Tortilla Tuesdays: Northgate González Markets
Sorry for the loooong delay in this column, but we got a bit...busy 'round these parts, what with the book and the promotion and stuff. But I got a month's worth of different tortillerías in the bag, and I'll restart with the one I was supposed to do before things got a bit...busy--Northgate González's fine creations.
Northgate, of course, needs no introduction, but here's a quick recap: from a singular Anaheim store off Anaheim Boulevard to a 33-chain giant with a gargantuan warehouse in Anaheim, where my papi works as a troquero. One of the great Latino entrepreneurial success stories of the past 50 years. With such rapid expansion, one would understand if the quality of Northgate's in-store products--the bolillos and salsa and pan dulce and crema fresca and especially the tortillas--would suffer, but they haven't.
Consider their tortillas: made fresh at every store, from masa they make (none of that Maseca/GRUMA shit), then either sold fresh on the spot or packaged for the shelves, where they disappear quickly. It's a thin tortilla, which might lead the casual observer to deem it weak, but the Northgate González tortilla is much like the chain's ruling family: sturdy, unassuming, but working feverishly to excel at all times.
Their tortillas is a balance of mediums: it heats up fast, but not too quickly, allowing for an even cooking process that allows you to control just how much char spots you want to bubble up or how crispy you want it to become. Conversely, you can heat it up enough so that it's perfectly pliable but not so much that it starts to crack. And the taste is clean--a strong masa flavor, but one that doesn't overwhelm your palate ala thicker tortillas.
What's most impressive about Northgate's tortillas, though, is that they're uniformly, consistently delicious--in other words, this is a case where rapid expansion hasn't left Northgate with a deterioration in product, ala Taquería de Anda. These are the same tortillas I ate a decade ago, 20 years ago, and today. The small fish in the big pond grew into a barracuda--but still has the soul of a, um, whatever fish is righteous and pure. Maybe huachinango?
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