Everyone is talking tacos today. Whether it’s the off-putting spaghetti tacos from Nickelodeon’s show iCarly, or Bobby Flay’s Tacos and Tequila cook-off this weekend at the NYC Wine & Food Festival, this Mexican staple is riding a culinary heat wave.
So, why the sudden interest in tacos? Clearly, tacos have gained stature of late in the foodie world with the advent of stuffing them with fish or sprucing them up with more gourmet ingredients like duck, foie gras, and pork belly. As Mexican cuisine has matured and flourished throughout the U.S., diners are experiencing these grownup tacos with complex flavors. Whether it’s exploring Baja-inspired tacos, or experimenting with unusual pairings, these high-end, stuffed tortilla shells are fertile ground for chefs looking for their next creative outlet in the kitchen.
However, even the more pedestrian ground beef version is still a hit, judging by the line of cars outside the nearest Taco Bell. (As a side note, Taco Bell’s popularity seems to intensify based on the time of evening: The late-night crowd really craves tacos on their way home from nightclubs and bars.)
What I think we are seeing here, though, is a backlash against the burger craze of the last few years. The ubiquity of burgers (sliders and/or full-sizers) has been overwhelming, and stultifying. Kobe beef sliders? Been there, done that. Burgers topped with lobster and foie gras? Yawn. In terms of kitchen prowess, basically, if you could ground it, shape it like a patty and grill it, you were a culinary savant.
Here’s an idea: How about stuffing a burger into a taco shell? That would be the perfect layering of two food fads. Add some crumbled bacon and, bam, it’s a trifecta of trendiness for diners. Hey, I’d rather nosh on a taco burger hybrid than one stuffed with spaghetti any day of the week.
Jacquelynn D. Powers is a writer based in Miami Beach. Her work has appeared in the Miami New Times and slashfood.com. Prior to that, she was the senior editor of Ocean Drive magazine for over a decade.