Above: At the Austin Ale House, Chef Emilio Oliva is making tortillas and refried beans using extra-virgin olive oil instead of lard. Currently, the pulled pork tacos are a speciality item. If he made them a regular item, I might have to eat there once a day.
To hear Chef Emilio Oliva tell the story, the taqueros who work on the famous Calle del Taco — where taquerías line the street — in his native Reynosa, Mexico, risk their lives daily.
“I come from a town of men and mice,” he told me.
The patrons of the calle, he said, are often armed and if they don’t like your cooking, they might decide to end your career right then and there.
His advice for the taqueros of this rough border town (on the Texan frontier)?
“If you can’t cook a good greasy taco, you might as well go to Wisconsin and pick cotton.”
The tacos chef Emilio is serving up at the newly opened Austin Ale House are greasy but only lightly so: he’s been making his tortillas with extra-virgin olive oil instead of lard. The same holds for his refried beans, sprinkled with crumbled feta instead of queso fresco.
To borrow Emilio’s phrase, the olive oil-fired taco stuffed with pulled pork and drizzled with housemade Chipotle sauce was “abso-fucking-lutely” delicious last night.
Emilio (left) and his partner, LA celebrity restaurateur and super groovy dude Spoon Singh (right), are friends of one of my best and closest childhood friends. And so when Spoon reached out over the weekend and invited me to come down for dinner (after we put Georgia P to bed), sweet mommy Tracie P said, “go have a beer with your friends” (because once Baby P 2013 gets here, and she could be here any day now, there ain’t gonna be no beer-getting with your buddies).
After only three months up and running, Spoon and Emilio are still trying to figure out their place in the Austin gastronomic scene. But if chef Emilio’s brilliant approach to Mexican food is any indication of what he has in store for the River City, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll do alright…
Bouncing around the internets this morning, I found a poster (below) for last year’s “Festival del Taco” on the Calle del Taco in Reynosa. I’m tied up with family matters this summer, but if they do it again in 2014, I am SO THERE! The festival benefits women with cancer.