Archive | December, 2012

The First Annual Chicago Flour Tortilla Round-up 2012

6 Dec

Shouldn’t we all be a bit troubled by these Taco Bell commercials pushing Cantina Bowls?

gato-negro-mexican-cantina-bar-in-chapala-mexico-by-jay-koppelman

Let’s forget for a second the etymological implications of Cantina:

In rural Mexico, cantina traditionally refers to a kind of bar that is normally frequented only by males for the purpose of imbibing alcohol, partaking of botanas (appetizers).

Let alone, bowl:

1346636210155_7135283

…and instead focus our ears upon the culinary death blow La Food Network’s Daisy Fuentes deals to millions of madres y abuleas the globe over: “Hey guys (okay, she got that right) let’s lose the tortilla.” Por que? Plastic bowls tastes so much more delicious than Taco Bell’s consistently above-average tortillas? Surely I am not estupido enough to believe that’s what’s meant by this brilliant line of copy. No. No. No. In fact, what’s marketed is more absurd than eating plastic: Taco Bell now serves gourmet Mexican Food: a paradoxical culinary mystery flailing in my addled brain somewhere between vegetarian meatballs and non-alcoholic beer. Mira! Stick to what you do best T-Bell: stoner hybrid delights such as Doritio’s Tacos, Frito’s burrito, hell, bring back the Enchirito! For the love of lard, leave the “healthy” Fauxican (read: Guedo) delights to Chipotle.

I raise this now because to this lengua all culinary calles del Mexicana comida tipica begin and end in tortilla flats. And the further northwest one moves in this great land of ours, the trickier getting a hold of truly authentic tortillas becomes. This fact has more to do with the unequal distribution of raw ingredients. (Though no doubt Wal-Mart’s changing this as I type – for the better I might add.) But if what’s available in Chicago, we’ve got many montanas y rios to cross before torts – outside of T-bell – are as consistently sabrosa as those found closer to and/or across the line.

hotdog1

Since I’ve at last eaten through the undocumented supply I’ve smuggled here with me, I’ve set out on my own personal quest to find the next best torts available in Chicago. Channeling my inner-Goldilocks I judge and rate according to what I consider a flour tort’s essential tortilla-ish-ness. Granted, I do get that torts vary in Mexico in style, size, texture and cooking methodology (Example: Juarez abuelas use a press whereas Sonoran-style torts are flattened by hand.) and that there’s no accounting for taste. Thus far the torts I’ve tried look to be made in a factory – totally appropriate for Chicago –  – and are thus judged thusly:

Chicago Flour Tortilla Round-up 2012

On a scale of 1-10 torts are ranked on

Thickness

Texture

Flavor

Strength

Fold/Rollability

This number is totaled.

IMG_1951

50 = Mary Lou Retton.

0 = The Brawny paper towel lumberjack.

Pithy comments follow.

IMG_1952

 La Mexicana

  Thickness: 9

  Texture: 7

   Flavor: 5

  Strength: 4

   Fold/rollability: 6

   Total: 31

  Pith: Az-Mex style thin. Slightly chewy. Tad sweet. Sog up. Breaks when folded/rolled.

 IMG_1953

Guerrero

Thickness: 7

Texture: 8

Flavor: 5

Strength: 2

Fold/Rollability: 2

Total: 24

Pith: The label boasts: “No Lard.” This explains the pancake notes.

IMG_1954

El Milagro – Calidad de Casa 

Thickness: 8

Texture: 8

Flavor: 8

Strength: 5

Fold/Rollability: 5

Total: 34

Pith: The Wonder Bread of torts – and that’s a MSL good thing.

IMG_2229

Calidad

Thickness: 9

Texture: 7

Flavor: 5

Strength: 4

Fold/Rollability: 4

Total: 29

Pith: Extra starch: good for dress shirts, bad for breakfast burros.

 IMG_2387Trader Jose’s Tortillas De Comal

Thickness: 10

Texture: 8

Flavor: 5

Strength: 5

Fold/Rollability: 8

Total: 33

Pith: Trader Joe’s pre-made products can’t help but smack of that “leftover” taste.

 

IMG_2464

Trader Jose’s Truly Handmade Flour Tortillas

 Thickness: 4

Texture: 7

Flavor: 3

Strength: 3

Fold/Rollability: 4

Total: 21

Pith: Truly akin in flavor, texture look and feel to Trader Joe’s Naan Bread. Hmmm.

IMG_2476

Chi-Chi’s Corn Café Style/Enchilada Size

Thickness: 7

Texture: 7

Flavor: 5

Strength: 8

Fold/Rollability: 8

Total: 35

Pith: Spanish slang 101: Chi-chis = the fake t*ts of Chi-town tortillas.

 Conclusion: To the credit of all tortilla factory workers whose sweat and toil complete my burros, all these torts score slightly higher once seared and/or steamed. Still, all are a distant, loud, unending, mournful, aching, triste, distressed, anguished, longing cry from/for the Red Eagle.

Free me Mc Vicar! Free me from inferior tortilla prison I’m in….