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2 Catt. 2: In re El Floridano

2011 October 12
by JEREMY, C.J.

JEREMY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. CATTLEYA, J., delivered a separate concurrence.

We granted cartiorari to review El Floridano (“EF”), a “mobile gastronomic enterprise” purveying two preparations: (1) pan con lechón (“Cuban pulled pork w[ith] grilled onions [and] spicy guava sauce”), and (2) a similar preparation of tempeh. Naturally, we opted for the former. Cf. In re Red Hook Lobster Pound, 2 Catt. 1 (2011). To quote Red Hook with some modification, “no one in their right mind orders [tempeh] over [pork].” See id. (A vegetarian, you might say, but I then refer you to my previous statement.)

As I have stated before, half of my roots sprout, at least for the last century, from the fertile peanut-, cotton-, and tobacco-strewn fields of “the northern fringes of pulled pork’s heartland.” In re DC Empanadas, 1 Catt. 3 (2011). But, as I have also stated, “I was raised to never order the pulled pork.” Id. “My pork barbeque was to be sliced. Outside cut, to be precise, in all its charred crispiness.” Id. Not that I was led to wholly doubt the quality or authenticity of pulled pork per se, but it’s safe to say a certain healthy suspicion was instilled in me. But one doesn’t leave Calle Ocho without a strong appetite for Cuban cuisine, so I brushed aside that suspicion, stepped up to EF, and ordered a pan con lechón.

El Floridano

El Floridano

In truth, even before reviewing the menu, I had already decided EF was worth trying, because it is physically so unembellished: the plain white of the truck is left alone, and the words “PAN CON LECHON” are crudely painted on its side from a stencil. In my own experience, the best food comes from the least adorned, even spartan, establishments. (If it also features terrible service and yet still attracts crowds, you’ve found a gem. Consider Chinatown Express and its unbelievable noodles.) Mediocre food can easily hide behind hype and slick graphics. See In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011). Mediocrity is more obvious when the mask is removed. EF has no mask to hide behind, and its food shines.

The pork is very simply roasted. That simplicity is appreciated. See Red Hook, 2 Catt. 1. EF does a good thing well. They are clearly comfortable with their signature dish. No insecurities lead to superfluous gilding.

Pan con Lechón

Pan con Lechón

The pulled pork itself is less pulled than I would have imagined. (A good thing, I say.) Texturally, it is closer to the sliced pork I prefer, with pieces of tender fat left in. (But not so much that it becomes a fat sandwich). There are even a few pieces of outside cut crispiness to sate my fancy. The meat is moist and, without significant seasoning, flavorful. Slices of grilled onion are strewn throughout. As for quantity, an impressive amount of meat is packed into the sub roll; at $7, the dish seemed appropriately priced.

A drizzle of “spicy guava sauce” is added to the top. (Enough to flavor the meat, without drowning it out.) I tend to view fruit-based sauces with some distrust. Not that a fruit-based sauce can’t be executed well, but they often are not. In my experience, a pineapple or mango salsa generally presages dark and terrible things. Usually unsuccessful fusion. But EF’s guava sauce did not taste overpoweringly of guava. There was a slight sweetness, balanced by significant spice. It tasted something like Barbadian hot pepper sauce.

EF concentrates on technique. It executes its signature dish well, without hiding faulty technique behind overpowering, prepackaged flavors and trendy frills. Cf. TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4. For the reasons stated in this opinion, this case is

AFFIRMED.

(I must address a sole inaccuracy in my sister’s concurrence. She writes that she “did not experience [her] first taste of the real thing . . . until [she] was old enough to drive to eating establishments of [her] own choosing.” In re El Floridano, 2 Catt. 2 (2011) (Cattleya, J., concurring) (emphasis added). Anyone who knows my fellow Justice knows that she does not “drive” to eating establishments of her own choosing. Walk, perhaps. Employ public transit, perhaps. Bum a ride, more likely. But drive? No. I advise my sister to strive for greater precision in her opinions for this Cart.)

CATTLEYA, J., concurring.

I concur with the Cart’s well-reasoned opinion. I write separately to stress that EF’s pan con lechón also appeals to one who was not raised in a household with so many rules about pork barbeque. In fact, there was only one rule in my house: Don’t eat pork.

Due to my father’s religious restriction on the eating of pork, my mother never cooked it, even though her own religious denomination did not share the restriction. I grew up thinking that turkey bacon was actually bacon, and I did not experience my first taste of the real thing (crispy, greasy, and delicious) until I was old enough to drive to eating establishments of my own choosing. But by then, I had gotten so used to the taste of turkey that pork (chops, spare ribs, etc.) wasn’t enjoyable. Bacon was the only pig product that gave me joy. (Of course, I felt bad for eating it in front of my father. I still do. Even today, if bacon (mistakenly) ends up as a side on my breakfast plate, I put on my best dumbfounded look. “What?” I say in an astonished tone. “You mean, this is pork?” I add an indignant huff for good measure.)

So, like my brother, I don’t usually order pulled pork, but for entirely different reasons. I just don’t expect it to taste good. But EF’s lechón was tender and tasty. Tastier than I ever imagined it could be. I look forward to being lured in for a second helping. Just, please, don’t tell my father.

(Daddy, if you’re reading this, the consumption of pork occurred for the highest purposes of a full and fair adjudication. To the Chief Justice, I add that you ought to remember that there was a period of two years–from the ages of 16 to 18–when I was able to maneuver a vehicle, on paper and in practice. It is that time to which I refer. I concede that, today, I do indeed “bum . . . ride[s]” to eating establishments too far from the orange line.)

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