by Lazarus Lynch
Tacos are indefinitely the ultimate Mexican street food. The messiness, the meatiness, and the crunchiness of any taco are just some of the noteworthy things that come to mind when I think about the perfect taco. In my New York City hometown, there are a plethora of family-owned taco food trucks, and street vendors serving up hundreds of tacos each day. I've had my share of late-night tacos when I get the munchies, and I've taken notes on what makes great tacos great tacos.
This Cinco de Mayo, I've attempted to answer the question of what makes for the perfect taco. I get it, building a taco isn't rocket science, yet, few seem to do it right these days. I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me, but having my fair share of tacos, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps building a taco isn't as simple as one thinks.
What Is a Taco?
Though tacos are universally loved, its origins are largely unknown. Taco expert Jeffrey M. Pilcher explains that a taco "... dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore," according to an online article in Smithsonianmag.com. That sort of helps us, but generally speaking, tacos are native to Mexico, and a popularized street food that's made its way around the globe.
A modern take interpretation on the taco is essentially a tortilla (fried or steamed) filled with assorted mixtures of meat, beans, rice, cheese, herbs, and salsa. Many tacos also include sour cream and guacamole. If you really want to break it down and get technical, a taco is a corn tortilla filled with "stuff." Tacos come in all sizes and kinds, but the best are the ones done right.
The Right Tortilla: The shell/tortilla/or vessel is arguably the most important part of every taco. The tortilla is the package that must perfectly encase every part of the filling. Traditionally, yellow or white corn tortillas are used for tacos and are often steamed or fried. Steaming or warming the tortillas allows them to be more pliable and prevents them from cracking when folded. Different varieties of corn tortillas have different textures; some being more dominant in corn flavor and dryer (typically yellow corn tortillas) while others are more neutral and moist in flavor (typically white corn tortillas). Sometimes, two tortillas are necessary to support a taco depending on how the portion and wetness of the filling.
I love a fried corn tortilla taco shell for its crunchy quality. If you use taco pre-cooked taco shells, I suggest placing them in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes to warm them before filling. The heat will awaken the corn flavor.
The Filling: The second most important aspect of the taco is the filling. Typically the filling would consist of a protein (beans, poultry, meat or fish), rice, and some medley of toppings. It's important that the filling is not overstuffed. Filling overload will result in a sloppy taco that could only be eaten with a knife and fork. Using a combination of meat and beans are classic and adds richness to the taco.
Use Acid & Herbs: My favorite part of a taco is the acidic punch you get from biting into a pickled red onion, or a tangy salsa with bright citrusy notes running throughout. I love pickled items (radish, fennel, onions, grated carrots, etc.) to add both texture and acidity to the taco. The acid also works well to balance the sometimes overwhelming flavors of the filling. Using herbs such as cilantro (or coriander leaves) as a beautiful freshness to the taco. If one has aversions to cilantro, parsley is a great substitute.
The Toppings: The toppings are sort of like the decorations you put on Christmas tree once it's all set up and ready to go. The toppings should vary in texture, flavor, spice, and temperature. Toppings usually consists of something creamy like cheese, sour cream or greek yogurt, avocado slices or guacamole, something spicy and tangy like salsas, tomatoes, or tomatillos, and something crunchy like iceberg lettuce. I like to have guest assemble their own tacos and serve themselves toppings as desired. Toppings are best when stored at appropriate temperatures to give great contrast between the filling and tortilla.
Remember TEAM TEXTURE is everything! Use the right tortilla(s), don't overstuff, and have your acid, herb, and toppings game on lock. Now that you have some tips for making a great taco this Cinco de Mayo, get yo taco game on!
Try two of my taco recipes below:
Jerk Chicken Caribbean Tacos
Margarita Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/where-did-the-taco-come-from-81228162/#SVro2XSpBWr3iOij.99
Photographer and Beat Maker, Fabian Blache a.k.a. Sohlobeats, Mastering Chill Style of Sound and Imagery
by Lazarus Lynch
A few weeks ago, the New Orleans based photographer and beat-maker, Fabian Blache (also known by his Instagram handle, @sohlobeats) took his first trip to New York City. I caught up with him venturing some of the city's culture hubs: Chinatown, Little Italy, and K-Town. Despite the fact that we had only met virtually through Instagram, it wasn't long before he pulled out his camera and started to capture every and anything he found to be interesting, including me. His curiosity and keenness to capture the interconnectedness of life around him fascinated me. I sat down with Sohlobeats to learn more about his process, this is what he told me:
LL How would you describe your artistic aesthetic?
SOHLOBEATS You know, when I first started photography, I played around with different styles. I took a photography class, and I used friends as models; I was just trying to figure out my style. But I always knew I wanted to capture the every day moments — things people don’t really notice. I like the more modern look of photography and I also like taking pictures of people, whether they realize it or don’t realize it. I like getting people in their environment. I prefer doing it [photography] in the urban environment. Growing up in kind of a city, Baton Rouge… I’ve always wanted to capture people in that.
My style is more so minimal. It has minimal characteristics of people in the urban environment.
LL On your feed you have portraits, landscape, drone photography, and now food photography. What are the stories you love to tell the most through your photography?
SOHLOBEATS The most, I would say people living their every day life. I don’t want to take pictures of famous people, or wealthy and rich people… I’m not really big on taking pictures of fancy cars [they’re nice], but my essential is catching a person [persons] experiencing something. I like catching day-to-day normal moments.
Recently, I put up a picture of a spot in Chinatown. It’s a window shot and I’m standing outside and you can see me snapping the picture in the shot, which I do like. You could see these ladies behind the window working. One of them looks tired [the younger girl]. and the older lady looks more energetic and happy. It’s kinda funny because here you have this younger person in a traditional environment, but she doesn’t look excited whereas the older lady does. I love showing things of that nature. If I can snap a shot and it shows some kind of social challenge, then that’s what I really want to show. I’m not trying to throw it in your face, but if you look hard enough, you’ll be like, “Wait a minute. Look at this.”
I’m more so concerned with: did you see it and really think about it, or did you just double-tap and scroll past?
LL I’m just curious, how important is it to you to have people leave comments or like your work on social media?
SOHLOBEATS I never expected the amount of feedback and connections that I do get, currently. I would like to get more, yes, but I’m still on the journey getting there, it’s growing every month so that’s good. I really do appreciate comments, but I’m not really searching for comments. I’m more so concerned with: did you see it and really think about it, or did you just double-tap and scroll past? Are you really seeing what I’m showing you here? I’m really about the mood. I want you to feel it and pick up on the mood of my pictures and tones on the page, rather than saying, “Oh this is great.” There are times when people have said, “Your work is amazing,” or “I love your tonal player.” That stuff stands out to me so much because it’s like wow, you got it. You saw what I’m doing here and it resonated with you. I really appreciate that.
But at least I’ve found my style of sound and imagery. The ultimate goal is for them to come together, for them to compliment each other.
LL Who inspires you?
SOHLOBEATS I definitely would say my biggest influencer on my photography is a guy that goes by TAKU, who also does photography and beat-making. I like how he takes these simple moments, whether it be people in transit, taxi drivers, people walking the streets. He’s the ultimate street photographer and just shows you the world with a unique tone set, and minimal way.
LL As an artist, what do you hope to do through your work?
SOHLOBEATS The ultimate goal, I do go by the name Sohlobeats… I’ve been working more and more on mastering my chill style. I have found my style, now it’s just about enhancing it and getting it better and better. It’s still like that with pictures; there’s always room to improve. But at least I’ve found my style of sound and imagery. The ultimate goal is for them to come together, for them to compliment each other. I want you to not only hear my sounds and chill beats, but I want you to see and feel that mood. It’s all about creating that chill mood, and even though it’s chill, it’s still showing you the world through people… I’m just taking my time and trying to master the craft.
LL Favorite fried chicken spot in NOLA?
SOHLOBEATS We Dat Chicken & Shrimp!!
You can follow Sohlobeats on Instagram.
by Lazarus Lynch
WATCH FULL EPISODE ON YOUTUBE.
After cooking two of her favorite foods, Galla Pinto and Banana Pudding, my brother and I met up with the artist in her Brooklyn neighborhood to talk about her musical journey and upcoming projects.
Kennedy (a.k.a. Prez) of The Kennedy Administration isn't all that new to the New York City music scene. After moving from her hometown of Detroit, Michigan a few years ago, it wasn't long before the artist broke through the saturated industry, introducing a new vocal sound reminiscent of iconic predecessors Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, and Chaka Khan. Her instrumental trio band is comprised of band leader and award-winning recording artist, Ondre J, Nat Townsley (drummer), and Cheltune Grey (bass player). The band has a weekly residence every Wednesday night at The Groove, a performance venue in New York City's Greenwich Village. The Kennedy Administration excells in a number of musical genres ranging from covers to originals with variations of contemporary jazz with a flair of R&B, hip-hop, and pop. Not to mention the occasional elements of funk that spontaneously enters in an improvisational performance.
Here is a snippet of my Soul Food Talks Interview with Kennedy (PREZ):
LL Prez, you're such an incredible person, first of all, and you're also an amazing artist. Tell me about your journey in music. How did it all start for you?
KENNEDY OMG... I believe I was probably singing since I was in the womb. My mom was the praise team leader at this small church [my grandparent's church], my dad played bass. From as long as I could remember, my earliest memories I've been singing and bopping around with barettes in my hair, and just kicking my feet to the music. It's always been there. I just didn't realize how important it was to me until I got to the amazing age of six. I was at a funeral actually for an organ player. People were crying and stuff but the music sounded so good. I remember holding the back of the pew and just rocking to the music and just feeling overwhelmed with this (makes a gasping expression), and I knew I really liked it. I tried to explain it but I scared everybody.
LL What did you say to them?
KENNEDY I was like, "I got all this feeling..." and she [my mom] was like 'what?' She just thought I was filled with the spirit. I was like, "No. It wasn't Jesus this time, it was something else." So, I've continued having that feeling.
LL I've watched you at your show you do every Wednesday night at the Groove, here in New York City. What is it like being on that stage?
KENNEDY For me, it feels like that's the one place I'm supposed to be. I feel like I'm flying. I feel like I throw the notes out and I place them amongst the stars. That's how it feels to me. It just feels natural, like that's where I'm supposed to be.
LL Tell me about your EP?
KENNEDY It's so weird to see myself on that [cover], I'm like, "oh it's me." It's been an incredible journey just putting it together... Being more than just a singer. Writing and being creative and coming up with real concepts and ideas for the music. It's been great. It was a little terrifying at first, because you're trying to come from a perspective, at least for me, where people 'get it.' We [as people and artists] have all these internal conversations, but it's like taking all those internal conversations and actually putting them down on paper and them making sense. Then, singing those conversations out loud. It was great. I had a couple moments when I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing."
LL You're working with some amazing people: Ondre J Pivec, Jordan Peters, Jay White, Chelton Grey, Nathaniel 'Nat' Townsley... Amazing people; people who's music I respect. What was it like working with them?
KENNEDY Honestly, I'm the baby in the group because they all have years of experience. Nat Townsley has worked with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, his resume is incredible. So, just to be around that energy... it was awesome just watching them give themselves and watching them chime in like "on that next verse, let's try this." I was able to just learn, you know. You can't pay for that... My friend/bandmate/producer, Ondre J Pivec, did such an incredible job. So, it's been so incredible to be in the studio and they're like, "does this sound good, Kennedy?" And I'm like inside [squealing] "oh my God, I love it," and I'm like "oh it's cool, whatever you want to do." It was just incredible.
LL Favorite Artists?
KENNEDY I can't say that I have like a favorite artist. I draw some from different people. I guess people who are really influential to me it would be Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews. You know Dave would just start screaming or yoddling and at first when I heard it, I was like, "what is this? This is crazy," but it inspired me. Some of the liberties I take, musically, are from listening to his music. Kim Burrell, Chaka Khan -- she's was just flat-footed and sang. No autotune. Nobody like, "huh" [struggling to get her on pitch]; she was dead on the note and I love her. Michael Jackson. Michael, for me, was huge. His album, "Off The Wall," you could just feel the energy. You could feel how excited he is [was] to do it.
by Lazarus Lynch
"As I strolled through New York's East Village Easter Sunday morning, I discovered a brick wall that immediately drew me in... I looked at the bottom of the wall and for the first time noticed those six letters: HEKTAD."
As I strolled through New York's East Village Easter Sunday morning, I discovered a brick wall that immediately drew me in. It was unlike any other brick wall I passed by that morning; it was a wall with a message. The message was powerful, yet subtle enough that I almost kept walking. I stopped to take a closer look at the wall. I studied it as though I were standing in front of a classic art piece at the Museum of Modern Art. The wall was covered in beautiful colors that made the shape of a heart. The brightly covered heart was huge covering up the surface of that black wall.
I decided to take a picture of the wall and share it on my Instagram Stories. I pulled out my iPhone, stepped back, and took the shot. I looked at the bottom of the wall and for the first time noticed those six letters: HEKTAD. I typed the letters into my stories and there it was: @HEKTAD._OFFICIAL. I mentioned him and posted the picture. Hours later, I got a message from HEKTAD saying, "Awesome shot." I quickly responded, "Dope art." HEKTAD sent me an invitation flyer promoting a recent mural at 39 Spring Street. I responding that I would try and stop by -- and I did.
When I arrived at 39 Spring Street, I saw a group of people standing around, talking in front of the mural. The front of the building was covered in bursts of paint -- highs of blue, pink, red, green, and yellow, similar to tie dyed tones. At the center of the wall were two doors with a heart painted on it. Inside the heart were the words, I Choose Love. Inside the building were more paintings from HEKTAD both on the walls and in frames. Each pieces was signed by the artists name, HEKTAD.
When I finally met HEKTAD, he was leaning against a car outside. He was dressed humbly with a baseball cap, a t-shirt, and jeans with dried paint on them. I congratulated him on his work and asked if I could interview him. He kindly agreed. Here's a snippet from our interview:
LL: Where does the name HEKTAD come from?
HEKTAD: HEK is my graffiti name. TAD is the crew I had growing up in the Bronx. TAD stands for Toy's Aint Down. We were artists (a.k.a. vandalis). I stood with the crew. We used to paint on everything.
LL: When did you start making street art?
HEKTAD: In 1982. I came back to it. I had children and stopped for a while but I'm friends with Banksy and he told me, "Man, now is the time." I would say he helped me get back to doing street art.
LL: Where can people find your art?
HEKTAD: It's all over... I put a piano at the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge a few years ago. My work is at (former) Yaffa Cafe in the East Village, First Street and Houston, West 23rd Street Wall... it's all over.
LL: What keeps you going as an artist?
HEKTAD: It's an addiction. I just love it. I love painting, I love sharing my work with people... it's love for the work.
LL: What advice would you give to young artist?
HEKTAD: Don't think about the money. Do it for the love. Whatever you do -- music, art, cooking -- do it because you love it. People loose it when they think about the money. Think about your craft. Also make a name for yourself.
Follow HEKTAD on Instagram.
by LAZARUS LYNCH
I recently took my first trip to New Orleans, Louisiana in search for some of NOLA's best places to eat and drink. I arrived just the week before Mardi Gras and got to experience the parades, and of course, the great city. Truthfully, my trip was very short so I was determined to explore. Here is the list of my top five places to eat and drink on your next trip to NOLA!
1. SoBou: A Spirited Restaurant South of Bourbon
Located in south of Bourbon Street in the French quarters, SoBou is a spirited restaurant serving up unique and inspired flavors and cocktails. Named the "Best New Restaurant in 2012" by Esquire Magazine, SoBou is New Orleans' modern saloon or tavern with crave-worthy dishes and drinks. The menu is curated by chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez and is a combination of authentic New Orleans street food with influences of his Spanish upbringing. And while you're grabbing a bite, you must try one (or more) of SoBou's incredible cocktails.
French Quarter 10 Rue Chartres New Orleans, LA 70130
2. Red Fish Grill
If you're in the mood for amazing seafood, Red Fish Grill is the spot. The award winning restaurant in the French Quarters has an array of fresh seafood options on its menu including a raw oyster bar, shellfish, finfish, as well as classic creole seafood dishes. Two of their signature dishes are the BBQ Oysters, and the Wood Grilled Redfish and Louisiana Crawfish Tails.
115 Bourbon Street New Orleans, LA 70130
3. Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
I nearly lost my mind when I showed up to Bacchanal. It is the ultimate food, drink, and music venue in the Ninth Ward neighborhood. When you first walk in, there is a wine and spirits shop. As you proceed through the shop, you enter into another outdoor bar. Just around the corner from the outdoor bar is an open outdoor seating area with live music. Upstairs, there is another bar and balcony area. You order all your food at the bar and your order is brought to you by the wait staff. I recommend starting out with some wine, a cheese board, olives, bacon wrapped dates, and several other small plates to share.
600 Poland Avenue New Orleans, La. 70117
4. Effervescence Champagne Bar
Effervescence is one of NOLA's newest restaurant on the historic Rampart Street. Chefs Brenna Sanders and Evan Ingram designed a small plates menu to pair with champagne. Several sparkling and still wines are available on their and range in price. Wines can be sold by the glass, half glass, and prosecco is on tap. The inspired menu includes items such as pommes frites, caviar with creme fraiche and potato chips, and grilled octopus. The restaurant opens in the afternoons on most days and stays open until midnight or later.
1036 N. Rampart Street New Orleans, LA 70116
Bacon just got better!! The praline (pecan and sugar mixture) coated bacon is just a starter on the comforting menu, and a great way to whet the appetite IMO! The homey and neighborhood spot serves up classic dishes such as Italian sausage with red gravy, fried chicken livers with pepper jelly, and fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce. If you're looking for NOLA's creole and southern classics with an elevated and modern spin, Elizabeth's is a great option.
601 Gallier St New Orleans, LA 70117
Last Friday, I experienced one of the single most impactful days of my life volunteering at public school 21 in Brooklyn, New York for the 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD). NYSD is a global event focused on youth-led interactive science experiments. The annual event reaches thousands of youth across the country, with hands-on design projects in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This year's theme was Drone Discovery! This engineering design challenge was created by Cornell University Cooperative Extension and taught students how drones are being used to solve real world problems.
The event started with students gathering in the elementary school's cafeteria. Students were welcomed by New York City 4-H Leader, Lucinda Randolph-Benjamin, then led in the 4-H pledge by your's truly. To my surprise, I could recite the pledge with as much fluency as I did in my 4-H club in high school. The students were then led in a mini lesson on drones and things that fly by 4-H Youth Development Educator, Charles "Chip" Malone (photo below). Chip demonstrated the four forces of flight using a foam drone: lift, gravity, thrust, and drag. Chip used interactive dance moves to further explain how these four forces work in real life. Students were rallied up and led into the gymnasium for a full day of engineering and fun!
I managed the station, Drone Discovery: Things That Fly. At this station, students were taught what drones actually are, what they do, and how they are used in our world. Students also learned the basics of flight dynamics and motion, then they got to apply it. I led students in building two types of aircrafts and wing types: rotary wing propcopters, made from two plastic pieces, and fixed wing gliders, made from styrofoam plates. The best moment for me was when the students actually got to fly the planes and test how far they could go before falling from the sky. The students were encouraged to think as engineers and keep their planes in the air longer with better control.
One of the greatest joys I have is serving as a trustee for the National 4-H Council. As a trustee, I get so excited when I meet youth whose lives are being positively impacted by the work of 4-H. I am so fortunate for my 4-H experience and it is my desire to see more kids have 4-H in their lives, just like the students in Brooklyn.
Giving back causes my perspective on life to be fuller. I feel so blessed to have met these students in Brooklyn, and hopefully inspire them to one day become scientist, engineers, or even chefs! No matter what they do, I know they will be successful because of 4-H. Learn more about 4-H today.
Friends, get ready for my new YouTube series titled, Soul Food Talks. This long anticipated series is finally happening and I could not be more proud!
I'm meeting up with my great friends and fellow creators in New York to chat all things food, life, and upcoming projects. The series features guests including author and celebrity chef, Dan Churchill; singer, songwriter and musician, Aaron Marcellus; singer and songwriter, Tréi Stella; and, power couple extraordinaire and artists, Raii & Whitney. Each conversation is accompanied by a dish that screams "soul food" inspired by my guests favorite ingredients, dishes, and memories about food.
Soul Food Talks was inspired by my love and appreciation for the arts. Period. As a child, my idea of a happy life was to make art. As an adult, it's amazing to me how me and so many others have managed to turn this idea of creating things into successful careers. I say that with all humility, too. So I wanted to share the stories of creators doing amazing work to hopefully inspire others that dreams are possible to achieve while also providing entertaining content for viewers.
I was also inspired by the amazing, Questlove, and his book, somethingtofoodabout. In the book, Questlove interviews ten renowned chefs in America, unfolding the person behind the food. It fascinated me how relatable each of these chefs were yet how different were. I was inspired to bring together my friends and fellow creators over home cooked 'soul food' (however that might be defined) and share inspiring stories. To my surprise, it was quite easy to get my guests talking once they saw the food.
I am so excited to work with an amazing team of family, friends, producers, cinematographers, photographers, designers, and editors to bring this project to life. Stay tuned for more ahead. In the meantime, SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel and check out each of my friend's amazing work.
Peace & Love,