A few weeks back I was approached by Sheryll Alexander of Churm Media for help writing a piece on "new" Mexican food in Orange County for OC Menus, a special feature which shows up every quarter in OC Metro. Her article is available online here (probably better for desktop viewing) and here (probably better for mobile viewing). And if it's not available in print yet then it should be very soon.
Excerpts from my submission were used in the article so I am including my full submission here, but don't let that stop you from reading Sheryll's article however you can get it because it has a ton of supplementary info.
1. What is "new" Mexican food in your opinion?
It is food that holds its own and is capable of playing on the world's culinary stage. It combines a passion for quality preparation with intriguing presentation. It respects decades and centuries of Mexican family cooking traditions while adding a pizazz that is likely to come only from a professionally trained background. It may draw inspiration from other ethnic cuisine but always retains its character as Mexican food.
Why is it popular?
It combines the tried and the true with a sense of adventure. You can be safe and daring at the same time with it.
What do OCers LOVE about it?
It simultaneously satisfies their desires for elegant food while also tying into some of the cultural heritage of the county.
2. What are some of the trends in "new" Mexican food? What do you see as for the future?
Since starting my blog over six years ago I have seen an increasing shift amongst Mexican restaurants in the county towards sustainable, local and organic food. I would like to see this trend continue as well as unrelenting innovation. I believe we will also see chefs who got their starts on food trucks open up restaurants and become celebrity chefs themselves. This will bolster the impression that Mexican food doesn't have to just be street vendor food (though it certainly can be that), but can also be high class and elegant.
3. What are your favorite "new" Mexican restaurants/food trucks? Why?
My kneejerk reaction is to list Taco Rosa, Gabbi's and Sol Cocina at the top. Taco Rosa was one of the first places that gave me the idea that a plate of Mexican food could be something other than varying shades of brown. Gabbi and her husband are often traveling around Mexico doing food research and then returning to the US to enhance their menu accordingly. Chef Deb at Sol Cocina brings authentic Baja to dockside Newport Beach, creating a perfect hybrid of both worlds. In North County Matador Cantina and Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen are worthy of note. I was saddened by the loss of the eccentric Kantina (they had a great watermelon-queso fresco appetizer) and the more recent loss of the noble Taleo. I'm also looking forward to trying the new South of Nick's in San Clemente. As far as trucks go Taco Maria as well as Tamarindo Truck and Soho Taco are great places to start if you want "not-so-ordinary" Mexican food from a mobile vendor.
4. Please paste a short bio and description of your blog here:
California LA/OC native who had an even more adventurous dad who was always fearlessly trying new foods. An Irvine-based web developer I began the OC Mex Food blog in late 2005 to report on a kind of food I had been eating my whole life. According to the motto of the blog I cover "from taco trucks to fine dining . . . and everything in between."