Best Mexican Food in Sonoma County and Beyond…

I freakin’ love Mexican food, and man are we blessed here in California.  I had been known to have a burrito a week when I worked up in Healdsburg.  My fave go-to spot is Taqueria Guadalajara on the south end of Healdsburg Ave.  Really good chile verde and carnitas, aquas and primo salsas and chips. It’s where all the vineyard workers go, so that’s the place for me.

Just off the Healdsbrg Square, there’s El Sombrero, but the chips and salsa really suck.  El Farolito is a little more of a traditional gringo mexican experience with combinations galore.  I used to love going to Taco Grande for their kick ass chile relleno burrito, but then I found a gnarly wad of chewed up old gum in the basket of chips–chip recyclers f’n suck! Mateos.  Not a fan at all.  Too damn expensive and the portions are miniscule.

Now that I don’t work up there anymore, I have renewed my quest to find the best Mexican Food in the Bay Area.  (All you haters out there, try these three places first before you start bitching about so and so taqueria in the Mission being better.)

3) Tacubaya in Berkeley on Fourth St. From the same people that brought you Dona Thomas (which I do not like as much surprisingly).  Really great taqueria although the ambiance is upscale food court.  The dishes have a complexity of flavor that is off the charts.  The standouts are the Niman Ranch beef tongue taco and the kabocha squash tamale wrapped in banana leaves.

2) Juanita Juanita in Sonoma on Arnold Drive.  The best mexican food made by a gringo not named Rick Bayless.  The chips and green salsa … HOLY SHIT are worth the price of admission alone.  For me it’s all about the chile verde plate.  And the rice and beans are absolutely to die for. Just remember to bring cash or you’ll be running across the street to the mini mart.

1) El Molino Central in Agua Caliente/Boyes Hot Springs.  This place is my new found love.  Is it truly that much better than the other two? Probably not, but she still has that new car smell.  It is a totally new experience.  The menu just oozes with old grandma authenticity.  This is not your everyday taqueria.  They make their own tortillas and have Blue Bottle Coffee for God’s sake.  The Tamales have the tenderest masa I have ever had. The Enchiladas were the same half moon cooked in sauce and fat style that I had on my first trip to Puerto Vallarta. Talk about rekindling some long lost food memories.  To top it off, they have the BEST guacamole I have ever had. The aguas aren’t too sweet; they have beer and several wines AND you get to eat outside.  Check it out on your next gorgeous day in the Wine Country!

A Truck Stop in the Middle of Cambodia Revisited

Why did I get into food in the first place?  That’s easy.  Because I love to eat.  It’s that simple.  But the other question people always want to ask me is “Why did you want to become a chef?” To me that answer was just as simple–I believed that being a chef would allow me to eat and drink my way around the globe and meet some amazing people at the same time.

Which brings me to our trip to Cambodia in December and January of 2010-2011.  My wife, Laura, and I …wait a second…I must digress.  She is my best friend, loving wife and culinary soul mate.  She is also a chef.  No shit, of course she is.  And get this, she is a better chef than I am in so many ways, it’s crazy.  But the most important part of this digression is that she loves food as much as I do.

Anyway, back to the story.  It makes me smile every time I see these pictures.  Why you might ask.  I’m not an adrelaline junkie, so I am never ever going to jump out of a plane.  This is the closest thing for me to livin’ on the edge.  Eating some crazy ass chili garlic fried GIANT SPIDER.

We were taking a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to see the truly amazing must see before you die ruins known as Angkor Wat.  We stopped for a quick break and the second the doors of the bus open, we were greeted by 3 really cute girls that looked maybe 11 years old but were in fact 16.  “Hello mister, you so beautiful, you like we show you around?” Come on how could I refuse an outdoor food market in the middle of nowhere.  The girl’s name was Winnie and man was she fantastic guide.  The first thing I remember is her showing me a huge platter of these chili garlic fried giant spiders.  Pretty cool, but then she has the old lady lift the platter to show a freakin’ ass bucket full of LIVE river tarantulas to show that they were indeed very fresh.

Come on!  I just have to try one, it was only the equivelent of 40 cents after all.  So the first bite was pretty damn good.  Kind of like slightly crispy beef jerky.  But the real shitter (if you know what I mean!) was the body, because it was full of eggs, little tiny bitter crunchy explosions in my mouth. Pretty gnarly, but one hell of a great food experience.  Talk about feeling alive! Thanks Winnie!!!

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Drum Roll Please…Yes I am a Finalist on Food Network Star 8!!!

This is HUGE.  This has been my dream for years, and last July, Laura and I flew to Las Vegas to tryout for the show.  It has been a whirlwind the past 8 months as I had to fly back to New York numerous times for the initial selection, then filming and post production work.

I’ll be telling a LOT more about my experiences on the show as time goes on, BUT right now please just check out the Food Network site.  AND vote for me.  The fan vote is incredibly important, so bookmark the page and vote for me up to 10 times per day.  Thanks a lot, and get ready to join me for the ride of a lifetime.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/eric-lee/index.html

Cheers!

Eric

Hello world!

Welcome to my new Blog.  This has been a long time coming, and I hope that you are all as excited as I am.  I have been truly blessed with everything that I have experienced in my life especially in the food world.  This is my open invitation to you to come and explore with me.  Let’s see what Fork ‘n Delicious things we can find.