Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eating Oaxaca -Un Paseo por El Llano

There's some noteworthy restaurants around the leaf-shade Parque Júarez (usually called "El Llano", where lovers smooch and Oaxacan families come to walk, jog, bicycle, skate board and generally enjoy the fountains and each others' company. Marco Polo is one favorite, a seafood restaurant, specializing in clay oven roasted fish, and it can be very good when simply prepared with a light chile salsa; or it can be mediocre, ruined by a largesse of rich elaboration.

At the Parque El Llano, you can also get a hot dog or a hamburguesa, a lunchmeat tostada, but most notable are the pickled fruits and vegetables sold at a stand or two, and pucker up at the Oaxacan specialty snack, piedrazos.

Here is an account that I wrote on the Thorn Tree, Mexico Branch.

There were various elotes and esquites ladies, with boiled corn on the cob, served on a stick; and the esquites, (designed for neatniks), a cup of corn in its broth. Either way, you may choose it topped with lime, chile, mayonesa and/or chile.

Next door was hot dog and hamburger cart. The man was deftly slicing tomatoes, in a TV Whiz Chef manner. When he lit his gas lantern , I ventured over to try a hot dog. It wasn't by any means the best I've ever had, but the condiments made up for the blandness of the tube steak. What do you expect for $6 pesos?

At a stand at the north end, a man was making tostadas with a smear of frijoles negros, then putting what appeared to be diced luncheon loaf ( a sort of cold cut, vaguely resembling a terrine.), topped with typical local condiments. I quickly decided that was not my dish.

I don't want to fail to mention the conserved fruits stand, run by an abuelita. There are big glass jars (a friend in Pátzcuaro told me they´re known as "Doña Juanas". These were filled with a variety of pickled fruits and vegetables. I dared to eat a pickled mango, with more salt and chile on it. Whooooooooooo! Very acidic, and as I ate down toward the pit/stone, it became very astringent. I'd take a wild guess that they are cured in cal before being brined in vinegar and chiles de árbol. I felt a layer of my tastebuds vanish.

We went to wash this all down at a paletería called "Popeye's". It was refreshing, but not very natural tasting of fruit. (We´re accustomed to the high quality paletas La Michoacana .)

I noticed a big jar filled with red, chile infused vinegar. Alongside was another jar filled with dry, toasted bread heels. The idea is to dip the dry bread inthe seasoned vinegar, y ¡ándale! The only rationale, if there is one, for the Oaxacan penchant for sour, salty, astringent "treats" is to provoke thirst in order to drink more fluids, and possibly, replace electrolytes lost to perspiration.

Over all, a paseo por El Llano is a very pleasant and tranquilizing experience. Tonight's direction was counter-clockwise. Maybe it's always that direction.
(Just keep it tranquil by avoiding the pickled fruits.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eating Oaxaca—Part Four

The Cooking Class

La Casa de Los Sabores Cooking School is a class act. They are very well organized yet have an approachable, easy to like, informal style.

Wednesday morning was the day of my private class with Pilar.

As usual, our day began with a nice breakfast in the patio dining room.

At 9:30, Pilar and I went out to the Mercado de La Merced, about 6 blocks to the east the B&B. The Merced is a local, neighborhood mercado, and as such, attracts very little tourist trade. Thus it is generaly cheaper and less busy than the better known mercados closer to Centro, and the famed, but overwhelming, Mercado de Los Abastos.

Enroute, Pilar pointed out a small store in which there were about 6 electrified molinos, at the service of the market vendors who needed products ground. Among those products might be chiles, café, maíz or moles. These molinos are essential to the Oxacan cuisine.

We soon reached the Mercado. About one-third of it is vacant of active stalls. The reason, Pilar explained, is that many younger members of the families that operate the stalls have migrated, or have no interest in continuing the work of their parents. The other two thirds is quite active, although it was not thronged at the time of our visit.

I'd been given a slip of paper with a shopping list on it, as well as other items which might be of interest to see, but which we did not need. These are the items.

Lista Del Mercado
Masa para tortillas
Garbanzo molido
Pechuga de pollo

Things to identify but don't buy
Chile Pasilla Oaxaqueña
Chiles de Agua
Gusanos de Maguey

Pilar was determined to buy the breast of a free-range chicken. At the first stand where we looked, the chicken was killed the day before. That wasn't fresh enough. Around the corner, at another pollería, we found what we wanted. A free range chicken does not look very attractive; the skin is pale and not golden. They also take longer to cook, as they have had a diet of insects and life of exercise. But their meat is more savory than the marigold petal-fed, confined chickens.

The carnicería, run by a young woman, was doing a slow business, as it was Miércoles de Las Cenizas. She was one of the few woman carniceras.

Buying the vegetables went quickly. Miltomates are a much smaller variety of tomatillos or tomates verdes, and are said to have superior flavor. I think we got ours pre-husked, as the papery husks are time consuming to remove.

At the masa counter, two grinds were available; fine and coarse. The first is intended for tortillas and antojitos, the second for tamales.

Nearby is another small stand selling chocolateatole: a drink very much of Southern México, made up of two parts: a hot, drink of cracked corn, and a cold foam of chocolate that is added on top. I thought that it wasn't bad, but somewhat of an acquired taste. It evoked thoughts of the Emperor Moctezuma, and his golden goblet of foamy, unsweetened xocolatl, thickened with maíz and spiked with chile.

We made a stop at the dried chiles stand, where I also bought some special Oaxacan chiles to take home.

On the other side of the mercado, a woman sat on the floor, selling fresh herbs. We bought hierbasanta and hierbabuena, and I bought some hojas de aguacate and hierbasanta . One plant was especially aromatic; a tall, leafy stalk of cedrón. Its aroma was that of lemon and something less definable. I later learned that it's called lemon verbena in English. Later, we had an agua fresca de limón at Pilar's restaurant, La Olla, and I think it may have been made with the cedrón.

The class is very well organized. Everything that is needed is at hand when the food preparation begins; some of the standard ingredients are already setup beforehand, and that the pace is quick but not hurried. However, it pays to give the cooking close attention, for if you don't, you may miss something.

We were back at the kitchen before 11 a.m. Marí immediately got the chicken cooking in a pot of water. Pilar and I started the prep; first the dessert, Pay de Requesón con Salsa de Chocolate Oaxaqueño; then the antojitos, Memelitas con quesillo; next, the Salsa de Tres Chiles: morita, chipotle, y pasilla de Oxacaca, plus onion, garlic and miltomates asados.

Our next task was a very simple Sopa de Garbanzos con hierbabuena y epazote, using some of the stock from the chicken cooking.
Finally, the vegetables and the herbs for the Mole Verde were prepared. The ejotes were cooked briefly and then shocked in ice water. The chayotes were cubed and also cooked.

Next, a goodly lump of masa was blended with water and put to cook and thicken in a cazuela de barro. The concept is to complete all processes in the Mole Verde before adding the herb mixture. This serves to preserve an attractive color. Finally, the herbs, hoja santa, perejíl, and some chile were blended with stock. (I need to look at the recipe to see if more miltomates were used in the mole.)

The viscosity of the mole was adjusted, salt to taste, and ¡ya listo!

We sat down, Pilar, Susan and I at the nicely set table, and began our meal with a small glass of mescal joven. I recall the label was "Místico".

The memelitas are very much like sopes, but smaller and thinner, lightly anointed with asiento, griddled on the comal, and garnished with Oaxacan string cheese, quesillo. With it we ate a zesty Salsa de Tres Chiles.

Then the simple but delicious Sopa de Garbanzos, with its mellow, toasty flavor enhanced by hierbabuena, epazote and chile pasilla de Oaxaca.

The Mole Verde de Pollo was presented as large, boneless strips of breast meat on a pooled background of mole. It was delicious, with a complex, herbal flavor.

Dessert, Pay de Requesón, was light and pleasant, without the heavy richness of a cream cheese cake. The Chocolate Sauce was nice, but not especially memorable.

In all, an interesting class, one that went by all too quickly, but, in my opinion, worth the expense.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

La Comida De Cuaresma En el Mercado de Pátzcuaro

Friday, February 16, we went into Pátzcuaro to shop, and as I was feeling hungry, I stopped at the Birrería Don Prisci's at the esplanada del mercado for a plato chico de birria de borrego. I was only a little surprised to find that they were not serving meat on Fridays. Nor were 90% of the other antojitos and prepared food vendors close by.

This sort of "fasting" seems to entail little denial of the flesh, as the foods are so attractive, delicious and economical.

Don Prisci's was offering 4 Lenten plates: Caldo de Pescado, $35 MXP; Caldo de Camarón $40); Mojarra entera frita, $35 (!); Filete de Pescado Empanizado, $35. The fish plates were attractively served on big, oval platters, garnished with lechuga orejona (romaine lettuce), tomato slices, avocado wedges, ensalada de nopalitos, and a big mound of mayonesa. These plates were much, much more elaborate than the usual, basic bowls and tacos of meaty, soupy birria that they usually serve. As I was not so hungry, I had a bowl of caldo de camarón*, which was quite good, eaten with the huge tortillas de maíz for which Don Prisci's is well known, fresh off the comal.

*Although nowhere near as good as at Mariscos La Güera, where seafood is a specialty, every day. But also costs quite a bit more.

I was watching the set-up and handling of the platters of fish passing from hand to hand, and I had some doubts about the food hygiene on this specific occasion. On the other hand, the birria is served steaming hot and without any raw salad vegetables; unless you choose to put on chopped onions and cilantro. That was another reason I ate the Caldo de Camarón.

On the other side of the esplanada, the taqueros, except for two, had converted their steamed and chopped barbacoa stands into proper pious Lenten fare service. The big taquería, "La Cabaña del Taco" was shuttered. The stand I especially noted was offering chopped fish tacos (I had one, and it was delicious. 5 pesos); rajas de Chile Poblano con queso, pescado blanco (?), or at least, attractive portions of smallish fish fried in a light egg batter. I may have missed other items.

 We returned yesterday, Friday, February 23, this time, armed with a camera and an appetite.
We ate 5 tacos each at Taquería 'Nacho's', on the very steps of the esplanada del mercado. I also took photos at Don Prisci's, but unfortunately, no one ordered the impressive whole fried mojarra. I took some photos at a small taco stand on the opposite side. Conditions were very dark, and only a few came out. (That stand is close to La Cabaña de Taco, which was again closed.)

(Click slideshow to go to full view album.)

Deeper into the interior of the mercado buldings is an area of humble comedores and fondas. There, right at the base of the ramp, was Fonda 'Esperanza', as well as others. The fare offered at Esperanza's was fascinating.

There was the obligatory menudo , (made in superior way at this fonda; doctor's excuse not needed;-); Caldo de Pescado, Nopalitos en Salsa con Tortitas de Camarones Secos, and an unusual dish, Chiles Güeros en Caldo Rojo con Tortitas de Arroz. This will be a "must try" next Friday for us.(Previously, I thought that the chiles güeros were filled with cheese, but they weren't, and the caldo was o.k but not outstanding.
Updated March 9, 2011

Friday, February 22, 2008

Eating Oaxaca—Part Three

Susan was coming down with a cold. Various remedies were applied and taken.
But two days of bed rest proved most efficacious...

As there were no limones available in the kitchen of La Casa de Los Sabores (review) with which to make cold combating hot drinks, I went out for extended walks in search of them. I eventually ended up at el Mercado de La Merced, on Calzada de República, about 5 or 6 blocks east of the B&B. This is the same mercado where the Sabores classes shop for the ingredients of their meal. While it's not as busy as the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, it's easier to move about, get what you need, and, as Pilar says, the prices are lower.

Videos thanks to Jay P. Francis. Click Video "Menu" for more.

Meanwhile, my rambles took me toward Centro, and the Pastelería La Vasconia, at Independencia # 907, across from the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá; where I renewed acquaintances with the two sisters who operate it. We'd visited the place in the mid-90s, when I ran a bakery in Mountain View, Arkansas. At the earlier visit, Inés and I talked shop. I was pleased to see that they'd gone ahead and purchased a very nice refrigerated showcase for their fine cakes and cream filled pastries. The sisters are at an age where they want to sell the business. It has a fine location, a few blocks from the Zócalo, and may include the extensive living quarters in back and above. The business has been in their family for about 70 years.

There were a few curiosities, as well. We'd walked past Mariscos Las Nereidas, on Calle Xicoténcatl #111, where a window sign advertised "Cucarachas al Mojo de Ajo". On my lone ramble, I went in and inquired about them. I was kindly shown a cooked crustacean tail, somewhat like a langostino or lobster tail. The concept was interesting, but we never got around to trying any of their fare. The restaurant is large, fairly bare of decor (typical of many marisquerías), prices moderately expensive, and is open 8:00 to 12 for breakfast; Sunday through Monday (all week), live music Thursdays through Sundays. Tel: 51-49455.

A wonderful find, just around the corner from Los Sabores B&B, at the corner of Morelos and Pino Súarez, was the Super Cocina Lucía's. It had scarcely been open a week when I "found" it. It's a small shop, open from 12:30 to about 4:30 M-F. The offerings, displayed in open pans are appetizing and fresh. The salads are clean and outstanding. Each day there are different guisados. I bought two salads, one of citrus fruits, very good; but the spinach-broccoli was terrific; some Tortitas de Elote, and Sopa de Fideos, to take back to Susan. I enjoyed so
me of it myself, meanwhile having some of those previously mentioned Tacos Árabes from El Balcón de La Lechuza.

The owner, Lucía, her assistant, Mónica, and I had a nice conversation about the food and the business. I learned of Lucías father's other two or three restaurants, one of which is called "La Escondida", rather a major operation, on the outskirts of Oaxaca. There is also the original Super Cocina Lucía's, in the north part of the city, and somewhat larger, but I didn't get the location/address. After Susan I ate the take out food from Lucía's, I returned to take some photographs of the ladies and their foods.
(This is what I like most about traveling in Mexico: a chance to meet and connect with others of similar interests and enthusiasms. I think we have made new friends at Lucía's)

That evening, other guests returned with steamingly hot tamales, purchased from a Señora seated at the corner of Calle Abasolo and Pino Súarez, about three blocks fron Los Sabores. Her varied tamales were meatless, but very good, and only $5 MXP each. Even though I was tired from all the walking I'd done, and the hot Oaxacan sun, I went out and bought 5 of these treats.

The next day was Wednesday, when my class would take place.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Oaxaca - Part Two

We slept well, and took the Metro from Insurgentes Station to San Lázaro Station, which resurges next to TAPO (Terminal de Autobuses para Pasajeros al Oriente)
but first bought a few supplies at the Farmacia San Pablo, across the Avenida Álvaro Obregón from the hotel. We breakfasted at the passable, but nothing special Bisquets Café de Paris, on the corner. (This area of the broad, Parisian style Avenida Álvaro Obregón is notable for having at least two locations of the the justly popular restaurant chain, Los Bisquets, Bisquets de Obregón, of which more, later.)

We arrived at TAPO without any real difficult. (I often advise newly arriving visitors to el D.F. not to take the Metro from the Aeropuerto to the Centro Histórico, as the route involves at least one transfer and several flights of stairs, and factoring in altitude, jet lag, and possible crowds, it just isn't a wise move. Our trip was straightforward, without transfers, and it was a relatively quiet Sunday morning. Nevertheless, seats were scarce and at least one of us had to stand.

At TAPO, we erred in going to the TicketBus booth not far inside, rather than continuing on to the ADO counters in the main , "Spaceship" concourse. TicketBus, a ticket agency for various bus lines, did not have any departures with INAPAM seats available until 13:00 hours, so we bit the bullet and bought full fare seats on the 11:00 bus. The total fare was about $760 pesos, including the small commission that TicketBus charges. The bus was an ADO Primera Clase, which is actually one of the lowest classes of service, but really, reasonably comfortable, no beverage or food service aboard, single restroom, onboard movies (we got to watch Flyboys for the second time in two days.); making one, brief stop at Nochixtlán, about an hour short of Oaxaca. I bought a couple of Tortas Cubanas (a sort of Mexican "Dagwood" sandwich) and we had our canned Jugos V-8 along, and plenty of bottled water. The trip takes a little over 6 hours. Plenty of time to watch 3 movies, or look out at the spectacular desert, canyon and mountain scenery after Tehuacán.

As we slowly entered the outskirts of Oaxaca, I turned to Susan and said; "It reminds me a lot of West Plains, Missouri."
An absurd statement, of course.

The new First Class Bus Terminal is a great improvement over the old, crowded one that we remember. The location is the same, but the exits are onto the street a block south of where it formerly exited. It took a few moments to get oriented.
Since we were traveling lightly, with backpacks, we walked the 6 blocks to Casa Arnel through Colonia Jalatlaco. The barrio seemed attractively painted and refreshed, while keeping its traditional Oaxacan charm. Just before reaching the Casa, we were surprised to see a fairly snazzy Italian seafood restaurant, La Marinera. Our friend, Geri Anderson, who lives in the area, recommends another, somewhat expensive restaurant, La Toscana, located on the cross street, Alianza, between Aldama and Calzada de La República.
It was very pleasant to arrive at the door of Casa Arnel. It was like coming home again. Inside, the gringos were gathered in front of a giant screen TV, watch the Super Bowl. After exchanging greetings with Sr. Arnel, and settling in to our nice although not plush room, we rested before going out in search of supper.

We had a craving for good pizza, and we knew where we could get it: at Pizza Rústica, on an east-west street, toward the northern end of the Andador Turístico, in an old mansion. We'd eaten there years ago, and remember the pizza as outstanding. The ground floor was empty except for a few unused tables, but a fine staircase went up to a quiet and somewhat elegant dining room, with windows overlooking the street.

The menu nowadays offers far more than pizza, including pastas, soups and meats, but we stayed with our original plan. We ordered the eponymous Pizza Rústica; with a light tomato sauce on a thin, crisp crust, dressed with mushrooms, onions, flores de calabaza, and chile Poblano. (We requested the latter in place of sweet green pepper.) The salads were very good, served in wooden trencher bowls. With a glass of red wine, two mineral waters, the bill came to just under $300 pesos.

We had no problem sleeping in Casa Arnel that night.

The next morning we joined the other guests at table in Casa Arnel, for a light but delicious breakfast of Granola Completa, unsweetened amaranth and oat granola, covered with freshly cut tropical fruits, and bathed in creamy yogurt. ($35 pesos). There is good coffee, hot cakes, pan salado, Huevos a la Oaxaqueña and more. The restaurant at Casa Arnel is mostly a breakfast place, although they can make up sandwiches and box lunches.

A couple of hours later, we walked to Centro, the Zócalo and the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. A large procession of protesting campesinos was filing past the Zócalo, but there were no obviously physical conflicts.

In the bustling Mercado, we quickly located a likely fonda; Abuelita's. There we ordered a second, more substantial breakfast; Huevos Revueltos con Chorizo Oaxaqueño
for me; and a Tlayuda con Tasajó for Susan. We both drank Chocolate Caliente de Agua, con Pan de Yema. The chocolate was quite good but the pan was not especially eggy nor even all that fresh. My dish was tasty, if rather greasy, and Susan felt the Tlayuda to be overly dry and was unable to finish it. I helped and to me it was tasty, but could have been prepared better.

We walked back to Casa Arnel, packed our stuff, and paid. We could have walked to La Casa de Los Sabores in about 15 or 20 minutes, but the sun was reaching its zenith, so we saved strength
and took a cab. There, Martha greeted us, and placed us in the "Gardenia" room. It was spacious and had a King bed.

We must have been well filled by our two breakfasts, as I can't remember any more meals we ate that day. (Incredible!) Maybe it was few Tacos Árabes. (see below)

We spend a lot of time walking, just looking and visiting bakeries, markets and a few shops. We are not crafts fanciers nor are we big on museums. Among the intriguing restaurants, we noticed "El Balcón de La Lechuza", specialists in Tacos Árabes. we got to try them the next night. Pork is grilled on a rotary spit in front of a charcoal fire. They're a relative of Tacos Al Pastor, but without the spicy adobo marinade, and onion takes the place of the pineapple garnish. Mild yet very good. The accompanying salsas were a garlicky vegetable sauce and a thin and picante salsa chipotle. They were mellow and quite delicious, especiallly with the melted white cheese on them.
Breakfast at Los Sabores started with an attractive and artistically fashioned fruit plate; a quesadilla de quesillo, nopales y epazote, and lots of coffee. There was a basket of the same whole grain bread as served at Restaurante La Olla. There was a fruit juice blend also.

Susan was coming down with a cold. Various remedies were applied and taken.
But two days of bed rest proved most efficacious.

(To be continued, in Part Three)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eating Oaxaca - Part One

The winter passes relatively benignly here in the Pátzcuaro, Michoacán region. But January brings some cold nights and cool days, and we sought a break from the chill air. Moreover, I looked forward to the diverse cuisine of sunny Oaxaca, and to learn a little about it. We also wanted to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances while there. After looking over the many and varied cooking schools and classes offered around Oaxaca, I decided to test the waters by signing up for a one-day class at La Casa De Los Sabores.

Several options are available, as you can see from their website. I decided to splurge on a private class (I was the only student) because I wanted to match class content with the my skill level and experiences . In other words, I wouldn't be very happy if I was taught how to make guacamole. It was difficult to decide which of the 15 menus to pick. I've attached them below.
Reprinted courtesy of Pilar Cabrera


Cooking School 2008®


Quesadillas de champiñones y quesillo (Cheese and mushrooms quesadillas)
Ensalada de espinacas con aderezo de jamaica
Sopa de guias (Traditional Oaxacan vegetable soup)
Mole Amarillo de pollo (Yellow mole with chicken or pork)
Arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding)
Salsa de chile pasilla oaxaqueno


Taquitos dorados de pollo (Golden fried chicken taco)
Arroz con chepiles (Rice with oaxacan wild herbs)
Coloradito de pollo o puerco (Coloradito with chicken or pork)
Pay de Guayaba (Guava pie)


Taquitos suaves de nopalitos (Tender cactus in soft tortillas)
Sopa de haba al chile pasilla (Faba bean soup with chile pasilla)
Estofado de pollo (chicken with a mix of tomato-almonds sauce)
Arroz campestre (Rice with flowers and corn)
Nieve de nuez


Quesadillas de flor de calabaza (Quesadillas with squash blossom and cheese)
Salsa de tomate y chile de agua
Mole Negro con pollo o guajolote (Black mole with chicken or turkey)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Mexican style rice)
Nieve de vainilla (vainilla sorbet)


Memelitas (Small corn tortilla with cheese)
Salsa de tres chiles
Sopa de garbanzo a la hierbabuena (Oaxacan dry cheakpeas soup)
Mole verde con carne de puerco o pollo (Oaxacan green mole with chicken or pork)
Pay de requesón con salsa de chocolate (Ricotta cheese cake with chocolate sauce)


Ceviche de pescado
Arroz costeno (Mixed of carrots and cabbage with rice)
Camarones a la diabla (shrimp in chilpotle sauce)
Salsa de habanero (Green habanero sauce)
Flan de café (Coffee flan)


Memelitas (Small corn tortilla with cheese)
Sopa Conde (Black bean soup)
Chiles rellenos de queso y flores en salsa roja (Poblano chiles stuffed with squash blossoms and cheese, over red sauce)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Rice seasoned with mint)
Pay de requesón y pina (Ricotta cheese cake with pineapple)


Tetelas de frijol con hierbabuena
Ensalada César (Ceasar salad)
Chiles rellenos de picadillo en salsa de tomate (Chile pasilla oaxaqueño stuffed with picadillo in tomato sauce)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Rice with oaxacan wild herb)
Gelatina de rompope (Eggnog gelatin)


Flores de calabaza rellenas de requesón (Squash blossoms filled with requesón cheese)
Salsa verde asada (Smoky tomatillo sauce)
Sopa Azteca (Tortilla soup seasoned with avocado leaves)
Chiles en nogada (Poblano chiles filled with chicken, in nut sauce)
Flan de coco (coconut flan)


Ensalada de jicama y berros (Jicama and watercress salad)
Tamal de frijol (Black bean tamal)
Corundas (Cheese tamal wrapped in bambu leaves)
Salsa roja (red tomato sauce)
Tamal de mole en hoja de plátano (Black mole tamal wrapped in banana leaves)
Pay de mango (Mango pie)


Salsa verde cruda (Uncooked green salsa)
Gorditas rellenas de frijol (Stuffed corn tortilla with black beans)
Arroz negro (Rice with black beans)
Pescado a la veracruzana (Veracruz style red snapper)
Flan de vainilla (Vanilla flan)

12. 100% MAIZ

Tostaditas de tinga
Molotitos de papa con chorizo
Taquitos dorados de requeson
Tetelas con frijol y queso
Salsa roja
Salsa verde


Quesadillas de flor de calabaza
Ensalada verde con mastuerzos
Pechuga de pollo en salsa de flor de calabaza
Helado de petalos de rosas (Rose petal sorbet)
Te helado de jamaica


Tamal De frijol
Tamal de dulce
Chocolate de leche
Salsa de tomate

Every class we have a cocktail, a beer and wine, we’ll prepare during the class.
All the menus have been chosen by Pilar Cabrera, 2008 ®

As you can see, the eager, prospective student is spoiled for choice. I began by eliminating the menus that interested me less. That eliminated Colorado, Enchilado, Patrio, Veracruzana, 100% Maíz, Familiar. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with those menus, but I felt that they were either too basic (Colorado) or not as relevant to the region.
I considered Tamalada, but I felt that that one was mono-dimensional and the hand skills were too demanding. Besides, the tamales family is very common to Michoacán, although they are nowhere as rich and complex as a Tamal Oaxaqueño.

I like the idea of the De Flores menu, but realized it was difficult to reproduce and, let's face it: perhaps a bit precious. I really liked the concept of the Menú Vegetariano, but in the end, I had Negro or Verde as the the finalists. Mole Negro is complex and rich; probably the most popular choice among advanced students. Always the contrarian, I decided that Verde was my winner.

For convenience and comfort, I booked three nights at the Casa de Los Sabores B&B, where the classes take place; located on Los Libres 205, a bit off centro but a pleasant and interesting walk. For the remainder of our stay, I first booked two nights at Casa Arnel, in Colonia Jalatlaco, mostly for old times' sake and to visit our friends, the Cruz family, whom we'd not seen in over 12 years. We later extended our stay another night.

Our transportation was by bus, which in México, is a usually advantageous way to travel. We booked on Primera Clase and ADO GL buses, using our Senior INAPAM (formerly "INSEN" credentials to obtain 50% discounts, whenever seating allocations allowed.

We broke the journey in México City, staying at the Hotel Milan, in Colonia Roma Norte. It's a good, solid 3 star hotel, well located and very comfortable. There are any number of wonderful used book stores cafés and eating places close by, but we went to El Bazar de Oro, off Av. Insurgentes, to the Parillada Bariloche, a lively South American steak joint, a real, shirtsleeves, family sort of place. Seating on the backless plastic stools was uncomfortable, but the steaks were juicy and delicious. Prices are moderate, about $90 to $110 pesos a steak. There are no accompaniments, except bread and 3 delicious salsas. We ordered some papas Francesas and some soft drinks. Our bill for two was about $280 pesos. The restaurant is only open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

We slept well, and took the Metro from Insurgentes Station to San Lázaro Station, which resurges next to TAPO (Terminal de Autobuses para Pasajeros al Oriente)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Southern Cookin' South of the Border

We had a few neighbors over for a little lunch. We made what is among our favorite style of food while living here in México: Southern U.S. cookin'.

Yesterday, I saw some nice filetes de bagre on special at the Soriana supermarket. I bought five nice large ones, and after all was done and properly condimented, we had:

Chapulines grandes (fried grasshoppers, salted, with chile ) as an appetizer. (Or a de-appetizer, if you like.)

•Fried fillets of catfish w/ Ho-made Tartar Sauce. The catfish fillets were nearly perfectly cooked, although the flavor was very mild.
•Hush Puppies
•Bread 'n Butter Pickles
Salsa Verde
•Oven "Fried" Potatoes
•Sliced onion
•Sliced fresh Chiles Serranos in lime juice
•Pinto beans
•Ketchup by Heinz™

•Dessert was Flan de Naranja, which came out very nicely, although the orangeness was elusive, and it took several applications of steaming hot towels to release the flan from the mold.

Cerveza Noche Buena and Agua de Jamaica were the principal beverages.

Click slide show below to see larger photos. Photo credits to Geni Certain.