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Hagerstown Carnitas Horror


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Restaurants & Bars Washington DC & Baltimore

Hagerstown Carnitas Horror

Warthog | | Jun 7, 2009 09:02 AM

Perhaps out of the normal range of the B-W board, but sometimes one has an experience that simply must be shared.

Last night, I was on my way to Hagerstown Speedway for some dirt-track racing action, and I stopped at El Paso #2 restaurant on Route 40 in Hagerstown for a quick bite as an alternative to the usual race track hot dogs and burgers

Big Mistake. Big enough mistake to the be featured opponent in the next Godzilla movie.

To cut to the chase, the chip and salsa were fine, the refried beans were good, the rice was fine, the carnitas were not.

I've seen two styles of carnitas over the years, presumably regional variations dependent on what part of Mexico the cook is from. One is a sort of shredded version - kind of like a Mexican "pulled pork". The other is also slow cooked pork, presumably from a cut like the shoulder or "picnic" but more like chunks - kind of like a Mexican version of the Greek Kontosouvli. In either case, Carnitas has in my prior experience always been a simple dish of slow-cooked meat, with simple spicing and deep flavor and deep color from carmelization.

What appeared on my plate was neither spiced, nor browned. It was the sort of pale off-white one would expect from a roasted pork loin. But that's not the odd part. Each slice was a neat and tidy rectangle, about three plus inches by two plus inches, and the outside edges had that odd shiny smoothness too them that often indicates a "pressed" foodstuff. The texture had that feel of real meat that had been bound together in an un-natural shape that left much of the meat fiber intact, but not quite in its natural state. This was clearly Not Right, but I was in a hurry, so I gobbled what I could tolerate and made a hasty exit, having neither the time nor the stomach for a debate on the finer points of carnitas, and why these were clearly NOT any sort of carnitas that any self-respecting cook of any nationality should be foisting off on unsuspecting diners.

The racetrack food did get the taste out of my mouth (I highly recommend the Hagerstown Speedway "hot sausage", by the way), and life went on.

The whole rectangle thing puzzled me, though, until a flash inspiration this morning, which leads to the question that might answer the puzzle - is there such a thing as Pork Spam, and if so, what color is it?

All together, in the key of C - EEEEEWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!