Monarca Express

In The Great Seattle Taco Hunt we undertake tracking down the finest tacos in Seattle. Posted

Located at the nexus of Wedgewood, Roosevelt, and Ravenna1 is Monarca Express, a truck we bestowed the honor of being the first stop of the The Great Seattle Taco Hunt. A truck is, in general, a safe spot for these kinds of missions. Their baseline tends to lean toward the authentic side, which is something we can get behind. Additionally, Monarca has held a high quality during prior burrito sampling—we can recommend those without hesitation.

The hunt, though, goes deeper than a mere burrito, and for a tortillaphile, the adobada taco can be a fickle yet dependable friend. It is the type of meat that elevates the taco to greatness when the sweet spot between dry and soft is adequately hit, which is easier said than done. Dry pork is not a pleasant experience.

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Luckily, Monarca’s take stood firmly in the epicenter of where we like it to be. It had a pleasant chew, and the accompanying limes added a tangy zest to the palate. (Use limes with any taco when they land on the drier side—it can often be a helpful crutch.)

They also did not skimp on the cilantro, which we appreciate. The herb adds an earthy depth, though the amount could be too generous for those who tend to brush it off. Make sure to place your order accordingly.

The tortillas were unfortunately on the bland side and likely bought from a grocery store. They work as a vessel, but the spiced meat deserved to be cradled in something fresh and flavorful.

Overall, though, Monarca was solid. Maybe not a journey through the unexpected, but good and familiar, which is just O.K. with us. Braving a severe storm to try the adobada should be expected of anyone who takes tortilla-based cuisine seriously. Plus, they serve horchata, which is above and beyond of what we’d expect from most trucks.

1 WeRoRa as it is not commonly known as.


Movies, Music, and TV

You cover

It’s the age-old story: Girl walks into boy’s bookstore, boy falls for girl, boy stalks girl, boy breaks into girl’s apartment, boy kidnaps girl’s boyfriend, and… Well, you know the rest. It’s Love Story of our time.

Based on the novel of the same name, You is a Netflix-streaming Lifetime show, and it does everything you would expect a Lifetime show to do. It’s an over the top stalking story, filled with flawed characters, most of whom are downright unlikable to the point of them being social media influencers. Yow. When the most sympathetic character is the stalker-cum-murderer, you know you are watching dubious quality. And yet, it’s absolutely glorious.

I can only assume Lifetime was angling for Henry Cavill to star, but had to go with the closest lookalike, Penn Badgley, when realities of funding set in. It worked out surprisingly well. Badgley does an impressive job as Joe, striking a balance between creepy and charming. He appears in virtually every scene throughout the ten episodes, without giving the slightest wink to the camera, no matter how outlandish the plot gets, which is pretty damn outlandish. The production value might be higher than what you’d expect from Lifetime, but You is as over the top as anything Meredith Baxter has starred in.

How no-one seriously seems to find it particularly strange that everyone around Joe disappears without even a good-bye—ghosting them—is baffling at best. You would think somebody, somehow would question why a serious number of his girlfriends’ acquaintances are victims of gruesome accidents. You really don’t have to be Columbo to figure this one out.

Yes, You is high-concept, but entertaining it is none-the-less. It is presented in the type of slickness one would expect from the producers of Riverdale, and the cast gives performances one wouldn’t or shouldn’t expect from anything of You’s pedigree. If there ever was a guilty pleasure, You is it, to the point where their dignified statesman of special guest stars is John Stamos. That’s right—Ray Wise and Steven Weber have been replaced by Uncle Jesse. That’s a statement in itself.

Inexplicably, You has been renewed for a second season, and I have no idea where they can go with it. No matter, I’ll be there, binge-watching the crap out of, getting sucked further and further into a vortex of Lifetime lore.


Zaina and the Greek poutine


Once in a while, not often, but now and again, I look at humanity and am struck by the beauty it has created: Mona Lisa. Guernica. Vertigo. Greek poutine. That’s right. Greek poutine. In what might be the monumental achievement of man, Zaina has taken the Canadian dish and married it with the gyro. It’s beautiful.

For the uninitiated, poutine is a combination of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. It shouldn’t work, but it does, and very well at that. I can only speculate, but I assume Zaina looked at the dish and said, we can do better. And better they did…

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It is everything it should be: Fries are topped with gyro meat, and the curds and gravy have been substituted with feta and tzatziki. I’m sure there are some French-Canadians that are less thrilled about this, but when that garlic hits—and it does—any impending declarations of war will promptly be forgotten.

Canada can give itself a pat on the back for introducing the world to poutine. Now the victory lap has started. Job well done, and Zaina’s gyro fries are Greece’s greatest contribution to culture since Acropolis.


Movies, Music, and TV

Rams cover

If you like design of any sort, odds are you at the very least respect Dieter Rams. At the German appliance company Braun, he led the design of products that still are iconic, not just because they look good, but because they define how we can and should work with appliances today. For all intents and purposes, I doubt we can improve on the Braun ET66, as far as a pocket calculator goes.

It’s surprising it has taken this long for someone to make a documentary about the man. Product design has gone from being du jour to something that is expected these days. Apple (and Rams acolyte Jony Ive) ushered in the modern era, and even companies like Microsoft has started taking design seriously1 over the last half-decade or so. Would any of this have happened without Rams? Maybe, maybe not, but there is no denying his impact on our contemporary world.

Gary Hustwit was the right person to make the movie. His work on Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized is very much a part of our design zeitgeist, and Kickstarting Rams was a no-brainer for me. Not surprisingly, the documentary places itself well into his canon. It’s a fascinating and inspiring movie.

Rams is formed in the type of simplicity its namesake has been a steward of for almost sixty years. We learn about Rams’s history from being a young architect, through his forty years with Braun, to his current work with Vitsœ. He talks about his philosophies (captured in his Good Design principles) as well as his opinions on contemporary design.

One particularly amusing scene shows Rams in an Apple Store, with his voiceover lamenting how products today aren’t designed to last; it’s easier to buy a new model than getting the current one fixed. I’m willing to bet a large percentage of Rams’s audience is made up of the very people who design those products.

It’s a good documentary, then, and a must view for anyone who has an interest in design, or those who just wants to learn a bit more about why the world around us looks like it does.

1 Though nice as the Surface may be, it’s close to all for naught as it doesn’t run an operating system that can handle the touch interface the hardware was designed for.