It's a good friend's birthday, the kind of friend that goes to Tennessee to visit kin and comes back with some of the country's best ham for you. The kind of guy who brings a big bucket of pate with a bottle of Chartreuse to your New Year's Eve party just 'cause. Who isn't a chef but has as much (if not more) passion and knowledge of food than so many chefs out there. The kind of guy who brings a Time Life American Cooking Southern Style book to you for your birthday, if only to point out the picture of the 30-foot-in-diameter-cast-iron-pan-frying-ungodly-amounts-of-chicken.
So, what do you get this guy for his birthday? Well, you don't really get him anything. No, you take him to revel and possibly gorge at Huaraches Dona Chio. And you repost something you wrote about the place a couple years ago in his honor. So, happy birthday, my dear grub-loving friend:
Excerpt from F.o.t.D. 1/4/09
Huaraches Dona Chio has ridiculous Huaraches for super, super cheap. A Huarache is most popularly known as a kind of sandal; what I'm talking about is a sandal shaped wad of masa that a wonderful woman, shaped not unlike a thick Huarache, makes from a fresh tub full of the stuff. She presses it on this enormous old press and throws it on a flattop griddle, and ultimately tops it with whatever you like. The al Pastor was wonderful, everything done in big pots on a few burners in the tiny, exposed kitchen, as cramped as the dining room, which consists of 3 tables, 8 seats, a few stools at the bar overlooking the kitchen, and one large television blasting novellas. It's the kind of place that people of my "demographic" tend to get nervous being in, trying to act as natural as possible and trying to pronounce things properly without sounding patronizing, and as we all know, these are the places that the best food can be had at. The great food writer Calvin Trillin, in his essay Divining the Mysteries of the East, writes about his difficulties in eating at Chinese restaurants and his displeasure in receiving the dumbed-down menu given to most Americans when what he really wants is the "off the menu" type items, usually displayed in Chinese prints on the wall, available only to those speaking and reading the language. He's not scared to ask. I still kind of am. ANYWAY, the Huaraches at Dona Chio are delightful, and plenty for two, even when one of those two is a race-to-the-finish, eat-it-all-before-anyone-else-does hog.