So I got a super interesting invitation this week. The good people of Taco Bell invited me to an undisclosed location to partake in their new Cantina Bell menu created by celebrity chef, Lorena Garcia. Having put Taco Bell on my no-way-in-hell list, I politely emailed back to say, “I don’t know if you know this, but gluten is totally my bitch. Thanks, but no thanks.” It turns out that was precisely why I was all up in that invite.
Apparently, I can eat at Taco Bell again. Or at least, starting July 5th, I can eat at Taco Bell again. My six-year-old could not be happier.
After my rage against the Dallas airport Taco Bell post-diagnosis where I accidentally ate up some gluten, I swore I would never make a border run again. My mother-in-law has been sneaking burritos to my daughter, so this has actually been quite a battle in our house. Alamo-ish, I would even say.
But now? Whooooo! Not since my college days of massive hangovers where the only help came via bean and cheese burritos, have I been so excited about my next Taco Bell run. Maybe it’s because I got to meet the actual chef; who convinced me she’s all about simple, natural (read=no gluten in the beef) ingredients, and taking the Bell one step into the healthier zone. Garcia is nothing if not passionate, and as she explained not only her inspiration (her mother’s recipe), but how she managed to work with a fast food giant that already had so many methods firmly in place, I became truly impressed at this two-year-long collaboration that resulted in 8 new ingredients being added to the line, and gluten-free options for me, the gluten-free. Here’s Lorena putting those ingredients to work –
Of course, you won’t get a watermelon mojito, nor a gorgeous place setting, and most likely you won’t be enjoying the view from the top of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles when you order your cantina bowl. You will, however, get citrus-herb marinated chicken, black beans, guacamole that no longer comes from a very cool looking “guacamole gun” but from actual Haas avocados, fire-roasted corn salsa, pico de gallo, all on a bed of romaine lettuce. And if you’re not gf, you can add on the cilantro rice and creamy cilantro dressing. It just occurred to me that ordering the gf version is also handy for those cilantro=soap people. You can also enjoy these sides, a la carte.
The first question on my mind, that apparently has been asked by everyone who has been introduced to this new menu, is how it will stack up in an actual restaurant. Sure it looks lovely, what in these ramekins, but what if I walk into the Taco Bell on Vine? Rest assured, the test market TBs passed the test. Lorena herself (via video) is training the team members to keep the hot stuff hot, the cool stuff cool, and how to arrange it so it looks like this –
Of course I’ve been to a Taco Bell on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, so I know that there are locations where you’ll be lucky to get out of there alive, much less with an aesthetically pleasing cantina bowl. However, I’m on board.
Celiacs who miss Taco Bell, rejoice. In a few short weeks you too will be able to enjoy a cantina bowl, and for under $5. And non-Celiacs who can’t get enough of the old school, don’t worry. As Taco Bell moves in a new direction, they’ll hang on to those gorditas.
Will you be checking out Taco Bell on July 5th?