Escamoles: The Mexican delicacy makes its debut in LA this weekend
May 18, 2019
It’s common knowledge that LA is blessed with an abundance of Mexican cuisine. We have several Mexican communities throughout LA and each community boasts the food that’s native to their region: Yucatán’s pibil, Oaxaca’s tlayuda, Michoacán’s carnitas, and so forth - the list is endless. But even with the influx of Mexican cuisine that we have popping up throughout the city, many unknown foods still remain.
Let’s talk about escamoles. Escamoles are know as Mexican caviar, and they are in fact ant larvae. These ants will burrow deep inside the roots of the maguey plant (the maguey plants are used to make tequila and mezcal) and lay their eggs. Harvesting the eggs can be a challenge as escamoles are very delicate. Only a limited quantity is collected during the three-month harvest. This is why the price can fluctuate anywhere from $30-$100 per kilo.
Escamoles are widely known throughout Mexico as this dish has Aztec roots, but there isn’t easy access to this delicacy for us Angelenos. That is, until now.
Chef Fernando Villagomez has made a name for himself with his restaurants in the historical Grand Central Market in Downtown LA. Villa Moreliana is dedicated to the carnitas from his hometown, La Tostaderia is the champion of mariscos, and his newcomer, La Fruteria, serves up aguas frescas and seasonal fruit. He’s even expanded his empire west in Venice with a second La Tostaderia and Boca de Agua - specializing in Mexican paletas. Fernando is inspired by the flavors of his hometown and neighboring regions and he’s ready to introduce escamoles to LA.
Beginning this evening, Friday, May 17th at 6pm through Sunday, May 19th 10pm, Fernando has created a prix fixe menu in honor of the LA Food Bowl. Diners will begin their 4-course meal with a trio of sopes. These traditional sopes will each be topped with a different item: huitlacoche (corn mushroom), squash blossom and chicharrón (fried pork).
The second course is a textural pleaser: ensalada de nopales. His cactus salad includes chicharrón crumbs, jamaica (hibiscus) dressing and Mexican cheese.
The entree is the pièce de résistance: Mexican caviar. The escamoles are cooked with a mixture of butter and vegetables and placed on a pinto spread. Dabs of guacamole purée and Chile Morita salsa are painted around the escamoles.
Lastly, diners will enjoy a sweet tamal. The tamal is made with blackberry jam and filled with cream cheese. It’s served with slices of guava, crushed pecans and a scoop of chongos ice cream. Chongos is made from curdled milk, cinnamon and sugar.
The meal is phenomenal from start to finish. I enjoyed the various toppings of the sopes that led to a light and acidic salad. The escamoles were truly a delicacy. They were creamy and buttery and paired perfectly with the tortillas de nopal. I don’t often get to enjoy sweet tamales so eating one for dessert was a welcome surprise. The chongos ice cream and caramel were a great addition and I loved the crunchiness from the pecans and guava.
Fernando always amazes me. His dishes truly celebrate Mexican cuisine past and present.
La Tostaderia 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA 90291