If you’ve ever found yourself watching a cooking show and wishing the mouthwatering food being prepared on-screen could be your next meal, then the Taco Takedown was for you.
As we watched the first film, Hilah Johnson’s hangover tacos how-to video from her website, Hilah Cooking, scrambled-egg and chorizo tacos were distributed to the audience—fantasy fulfilled!
Each of the other four films—short documentaries about local food artisans Rockaway Taco, Danny Macaroons, Robicelli’s Cupcakes and La Newyorkina Mexican Ice and Sweets—were accompanied by similar treats.
Danny Macaroons’s salted caramel macaroons, tiny mounds of coconut with crunchy exteriors, moist shredded-coconut innards and generous drizzles of salted caramel, can only be described as a thing of beauty.
We were skeptical about the buffalo chicken cupcakes from Robicelli’s Cupcakes, but the cupcake’s iconoclastic flavor combination worked like a charm. We enjoyed it completely—from the sweet buttercream frosting, with its sharp hints of blue cheese, to the moist, fluffy carrot and celery-root cake and, yes, even the pieces of bright orange buffalo chicken. (Full disclosure: Your humble reporter, a pescatarian, did not taste the meat dishes.)
Colorful paletas (Mexican ice pops) from La Newyorkina Mexican Ice and Sweets also made the rounds during the screening. The boozy piña colada paleta we tried was strewn with strands of shredded coconut and topped with a few shakes of spicy Mexican seasoning—a uniquely satisfying flavor combination.
After the film screenings, the hard-core taco action began. We started our taco blitz with the lone sweet option: The Harrison’s breakfast taco, a banana crepe with dulce de leche, cinnamon and a dab of whipped cream, was irresistibly sweet and rich.
Then it was on to Dos Toros, which was serving up pork tacos topped with their famously addictive guacamole. Extra merits to the Dos Toros team for preparing a special vegetarian taco with cheese, chunky onion-and-tomato salsa and that amazing guacamole just for us.
The bite-size tuna ceviche tacos from Dos Caminos shook up the taco game. The finely chopped tuna was extremely fresh and topped sparingly with mango pico de gallo and fresh cilantro.
Tortilleria Nixtamal is famous for their made-from-scratch masa (corn dough), which they use in all their house-made tortillas. The shrimp in our taco was perfectly prepared and topped with a tasty mango cucumber salsa, but it was the exceptionally flavorful tortilla that won us over.
It’s not often that we make it all the way to the Rockaways, so we happily endured the long line for Rockaway Taco’s fish tacos. They served a generous piece of fried tilapia topped with radishes, purple cabbage, a dollop of guacamole and spicy mayo. The warm, mild fish, cool guacamole and the spicy mayo formed a satisfying trifecta of creamy, mild flavors.
After all that gluttony, the winner of the Taco Takedown was determined by popular vote. We were happy to see our veggie taco–making friends at Dos Toros take home the top prize.
Photos and additional reporting by Kelly Schott