Last night, area taco expert and Taco Trail blogger José R. Ralat gave a Taco Talk presented by Slow Food Dallas. Held at Trinity Groves' Four Corners Brewing Co., attendees enjoyed beer and tacos from the (now catering only) Taco Party truck. The DF — that is, Mexico City — style truck, owned and operated by cousins Rafael Rico and Eduardo Ramirez, served up al pastor and fried potato tacos topped off with grilled pineapple, onions, and cilantro.
Although stormy weather meant no electricity in the brewery for a few hours, as José said, "Tacos will overcome any obstacle." Read on for some excerpts from last night, including the taco's origins and Dallas' strange affinity for some not-so-great tacos.
On the origin of tacos:
"If you want to talk about it terms of social media, tacos were a viral food. There was no record of them, and then suddenly in 1901 they were everywhere. Then every region adapted it. The first photograph of a taco being eaten or sold was 1922. It's a young food.
"When I first started researching I thought 'corn tortillas only.' That's wrong! Back in the conquistador days, the Spanish actually tried to eradicate corn — they wanted to use flour tortillas instead, but the taco [with corn tortilla] prevailed. Corn is the most significant food on the planet."
On breakfast tacos:
"Breakfast tacos are actually Mexican in origin. Miners used to carry tortillas filled with beans and meat with them to the mines. Tacos mineros were named after the paper dynamite that miners used to clear rock."
On Taco Bell:
"You ate Taco Bell as a kid, and that made it okay to eat tacos. That opened doors for Americans. The taco became something Mexicans carry with pride. If you insult the taco, you insult the Mexican. I'm actually excited about the kind of items Taco Bell's new [test concept] menu will throw at us. There's a garlic butter lobster on fry bread. Lobster and fry bread combined will come together to create a mutant taco that I can't wait to eat."
On "The Most Crazed Taco Cities in America":
"Everyone talks about Texas being a big taco state... If you believe Arlington is the taco capital of the country, that's fine. But you're not going to find the variety and pervasiveness of tacos that you have in L.A. Austin is mostly breakfast tacos. And San Antonio got really pissed off about their ranking too, as well they should."
On Dallas tacos:
"I call Fuel City a 'Catcher in the Rye.' It's popular, but overrated. And Taqueria El Si Hay is about as good as Fuel City. I've been to those two taquerias more than any other taqueria. They're so popular, but what's so special about them? So far, I can't really answer that.
"Dallas has a great variety of tacos. Barbacoa is not a meat, it's a preparation (which is where we get the word Barbecue in english.) Los Torres Taquería specializes in the cuisine of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico, serving barbacoa roja de chivo (goat barbacoa seasoned with chiles) on freshly made flour tortillas. You can almost see through them; they're beautiful. La Guadalupana Meat Market sells barbacoa (made with beef cheek) by the pound on weekends. To go out of your comfort zone, go to El Come Taco and try whatever they have on the menu — maybe brains. In Fort Worth, you must go to Revolver Taco. If you insist upon going any place else, go to Salsa Limon."
Slow Food is a non-profit organization that supports food that is "good, clean, and fair." Slow Food Dallas' next event will be an ice cream social held at Garden Cafe to support their education initiatives with Skyline High School.
— Margo Sivin