Twice a month, the Cute Gardener and I spend a weekend day on a morning hike. We’ve ignited our mutual love of nature this year and so far have trekked together all over the West from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley to the waterfalls of Yosemite. 2014 will go down in our relationship history as our National Park pass year. Our local at home weekend hikes are more geared towards endurance and strength maintenance work to keep us in shape and we enjoy finding new untapped areas in the hills surrounding Los Angeles—of which we have discovered are surprisingly aplenty.
Hiking also burns a LOT of calories; a surprising amount even. Being the foodies that we are, this of course has meant that on our hike days, we tend to seek out something laden with calories to fuel us back up for the afternoons. Post-hike food is different than our typical fare. The CG rarely eats lunch and mine are traditionally heavy with beans, green and grain. But after walking up the sides of steep mountains and skip tracing ourselves back down, it’s always high time for something that can be consumed and enjoyed with gusto. This has meant build your own pizzas at Blaze Pizzeria and hearty egg and Spam hashes at home. Recently, it meant trying pupusas the size of a small dinner plate in Mission Hills at Mestizo.
The CG and I have a saying that we don’t care whether a dish is authentic or not as long as it tastes good. According to LA Times food critic Jonathon Gold in a recent column, Rivera chef John Sedlar is a good example of this non-authentic yet sought after rule with his pastrami tacos—something that would make the street vendors in Baja cringe yet satisfy the odd palate of L.A.’s Latino-food, craving hipsters. I’ve had strangely delicious taquitos decked out in cilantro, green puffy shells and Sonoran hot dogs treated like burritos so can definitely attest to not being in the food purist’s league myself.
Mestizo’s pupusas fit into this non-authentic but highly addictive category for us. At 2-3 dollars a pop, they are large and doughy with the hint and scent of corn. They are not the small greasy, fried disks that I am used to popping into my mouth in a few bites. This is due to the vat of fresh masa that is hand scooped and shaped by the heavy set senior lady who meticulously reigns a stove top that spans the length of one whole side of the store. From the cheese to the watery squashes to the chicharron and pork fillings, everything is top notch and filling if not a little one note due to the large size. We are obviously not the only ones who liked them as we saw by the myriad of guests who showed up at noon on a Sunday, and a couple of other parties who had smartly called ahead to pick large up large bagfuls. My Horchata-addict heart was also pumped full of puppy love when I tasted Mestizo’s version, shot up with hot and spicy chocolate to throw an El Salvadorian curve onto the traditional Mexican rice drink.
Like our oversized empanadas from Alex Meat Market and Carniceria in North Hollywood and our bao buns from 99 Ranch Market in Van Nuys, these pupusas are earning a mainstay on our list of foods to pick up for the couch buffet during our upcoming annual college football season.