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This Week in Food: Maker’s Mark Holiday Tour, Batali Book Signing, Conversation With Michael Twitty

Maker’s Mark Holiday Tour
Crosby between Spring & Broome; Vesey Street between West & North End Avenue; East 8th Street & Astor Place
Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Maker’s Mark will stop at three spots in New York City this week, offering complimentary brownies and biscuits from Butter & Scotch along with spiced cider. While the goodies are free, a suggested donation ($5 or more) is encouraged. Proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, an organization which aims to end child hunger in America.

Taco and Tequila Tuesdays
El Toro Blanco (257 Sixth Avenue)
Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

El Toro Blanco is now offering a tequila and taco tasting experience on Tuesdays. Each week, guest speakers from tequila companies will stop by the restaurant guide guests through the tasting process. Get a load of poached lobster with corn avocado tacos or try pork with roasted pineapple. Wash it all down with tequila — offered as a tasting flight, specialty cocktail, or by the glass.

How Immigrant Cooks Shape American Food
Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Chefs Jonathan Wu (Fung Tu) and Mario Carbone (Carbone) will chat with food historian Sarah Lohman to talk about under-the-radar recipes that have shaped American cuisine. Reserve your $10 ticket.

Mario Batali Book Signing
Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle (10 Columbus Circle)
Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Mario Batali will be appearing live to sign copies of his most recent work, Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA. A signed copy of each book is included in the price of a ticket.

Holiday Celebration
Gansevoort Market (353 West 14th Street)
Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Gansevoort Market vendors are offering complimentary bites at this mid-week holiday celebration, with events throughout the evening like a graffiti art show and Christmas carolers. Guests are encouraged to donate toys.

An Evening with Michael Twitty
MOFAD Lab (62 Bayard Street, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Culinary historian and author Michael Twitty will lead a talk and tasting on the history of African-American food and its impact on food culture in the American south. Tickets are $32 for general admission.

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This Week in Food: Poole’s Diner Takes Over Txikito, National Taco Day, and Korean Cuisine Spotlight

Korean Feast Paired with Soju
miss KOREA BBQ (10 West 32nd Street)
Monday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Want to learn the ins and outs of running a restaurant? The owner of miss KOREA BBQ will lead a discussion — organized by Asian Women in Business — about what it takes to start a new restaurant concept. After the panel, guests will be treated to a multi-course traditional Korean meal paired with soju. Reserve your ticket ($95 for general admission) here.

A Taste of Poole’s at Txikito

Txikito (240 Ninth Avenue)
Monday, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Chef Ashley Christensen of Raleigh’s Poole’s Downtown Diner will be joining Txikito for a Basque dinner inspired by Christensen’s modern diner fare. Stop by for a four-course family-style dinner, a complimentary cocktail, and a copy of Christensen’s book, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner. Reserve your spot ($125 including tax and gratuity) here.

National Taco Day

Multiple locations
Tuesday

Restaurants across the city are celebrating National Taco Day with tacos galore. All day long, the Daisy will offer eight different types of tacos for $3 each. Tres Carnes is giving out 500 tacos starting at 5 p.m. Other eateries offering special National Taco Day menus include Tacuba and Bodega Negra. Finally, a couple brand new places to gorge on tacos include Gordo’s Cantina in Long Island City and Guac Tacos and Tequila in the East Village.

Vivian Howard Book Signing
Williams-Sonoma (10 Columbus Circle)
Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

North Carolinian chef Vivian Howard will take over Williams-Sonoma, meeting fellow fans of modern Southern cuisine and signing copies of her latest book, Deep Run Roots. Get your ticket ($43.55) here.

Opening Reception: [MA:T] AS IT IS 
Korean Cultural Center New York (460 Park Avenue, Sixth Floor)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Mix food and art at the opening night party of [MA:T] AS IT IS, an exhibit that mixes the idea of taste, nature, and man-made objects. Explore topics like the consumption of food, styles of cooking and sharing foo, and the kinds of emotions revealed through dining experiences at the Korean Cultural Center through October 27. You can also apply for the chance to take part in a kimchi-making class (October 6 or 7) as part of the exhibit’s many planned activities. Reserve your spot at the Korean Cultural center’s web site.

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This Week in Food: Culinary Sail, ‘Five & Dime’ Happy Hour, Trivia Night Tacos

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Ice Cream Social
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1
Monday, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

On August 22, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday! To commemorate the centennial, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory will temporarily rename some of their goods in honor of the NPS (keep an eye out for Strawb-Ellis Island, Joshua Peach Tree & Cream, and Rocky Mountain Vanilla Chocolate Chunk). They’ll also give away free, one-scoop cups and cones. The family-friendly bash will have sand art, games, learning stations, and a presentation by Bill Nye the Science Guy in the evening.

Bubby’s Five & Dime Happy Hour
Bubby’s Tribeca and Bubby’s Meatpacking District (120 Hudson Street and 73 Gansevoort Street)
Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Raise a glass to Bubby’s new happy hour special where cocktails, beer, wine, and food are all just $5.10. Both Bubby’s locations have updated menus offering a new burger, jerk chicken, summer punch, and more.

Clipper City Culinary Sail Featuring Delicatessen

Battery Slip 2 (Battery Park)
Monday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sail around Manhattan with a seafood menu (including lobster rolls, meatballs, and tuna tartar) curated by chef Michael Ferraro of Delicatessen. Guests aboard Clipper City will be able to take in the skyline with a complimentary special cocktail in hand; additional drinks will be available for purchase. Tickets are $100 for dinner and a two-hour boat ride. Reserve your spot here.

Tacos + Trivia Tuesdays

Fulton Market Building, (11 Fulton Street)
Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday trivia night just got a whole lot tastier. Cemitas El Tigre is offering a new special for their weekly game night; for $10 trivia fiends can get three pork or chicken tacos. There will also be beer specials courtesy of Sixpoint Brewery. Smorgasburg Seaport’s regular lineup of vendors will also be open during trivia.

Dinner with Roadfood‘s Jane and Michael Stern

Gargiulo’s (2911 West 15th Street, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Roadfood‘s Jane and Michael Stern are hosting a dinner filled with tales from their travels, from regional recipes to suggestions for finding the best dishes in America. Come with culinary queries, as the Sterns will take part in a Q&A, too. Tickets are $75 and include a multi-course dinner along with unlimited beer, wine, and soda. Reserve your spot here.

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In a Former Nightclub Space, Vandal Celebrates Global Art and Street Fare

Bill Hader’s Stefon no longer works SNL‘s “Weekend Update” desk, but if the nightlife reporter were to visit Vandal (199 Bowery, 212-400-0199), he’d be sure to report back that “this place has everything!” A hidden entrance tucked away behind a flower shop. A breakdancing bunny rabbit. Positively eye-popping décor.

A private dining room at Vandal

Fictional correspondents aside, Vandal’s very real celebration of global street art would feel at home at any of New York’s modern art museums — it was devising the menu to match that was the hard part. The approach that chef-owner Chris Santos and executive chef Jonathan Kavourakis took was simple: First, spend nine weeks traveling the world in search of popular street fare. Second, take a large selection of those dishes (44, to be exact) and use the best ingredients possible to reimagine them. What does that mean? Well, for starters, that a New York street-style pretzel is reimagined with Kobe beef and smoked aioli, the familiar charcoal essence here elevated by the luxe fixings.

Peruvian-style ceviche

“To be able to cook this kind of food was a dream for me. It’s not really ‘street food’ — it’s inspired by street food,” Kavourakis explains. He and Santos were invested in sourcing the highest-quality ingredients in order to refine the casual culinary experiences they’d had on their travels. “Typically, when you eat street food, you’re not getting the highest quality of product. You’re getting chicken thighs, or if you order the meat, it’s the scrapped meat that’s been stewed,” Kavourakis says.

At Vandal, grilled Chilean sea bass nests neatly inside tortillas; shawarma isn’t served sliced off a spit, but placed atop a salad alongside falafel croutons. There’s also a selection of pizza and large plates, including a two-pound whole lobster prepared fra diavolo–style.

Red snapper tostadas

“That’s the challenge,” Kavourakis says. “How do I take a taco that they’re selling for sixty cents that is delicious in Mexico, and how do I make it for New York?” The menu options span the globe, from the Midwest — Juicy Lucy burgers topped with American cheese — to Rome (cacio e pepe arancini).

The space itself, erstwhile home to the Finale nightclub, is equally expansive: 11,900 square feet, to be precise, accommodating 487 seats. Before diving into the menu, guests feel the watchful eyes of Andre the Giant thanks to a Shepard Fairey mural on the wall of the “secret garden” room. The work of British street artist Hush is also a focal point, along with pieces by Will Barras, Tristan Eaton, and Vhils, all of which, Kavourakis says, contribute to “a sensitive experience.” Somewhere, one imagines, Stefon smiles at that one.

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This Week in Food: 35-Cent Cocktails, Midnight Champagne, and Which Vegan Taco Es Mas Macho?

El Macho Taco, V Spot, 12 St. Marks Place, Monday, 7 p.m.

If the mere thought of chili cook-offs bores you, check out a meat-free matchup instead. Guest chefs from restaurants including V Spot and Taco Chulo will create eight different vegan tacos, guests will vote for their favorite version, and the winner receives a people’s choice award. A celebrity panel will fork over their top picks as well. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $55 for V.I.P.; the latter includes a regular or virgin margarita, chips and salsa, priority seating, and a meet-and-greet with the chefs. Reserve here.

35-Cent Cocktail Happy Hour, Louie and Chan, 303 Broome Street, Tuesday, 7–8 p.m.

To help today’s tootler embody the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, Louie and Chan debuts a “Prohibition Happy Hour” highlighted by a special 35-cent flapper-era cocktail. That’s right: 35 cents. Every Tuesday for one hour, guests can grab a drink at either the upstairs or downstairs bar before an evening of live music, burlesque, and other parlor performances. Each week the cocktail will change — this Tuesday’s features Bulldog gin — but the deal remains the same. Guests are encouraged to wear 1920s attire, though your everyday duds will net you the throwback pricing, too.

Tenement Talks: Hot Bread Kitchen, Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

Not all breadbaskets are created equal, as Hot Bread Kitchen founder Jessamyn Rodriguez will tell you. A nonprofit, Hot Bread Kitchen provides immigrant women with culinary training; Rodriguez recently authored The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, filled with recipes she has acquired through her conversations with these women. Tonight at the Tenement Museum she will discuss stories that can be shared through baking. The event is free; seating is first-come, first-served. Attendees may also purchase Rodriguez’s book at a discount.

Midnight Champagne Party, Corkbuzz, 75 Ninth Avenue, Thursday, 10:30 p.m.

Toast the impending Halloween at Corkbuzz’s Chelsea Market location with wine, Champagne, and the ghosts of grapes past. Drink specials include $8 wines by the glass, $13 sparkling-wine cocktails, and a 50 percent discount on all bottles of Champagne. If you want to match wits with your fellow guests, enter the blind tasting competition and see who among you possesses supernatural skills when it comes to sniffing out wine. (Those interested in participating in the competition must register in advance; find more info here.)

10th Annual Free Halloween Candy Wine & Spirits Tasting, Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit, 5 West 19th Street, Friday, 5 p.m.

Pair candy and wine at this (potentially) spooky tasting, which might just play tricks on your palate. From chardonnay and candy corn to rum and Toblerone, the folks at Bottlerocket will help guests figure out how to make the most of their leftover Halloween candy. The store offers six different complimentary complementary tastings that include instructions regarding what to look for in a wine when unwrapping your sweets.

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Favorite Dishes #64: Duck Carnitas at Cosme

Cosme’s rapid ascent to superstardom owes nothing to hype; it’s all about the grub. To earn its status as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, it uses more than high-quality ingredients; it relies on an inventive kitchen to reimagine familiar fare as something entirely fresh: crunchy tostadas topped with arctic char or eel, moistened by bone marrow salsa — a delicate, flaky fish enhanced by spices and fruits typically associated with spit-roasted pork. Each of these dishes would have rightfully contended for a top spot on our list of favorites, if they weren’t eclipsed by the mouth-watering masterpiece that is the duck carnitas.

Served in a skillet, this crisped, sizable portion of fowl, made for two, is probably the best date dish in the city — so long as you don’t fight over who gets the last piece. It arrives at the table with warm, housemade blue corn tortillas, and two types of salsa: a tangy, acidic verde, made with tomato and serrano peppers, and the slightly more picante salsa de árbol. The fajita-style preparation allows you to build your own tacos. Allocate ample chunks of moist, juicy duck meat, crunchy, fatted skin, fresh cilantro, peppers, raw onions; however you see fit.

The $59 price tag is surely enough to deter some. But if you get past the sticker shock, you’re rewarded with half a duck breast — enough to fill nearly a dozen tortillas with tender meat, sweetened slightly by an extended marinade in Mexican Coca-Cola. As savory as that all is, the skin knocks it up to the next level — it has a satisfying crunch of salt and fat that will make it difficult for you to enjoy Mexican food anywhere else in the city.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
#79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
#78: Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
#77: Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
#76: Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#74: Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
#73: Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
#72: The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
#71: The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
#70: Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
#69: Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
#68: Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong
#67: Cacio e Pepe at Upland
#66: Pulpo at Toro
#65: Junior’s Something Different

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A Victorious Goat Soup at Taqueria Gallo Azteca

The bowl of broth reveals more meat at its depths than can seemingly fit in the bowl. This edible optical illusion is consome de chivo, a simple goat soup served on the weekends at Taqueria Gallo Azteca (71 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island; 718-273-6404), one of Staten Island’s stellar Mexican restaurants. The broth is unclouded and flaxen-colored; bay leaves, black peppercorns, and garbanzo beans murmur at its surface. It carries the robust, deep flavor of goat, meat and bones, and though its color is blond, fistfuls of piquin pepper are thrown into the mix, catching at the back of the throat. It’s a victory.

The taqueria is on a breezy corner a short jaunt from the ferry dock, home of a former pizzeria. While cooks take calls for to-go orders, the carnitas pot bubbles away in the kitchen, stirred with a wooden paddle that looks like what gondoliers use to navigate Venetian canals.

On the weekend, the brief menu of tacos ($2.50), tortas ($7), and quesadillas ($4.75) lengthens to include tamales and fortifying soups.

Taco azteca
Taco azteca

The house specialty is taco azteca ($3), two corn tortillas griddled until steam fuses them together, topped with chips of beef steak, strips of nopal, and softened onion. The red salsa, slick and seedy, is painfully hot; the green is milder. Tables full of young men with even younger siblings lean over plastic, oval plates filled with tacos, eating, talking, unhurried.

A pancita, maroon and dense with simmered pig parts, slides to a nearby table. Everyone is ordering gringas ($8.50), flour tortillas the size of regulation Frisbees, folded over melted cheese and grilled meats with avocado fanned out over the top. Planks of pickled jalapeño sit on the side, to cut the richness. A mural that covers one full wall is a rich tableau of Aztecan history, folklore, and geography — but the edibles here may be the best representation of all.

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Campeón Gives the Sports Bar a Mexican Twist

Just in time for the World Cup is the debut of Campeón (9 East 16th Street; 212-675-4700), a Flatiron sports bar with a south-of-the-border spin — decor is inspired by Mexico City, down to the hand-painted ceramic tiles. Sports fans will be excused if they miss that detail, though: The place also boasts 36 high definition televisions.

While sports bars rarely shake their bro-y vibes, Campeón is doing its best to attract non-sports lovers, too: Vibrant swatches of purple and gold, sidewalk seating, and large open windows help distinguish the place from a dark dive.

Chef Juan Manuel Reyes, a Mexico City native who worked the burners at China Grill and Diablo Royale, is in charge of the kitchen here, and he’s putting out a board that includes bar snacks like guacamole hybrids — including one with sauteed lobster — and wings glazed in habanero sauce and pineapple. You can also opt for a “nuclear option” for those wings, which gets you bird coated in ghost pepper — they’re so hot, you’ll actually have to sign a waiver before you eat them. “It’s the spiciest sauce I’ve ever had,” says Reyes.

Follow up the appetizers with more traditional Mexican fare, like tlayudas (Mexican pizzas) topped with chicken mole and oaxaca cheese and tortas filled with grilled skirt steak or scrambled eggs, or Reyes’ lobster enchiladas, ancho bbq glazed salmon, or a Frank’s Red Hot Kobe burger served on a jalapeño brioche bun. Campeón is also serving a few health-conscious options, like fresh salads and tuna tacos.

Cocktails are predictably filled with tequila for the most part — there are about 50 versions of the spirit on offer, including fresh fruit-infused varieties like strawberry-vanilla.

Head to the next page for photos.

Guacamole comes with ingredients like lobster or blue cheese
Guacamole comes with ingredients like lobster or blue cheese
Wings coated in spicy habanero and pineapple sauce
Wings coated in spicy habanero and pineapple sauce
Finalista Torta with grilled steak, cheese, scrambled egg, onions, jalapeños
Finalista Torta with grilled steak, cheese, scrambled egg, onions, jalapeños

Can you handle the ghost chili? Sign this waiver and find out.
Can you handle the ghost chili? Sign this waiver and find out.

 

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The Four Best Non-Brunch Events for Mother’s Day Weekend in NYC

Want to celebrate Mother’s Day in a new way? Instead of taking her out to brunch like everyone else, consider one of these four events.

Tequila Park at Hudson Hotel, 356 West 58th Street, Friday through Sunday

Officially open for the summer season, the outdoor patio at this Hell’s Kitchen hotel is dishing out tacos, tequila, and a Mexican Coca-Cola cocktails starting at 4 p.m. daily. The menu includes off the wall items like sriracha cheesesteak tacos with quinoa chips and kimchi shrimp nachos, with plenty of tacos and guacamole available, too. The outdoor patio is also planning to have musical performances on some nights.

Community Eats, Industry City, 148 39th Street, Brooklyn, Saturday, 10 a.m.

If you have mom to thank for your Celiac disease, take her out to a one-day gluten-free food fair. This event brings chefs, bartenders, and purveyors together to showcase the best of what they can do without gluten, so expect to leave stuffed. Chef tutorials, music, and kids activities are part of the festivities; tickets are $20.

Hearty Picnic Pop-Up Cafe, 37 East 1st Street, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.

This one-week pop up by GiveHalf.org features dishes made in smaller portions so that you can donate the remainder of what you’d have spent on your plate to the hungry. (In this case, they’ve done the math for you — and a portion of the proceeds from each dish benefits the organization’s many hunger-fighting partners.) The menu comes from The Taste chefs Jeff Kawakami and Lee Knoeppel and includes cauliflower lettuce wraps and a curry chicken salad sandwich. Wash it down with beer and wine and then finish up with a baked sweet or a treat from Alchemy Creamery — it’s for a good cause, after all.

Spotlight on Artisanal Products: Baci & Perugina Chocolates, Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, Saturday, 2 p.m.

You could pick up a box of Baci for Mama, or you could take her to this class so she can learn to create her own. Students will learn how to make the infamous chocolate candy as well as a crostata and flourless chocolate cake, with a history lesson on Perugina thrown in for good measure. The class will be taught by Viola Buitoni, a descendant of the company’s founding family and a noted chocoholic. Tickets are $70 and include several Baci-inspired desserts and a glass of Prosecco.

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Here’s the Key to a Great Taco

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York’s best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we’ll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back Tuesdays for a new book.

Dos Caminos Tacos: 100 Recipes For Everyone’s Favorite Mexican Street Food
By Ivy Stark, with Joanna Pruess, 280 pages, Countryman Press, $24.95

“I have a taco notebook that grows fatter and fatter every year,” Dos Caminos chef Ivy Stark writes in the introduction to her new cookbook, Dos Caminos Tacos. “It’s stained with salsa and greasy fingerprints, crinkled from splashes of beer and agua fresca, and positively stuffed with menus, placemats, matchbooks, photos, and scribbled recipes from the many taquerias I have visited in search of the perfect taco….And I have found some stellar ones.” She’s also built a small Mexican empire, spanning six restaurants in three states, on stuffed tortillas and their ken.

We’d love a look at that book, but yesterday, Stark released the next best thing: in her second treatise on Mexican food, the chef offers the tasted, refined, tested, and tried outcomes of her taco-tinged travels. Find tacos, (¡por supuesta!) stuffed to the brim with traditional fixings (carnitas, goat barbacoa, fried fish), and newfangled mashups (scallops and chorizo, octopus ceviche, purslane, wild mushroom and nopales), all illustrated in bright, full-color photos by Noah Fecks.

Stark also shares recipes for salsas and sides, and a whole section on chiles, which covers types and the conservation of these Mexican staples. But perhaps most preciously, she shows you how to make your own tortillas, a skill typically gleaned by bleary-eyed gringos in some Spanish mama’s kitchen, where they must stand in the smoky hours before dawn as she pats out the day’s tortillas.

Yesterday, we caught up with the Dos Caminos chef, who talks “Beast-” v. “Best-” coast tacos, avocado season, and where to find the best authentic Mexican in NYC.

Coming as you are from California, and being in the business of serving Mexican food New York, what would you say to naysayers claiming there’s no good Mexican in NYC?
Uuuugggghhhh. All of the Angelenos in California get really mad at me when I say this, but all of those bad chain Mexican places came from California. [Until recently,] Mexican food wasn’t very well developed in New York; there wasn’t a real market for it, so therefore people weren’t opening restaurants and researching ingredients and looking at the authentic cuisine. Now that there’s this huge demand for it, the food is getting better, and there’s more competition. I’m competing against so many restaurants now, whereas before, it was small competition, so we all just have to keep getting better and better.

It’s also just the availability of ingredients. I couldn’t get really great Mexican ingredients 10 years ago; now I can.

How has the food changed since this upswing began?
We’ve certainly gone from very authentic tacos to chefs getting really creative and using crazy ingredients. We did bone marrow tacos a couple weeks ago as a special, you know? Just a lot more contemporary, cheffy types of ingredients.

What ingredient do you look forward to in spring, and how do you like to use it?
Avocados come into season in California this time of year, so we get that season happening, and I happen to love those avocados; they have this really rich, nutty, bacony flavor, and I grill those and combine them with asparagus, which is of course a great spring ingredient. That’s our spring avocado and asparagus taco! It’s actually the picture on the book’s cover.

How about an easy, approachable taco for a quick at-home weeknight meal?
There is an easy grilled chicken taco in the book that I put in there just for that reason; for a simple home-cooked meal. Most of the recipes are not too labor-intensive, but the easy grilled lime chicken tacos are definitely that.

Where do you like to go for a great, cheap, authentic Mexican meal in NYC?
I live in Brooklyn and I like to go to Sunset Park. All around Sunset Park there are just one after another great little taco delis, delis that sell Mexican products, and they’ll have a little corner in the back where they’re selling tacos, and they’re great, you know? Excellent.

Anything we should be watching for in the months to come?
Oh, definitely! We’re really starting to get into the season for fresh produce. And also, the goat cheese from Long Island is really good, we have some beautiful beets coming in, that asparagus, we’ll be getting corn soon, which is awesome…There’s a recipe in the book for pickled ramps, I mean…All of that good stuff!

What makes a great taco?
The tortilla. You can take anything delicious — you know, a great piece of bacon — and when you put it in a good, warm, handmade tortilla, you’ve got a great taco.

And where in the city would you recommend people go to find great, fresh tortillas
We make our own here at Dos Caminos, but there’s a place called Tortilleria Nixtamal in Corona, and they make really good home-made tortillas. And also, Tortilleria Mexicano Los Hermanos, [in Bushwick.]

Grilled asparagus and avocado tacos.
Grilled asparagus and avocado tacos.

Grilled Asparagus and Avocado Tacos
12 tacos

After a chilly spring in New York, as a chef I was dreaming of the great produce of the season that had been slow to arrive. When I finally came across some beautiful purple-tipped asparagus at the Union Square Greenmarket, I almost cried. I really wanted to make a taco with them. In Mexico, asparagus is common in the markets, and everything eventually becomes a taco! Rich, creamy California Hass avocados also make their debut in spring and are a perfect complement to asparagus.

Although the result was not a traditional taco, it represents how I was feeling — the Mediterranean flavors were inspired by a longing for the warmth of the sun and the coming summer.

Gently grilling asparagus and avocado adds a light smoky flavor to them and gets you out of doors.

Ingredients:

Refried White Beans
Cucumber Pico de Gallo
12 large asparagus spears,
woody ends removed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Fine sea salt
2 ripe avocados, preferably Hass variety
12 corn tortillas, preferably handmade,
warmed on the grill
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco

Preparation

1. Prepare the Refried White Beans and Cucumber Pico de Gallo. Light a grill or heat a grill pan until hot.

2. Drizzle the asparagus with oil and sprinkle with salt, turning to coat evenly. Lay the asparagus on the grill and cook until small brown spots form on the spears, turning several times to cook them evenly, 5 to 6 minutes total cooking time. Remove, cut them in half, and tent to keep warm.

3. If space allows, prepare the avocados alongside the asparagus. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocados in half lengthwise. To remove the pit, cut deeply enough into it so you can turn the knife; the pit will come loose. Peel the avocado halves, brush with a little oil, and grill them, flesh-side down, until grill marks appear on the avocados and they are warm, 2 to 5 minutes. Remove and cut each into six slices.

4. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of Refried White Beans into each tortilla. Lay an asparagus spear on the white beans, add an avocado slice, and garnish with about a teaspoon each of the Cucumber Pico de Gallo and queso fresco. Pass extra beans and Pico de Gallo at the table.