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Our Bartender Biked 4,488 Miles from SF to Mexico and Back

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Jared Crabtree: bartender meets mad cyclist

If you’ve dined at Tacolicious on Valencia, it’s likely you’ve had a margarita or three made by Jared Crabtree, one of our veteran bartenders. Last fall, Jared took four and half months off from work to ride his bicycle—a Surly Long Haul Trucker—from San Francisco to Oaxaca, Mexico, a trip he’d been dreaming of for over three years.

And yes, he started pedaling in San Francisco.

Setting out in early September, he made his way to La Paz (just that leg is 1,492 miles) where he got on a ferry to Mazatlán, and rode his way down the coast to Colima, turned north towards Guadalajara, then on to Mexico City, Puebla, and finally Oaxaca. In each place he stayed as short as a night or two or as long as a few weeks.

Traveling via bicycle provided a totally new prospective. He found he could take in every detail just that much more vividly. The locals were also drawn to this (now) hairy man on a bike. His red beard had grown thick while he’d grown skinny. They wanted to know what he was up to, encouraged him and fed him. Sometimes they gave him a place to stay, even if it was just a spot next to them on the beach. In one town, he camped on the beach next to a coconut stand where he helped out the man who owned it. After a few days, Jared was setting up shop every morning for the owner.

Being his own tour guide definitely came with its hiccups. When he set out from Mexico City to Puebla, he unwittingly set out over a mountain pass where, as the sun set, he found himself at 13,000 feet. That night he spent in frigid temperatures, tucking himself in as tightly as he could in his sleeping bag. His bike took quite a beating too. A spoke that ripped through his tire landed him at Casa Ciclista in Guadalajara—a community project set up for traveling bike tourists. There he got his frame re-welded and his back wheel rebuilt, so he could finish his journey. Read more »

Margarita Economics: The Cartel, The Rain, and More Reasons to Drink

The margarita tasting.

Four margaritas made with different mixes of lime juice await the big T-lish taste test.

A good restaurant is made up of quality service, food, and vibes. At our best, we’re in control of these three elements. However, the price of the food that we buy in order to prepare your dinner is out of our jurisdiction.

Food prices are dependent on so many zingers—supply and demand, weather patterns, bug infestations, crop disease. And even, apparently, Mexican drug cartels. This brings me to limes, the fruit that we count on more than pretty much anything else at Tacolicious. Limes garnish our tacos, brighten up our guacamole, and add zip to our salad dressings. But most of all, they are integral to our margaritas.

Which is why we’re wringing our hands right now. According to CNN Mexico, the price of Mexican limes has increased over 143 percent since December. We don’t need to read the news to know this. When the crops are plentiful, a case of limes costs us about $15 to $20 per case. Right now, it’s brinking on $120. (Take into consideration that at our four restaurants, we use up to 150 cases a week. At this rate, that’s $72,000 worth of limes a month.)

There are a couple of key reasons for this price hike. As Tacolicious’s director Mike Garcia retold it from our produce vendor, one of them is winter crop damage: “When it started to rain in Mexico, it wiped out all four regions of limes, which are rotated in order to let the limes regrow, and left them with only a ten percent yield from each region. Thus, little supply and a lot of demand.”

Teetotalers, optimists, and environmentalists, skip the next paragraph. Self-serving, shallow, doomsday-driven margarita lovers, read on.

(Of course, this is particularly worrisome because the world’s weird weather patterns are likely due to global warming. Thus, with the world’s end nigh, we need to drink as many margaritas as possible before we all perish!! This is a serious predicament.)

Add to this the reality of the influence of drug cartels on farmers. Sadly, farmers in the state of Michoacan, where the majority of Mexico’s limes are grown, are facing extortion and worse from the Knights Templar. To learn more, you can listen to this interview on NPR with Gustavo Arellano. This article on Bloomberg speaks to the issue of farmers banding together to establish a minimum price, which is another piece of the puzzle. 

So, in keeping with our belief that transparency is everything, here’s our quandry: Do we raise the price of our Tacolicious house margarita, made with solely freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice (and tequila and agave syrup, of course), from its current price of $9.50 to $12.50? Or do we try to come up with a thoughtful—temporary—solution while this lime crisis plays itself out? In this case, a mix of 50 percent flash-pasteurized fresh lime juice from local juice company Voila!, 25 percent freshly squeezed lime juice, and 25 percent freshly squeezed lemon juice. We did a margarita taste test, pictured above, made of a few different lime-y combinations to come up with this mix and we think it has great integrity and is quite tasty to boot.

Ultimately, our first priority is your happiness. So rather than give you the impression that we’re presenting unfair prices or cocktails that aren’t up to our usual snuff, we’ve decided to give you a choice.

In honor of having it your way, we’re now offering two margaritas: For our usual $9.50, you can order the margarita de la casa, made with our lime concoction. And for $12.50, you purists can order the margarita de la cartel made with 100 percent freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice, which maybe we should call the margarita del dia del jucio final. But if worse comes to worse, take solace in the fact that there is a simple answer: you can start drinking your tequila straight.

 

 

 

 

 

Bartender Danny Louie Is in the House

I Thought it Was Apple

I Thought it Was Apple

After five-plus years as the brains behind the Alembic bar program, Danny Louie has decided to make the move from the head shops of the Haight to the hipsters of the Mission. Louie will join Joe and Mike to create the bar program at Chino, our soon-to-be Mission dumpling and noodle spot.

Until Chino opens its doors this spring, you can find Danny bartending at Mosto on Tuesdays.

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Look for this guy.

For Mosto, Danny is creating some inventive new tequilacentric cocktails that can stand up to time-tested drinks like the Paloma. Our personal favorite? The “I Thought it was Apple,” a cocktail with a sweetness balanced by a tartness that nips at you … not unlike the Granny Smith variety. Yet, the mystery is that there’s no apple in it all, unless you count the slice that we float on top just to throw you off the trail. In truth, there’s only tequila, orgeat, lime, and Becherovka—an equally curious Czech herbal liqueur. Though unlike something like chartreuse, Becherovka wasn’t developed by monks, but rather quite the opposite—it was concocted by some Austrian-Hungarian distiller who had a couple wives and 16 kids. According to the lore of Wikipedia, at least.

Pop into Mosto on Tuesdays to find Danny mixing, stirring, and chatting. If you ask, he might clue you in on some of his plans for the cocktails at Chino. Or, he might just choose to keep it a mystery.

Chinito

Chinito (don julio blanco, apple spice, green tea, shiso)

A Bitter Tomorrow

A Bitter Tomorrow (arette reposado, madeira, gran classico)

Green Hornet

The Green Hornet (don julio reposado, green chartreuse, coconut, jalapeño, lime)

Import Export_2

Import Export (7 leguas anejo, cognac, absinthe, gum syrup, bitters)