes – pannekaker – with lingonberry jam. Other options included omelettes with Scandinavian cheeses, pickled herring, and the more Americanized brunch items: French Toast and waffles. M, of course, went with his brunch staple, the French Toast. If you are feeling more like lunch, you can also pick among a variety of Swedish-tinged sandwiches and can even get a burger.
Swedishpancake
We heard they were known for their known for their coffee and their cinnamon rolls as well, so I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious, with an impressive amount of foam (see below). The food came out promptly, and everything was delicious. The Swedish pancakes were light and fluffy, and the french toast was crisp and golden brown. Also of note, Tre Kroner has an assortment of esoteric sausages, rotating on a daily basis. The day we were there, there was a potato sausage, which was delightful and mild, and a bacon sausage, which M thought was a revelation. What guy wouldn’t want a sausage made out of bacon? Our young server was very nice and helpful, and we appreciated his enthusiasm (as well as his Swedish idiom T-shirt). We thoroughly enjoyed brunch at Tre Kroner: the food was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. We are not big on brunch, but Tre Kroner may have just charmed us into changing our ways.
cappuccino

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Portuguese Biscuit Letterpress Notebook by Serrote

CookieNotebookportugalWe adore this letterpress biscuit/cracker/cookie (somewhat lost in translation) notebook from Portuguese design shop Serrote. We bought ours at the A Vida Portuguesa kiosk inside the Ribeira Market (post coming soon), and you can buy it online at A Vida Portuguesa as well.

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What is a 99?

99 Ice Cream

99 Ice Cream by Louis du Mont

Ireland

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s time for another Irish treat – the 99. But what in the world is a 99? A typical 99 is vanilla softserve served in a cone, and topped with a piece of Cadbury Flake chocolate. Each of these elements has to be present for it to be a true 99. 99s have been around since at least the 1930s, when a special, shorter version of the Flake bar was introduced as a “99 Flake.” But where does the name come from? No one is quite sure, but this short documentary on the 99 provides some theories.

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Irish Soda Bread And Spotted Dog Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day

Spotted Dog

Spotted Dog by my amii

IrelandIrish soda bread is one of the most iconic St. Patrick’s Day recipes, and it is super simple to make. In fact, this historic recipe requires little more that buttermilk, baking soda, and flour. However, for a little twist you can also make Spotted Dog – a richer, sweeter riff on Irish soda bread that has raisins or other dried fruits in the batter. Here is a Spotted Dog recipe on Serious Eats, from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Seems like a perfect accompaniment for some Irish breakfast tea, don’t you think?

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Uruguayan parrillada in Miami at La Morocha’s

UruguayFlagWe are always excited to visit Miami, because of all of the awesome Latin food there, and because we get to see our friend K & M, who are both awesome people and food pros! One of M’s friends recommended Patio D La Morocha (2175 SW 1st St. Miami, FL 33135) for dinner – it is owned by a friend – and it was truly an awesome local spot. The restaurant is Uruguayan – a new restaurant country for us – our only experience with Uruguayan food was previously on a beach in Rio de Janeiro. Like many of its neighbors, the food of Uruguay is meat heavy, and a lot of the food culture revolves around the almighty grill.
grill

This is a little out of the way place, but the main feature is in fact the roaring, wood-burning grill. It may be better to call it a “fire,” since it is basically just an open blaze stacked with cherry wood and meat. We are talking, smoke, fire the works! The meat is just seasoned with salt, and you pick and choose what types of meat you want, all of which are served to you in a giant chafing dish, and you eat on wooden planks. Kind of a primal experience.

parrillada
As a group of 5, we chose the mixed parrillada of tripe, skirt steak, Short ribs, stuffed chicken, roast chicken, morcilla blood sausage. Seem like enough for the group? There was definitely something for every taste and appetite, and it was great to get the meat hot off the grill. M’s favorite part was probably watching the grill itself and the artful grillmaster. Even with just the simplest of seasonings, all of the meat was delicious, charred and super flavorful. Along with the meat, we got a number of side dishes, some of which were cooked on the grill, too, including roasted cheese with chimmichurri. In terms of cold sides, we got the “Russian” salad (basically potato salad with carrots and peas) and a green salad.
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The atmosphere inside was festive, and there was even a Nicaraguan singer who arrived halfway through to belt out boleros. Judging by the amount of balloons and families, we could tell that this was a very popular for parties. The nondescript interior definitely does not give a hint into what lies inside La Morocha’s! It was a fun experience, with an absolutely insane amount of food for a low price.

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Mexico’s Special Lenten Foods

Mexico FlagMexico Cooks! has an extremely interesting post about special Lenten foods in Mexico. For those observing Lent (La Cuaresma in Spanish), the 40 days leading up to Easter, meat is typically not eaten on Fridays. It is cool to see these more unique veggie and fish-based dishes popular for Lent in Mexico – certainly an alternative to the Friday fish fry. I think we would especially like to try the Capirotada – bread pudding – and Mexico Cooks provides a pretty enticing recipe.

Capirotada from Mexico Cooks

Capirotada from Mexico Cooks

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A new place for Tacos: Authentaco

Mexico FlagOne bit of Chicago lore is that on the intersection of Ashland and Division nearly every storefront in sight is a La Pasadita taqueria. It’s true, there used to be 3 Pasaditas within a 1 block radius, but a little while ago, one of them closed, and reopened later as Authentaco (1141 N Ashland Ave). Upon entering you can rest assured that it is not just a reincarnation of La Pasadita. The whole restaurant is about the size of a postage stamp (“restaurant” is a very loose term), it is a basically just a stand up counter, a massive flat top, and a cash register. There are no seats, and no credit cards. However, this is a taqueria with a difference, the motto of the restaurant is “farm-to-taco” so the emphasis is on fresh ingredients and flavors.

Authentaco

So how it works, is you choose the meat, and then how you would like it served – as a taco, torta, quesadilla or plate.  As for meat, there are basic options like carne asada, chorizo and pork al pastor, but also more unique options sweet potato al pastor. Aside from sweet potatoes, there are ample veggie options, including squash blossoms and nopal (cactus), which is nice for the veggie crowd. We also appreciated the appearance of the huitlacoche, our favorite corn fungus, which we got in quesadilla form. For tacos, we picked the pork al pastor (our go-to to test out a new taqueria). While we waited for our tacos, we sipped on a tasty horchata.AuthentacoPastorThe huitlacoche quesadilla was excellent, with delicious melty cheese, and was stuffed to the brim with huitlacoche. The al pastor was good, but there was too much soupy sauce, and the meat wasn’t really charred like al pastor is supposed to be. The tacos were over $3 each, but the size is a little bigger than at the typical taco joint, and we probably only needed 2 apiece, rather than 3. However, the real stars were the tortillas. The tortillas are made to order and pressed and griddled right before your eyes. They are exemplary, and completely made the meal. Definitely go to Authentaco for the huitlacoche and stay for the tortillas – and bring your vegetarian friends.

Tortillas

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