I was saddened to learn today from LA Observed that master burrito maker Manuel Rojas, owner of the famed El Tepeyac restaurant in Boyle Heights, has died. Susan and I were introduced to the legendary eatery by our friends Arnold and Martha Ontes, who took us there back in 2005, under the stipulation that I promise to eat what they ordered for me.

When our server showed up, Arnold quickly ordered a “Manuel’s Special.” But wouldn’t divulge what the catch was. Did it arrive flaming? Was it the spiciest burrito ever? There lips were sealed. In a show of solidarity, Susan decided to get the same thing and both Arnold and Martha and our server chuckled knowingly.

In a nutshell, the Manuel’s Special is basically two square feet of burrito. It is just about the biggest thing to occupy a plate that I’ve ever seen. When it arrived, the sight of such ginormosity alone was almost enough to take away the intense hunger pangs I was experiencing, but I dug in as best I could. Susan took a few bites of hers, and gave up. I managed to put away about 1/15th of the delicious burrito later before quitting. Ambitiously we got to-go containers and hefted the leftovers home thinking we’d have some more for dinner, but we were just kidding ourselves.

I went there next in 2006. I organized a Boyle Heights bike ride from Echo Park whose midway point was El Tepeyac. This time I ordered the still gargantuan (but markedly smaller) Hollenbeck Burrito — another of Rojas’ creations — for the price of $6.65, pictured below:


As you can see from that quarter I added for scale next to the plate, the Hollenbeck is still a monster, but far less intimidating than the Manuel’s Special.

I made the mistake of eating pretty much the whole dang thing — nd I say “mistake,” not because it wasn’t delicious, but because I then had to ride all the gut-busted way home from Boyle Heights to Silver Lake, and parts of that roll were pretty painful.

I haven’t been back since because I think I’m still digesting parts of it.

Rest in peace, Señor Rojas. Maker of the best burritos ever.


Four short weeks ago, the pumpkin patch was just a row of sprouts:

Here’s where we’re at as of today. My how we’ve grown:

Number of seeds: Five

Planted: July 4

Sprouted: July 8-11

Patched (as seen below): July 12

The good news is that — as planned — I got an earlier start with my pumpkin patch than last year. The bad news is that — not as planned — juuust like last year instead of planting pumpkin seeds I may very well have planted completely similar looking butternut squash seeds. Again.

Basically what happened last year is that I mixed up seed sets of the two veggies because I just left them sitting on the sill unidentified. When I planted them last summer I did an eenie-meaney-miney-mo and thought I’d planted pumpkin. It didn’t take long to be shown my error and we wound up with a nice 11-pound crop of butternuts.

To remedy that fail I vowed not to repeat it, but once again the batch of seeds left on the sill in a shot glass went unlabeled and now I’m not sure if they’re one or the other. But whatever they are they have happily sprouted and been transferred to the patch.

PS. It wouldn’t be a proper day of digging in the backyard if I didn’t unearth something (however minor) to add to the Backyarchaelogy Museum:

After cranking out a lemon/lime/orange/strawberry concoction for Susan, I then went to work liquifying a banana/pear/strawberry smoothie for myself, as seen in the after and before shots below:

Don’t worry, this is the last time I’ll blog about how much I’m loving the manual machine and its results:



Behold! Below is the result from putting two bananas and a pear through the Japanese-made manual juicer I found kicked to the curb Wednesday morning (and had so much trouble not only identifying but then juicing a solitary pear the first time around). I decided to give it another try this morning and I’m pleased to report the process went much better this second time around. Instead of more than five minutes to crush one piece of fruit I had the trio reformatted in less than 120 seconds.

While my first hand-cranked pearnana smoothie might lack visual appeal, trust me on this: it was 非常においしい*.

There so will be lemonade.

* “very delicious” (at least according to Google Translate).

I’d been eyeballing the increasingly sorrier looking butternut squash patch, which at its flourishing leafy height mid-October looked like this:

But for the last couple weeks in large part because the nil amount of light now coming from a sun sliding so low across the southern skies the patch has been working its way down to looking like this:

So I went to work this morning and now it looks like this:

My crop yield was lucky seven, albeit with the smallest four still being far from ripe:

There’s conflicting info on the internest about squash ripening off the vine, with some resources saying yes they do, some saying hell no. My instinct is the quartet won’t be orange’ing up anytime soon.

And of course I weighed them (smallest to largest, in ounces):

  1. 07.75
  2. 08.00
  3. 17.25
  4. 21.25
  5. 32.50
  6. 34.625
  7. 55.25

For a total of 176.625 ounces, or 11.04 pounds. Not bad. In fact, I’m pretty damn impressed.



These past few days have been a study in caloric amplification. For example: It’s amazing how good eight ounces of eggnog tastes with a large dollop of coolwhip topping and an extra shot of Drambuie. All the better when it was chasing down a slice of my baybee’s fantastic pumpkin pecan cheesecake… one that’s been shamelessly outfitted with a healthy hat of peanut butter.

[singing] …And the whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again: Who’s bad!?

To top it all off yesterday I ordered an amazing pizza from the previously unknown Tomato Pie Pizza Joint here in Silver Lake, which would have remained undiscovered had I not supported Small Business Saturday with a visit to my local Baller’s Hardware. There it was across the street from the hardware store as I left, and the next day when I was considering football-watching lunch options, visions of pizza danced in my head. About 45-minutes later Tomato Pie had delivered just about the best most unique I’ve ever had. It’s called the Ruthie Swan and its an 18-inch diameter of utter heaven featuring salami, green apples, gorgonzola and caramelized onion. Trust me on this, it’s phenomenal. At $22, it ain’t cheap, but after savoring it I’d only hesitate ordering it again if it was $30 — especially since with an unexpected display of restraint there were leftovers enough for dinner.

But! That was then and this is now. And while I’m gonna give myself a couple days to re-moderate my intake before stepping on the bathroom scale and have it laugh at me, I’m back on the wagon. Yogurt and banana for breakfast. Clif bars. Apples. Actual numeric servings of things rather than just bold grabby handfuls. And no peanut butter fashionably accessorizing anything. Eggnog, however? There are two bottles of Broguiere’s in the back of the fridge. And Tomato Pie’s phone number on speed dial.

I hear laughter coming from the bathroom.

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