Friday, July 24, 2009

Nixtamal in Corona

It's not often that The New York Times reviews something in my old neighborhood of Corona. I had been hearing about a new tortilleria for a while, but hadn't made my way over there. And then it started getting press, and I realized it was my duty, as a chef, as a wanna-be Mexican, as a resident of Queens, to go. And after our experience today, I could not be happier that I answered the call. Our stomachs rumbled as we walked towards 104th street, and to our surprise, Nixtamal Tortilleria was standing across from Jose's old apartment. We took it as a good sign. Our original plan was to buy some masa to go, and then come home and make sopes, but as we walked into the tiny, sunlit space, the earthy aroma of corn triggered an urge to eat immediately, so we sat down at a table. First came the tamal. The chicken was tasty, the red sauce was good, but the filling was of the least importance. It was the masa that made it. It was light and spongy, Jose approved.

We were about to order our tacos when the woman, I assume she was one of the owners, recommended the carnitas. Now who are we to turn down carnitas? We accepted, and two beautiful tortillas arrived, filled with meat and topped with chopped onions and cilantro.

The carnitas were delicious, not crispy, but full of flavor, with nuggets of pork skin hidden in each bite. The tortillas were soft but not mushy, they didn't fall apart like the store-bought ones tend to do. We ate in silence, nodding our heads in unison as we ate, perfectly content to be where we were in that moment. It was peaceful, quiet, our stomachs were happy, or at least mine was. I sat back on the bench and had a sip of my Sidral soda before savoring my last bite. Jose ordered another taco.

The tortilla machine.

This is where the carnita magic happens.

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