Corn or Flour? Gustavo’s Tortilla Tournament #dontforgetthegaucamole

Lots of conversation of me going to Harvard this fall.  I want to attend a Harvard Extension School course, Food Writing with Alison Arnett.  Some of the required reading I read in March of 2016 after listening to a podcast hosted by Pinch of Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob.  This blog, my writing and photography could be better.  Much better.  Besides, I have always wanted to go to Harvard. Study. Get smart.  Graduate.

The course is online and available via Zoom.  One weekend intensive requires me to be on campus.  I would love to go. Even seems to be synchronistic, in my favor.  Me taking the course didn’t work out.  Someone even offers to pay for the course.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the “right” kind of gifting.  This “gifting” comes with many strings attached.  So, I skip school and accept an invitation via my email to attend an event.  Instead of Cambridge, MA, I find myself off exit Ave 29 eating tacos and smoked milk popsicles washing it all down with bottled water and sips of Mezcal at the Los Angles River Center and Gardens.  A tortilla tournament.  Gustavo’s Tortilla Tournament. Ooohlalal! Yes!!!  One of my most favorites. The tortilla. I love the Mexican food culture.  Christmas time in my house, (my Father’s)  we make tomales.  Corn husks, pressure cooker, filling and all.  Salsa from scratch.  Guacamole too.  Not the tortilla though.  The best tortilla, I have had to date, until the KCRW event has been at La Supe-Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara.  The line around the block.  Horchata in vats.

I call an Uber an hour later than I want. No guarantee of entry at the event.  First come, first inside. Entry is free of charge.  I almost have the driver turn around. I have a headache.  Probably as a result of my irregular sleep patterns as of late.  My friend also in the hospital.  I am not sure they will let me inside.  What if there are too many people?   The driver and I chat about food trucks and his wanting to buy one, and investors.  Before I know it, I am on my way and too far for the turn around.

Festivities are well underway when I arrive.  The announcement of the corn tortilla winner is about to happen.  Littles running around.  Music. Tastings happening. Arts and Crafts.  Tortilla art is a thing. I had no idea.  A bar serving  specialty cocktails and Mezcal.  KCRW has done an outstanding job.  Quite the showcase.  Glad to be here.

Brown spots never looked so good. Bubbled flour with a sheen.  The ingredients can’t help visibility.  A byproduct of the heat.  Flour mostly.  Then comes a different texture.  Rough, bumpy. Then he colors.  Blue, white or yellow. That’s indication of corn.  I am now hangry and my thoughts swirling.  This size, bigger. This size for pliable. This corn is sweeter?  This has a more of a full flavor profile and wait no, wait this one is more sweet. Smell this. Flour versus corn. Which one is thicker. White versus blue. This one thinner. This one crispy! Holy moly. Thank goodness there is an opportunity for me to take a mental break from thinking of tortilla to watch a demo on how to make gaucamole. Choosing a favorite between flour and corn?  This I am incapable of doing.  Sometimes I even stack the corn on the flour and them top with other ingredients of choice.  I can’t vote on this.  I won’t vote.  I will eat.  After eating, I find myself seated at a demo station.  New guacamole recipe!

Please enjoy some photos and video highlights from Gustavo’s Tortilla Tournament.  The golden tortilla results and some related links from KCRW’s blog.  And a tortilla recipe from Mark Bittman featured in The New York Times Magazine.  All photos and videos taken with my iPhone.


KCRW invite

A little about the finalists from he KCRW blog…

Gustavo’s Great Tortilla, week 4 recap:  Behold SoCal’s four best tortillas!


Entrance. Beautiful blue sky.. iPhone photos..

tickets to taste the finalists and then the winner…


events of the day..
very nice map.. this one I think I can read..


heating for the tastings…
tasting the winner.. CORN!

The tasting lines are too long.  I wait and watch a demo.  Some of the best Guacamole EVER!!!

Guacamole!! Recipe in the video.

prep station..
sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds add nice texture.. elegant and simple guacamole.. She uses beefsteak tomato.. bright, acidic.. as if it were picked moments before making..

Food Court

first line fro tacos for me..
I make an effort not to eat too much meat.. I prefer vegan or vegetarian most of the time.. here I opt to try the meats.. brisket very rich.. needs a bit of salt (for me) but the recommended sauces are really great and add a great additional tender, so juicy..yummy… Mary’s chicken the other choice. Mary is said to massage her chickens. I often (still) get freaked out a bit thinking about eating chickens (I do love fried chicken and champagne…)
Both tacos delicious. Very filling.  Both fillings hold up very well in these flour tortilla. Wow. Smoked milk popsicle after.. Wow..So delicious..
smoked milk popsicle.. from Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars

Horchata Cupcakes! visit for more information

Who Got the Golden Tortilla?  

Gustavo’s Great Tortilla Tournament, Grand Finale:  And SoCal’s Best Tortilla Is…

El Machete Tasting

Available for purchase at Oscar Ochoa the founder.  Great flavor profiles. Pineapple! Spicy! Smokey. That red heat!

Tortilla Art

tortilla painting station
LeAnne tries on this headpiece for me… IT is made of corn husks or tortillas and is worn in parades..

From the Bar

a sip or two of Mezcal..

Tortillas, Almost From Scratch The shortcut: Masa harina from The New York Times Magazine by Mark Bittman


Corn Tortillas

Time: About 1 hour

1 ½                cups masa harina

¼                     teaspoon salt

2                      tablespoons vegetable oil, lard or butter

About 1 cup of hot water, or more as needed

Flour for kneading

  1. Combine the masa and salt in a bowl; stir in the oil, Slowly stream in the water while mixed with your hand or wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is smooth and elastic—just a minute or two. Wrap in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.
  3. Break off pieces of the dough (you’re shooting for 12-16 tortillas total), and lightly flour them. Put them between two sheets of plastic wrap, and press them into a tortilla, press them in a tortilla press, or roll them out or press them with your hands to a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. Begin to cook the tortilla as you finish pressing or rolling them.
  4. Put a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time, until brown spots appear on the bottom, about a minute. Flip and do the same on the other side. Wrap the cooked tortillas in a towel to keep them warm; serve immediately, or cool and store tightly wrapped in the fridge for a few days.

Until Next Time…




paper flowers
tile our front

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