May 1, 2022
Delicious Tacos
It is almost Cinco de Mayo—not that we need an excuse for making and eating tacos. They are a precious part of our daily lives and make dinner that much more exciting.

Let's begin by giving you some of our favorite product recommendations:
We always have fresh tomatillos in our produce section as well as a variety of fresh peppers like jalapeños, Anaheim, poblano, and red chilis among others.

Badia's dried chili peppers are perfect for salsas and moles. Ancho Chili Peppers or (dried poblanos) offer a nutty mild flavor. The color is very dark purple to black when dried. The flavor profile includes chocolate, tobacco, coffee, and wood. And, California Chili Peppers have a smooth and fruity flavor that is used in a wide variety of Mexican recipes. This mildly hot chili, also known as “chilacas”, will add a nice color to your favorite dishes.

And, from La Costeña we have both whole, green tomatillos and sliced jalapeños in a can.

Rancho Gordo might just ruin you for other beans—these beans cook up faster, taste creamier, and have such rich flavor. Rancho Gordo grows beautiful, quality, dried heirloom beans that are fresh and have fantastic varieties. Try their Vaquero Beans, Santa Maria Pinquitos, or some prepared Hominy White Corn Posole.
We are simply loving Lucky Dog with their variety of flavors and high quality. Some sauces are simply hot, but Lucky Dog has a lot going on. They have a nuanced approach to constructing their sauces which results in complex flavors with respectable heat. Try one of these flavors: Brown Label—Ridiculously Tasty Mustard Chipotle Hot Sauce; Red Label—Med Sweet & Garlicky Roasted Pepper Sauce; or Green Label—Mild Fire-Roasted Jalapeno & Serrano Sauce.

We don't always have the time or inclination to make our salsa and guac from scratch. We recommend grabbing a couple of tubs of Chefs Delight Serious Salsa and Guacamole. They make great, fresh dips that are perfect for chips, tacos, and other Mexican dishes.
For authentic Mexican flavor, make certain to use Cacique. It's the real deal. We recommend these three products:

Cacique Oaxaca part-skim milk Cheese is a semisoft, white, artisan cheese made from cow’s milk that is similar to string cheese. It is great for melting in dishes like quesadillas and tostadas, and for topping beans and soups.

Cacique Cotija part-skim milk cheese has a strong, salty flavor and is mostly used as a topping or mixed into sauces. Cotija is a flavor enhancer and it is similar to Parmesan or feta. Crumble and grate it over beans, in tacos, or anywhere you want a bit of saltiness.

Cacique Crema Mexicana Table Cream has a rich and creamy taste with an ever so slight tinge of buttery sweetness. This everyday table cream has a neutral fresh-tasting flavor and is similar in consistency to crème fraîche. Its pourable, rich, silky texture creates a shiny, white lace when drizzled over your dishes.
To drink
Estrella Jalisco is a premium, Mexican pilsner with a pale, beautiful golden yellow color and a refreshingly light, crisp flavor with no aftertaste. It is delicious and easy to drink.

Cazadores is one of Mexico’s most popular tequila brands. It is an old-school, 100% agave brand that mixes well with fresh-fruit purees and spicy flavors. It blends well incorporated into cocktails. We carry both their Blanco and Reposado.
A Staff Favorite

Chili peppers add both heat and flavor to some of our favorite dishes. And, poblano chili peppers are a variety that we reach for often. This love of peppers is reflected in the aisles of our store by the variety of peppers both, fresh, dried, and preserved that we offer to our customers.

Poblanos are one of the most popular peppers in Mexican cuisine. They originated in Puebla, Mexico. When ripe, they are green with an elongated heart shape. The poblano pepper is not considered a hot or spicy pepper, though they do have a small amount of heat. Poblano chili peppers are flavorful, large, and their skins are thick. This makes them perfect for stuffing and roasting. In fact, they are often roasted and peeled for recipes. When dried, they are called ancho chiles.

Flavor Profile
Poblanos are sold green. They taste similar to a green bell pepper with a little more kick. Cooking poblanos mellows them even more, making them slightly sweet. If you allow a poblano to ripen further, they turn red and tend to be spicier than unripe, green peppers.

In preparation, poblanos are commonly dried, coated and fried, or stuffed. They make a delicious addition to salsas and moles. They are often roasted and peeled to remove the waxy texture. And, they can be preserved by canning or freezing. Their dried form, ancho chili peppers, are also extremely popular and form the base for many sauces and other recipes.

Do you want to try poblanos in a recipe? Check out our recipe for Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-Filled Poblano Chiles) on our blog, The Kitchen Table.

The Kitchen Table

The Humble Taco
Life is good at keeping you humble in big and small ways. My latest karmic reminder that I’m not as cool and all-knowing as I thought I was, came in the form of a taco.

I think I have made it obvious over the many years that I have been writing these posts that I am a big fan of Mexican cuisine. So much so that I felt confident that I had a better than average knowledge of regions, techniques, and any number of popular recipes. Imagine my surprise a few months back when I was introduced to Birria Tacos.

For something that is as ubiquitous and widely revered as Birria Tacos, you would think that someone for whom Mexican food is life would have come across it early on in the love affair. You would be wrong. And, since my introduction, I see them everywhere.

In case you are also one of those souls who is ignorant of the beauty of a Birria taco, they are essentially the taco version of a French dip. You start by making a rich and flavorful stew that you can eat as is. Or you can take the meat out, chop it up, fry up some tortillas, fill them with the chopped meat and some cheese, then grill them. To eat you dip the taco in the consume which is simply the broth from the stew and enjoy.

If you are wanting to try them yourself, I would first recommend doing a search for a local taqueria that makes them. Making your own is a bit of a process (as you might imagine) since they have to cook slow and low for a number of hours. Also, most recipes, like ours listed below, make enough for at least 8 people. If you are cool freezing some of it, then you are set. But, this might be better saved for a weekend get-together. The traditional meat used for this dish is goat. But, beef is just as popular. And, you can make Birria Tacos with lamb or pork if you want to be a rebel.

No matter which method you choose, I strongly encourage you to give these a try. Your mouth will be very happy you did…

News & Events

The SFJAZZ Summer Festival is set to return this summer with over 100 concerts from June 8th through August 14th. The all-star lineup features Gregory Porter, Pacific Mambo Orchestra, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, Chucho Valdés, Joe Lovano, Kim Nalley, Jane Monheit, Lavay Smith, and many, many others.

SFJAZZ will present more than 40 shows over 12 days for the festival’s 39th annual season. Performances will take place at the SFJAZZ Center’s Robert N. Miner Auditorium and Joe Henderson Lab, the Herbst Theatre, and the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

SFJAZZ Summer Sessions encompasses six weeks of programming arranged into curated, thematic weeklong mini-festivals based on the concept of the Great Americas Songbook. This theme takes the idea of the American song tradition and extends it to the entirety of the “the Americas,” encompassing North, Central, and South America.

Beginning in 1983 as a two-day event originally called the Jazz in the City, the San Francisco Jazz Festival has continually expanded over the past 39 years to become a globally renowned institution presenting the greatest names in music from around the world.

The crown jewel among American jazz festivals.
— Chicago Tribune

Tickets are now on sale! Learn more about the summer season and the complete lineup.

From our blog, The Kitchen Table

Say Cheese
My sister is a foodie just like me. Weekends are planned around baking schedules. Excuses to have a get-together are whipped up so that a certain cookbook can be taken for a test drive. Entire international vacation itineraries revolve around restaurants and the foods of far-off lands. We love good food. It is because of this love of all things culinary that she gets a rather large dose of ridicule for her love of queso.

You can call it queso, cheese sauce, or even cheese dip. But, no matter what you call it if there is a tray of semi-fresh tortilla chips with bright orange cheese sauce you bet my sister is all over them. The more bright orange and weird the queso, the better. So, it should come as no surprise that at a recent get-together there was a small, gently bubbling crockpot of queso.

The good news is that this wasn’t the queso that you pump onto chips at the ballpark. This was a different animal. This was queso that she made. And, fresh queso is a totally different experience. Yes, you might have to get past the fact that it is indeed still made with Velveeta—a product my mother only bought to put in our emergency earthquake kit. But, the results are worth it.

Real queso does not have that plasticky sheen and/or texture. Real queso is actually quite good and I will bet anyone that the loudest naysayers will be the same people who park themselves by the bowl and can’t stop eating it. (Guilty)

This is the recipe she made and it comes adapted from my favorite cookbook and restaurant Tacolicious. It’s one of their most popular items on the menu. Give it a try for Cinco de Mayo and see what you think…

A Cookbook Recommendation
by Sarah Deseran and Joe Hargrave

A collection of recipes for fun, accessible taqueria fare—including colorful salsas, tasty snacks, irresistible cocktails, and of course tacos galore—from the wildly popular San Francisco restaurants and acclaimed Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market food stand, Tacolicious.

Tacos may be the most universally loved, happy-making food on earth. After all, who can say no to a juicy, spicy Chile verde taco; a decadently deep-fried Baja-style fish taco; or a gloriously porky Carnitas taco? At Tacolicious, the San Francisco Bay Area’s most popular Mexican restaurant, tacos are a way of life.

And now, in this hotly anticipated cookbook, co-owner Sara Deseran shares all of the restaurant’s tortilla-wrapped secrets. Whether you’re seeking quick and easy weeknight meals or inspiration for a fabulous fiesta, Tacolicious has you covered. With recipes for show-stopping salsas, crave-worthy snacks, cocktails and mocktails, and, of course, tacos galore, this festive collection is chock-full of real Mexican flavor—with a delicious California twist.

Sara Deseran is the co-owner of Tacolicious with her husband, Joe Hargrave, and the editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine. A longtime food writer and author of three previous cookbooks, Deseran lives with Hargrave and their kids in San Francisco.

The restaurant Tacolicious doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love it for that. From delightfully non-traditional recipes such as chile con queso to Yucatán salsas with serious street cred, Tacolicious unapologetically combines Californian and Mexican influences. It may not be ‘classic’ Mexican, but who cares? It’s tasty stuff.
—Jake Godby, co-owner of Humphry Slocombe
A Staff Favorite

Delicious Salsa
Roberto’s of Santa Cruz makes some extremely tasty salsa. When asked to pick a favorite, our staff recommends Roberto's Medium Salsa because it's about as good as it gets.

The flavors are fresh and complex, and it always tastes like it was just made at your favorite restaurant. (In fact, it outshines a lot of restaurant salsa.) You can smell the chili, garlic, and cilantro when you open the container. Their recipe emphasizes freshness and simplicity. And, it pairs beautifully with chips and other Mexican dishes.

You can find all the varieties in the cheese department next to the dips. We carry their Mild Salsa, Medium Salsa, Hot Salsa, Chipotle Salsa, Medium Tomatillo Salsa, and Guacamole.

And, Roberto's is local—they are from Watsonville in Santa Cruz County. What more could you ask for?
Happy snacking!

From our blog, The Kitchen Table

Home Plate
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting my sons’ baseball team for dinner. Twenty or so 16–18-year-olds invaded my kitchen…and mass hysteria ensued. Team dinners are a long-standing tradition that rotates from house to house each week. Since the dinner the week prior to my hosting the event served tri-tip, and the week after is going with a pasta feed, I had to come up with something that the boys would like, that I could make a lot of, and wouldn't break the bank.

After much deliberation and a suggestion from one of my boys, we went with tacos.

Tacos are always a good idea. I have never met a person who didn’t like tacos. (Although I am sure there is someone somewhere.) I could have made things super easy and had the whole party catered. But, my inner Abuela wouldn’t allow it. That’s just not how I roll. To save at least some of my sanity I did order large amounts of beans, rice, and salsa from my favorite taqueria—as well as a mountain of freshly-made tortillas. As it turned out I didn’t order enough.

I did make all the fillings. There was Pollo Asada, Carne Asada, and last but not least, Cochinita Pibil which is similar to Carnitas—except that instead of cooking the pork shoulder in lard you slow-cook it in a marinade with achiote paste and citrus juice. Alas, I did not dig a hole in my backyard and cook it in banana leaves as is traditional. I figured that might be just one step too far.

The Cochinita Pibil was so good. It was very hard not to keep stealing some for a snack throughout the day because I was worried about having enough. And, it turns out I should have been worried (and perhaps afraid).

Twenty-two boys showed up at my house after practice that evening and consumed 12 pounds of Carne Asada, 10 pounds of Pollo Asada, 10 pounds of the Cochinita Pibil, 4 quarts of rice, 3 quarts of beans, and about a dozen avocados worth of guacamole. It was like a swarm of locusts blew through. There was nothing left except for a few sad tortillas. It was a staggering display of teenage calorie consumption. How they still had room for ice cream after is astonishing. One of my sons ate himself to the point of pain. So, I guess it was tasty. He rallied the next day to head off to school no worse for wear.

I am hosting the team again at the end of the month since I have two kids on the team. I’m not sure what to have yet. But, I am more prepared now. And, I understand that even though I may think I have enough, it’s a good idea to add a little more just in case…

A Staff Favorite

Fresh homemade tortillas are the best. And, making tortillas at home is easier than you might think, especially if you have the right equipment—namely a tortilla press and Maseca Masa Flour.
Masa is a staple ingredient in a variety of Mexican recipes. This corn flour is used for making the dough for tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and gorditas. It is simple to use and rehydrates easily so you can mold it as you wish. And, because masa is made of corn, it is gluten-free.

To use masa, water needs to be added to moisten the corn flour to create a dough. This dough can then be patted thin for tortillas and is left thicker when making pupusas and gorditas so they can be sliced and stuffed with savory ingredients. The dough for tamales calls for more water, making for a moister texture. This mixture can then be patted around cooked pork, chicken, vegetables, and/or cheese, and then wrapped in a corn husk for easy steaming.

Cooking mas by steaming, heating on the griddle, or frying brings out the nutty, tangy nuances of the corn and makes the corn flour more palatable. Because of masa's neutral taste, spices and other ingredients like beer, ground chile peppers, and paprika can be added to enhance the eating experience.

From our blog, The Cocktail Post

The Classic Mojito is one of the world's most popular cocktails. It's a simple drink of rum, mint, lime, sugar, and club soda, that is muddled and stirred. Muddling mojitos require a tiny bit of elbow grease but are easy to make from scratch and come together in just a few minutes.

Mojitos originated in Cuba, possibly derived from a 16th-century medicinal tonic known as El Draque (named after Sir Francis Drake). They are a favorite summertime beverage.

The mint and lime give it a cool, refreshing flavor, and the soda lightens it up with a fizzy crispness. There are many ways that you can riff on the flavor of the basic recipe, which makes it a creative cocktail. Our recipe is a great start.

From our blog, The Kitchen Table

The Dos and Don’ts of Carrot Cake
I’m making a carrot cake this weekend for Easter. While it may not be the most innovative choice for an Easter dessert, it is a family tradition. So…

The hardest thing about making a carrot cake for my extended family is that there are a number of rules one needs to follow in order to make it edible for everyone. First off, it better not have any raisins. To the younger members of our family raisins—in any way shape or form—are a horror that cannot be suffered no matter the recipe. I have no idea what event occurred in their early childhoods to foment such a visceral reaction to this particular dried fruit. But, to them, raisins are the very definition of eeew.

To be fair, I have my own issues. For example, you will never see pineapple in my carrot cake. I love pineapple and will happily devour a perfectly ripe one in a single sitting. But, there is something about adding it to a carrot cake that just doesn’t work for me. Also, I will always use pecans instead of walnuts. Doesn’t matter what I am making. Pecans are better than walnuts. There. I said it.

Lastly, I gotta add some coconut. True, it may not be traditional but the added flavor makes it non-negotiable.

When all is said and done, after everyone’s rules have been followed, you are left with a truly classic Eastern celebration dessert, Amy’s Carrot Cake. Let's be honest though, while the cake does actually matter, its most important purpose, really, is to serve as the vehicle for cream cheese frosting consumption.

A Staff Favorite

Cacique Ranchero Queso Fresco (fresh cheese) is the quintessential embodiment of Mexican cheese. And, if you want your homemade dishes to have that authentic, Mexican flavor, we recommend using the real thing!

Cacique Ranchero Queso Fresco is a soft, moist, curd-style fresh cheese that’s bright, creamy, and pleasantly milky. In traditional Mexican cuisine, Queso Fresco is used as a crumbled or cubed topping to balance out the flavors in rich and spicy dishes. It's a perfect stuffing cheese because of its soft, yet compact, consistency.

Cacique is located in SoCal, in Monrovia. They are strongly rooted in their traditional heritage. And they have a mission to give their consumers the best possible products.

We love using queso fresco in tacos, quesadillas, soups, and all varieties of Mexican dishes. It is great sprinkled over a salad and even in grilled cheese sandwiches.

The Cocktail Post

In our Blackberry Prosecco Punch recipe, fresh blackberries are muddled together with mint, lime, and vodka. Then they are topped with ginger beer and bubbly Prosecco. This makes for a simple and elegant spring cocktail. It is perfect for a holiday brunch. The bubbly Prosecco keeps everyone coming back for seconds.

If you don't have fresh berries, use frozen. Just give them time to begin to thaw. You can also garnish the drink with additional frozen berries instead of ice.

Taco Recipes from Our Archives
From our blog, The Kitchen Table

Our love of Mexican food is no secret. So, for Cinco de Mayo Tacos we are gathering some of our favorite recipes so you can decide exactly what fillings you want to enjoy!

You can't go wrong with these classic tacos. Much of what we put inside tacos comes off the grill, and this recipe is a perfect example. Adapted from Rick Bayless' book, Mexico One Plate At a Time, these will up your taco game.

The marinade for the chicken is delicious—citrusy, herby, and fresh-tasting.

Cream adds a luxurious silkiness to this special dish. Here we use regular heavy cream and shredded cheese both for flavor and as a thickener.
Preparing Chile Verde takes a while. But, it is so worth the extra effort. The salsa verde is made with fresh tomatillos and is practically perfect.

We use this sauce as a marinade with everything—chicken, brisket, lamb, and especially pork—it also makes a fantastic barbecue sauce.

What is great about this recipe is the ease of preparation. It is perfect to do in the morning, and find a simmering pot of mole when you get home from a day’s work. And, this amazing mole makes a mean taco filling.

Pork shoulder is, frankly, the easiest thing you can do in a crockpot. Because of the fat, it rarely dries out. Instead, you are left with melt-in-your-mouth, tasty goodness. Play around with flavorings and liquids. Our recipe uses orange juice and chipotle peppers.
This recipe is an oldie but a goodie. And, you can add a little tequila to the marinade if you're feeling sassy…

These are amazing and very satisfying. The fish is batter-dipped and fried. We love them with mango salsa or even hot sauce.

The degree of spiciness of the marinade will depend entirely on how hot the jalapeños are—which is the luck of the draw. If you want it to be a little spicier, leave the seeds in one or more of the jalapeños.

These are definitely American tacos with the crunchy shells—a guilty pleasure. Ground turkey makes for a great taco filling. We played around with this recipe to give it a little more oomph. So, feel free to dial up or back the spice.
Salsas & Guac
There ain’t nothin’ better than fresh guacamole with fresh chips. Ours is so easy to make. Just make sure the avocados are super ripe…but not brown.

Made from what grows in a summer garden, there is no precise recipe for this salsa, which means that it is a little different every time. So, you can taste it and adjust the flavors to your liking. It is a great jumping-off point for variations.

Though some might disagree, a blueberry salsa really isn’t that big a leap. After all, we make salsa out of mangoes all the time. Give this recipe a try next time you have some really great blueberries and want a snack, And, if you find this rolls into being your dinner, we won’t tell…

Avocado plus cantaloupe, plus red onion, plus cilantro, plus lime equals perfect salsa.

Mango, papaya, and green onion add lots of flavor to make this salsa go down easily. This recipe is for Macadamia Crusted Yellowtail Tuna, and there is no reason you can't slip the whole lot into a tortilla and call it Taco Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe that this sweet, crunchy, and smoky salsa has only six calories per serving. Serve it with grilled fish or chicken tacos!
Beverages to sip when eating tacos
Jalapeño Margarita is a twist on a classic. Feel free to play with this recipe, and make it your own. But, be certain to use fresh limes. Needless to say, it goes great with Mexican food.

The Margarita La Reina is a cocktail fit for a queen! Adapted from a Margarita La Reina served at Doña Tomas Restaurant in Oakland. It is perfect served with Mexican food.

Think of this Cherry Margarita recipe as cherry juice for adults. It’s rich and satisfying to sip. We recommend skipping the salt rim on this cocktail

We have fallen in love with the Mexican Bulldog Margarita. It is fantastic as the weather gets warmer.

The Mexican Michelada kicks up the flavor of a cold beer—it’s like a Bloody Mary, savory, spicy, and tart (and considered a hangover remedy).

The Jalisco Flower is a sunny sipper or your ticket to relaxation after a long day. Sweet & smokey with a fizz that carries the grapefruit all the way to the end.

Limonana is a slushy, Israeli lemonade that goes amazingly well with Mexican food despite being from across the globe. It is simple to make, and you’ll get rave reviews. No, it is not a cocktail, but could definitely be considered a mocktail.

Melon Seed Horchata is a delicious non-alcoholic drink that is a great way to use the seeds of a cantaloupe—a part you would normally be discarding. And, it makes a tasty and refreshing drink.
Vendor of the Month

El Molino fresh corn tortillas make all the difference when you are preparing Mexican food at home. They are fantastic for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, or served on the side of a delicious plate of Mexican food. Made locally and delivered daily, El Molino tortillas fly off the shelves because our customers love them as much as we do.

El Molino extra-thick, restaurant-style tortilla chips are a perennial staff favorite. They are soooo flavorful and fresh. Imagine biting into a delicious restaurant tortilla chip, but miraculously, you just pulled them out of a grocery bag! That’s El Molino quality. Our customers love them, too. We buy them by the pallet full and sell them all day, every day.

And, if you are looking for some delicious guac to serve up, check out our recipe for Amy’s Guacamole. There ain’t nothin’ better than fresh guacamole with fresh chips. Amy’s is so easy to make. Just make sure the avocados are super ripe…but not brown.

El Molino Tortillas and Tortilla Chips are brought to us fresh from their authentic Mexican restaurant in Concord. All tortillas are freshly made, in-house, with no preservatives!

Store Hours

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9 AM to 8 PM & Sunday from
9 AM to 7 PM.
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4038 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

(510) 653-8181

Visit our recipe blog to learn what Amy, our VP and resident foodie, is cooking up in her home kitchen.