¡Ask a Comida Critic!: Great Horchata?
Since we're in the midst of Latino Heritage Month, let's take a question on Mesoamerica's favorite drink! From Paul, who also asked about menudo--but we'll save that for another time:
Quite a few places, actually, but don't get too impressed about the "authenticity" of the drink: most Mexicans make their horchata for family parties with Carnation's milk, some rice, sugar, and cinnamon, then turn on the garden hose and let 'er rip. True story.
Horchata varies by personal taste--I, for instance, like it extra-sweet, extra-heavy on the milk. I usually don't bother with horchata at Mexi restaurants,especially
if they keep them in jugs to prove to the world it's a trueagua fresca
--see, while the hipsters rave about its "authenticity," us wabs know that the ice in the horchata jug eventually melts, leaving drinkers with a watered-down drink. And few things are viler to imbibe than bitter, viscous, watered-down horchata.
All this said, I'll offer three spots. Taquería El Granjenal continues to make the county's best non-Oaxacan horchata, even though the quality of its food went down a couple of years ago (although I hear it has rebounded). Their drink has copious dustings of Choco-Milk, Mexico's version of Nestle® Quik, adding chocolate overtones not usually associated with proper horchata. But all Mexicans know Oaxacans make the best horchata, and the best version is at El Fortín: spiked with melon chunks, walnuts, and prickly pear cactus syrup.
We're talking about the wrong country, though: El Salvador's horchata is much better than anything Mexico can hope to concot, toastier and stronger than our relatively bland bebida. Best local Salvi horchata is at El Carbonero, which also happens to be OC's original Salvadoran restaurant. Go and enjoy Central America's only triumph against Mexicans--that is, besides the whole independence bit...
Got a spicy question for the Comida Critic? Ask him below!
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.