Monday, September 18, 2006

Carnitas Pig-Out in Quiroga

We are living only about 15 miles from Quiroga, one of the Carnitas Capitals of Michoacán. I inquired on another forum about the recommended best carnitas of that city and the smaller village of Tzurumútaro. I got some input, and when hunger built up enough, we made a Pig-out pilgrimage to Quiroga.

There's a scenic, back way and we opted to take that. Soon after passing through the village of Interalia, the pavement ends, but the weather was dry and we had little difficulty in negotiating it in a Ford Windstar. The paved road, by way of Tzintzúntzan is nice, but this trip through the campo served to further whet our appetites. On arrival at the city limits of Quiroga, we figured out the way in and found a nice parking spot only 5 blocks from the Plaza.

We must have picked a good day for this, as the Plaza was jammed with festive celebrants. Roving minstrels serenaded the pig pickin' families, as they snarfed down luscious chunks of carnitas off of greasy brown paper wrappings.

We briefly looked into El Rey de Carnitas, but I couldn't see eating such earthy food in such an upscale, sort of elegant ambiance. Nice table cloths, uniformed waiters, flowers and plastic-laminated menus for me spell: higher prices. However, the customers eating at the tables in front seemed happy. Didi Rose told me that it used to be a lovely and promising International Cuisine restaurant, but it closed as the populace was not cosmopolitan enough to support it.

We decided to do this right, opening with some hors d'oeuvres in the form of 4 taquitos rellenos de papas, with a piquant salsa verde, pickled zanahorias and a sprinkle of cheese.
At 4 for 10 pesos, a good deal. They were crisp and very hot. We stood under the shade of the stand's awning, assessing what our main course might be.

As we passed Carmelo's or Carmelito's Carnitas, he offered us generous samples to lure us, but we put that off for a little while.

A señora offered us some rugged looking but excellent, chile paste-covered barbacoa (I would tend to call it birria, but definitions vary.) That was rrreally sabrosa, so we got an order, for 30 pesos, and ate it with the hot tortillas (4 pesos extra) and washing it down with the classic Mexican drink, "Esquirt". She helped us find a table to share with an extended Mexican family, well into their kilo or two of carnitas.
The barbacoa beat even my regular favorite, from Don Prisci's in Pátzcuaro. But this was just the sopa del día prelude.

After a short pause while I waited for my change, I went over to Carmelo's Carnitas.
This guy is really friendly, upbeat and humorous. He gave me a huge sample, but I already knew it was good. I ordered a medio kilo for 70 pesos, and the salsa, chiles Jalapeños and hot tortillas were included.
Back at the table, we were holding our own, as our dining companions changed to a different family. With another Squirt to wash it down, we each ate two or three tacos de carnitas. I had learned earlier that "maciza" (lean" is not always a good choice, as it may be lean, but it can be dry. Applying lessons learned from Carl Franz' "The People's Guide To Mexico" many years ago, I ordered "surtida" (assorted). That way we got some lean, some luscious crisp fat, a few riblets (where did such tiny ribs come from?)
I munched a few chiles jalapeños to cut the fat a bit. I may suffer some later, but I think it was worth it.

When we were done, I returned to Carmelo's stand to take pictures. He told me that they were there 365 days, but at first I thought he said they'd been there 365 years. We all had a laugh or two over that.
Then he told me that if I brought him some pictures, that he'd give me un quarto kilo, free. Sounds like a deal to me!

We had never spent any real time in Quiroga before, just passing through. I found it much more engaging than I'd expected. It seemed much livelier than Pátzcuaro. (But, of course it was a weekend of Las Fiestas Patrias.)
Since we live so close, we will be going again before too long.
More photos here
Adapted and edited from another forum by me.