Another year, another Tacolandia, the food festival curated by Bill "Street Gourmet LA" Esparza and hosted by LA Weekly.
This was the third and biggest year, with 80+ vendors and 4,000+ attendees. With so many to choose from, how could one possibly pick and rank the top five tacos of the entire event?
Well, first off, I "only" sampled 25 dishes, so I can only name my favorites out of that pool, which included a record number of participants from Mexico, like Corazon de Tierra, La Embajada, La Guerrerense, Manzanilla, Tacos Kokopelli, and chef Eloy Aluri Taller. I also tried tacos by establishments from across Los Angeles and Southern California including B.S. Taqueria, Bistro LQ, Bizarra Capital, Cacao Mexicatessen, Coni'Seafood, El Cristalazo, chef Priscilla Curiel, Flautas, Guerrilla Tacos, Home State, The Hungry Cat, Moles La Tia, Petty Cash Taqueria, Soho Taco, Taco Maria, and Tacos Punta Cabras. Honestly, there was not a bad taco/tostada/flautas/vegetarian Frito pie (really) in the bunch!
So, what were my Top 5 of Tacolandia 2015?
5. Tacos Kokopelli's Polvora Taco: One of the participants from Mexico, Kokopelli has served an octopus taco called the Kraken at all three Tacolandia events, and it's one of my favorites! The reason the Polvora made my Top 5 over the pulpo was because it really took me by surprise. Grilling the fish at the event, Kokopelli managed to really concentrate the flavor of the salmon! The blackberry chilmole, with whole blackberries, rather than being a gimmick, really helped cut through the natural fattiness of the fish, and balanced the dish out quite nicely.
4. B.S. Taqueria's Taco de Calabasita: This on-menu item from chef Ray Garcia‘s new casual eatery contains fresh squash, grilled to perfection, not too firm and not too mushy. Topped with rajas de poblano, corn, salsa verde, quesillo y queso fresco, and finished with a splash of lime juice, its a vegetarian taco that really satisfied this meat lover!
3. Guerrilla Tacos' Scallop Aguachile: Chef Wes Avila served this dish at a pre-Tacolandia Night of Modern Mexican Cuisine event at Broken Spanish the day before the food festival. This bright, spicy bite consisted of fresh raw scallops, cilantro, chile de valle, and apple. The chef has a talent for mixing flavors and making it all work, and that's what he did here.
2. La Embajada's Taco de Cabrito: Chef Guillermo González Beristáin is pioneer of modern Mexican cuisine, and his restaurant, Pangea, in Monterrey, Mexico, is one of the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. His more casual restaurant La Embajada represented him at Tacolandia. The baby goat in the tacos they served was incredibly tender and unabashedly but pleasantly grassy and gamy.
1. Taco Maria's Taco de Calamares: I've yet to dine at Taco Maria, the Costa Mesa restaurant featuring chef Carlos Salgado's modern, seasonal Mexican-American dishes, but I loved this taco! It takes first place due to its simplicity and taste, highlighting the fresh Monterey squid, while adding just a bit of contrasting flavors and textures with the roasted peanuts and purslane. That organic blue corn and squid ink tortilla was so black, it was shiny!
I know I've skewed a bit toward the high end on my list, but Tacolandia is a great opportunity to try dishes from the full spectrum of the tacoverse. What were your Top 5 of Tacolandia 2015?
For more on Tacolandia 2015, check out The Offalo's full coverage of the event on his blog!