Sunday, December 27, 2009

Denver al Pastor Part 4: Fine Art and Dining at Taco Veloz

Being a relatively new "blogger", and being almost just as new to the idea of "online communication" outside of the email I use for work, it was somewhat surprising to find myself sitting in a North Federal taco joint with an "online friend": fellow Denver-area blogger and food-illustrating wonder, Riki Takaoka. My mission was twofold: 1) meet Riki and see him draw my favorite food, and 2) eat my favorite food.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to seek out Denver's best tacos al pastor, with the one qualifying rule that said pastor must come roasted on a spit. Here is what I know so far: Taco Veloz on North Federal has the best pastor in the city. There are some close seconds, but in my fourth installment of what will become many more, Taco Veloz is the best and most authentic (edging out Carboncitos and soundly beating Taco Mex, while Tacos Junior cried in the corner and begged for mercy ).

Taco Veloz on that rainy Monday night was pretty lonely. There were one or two other people in there when Riki and I walked in, and a few trickled in when we left, but for the most part we dined alone. Therefore I was able to pick a choice spot that gave Riki an unobstructed view of the spit of pastor, and he immediately set to work by opening his sketch book and spreading some pens on the table.


The taco spit is a little sad. It sits in the corner unadorned, unlit and seemingly unloved; and although every time I have been there it has been well-charred, the flame is off and there is no taquero there meticulously grooming, spinning, shaping and generally caring for it. (I think peak hours may be 2 am to 4 am when the club down the street lets out.) The taquero in the kitchen simply comes out to slice a few pieces off and goes back to the kitchen for the obligatory grilling found only in the hyper-sanitary United States of America. But regardless of the indifferent manner it seems to be treated, and along with the customary overcooking, what comes out is pure delight-- with a big chunk of fresh pineapple on top and handmade tortillas underneath. The salsa bar is extensive as well, and one weekend they even had a large molcajete bowl out with a recently ground tomatillo-avocado salsa that was out of this world for its freshness and taste.

Meanwhile Riki was sketching away. He truly gets inspired by food, and I love how his sketches primarily consist of the most ordinary and everyday food necessities. Milk. Lentils. Hot Dogs. It's a take on the still life, I suppose, putting center stage commonplace objects which are often under-recognized if not plainly ignored in our daily lives. Still life paintings teach us to pause and think about the beauty that can be our day-to-day grind and remind us to appreciate subtle moments in our life. Or something like that. Tacos al pastor are not necessarily a part of everyday life even for me, though arguments have been made (by me with to my wife) that they should be; but they are nonetheless beautiful and under appreciated. Riki, who appreciates even the most mundane of monotonous meals, found these morsels to be particularly inspiring; and never having even heard of tacos al pastor, he was grinning ear-to-ear after every bite; and somehow without soaking his sketch book in taco grease, he made some wonderful sketches like this one. Look at the amazing line work and shading:


As obsessed as I am with tacos al pastor, there is nothing quite like a painting of pastor to hang in my hallway to keep me smiling for the times of my week when there is no pastor. It will have to do until the wife lets me have a taco spit in my kitchen. Here is the painting that resulted from the sketching that he did that evening.

The colors are great, and the whole painting is vibrant, almost jumping off the screen. I particularly like his broad brush strokes and the cartoon-like realism he evokes. (Plus, this painting makes me particularly hungry.)

Since going to Taco Veloz with Riki, everytime I have returned it has been consistently the best pastor I have had in Denver. The taste is perfect. The slices are thin and well charred. The pineapple is fresh, and so are the tortillas. The salsa bar is a bonus. I am still venturing out to new places I have heard about and also to a couple others that I have been to before, but until then, you cannot go wrong with Taco Veloz for an authentic pastor experience.

Holiday season got you in the mood for Tacos al Pastor? Get festive at 5044 North Federal. And what better way to end your New Year's celebration. Open until 4 am.
El Veloz Taco on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Love the Painting and Sketch! Nice work Riki.

    ReplyDelete

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