Yesterday I made a journey I’d been putting off for a while.
Actually, it wasn’t even a journey I knew I could make. See, for my cookbook, I needed to track down fresh corn masa. I wasn’t sure where in New York I could get that until I read this excellent post on the Cooking Issues blog which details Dave Arnold’s attempt to make fresh corn tortillas in the French Culinary Institute kitchen. Dave ultimately finds fresh corn masa at a place called Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens.
For the sake of cookbook secrecy, I won’t go into why you want fresh corn masa* or what I was using it to make; instead I’ll focus on how cool it is to get off the 7 train at 103rd and Corona and to walk the few blocks down 104th to 47th Ave and how surreal it is to walk into this big, empty place (at least empty when I went there) that makes their own masa and tortillas from scratch.
[*: If you want to learn all about fresh corn masa and tortilla-making, click that Dave Arnold link. It’s an amazingly informative post.]
Truthfully, I was just at Tortilleria Nixtamal for the fresh corn masa (I called ahead so they’d set some aside) but once there I felt it was my duty, as a food blogger, to order something to eat. Even though I’d just had lunch. So I ordered this tamarind soda:
It was very sweet and I wasn’t able to pick out a distinct tamarind flavor. Maybe that’s because I forget what tarmarind tastes like.
More importantly, I ordered a quesadilla so I could taste one of their freshly made tortillas in action:
In case you’re wondering about the smiley face, I have a confession: the quesadilla is on the kid’s menu. But that’s really all I wanted at that moment in time, a chance to taste a hot tortilla and I was not disappointed. It’s such a huge difference from the dry, sad corn tortillas you get in packages at your grocery store. And what a privilege that New Yorkers can hop on the 7 train and after flipping through a magazine for a while arrive at a place that makes their tortillas and tamales from masa ground in-house.
And speaking of that masa, here’s the masa I bought (a pound of it):
I’m very excited to use it tonight for this recipe I’m testing! (You’ll know exactly what recipe it was when the book comes out in Spring 2012.)
As I was leaving, heading back to the 7 train, I stumbled upon this grocery store:
Wandering around inside I realized they may have two of the ingredients I was planning on hunting down later at Kalustyan’s: namely, dried guajillo chiles & dried ancho chiles. And, behold, they did:
And for wayyyy cheap: $3 for a GIANT bag of each. I ended up buying four bags, way more than I needed.
And so this journey on the 7 train turned out to be quite profitable and edifying. If you live in New York, here’s a Saturday food journey for you: take the 7 train to M. Wells and eat brunch; then continue on to 103rd & Corona and visit Tortilleria Nixtamal. Finally, take the train all the way to Flushing and pig out on Chinese food. Turns out, the 7 train may be the food-friendliest train in all of New York.