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For the last few months, OUTvoices Nashville’s print edition featured a new column—our first regular cooking column, “Joe Eats World.” This column is an extension of Morales’ work as a food blogger and chef and part of a larger project in what will soon become OUTvoices TV. Morales recently filmed the pilot episode of a “Joe Eats World” web-based television show.
Morales decided to go to culinary school around 2014, in what he said his husband might call a “midlife crisis”—though he protests that that’s not quite right. “I just felt the need to do something different,” he said. “I like to write, and I like to cook … so when I started talking about going to culinary school, to begin with, I didn’t have a desire to be a restaurant chef.”
Joe Eats World
This was also the real genesis of his food blog. He intended to learn about food, how to cook, and document his journey in his blog. As for his food career, he said, “I decided I’d figure that out along the way!”
He admitted that felt kind of silly. “At my age and having that naivety?”
Once he got started, however, things didn’t follow that plan, either for his blog or his career. “It was going to be more of a diary… I guess that's how it always starts: you always have these good intentions. I started a blog because I was going to document my culinary education … start to finish and then about the restaurant industry and whatever else. Going into culinary school full time, doing side work … it just kind of sat there!”
As far as his attitude toward restaurant work went, that also transformed during culinary school. “I was like, ‘Alright, I absolutely want to get into the restaurant.’ And once I went into a restaurant, it was amazing. Some of the best times I had in the kitchen were in the restaurant!”
Chef Joe Morales
Out of culinary school, Morales became a sous chef for a Michelin-recommended restaurant, where he worked until they closed in 2019 and relocated to Cleveland. The closure of the restaurant spurred him to rededicate himself to food blogging and teaching.
“I started to teach cooking classes at a local kitchen here in Chicago,” he explained. “There's an LGBTQ owned business that is down the street from us, so I was doing a lot of cooking classes and stuff there for them until the pandemic hit, and all of that stuff got shut down.”
Morales has continued to develop the “Joe Eats World” blog—which took the shape of a full food blog, though primarily focused on recipes and cooking tips—during the pandemic. When it comes to recipes, Morales took a different tack than many contemporary food blogs. Rather than focus primarily on the backstory and history of the dish, with personal asides, his blog entries focus their detail on the execution of the technique and conclude with the formal recipe.
In addition to detailing his perfected recipes, Morales also gives readers a window into the development process professional chefs go through as they experiment with dishes in a section he calls the “Test Kitchen.”
“Basically, the Test Kitchen details when I get these ideas of cooking something or trying something, how I executed it, and then I will tell you whether they fail or not. So far … there's been some failures. You know sometimes something sounds good but in the execution not so much! I did a twist on this chicken and Italian sausage dish that was a little sweeter than the traditional preparation. It sounded great. And then I made it, and I was like, ‘This tastes like shit.’ Sometimes you have to try it to find out!”
Why document the failures? “I struggled with that because everything that people put on their websites—the recipes, or whatever else—they're going for the hero shot and the perfect picture! Nobody likes to talk about their failures, so in my Test Kitchen I document both successes and failures. Like—I don't think I wrote about it yet but—I've done sourdough bread, and I don't know what it is with me and sourdough bread. But my first attempt at sourdough is always a failure. One time I woke up two days later, and the starter was just pitch black. And I had to toss it out. But you know people can learn from our mistakes, so I write about it, focusing on ‘do this, but don't do that’.”
Joe Eats World ... Television?
When asked how the “Joe Eats World” television show idea was born, Morales explained that it kind of came together with the birth of the OUTvoices and Aequalitas Media brands on the one hand and his return to the blog on the other.
“I was going to do videos for YouTube that would supplement the ‘Joe Eats World’ blog—it was basically going to be me filming myself doing recipes and stuff like that. Then, it kind of morphed as people would say, ‘Oh, you should do a cooking show. And maybe you should have drag queens or something like that—you know, some sort gay-themed show’.”
Beyond the direct appeal to the LGBTQ+ community, Morales thinks this kind of show brings the added value of both showing that our community’s interests are broader than stereotypes and bringing visibility to LGBTQ+ people in the industry.
“I think that the last year-and-a-half has kind of taught us that there's a lot of things that are unspoken unseen. And I think that having an LGBTQ cooking show could help highlight LGBTQ+ diversity in a positive way. We're more than what they see on comedy and dramas, or at Pride events.”
“Cooking,” he added, “also has broad appeal. There's enough negative crap going on in the world. And there are a lot of LGBTQ+ people in the industry that aren't getting a lot of visibility. A lot of gay or lesbian or transgender chefs—people within the LGBTQ+ spectrum—aren’t highlighted. They're usually just kind of in the background and doing their thing; they're just trying to make a living, enjoy what they're doing, and create great food. A show like this would bring them front and center.”
A lot of planning remains to be done to bring “Joe Eats World” to little screens around the globe, but Morales was on set last month to shoot a pilot, and planning for the series is proceeding, as OUTvoices continues to develop digital content for its OUTvoices TV and OUTvoices Radio arms.
But you don’t have to wait for video to follow what Chef Joe Morales is up to in the kitchen. Check out “Joe Eats World” each month in OUTvoices Nashville, and read his blog posts at joeeatsworld.com.
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The state of Jalisco is Mexico’s most emblematic region, having given birth to so many of the country’s iconic cultural offerings, including the charro, or Mexican cowboy, and, of course, Tequila. This multi-destination state has plenty of space to maintain social distancing and remains a must for any fan of its signature spirit.
The following are Viva Tequila’s Mexico Experience top cities to visit in Jalisco’s agave-producing region, which is rich with the drink’s history and the culture that surrounds it, from mixology and gastronomy to the simple way of life in a hacienda.
Tlaquepaque was founded by the indigenous Totonac people. They produced everyday utensils and art objects before the Spaniards arrived. Today, the town continues to be an artisan city known for its galleries and handicrafts. It’s a must-stop because of its up-tempo culinary scene. Be sure to have lunch at Casa Luna Restaurant, right in the center of the city. The open courtyard under the shade of a large tree is a magnet for locals and visitors alike thanks to its hipster vibe.
Teuchitlán lies along the Tequila Route and is home to the most important archaeological zone in western Mexico: Los Guachimontones. The zone is the major site of the so-called Teuchitlán tradition, a complex society that existed from as early as 300 BCE until perhaps 900 CE. The dominant features at Los Guachimontones are circular stepped pyramids in the middle of circular building complexes. The 60-foot (18-meter) tall pyramid at Circle 2 has 13 high steps leading to an upper level, which was then topped with another four high steps. A post hole was located at the very highest level, most likely for volador (flying acrobat) ceremonies. The pyramids may also have supported small temples. Check out Hacienda Labor de Rivera. Built in the late 1800s, each of the property’s rooms are individually designed, with their own unique character.
Tequila has been designated both a “Magical Town” by the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico and a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site. The nearly 90,000-acre area is part of an expansive landscape of blue agave. Tequila’s fortunes have been shaped by cultivation of the plant, used since the 16th century to produce the spirit known as Tequila and for at least two millennia to make fermented drinks, such as pulque, and cloth. Within the landscape lie working distilleries, reflecting the growth in the consumption of Tequila in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, this agave culture is seen as part of Mexican national identity. The Tequila landscape has contributed to many works of art, including film, music, dance and paintings. Don’t miss Fonda Cholula, a wonderful colonial infrastructure — elegant, warm and harmonious with the buildings of the historic center. It’s a magical space to rest and enjoy the experience of Mexican cuisine that surrounds Tequila and its people.
Atotonilco El Alto is a town and municipality that covers an area of 246 square miles (638 square kilometers). The first part of its name means "Place of Hot Waters" in Mexico’s indigenous Náhuatl language. "El Alto,” or “The High One” in Spanish, was later added in honor of those who died in the Cristero War in the early 1920s. Make sure to visit Don Nacho Distillery, one of the most prolific agave-producing companies in the Jalisco Highlands.
Guadalajara is the gathering point of all Jalisco and the place where all the varied traditions of that vast territory coexist, giving rise to a unique urban identity. The city boasts artistic and cultural credentials long recognized worldwide. Guadalajara is also innovative and avant-garde, constantly undergoing a renewal and reinvention process that promises it an attractive future. It’s also full of rhythm! Guadalajara’s musicality is a source of inspiration. Check out La Tequila Cocina de México Restaurant, offering the best of the region’s gastronomic heritage, following traditional recipes of dishes while innovating with a contemporary intention.
Viva Tequila Festival’s Mexico Experience brings guests on a luxurious tour of these five exciting cities to embrace Jalisco’s Mexican spirit and provide a deeper understanding of the different regions that cultivate agaves, local foods and the local culture.
Ironically, Keyla Aguilar’s journey to veganism began when she worked at a burger joint. Her then manager was a proud vegetarian, which helped inspire Aguilar to go herbivore. These days Aguilar, the co-owner of Earth Plant Based Cuisine, is still dishing out burgers — as well as tacos, burritos, and other classic Mexican dishes — only now she gets to share in the feast knowing that no animals were harmed in the making.
When Aguilar first gave up the carnivorous lifestyle, it caused some headaches around her family’s dinner table. Meat was an essential part of the traditional Hispanic cuisine they shared, or so it seemed. After two and a half years as a vegetarian, Aguilar finally relented to her parent’s protestations about the difficulty in accommodating her diet. However, soon her little sister jumped on the plant-eating bandwagon too. A familial tipping point was reached and a few weeks later her parents also made the plunge. Soon after, the whole family went vegan.
While carnitas and chicharrones were out, the Aguilar clan refused to give up the traditional tapestry of spices and textures that had always brought them together at mealtime. Of course, they had to show a little flexibility and patience in order to get there.
“It took a while to transition all of the recipes to vegan,” Aguilar explained. “There was a lot of trial and error, but we still liked our food, our flavor.”
Their experimentation proved fruitful. Soon they were eating healthier than ever without scrimping any on taste. Another benefit was cooking and cleaning sans animal flesh proved simpler and faster. This was good because, vegan or not, demand for their eats quickly outstripped supply.
“Every time we would have a family gathering or a potluck or something, we would bring our food,” Aguilar explained. “People would always like it even if they weren’t vegan. Our food would always be finished before everyone else’s.”
The Aguilar sisters started discussing taking their family cookbook pro. They surveyed the Phoenix food scene. There were many Mexican restaurants and a few vegan eateries, but no specifically Mexican vegan ones. A lot of places offered token or place-holder vegan options that didn’t do much to dispel the idea that such food is bland and boring. A restaurant serving vegan dishes that even the most blood-thirsty diners could enjoy seemed like the perfect niche.
First things first, they found a space on Grand Avenue in the same shopping complex as Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge. The family put the planet-friendly policies they used in the kitchen into practice during construction. Everything that could be saved or reused was, including building tables and a ceiling from old wooden pallets. On September 5, 2019, Earth Plant Based Cuisine had its grand opening.
Of course, after a few months of success, COVID-19 reared its spikey viral head. Even as the new restaurant shutdown in-person dining during the pandemic’s earlier days, community support kept rolling in. While things looked bleak, enough business kept coming to keep the new spot open. In the recent weeks, Aguilar has seen orders slowly growing again.
My first visit came on a Wednesday evening in late October. I found it easy to place my order online and then set off towards the westside. Finding a spot for my vehicle was likewise a breeze since the shopping complex sports its own ample parking lot, saving me the headache of parallel parking on the busy diagonal thoroughfare.
The complex also boasts a massive, bricked courtyard and covered outside dining area, something so critical for a restaurant’s success in these plague-ridden times. In fact, while I planned to dine and dash — after picking up and paying for my to-go meal, of course — the spacing of the dining tables on the patio made me feel comfortable enough to eat there, the first time I’ve done so in a very long time. The staff quickly switched my meal to real plates with no fuss. As I watched a classic pink and lavender Arizona sunset, I felt some small sense of normalcy returning, if only until I foolishly glanced at the day’s headlines on my phone.
For starters, the affordable pricing allowed a friend and I to enjoy a meat-free feast. There was even enough leftover in the dining budget for a second visit the following day. Normally good vegan food costs an arm and a leg, but this place saves both animal and financial appendages.
For an appetizer, we ordered the chorizo fries. They were buried under a massive pile of meatless chorizo, guacamole, tomatoes, onions, and plenty of cheese sauce. The fries remained crisp and warm despite the mountain of smokey, citrus-infused toppings. This could serve as a meal for one or possibly even two.
We also tried the buffalo wings, which really are something special. Not only did the fake meat come liberally slathered in a tangy buffalo glaze, but they also even sported “bones.” While not actual skeleton, these made for easy handling and really added to the carnivorous verisimilitude. Chewy, meaty, and smothered in smokey sauce, I felt a bit like Fabio in that I almost couldn’t believe this was really all vegan. A house-made ranch rounded out this delightful dish, which I highly recommend.
I was already loosening my belt when we started our main courses. I opted for the Bruno burger, which bears a striking resemblance to the platonic ideal of a Big Mac you might see in some glossy ad. Like the wings, the delight is in the cook’s attention to detail. The golden bun is bedazzled with lightly charred sesame seeds. The large, thick patty slightly overhangs the bun, just as I prefer. Thousand island dressing, onions, tomatoes, and fresh lettuce complete the package.
My dining companion went for an order of three “Fish” tacos. These were each little works of art decorated with purple cabbage, red tomatoes, and a glowing orange sauce. Tucked under this riot of color were plenty of chunks of soy-based faux fish. Again, the realness of the fake meat is greatly enhanced by the careful spicing and fresh accoutrements. Still, the star of this dish had to be the tortillas themselves. Baked in house, they were soft like goose-down pillows yet also plenty chewy.
Walking back to our vehicle, we caught sight of a nearby couple sharing a luxurious looking diary-free milkshake. We couldn’t quite find the room for it that evening or during the next day’s lunch I was already plotting, but the pair of lovers looked as content in their dessert as they did with each other.
The following afternoon, my gluttony again conspired with Earth’s well-priced menu. Even after all that food the night before, I was able to order a crazy “shrimp” burrito and a hot diggity dog without going over budget. It was too much for one man, but that didn’t stop me from inhaling it all before retiring for a delightfully unproductive afternoon food coma.
The meatless hot dog came loaded with colorful toppings and a heaping portion of golden fries. An homage to the southwest’s world-famous Sonoran dogs, this protein cylinder was smothered in not only ketchup and mustard, but also pinto beans, crema, avocado salsa, tomatoes and onions. This good dog offers a whole lot of bark for the buck.
Getting a little fishier, I then ordered a fake shrimp burrito on the owner’s recommendation. I was glad I did. I actually enjoyed the fake shrimp ever so slightly more than the fake fish from the day before. The breading, texture and flavor were so real. Aguilar explained they use seaweed to capture that certain oceanic essence, which means big flavors and big phytonutrients. Again, the tortilla's warm chewiness made it far more than just a vehicle for the tasty innards. The fake shrimp can also be had on tacos, which I think I’ll try on my next visit.
If you need to feed a family of mixed palettes on a limited budget, Earth Plant Based Cuisine is just the planet for you. This West Side treat is a true triple threat: tasty, affordable and environmentally conscious. What more could you or Mother Earth ask for?
There is probably no other business establishment other than a big studio office that launches more ideas, more pitched scripts, or napkin inked storyboards than inside an old Hollywood diner.
One of the most famous in the Land of Angels is the now-shuttered Cafe 101. The pandemic was just as devastating to small businesses as it was to human life and back in 2020, Cafe 101 succumbed to the aggressive virus and closed its doors permanently.
Fans and regulars were crushed by the news. But little did they know it would re-emerge, not with the menu as it once was, instead as a whole new dining experience and yet still perfectly recognizable.
At the end of November 2021, the historic Cafe 101 re-opened as Clark Street Diner. Its new owner, a popular local baker named Zack Hall has a few successful brick and mortars around Los Angeles. The question on everyone's mind is, can he retain the charm of a Hollywood dining staple yet update it to meet modern tastes? The answer is a wholehearted yes!
For nearly twenty years serving customers hot cups of joe and comfort foods Cafe 101 was host to some of Hollywood's great movies and television shows. Perhaps the most famous film and the one that drives tourists by the bus loads to visit the space at 6145 Franklin Avenue, is the 1996 sleeper hit "Swingers" starring Vince Vaughn in his breakout role.
Location scouts also pinpointed the diner as backdrops for shows such as "Entourage" and "Gilmore Girls." The diner's aesthetic remains as it was in the 1960s back when leather booths and wood-grained Formica tables were all the rage. That midcentury modern feel permeates the pass-through and the kitchen hub as well. Brown-tiled walls, large stonewalled masonry, and mirrored panels reflect back onto the dining room watching customers abuzz with the daily tea.
Hall has embraced Americana comfort foods and incorporated them into his daily menu. With all the rib-sticking favorites such as eggs any-style, hashed browns, omelets, pancakes and biscuits with gravy, the tradition of a pre-commute carbo-load is there for the picking. Hall is also using a farm-to-table model with many of his dishes made from local farm fare.
Still, there are the baked goods to consider. After all, that is Hall's forte. The menu is now loaded with all kinds of sweet rewards. The Los Angeles Times lists them as, "pies — double-crust apple, pecan, pumpkin, cherry, banana cream, chocolate cream — plus coffee cake, pecan sticky buns and new varieties of cookies."
Los Angeles is a fickle town, but it reveres its architecture and cultured history. Although Hall had never heard of "Swingers" until he walked into the space about a year ago, he noticed something special. Like an immersive period piece, he was enchanted by Cafe 101 and honored its place in Hollywood's vintage interior design.
Even though the name has changed to the Clark Street Diner, its mark---much like those beautiful pink stars on Hollywood Boulevard---is a reminder that the golden age is, in some ways, still upon us.
The iconic Clark Street Diner nee Cafe 101 is located at 6145 Franklin Ave. Hollywood, CA 90028.
Sunday through Tuesday, the hours are 7 am to 3 pm. Wednesday through Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm.
(Header photo taken from Google Street View)