Death Row Meals Supper Club: Taco Madness!

16 Jan

Two hours.  Six creative, delicious tacos. Six alcohol pairings. One most excellent afternoon.

Created by the fine folks at Living. Loving.Local, Death Row Meals Supper Club brings together great chefs  in our fair city to produce their version of a particular dish. This month was hosted at Milagro Cantina, where the chefs crafted their own versions of a taco, showcasing their considerable talent and creativity.

We settled in about 15 minutes before the event was to begin and there was already a great buzz in the room. Upon signing up for it, no one knew exactly what theyd be feasting on and the anticipation was palpable. We sat at long tables, chatting with those we’d come with and those we had just met while wonderful smells wafted forth from the kitchen. Everyone curiously perused the score sheet we were given that listed all the tacos we would be sampling, as well as spots to score the tacos on taste, originality and presentation. There was also a spot reserved for a bonus point should we feel the desire to award it.

After a quick welcome from the host, out came the first round! Large plates of Rossy Earle’s gorgeous braised & pulled chipotle-smoked duck topped with chayote & tomato pickled slaw, culantro lime cream and duck skin chicharrons on top of green plantain tortilla tacos arrived in front of us. One bite in and the 60 or so people in attendance went quiet and a simultaneous, “mmmmmmmmmmmmmm” could be heard. What a fabulous way to start off this competition! Not only did this taco look great, the combination of flavours and textures hit all the right notes.

Next up was Steve Gonzalez’ grilled adobo pork with tomatillo and corn relish, roasted garlic and lime crema on top of a  refried bean tortilla.  While the idea of the refried bean tortilla seemed fabulous – it was certainly something we’d never seen – it did make it a little tough to eat the taco itself.  The tortilla didn’t hold together all that well and many of us found ourselves trying to trying to eat the tender pork medallions while holding everything together with our fingers. The pork did go nicely with the cold Corona, though.

Third on the docket was one that most of us were really looking forward to from the description: braised beef cheek and smoked beef tongue taco with avocado crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, and duo of house smoked hot sauces. Yes, please! The cheek was melt-in-your-mouth good and the smokiness of the two hot sauces came through loud and clear. This was messy deliciousness, folks. Chef Tom Davis did a nice job on this one and it paired beautifully with the Trapiche wine served. Definitely one of our faves.

On to the fourth – and to the dreaded tequila! (Tequila and I used to be amigos. Now, we are civil at best.) Charlies Burgers put forth their offering of a carne asada taco using smoked and grilled marinated kobe knuckle, fresh flour tortillas, salsa taquera garnished with grilled scallions.  This particular taco got mixed reviews at our table. It seemed that some diners got a nice, tender piece of meat while others had pieces that were chewy and tough to bite through. That’s a real shame considering the calibre of chef and how much others were enjoying theirs.

Chattering away with my table mates, I looked up to see that taco number five, created by Nick Liu, was arriving on those giant platters, along with some Steamwhistle. The platters were lowered on to the table and we all “oohed” and “aahhhed.” Ten perfectly round jicama “tortillas” with crispy octopus, smoked paprika caponata, chorizo bacon, spicy tomato aioli were gazed upon with nothing less than awe. We all dove – we were past politeness now – to grab one. The taco’s crunchy, crispy textures were an unexpected delight. The octopus was perfectly cooked and the hot sauce, while not tongue-searing, provided some nice spice. Pencils scribbled furiously when this one was finished up.

Finally, Arturo Anhalt delivered a taco de longaniza (a spicy stret style chorizo) en salsa verder, with onion and nopales (cactus). This particular taco definitely had the most depth of flavour, almost like eating a rich chili. It reminded me a bit of a molé: lots of rich flavour with notes of heat, citrus and chocolate. I also quite enjoyed the tortilla which had a great char on it. This was probably the most technically accomplished taco of the afternoon and felt like the chef was quite comfortable making it: like he’d been eating it all his life.

At the end of the day, most of us agreed that the octopus and duck tacos were our favourites. (In fact, during the post mortem with my dining companions, we decided the ultimate taco would be a combination…a “ducktopus” taco if you will.) Clearly the rest of the fine folks in attendance felt the same way as chef Liu and chef Earle’s offerings took the top two spots. Regardless of who won, it was such a fantastic way to spend an afternoon! Fabulous food, wonderful people, great vibe: no way to go wrong. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment featuring up-and-coming sous chefs from around the city!

For some great photos, check out The Food Junkie Chronicles.

Advertisements

One Response to “Death Row Meals Supper Club: Taco Madness!”

  1. J February 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Great company, great food, can’t ask for anything more (maybe more ducktopus” tacos)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: