This week A and I encountered some new vocabulary words during our taco hunt. I must have missed the days we covered “Masisa” and “Cachete” in spanish class. But its not as if I would have remembered the words even if they had been taught to me. Over the course of my education I must have spent hundreds of hours working on my Spanish. Yet, all I have to show for it is a mediocre ability to translate objects (fresa – strawberry, basura – trash, lapiz – pencil), a basic knowledge of verbs (though I am forced to “live in the present” since I have no idea how to conjugate in past or future tenses), and a few phrases to cover for my linguistic lack (lo siento – I’m sorry, un poquito – my response to the question, “hablo espanol?”). Unfortunately, I am not forced to use what Spanish I do know with any regularity. But this blog is helping with that as recently as last night.
As we walked up to Virginia’s (vur-GIN-yahs) Mexican Restaurant we were already confused. We’ve passed the cute converted 1930’s bungalow that now houses the restaurant many times before and were attracted by its brightly painted facade and the neighborly vibe it sets as it sits between the many commercial strip centers that surround it. But on this particular night, an adjacent taco stand was perched just yards away from the front door. Had we stepped into a taco turf war? Would we be insulting one of the establishments by choosing the other? Luckily, the phrase “Es mismo?” (something like, “Is this the same as that?”, only without the “this, the, as, and that”) popped into my head and without hesitation I busted it out and received a welcomed, “Si, es mismo!” In response to hungry weekenders needing a late night taco the restaurant has created the equivalent of a drive-thru by setting up a taco stand for to-go orders (“Para levar!”: our first spanish lesson from blog post #1).
My one linguistic victory was short lived though. With no menu to point to it was just me and the taco lady to figure out what A and I would be eating that night. While not knowing exactly what I am eating is not a big deal for me, A is a bit more particular. And of course we strive to accurately report our findings to you, our dedicated readers. Unfortunately, I failed you this week. Virginia’s offers four different tacos: bistek/fajita, lengua, masisa, y cachete. While I was able to determine that cachete is cow’s cheek (a common ingredient for barbacoa) we have no idea what to tell you about masisa (IF YOU KNOW PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT WITH A DESCRIPTION!!). Also, we ordered two of each to take to a dinner party. I knew enough to ask the cook which ones she was making as she prepared our food. However, by the time we arrived to our party the plates looked deliciously alike. So, this post is kinda a shotgun blast of a review, trying to describe something we ate without knowing exactly what it was.
Two tacos stood out from the rest. We were pretty sure one of them was the cachete. Soft flavorful bits of fat were mixed in with tender meat and did not have the earthy, unfamiliar taste of a rarely savored cut of meat. Instead, the marbled texture of ribeye came to mind. The other stand out was not lengua, but thats as much of an identity we can give it. What we were sure of was the way it reminded us of pot roast in the way its chunks flaked off in tender strips, as if ready to be dipped in brown gravy and served alongside mashed potatoes and a parker house roll.
The ubiquitous red and green salsas were delightfully different, the green picante being thickend, as if with some Mexican crema or sour cream, with hardly any heat to it. The red sauce on the other hand looked as if it could burn your eyes if you looked at it too long, flecked with small charred bits of pepper and chile seeds. We dared try it and were rewarded for our bravery with one of the tastiest salsas so far.
As we left, the owner made a point to get us some to-go menus and tried to communicate something very important to us. With a handshake, smile and an emphatic, “Gracias! Perfecto!” we walked away with an invitation to a party at his house or an option for a caterer in case we ever host a houseparty. Either way the moral of the story is that sometimes going out on a limb, whether with an unfamiliar language (transforming vur-GIN-yahs to veer-HEEN-yahs) or a new food can bring you to delicious results.
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