Sunday, January 31, 2010
I actually first read about Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron from the Teenage Gluster blog. At the time, I was actually more enthralled at the wall paintings than the food. I just found them so amusing, but then I finally re-grouped and read Teenage Gluster's description of the food and it definitely sounded very appealing. Knowing that Pal Cabron, for short, was owned by sister and brother, Bricia and Fernando Lopez, whose family also owns Guelguetza, I wanted to check it out even more. About a month after that post, I got invited via Gluster to a Cemitas Party hosted by the restaurant. How could I say no to that?
Walking in, the first place I looked was up and there they were, 11 women painted on the wall. From modest to quite naughty, each of the women represents 1 of 11 cemitas, while a 12th cemita isn't. By the way, if you're not familiar with what a cemita is, it's a Mexican sandwich that is different from a torta in that the bread is a sesame-seeded egg roll. Traditional ingredients include sliced avocado, white cheese, onions, a Chipotle sauce and some type of meat and that's pretty much what you'd see on a Pal Cabron Cemita.
At this gathering, all the cemitas were out for sampling as well as a Clayuda. Thankfully, the cemitas were cut into smaller sections, which made easy to try quite a few of them, if not all. So I present to you the Cemitas Sandwich Menu presented with their female counterparts, starting with La Tetanic, a Breaded Chicken Cemita.
La Muy Muy: Breaded Beef or Pork Cemita
La Gordis: Pork Head Cheese Sandwich
La Mas Cabrona: Breaded Beef and Pork Head Cheese Cemita
La Cachonda: Leg of Cattle Seared in Vinegar Cemita
La Bronca: Spicy Shredded Pork Cemita
La Pipris Nais: Ham Cemita
La Chirris: Chorizo Cemita
La de Barbacha: Seasoned Lamb Cemita
La Brava: Marinated Pork Cemita
La Tuya: Make Your Own Combination. The one shown below has no meat.
La Chupitos: Roasted Pork Cemita (the only cemita that doesn't have female counterpart). I think it's because it's considered too much of a manly sandwich? :)
We also had a taste of one of their Clayudas. The ingredients included aciento (chicarron spread), black beans, queso fresco, Oaxaca cheese, cabbage, tazajo (beef) and cecina enchilada (pork).
One of the things I really enjoyed about the cemitas was the bread. Crusty on the outside, but soft in the inside and all baked on site. Freshly baked bread is the way to go when it comes to any type of sandwich. Of all the cemitas I tried, it was definitely all about the pork for me. The Spicy Shredded Cemita had wonderful heat to it while the Chorizo Cemita made my tastebuds sing. I also liked the slight fattiness of the Roasted Pork Cemita. Along with the cemitas, I enjoyed a Michelada for the first time.
The Michelada is a drink made with beer, tabasco, lemon and worcestershire sauce and is rimmed with a Oaxacan imported chile salt, which has a very interesting ingredient. Simply, the chile salt includes ground agave worms. Putting my lips to any part of a worm was something I would never usually consider, but for this drink, it didn't bother me a bit.
Also on hand were their Horchatas, a rice drink with cactus syrup, cantaloupe and nuts.
Overall, I really enjoyed both the food and the quirkiness of wall art of this restaurant and if it was only closer to me, I'd definitely be visiting it more often. To end, here is some more wall art seen around the restaurant.
Even the bathrooms are a fun visit.
Finally, I thought these handprints by Bricia and Fernando were sweet.
Click here to see all 113 photos!
Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron
2560 E. Gage Avenue
Huntington Park, CA 90255
Please join my dining group, Pleasure Palate, for our very own Cemitas Party. Click here for more info!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Last December, I was invited by PR Rep, Dan Cox, to attend the Grand Opening Party for Ixtapa Cantina in Old Town Pasadena. Owner Jack Huang seems to be building a Pasadena restaurant empire because he also owns Bar Celona and Villa Sorriso and they're all on Colorado Boulevard. This was my first time visiting this space since I've never been to either Fred's Cantina or Moose McGillicuddy's, which were previous tenants.
The restaurant is quite roomy and I could see it as a good event space, with a good size bar and plenty of stools and tables on either side of the bar. There's a main dining area across from the bar that extends towards the back. Towards the back, there's a raised floor that's sectioned off with additional seating. There's even an upstairs area with both a balcony and a second bar that allows you to check out what's happening on the ground floor.
Drinks and food were hosted by Ixtapa Cantina. At the beginning of the evening, the wait staff were serving appetizers, which included both beef and chicken taquitos, cheese quesadilla and ceviche on a tortilla chip.
Towards the back of the restaurant, a buffet was set up where you could sample some of the items on their menu, including their Birria (braised short rib) that were made into tacos, their Mole Chicken, Carnitas as well as a few other items.
Having eaten in Mexico more than once as well as some of LA's more "authentic" restaurants like La Casita Mexicana and Moles La Tia as well as street food like the stands at Breed Street (which are no longer there) and the Oaxacan Quesadilla Cart, I've definitely had my share of mind-blowing Mexican food. The food at Ixtapa Cantina is far from mind blowing, but based on what I tried that night, it was solid and well-prepared. As part of the evening, I was also invited along with some other guests to do a little mini crawl of Bar Celona and Villa Sorriso where we'd be able to sample more food and either cocktails or wines. I ended up just going to Bar Celona.
At Bar Celona, we were introduced to the concept of a Pop Up Bar by Michael Dozois, Co-Founder of Névé Luxury Ice Company. Basically, the idea is the same as a Pop Up Restaurant, where a bartender or bartenders would take over a bar for a night and make specialty cocktails. For Michael's purpose, these Pop Up Bars would be used to introduce specialty gourmet ice cubes made by his company that would be utilized for that evening's cocktails. You can actually read a little bit of literature below and check out the two different sizes they come in.
The thought behind these gourmet ice cubes is that they are designed so that they take up 50 percent of your glass. With it being a single cube in your glass as opposed to an ice scoop full of small ice cubes, the surface area is less. This means that there's less contact of the ice with the liquid, therefore allowing for less dilution (less melting/less water in your drink). A bonus is that since the cube is larger it will chill your cocktail for a longer period of time. You can read more details here and look below to see photos of Michael holding both ice cubes.
When it came to the cocktails, there were two to choose one. One was called the Mexican Firing Squad and some of the ingredients included lime, simple syrup and tequila. Unfortunately, I can't even decipher my own notes, so I couldn't read the name of the second drink, but it had muddled basil, lime and Tennesse Whiskey.
As for the food, Bar Celona served us two delicious tapas. On one plate, there were two different Bruschettas. One had sheep's milk cheese and the other had a mixture of three cheeses (cow, sheep and goat). Both topped with fig preserves.
The second tapas were granny smith apples wrapped with salt cured tuna, topped with marcona almonds, shallots, chives and also included sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I actually really enjoyed both dishes a lot.
Interestingly enough, I nursed my muddled basil drink for a little over an hour and it truly stayed pretty cold the whole time and the shrinkage of the ice was quite minimal.
Overall, it was a pleasant evening. I'm not often in Pasadena these days, so it was nice to check it out. It's actually been awhile and there a lot of new restaurants that I've never even seen before. Maybe, it's time to do some more culinary exploring of that part of town.
119 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105
Bar Celona Restaurant
46 E. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105
Neve Luxury Ice Company