It was just a tiny bite at the end of the meal, a demitasse half filled with sweet corn porridge flavored with coffee and Mexican chocolate, the spices and scents so familiar from childhood, reinforced with heavy cream to flood the palate. In an instant the warm atole, served with a pig-shaped gingerbread cookie –an homage to a panaderia treat–transported me back to San Antonio. When-o-when will Taco Maria start serving more substantial desserts? tacomaria.com –Anne Valdespino
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Carlos Salgado Costa Mesa, Calif.
There’s a reason why Taco Maria, a snug, tasting-menu focused joint roughly an hour from most places in Los Angeles took the number five spot on Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants list, just out this week—Salgado is just that good. An Orange County native, he first blipped on the radar of SoCal diners after launching a taco truck back in 2011, his (to most eyes) illogical follow-up to decade or more of toiling in various Michelin-starred (Coi, Commis) kitchens up in the Bay Area. The truck begat the sleek little fine-dining spot where you find him today, and while you can still get tacos here, it’s really all about the four-course prix-fixe menu of what Salgado likes to refer to as Chicano Cuisine.
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Carlos Salgado doesn’t see borders. Or, rather, 2016 is the year he feels more comfortable crossing them.
It’s something he does both literally and figuratively as one of the main flag-bearers of Alta California cuisine, a creation of Mexican American chefs in Southern California who, in the last few years, have been fusing the skills and techniques honed in California’s fine-dining kitchens with the flavors and pride of their Mexican roots.
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