The 14-hour journey of a Mission-style burrito to NYC and more from the consumption lounge
Plus 7 things to eat, chill and experience for Valentine's Day and beyond
Writing to you from bed in the West Village, where it is a balmy 55-degree day in February and Yo La Tengo has a new album. I am smoking a “Woods” sativa joint from a variety pack I picked up in San Francisco from craft producer A Golden State as the morning sun streams through my window. Below, you’ll find a few suggestions on things to do and consume.
The 55-degree day makes me uncomfortable. It’s a sunny day, but a false spring where you get the weather without the benefit of regenerative life. I kind of hate it, even though it’s nice. I love this new album, though. Give it a listen.
It’s been a frenetic month of time traveling. Most recently: San Francisco, where I took a carne asada Mission-style Super Burrito from Taqueria Cancun on an epic 14-hour journey across space and time, traveling thousands of miles and greeting two oceans before being reheated in an Instant Pot in New York City (I don’t have a microwave).
“Is that the good one?” I asked, after ordering the burrito. Pausing for a moment, he laughed and answered: “Yes.”
I had planned a perfect 48-hours in San Francisco, something I had mastered from years of reading New York Times travel pieces on 36-hours in various cities and even writing a few myself (during a time when you could still find a rare hot dog cart in Chicago, I guess). Among the essentials: considering what I’d want to eat somewhere between San Francisco and my home, a place with a fridge that would have been emptied out before I left.
When most people think about traveling, they often forget about the nominal costs along the road or consider these inevitable expenditures, such as bevvies and snacks from road stops, airports, or corporate chains. While seeking out regional rarities and cool artisanal brands is part of the fun, snacks are not substantial option for sustaining a transcontinental flight. Also, it’s taking a huge leap of faith assuming any decent options will be there at all without considering the possibility of a layover or canceled flight. Since the pandemic, these options are typically less robust and more expensive.
So, I factored in the burrito: an authentic souvenir and solid hand-held behemoth that would be consumed somewhere between here and there. New York doesn’t have a great reputation for excellent Mexico food, be it authentic or some regional variation in cities with a rich history of multi-generational Mexican-Americans along the West Coast, Southwest and Chicago. It’s not that New York doesn’t have nice Mexican restaurants or even Mexican celebrity chefs—a more recent phenomenon—it just lacks the authenticity, flavor, and crave-ability of these other cities. Especially when it comes to more affordable taquerias.
There’s are several reasons for this, mostly due to migration patterns of specific Mexican communities and distribution of ingredients indigenous to these regional cuisines, with a fascinating history you can read about in food historian Jeffrey Pilcher’s book Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. But the struggle to find quality tortillas was immediately obvious when I moved from Chicago to New York, enough to make me start smuggling tortillas in my carry-on whenever I’d travel.
While it would be nice if Southern California mini-chain Summer Salt captured the essence of having a burrito in San Diego or L.A., it doesn’t. I’m not sure if it’s the sunshine or overall vibe of being in New York City, but it’s objectively inferior. Paying $2.50 for a side at Rosie’s or venturing way out into Queens takes almost the same amount of effort. Even the local Chipotle is usually dried out and bad. Getting a full Super Burrito made just right? That’s a treat. Nay, an honor. One that I would carry for 14 hours, because that is a Mission I believe in.
Considering I haven’t been to San Francisco since, maybe 2017 or 2018, I didn’t have a specific burrito place in mind. So, I decided to check in with the local experts. Bon Appetit recommends 8, while Eater has about 17. Serious Eats has a handful. Thrillist has another 10.
I started reading the list to my cousin, who is a chef in the Bay Area, as we drove back from Mendocino County on a scenic two-hour ride. Some of them had lines, some of them were far away, and mostly I didn’t want to shlep a burrito for 30-minutes directly uphill from the Castro to Twin Peaks. Mostly, I got the impression that a burrito would happen. Someone would help me find it, somewhere. At worst, I could always have one delivered. This is San Francisco, after all.
I decided to meet up with an old friend I hadn’t seen since high school who had been following my adventures around his city on Instagram. I relinquished bar-picking duties with the caveat that I needed to get a burrito on the way home. He suggested Trick Dog, an award-winning and casual-swanky cocktail bar in the Mission.
The current theme is a museum-inspired retrospective of the bar’s 10-year run, showcasing select cocktails alongside its impressive list of awards from World’s 50 Best Bars and “America’s Best Bar Team” from Tales of the Cocktail to the repeat finalist nominations from the James Beard Foundation. I settled on the Zodiac, a moody, black-tinged blend of Fords gin, Cynar, black sesame, pineapple, palo santo, and lemon, though I was tempted by the non-alcoholic Joy of Cocktails with fermented Bronx grapes, konbu (kelp) tea, young pinecones (!), and Martini Floreale.
I truly must applaud the hospitality industry for simultaneously addressing industry-wide substance abuse problems and its ongoing neglect of diverse non-drinking customers by getting creative with zero-octane options that rival their ABV-laced counterparts. These N/A options are lasting beyond gimmicky months like Dry January and finding a more permanent home on bar and restaurant menus, and inspiring books like Good Drinks from former Bon Appetit editor and James Beard Award nominated writer Julia Bainbridge.
After, we took a short walk to Taqueria Cancun, where I ordered the aforementioned burrito. I wondered what it felt like to be here during COVID and the slow sense of recovery as I experienced what felt like a painfully normal takeout moment. I could smell the beef grilling on the flattop, reminding me of so many years ago, stumbling into Mission taquerias I could no longer remember. It was the last memory I would have for a while, and I was grateful to have the foresight to clumsily tote it as a last meal back home.
Burritos are an underrated airplane snack. That said, I would probably never advise it outside of this newsletter because I no longer trust travelers thanks to TikTok. Is it the pandemic, or was everyone always this awful? Videos of people clipping their toenails, screaming babies during 29-hour flights prompting studies on whether child-free flights should exist, pulling shoes off, and flight attendants notifying everyone that everything you touch is disgusting.
Having a burrito on a flight is something you can only manage if you are a responsible human being with a reasonable emotional compass. Otherwise, stick to airplane pretzels and cans of seltzer. Also, get a seat far away from me, preferably not even on my flight.
Food writer Alicia Kennedy is currently teaching a class for Boston University on culinary tourism and publishing her lectures on her newsletter. Her focus seems to be more about the impact of colonialism from an economic and cultural lens, but I can’t help but think about what constitutes a modern traveler in a post-pandemic landscape and the ethical etiquette of advising tourism and travel habits. You would think basic manners are common sense, but this is simply not the case no matter where anyone travels.
Beyond that, there are functional considerations that almost never make it into print, including trivial ones, such as:
“Will eating this burrito on a flight disturb the person next to me or leave a mess for the cleaning crew?”
“How good is the 30-second rule if I drop some of it on the airplane floor?”
“Is TSA going to deem this beautiful dulce de leche—that I was gifted from an avó in the mountains of the Amazonian rainforest where I engaged in supporting sustainable eco-tourism—is a liquid and confiscate it?”
“Which of these Google answers re: the shelf-life of an unrefrigerated carne asada burrito can I safely trust?”
“What if I didn’t go to the essential burrito shop on these 12 lists? Will people think I’m a hack who couldn’t find a good burrito if a map was tattooed on my forehead?”
By the time I got home, the burrito was mostly in-tact. The Instant Pot isn’t the best way to reheat a burrito—I’d probably do an air fryer or oven—but it wasn’t bad. Just a lingering reminder of what I left behind and why I keep going back again and again.
For my San Francisco recs, I’ll a guide coming soon in Different Leaf, as well as a few Consumption Lounge items below.
From the consumption lounge
Here’s a rundown of my latest, greatest and most favorite things to consume:
Valentine’s Day for FEMME Fatales and the people who love them
Hit up the Georgia Room inside the Freehand Hotel in Manhattan this Valentine’s Day to catch FEMME FATALE, A Bleeding Hearts Cabaret tribute to femme expression.
Hosted by emcee and New York City dating impresario Tiff Baira, this spectacular evening of the "vamp, camp, tramp" persuasion showcases a sensational line-up of wildly talented femmes that would make Caligula blush. Featuring performances by Chartruice, Junior Mintt, Anna Monoxide and Aila Oldenburg, doors open at 7 p.m. with an 8 p.m. show. Post-show, the party continues with DJ sets from Vibeiana and Getty Rene.
Frog Hollow Farm regenerative dried fruit Autumn Flame peaches
Among the best snacks I picked up in San Francisco? Dried fruit. Specifically, these peaches from Frog Hollow Farm. I’ve been a bit on a dried mango kick lately, but dried peaches definitely aren’t your everyday dried fruit option unless you’re blessed with a food dehydrator (something I have no room for, sadly). Aside from their intoxicatingly fragrant taste and soft, chewy texture, this brand helps upcycle food product that would otherwise go to waste—mostly making you wonder why that is so commonly the case.
In the 1994 film, “It Could Happen To You,” there’s a scene where Yvonne, a waitress played by Bridget Fonda’s, is seen indulges in a large jar of macadamia nuts after receiving a $2 million tip from a City cop named Charlie (played by Nicolas Cage) who just won the lottery and promised to split the winnings with her. I remember this moment specifically because I loved how it was this earnestly decadent impulsive splurge, a small luxury from someone who never imaged coming into that kind of money. That’s how I felt when I first tasted this new gourmet trail mix from Brooklyn’s Frühling. At $36 for a four-pack of the 57-gram pouches, it’s certainly a pricey snack, but a luxurious one with dried strawberries, organic Persian figs, toasted coconut sugar cacao beans, and toasted Piemonte hazelnuts that certainly seem to justify the cost.
Schlacher & Sohne Styrian pumpkin seeds
The nutty, earthy and buttery cousin of pepitas, I first tried these a few months ago while on a wine hike through the Blue Mountain Reservation in Hudson Valley with the Austrian Wine board (if you haven’t done a wine hike, they’re great; just make sure to respect nature and take the bottle when you leave). The $14.99 price tag for an 8-ounce bag might seem hefty, but you only need a handful here and there, so a little goes a long way. Bonus: it pairs nicely with a light, acidic Grüner Veltliner.
Valentine’s bon-bons from SASS Brooklyn
Good news: you don’t have to live in New York to get your hands on these delicious heart-shaped dark chocolates infused with wine and weed from Brooklyn-based edibles confectioner, SASS Brooklyn. The mixed two-pack features two flavors—blood orange prosecco and Bordeaux rose—in two different dosages (1:1 25mg and 50mg) that ship nationwide. But act fast: these are only around as a limited edition.
Properly Smacked in Manhattan
On the heels of Housing Works’ ribbon cutting New York’s newly minted legal landscape comes news of another dispensary in Greenwich Village called Smacked Village, conveniently within steps of Washington Square Park, the Comedy Cellar, and a handful of excellent snack shops. Among the first 150 CAURD retail licenses for individuals with marijuana-related criminal convictions, the opening menu includes a debut from Harney Brothers Cannabis, the offshoot sungrown cannabis brand from Harney & Sons fine teas (tip: the Paris blend is legendary), along with Fat Nell, Florist Farms, Ayrloom, Flower House, and Lobo. Leafly has a good deep-dive on this here.
Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge
Once upon a time, the best non-alcoholic option you could get a bar beyond the usual sodas and stale-tasting alcohol-free beers was bitters and soda. Today, we are blessed to live in a world with infinitely more creative options that are so tasty you don’t need a reason to eschew the liquor (not that you did before—societally, we need to cut off that kind of peer-pressure). Dry January (or Dry Mouth January, if you’re me) may be over, but there are plenty of reasons why you might not drink alcohol. Former Bon Appetit editor and James Beard Award nominee Julia Bainbridge released a new collection of bartender-approved alcohol-free cocktails to help you get started on your DIY alcohol-free bar.
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