Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Taco Mesa

It’s my first day doing paternity leave, four weeks at home with just me and the son, which sounds fantastic, but it’s also like wait I know how to take care of him right? I mean I do. BUT, do I?

I could take it easy, chill at home, go for walks, make sure he is consistently comfortable, even turn on the TV to let indiscernibly bright lights confuse and occupy his brain for a while, but instead I’m choosing to go out and get tacos.

You see, I really like tacos and I was reading in OC Weekly the other day about all the best tacos in the county and thought why not spend these four weeks going out and eating a bunch of tacos?

I think this is a pretty reasonable idea.

So this here is my fatherly review of getting tacos with my boy, something I hope to keep up as I eat more and more tacos.

Today’s tacos are from: Taco Mesa in Orange.

But first:

Let’s talk about stomachs. My son has had stomach issues, trouble pooping and passing gas, since he was born. This made me curious (if we don’t have curiosity, then what do we have?). How does the system work? What’s happening when there’s gas in there? How fast do we digest foods? I did some research and here are some fun facts.

-From your throat to your anus is actually just one long tube. Down the esophagus, into the stomach, into the lower intestines, and then the waste goes out.

-When we’re burping, we’re just releasing excess air. This happens when we somehow swallow air–either through normal eating, foods that release carbon dioxide such as sodas, or some people will even just swallow air as a nervous habit.

-Gas builds up when certain foods pass through into the intestine or colon undigested or partially digested. Certain bacterias produce gas which is then released through flatulence. Some foods have bacterias that produce more gas than others and some people have trouble digesting certain foods, thus they see an increase in gas when some foods are eaten.

Now you know.

Now, tacos.

What we listened to on the way: Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast “Picket Line Pals w/ The Doughboys”. I saw this episode was released and just had to listen to it, it has one of my favorite podcasts, featuring one of my other favorites and it met all my expectations.

What we ordered: Blackened calamari tacos, pescado frito taco, pastor taco

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Taco Mesa prides themselves on being a healthy Mexican restaurant. It’s not quite what it sounds like, the tacos were not lined with bean sprouts and quinoa, instead they go toward the organic/natural/wild-caught/free range side of things. It’s fully authentic, yet thoughtful, somewhere in between your high end hipster taco bar and a taqueria on the corner.

I had heard that the “Best of the West” blackened menu was worth checking out, so I ordered the blackened calamari, alongside fried fish and pastor. Each came on Mesa’s signature tortillas, forest green in color, made on site, perfectly soft and textured while maintaining typical corn tortilla form.

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The blackened calamari was an excellent take on a fish taco, creamy and fishy with an overload of dripping juices, as every fish taco is wont to have.

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The fried fish felt a little dry and lacked the saltiness I wanted along with the fry batter. When all flavors were combined, it was a decent bite, but definitely fell short of the other two.

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The al pastor ended up being my favorite, though some of that can be attributed to personal preference. Al pastor is typically my go-to taco, all in an effort to recapture what is probably my favorite taco of all time, a street vendor who used a rotisserie cooker similar to doner kebab, with the pork wrapped around a pineapple, absorbing all its juices. This was actually quite similar, served with grilled pineapple and watermelon radish, the pork was perfection. Only downfall for me was an overabundance of onions which could have been replaced by some sort of cabbage or salsa to accompany the meat. It was still delicious.

My son’s thoughts on the meal: He slept the whole time.

Top 10 Podcasts of 2015

I realize I’m a little behind schedule, but the holidays were a busy time. My lists will continue with best albums, tv shows, and movies, but first the best podcasts of 2015, featuring five shows that have never graced my top 10 before!

 

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10. Whistlestop

Panoply’s new podcast is a one-man show hosted by Face the Nation host John Dickerson. It’s completely scripted, telling fascinating tales of election campaigns past which ultimately prove the world of politics was never so pure.

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9. Planet Money

Small bites of economic theory done by some of radio’s best storytellers. Planet Money’s episodes are always a lot of fun, while also providing insight into the world’s most complex ideas.

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8. Hot Takedown

Fivethirtyeight launched their first podcast this year and it’s everything I could have hoped for: a deeply insightful, statsy, and anti-hot take (as the title implies) sports podcast. Lest you get the impression that it’s a complete nerd-fest, at its core it’s a really solid sports talk show.

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7. About Race

From Panoply, About Race is all about the ways in which race gets talked about in the media. It’s often a lively and challenging conversation with different and conflicting opinions showing their face throughout. It’s not something that someone who doesn’t agree with the panel’s opinions would easily be able to get into, but it’s nonetheless full of important and necessary perspectives.

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6. Slate’s Hang Up and Listen

Hang Up and Listen has made the list every year since I started ranking podcasts and still it remains. It’s intelligent sports talk, and, like Hot Takedown above is so refreshing amidst the voices of yelling morons in sports radio. I must admit there is a certain level of highbrow required to listening to it, not everyone will be into the hosts going off on poetic tangents as happened at one point this year in response to Kobe’s retirement poem–but for me, I would ask for nothing less.

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5. Rob Has a Podcast

Another show who has made it every year since my podcast list inception, Rob Has a Podcast covers Survivor and other reality television, using the podcast format to its fullest with multiple episodes per week. Rob Cesternino’s use of live shows is great for the instant reactions we crave when watching reality tv, but he always adds intelligent follow up shows throughout the week for those who desire a deep dive. He’s created a whole nation of devoted fans, and I am placed firmly within that group.

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4. Doughboys

Podcasts have to have a good premise, mixed with good chemistry, and continuing creativity in order to hold my interest. There are many podcasts that, despite an interesting premise I have not continued to listen to. Doughboys captured all three of these requirements, Nick “Burger Boy” Wiger and Mike Mitchell of “Spoon Nation” have an instant chemistry, a legitimate sincerity about chain restaurants, and a hilarious sense of humor that transcends all of it. It captures everything that the more pointed comedy chat podcasts should be striving to be.

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3. Comedy Bang Bang

Comedy Bang Bang is the king of comedy podcasts for me with each episode be a must-listen in an often crowded market. Scott Aukerman keeps every episode lively, while old guests and a deep canon mix with new improvisers creating instant classics. Each additional episode pays off listening to the last, but even without all the context it is hilarious.

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2. This American Life

If Comedy Bang Bang is the king of comedy podcasts, then This American Life reigns atop all storytelling shows. Each week a new episode is released I never really believe that it will pique my interest as the last one did, but almost every week I am surprised at just how good it is. There are a lot of storytelling shows that have come out in its wake, but I still think that Ira Glass and company are the best at what they do.

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1.The Gist

The Gist is a daily news show covering hot topics, interesting facts, or whatever else crosses host Mike Pesca’s mind. Pesca is a veteran of public radio and always brings a nuanced, intelligent opinion to all of his view points. Add to this his great sense of humor and segments like: ‘Is that bullshit?’ and the year in pop, and you have the year’s most consistently great podcast on your hands. With the amount of podcasts I subscribe to (around 50 that I listen to at least every once in a while) I shouldn’t have time to listen to a show that comes out every day, but still I try to make time to catch up with every episode that comes out.

Honorable mentions: Channel 33/Hollywood Prospectus, The Cracked Podcast, Radiolab, Spontaneanation, Filmspotting, Doug Loves Movies, NY Times’ Music Popcast, The Allusionist , The Liturgists, 99% Invisible

If there were more eps: Surprisingly Awesome, Next Picture Show, Getting Curious