I Was Feeling Restless So I Went Out to Utah

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses and bringing up the rear of every funeral that I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to Utah (or California or Chicago) as soon as I can. So that's what I did one restless weekend last month.

I arrived in Salt Lake pretty late on a Friday night but Cindy was a saint and picked me up and drove me to her house, allowing for a quick Beto's (I know that's not its name anymore) pick up on the way over. What a wonderful meal of taquitos to tuck into before turning in for the night.

Saturday morning I went with all the Beans to Hector's for breakfast burritos. It was great and we barely beat the burrito brunch crowd there. I'd never been to Hector's before. It's like one of those restaurants that is like a Beto's. Someday I've got to find out what happened to all the Beto's and why there's so many places in Utah like a Beto's that aren't a Beto's.

After breakfast I got to go with Cindy to DI and see a DI pro in action.

Here's Echo.

Something I learned at Cindy's house is there's lots of great Star Wars stuff for kids, like Golden Books of the whole original trilogy. Young enough to have loved Wicket and the Ewoks, I just don't get people who have a problem with them.

That afternoon Andrew came down from the mountains to run a taco circuit with me and Melissa and Emily. Now I'm going to tell it how it is here and be real about these restaurants. First stop was Chego's, which I had been to before about 5 years ago. This is the number one taco place among so many Salt Lakers.

My Verdict: Overrated but fine. Two and a half stars out of four.

Next we went up the street to Rey de los Tacos, which I had also eaten at with Andrew one time five years ago. We drove by it on the way to Chego's and I was like "That's that van we ate from that one time!' So back up the street we went.

My kind of place. Didn't get a picture of my tacos, though. Would like to come back and try all the meats. I knew a breakfast burrito would slow down my afternoon taco consumption, but what was I going to do? Three stars.

Here's Andrew and Melissa.

And Andrew and Emily.

And Emily and Melissa with Andrew in the background.

Then we drove down and over to the Latino Mall to visit Tortas y Jugos el Morelense. 

Latina. Mall.

Latina. Mall.

What a great place El Morelense is and what a tight operation. Wish I had had it in me to eat more than one taco. Probably my top choice for tacos north of Provo? But who am I? Just an enthusiastic visitor! Thank you for having me, Utah! El Morelense: Three and a half stars.

Then we headed over to downtown SLC for this place Taco Taco. What a bad taco. Tortilla completely disintegrated. "Carne asada" was some kinda stew. Literally flavorless salsas. Like, people say something "doesn't have flavor" sometimes because it has very little flavor. But they actually had salsas there that, while bright red in color and full of seeds, would not register as anything on your tastebuds. One star.

But still a nice spot for a hang and they were doing steady business so what do I know? *shrugs* ("oh yeah! I know what tacos I like and who I like to hang out with!")

I stick to my convictions that Salt Lake is a super underrated destination for Mexican food and wish I could spend lots more time there eating every taco.

After the taco circuit I had to get up to Highland to buy groceries for Sunday dinner and then me and the Edwards wound up going down to the edge of Draper to eat burgers at this place called Freddy's. I mean I was completely full but I've always got room for a burger, I guess, particularly if they look like this.

On Sunday Ellie liked my tie.

And I cooked the Edwards's my carnitas tacos. I'm just going to keep telling you that this recipe I found online is absolute dynamite. It's so easy and the tacos are so shockingly good, I feel like it's not even bragging to say so because I barely have to do anything to bring them into this world. My own carnitas tacos: FOUR STARS!

Monday I went and visited Grandma during the day and brought taco fixings over for lunch. She loved them! Because they're that good! SHE ATE FOUR! After tacos I went and got us Frosties and learned that fast food workers in Utah can't spell "Brigham" either.

Monday night I dropped Cory off at the airport and grabbed dinner at the Copper Onion because my family was treating me weird for never having eaten there before. Very good. Not Mexican, so I'm not rating it here. Would definitely come back and eat as much of the menu as possible.

Tuesday I went and checked out the Provo City Center Temple. If you like stairs, you will love this temple!

Post-Temple I hit up the Don Joaquin's on Bulldog. I'll admit, a lot of the original shine to Don Joaquin's was the old Salon Eclipse location, something's lost in translation in moving into a legitimate spot BUT these tacos, they're still very legitimate. 3.5 out of 4. (Why not 4? keep scrolling).

Now, Cory and I still haven't been able to figure exactly figure out how the business is set up, but as far as I can tell, or for what I care, Ricardo of the Springville Don Joaquin location is the man behind the magic of the Best Tacos I've Ever Had in the United States. He's recently opened up a taco truck (or trailer) another twenty minutes past Provo down in Payson. Neither Cory nor I had been before and we weren't even positive the operation was up and running, so I texted Ricardo to confirm and Yes, he's in business. Also, can I tell you how good it feels to have your taquero's personal cell number in your phone? What, you don't text your taquero? Do you even taco, bro?

It took a little hunting, but I found Tacos Tarricaso and Ricardo's working some kind of magic there that divides the Don Joaquin's of Bulldog from the touch of the master's hand. 4 out of 4 stars. You cannot beat these.

A few important bits of my conversation with Ricardo:

  • When I asked him what his secret was to being better than everyone else, he just said "I get up and do my best every day."
  • On Tarricaso truck expansion plans: "I do not want to ask for too much (glances above), but I would like to have 13."
  • I told him the tacos were better than the ones I had just had in Provo, I meant it as a compliment but he took it as a quality control item and said "Why? They have the recipes, they just need to follow them."
  • Asked him what his favorite Mexican dishes are that he doesn't serve, "enchiladas and chilaquiles" was his quick response, and then he proceeded to quickly wax rhapsodic on the makings of a perfect plate of chilaquiles.
  • The trailer was doing steady business while I was there (the party ahead of me in line slowed things down by order 23 tacos), Ricardo says it's all from word of mouth and visibility, he's done no advertising.

So, in conclusion, these were the best. If you want the best, you're going to have to go for a drive. OR hire the truck to come to you.

With that done the clock was kind of ticking and I had to both go say goodbye to Kristen and the kids and get up to Salt Lake for dinner with the Beans, Whitney and Jared before catching my flight home. We hit up the Red Iguana 2 because I'd been a few years without. I had the yellow mole pork enchiladas, my preferred dish, though lots of the menu invites investigation. Red Iguana is such an institution and they keep it quality in there, still, I haven't yet had my definitive Red Iguana meal, the one that cements the reason for the popularity for me. These weren't tacos, but it's a 3 out of 4.

And here's Jared.

Goodbye, Utah! See you next time I'm bored and hungry. El Cabrito, I miss you. Salt Lake City taco carts outside of Sears, I still need to get to know you. Oh, and why didn't I rate the first two Mexican places I ate at? Because I didn't think to do ratings until the taco circuit started. There's no turning back for me!

Some Leica Testing

Hobbies. I guess if I have any hobbies than taking pictures must be one of them? And, truth be told, it's not so much "taking pictures" as "taking pictures with a Leica." I snuck into Leica ownership via craiglist and great deals on barely used second hand equipment (shoutout to my amazing dealer Ken Hansen—google him if you're in the market yourself). But last month I had a couple of chances to try out some first hand Leica goods firsthand. 

First, there was this photo expo at the Javitts Center where Leica had a booth and was very patient with everyone asking to try out all their different lenses and cameras. The first one I tried out was their 21mm Summilux f/1.4, a very fast very wide lens I have been curious about for such a long time even though I have a hard time filling the frame with just my 28mm lens. None of these pictures are going to be too interesting since I was constrained to the booth area for taking them and Square Space doesn't let you click on pictures and make them bigger, but here they are.

After the Summilux I took a look at the smaller but slower 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar and got an interesting little lesson on zone focusing. It was little and handy and neat, I could see why you'd pick it over a monster like the 21mm if you didn't need the speed.

After shooting wide I tried out the 75mm f/2.4 Summarit and 75mm f/2.0 Summicron, I really liked the feel of the Summarit and, shooting at ISO 3200 in the convention center, didn't see much a difference in needing speed in that environment. I tell myself I'm good with lenses (I haven't bought one for over two years!) but if I "needed" another one, it might be a 75?


Summicron (missed focus a bit I'll admit):

After the 75's I dared to ask if I could try out the new-ish Summicron-APO 50mm f/2 ASPH, which so many people say is the most perfect lens ever made, a triumph of the most advanced possible lens design and engineering and ingenuity and etc. etc. to produce a lens that's a few impossible percentage points better than anything else out there. It makes me think of swimming where you'd work all season to improve your best time by less than a second. To my untrained eye, basically I couldn't tell any difference between it and my standard 50mm Summicron non-APO, non-ASPH with this first generic high-ISO picture 

BUT I was more impressed by this photo, the subject separation of my lens on the glass from the other lenses and (too bad you can't click to make this bigger) the incredible sharpness and clarity of the numbering on the barrel of my lens. Granted, I didn't try taking an identical picture with my lens afterwards, BUT it seemed impressive to me. I guess that's why the APO is $8000? YES, they just handed me an $8,0000 lens and let me mess around with it, but also, YES, Leica made an $8000 50mm f/2.0 lens. The price of perfection!

For the sake of attempts at a comparison, I then took this picture with my normal Summicron that I bought for a song off a guy that I met up with inside a Chase bank vestibule.

So that's all I've got right now from the world of the M. But a little while later I was informed that the Leica store was doing free one day try-outs of the SL, Leica's new pro mirrorless camera—something of a monstrous Sony A7r competitor, if you can compare it to anything. I was very excited for this opportunity (as I was two years ago when they lent me an M240, and now here I am shooting with an M240). They included a 24-90mm lens with the camera and, as I have NEVER shot with a zoom or auto focus, it was a weird reverse learning curve (since most people complain about the adjustment to using manual primes on an M after switching from their DSLR's or whatever) for me. Also, I had never carried such a heavy set up before, the body weighed just a little more than my M but the lens itself was something like two and a half pounds, bringing it to a total of 4 or 5 pounds for the whole system. I woke up sore after my first day's shooting, was not expecting that. Also, a lot of people make a big deal about the electronic viewfinder on the SL, saying it's the best and most lifelike they've ever used, but since I've never used an electronic viewfinder before, just the nice clear glass of my M, it sure seemed like looking through a computer to me! Still, the camera was fun. Would love to have a chance to shoot it with my M lenses (possible via an adaptor) or the 50mm f/1.4 they've got coming out for the SL next year.

Ok, here's a lot of pictures that chart my picking the camera up in Soho, walking east, then walking down through Chinatown to City Hall Park, then over to West Broadway, then through Times Square, then taking the camera to church, then walking around Lincoln Center and my neighborhood that night, then taking the camera down to the Met the next morning (Halloween morning, by the way) before returning it to the store in Soho.