Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mexico City P. 2: Food

Hotel La Casona

There is a cooking revolution going on in Mexico City (and Oaxaca) right now, as Mexico and it’s chefs are turning out world-class, sophisticated, delicious cuisine, where local street food meets innovative chefs. Rick Bayless (guru of all things Mexican food in US), even has a list of stands on the street that are must visits. You all know I didn’t get this body eating salad, and luckily Ed was with me on this trip, but we ate at some fabulous restaurants.

Enrique Olvera, chef/owner of Pujols, gave us a night to remember. He went to cooking school at the Culinary Academy-Hyde Park, New York (the mecca of cooking schools in US), and worked in Chicago (think Grant Achatz if you are a foody). He runs a Mexican version of say a French Laundry (although you don’t have to sell your soul to the devil to eat there, unlike French Laundry). He is famous for “deconstructing” typical Mexican home cooking. From start to finish we marveled how he could get those flavors in every dish presented to us (by 4 waiters, one for each of us). We talked with him during desert, a great conversation about the food revolution coming out of Oaxaca. (The picture of the gourd left, contained the sweetest small corn I have ever tasted....) When we got home, an email was waiting for me, did I want to come back for a cooking class? Larry gave me the look, but I'm thinkin'....

We also hit Izote, a restaurant owned by Patricia Quintana, a legend in Mexico. We had food that reflected the very essence of Mexico. From Karen’s Chile Rellenos, stuffed with a smokey pork, Larry’s corn fungus (cuitlacoche) tacos, Ed’s fish tamale, and my red snapper with a cream/saffron sauce over cuitlacoche, we ate like pigs.....

One of our favorite places was the oldest candy store in Mexico, Dulceria de Celaya. My students have been bringing me sweets from Mexico for years, but really I had no idea. Traditional candies in Mexico are based on fruit, coconut, caramel, peanut marzipan, and sugar. OMG. This little store is in a building that they have been in since 1859, and when you go inside the shop, that is exactly where time has stopped. We bought two boxes of sweets for presents, then shamelessly raided them to try a piece of this and that. We were lucky we got them back to Hutualco at all. And if you received one of those boxes, I truly apologize, because it could have been a little fuller, I know.

We found a local wine bar, and hung out there a couple of afternoons, after a strenuous morning of touring, and talked to the young people in the neighborhood, while sipping wines from Mexico and Latin America. We had some great wines, outstanding being a Cab from Casa Madera (up in Baja), and some lovely Malbec from Argentina. Yum. But our true find was Che Genaro’s Argentine Italian Restaurant!. Owned by a former professional soccer player from Monterey, this gem was across the street from our hotel. Genaro greeted Larry and me on our first night there, while waiting for Karen and Ed to show up. We asked to see the wine list, he waved his hand and said red or white, and brought us out a Malbec, that was amazing. Then he plied us with empanadas (we ordered one, got three) , and finally, when we were nearing the end of that bottle, somehow there appeared before us a steak that could feed the neighborhood, and “here try this of wine” (another bottle, this time the Cab ). Fortunately, Karen and Ed showed up just in time, steak still warm, to help us finish it, and quaff that second bottle.

We went back on my birthday, and what a hoot. Got the ubiquitous bottle of wine (fab), and ordered. Karen and I went with chicken, Ed went with the pasta, Larry decided gnocchi (being the semi-vegetarian that he is and he had mentioned it to Genaro on our previous night), we were salivating. Everyone got their plate, Larry included, but in front of him was a side of veal, slow roasted all day, a most amazing dish. Where’s the gnocchi? Larry asks. Genaro, laughed and said, “you didn’t want the gnocchi, this is far better”. It was divine....I know all the nastiness surrounding veal, but OMG. A slip once in a while cannot be a mortal sin, can it? So good.

We really didn’t make a dent in the eating opportunities, and are looking forward to going up again to continue on with our list of places we have to try. The food gods truly blessed this country. ...... Ok, to be continued - just one more blog I swear on this trip...

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