He Believes in Miracles

“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen. Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life, his life begins to change. Because he is certain that he will find love, love appears.”
― Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

Warrior on the wall of Bowls and Tacos, Dallas, Texas

Taken on the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride.

Oblique Strategy: In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

Snippet – from “The Death of Xaco” by me

The yellow vapors poured down the slope, choking the men. They all had rough masks made from torn T-shirts, but that offered scant protection. The decades of working in the toxic sulfur cloud did not give them any resistance – corrosive is corrosive. The men coughed and shook their heads, struggling to breathe. After a thick cloud passed by, Buelo pulled his hand across his bit of cloth and scraped off the yellow crystals that had condensed there.

The men depended on a network of crude ceramic pipes to channel the molten sulfur down from the vent so it would cool and solidify before it caught fire and burned – then they could break it up into chunks to carry down the mountain. The pipes were always breaking or plugging up and it was a harrowing, awful, dangerous job to climb into the even-thicker fumes and do the needed repairs. Xaco was the only man left crazy-tough enough for the job and Buelo could see his sharp eyes and wild yellow-crusted hair peeking out here and there, now and then, amongst the yellow clouds. There were three tugs on the rope and Buelo tied another section of replacement pipe on and tugged back three times. The rope jerked and the pipe rocked, then disappeared into the fumes.

After a few minutes Buleo could make out Xaco hefting the heavy pipe onto his shoulders and struggle upslope before the drifting clouds hid him from view again. Buelo smiled thinking of Xaco from their childhood. He had known Xaco since his earliest memory, from long before they had known or understood that they would all be sulfur miners.

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Bowls & Tacos

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Bowls and Tacos, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

I was particularly looking forward to the last stop on this edition of the (always fun) bi-annual Friends of Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride. We would be ending up at the (relatively new) spot in Deep Ellum, Bowls & Tacos. This is a spot set up by the fine folks behind another of my favorite spots on the other end of Deep Ellum on Main Street, Braindead Brewing. I had heard good things and was suffering from a hankerin’ to get down there and try it out.

So today, a group of us Rode the Santa Fe Trail (of course) then visited Local Hub Bicycle Company and Deep Ellum Brewing, before pulling into Bowls & Tacos. It’s in a converted gas station on the East End of Deep Ellum and we appreciated their ample and well-thought-out bicycle parking.

Their menu consists of two things, obviously, Poke Bowls and Tacos. As is my habit when I am hungry, I went with the first item on the menu, The Classic Poke Bowl, with: Ahi Tuna, Seaweed Salad, Sweet Onion, Ginger Soy, Basil, Masago, Crispy Spam, Sesame Seed, Avocado Wasabi, and Nori.

Crispy Spam!

It was so good I think it will be a long time before I get over to the taco side of the menu.

Not surprisingly, their craft beer selection is excellent and heavy on Braindead Brewery products – I went with their Red.

Poke Bowl and Braindead Red beer at Bowls & Tacos, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

It was all excellent and I will be riding my bike back again. Soon. Want to try some of the other Poke Bowls. Maybe even a Taco.

The evidence of a good afternoon at Bowls & Tacos, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Oak Cliff Bicycle Tour de Taqueria – Fall Edition

In North Texas there are two slivers of time each year – one in the spring and one in the fall – where the weather is passable for outdoor activities. The rest of the time the air is cold and wet or – especially – deadly hot. Right now, in mid-October, is one of those salad times.

Last spring – April – Bike Friendly Oak Cliff sponsored a bicycle tour of taquerias in their part of the city. I went, wrote about it, and had a good time. Now, as part of their Cyclesomatic October, a celebration of the nice weather, they were sponsoring a second helping of tour de taqueria.

On Saturday I rode in a bike ride where we toured a number of breweries. Luckily, I was careful to not imbibe too much, yet stay hydrated, so I felt good enough to venture forth on two wheels and pedals for a second day in a row.

I had been having trouble riding lately and thought it was due to bad hay fever or the ravages of age, but this morning I did some routine maintenance on my road bike and discovered a simple fault I should have noticed (the front tire off-center and rubbing on the fork) and didn’t. I fixed it, adjusted and lubricated everything and was set to go. It made all the difference.

However, the maintenance work took up a couple hours and set me, as usual, behind schedule, so instead of taking the train to Oak Cliff I loaded up my car and drove down. One nice thing about driving with a bike is that you don’t have to park close – which helped out in Bishop Arts on a nice Sunday Afternoon.

The tour started out at The Wild Detectives – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a combination bookstore, coffee house, and craft beer dispensary – what can be better than that? An establishment dedicated to reading material, roasted Arabica beans, and fresh suds on tap… I’m glad it’s a long way from where I live or I would be there all the time.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

Last time, the taco tour had five stops and a huge crowd. This go-round we only had three taquerias scheduled and a more manageable group – and I was happy for this.

Our first stop was El Taxqueño Taqueria at 207 W. Suffolk Ave – a nice restaurant with indoor seating and a patio. It’s right off Interstate 35 going south of the city – pretty handy. The owners were very welcoming and bike-friendly – I’ll definitely be back.

First Stop - El Taxqueño Taqueria

First Stop – El Taxqueño Taqueria

Then we headed west to Los Torres Taqueria at Clarandon and Edgefield. It’s a popular spot that has won best Taco Joint from D Magazine the last two years. It’s reputation is well deserved.

Los Torres Taqueria

Los Torres Taqueria

After Los Torres we headed north on a long downhill run on Edgefield until we crossed Interstate 30, then turned East to the rapidly developing West Dallas neighborhood off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

We stopped at La Gaviota Taqueria off the Interstate next to the huge postal service station there. I had never seen this place or known it was there, but it too was worth the effort to find and ride there.

La Gaviota Taqueria

La Gaviota Taqueria

Now it was time to head back to The Wild Detectives and we had to earn back the downhill coasting. There are some steep heart-wrenching hills in Kessler Park, and we earned our daily tacos fighting up them.

A great time. Next week is another bike ride in in Oak Cliff – the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial Ride. Be there or be square.

Bicycle Tour de Taqueria – Tacos of Oak Cliff

There is nothing better in North Texas than the few spring days when the sun is shining and the day is warm – yet the killer summer heat is still a little off into the future.

Saturday was one of those days and I headed down to the Bishop Arts District for a bicycle ride – a tour of Taquerias in Oak Cliff.

Our first stop was Cool & Hot at 930A E. Eighth St. – Streetview

Hot & Cool Tacqueria Oak Cliff, Texas

Hot & Cool Tacqueria
Oak Cliff, Texas

Bicycles stacked up in front of Hot & Cool

Bicycles stacked up in front of Hot & Cool

Cool & Hot is a converted gas station right off the Interstate – it’s mostly a drive-thru. It’s open 24 hrs a day from Thursday through the weekend – something to remember on a late night trip home.

Then is was on to Taqueria Tiquicheo at 110 S. Marsalis Ave. – Streetview.

Taqueria Tiquicheo

Taqueria Tiquicheo

This was my favorite stop on the tour – more of a sit-down restaurant. The regulars were there for menudo or other specialties – the sweaty bicyclists descended like a cloud of taco-eating locusts.

Taco Selections at Taqueria Tiquicheo

Taco Selections at Taqueria Tiquicheo

All the spots offered pretty much the same traditional selection of Mexican style tacos. This is the sign from Taqueria Tiquicheo. If you think of tacos as hamburger stuffed into crunchy corn shells – well, these aren’t what you are thinking about. Served in foil in soft flour or corn tortillas with a little onion, cilantro, and a lime wedge – along with the house special hot sauces.

The fillings:

Fajita – grilled steak
Tripa – Tripe
Nopales – Cactus (a vegetarian option)
Lengua – beef tongue
Chicharron – fried pork rinds
Pollo – chicken – one person said this was “surprisingly good”
Barbacoa – slow cooked meat, the original sorce of barbecue
Chorizo – chopped sausage

Next was on to Jefferson Boulevard – the main commercial drag through the area. The next Tacqueria was a very small, unlabeled spot with a small dining room.

El Padrino #1. – Streetview

El Padrino #1 on Busy Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff

El Padrino #1 on Busy Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff

Lengua Tacos from El Padrino

Lengua Tacos from El Padrino

These are the Lengua Tacos from El Padrino – I ate them on top of a newspaper stand on the street.

Then we rode off through the residential streets until we reached Los Torres Taqueria, 1322 W. Clarendon Dr. – Streetview

 Los Torres Taqueria

Los Torres Taqueria

This was the most conventional restaurant that we visited, yet still it had that family feel to it.

And that was about all the tacos I could take for one spring afternoon. I split off and rode home – a little overfull and a bit overheated. But it was still a good time.

What I learned this week, July 25, 2014

Love People, Not Pleasure

ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:

“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.”

Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write:

“I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”


Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Ashley Haire On Making Dallas Bike-Friendly

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

7 Big Ways Cities Have Transformed Themselves for Bikes

Bike lane on Yale, near my house.

Bike lane on Yale, near my house.


Deep Ellum Brewing Company's Lineup

Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Lineup

Life as a Beer Geek: The Lessons I’ve Learned

The Bourbon Barrel Temptress, on a Bourbon Barrel

The Bourbon Barrel Temptress, on a Bourbon Barrel


Posing with an S. E. Hinton paperback.

Posing with an S. E. Hinton paperback.

10 CELEBS WHO BIKE IN STYLE

seersucker1_s


Two Shark Tacos on the left, and two Mystery (Iguana) tacos on the right.

Two Shark Tacos on the left, and two Mystery (Iguana) tacos on the right.

One of the Dos Equis Taco Hotesses

One of the Dos Equis Taco Hotesses

The Best in DFW: Where the tacos are crazy-good

Professional competition Tacos

Professional competition Tacos


Here’s an interesting article about a little movie that I always thought was great. I didn’t realize it had reached cult status and was so hard to find – I’ve seen it on cable several times.

“Jesus Loves Winners”: How “Drop Dead Gorgeous” Found Cult Success As A Flop


13 Useful Tools You Should Only Buy on the Cheap

Taco Talk

This weekend we were at the North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum. It’s a continuation of the events associated with the Deep Ellum Market (such as the Filipino Fest last year) and the most successful so far. There were a lot of people there. Unfortunately, more people than tacos and the lines were too long (I’ll talk more about that later).

But still, it was a beautiful day and a fun time. At the side of the street, next to the Curtain Club, I saw a sign that said, Taco Talk – 1 PM. Looking at my phone, it was about ten after, so we went in.

Inside was a lecture put on by three taco experts. It was sort of fun being a couple minutes late because we didn’t hear the introductions and had to figure out who they were by inference.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante - the panellists at the Taco Talk.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante – the panellists at the Taco Talk.

First was a man that kept referring to his “family restaurant.” He was the supporter of Tex-Mex among the three experts and knew a lot about the history of that branch of the Mexican food tree. He said, “When we needed to revamp a menu, we would go to California, Mexico City, or San Antonio. Each place has such a unique take on the history and style of Mexican Food, you could find something new to bring home and adapt.”

I realized that his was John Cuellar, of the El Chico founding family. His family sold their chain and now he is responsible for a restaurant in Oak Cliff, El Corazon de Tejas – a place we will have to check out. I’ll let you know about it.

Next to him was a woman that graduated from the CIA and was the representative of the expert culinary aspects of the humble taco – elevated to gourmet heights. She was Anastacia Quiñones, the chef at Komali. After the talk, we spoke to her for a few moments and she gave us a card and a free appetizer – so… well, another place to go and report.

She talked about the wonderful taste of fresh nixtamal. Most tortillas are made from commercial ground cornmeal or processed mix. She said her restaurant was the first in the city to make fresh nixtamal – whole kernel corn processed with lime (like hominy) and then ground fine on a metate each day. All three experts said that fresh nixtamal produces tortillas with a unique and wonderful taste and must not be missed.

Well, there you go then.

The third panelist was an expert on all things taco. He was Alejandro Escalante – the author of the book, Tacopedia. He talked passionately about the wide variety of tacos available throughout Mexico and all the variables in tortilla, meat, and salsa that can be used. The depth of his knowledge and the obvious love he had for the form made his contribution something to be enjoyed and savored.

One interesting point they made was when they were asked about Mexican Fast Food – about Taco Bell and Chipotle. These are Taco Experts and passionate about quality food and you would expect them to rant and complain about the bland and poor quality of fast food. They did not, however. Mr. Escalante pointed out that Mexican Food, tacos and nixtamal in particular, are an acquired taste and Taco Bell helps people become accustomed to the food style. Ms. Quiñones agreed and Mr. Cuellar used the phrase that occurred to me immediately – that Chipotle is the “Gateway Drug” to real Mexican Food. I thought their attitude to be refreshing and honest.

They all three spoke about their first memories of eating tacos and about their “Desert Island Tacos” – what they could not live without. In high school, in Nicaragua, there weren’t really any tacos, so my first real memories of great tacos were from Hutchinson, with flour tortillas filled with ground beef, sealed with toothpicks, and then fried crispy. You would crack them open and fill with lettuce, tomato, and salsa right before eating.

They talked about what makes a taco (who knows?) and the close relatives of enchiladas and tamales. I thought about the Nicaraguan Nacatamles – giant savory concoctions layered with masa and served in steaming packets of banana leaves – and how I can’t get them anywhere (although the Salvadoran tamal served in local pupuserias does come close).

They talked about the future, about lengua, cabeza, and authentic barbacoa, and about how far can the form be taken. I thought about the Ssahm Food Truck here in Dallas and their wonderful Korean style Kimchi tacos.

They even mentioned puff tacos – which were really popular when I first moved to Dallas in the 1980’s. That’s when you take a disk of masa and drop it in oil… and it puffs up crispy, so it can be cracked open and filled. John Cuellar said there was an art to getting everything, temperature, moisture, oil, just right and if you had a sixty percent success rate, you were doing good.

It was a very fun and interesting talk. We spoke to the folks for a minute afterward, but they had to get set up for the judging of a taco contest. We walked out the side door where a handful of local chefs were preparing their contest entries – they looked wonderful.

A long ways from Taco Bell – the gateway drug.

Professional competition Tacos

Professional competition Tacos

tacotalk3

PHOTOS: Inaugural North Texas Taco Festival draws huge crowds

Yum! Chocolate fruit, zen pork tacos highlight North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum

The First North Texas Taco Festival (Photos)

The Day Tacos Ruled Deep Ellum: Recapping the North Texas Taco Festival

Recap: How the North Texas Taco Festival Stole Deep Ellum’s Heart

Photos: Omar Flores of Driftwood won throwdown at DFW’s first taco festival

Happy Chefsgiving: Anastacia Quinones


El Corazon de Tejas in Oak Cliff opens softly, with seductive mole on menu

Amazon – La tacopedia. Enciclopedia del taco (Spanish Edition) [Paperback]


Read: It’s Finally Here… La Tacopedia