Did I mention I adore that guy? I've even conned Ben into watching No Reservations and I think he actually likes it. Are you a fan? If so, high five! If not, get on it. The man is a genius. However, he rather disconcerts me ~ I can't determine if I'm attracted to him...or if I want to be him.
Also, I accidentally stumbled across a photo of him in google images along the lines of the Radcliffe one below ~ I'm too embarrassed to post quite that much raunchiness here, but if you surf google images to about page 8 (or google "Anthony Bourdain bone" would probably work as well) you'll find something...interesting. And a little gross. Okay, if you beg, I'll post it later.
Anyway, I didn't tell you about our side-stop on our trip back from kayaking in Mexico last July. And Wednesdays are good days for storytelling.
When Ben and I noticed the spray-painted "Tamales" sign on the side of a shack on the remote Ensenada road, we immediately looked at each other and both of our minds flashed instantly to our favorite travel channel show. A rundown roadside tamale stand? In the middle of nowhere? Awesome! And, since we were both up to date on our Hep A shots, we stopped.
A handful of local senoritas prepared tamales and roasted corn from scratch, right on the oceanside drive, in giant pots that had certainly seen better days.
Jars of pickled everything lined shelves near the picnic tables. I tried a proffered sample of pickled olives; no one bothered to warn us that they were pickled with hell-fire hot peppers. No wonder the flies steered clear.
I discovered the dynamic effect of pepper-pickled olives soon enough and flung myself bodily in front of Ben before he could accept an olive of his own and thus ruin the entire vacation by landing himself in a hospital with a disintegrated tongue from hot pepper poisoning. While I've adjusted him slowly over the years to Southern spicy (I slip cayenne into everything, even chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal ~ eventually, everyone develops an immunity), he is by no means ready for Mexico spicy.
Personally, I'd have bought a bottle of the pepper-olive concoction, had I not had to consider airline restrictions and the potential for uncomfortably spicy underwear if some of that juice escaped into a checked suitcase.
But the superstars, the tamales, had no such spice obstacle (I checked ~ I remembered that much of my Spanish). We ordered the beef for Ben, then chili-cheese and pineapple to share.
My favorite? The pineapple. Just because...pineapple tamale? Peculiar!
Ben enjoyed his beef tamale and I really wished they hadn't run out of chicken.
However, the texture and flavors of these Baja tamales varied considerably from the authentic mainland Mexican tamales I've tasted. The Baja versions consisted of a coarser and more dense texture of corn meal and skimped on ingredients (on the chili-cheese especially ~ it tasted more like a "child's tamale," or cornmeal only, to me).
The mainland tamales (from the Aguecaliente region) used a very fine cornflour, full-loads of stuffing and tangier spices all around. Does anyone know a good tamale recipe for this type? I've never found one.
While I enjoyed our little Bourdain adventure (which totally made me crave a cigarette and some more rot-gut tequila to maintain Anthony's authenticity) and while the tamales made a tasty post kayak snack, they weren't all that. But for a total bill of $6 for three tamales and a fire-olive, who's complaining?