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Salt and Wine Pairings: My Recipe for Piratas Tacos

I recently came across a Facebook ad promoting a packaged seasoning called Young Bae from a brand named FoodLoveTog in Indianapolis, Indiana. The fact that the name was a quirky twist on the classic Old Bay Seasoning immediately caught my interest. Then I noticed that the spices were made by Candace Wylie, who I actually went to high school with at Lawrence North! I immediately got excited and thought, “This is just begging for a food and wine pairing!”


Pairing Wines with Spices

To obtain the perfect wine pairing, every ingredient in a dish (including the seasoning) must be accounted for. Lots of people think about things like oregano and rosemary but neglect to take into account the amount of salt that exists in most packaged seasonings. You’ll know how much salt is in a package by how high it is on the ingredient list. This is an important thing to note because the more salt a recipe has the lighter your wine needs to be – salt and tannin just don’t mix. On the Young Bae ingredient list, the salt is 11th of 14, which is very low.

When I tasted the Young Bae seasoning by FoodLoveTog, it was absolutely delicious. The tangy dry herbs like allspice, basil, and bay leaf give off refreshing flavors that would go great with fried chicken or even shrimp cocktail without being overrun by salt. In this case, I wanted a challenge by creating a beef dish and matching wine pairing. The dish I chose? Piratas tacos.

Piratas are half-moon shaped tacos filled with some kind of seasoned protein (think cumin, garlic, chili peppers or powder, etc.), caramelized onions, Mexican cheese (something melty and tangy like Panela) and fresh herbs (usually cilantro and parsley) and pressed down in oil using a bacon press on a flattop or griddle. I first tried this taco at a restaurant called Toscanas Regias while visiting my family in Houston, Texas. It’s really easy to make, it’s affordable, you can easily control the salt level, and it will leave you with lots of happy friends and family.


Recipe for Piratas Tacos


  • 3 x 12oz New York strip steaks
  • 1 chopped white onion (1/2 in thick)
  • 1 x12 oz. Cacique Panela or Queso Fresco cheese
  • 8 x 8in flour tortillas
  • 2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil or cooking spray
  • Generous amount of FoodLoveTog’s Young Bae Seasoning


  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Cast Iron Skillet or Grill
  • Griddle
  • Bacon Press

Directions to Make Piratas Tacos

Chop 1 large onion in ½-inch dice. Pat down the New York strip steaks with a paper towel. Season both sides of the steaks with salt, pepper, and FoodLoveTog’s Young Bae Seasoning.

cutting board mario luna sommelier

Sauté the chopped onions with butter in a pan on medium-low heat until caramelized. Turn off the heat and let the onions rest.

onions piratas tacos mario luna sommelier


In a piping hot cast iron skillet or grill, add the New York strip and cook for 5 minutes on each side to achieve a medium temperature (longer if you like it more done). Let the steak rest for 10 minutes to keep the juices in the steak intact. Then chop the steak into ½ inch pieces.

New york strip piratas tacos mario luna sommelier

The key ingredient in piratas is the use a quick-melting crumbly cheese called Panela. This is a skim-milk cow’s cheese from Mexico, which has the appropriate creamy texture to unite with the steak and the saltiness to pair with the caramelized onions. (If you cannot find this cheese, then grated mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese will work fine.)

Panela cheese piratas tacos mario luna sommelier

Lay the tortilla down open and sprinkle it with grated Panela cheese. Heat up the chopped steak and onions together and add the mixture on top of the cheese. Add a final layer of the cheese and then fold the tortilla into half-moon shapes (in half, in other words).

New York Strip Piratas Tacos mario luna sommelier


Put the griddle or sauté pan on over medium heat. Traditionally, a tablespoon of oil is put in the pan to help crisp the tortilla. I usually omit the oil and use cooking spray instead. Put the bacon press on top of the pirata to help the tortilla cook. When the first side is a light golden brown, flip the pirata and repeat the process.

Piratas Tacos mario luna sommelier


Take the pirata off the griddle and serve immediately. You can add condiments like cilantro, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and/or jalapeno peppers.

Piratas Tacos Mario Luna Sommelier

Wine Pairings for Mexican Food: What to Serve with Piratas

Plain piratas – as in without any of the optional condiments added – will need a wine that best matches the New York strip, caramelized onions, Panela cheese, and FoodLoveTog’s Young Bae Seasoning. Your best bet is to pair it with a glass of a soft, bright, tart raspberry-filled Pinot Noir from Oregon.

If you add all of the condiments above (minus the spicy jalapeno peppers) then enjoy your piratas with a fuller-bodied California Chardonnay.

If you like your piratas tacos spicy, then load them up with peppers and enjoy a glass of German Riesling or even a Californian Merlot.

Enjoy! Oh, and one more thing…

I just want to take a moment to tell you, Candace, that I am very proud of your entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic, and I love your awesome product. Keep it up, girl!


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