Iris Explosion in Oregon


We were en route to Los Temos Taqueria in Salem, Oregon, when we saw them. Blooming in the fields were millions of irises laid out in swaths of almost every color imaginable. If it weren’t for the season, we would never have noticed, as we hadn’t in all our previous drive-bys. But, there they were in all their splendor, just up the road from Los Temos.

iris - 1

The fields belong to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens that also has an eye-popping demonstration garden, a true gem in central Oregon, less than an hour’s drive south of Portland, almost exactly at the 45th parallel.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
3625 Quinaby Rd NE
Salem, OR 97303
503.393.3232

Advertisements

Back to Taqueria Los Temos (Salem, OR)


The drive down through Oregon wasn’t the downpour that I had braced myself for. By the time we got to Salem though, it was drizzling and there was enough pall in the sky to call it gloomy. The atmosphere completely changed when we walked into Los Temos, a return visit to an outstanding taqueria after a hiatus of over a year. Unlike last time, the restaurant was packed with families out for Sunday lunch. The back room, dark back in 2013, was now jammed with customers being entertained by a mariachi band. We would’ve joined the festivities but for the fact that every table was taken.

Los Temos lacks in ‘atmosphere,’ by which I mean what Americans have come to expect as a large, modern restaurant with an equally large menu of Tex-Mex food and a bar. It is, after all, a taqueria, and one that seems to cater to the large Mexican population in and around Salem. It would scarcely attract passersby looking for a place to eat, even more so because it’s surrounded by agricultural fields. The building seems little more than a project of DYI amateurs. Different shades of brown paint hide imperfections in the interior wall plaster. The parking lot gets muddy during rains.

los temos

It’s all about the food, especially birria de chivo (goat stew). Great food is impossible to keep a secret. We don’t see birria tacos in the States much, but when you eat the stew with tortillas, it’s a no-brainer to offer them that way. Goat’s flavor profile is closer to lamb, which may explain why birria is made with mutton as well. My birria combination plate (with rice and beans) had enough filling for a half dozen soft tacos, which meant that my wife needn’t have gotten her two tacos of birria and adobada, even if the latter itself was very good. A generous stack of freshly made corn tortillas arrived with my order. And, like before, the consommé from the birria pot was divine, as good as the best jus that comes with French dip sandwiches. You could spoon the broth over the goat meat, but served in a styrofoam cup, I much prefer to drink it straight.

(Top to bottom) Condiment bowl of onion, cilantro and lime; chile sauce; birria de chico consommé

(Top to bottom) Condiment bowl of onion, cilantro and lime; chile sauce; birria de chivo consommé

Combination plate of birria de chivo

Combination plate of birria de chivo

Update (11-28-15): The drive down from Seattle today was sporadically foggy with temperatures in the frosty 30s. The sky was a brilliant blue in Salem. Naturally, I had to have the birria tacos, which did not disappoint.

IMG_9831

What caught our attention this time around was a special that Los Temos was offering, possibly for the season but also just as likely a specialty that will be available from now on: a stew made with goat, called caldo de birria, that everyone else in the restaurant seemed to have ordered that would have been the perfect antidote to the cold weather. Next time.

Related post

Los Temos Taqueria
7000 Portland Rd NE
Salem, OR 97305
503.463.6822

Birria de Chivo Tacos at Los Temos Taqueria (Salem, OR)


Surrounded by large tracts of farmland on the outskirts of Salem is a small stretch of local shops and businesses. Among them is a taqueria innocuously housed in a flat building, which you might normally drive past since there’s nothing remarkable about the exterior except that it’s painted in the tricolors of Mexico. Los Temos specializes in goat birria (birria de chivo, of Jalisco origin). It would qualify as a birrieria except that there are other things that can be ordered, among them tacos filled with goat meat, asada, adobada, lengua, cabeza and pollo. The goat meat is stewed in a dried chile liquid until it is fork tender, shredded and served either as a combination (with rice and beans), soup (caldo) or taco filling. On top of that, a cup of the birria broth, or consommé, is included with the combination.

These were extraordinary tacos (☆☆☆☆), one of the best I’ve ever eaten. As a bonus, they’re served with house-made corn tortillas. By itself, the goat meat needed no adornment, they were that good. But what are tacos without onions, cilantro and a squirt of lime, generously provided. For ramping up the heat level, you can add crushed red chile peppers, house-made salsa roja or salsa verde, or Tapatio sauce. You can dip the tacos in the consommé, but I just drank it straight from the styro cup. The consommé (☆☆☆☆) is a brilliant elixir, salty, complex, savory and piping hot.

Goat tacos

Goat tacos

Consommé

Consommé

Cilantro, onions and lime

Cilantro, onions and lime

The aguas frescas (☆☆☆) we ordered (tamarind and horchata) were very full-flavored and delicious.

For us, every trip through Salem will now include a stopover here.

Update (5-2-16):

It seems the only time I ever get to eat at Los Temos is during the drive from Seattle to Los Angeles (or back). I was determined to have what most customers seemed to order during our last stopover—caldo, or soup. The consommé is actually the broth in which the goat is simmered, as rich and complex as any in the world. Instead of having the deconstructed soup in the form of either tacos or combination plate with the consommé on the side, the caldo is how the goat is meant to be eaten. It comes with five freshly made corn tortillas that are soft and fluffy. Sprinkled with plenty of cilantro and onions, caldo is now my favorite at Los Temos (☆☆☆☆).

IMG_0029

Related post

Los Temos Taqueria
7000 Portland Rd NE
Salem, OR 97305
503.463.6822