Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11 a.m.
I am a gabacho. While I have many non-gabacho food-shopping habits (markets in Tijuana, an intimate familiarity with my local Northgate, a love for nopales, etc.), when time is of the essence, I resort to the dreaded White Folks Supermarket--you know, Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, et al.
The problem is that I eat tortillas every week, and the tortillas sold at the White Folks Supermarket are almost always disgusting. I keep trying because it'd be nice to not have to swing by a tortillería on the way home from Albertsons, but the results have not been encouraging, and usually it's the garbage from GRUMA that takes up the entire display case.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a stand sitting in front of an aisle-end cap at the Vons on 17th Street in Tustin with some decent-looking tortillas in them. La Tortilla Factory, the brand name screamed, corn and wheat flour mix, handmade style, the works. Hey, why not?
The tortillas do, in fact, look as though they were made using a manual tortilla press, even from a distance. You could picture a line of impecunious abuelitas hard at work, cranking out tortillas at a pace not seen since they had to feed 20 hungry workers back at the rancho. ¡La Tortilla Factory abuelita, hazme de comer!
I took a package home and heated one up right on the burner. I should have known something was wrong when it left a film of masa that I had to scrub off with a bamboo-bristle brush.
I tore off a piece and stuffed it in my mouth, and as I chewed, I was seized by an overwhelming urge to spit it straight into the sink. I have never tasted such a vile, disgusting tortilla in my life. Even heated until it burnt a little bit at the edges, the thick, elastic disc tasted like uncooked bread dough. Worse, it tasted like uncooked bread dough that had been soaking in a nixtamal vat for 10 seconds or so; the wonderful taste of hominy corn, the staff of life for hundreds of millions of people in the world, was just an acrid accent to the taste of Subway bread.
I forced myself to make a taco, so I heated up some leftover picadillo. Fellow gabachos, that's like Sloppy Joe meat, but with dried fruit, olives, chile sauce and cinnamon mixed in; it's fantastic as a taco filling. I figured the chile heat and the warm spices would overpower the raw-flour taste of the tortilla.
I made a quesadilla--and it's almost impossible to tell which side is the right side, so I probably made it al revés--and even with the strong tang of Oaxaca cheese and the earthy inkiness of fresh huitlacoche, it was inedible. These tortillas were obviously developed by someone who read about tortillas online but has never had a good one.
It gets worse. There's the price: $2.69 gets you eight miserable, gummy tortillas. They happened to be a Vons Club special the day I purchased them, which meant I only paid $1.99--cold comfort given I could buy 100 tortillas at Northgate for that. For the original price, I could have bought a dozen thick, hot, corn tortillas actually hechas a mano de abuelita at Fonda La Meche in Stanton.
I cannot believe these words are about to flow forth from my fingers--and I'm sure Gustavo will have my huevos for writing them--but I would rather buy a package of Mission brand, flabby, evil, monopolistic basura than ever allow these tortillas in my house again.
Grade: F. I've never eaten such a revolting tortilla in my life. I did the unthinkable and threw the rest of the package away. You couldn't measure the quality of these tortillas; you would have to dig for it.