The night before last month’s chowdown and taco crawl in Salinas, I hitched a ride home with my brother and took a swing through the Alisal to see if there might be anything new for the group to try. We stopped at the Catering 3 Maria (sic) cart parked in front of Walgreens on Sanborn Road. With the addition of the canopy, this tamale cart has doubled its footprint on the street since my last visit a few years ago.
Catering 3 Maria cart and canopy outside Walgreens -
I had thought I’d try something sweet here, perhaps one of the gelatinas, but then I spotted an electric frying pan tucked into a cubby hole on the cart. When I found out that it’s used to deep-fry gorditas, well, I had to have one of those. The chubby rounds of masa are pre-formed and par-cooked, then deep-fried to order, split and stuffed with a choice of chicharrones, stewed chicken with potatoes, or picadillo-like ground beef spiked with little nubs of braised carrot and potato. I went with the chicken and forked over two bucks.
José stuffing the gordita -
Much as I adore the lightness of the dry-griddled gorditas made by Doña Digna of Mayra’s and consider her version the superior product, the full-on richness of the deep-frying combined with a dairy glut blizzard of cotija cheese and crema treatment of this one was so satisfying in that bad-for-you way. The thick white cornmeal cake reminded me of a Columbian arepa in mouthfeel and blank flavor. The crunchy exterior against the softness of the masa was a nice contrast, and William commented that the gordita shell was remarkably greaseless for something deep-fried. The filamentous, braised chicken in its juices was rather bland and needed the punch of the shredded cabbage, hot sauce, crema, and cheese. In combination, the whole became greater than the sum of the parts.
I was back here the next week with the team from Chow.com and had a chance to try the beef version. I think the chicken is just a bit better, but I liked the beef too. Not earth-shattering, but again, the combination works and hits the comfort meter.
The elote here is dressed more generously with mayonesa, and I’ll confess that I didn’t mind the extra goop. With the slather of hot sauce rather than chili powder, an ear of corn here is a wetter and drippier experience than at Sr. Valdez’s cart, and no less satisfying.
Gelatinas ingredient list -
“Outta the Back of a Truck”
Some of the best food in Salinas, California, is found on the street. Why would the city take it away?
By Davina Baum and Kate Ramos
Cup of Elote @ Catering 3 Maria, 6/2007 -
Catering 3 Marias post, 8/2005 -
Google Map of Salinas Street Food –
Salinas Chowdown Report: Venimos, Vimos, Comimos Tacos -
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