How I Got Inspired at NYCWFF’s Tacos & Tequila Party

In case you weren’t aware, last week was New York City Wine & Food Fest. I was a pretty busy bee for work and, I admit, not really eating as healthy as I could be. It all culminated in one of the best nights of my life–the Olmeca Altos Tequila Tacos & Tequila Party hosted by Bobby Flay. And, surprisingly enough, I came away inspired!

I was at the party representing Latina magazine and The Latin Kitchen, of course, and was madly instagramming from both accounts the entire time. I also brought my friend Justin Schwartz, a fantastic cookbook editor and blogger behind JustCookNYC. Together, we went around with my very determined mission to try EVERY SINGLE TACO.

We succeeded (mostly) and I was honestly surprised by the sheer amount of variety that we found at this party. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, since the chefs were all pretty amazing, but trying all of the crazy, typical, fusion (and more!) varieties left me completely in awe–and even more inspired to create new recipes than I could have imagined.

In the meantime, as I work to get back to the kitchen after an utterly exhausting and wonderful week, here’s a recap of what happened (and what went in my belly!) at the Tacos & Tequila party. Trust me, it was all GOOD.


Salvation Taco: Headcheese Tostada with Local Vegetables en Escabeche. This was the first one we approached, and I was immediately drawn to how pretty these jars are. Doesn’t it just make you want to start pickling something?


Frontera Grill: Cochinita Pibil Taco with Modern Black Beans. Look at the team go! They were a well-oiled machine, handing out a surprisingly spicy taco with Rick Bayless at the end of the line. It was definitely pretty fun to meet him!


La Esquina: Mollejas with Tamarind Candy. The Latin sweetbread tacos were topped with a few different sauces and spices. My friend was concerned that one of them wasn’t gluten-free friendly but it turned out that we were safe.


Manzanilla: Pulled Oxtail Taco with Pipirrana Salad with Spanish Garbanzo Salad with Octopus and Tomato. I love this action-shot. There’s a lot going on at this table and, to be honest, this was by far one of my very favorites.


The Daily: Spicy Tripe & Chorizo Taco with Queso Fresco & Tomatillo Salsa amd Olmeca Altos Tequila Spiked Watermelon with Hibiscus and Lime. This DIY taco toppings bar is pretty genius, I think. I may do the same at my next dinner party!


Louro: Portuguese Surf & Turf Taco with Chia Seed Shot. Well, it’s about time that I got up close and personal with one of these babies, no? I’m sad to say that I didn’t go for the chia seed shot, though, because I was afraid of filling up.


Big Gay Ice Cream: Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream with Horchata-Praline Pepitas & Olmeca Altos Tequila Ripple. You can’t go wrong with some ice cream, can you? This was an amazing blend that we had mid-taco party and then again at the end.


Mexico Lindo: Braised Rabbit Mole Rojo Taco with Roasted Butternut Squash and Almond Saute. This is probably the best rabbit that I’ve personally ever tasted. Plus, the seasonal butternut squash was an ideal topping.


Kin ShopBrisket & Bone Marrow Taco with Crispy Roti. I absolutely loved this very cool take on a taco, with the crispy roti on the bottom. The meat itself was good but, seriously, I just couldn’t get enough of the roti! I could have eaten five more, I think.


Tequila Park at Hudson: Moroccan Veal Cheek Barbacoa Taco with Jicama Chayote Slaw. This was a good dish, and the jicama chayote slaw was actually one of my favorite side dishes of the night. I’ll definitely have to recreate this one!


The Bristol: Hamachi Tostada with Pandel’s Pozole Verde. Everything about this place was perfect. The tostada was gorgeous (look at them go!) and delicious, and the pozole verde was impossibly good. I’d love to visit this Chicago eatery.


La Cenita: Lamb Barbacoa Taco with Posole & Hongos. For some reason, as we got deeper and deeper into the taco party, the side dishes got fancier. I don’t think this was necessarily intentional but it was definitely a nice bonus for all.


Toloache: Crab Chilorio, Chile Ancho, Avocado Puree & Chicharron with Brussels Sprouts Salad. So much happening here! Well, actually, you can’t see the Brussels Sprouts salad. However, I’m thinking: wouldn’t that be a cool taco topping?


Barbuto: Oxtail & Tripe Taco with Green Salsa and Radish Slaw. It was fun to be at the Barbuto booth right as Jonathan Waxman was getting a visit from Aaron Sanchez. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to get a photo of the two of them having fun.


Buddakan: Peking Duck Taco. Isn’t this slaw gorgeous? I have to admit, I’ve never really ventured very far in the things I put on top of my taco but this Asian-inspired one was definitely one of my favorites. I am dying to try something like this at home!


Sueños: BBQ Beef Taco, Pico de Gallo & Queso Fresco with Frisee-Radish Salad.  Have you ever had one of those moments where you taste something that sounds so simple but yet is so full of flavor that it actually shocks you? Yes, that’s what happened!


Añejo Tequileria: Tacos de Barbacoa with Pickled Pumpkin & Apple Salad. My saddest moment of the night came when I got to Angelo Sosa’s booth and it had already ran out! When I asked him later, he said they ran out just over an hour into the party.


Dos Caminos: Pork Carnitas Taco with Honey Crisp Apple-Jalapeño Mustard with Elote de la Calle. This was the last savory dish of the night (when we went all the way around), and the Elote was absolutely to die for. A nice piece of corn, anyone?


Kimchi GrillSeared Spicy Pork Taco with Spicy Korean Rice Gnocchi. After we made the rounds, we went back to this booth which before had an INSANELY long line. Now it was shorter and I kind of loved the Korean-inspired taco. Like, a LOT!


Bar Americain by Bobby Flay: Pork Taco with Pomegranate and Pineapple. Last but not least, of course, we passed by the Host Station to try Bobby Flay’s taco. Definitely the best part of this was that it was wrapped in a lettuce leaf. I’ll have to try that!

I don’t want to spend more time writing everything about the rest of the tacos because, honestly, there were so many that it’s kind of hard to remember them all. All I know, though, is that I had a fantastic time that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And, perhaps, I’ll be lucky enough to attend again next year. In the meantime, here’s who else was there last weekend (including some of the cocktails!):

Aldea: Portuguese Shrimp Taco with Tomato Rice.

Balaboosta: Middle-Eastern Beef Taco with Caramelized Onion & Pomegranate-Tahini Sauce and Rose Water Lemonade.

Beauty & Essex: Pork Belly “BLT” Tacos with Crunchy Jicama & Avocado Slaw.

Corkbuzz Wine Studio: Duck Taco with Zucchini Salad.

El Cafe at El Museo Del Barrio: Mini Cubano. (They also ran out before I got there!)

Empellón Taqueria: Shortrib Pastrami Taco with Pickled Cabbage & Mustard Seed Salsa, with Ayacote Beans.

Kenwood Featuring Dale Talde: Red Cooked Pork Shank Tacos with Hot & Sour Fingerling Potatoes.

Lee Ann Wong: Braised Creeckstone Short Rib Taco with BQE sauce, side dish: ramen noodle salad

Miller’s Near & Far: Turkey Leg Carnitas with Three-Corn Salad.

Robicelli’s: Fanny Brownie Bites, Tres Leches Cupcakes, El Guapo Cupcakes & Peach Ghost Chili Cupcakes.

Spot Dessert Bar: Matcha Auki with Green Tea Ice Cream.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill: Mojo Short Ribs with Cilantro Crema and Arroz con Frijoles.

Tulsi: Achari Chicken Taco with Avocado & Pomegranate Salsa.

Plus there were a few things to drink, too. We had goodies from party sponsor Olmeca Altos Tequila (including a watermelon margarita, a paloma, a regular margarita, and another paloma), plus Corona and Voss Artesian Water from Norway (plus there were some truffle goodies all over the place from Godiva!).

I mean, what else could I ask for? All in all, I came away from the evening feeling pleasantly full and extremely happy that I got to try (almost) every single one of the 30 tacos available. I’m feeling really inspired by some of the more unusual flavors (like the Korean and Asian varieties, and I still can’t stop thinking about the crispy roti as the “tortilla”). I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and start cooking!

For now, though, this week I’m going to take it easy–sometimes after a big, long and exciting weekend you need a little time to detox. Good food aside, I spent all of yesterday on a juice cleanse. After all, I’m a big believer in balance. After an indulgent night (and you’re allowed to have one of those once in a while, even if you’re on a diet or a healthy eater like me), I’m getting back to my much-healthier habits.

How do you get inspired to try new recipes or cook new (healthy) things?

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