Chef Dean Fearing Recreates the Taco Bell Quesalupa — and Nails It
When we heard that Taco Bell was introducing a new food-type item called the Quesalupa, we did what any normal food citizens would do: We asked Dean Fearing to make his version of the Quesalupa for us. Asking fancy chefs to "elevate" national fast food fads is the best kind of fun — plus it leads to new, quirky, delicious food items for Dallas. And we can always use more of those.
According to Taco Bell, a Quesalupa is, "A beautiful, chewy Chalupa shell on the outside, with delicious pepper jack cheese baked right inside the shell. Yes. Majestic, melty cheese stuffed inside the shell. A cheesy shell, filled with seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, reduced fat sour cream, and you guessed it, even more cheese."
But put the term "Quesalupa" in front of a Food God like Dean Fearing, and it can be so much more. "We researched it," Fearing told us as we waited to try his version of the dish, "and in the advertisements, they pull it apart and cheese oozes out. I thought, 'There's no way that works in real life.'"
When we showed up with four Taco Bell Quesalupas for Fearing and his crew, the first thing he did was tear into the bag and unwrap one. As he ripped it apart, the thing totally crumbled in his hands and certainly didn't ooze as advertised. He threw it back down on the table. "See? I told you," he said, shaking his head with ultimate powerchef satisfaction. If he could have high-fived himself, he totally would have.
After confirming for himself that Taco Bell advertising is a bunch of food-styling trickery, Fearing dove into the beef Quesalupa. With his first bite, we thought he was being polite by eating the taco-trainwreck that is food from Taco Bell. But as he wiped off his chin and dug into the bag for another round, we realized he was actually eating them because he wanted to.
We had to know — what is Dean Fearing's typical Taco Bell order? "I go classic: three crunchy and an extra burrito with extra onions," Fearing said.
"This finally proves that everyone likes Taco Bell," Observer meat expert Nick Rallo said. "No," Alice Laussade countered, "this proves that if Taco Bell is in a room, everyone will eat it. Just because he was eating it doesn't mean he was liking it. I firmly believe that everyone regrets Taco Bell."
For some, the moment of Taco Bell Regret (TBR) happens immediately upon balling up the empty taco wrapper. For others, it takes a few minutes. For Fearing, it was the latter. About five minutes after consuming two Taco Bell Quesalupas, he looked around his kitchen and asked for water. Someone appeared with a bottle of fancy Canadian still water and two stemmed water glasses. Two minutes later, while talking about his own Quesalupa creation, he stopped mid-sentence. "I am not feeling great," he said.
Despite his obvious distress, we proceeded to dig into his Quesalupas.
The first: "The Dean Fearing Blow Your Face Off Quesalupa," a fried corn shell with a cheese quesadilla folded around it, filled with buffalo meat, caramelized onions, poblano, smoky chile aioli, pico de gallo, chiffonade cabbage, pickled red onions, micro cilantro and tomatillo.
The first Fearing quesalupa will change your thoughts about religion.
Alice's tasting notes:
This Quesalupa is technically a Quesatacolupa, because of the addition of the fried corn tortilla layer. With this Quesatacolupa, Fearing has done what has never been done before: He has successfully turned a piece of taco shit into a taco diamond. Years from now, when he's lounging in the castle he built out of Fearing Quesalupa wrappers, built on top of NorthPark mall, he will realize that this was the greatest achievement in his chef lifetime. Not getting a James Beard Award. Not having awesome hair. It was the Quesalupa.
Nick's tasting notes:
I need to stress the level to which Chef Fearing out-Taco Belled Taco Bell. This is the what the craving part of your brain is secretly imagining when you're shouting words at the drive-thru menu at Taco Bell. Your brain secretly wants this taco, not the heavy diaper sack you actually get. Taco Bell wakes up in the morning, sighs heavily and cries in the shower, wishing it was Chef Fearing's taco. It had melted cheese, pickled onions and a deep, cheesy crunch to it that I'm pretty sure got me pregnant. Also, I love how Chef Fearing's taco looks more like the taco in the Quesalupa ads than the actual, in-real-life Quesalupa. Chef Fearing out-Quesaluped the Quesalupa. Texas Forever.
The second: "The Muchalupa Supreme," a quesadilla wrapped around maple-soaked buffalo, black beans, cilantro sour cream, Sriracha, cotija cheese pepitas, pickled red onions and green cabbage slaw.
The second Fearing quesalupa: The Muchalupa Supreme. It is mucha. It is lupa. It is supreme. Discuss.
Alice's tasting notes:
Have you ever ridden a minotaur through rainbow sleet? Eating this Quesalupa is like that, only better. A bite of it fell onto my thumb and healed a paper cut right before my eyes — so I ordered 15 of them to-go and rubbed them all over my body instead of showering. Now I can walk through walls. It's true: You can have everything. Screw you, essential oils. This taco is everything.
Tasting notes from Nick:
I concur with Alice — I used this avocado crema all over my house, rubbing it around the door jamb, and it actually vanquished a poltergeist. I loved this taco. I need this taco. It had acid and crunch. Do you see the cheese bubbling out of the inner taco like delicious lava? Taco Bell can't accomplish that. I'm saying this as a person who loves Taco Bell: This taco was like every Taco Bell taco every put their power rings together and morphed into a superhero taco.
Fearing Quesalupa vs. the Taco Bell Quesalupa.
A few minutes after we left Fearing's, he emailed us. "I am feeling sick — truly nobody could really eat those things???" Taco Bell Regret is real. And it happens to all of us.
If you'd like to try Dean Fearing's version of a Quesalupa, they're available by special request at the bar at Fearing's. They'll cost more than the Taco Bell price of $2.99, he says, but we promise they're worth it.
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