The Netscape-friendly hunt for the perfect urban food log.

Monday, January 19, 2004

I’m back home from a holiday ski weekend with a long-distance burrito trifecta to report. First, Miguel’s Cantina in Bear Valley – it’s in the same shopping center as the snowmobile rental center, and a faint odor of gasoline hangs in the hallway outside the taqueria.

The décor of the cantina itself is a little too Burger King for my tastes – preformed booths, “wood” topped tables – but someone has a thang for Spongebob Squarepants. A Spongebob piñata hangs over the soda machine, there’s a Spongebob doll on the cash register, and if you’ve brought kids, they can color Spongebob placemats while they’re waiting for their food.

Oh yeah, the food: it’s not bad, and about as cheap as you’re going to find at a ski resort. An $8 burrito doesn’t seem so ridiculous once you’ve paid $23 for eight shrimp arranged around a tiny timbale of rice and smothered in vanilla beurre blanc. (Creekside Grill at Bear Valley Lodge, but that’s a different blog.)

The beans and rice in my burrito tasted authentic and freshly made; my only quibble with the chicken was that it was a little plain. I was able to give it some sabor from the salsa bar – the hot salsa also tastes freshly made, and the mild is actually a wonderful lime/tomato/onion concoction. My Dining Companion had the red snapper tacos, which came dusted with lettuce and cotija cheese, and proclaimed them tasty.

The second entry in my burrito marathon is, technically, not from a taqueria. Actually, it’s not from a taqueria at all. I got a breakfast burrito from the Headwaters Café at the Bear Valley Lodge. (I think it was about $7 – I was barely awake at the time.)

Headwaters is a little bit of Santa Cruz in the mountains – the guy cooking the eggs had a nose ring and a tribal tattoo next to his right eye, the cash register girl had a heavy German accent, and there are two internet terminals in the corner. The burrito was delicious if very Californian: eggs, cheese, salsa and a little bit of spinach wrapped in a tomato-colored tortilla.

On the way home, we were thinking of stopping for Chinese food – I was, if you can imagine, a little OD’d on Mexican – but spotted a taqueria in the same plaza in Escalon where we once had some decent Italian.

Taqueria El Pastor, in the Escalon Plaza where the railroad tracks cross Highway 120, was a lucky find. For one thing, they had the playoff game on TV, which made My Dining Companion very happy. For another, the prices had returned to saner levels (about $4 for a burrito).

We ordered a vegetarian burrito and a chicken enchilada. Outstanding doesn’t even begin to apply – I was making little groans of pleasure as I wolfed through my food. Everything had a slightly smoky flavor from the grill; the red sauce on the enchilada was a work of art. My only disappointment is that I was so hungry and wiped out, I forgot to order horchata. (They also have Sangrita, a Mexican soft drink I haven’t seen since I was a kid.)

I put an extra tip in the jar as we left and grabbed a business card. I hope we can stop in again.


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