Food Traveler Magazine Winter 2016 - Page 104

Ali Khan As far as the most gourmet or intriguing meal on a budget goes, that would have to be whatever is being served at Guerilla Tacos in Los Angeles. Wes Avila is high caliber chef who left the fine dining world to cook tacos on the street. But these are not your average tacos. Sushi grade Sea Urchin graces these tortillas. And expect salsas tendered by the same hands that reduced sauces with the likes of Alain Ducasse. Literally fine dining served on the street, in a tortilla. FT: Why are cheap eats and local restaurants so important? Would you agree that the value of eating locally and learning about the people is priceless? Yes, wholeheartedly. Food is about culture as much as it is sustenance and pleasure. Local foods and traditions give us a sense of place and the restaurants serving those foods help shape the local identity. Local restaurants are where people celebrate their lives. Local restaurants help carry on regional culinary traditions. They are instrumental to our food culture. People love what they love and eat what they want to eat. Those things can certainly differ to a degree for everyone. But locally celebrated places mean there is consensus, a commonality of sentiment. And it is important to recognize those places that bond us. FT: What are some of your favorite “cheap eats” from the show and why? FT: Is it safe to say that $35 can go a long way in the foodie world? What’s the most gourmet or intriguing meal you’ve ever eaten on a “budget?” Actually, no. Making it on $35 is tough but that is part of the challenge in doing Cheap Eats. Food costs keep getting higher and the industry is changing. Also I think we are demanding better quality ingredients as consumers become more educated on where their food comes from, and that comes with added cost. And these are all GOOD THINGS, it makes for a more sustainable world. That being said, there are some tips and tricks to share that will work now and in the future. Animal proteins are expensive and when they dominate your plate, their costs dominate your bill. A sticky rice bowl with chicken braised in coconut milk and Thai spices is a Cheap Eats savior, because the meat becomes a member of the supporting cast and you don’t sacrifice flavor because that sticky rice soaks up all the goodness. 102 FoodTraveler l Winter 2016 This is really hard because of course I loved the food we chose so I’ll have to strongly consider the “X factor” here. The Italian Beef and Sausage combo at Nottoli & Son Deli in Chicago for sure. And not solely because of the food, which was awesome because Italian Beefs are one of my most favorite sandwiches. The segment was hilarious thanks to owner and former wrestler George Nottoli aka Vito “Two Fingers” Fontaine. Then Jeff Mauro, host of The Kitchen, Sandwich King and winner of Food Network Star made a guest appearance. I have known Jeff for years, he is one of my best friends, the MC at my wedding. So after 13 years, it was with a great sense of satisfaction to eat that Italian Beef and Sausage combo, knowing that we finally made our dream happen. La Huasteca, the lunch segment in Minneapolis, comes to mind as well. I do love my tacos and these tacos were among the best I have had, and that includes more than a few visits to Mexico proper. Beyond the food was the most charming husband and wife who ran this modest little eatery. Then my producers came and ate there. After one bite, the Executive Producer said “we are shooting here.” Since the episode has aired, a lot of people ask specifically about the restaurant. And every time I shar