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When I'm on the elliptical machine, my show of choice on the boob tube is none other than "No Reservations." Yes, some may find it cruel to be subjected to visions of a juicy mortadella and cheese sandwich, dripping with fatty juice, being devoured by Anthony Bourdain while I'm working my butt off, but I find it somewhat relaxing and it takes my mind off the whole pain element of working out. Bourdain seems to favor street food, and the episodes that see him chowing down on greasy NY hot dogs or plowing through a salt fish and johnny cake sandwich in St. Maarten are my favorites. Filling, hand-held and simple. Isn't that what real food is?
This is exactly why I'm in love with the baco, created by chef Josef Centeno of Lot 1 in Echo Park. I finally got myself to his place for lunch the other day, along with my friend (who we'll refer to as Mr. Hollow Leg) to try these "global tacos." Made with a type of soft, warm flat bread and an array of fillings, they're wrapped in foil and meant to eaten with your hands. And in true street-food fashion, they're delightfully messy. Mr. Hollow Leg and I both started with "The Baco," (a.k.a. the original), which is filled with a mound of carnitas and bits of fried pork belly and cabbage and a spicy aioli. It was rich and savory and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
I opted for the vegetable baco as my second course while Mr. Hollow Leg went for the one with lamb sausage and a potato croquette stuffed inside. Mine had fried Japanese eggplant and a mess of pickled vegetables, which I loved. However, half-way through it, I was starting to feel very full; my eyes are clearly bigger than my stomach (though if I continue eating like this, it will soon catch up!). My dining companion, on the other hand, easily ate his lamb and potato baco, loving every bite.
We'd both gotten the lentil and farro side salad, and somehow I managed to eat most of mine while Mr. HL ate all of his. I have a weakness for farro, one of my favorite grains, and Josef makes his salad very much like I make my farro salad, with lots of vinegar and a few mild spices. Delicious as it was, at this point I was suffering from major food overload.
But my friend was gung-ho for dessert. Considering that food just seems to go into his mouth and dissipate miraculously into thin air, I can understand why. Of course he ordered not one, but two desserts: the chocolate mousse with sea salt and olive oil, and the strawberry and rhubarb crumble. I had about two bites of the mousse, which was very good and more enjoyable than I remembered it being the first time I tried it (before, the olive oil seemed a bit much but this time it really worked).
I also had about two bites of the crumble, which was absolutely lovely. The crumbly, buttery topping, the melting ice cream, the perfectly tart rhubarb against the sweet strawberries...how can one resist? But, in spite of my best efforts, I could not come close to finishing it. As my friend happily dug into the crumble, I was half way into my baco coma. Not a bad place to be, if you ask me.