All posts by Emily Lopez

Freelancer - Slice.ca
Two grilled tuna tacos filled with a mix of veggies and fresh salsa sit atop a crispy homemade corn tortilla

The Best Tacos in North America in 2021: John Catucci’s Bucket List Picks

Originating in Mexico sometime in the 18th century, today’s taco craze proves these simple tortilla snacks have serious lasting power. And with good reason; tacos are cheap, versatile and undeniably delicious. This hand-held street food packs intense flavour in just one bite and boasts the ability of entirely new tastes depending on your salsa of choice.  Whether you’re grabbing some late-night eats off the street corner or indulging in the diverse flavours at a high-end restaurant,  a taco simply never disappoints.  Why not make your New Year’s resolution to try the best tacos with one of food expert John Catucci’s picks of 2021!


See More: Browse the Restaurants Featured on Big Food Bucket List

Al Pastor Tacos with refried beans and a salad

Based on the lamb Shwarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, the Al Pastor taco combines aromatic Middle Eastern spices with those indigenous to South America. A mainstay staple, this beef or pork-based taco can be found at just about any authentic taqueria, but for the ultimate plant-based take you’ll want to head to Tumerico in Tucson, AZ.  Prepared with smashed jackfruit, deep-fried then sauteed with pineapple for a sweet, caramelized finish. Top it all off with fresh corn, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro, a drizzle of cashew cream, and restaurant signature – a dusting of Tumeric. Beloved by meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike for it’s spicy, smokey flavour.

Get the recipe for Al Pastor Tacos

 

Over at Tacos Chiwas, Chef Nadia Holguin shares the flavours of her families home state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The smoked brisket Deshebrada Roja Gorditas is the supreme hand-held food; slow-cooked shredded beef and refried beans fill a homemade flour tortilla pocket. Chef Nadia makes the 12-hour trip home each month to bring in the dried red hatch chile used to make the savoury Roja sauce, so you know she is passionate about bringing her guests the absolute best.

Related: 50 Tasty Taco Recipes You’ll Crave Every Day of the Week

 

John Catucci and Chef Nick Liu smile at one another while cooking in the kitchen at DaiLo

At the height of their popularity, the traditional taco took on a whole new delicious dimension when chefs began cooking them in a fusion style. At Toronto, Ontario’s Dailo, Chef Nick Liu creates predominantly Chinese fare with signature flair, including his exquisite Crispy Octopus Tacos.  The self-titled Ninja Chef begins by substituting your standard corn tortilla with thin slices of crunchy, sweet jicama and follows up with layers of salty pork belly, crispy fried octopus and an Asian vegetable garnish. The result, as John demonstrates, is a bite worthy of three first pumps of pure joy.

 

Related: From Competitor to Judge: Nick Liu Returns to Food Network Canada on Wall of Chefs

If you’re intrigued by a new blending of flavours but aren’t ready to give up a corn base, Primal Kitchen & Bar has you covered with their Tuna Tacos.  This Halifax kitchen fills their tortilla with a seared, pink tuna steak, topped with avocado crema, pickled vegetables and delicate shavings of dried seaweed.  Not that it needs selling, but John Catucci does call it “the best fish taco” he’s ever had.

Get the recipe for Tuna Tacos

 

Now that you’ve dipped your toes in the experimental side of things, it’s time to up the ante with a true original; Abe Fisher’s Veal Schnitzel Taco, found in the heart of Philadelphia. These decadent tacos are uniquely prepared with chunks of braised veal, which are then breaded and deep-fried. Finished with a salty anchovy mayo and sweet and spicy pickled red cabbage for the perfect bite every time.

Get the recipe for Veal Schnitzel Tacos

 

If you’re looking to really surprise your taste buds, Hamilton’s own Rapscallion Rogue Eatery is slinging sweetbread tacos, made with a less conventional, but seriously amazing, buttermilk fried pancreas. This buttery, rich meat is complemented by a drizzle of smokey, poblano aioli, spicy mango salsa and garnish with pickled red onion and fresh cilantro. Meat lovers everywhere- add this to your bucket list!

Watch full episodes of Big Food Bucket List onlineYou can also stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Williamsburg Pizza Margherita Pizza

Pizza Lovers: Here’s Where to Find the Best Pizza in 2020

If we know one thing to be true, it’s that everybody loves pizza. Whether it’s eaten fresh from a woodburning oven, straight out of a cardboard delivery box, or reheated on a bleary-eyed Sunday morning, pizza is always satisfying. And luckily for us, pizza is one of the ultimate takeout foods, making it the perfect dish right now.

And while it’s been said that even when it’s bad, it’s still good, John Catucci knows when a pizza is truly great. Like a giant slice topped with mini pizzas, a meta creation of epic proportions, this 26-inch slice brings you what you didn’t know you wanted- pizza on pizza. Or for the true original, maybe Willamburg Pizza’s Apple Bacon Grandma Pie is more your speed, a delicious ‘za topped with thinly slices apples, bacon, walnuts and four different varieties of cheese. 

Whatever your preferred pie style, get ready to add a few more to check off your very own Big Food Bucket List.

At Descendant Detroit Style Pizza, one of the first things pizza lovers will notice is that Detroit-style pizza is served in a square, with the sauce on top rather than providing a base for toppings. The Truff-Ghi starts with a thick Sicilian crust, chewy but never heavy. Topped with roasted garlic cremini mushrooms, caramelized onions, double-smoked bacon and heaps of mozzarella, this square is chock full of flavour. If you weren’t already drooling, the added drizzle of white truffle aioli will surely seal the deal.

See more: The Top 5 Pizza Recipes From You Gotta Eat Here!

The best part, John says, is the crust, while diving into a crunchy corner, “it’s light, it’s airy, it’s crispy.” A true testament of lasting love, John declares that “yes, I’d take it home and introduce it to my mother.” What more could you ask for? The Pugliese style pizza at Toronto’s Bar Buca keeps mixes things up with the addition of potatoes to the dough. Chef Rob Gentile says “the potato and the starches and the natural sugars create a beautiful, airy dough.”

See More: The Best Toronto Pizza Spots

“I’ve made a lot of pizza dough in my life, never using these ingredients,” says Catucci, flabbergasted. When it comes to ingredients, Italian tomatoes, virgin mozzarella and pepperoni make this dish, as John put’s it, “just so pretty.” A pizza so good, it’ll bring tears to your eyes.

Over at Connie’s Pizza, they’re making deep-dish like you’ve never seen before. Handcrafted, thick dough fully encases meaty chunks if Italian beef, giardiniera, and a blend of mozzarella and provolone,  making this slice a true “pie“.

It’s no surprise that the windy city is obsessed with this joint, known for their ooey, gooey, Italian classics, with one customer calling it the “pizza you dream about.”

This pie is spicy, with flavour all the way through, made with thin slices of Italian beef and giardiniera, a pickled blend of carrots, cauliflower and jalapeno, held in soybean oil. The dish holds 3lbs of pizza and cooks for 45 minutes- but hey, good things come to those who wait. After taking his first bite, John says “if that’s not bucket list, I don’t know what is!” We’re happy to follow owner Mike Stolfe’s advice, who laughs and says ” it’s good for you.”

Meanwhile, pizzaiolos at Williamsburg Pizza in Brooklyn are speaking a love language specifically for the pizza purists at heart, with their Margherita pizza.

If you’re looking to master the proper pizza fold, you’ll be happy to choose this slice as your test subject, which one customer says delivers a “slap of flavour.” “The sauce is tangy and sweet at the same time,” says John. “And the dough has flavour! It’s the “best Margherita slice I’ve ever had” he says, giving ultimate praise to the power of this pie.

Watch full episodes of Big Food Bucket List onlineYou can also stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 

 

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