The Food Column: Prepping my Tastebuds for 2021

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When asked by my editor to write a year-end review about the “best thing I ate in 2020,” I explained to her that almost everything I eat is the best thing I ever ate—at that given time. There isn’t just one thing that stands out, and same goes for my cooking and recipes. I’m a good cook and like my cooking so there have been very few meals I’ve made that haven’t been outstandingly awesome. So, instead of looking back and writing about my past eating exploits, it was decided I look to the future and discuss gastronomical adventures I’m looking forward to. 

There are quite a few places where I’ve been wanting to eat, but I’m having a hard time convincing my vegan husband Jeff to try (mainly as their vegan options are few and far between and/or non-existent)—however—promises have be made and, come 2021, I expect to be enjoying some tasty vittles!

Fist on my list is La Azteca on Chevy Chase Drive in Los Angeles. Jeff discovered it while working and said it was my kinda place. After checking it out online, I concurred. It’s a small, family-run restaurant serving traditional Mexican dishes with Oaxacan influence. My mind, eyes and belly are set on having the embarrada with chicharrón and green salsa. It’s a large homemade corn tortilla smeared with beans and sauce and filled with fried pork skin. For me, chicharrónes are as close to ambrosia as I’ll be getting here on earth. I mean, what’s better then crispy fried pork skin? Absolutely nothing. Well, except bacon, but I digress.

Second on my list, an Afro-Mexican restaurant in Bell Gardens: Tamales Elena y Antojitos. They opened this summer and are also family run. Jeff is all in for this one as they offer vegan pozole and tamales. I’ll be having the lengua with plantains, a few banana leaf-wrapped tamales, pork in red sauce, chicken in green sauce and maybe a brown sugar cane tamal for dessert. Just can’t wait!

Randomly placed on this imaginary list of places I have to eat at in 2021 is Pikunico. On my never-ending quest to find gluten-free fried chicken I discovered Pikunico, on S. Alameda, Downtown LA. It’s a Japanese eatery specializing in “picnic”-style food, hence the gluten-free fried chicken I’m dying to try, along with slaw, pickles and bowls. It all looks so good!

Stop and look to the top of this column, where I mentioned everything I eat is the best. I now think I may have over exaggerated a bit, because as I was typing this, I remembered the champurrado I look forward to every December. The absolute best is from Quiadaiyn, Jeff and my favorite Oaxacan restaurant in Mar Vista. It’s thick, chocolatey and slightly puddingish with chunky pieces of corn for texture. It’s made with atole (a corn-based drink), Oaxacan chocolate, anise, cinnamon and brown sugar. Perfect for breakfast, dessert or a cold weather treat! 

So, here’s to a happy, healthy and well-fed 2021!