Behind The Scenes Of Tacombi's Maize Tortillas
Usually, when I explore behind the scenes of a restaurant, it's a very one on one experience, me and the chef. This time a group of ten of us media folk were hosted by the Tacombi team to come in and learn about the corn tortilla making process and then, of course, pile on all of the restaurant’s delicious fillings and demolish them—cause that's our jobs! It was so much fun.
I didn't quite realize all that went into making a corn tortilla. What's more, is the connection each Tacombi tortilla has with Mexico. Making corn tortillas dates back to the Aztecs, that's how you know not only that it's a good recipe but it in its own way defines Mexican culture! It all starts with the “land raised corn” grown on the farms in Mexico which are hand cultivated and for all intensive purposes teleported here. This form of farming helps sustain the land allowing for future corn to grow while also bringing in extra money enhancing cultural sustainability.
Once in the hands of Tacombi’s Chef Jason Debiere, each kernel of this starchier than your average maize, aka corn, is soaked in calcium hydroxide overnight, a process called "nixtamalization", then hand rinsed to remove the remnants of its disintegrating outer shells, and put into a "molino", aka grinder, made of volcanic rock with water where it becomes dough. From here it goes through a conveyor belt styled oven that doubles as a, well, cookie cutter that created that circular tortilla that we love. Watching each tortilla come out, I had to fight my inner Lucille Ball self and restrain myself from scarfing each one down as they passed by me. This Tacombi location produces two hundred pounds of tortillas, each pound consisting of twenty-five tortillas, per day. Because the conveyor belt oven is so costly, all of Tacombi’s tortillas are made at this location and are then supplied to all of their other restaurants in the city.
There's so much more here. There's the story, one that Tacombi founder Dario Wolos told so beautifully as we stuffed our faces with tacos. Back in Mexico, taquerias are situated on every block—I’m picturing it like a SAT answer, taquerias are to Mexico as Starbucks is to New York. Inspired, Dario purchased a VW Combi, aka a mini bus, and transformed it into a taco bus. After making tacos out by the playa, he decided to uproot his life and take his combi to New York City.
“I loved what I did in Mexico and I knew New Yorkers like to eat”.
After shipping his taco combi to miami, he drove it to New York City where it now lives inside of his then new Nolita restaurant which he so poignantly named Tacombi—a portmanteau of “Taco” and “Combi”. I so love this.
“It started as a tradition of Mexico and then I met Jason [Tacombi’s Chef] and it became about the food”. That about says it all. Go enjoy the cultural richness of Mexico in the heart of New York City!