Tortas Ahogadas Las Famosas

The Ahogada FilesMexico

A wise man once told me, a torta is a torta, and a torta will always be a torta, but is that actually the case? After a recent fact-finding mission to Jalisco, we can only say no.

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Guadalajara is an experience different from what one might expect from Mexico’s second biggest city. It feels deceivingly small, with short buildings and a relative quietness; a far cry from the country’s more touristy areas. Start exploring, and you will find a city of art, culture, and, possibly most importantly, food. Specifically, the ahogada, Guadalajara’s signature torta.

I’m not entirely sure where we tried ours—it was a stop on the Street Tour, a recommended three-and-a-half hour mural and art walk—but you can find versions of it all over town. And if you’re in Guadalajara, it is of the uttermost importance you do so.

(Update! It was Tortas Ahogadas Las Famosas.)

Two main facets make the sandwich unique:

First is the birote bread, which is solely baked in the Guadalajara region. It looks like a baguette, but that’s where the similarities end. Eating the bread by itself would be hard—literally. It was designed to be drowned in sauce to become chewable, which is also the ahogada’s second differentiator. After filling the bread with the standards—pork, onions, etc.—you pour the sauce over, and the result is almost magical. No matter how much you use, you can still eat the bread with your hands. Sure, there’s the option of a spoon, but I’d consider that a mere backup. I ate the sandwich with my hands just fine.

Any ahogada shop worth its salt will give you multiple choices of sauces, too. I went with a spicier variety, but a more middle of the road variety was also available, as was one based on beans. Throw in your pick of pickled vegetables, and your torta is something different from anything I’ve tried before.

It’s hard to really compare the ahogada to a regular torta. The concept is the same, but the drowned birote is the polar opposite of its more common sweet, soft counterpart. All respect to the latter, but going back to it could prove to be a painful experience.

Can we recreate something similar here in Seattle, then? Make our own equivalent, or something close to it? In the next few weeks, we will try. Stand by for your Tortillaphilia™ report, coming soon.

Bonus fact!

Ahogada is, in fact, Spanish for drowned.

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.