Las Quesadillas Poblanas/Oaxaceñas

Ξ February 18th, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Beyond Northeast, Food |

Quesadillas de Hongos y Huitlacoche


“What better way to celebrate Presidents Day than to eat Mexican food served from a cart that avoids health inspection, paying taxes, and speaking English?”, I thought to myself as my girlfriend and I headed over to Echo Park for lunch. Now normally, I’m a taco man, but this cart on Echo Park Ave. just south of Sunset only serves quesadillas. However, your (or at least my) mother’s culinary standby when she didn’t feel like whipping something together more intricate, these are not. The tortillas are the first difference I noticed. Made from blue corn masa pounded into form on the spot, the tortillas add a sweetness to what I was informed was a typical dish of the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of Mexico. As the thinned masa cooks, our cocinera adds some cheese and it’s time to choose a filling. Our options are squash blossoms (flor de calabaza), corn smut (huitlacoche), mushrooms (hongos), fried pork skin (chicharrones), or chicken. We tried the flor de calabaza, hongos, and huitlacoche with delicious results and topped it off with an Orange Crush. Garnishes include a deliciously spicy red sauce, cilantro and onions, an untried green sauce, and nopales. Three quesadillas filled me to the gills, and at $3 each, they better have. With baseball season starting soon, I have a feeling I’ll be taking a few of these into Dodger Stadium instead of paying $5 a pop for the processed raccoon snouts marketed as Dodger Dogs.

Quesadillas in Progress


Debs Park

Ξ February 18th, 2008 | → 4 Comments | ∇ Highland Park |

Downtown from Debs Park

I’ve never understood New Yorkers and their unabashed love-fest with their city. The one time I visited, people were rude, everything smelled, and the only patch of green between me and southern New Jersey was an overhyped Central Park. Hell, San Diego’s Balboa Park is larger. Still, listening to your average Manhattanite, you’d think those 843 acres were Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Parthenon rolled into one. For a frame of reference, our own Griffith Park is about five times larger than Central Park. Still, this isn’t the New York vs. L.A. article that was passé when the Dodgers bolted Brooklyn half a century ago. Instead, I hope to extol the virtues of our own little “Backyard Central Park” in Debs Park.

Looming over the eastern border of Highland Park, Debs Park is a natural resource geared towards bringing out the inner Thoreau in all of us (including the only slightly stagnant west coast version of Walden Pond.) The park boasts over 400 acres of park, hiking trails, and scenic views of Northeast L.A. as well as the communities to our east in Monterrey Hills and El Sereno. As I walked my dog, families played on the grass, someone was filming a movie, and middle-aged hipsters let their dogs run free. To be fair, you probably will not mistake Debs Park with being lost in the wilderness as much of the park is tagged or developed with paved trails and concrete shade areas. After all, it wouldn’t be Los Angeles if there wasn’t that collision of the wild and the urban. Still, as I stare off my balcony to the slopes of the park, I can’t help but feel a certain fondness for the small dose of wilderness available within walking distance in a city where most neighborhoods lament their lack of green space.

Required listening for the Park: “On a Sunday Afternoon” by A Lighter Shade of Brown.


Ernest E. Debs Park.

4235 Monterrey Rd.

Los Angeles, CA




The Pond



The Park



Nuestro Barrio



Ξ February 16th, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Beyond Northeast, The Arts |


Met Performance of Otello
Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to receive tickets to the Los Angeles Opera’s dress rehearsal of Verdi’s Otello. To fully disclose my appreciation of the opera, I’m not a neophyte, but sophomoric might better describe my operatic knowledge. I’m looking for something I can sing in the shower or whistle on my way to work. While Otello doesn’t have the tunes that jump out you like other Verdi works (La Donna é Mobile and Coro di Zingari come to mind), it does contain intricate music, a compelling plot, and one amazing set. Adapted from Shakespeare’s eponymous play, Verdi’s penultimate opera traces the doomed relationship between the recent Moorish convert to Christianity, Othello, and his European wife, Desdemona. Besides the tragic love story, Otello also boasts one of Shakespeare’s most compelling villains in Iago.

Thursday’s performance was excellent with one exception: Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domás, performing as Desdemona, was “indisposed” meaning a director stood in for her and none of her pieces were sung. Nevertheless, Iago, played by American baritone Mark Delevan, stole the show with his captivating performance as the Venetian super-villain. Essentially, the night acted as an effective teaser that convinced me to return to hear the female lead. Otello begins tonight and continues with 7 performances through March 9th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Oh…and there is at least one song I’ve been singing all week: “Beva con me!” Just don’t expect me to be direct it towards certain Chilean sopranos anytime soon.


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