There are many varieties of Mexican food. You’ll often hear Californians, from San Francisco to the valley to San Diego, arguing over the most “authentic” Mexican food—which town serves up a hotter habanero or a juicier carnitas, whether a tortilla should be slightly crispy corn or stretchy flour. But what does it mean, authentic? There’s Oaxacan, Yucatecan, in some places your empanada will be made with flour and others with masa de maíz, in D.F. they’re serving up romeritos, in L.A. churros, everywhere else chicharron with Tabasco … all under the generic label “Mexican food”. But even well-traveled, well-versed Mexican food lovers (like you) rarely know whether the cheese on their torta is cotija or queso fresco or can taste if that pibil was truuuuly slow cooked for hours in a ground pit in banana leaves or, you know, not. So real talk, maybe what everyone means when they say authentic is actually just good. So let’s forget about where it comes from—Venice Beach to Veracruz, “Mexican food” is damn good.
Mexican food can be made and enjoyed by a variety of different people, in a variety of different settings, I take you to Zamas a few weeks ago when Chef Gerardo and Barman Extraordinaire Alex were paid a visit by the brains and the brawn behind Tacolicious SF. The weeks preceding their visit were filled with anticipation: a culinary salacious email correspondence included topics of sucking pig, goat, cucumber juice and habanero infusions.
The Tacolicious gang took some time off their usual SF grind, which currently includes working on opening their new restaurant in North Beach, to visit us at Zamas. Drink and eats specialists from the Bay Area, Joe, Telmo and Mike swapped secrets with our ¡Qué Fresco! kitchen and bar to churn out four days worth of deliciousness. If you don’t know Tacolicious, which you do if you’re from San Francisco, but if you don’t it’s a solid Friday night establishment on Chestnut near Fillmore to which you’ll give three hours of your life—one in trying to beat the system on the waiting list and the other two laughing and gracefully stuffing your face with friends.
On Telmo’s menu: suckling pig, goat BBQ and chilled avocado soup. Mike made use of local ingredients such as passion fruit and fresh coconut water and shook things up with Alex behind the bar, procuring a pineapple-habanero infused tequila that, let’s just say, we didn’t hate it.
With T-lish came Donnie Masterton from The Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende.
Beginning at age 15, Masterton earned his stripes as apprentice under chef David Bouley at New York’s Montrachet and it was then that he knew he was to be a chef. He went on to become Chef de Cuisine at Bice, Beverly Hills, The Hay Adams Hotel in D.C. and at the renowned Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. He moved west to Hollywood to work for Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group as Executive Chef, running the 18,000-seat Hollywood Bowl, then to the Bay Area where he opened Azie. Moving to San Miguel de Allende in 2005 was the culmination of his dream to live a simpler life. It was in the charming, much beloved artistic town of San Miguel de Allende that Donnie’s passion for food and wine evolved into The Restaurant. So if you didn’t know about Donnie, now you know.
While in Tulum, Telmo shared his passion for spear fishing with Antonio from Zamas and Mike was off on the paddleboard in the warm Caribbean surf. At home, Mike lives right near Ocean beach and goes out three times a week to catch the best waves. Donnie and his two beautiful daughters and lovely girlfriend enjoyed swimming in the ocean most days. We were so happy and proud that T-lish owner, Joe, liked Tulum and Zamas because we loved him and his team! The Tacolicious/Restaurant got on well with Zamas Chef Gerardo, who is hoping to find some time to visit them on their home turfs. Of course, GM Mara and Susan said that can only happen if they get to tag along.
We’re excited to incorporate some of their ideas on our menu. The San Miguel-San Fran-Tulum-combo was a total mishmash of Mexican food and, regardless of its confused authenticity and origin, it was so good. Thanks T-lish and see you soon!