Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rainy Day in Yucaipa

For a morning in late May, the Inland Empire (California, just to clear things up) was pretty clammy. And Einstein here, who has taught everyone from children to adults in his day job, forgot to bring a hat or umbrella to shield himself from the cold, cold rain. It was almost like Amsterdam in March, only 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer.

That still did not stop me from walking the vast expense of Yucaipa Blvd, which I have never done. Not counting my friend's house (where I am staying), I walked - solely because I felt like it - from Lupita's Mexican Fast Food to the Green Valley Produce Market.

I lived for a few years near Yucaipa, so I am a bit more familiar with it than most Bawlamorons. But I have never been to Lupita's. It's just one of those places you pass by often but never go into. It's not an ominous place. It's just one of those places you look at and you think "Eh, some other time I guess. Oooh, enchiladas up ahead!" even though this place probably has 'em too.

Lupita's is cheery and bright inside, even at 9:00 in the morning - and I wasn't sure what they would have available to order this early. Their menu is the standard yet expansive (not expensive, but expansive) selection of Mexican offerings: huaraches, tacos, tamales, tostadas, ceviche, etc., made of fish, pork, carne asada, lengua, chicken, shrimp, everything. Lupita's also offers a burger combo. Not that you can't find burgers in Mexico, because, believe me, you can. It's quite easy to find lunch carts on the main streets of most cities selling not just tacos but hot dogs and burgers. I got one in Morelia in 2000 that had shredded carrot on it. An odd choice on my part, I know, for only 4 pesos ($4 - they use the dollar sign, too). At the time it went for, oh, 50 cents US. But I'm getting off track here.

I hemmed and hawed and finally ordered two tamales ($1.40 each) - one pork in green sauce, one jalapeño and cheese in red sauce.

The jalapeño and cheese...

...and the pork tamale.

I loved the latter one and saved some of it for later. The pork in the other one was a little dry but the tamale overall was still pretty good. Both tamales were filled with moist and flavorful masa filling wrapped around their star ingredients, but the masa itself was the star, I think. The red sauce was sharp, tangy and tomato-ey, a little spicy, and very good. The green sauce was a spicy tomatillo sauce, again tasty. Along with those I got a refreshing cup of horchata (about $1) and a Mexican candy (another $1), which tasted like brown sugar fudge but was cookie shaped. Total cost for everything: about $5.50 (eat that, Manchu Wok).

After enduring 2.6 miles of the rain, a little hail, sunshine and a newspaper headline in the LA Times breaking the news that American Airlines is now going to charge you $15 just to check one piece of luggage (!), I stopped by the Green Valley Produce, a popular farmer's market in Yucaipa that I frequented when I lived in nearby Redlands. It provides Yucaipa's easiest access to the Inland's freshest produce. There is a wide selection of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, from fresh garlic (35 cents a head or 75 cents for 5, grown just up the 10 Freeway) and Coachella sweet white corn (4 for $1) to Haas avocados (didn't catch the price) and peaches ($1.49 per pound), to shrink-wrapped packages of flax seeds, honey-dipped pineapple slices, sugar and hot chili mango and a wide assortment of nuts. Bread, including that "rye bread that they love back East" and sourdough, and a refrigerator case with locally farmed and produced fresh eggs, milk and cheese are also on hand.

I bought a bag of peaches for Jim, whom I'm staying with, for $2.25, and walked back to his office, which was on the way.


Chodite said...

So how long is your stay in CA? As much as I love my hometown of Baltimore, my God I loved being in SoCal for the month I was there.... mainly because they had Carl's Jr. and In & Out everywhere! Best. Fast food. Ever!

Anonymous said...

As someone who lived in California, does Baltimore have any decent Mexican food? As a Texan moving to Baltimore in a couple months, I'm concerned about having to make a huge change to my diet. I know California Mexican isn't the same as Tex-Mex, but is there any good Mexican up there? Do they have horchata?

Kathy aka the Minx said...

Mmm...those tamales look yummy!

Anonymous - never fear, we have an expanding Latino population and there are lots of little Mexican restaurants in the Fells Point area of Baltimore.

John said...

C: I'm here until Tuesday. I'm not a fan of Carl's Jr. but admit that In and Out is a sinful pleasure. My fave is Del Taco solely for its tacos del carbón (no shredded lettuce, no tomatoes, no cheese or mayo - just meat, onions and cilantro). I should write about more of the fast food chains that are found in SoCal but not back East, like Weinerschnitzel, Baker's and (natch) Jack in the Box. Jack in the Box is another that doesn't thrill me. Like BK, everything tastes so greasy and fast-food-y, even though they have by far the best variety of any fast food place I have ever seen.

A: Not a lot of decent Mexican food in Baltimore. Try El Salto in both Brooklyn Park and Parkville. They're both pretty good for this area, though on par with an average Mexican place in Cali. The Tortillería Sinaloa on Eastern (it's somewhere near Patterson Park though I keep forgetting where) always gets raves. I'd say that's the best Mexican in the city. Oh, I've heard good stuff about Los Arcos and Blue Agave but I've never been.

K: I agree: with more Mexicans and Central Americans coming into the area, our Mexican and Central American restaurants should be going higher and higher in quality and quantity. I drool at that prospect. I also wish I'd see that translated into West African restaurants. There are so few in the area (I know of one in Woodlawn). You would think that with the rise in immigration from around Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria that we'd see more West African cuisine in our area's restaurants.