Andre Torrez is an entertainment, travel and culture journalist living in the Bay Area.
What was the food highlight of your year?
Eating at Nido in Oakland struck a chord with me having recently traveled to Mexico City more than once in the past couple of years. I've read their cuisine focuses more on Puebla and some of the country's west coast locations, but these people really know what they're doing. The aroma when I walked in immediately took me back on my trip, to the cafes, food stands and eateries I encountered along my way. I had their pozole (probably one of my all-time favorite soups), but was able to snag some of my friend's Huarache Distrito Federal from her plate. The corn masa was rich and had a mild sweetness, while the double meat topping of carne asada and chorizo along with egg and black bean should have seemed out of control--it's really wasn't. With fresh onion and cilantro rounding out the reasonable portion, this is definitely a dish I want to order when I go back.
I'm really into simple and established places that demonstrate longevity rather than a lot of these flash-in-the-pan restaurant concepts that tend to capitalize on a food trend or the pretense that being hip or exclusive should equal success. Honorable mentions for some of my favorite 24th Street haunts include; Torta Gorda's Pambazo (chorizo, potato, lettuce and sour cream on a greasy roll). Taqueria Vallarta's taco bar (about three of them with a Mexican Coke does the trick; any delicious meat selection from their massive, round plancha will do.)
Finally, I got turned on to Mariscos Sinaloa #1 taco truck in Oakland. Ceviche tostadas and carnitas tacos with a healthy dose of pickled jalapenos and carrots make for a perfect hood of a car in the parking lot picnic!
What was the music highlight of your year?
Seeing Ronnie Spector headline this year's Burger Boogaloo at Oakland's Mosswood Park was like a dream come true. I got to interview her ahead of the show for the Bay Area Reporter. She called and we talked over the phone for like half an hour. I had just read her autobiography, so seeing her perform in such an unusual setting was really special for a lot of people I'm sure. The vibe that night suggested that she really wanted to be there and still had a lot to offer as far as stage performance goes. The audience was captivated (a grown man was reported to have had tears streaming down his cheeks) and loved everything about her set, chock full of back-to-back Ronettes' hits.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
Locally, SoMa Streat Food Park's collaboration with VICE Noisey and Jansport on one of their Bonfire Sessions was pretty cool. What's not to like about seeing Meatbodies whip their hair and shred after I was satiated by a delicious spicy curry bowl? They had a pretty sick sound system too, presumably paid for with all that corporate money. Sometimes you need perks like that after waiting in a line that ran down the entire block.
For the real deal of music and food matrimony, I had to travel 50+ hours on an Amtrak train (I had a voucher that was gonna expire) to Memphis, Tennessee for the 11th annual Gonerfest. I made the pilgrimage to garage-rock Mecca to see an insane three-day dream lineup of bands including; Ausmuteants, Protomartyr, Obnox, Nots, and The Rebel. These shows were definitely a sloppy good time, but the barbecue was just as messy. Places like Cozy Corner had my nose running from the heat and begging for more sliced white bread, Gus' Word Famous Fried Chicken seems to have earned its name (I tried deep fried pickles for the first time!) and Soul Fish serves up a mean deep-fried oyster po'boy. Memphians certainly have it good when it comes to their food and music scene and they like showing it off for the out of towners.