Photo by Hillenblog (c) 2006 - Made Possible by the generosity of Rick & Jan Britton
Bobby Flay visits San Antonio for a puffy taco throwdown
When Bobby Flay came to town seven years ago, the Food Network chef had never heard of a puffy taco. But he fell for the local favorite so hard that, on his first return visit last week, he challenged Diana Barrios Treviño to see who could make the best one.
Treviño has been making puffy tacos for years at Los Barrios on Blanco Road and La Hacienda de los Barrios on Redland Road. She even taught Flay how to make them in November 2000, when the two met during the filming of an earlier series of his, "FoodNation."
But Flay wasn't worried. "They're my favorite taco," he told the crowd that had gathered, adding that he makes them for himself at home. He also included a recipe in his cookbook, "Bobby Flay Cooks American."
Treviño had been demonstrating the art of making puffy tacos for the Food Network crew at La Hacienda before Flay and his entourage showed up.
Treviño explained what a puffy taco is, where it originated and how to make one. The dish is a true San Antonio invention, she said. Yet she refused to single out anyone as the creator. "I've heard so many different stories," she said. "But if you haven't had one, you're in for the treat of a lifetime."
She demonstrated how to fry fresh masa that has been pressed into a tortilla shape. Once the masa hit the oil, it began to puff up like a pillow that practically begged to be filled with picadillo or shredded chicken.
"A puffy taco can be filled with lots of different things," she said. "It's exactly what you want to add to it."
Flay arrived a few minutes later and greeted his friend with a hug. The two have remained in touch over the past seven years, with a mutual admiration that was forged over food. "She became my best friend over a puffy taco," he told the crowd.
Nobody was prepared for Treviño's mother, Viola Barrios, who started Los Barrios in 1979 on a $3,000 investment. Shortly after the cook-off began, Barrios left her daughter's team to help one of Flay's assistants after watching the woman struggle with getting the masa to puff properly. Barrios ended up making half of Flay's taco shells, to the assistant's great relief.
"How many throwdowns have you had where the competition comes to help you?" Treviño said.
"None," Flay replied.
The judges, Liberty Bar chef Oscar Trejo and Mozersky, agreed. They praised Treviño for her fresh guacamole and her shredded chicken, though both felt the taco could have been a little spicier. As for Flay's, well, "it doesn't taste bad, but it's not San Antonio," Mozersky said.