We bucked tradition this year by making a nice braciola for St Pat’s instead of corned beef and cabbage. I have a friend, Lori, who has been waxing nostalgic about her grandmother’s cooking. I thought I would give her a little taste of Jersey when she came over to carpool to the party with us. I had been planning on riffing a little with some parma ham and pine nuts, but my husband was in the mood to cook. So instead he made the more straightforward version from “Rao’s Cookbook:Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking.” He threw in some meatballs and sausage, just the way Lori’s grandmother used to do it.
We arrived at the party a little bit late, since I underestimated the time it would take to paint my entire body green. The club, Mr T’s, was serving specialty drinks for the occasion, including one that I thought sounded awful, as well as being in very poor taste. It is a take-off on the sake bomb. It consists of a shotglass of whiskey and Bailey’s dropped in a Guinness. It is called, tackily enough, the Car Bomb. I was advised, “You have to drink it fast or the Bailey’s will curdle. Yum. We stuck with Sierra Nevadas instead.
After a long night of drinking and rocking out we decided we needed a snack. Every region has its own version of “drunk food”. Here in Los Angeles it is tacos. La Estrella, a 24-hour taqueria is right down the street from Mr T’s. There are a number of La Estrellas sprinkled around the Eastside and Pasadena. Some of them are just taco trucks with permanent signs erected in parking lots.
The quality seems to vary from stand to stand. Rumor has it that the couple who ran La Estrella separated, and divided the taco stands in the divorce. Rumor also has it that they split up the recipes in the divorce, so some of the stands are known for their fish tacos while others are known for their pastor. We were at a pastor La Estrella. Everyone I was with ordered carnitas burritos. I went for a triumverate of tacos: Al pastor, carnitas, and cabeza. Everyone was impressed at my derring-do in ordering cabeza, but meat is meat. Pig snout and fish cheeks are some of the greatest dishes in the world. While the carnitas were average, and the pastor was fantastic, I have to admit I will not be ordering the cabeza again anytime soon. The meat was tough little nuggets with gelatinous bits and gristle. Really, La Estrella’s incindiary hot sauce is so intense that you can’t taste the flavors of the different meats – it’s all about texture.
The burritos are excellent, with fresh flour tortillas, a good balance of ingredients and pinto beans so large that this picture came out with a weird optical illusion that makes it look as if there are fingers in this burrito: