Friday, December 17, 2010

Fuel City Tacos- Dallas, Texas

Lemme tell you, nothing can compare to an authentic mexican taco. I'm talking the real deal. Not that imitation, plasticized, American stuff. I want the tacos straight from Mexico. So, since I live in a Mexico bordering state, I thought I should be privy to a spot that would cater to these specific needs. I did some research and discovered my tacos on industrial boulevard in Dallas, at a ginormous filling station.

Bienvenido a Fuel City Tacos!

I always seem to find solid tacos at watering holes, unsanitary alcoves and eclectic establishments that should be shut down by the Health Department. So, when I heard some of the best tacos Dallas had to offer were in a 24-hour gas station, I knew they had to be stellar. I jumped in my car and headed toward the hood. After passing the jail and an illegal bordello with an adjoining bail bond, I arrived at Fuel City. It is tucked away under interstate 35 and looks like a large log cabin that is overrun by those Emily Post would not approve. Personally, this gas station is one of the most fascinating establishments I have ever seen! It has a taco stand, gas pumps, a beer depot, an inexplicable field of grazing longhorn, a corn kiosk and a swimming pool. Crikey, I'm pretty sure they sponsor their own fútbol team!

I walked in the gas station looking like a hippie on vacation. I had on brown shorts and a tie-dyed shirt with a pair of well-worn sandals. I was also rockin' bohemian-teenage-baby-sitter-hair. It quickly became apparent to me I was wearing the wrong outfit. Regardless, I tried to play it cool. I looked around and noticed Fuel City was exactly like every other convenient store, except it was ten times the size and had ten times the beer. It was window-to-the-wall alcohol with the smell of tacos drifting in the log-style woodwork.

I was standing in the doorway, grinning meekly, when I noticed a cop staring at me. He looked like a Tim Burton character who administered beatings on the regular. Thus, I approached with caution. I made a peace sign and whispered, “Can you tell me where the tacos are?” He smirked and gestured to the back corner.

The taco stand operates independently of the gas station. It is a beef-scented catacomb with a concession stand vibe. The verbiage of the menu is minimal and there are only five lunch/dinner taco options: picadillo, barbacoa, beef, chicken and pastor. I trotted up to the window. “Hola,” the worker said drily. “Yes, I want three beef and three chicken tacos,” I replied in super crappy Spanish. I was hoping an attempted Spanish reply would grant me an extra taco or maybe even a corona. (It didn't.) She simply smiled and handed me the tacos in a white styrofoam container. I bought a Sprite in the convenient store section of Fuel City and shuffled outside.

As I was heading back to my car to gnaw on my passel of tacos, I passed a corn stand. It looked like a popcorn cart circa 19th century and was the color of a Eureka lemon. My curiosity piqued, I ordered a small serving. The worker opened a steam tray of corn and doled out a scoop into a small dixie-sized cup. The corn was topped off with a layer of lemon pepper, butter, sour cream, hot sauce and cheese. Then the process was repeated. An English trifle made with synthetic-fortified starches! I'm down!

I sat in my car and made a spread of tacos and corn.

Tacos: I admire the simpleness of these tacos. Minimal ingredients. Each taco is stuffed with meat, slathered in onion, drizzled with lime and wrapped in a thin sheet of tortillia. Hot sauce is served on the side in two varieties: ruby-red and split pea-green aka hot and mild. Plus, they are about the size of a Polly Pocket.

Sweet gunga galunga!!! These tacos are a terrifically delicious, regional influenced, bossy mexican delicacy. The onion isn't overpowering and the meat is tender with a juicy marinade flavor. The hint of lime provides citrus action while the cilantro balances the dish with an earthy twang. God, these are manna from Mexico, straight up.

Corn: I have always been a fan of corn. I enjoy it in all forms: cobbed, popped, creamed and even processed with vitamins and jostled into a Gerber can. However, if you are going to pair this corn mix with these sacred tacos, it should be topped with better cheese. This is not cheese. It is the dust you find in the bottom of a White Cheddar Cheez-It box. The corn should be blanketed in cheese that has been imported from Italy, made from the milk of a lactating Virgin Mary, blessed by Pope Benedict and flown first-class to Fuel City.

Fuel City will transform your taco eating experience from mundane to pleasure.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Cake Ball Company- Dallas, Texas

Earlier this week, while picking up some chicken-flavored ramen and San Pellegrino for brunch at Kroger, I noticed the Christmas edition of Food Network Magazine in the checkout lane. I was waiting behind three other customers so I picked up the foodie mag. I started flipping through it in the face of ennui. Nothing immediately caught my eye until I turned to the food news section. Two words: cake balls.

I was intrigued by the term “cake balls.” It sounded like a phrase that belonged in the X-rated version of Marie Antonette, “Let them eat cake balls!” Or used as an alternative to curse words, “Oh cake balls, I forgot my wallet.” I decided to buy the magazine and see exactly what these treats were all about. According to the article, cake balls are crumbled balls of cake, mixed with icing and dunked in a pot of chocolate. Evidently, cake balls are the new trend.
Watch out cupcakes! These magisterial confections are trying to take over!

The pictures in the magazine made them look like creamy, egg-sized goodies. The cake ball bakeries are located in Austin, Long Island, Tarzana, and Dallas. A google search revealed the Dallas location was only about 45 minutes away from my current dwelling. I was either going to spend the day eating ramon and watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit or go converge with the cake balls. I chose the balls.

I hopped in my Honda and headed toward the bakery. I was pitifully dressed. I had put on some Lucy yoga pants, a men's white under shirt and a pair of old navy flip flops. I figured it was alright considering I was heading to the ghetto that is Garland.

After getting lost for half an hour, I finally found the sweet shop. The bakery was housed in what looked like a condemned shopping center. I parked in front of the store. It was adjacent to a run down dry cleaners and a learning center for delinquent youth. I walked up to the bakeshop window and peeked inside. The entire store was about the size of a VW Golf. There was a register, a display table and a fridge that housed the treats. 

I walked in and noticed a Shannon Doherty doppelgänger behind the register. She didn't acknowledge my existence. This was awkward because, like I said, the place was the size of a tanning bed. I decided to troll the shop until she did greeted me. “May I help you?” She finally asked. “Ya. I want some cake balls.” I said stubbornly.

I ordered a couple of the top sellers: strawberry, red velvet and wedding cake. Shannon took them out of the refrigerator and placed them in a white box, emblazoned with the brown and green cake ball logo. I took them to my car and admired them. The actual balls are the size of a dunkin' donut munchkin. The chocolate shell around each cake is hard, cold and smooth.

Wedding Cake: This ball evokes elegance. It is an ultra sweet bonbon encased in a rich white-chocolate hull. When you bite into it, the cake mix has a weird texture. It is lighter than phyllo dough but thicker than nouget. Future bites reveal sporadic hints of pecans and coconut. Overall, interesting dessert.  

Red Velvet: Red velvet is my favorite cake! However, I don't like the ball variety. Red velvet is amazing in itself because it is served with a thick layer of icing on top. I love chocolate but I feel like it is annoying here. Red velvet and cream cheese icing are like a famous duo. Chocolate just throws off their chi. It is like when a bartender puts peppermint schnapps in a rum and coke. Don't do it. It's a rum and coke.

Strawberry: I think this ball taste like a dense cherry covered in chocolate. It's not cake, it's crap. Nothing special about it. Plus, it looks exactly like the cherries in a box of Cella's with drizzles of white chocolate stripes. 

I admire the trendy flare of these quasi-cake treats but I would only buy the wedding cake variety. Also, only serve them at snazzy events that cater to cash-flow cats who drink Cristal.

P.S. Don't eat them hot. I tried em' and they honestly tasted like a sugary loogie. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jacques Torres- New York, New York

Jacques Torres- Wicked Hot Chocolate

After I left the cookie haven, I decided to swagger down Amsterdam Avenue. I didn't even make it one block when I stopped in my tracks. I looked up and saw a beige awning with white and orange writing. I glanced at the window and saw the words, “Jacques Torres,” scribbled on the glass. Then it hit me like an epileptic, chocolate shock. I had suddenly come to the realization that I was, in fact, standing in front of THE Jacques Torres* chocolate shop. It was like I stumbled upon the hope diamond of cocoa, the freakin' holy grail of the sweet God.

I walked in and sniffed the air like Copper, the hound dog. It smelt like an ultra sweet version of a chocolate-laced pumpkin pie. Overall, Jacques Torres looked like Godiva's elegant and more sophisticated fraternal twin, minus the gold and black décor. The walls were painted orange and lined with shelves stocked with pre-packed, ready-to-purchase chocolates and Torres apparel. I had seen the shop on Best Thing I Ever Ate, where Giada De Laurentiis endorsed the wicked hot chocolate. It was surreal to be standing inside!

I was so excited. I had the entire place to myself. I approached the girl behind the glass casing, “Hello! How are ya?” I said. The stocky lil fille glared and gave a me a brusquely, “Hello.” She looked like the female version of Mick Mars and acted like Eeyore. I always thought this chocolate establishment would be like a real life version of Wonka's Factory but this Motley Crue, heavy metal, bitch was making it seem like a drag. I quickly decided she was not going to ruin my chocolate escapade. Pivot. (*Ross Gellar voice*)

I strolled the perimeter of the store, glancing at the champagne truffles, assorted milk chocolates and cookies. “Do you have any hot chocolate?” I asked the girl. “Yes. We have a whole coffee bar.” She answered derisively and pointed to the right corner. “The special is the wicked hot chocolate. Want that?” “Why yes, I totally want that try that!”
I said in a mockingly equivalent tone.

The loopy calligraphy font on the menu said this wicked hot chocolate was a mix of “allspice, cinnamon, ground, sweet ancho chili peppers, and smoked, ground chipotle chili peppers.” How could I refuse? I ordered the iced version. She made a batch and served it in a Starbucks like plastic cup. I sat on a velvet couch at the front of the store and prepared to enjoy my European treat.

Yuuuccckkk! First of all, this chocolate mud is NOT hot chocolate! Everyone knows hot cocoa is about the experience. It is a delicious memory that transports you back to the days of sitting by a fire and waiting for Santa. This drink is thick and tastes like the barista threw all the ingredients in a blender and served it with extra cornstarch. Even after further sips, the chocolate sludge only got worse. I did get a hint of the chili peppers and cinnamon but the ultra-rich cocoa was so overpowering it mostly tasted like a melted chocolate bar sprinkled with Christmas and caliente spices. I appreciate your truffles, Jacques Torres, but seriously---your hot cocoa tastes like shit. I am American. I like my hot chocolate with equal parts chocolate powder, froth, milk, sugar, and marshmallows. Oh, and no chili peppers.
(Most articles all rhapsodize about how amazing this chocolate gunk is but I still stick by my opinion: chocolate tar with hot cinnamon.)

*For all of you neophyte foodies, Jacques Torres is a world renowned pastry chef and chocolatier. He is French and most people refer to him as the “king of chocolate.”