Thursday, November 29, 2007
It wouldn’t be a lie to say that the championship-caliber chimichanga I ate to break my 150-mile food experiment came from the kitchen. Of course, it wouldn’t be completely true, either.
Jose’s Mexican Restaurant in Monterey, like the vast majority of restaurants in the country, uses a network of food-service distributors to gather the ingredients for their delicious dishes. Tracking food through that network to its source can be dizzying.
The pork for the savory carnitas in the chimichanga comes from a company called Tapia Brothers Co. Jose’s food buyer Greg Maldonado directed me to their Fresno office, which turned me over to their buyer in Los Angeles, who informed me that they purchase their pork most frequently from Iowa Beef Packers.
Tapia Brothers Co. also supplies Jose’s with its rice and beans. The buyer in charge of those purchases directed me to “CNF.” He admitted to having no idea what CNF stood for; the number he gave me for CNF, meanwhile, was busy for more than two hours.
The local distributor at Challenge Dairy, which stocks Jose’s sour cream and cheese, told me their cheese is made from milk from cows in the same town where the cows reside, in Hilmar, Calif., just south of Turlock. But before it comes to Monterey, the dairy products are shipped to San Leandro.
The tortilla hails from La Rosa Tortilla Factory in Watsonville (the flour, however, doesn’t). The avocados Del Monte Produce provides for Jose’s guacamole travel quite a bit farther. They were grown on another continent, in Chile.
All this mattered little once the diet-concluding changa hit the lips with all its deep-fried flamboyance – though it wasn’t as good as my tortilla-deficient mind had dreamed it would be over 15 days of deprivation. I could go for another one – a full afternoon of ingredient-tracking calls is enough to summon an aggressive appetite.