An Irish ornithologist told me that Americans are known for naming birds after their color – bluebird, goldfinch, red-shoulder hawk. European birders find this quality quaint. Yet along the same lines, Mexican bakers have named many of their products for their shapes. Along the shelves of a Latino bakery, you can find the popular conchas (shells), a sweet bread; marranitos (little pigs); bigotes (moustaches); and orejas (ears), the Mexican version of the French palmier.
One favorite sweet is ojos de toro (eye of the bull). These are large pastries, with a soft round pound cake surrounded by flaky puff pastry. It's this contrast between soft and crispy that's the essence of their appeal. Panadería Odalys y Pastelería, a locally owned Latino bakeshop chain, has many stores in the Charlotte area and provides pastries and bread to area Latino grocers as well. When visiting Odalys, knowledge of Spanish is helpful but not necessary. The selection of pastries varies from day to day, but the shop on South Boulevard typically has ojos de toro on weekends and sometimes as early as Thursday.
Although the Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo as the end of French rule of their country, vestiges of French culture — such as the puff pastry used on the ojos de toro — still exist. Mexican bakers also utilized many indigenous ingredients into their repertoire so it is not uncommon to find sweet cakes with corn flours and turnovers stuffed with topical fruits. You shouldn't pass on a guava empanada (turnover) if you find it. The prices at Odalys are very reasonable: Most items are $.50 or $.75 each. Some are even less.
Where to find ojos de toro: Panadería Odalys y Pastelería, 6407 South Blvd., 704-643-2577.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the QC? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-522-8334, ext 136.