>> Nieves La Pechita | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 25 February 2021

Nieves La Pechita

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mร‰XICO (Oaxaca)
EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (21 June 2024) is available as part of the Free Friday Favorites section of our Substack page. Check that out here:

One year ago Miguel Flores (above) was working full-time at a nearby gym while his wife Angela worked in a restaurant, making do in Los Angeles like millions of others. Then of course the pandemic caused everyone's lives to upend, and both were out of work. Angela is now working again but on severely reduced hours like most in the industry while gyms still remain closed.

By the end of last summer when things seemed certain to continue without much progress for some time, the pair decided to put Miguel's knowledge of Oaxacan-style nieves to good use and started making them from home. This new business, named after his late mother, is built upon all of the teaching she passed down to him and the ice cream found in their hometown of Tlacolula, Oaxaca.

When Angela is not working, she helps out at the shop taking care of the nieves orders while under a Pumas flag Miguel cooks burritos and tortas on his plancha in the corner. Waiting for an order on the first visit, she could be overheard talking with new customers about their hometowns in Oaxaca and recommending items like their homemade agua de chilacayota ($4, above), served most traditionally with a scoop of nieve de limรณn on top.

Named for the Nahuatl word for the gourd it comes from, in Oaxaca this slightly sweet drink is the ultimate refreshment on a hot day when it is in season. They serve it here with a big boba-type straw because so much of the pulp (think spaghetti squash) is inside. Stir in the nieve or spoon some off separately as desired.

When ordering some of their freshly prepared foods, it is of course impossible not to wait with a cup of their nieves, which come in a not-so-small "small" portion for $3, giving you the choice of two different flavors if you desire. There is possibly no more thoroughly Oaxacan treat combination than leche quemada con tuna (above), which combines cactus pear (left) with "burnt" milk nieves.

Miguel's mother originally taught him how to make six essential flavors back home, but he knew he had to step up his game for a Los Angeles audience. The man you may find wearing a Dodgers World Series champions t-shirt on one day and an Ice Cube one the next knows his potential customers and their desire for variety. Everything is homemade of course so the amount and options are always changing, but they seem to have about 20 on offer at any time, with many of the essentials constant.

On a second visit the alluring mezcal (above) flavor was ordered, which Miguel recommended a couple toppings for and called his creation "Diablito Oaxaqueรฑo." He took a squeeze bottle of chamoy and then added sal de gusano to the top. This "worm salt" is actually ground up worm, salt, and peppers, and essential in Oaxaca for both eating and drinking. Seeing as though Tlacolula, a town just thirty minutes from the center of Oaxaca City, has an annual Festival de Nieve, Mezcal y Gastronomรญa just after Easter, it only seems appropriate.

Speaking more quietly when talking about the nieve de mezcal, possibly not to upset his mother who forbade him from making it saying it would not be possible, Miguel's passion was starting to show through. Digging into the special, you will find the zest of lime, which complements the taste of mezcal so perfectly. Along with the toppings, it is really a top-notch treat.

During these visits families with children were coming in for scoops of their favorites, especially on the first day when temperatures got up to 29˚C. When warmer weather comes for good, the shop is only going to get more popular as word has already started spreading from each person that finds their way back here. At the end of last year when cooler weather started to persist, Miguel decided to start cooking hot foods as well thinking that nieves sales would diminish during the winter.

Starting with some more universal antojitos, he also wanted to make foods traditional of his hometown as well and asked a friend to start sending him tlayudas from Tlacolula. The ones he uses are a bit smaller than tlayudas found at most restaurants, and he offers his mini tlayudas ($10, below) with tasajo, chorizo, and cecina.

Mini tlayuda de tasajo.

No matter which you order, a layer of pork lard and then a thin spread of black beans will coat the toasted tlayuda before being topped by the meat of your choice, stringy Oaxacan cheese, avocado, and tomatoes. Both a red and green salsa of medium heat are provided with any order and both are really enjoyable. The tasajo seen above is very similar to more common beef cecina which is salted and dried. The Oaxacan cecina he uses is a smoky, chile-marinated pork adobada.

Best of all though might be the tlayuda de chorizo ($10, below). All of the other high-quality ingredients are the same, but you know the meat will excel when a sample is given the time you do not order it. So smoky and full of flavor, this chorizo source is going to have to be investigated next time.

Miguel also has a menu of antojitos, of which the torta Tlacolula ($15, below) stands out. Named again for that beloved hometown, he describes this basically as the tlayuda mixta between bread, using all the ingredients and all three meats stacked together.

Jalapeรฑos and onions are added as well, and plenty more salsa is packed away with the order. You can also get more "common" tortas with carne asada, pollo, or ham, among others.

After chatting with Miguel and Angela on multiple occasions, it was clear through his passion but also their words that they saw this as a possible ticket to better things. He knows he is onto something good with his homemade nieves, and Los Angeles is soon to be better for it as well.

The garage-based setup of such a unique business is not going to last long as he is already putting feelers out for more conventional storefront space. Come here before it takes off, for a little piece of Oaxacan hospitality in Mid City.


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