cocina de mexico

wherein the author pretends to be a food critic and falls short:


over the past few months I have been compiling an unofficial mental list of the best mexican places in santa cruz.  above is a prime example of the kind of food I’m looking for: the machete taco from taqueria los pinos downtown.  As you can see from the (mouthwatering) picture, it consists of only four ingredients: two corn tortillas, carne asada, sauteed onions, and a few wedges of avocado.  with lime juice drizzled over it, the machete taco approaches my platonic ideal of mexican food, a meal where to remove any of the components would destroy its harmony, and adding anything would simply complicate it.  the tortillas are fresh and soft, the beef perfectly seasoned and tender, onions add a sweet note and melt into the avocado, which is always ripe and rich.  without the lime juice the tastes are slighly muddled, but the citrus bite adds needed clarity.  and for $3.29 the price is perfect, too.

what? machete taco not doing it for you?

you want a burrito?

los pericos: get the carnitas, they’re wonderfully crispy and are generously diced so that sometimes you’ll pull out a huge hunk of melting pork and the joy you feel is mirrored by the giant void left in the burrito. brian points out that this cavity is ideal for flooding with salsa.  plus, the self-serve chips and totally acceptable house salsa on the dry side (my preference for salsa) are pluses.

taqueria Michoacán: shrimp burrito is amazing, the shrimp are fat and juicy and the salsa they include is the perfect temprature for my sensitive gringo palette.

taqueria cabana: mushroom burrito is the best vegetarian burrito I’ve had, theirs are a little moister than normal but it works.  the fact that they use entire caps really is what does it, because the meatiness of the fungus is a better substitute for meat than anything else I can think of.

tacos more your deal?

obviously, los pinos.  machete taco, end of story. taqueria santa cruz has really good carne asada tacos with salsa verde, but I really only have eyes for the machete.

and guacamole, the king of condiments?  los pinos, again.  their ‘mole is more like a chutney, with giant half-mashed wedges of avocado, onions, cilantro, and plenty of lime.  probably best guac I’ve had the honor of eating.

here endeth the lesson.



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the tastiest sin


This archeological layer dates from present -3 days to 0 days (present).  the society that discarded these emptied vessels must have been engaging in some manner of prolonged celebration, perhaps heralding the visit of some prominent emissary from a neighboring tribe.  traditionally such visitors brought gifts in the form of glass bottles, but any such artifacts that may have existed were most likely placed in sacred receptacles that line the byways of the village and were collected semifortnightly by men who wore ritualized attire and traveled in great clockwork coaches.  proximate discoveries indicate that the feasting that empied these urns may have been preceded by a ritualised burning of a carefully cultivated herbage, though more research will have to be undertaken to confirm this hypothesis.  in any case, this represents a truly splendid find which will add much to our knowledge of these secretive and rare individuals, homo bourgeoisus collegius.

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campus email down

so the campus email system took a nap this afternoon apparently—I left right when we noticed that the bank of uptime indicators resembled a lite-brite if you were only using red pegs.  When I returned everybody had that frazzled, mussed-up look where either they all just finished a department-wide makeout session or they had spent the last two hours dealing with the ire of academic-types.  I figured it was probably the latter when the first call I had ended with the very frustrated humanities professor first suggesting that there be an entirely seperate email system for faculty, and when that wasn’t enough, asking me who held the post of IT vice provost and then informing me that he was going to put a bomb in his car.  How do you respond to that?

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the best calendar

I needed a calendar.  I searched amazon.  Below is the first result for “calendar” under the Office Supplies department.  I bought it.  It will be here in three days.  I cannot wait.


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wherein the author attempts to forge substance from an overly esoteric lexicon

a plentitude of occasions
great happenings in quick succession
many miles driven
fortunately for you, reader, I will curate the past four weeks carefully and present to you only the most delicious morsels from the heady stream of excitement that is my life:

an episode concerning the contemporary gauche
new year’s eve found the author in dire need of sartorial accessories, for his current outfit was lacking in the “formal” qualities that were (to his knowledge) required for the gala he was committed to attend later in the evening. Along with good friend and temporary chauffeur [the author is highly proud that he spelled that correctly on the first try] Ms. Melissa Rachel Black, our intrepid voyager found himself standing awestruck in the foyer of the largest and most chaotic retail establishment he had yet experienced. The branch of “Forever 21” located upon Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade is comprised of three expansive stories, and at the time visited was seemingly the site of some international shopping championship, given the volume of shoppers (competitors?) and the speed at which they shopped (raced?).

okay, I give up. way too hard. uncle. maybe someday I’ll have the literary muscle to ape such a style for an extended period of time but not yet. I’m still at the knees-down pushup stage of writing. welterweight at best.

so the forever 21 was fucking huge, so big as to actually sport a small men’s section, which was our goal. I required a tie for christopher’s party and those offered at Urban Outfitters were overpriced, while H&M was sold out. I had little hope for Forever21, because their men’s section was pretty much a few large tables upon which were piled shirts, pants, and other garments. I didn’t see any tie-like objects, but after asking a sales associate who was attempting the sisyphean task of forging order out of the chaos I was rewarded with the sight of his arm reaching deep into a mound of merino cardigans and withdrawing with a small black box clutched in his hand, like a raccoon finding a grub in a rotting log. Within the box was my treasure, a fine tie at the eminently affordable price of $9.98.

which now only left the actual purchase of the tie. The store was closing in 5 minutes, and apparently the championship mentioned earlier only encompassed the brutal sport of shopping, and not also the subtle art of queuing. The three lines emanating from the three active registers quickly combined into one massive column of shoppers, each holding their chosen items close in eager anticipation of ownership transferal. I found myself behind a young woman, maybe a sophomore in high school. I noticed her because either she had recently suffered the tragic loss (housefire?) of all her clothes or she was the winner of the aforementioned shopping competition, if judged on pure volume of purchases. seriously, the only situation where you should be holding so many clothes at one time is the few seconds it takes to load and unload a washing machine. She was accompanied by her bear-like father, wearing a poorly-cut suit and sporting a bright and shiny bluetooth earpiece. When it was obvious that the wait was going to be extended, and the girl had commenced whining in a shrill manner that her arms were tired from holding “ALL MY STUFFFFF,” her dad decided he would take her spoils and find a place to lounge until she reached the front of the line. The father, who had up to this point made a few overly-loud complaints about his daughter’s piglike pile of love-subsitute, began to relieve her of it. With each item he removed from the pile, he got more and more vocally unhappy with her choices and their aggregate volume. “You need THIS? … You already HAVE this! … These are the SAME THING!” “No they’re not daaaaaa-aaaad, one’s short sleeve and one’s LONG SLEEVE!” And so on, ad nauseum. Finally, only one piece remained. He took the last item, a baby-blue short sleeved shawl-necked shrug with rhinestone edging and blah blah blah off of the pile, and froze. His excavation had finally revealed the final straw, that which broke the clothes-horses’ back. A pair of turquoise faux-Uggs boots. “WHAT. ARE. THOSE.” “booooo-ooooots!” “You. don’t. need. those.” “But, daaaaa-aaa-aaaaaaaaad! [i shit you not, she attempted the triple drawn-out whiny teenage squeal and it is a testament to her embrace of such an identity that she actually pulled it off]”. It was decided after a minute of deliberation that she would not purchase these specific boots, but after hard lobbying by the whiny-bitch caucus Father conceded that she had the option of purchasing “a better pair” in the near future.

Soon after that, I learned that there was a miscommunication and the party had no specific dress code—I would have been somewhat overdressed anyway.

COMING UP NEXT: another episode in my stupifyingly exciting life—80% truth, 20% its-gotta-be-funny!

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how could I forget

as me and emma were walking down market from the apple store (I sense an iphone in my near/immediate-future) the tall, impeccably-suited man in front of us shook a hand proffered by another passerby and in doing so turned halfway, revealing his identity to be none other than Gavin Newsom, mayor of the foggy city of San Francisco. Right after that he turned into the entrance to the westfield. He’s taller than I thought he would be. Not that I spend much time considering such things. But taller.

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I think this weekend can be summed up by appropriating a phrase overheard on the 38 muni, originating from a small woman in a large jacket talking on her cell phone: “shit, yeaaaaaaaaaaaah!” To recap, I am going to proceed gastrochronologically, because I ate a lot of delicious food this weekend and it was often either immediately preceded or proceeded by other figuratively delicious events.

Saturday, high-noon:
turkey, cheese, egg, and swiss crepe

The crepe (crepes a go-go on telegraph) was highly acceptable, though massively loaded with cheese.  mostly it was purchased because I had not eaten anything yet that day, and I was under the impression that berkeley friends (anita, andrew, anthony, and patrick) were occupied with errands.  Of course, as I’m watching the crepe being expertly assembled I get a call from anita telling me that they were done much earlier AND inviting me to indian food.
mango lassi
Finished the crepe as I walked to andrew’s apartment off telegraph.  saw an ent. maybe it was just a guy with an amazing costume and big ol’ stilts, but I’m not asking questions. we walked to an indian place and because I was replete with crepe I got a mango lassi. holy shit.  why I have I not encountered this nectar before?  amazing.

Saturday afternoon:

blue bottle coffee
Took Bart to the hazy city, got off at the civic center and went on a pilgrimage to blue bottle coffee kiosk, of whose location Andrew had a moderately clear idea.  we ended up circling it a few times, just to ensure it was safe, which it proved to be.  also, it had killer coffee.  the kiosk is more like a large loading door in the side of a warehouse, which had at least 20 people waiting in line for an artisan caffeine fix.  the chinese-restaurant-patronized-by-other-chinese rule held true for it: the line was full of affluent, hip white people, and by god, the coffee was killer.

spiritual nourishment:
Buzzed and optimistic, we were now on a quest to the presidio, to see a new andy goldsworthy installation.  We were winging it, definitely–the presidio is kind of a large plot, and I had no idea where the installation was.  In our northward wanderings, we ended up on cathedral hill, named so for st. mary’s of the assumption, an indredible cathedral (props to j. lieber for introducing me to it) that sits at the top. Designed by an italian futurist (pier luigi nervi) in the 60s, it looks like an extraterrestrial craft that has taken root amid the modernist apartment blocks and circular towers that surround it.
I’ve been there before, but the doors have always been locked.  Probably because I was accompanied by a notre dame theology student (or it was around the time for afternoon mass), the doors were open and we could go inside.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

saturday evening:
delicious dim sum
But not before this:
“spire,” an andy goldsworthy installation at the presidio, obviously we got there as the sun was setting.  this is so because we spent about an hour on the muni, guessed as to where we should get off, and then flip-flopped about actually continuing due to the ever-darkening sky.  we were finally put on the right track by a timely call from my dad, who informed us that the stop we had gotten off on was the exact one we wanted.  go us.  a quick walk up the street, past presidio terrace (some of the largest and most beautiful houses (estates?) I’ve seen in the city–dianne feinstein lives there) and we were there.  I’m glad it was dark, because it made the huge tower of tree trunks goldsworthy combined into a, well, spire, that much more striking.

back on the muni, heading down geary towards market, anthony and I agreed that while andrew was slightly hungy we were not thinking of food in the least.  literally 30 seconds later we were all getting off the bus, having spotted a dim sum place across the street.  apparently dim sum > actual hunger. in any case, it was fantastic–quick (we were done in 20 minutes), filling (12-piece dim sum and an order of chow mein), and cheap (less than $20 with tip).  If I ever live in the city, my kitchen will be spotless from disuse.  maybe dusty, but that’s more of a sheen rather than a spot.  so, spotless.

the next day was another rainy foray into the city, this time to have breakfast with emma who had flown earlier in the morning from vermont.  after being educated on the physics of the water cycle by a charming man (who also spread the gospel of joel osteen) and enjoying the spectacle of teenage fangirls waiting in line for a fall out boy concert, we parted ways and I returned to ashby to retrieve my vehicle and drive back to the cruz, but not before frantically trying to find a gas station before I wet myself, the parting shot from the 3 cups of bad coffee at the “NEW AGE DINER” emma and I had eaten at.  if it is any indicator of a new age, I’m going to have to turn into a right-wing fundamentalist conservative.  mediocre breakfast food ain’t part of any america I call home.  well, shit, I guess it really is.  but I prefer to think of it as old-age.  whtever, this is where the post stops because I’ve failed to find a suitable end point.

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