Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gourmandizing Mexico City Part 7- The Final Days

Monday was our last full day in Mexico City, with the morning devoted to shopping,at Mercado San Juan, where I looked for fresh shiso leaves for Ron. One vendor had them, in a locked refrigerator, but they were $5 pesos each, and very perishable, so I didn't buy any. Nearby, I foolishly agreed to pay $26 MXP for a tiny bag of mustard powder, perhaps 100 grams. I didn't really need it as I can restock more cheaply while in the U.S. this June.

I got some better pics of beautiful Oriental vegetables, then went to the Spanish deli stand called "La Suiza", and admired the salamis and cheeses. I got a small section of salami, which was actually produced in Mexico. It's delicious. They also had some nicely packaged soup and stock bases, in large, and very expensive containers, but they were willing to sell me a small sample bag for about $30.

By this time, Doña Cuevas had left the building to sit in the park, pleading ennui, but in reality, unable to face our retirement nest egg dribbling away in mustard spoons.

I forged on, boarding the platform along the length of the three refrigerator cases of "La Holandesa". There, an genial owner, gladly chatted with me about the hanging jamones serranos de bellota, the Queso Manchego Español ($800 a kilo), and other delights. He allowed me to take many photos of what for me were tempting delicacies at unaffordable prices. I did succumb to purchasing a half ball of Queso Provolone Ahumado, at $58! It's terrific, a rare treat in Mexico.

With that, and my head spinning from the elevated prices, I exited to the park and Doña Cuevas, and we resumed our shopping excursion elsewhere.

On our return walk from the Far Eastern Region of the Biblos and the Garment District, we'd stopped for a refresher at Bar Salon Corona, on C/ Bolívar 24, Centro. (There is another one, in a cross street, not far away.)

The Salon and its entrance have been remodeled since this picture was taken, some years ago. Anonymous wrote that that is actually the Bar Salon Corona in San Miguel de Allende. Here's a photo of the exterior of the Cd. México, Bolívar Salon. Since I have a few principles, and of the two, one is not to borrow photos from blogger brethren, so I'll just give a link. Click here.

Salon Corona is noted for its cold draft beer and its tortas. So I had the famous Torta de Bacalao (prepared salt cod and potatoes) and Doña Cuevas the Torta Gringa (carne pastor and melted cheese). The bacalao was pretty good, but I don't see why it's famous. It's a good snack. The beer was fine, the waiter congenial (and English speaking), and the Salon Corona is worth a stop if you are nearby, but it's not destination dining.

Food: ***
Service ***
Price $-$$
Restrooms: clean

Later that Monday afternoon, our friend and former neighbor, Larry W. arrived at the Hotel Pal. After he had time to freshen up, we again set forth on the trek to the mero Centro Histórico, with El Huequito on Bolívar our goal.

We retraced our earlier path through the Barrio San Juan, where, upon emerging from the park, we found the Pulquería Las Duelistas.* I'd read a note recently by Nick Gilman about the pulquería, which has been repainted and revived, and is once again a local hot spot.

*If you can get ahold of a copy of "The People's Guide To Mexico" by Havens, Franz and Rogers, read the section on Cantinas and the one on Pulque. Great stuff.
As we approached the Pulquería, we noted the inclusion of a supine male figure on the sidewalk outside, sleeping off an excess of pulque. We thought it was a nice touch to add to the "Real México" ambience.

La Doña was hesitant to go inside, wondering if nice ladies were welcome, so I peeked over the swinging doors and saw several very nice ladies already inside, lifting their tarros of pulque and holding their own with the machos.
"It's ok. Let's go in."

The noise level of some unknown, primeval music was near the audible pain threshhold. That was complemented by by lurid murals in screaming colors of Aztec motifs, mostly on the theme of the Tzompantli. That's the rack where the skulls of sacrificed victims were displayed. (I am not making this up!)
Were the murals the Mexican equivalent of the Surgeon General's Warning on Pulque?

Our amiable host led us to a table which we shared with a young couple already well into a large, plastic pitcher of pulque. We introduced ourselves and exchanged business cards. ;-)

They were helpful in explaining the various "cures" or flavors of pulque available. They were drinking a "Campechana", which is every flavor mixed except for beet. I asked to try "natural", which you already know is pulque without added flavors. Our waiter brought a small glass of the fizzy, slightly cloudy liquid, which was tart and yeasty, just as I remembered it from previous tastings.

Our companions offered us a sip of their cinnamon-flecked pulque, and Larry accepted. When our waiter returned, we ordered, shouting a tarro for two of avena pulque, which is oats with a dash of cinnamon. It was somewhat sweet, and not unpleasant, but not my drink.

I plunged in and ordered the pulque curado con apio, a luminescent, green beverage flavored with celery, a squirt of lime juice and served in a salt-rimmed mug. Mmm! Tart and refreshing.

It was like Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Mexican style, for adults.
We paid our very low cuenta, said our goodbyes and resumed our walk. I could feel a light buzz in in brain and Larry also reported mild effects of borrachismo. We made it in good form to El Huequito.

(Two doors to the left of Las Duelistas is the wonderful spice and condiments shop, "Molinera de Chiles El Progreso", where we bought a few things. They have an extensive price list/catalog to give out and I recommend this place, but I won't describe it here as we didn't buy much. Prices seem reasonable.)

El Hueqito.
I'll try to make this short and get down to the elements.
Larry and I shared an order of Medallones de Filete de Res Al Limón Inglés. Two tender and juicy filets of beef, French Fries and Guacamole. Very good.

We also ordered a plate of Costillas BBQ, which were o.k., but to us Southern Living Gentlemen, the ribs did not compare with those Down South of the Mason-Dixon Line but North of the Mexican-U.S. Border. But not bad.

Mi Esposa wisely ordered an Ensalada Especial El Huequito, which was all vegetables except for the very good strips of bacon on top.
We also shared two bowls of the excellent Frijoles de La Olla.

I can't remember what we drank. It didn't have alcohol in it. I also can't remember what the meal cost, but somewhere around the mid 500's seems right.

Food: ****
Service: ****
Price: $-$$$
Restrooms: Very clean.

Outside again, it was dark. We eventually hailed a cab and returned to the hotel.

Tuesday morning, we walked the few blocks to Cafetería La Piccolina (our 3rd vist in 4 days) and had full breakfasts. The Huevos Rancheros, Enmoladas and Chilaquiles con Pollo were fine to excellent. The café con leche was a bit less cargado than previously, but still excellent.
I don't recall the total, probably around $260.

I'm going to skip the star ratings this time, saying only that when in that area of Mexico City, La Piccolina will be our coffee and breakfast place from here onward.

Thanks to those of you who lasted this far for your patient attention. I will need to rest and recharge for a few days now before blogging again.

Don Cuevas


Anonymous said...

The photo of the Bar Salon Corona is actually the Bar Salon Corona in San Miguel de Allende located on Insurgentes.

Don Cuevas said...
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Tancho said...

A stellar job of scribing! Glad you did it for us who forget half of what we see a few days later.
Too bad you were not able to convince some of the jefe de cocina to set up in Patzcuaro. Sounds like your worst meal was still above par in our little town. Just a short bus trip away...so far technically.

Don Cuevas said...

Tancho, in general, your assessment of the quality of our meals in Mexico City is correct.

But there was that one breakfast, Sunday morning, in a place I didn't name, that was inferior in several ways. It was but a tiny tope in the succesion of otherwise good to excellent meals.

Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

Are you aware that spit is part of the process of making pulque?

Don Cuevas said...

Felipe, the Eternal Provocateur!

No, I really doubt that spit is part of the pulque making process. Perhaps you are confusing it with the kava making process.



Don Cuevas

PS: Are you aware of the sources of milk and eggs?

Don Cuevas said...

(Repost deleted post with a correction.)

Thank you, Anonymous.
Can you sign a nickname, so that we can tell you from others of the Society of Anonomi?

When you've seen on Bar Salon Corona, you've seen them all. :-)

Actually, I "borrowed" that picture from Amazon.com.

We haven't been in SMA in nearly 3 years.

Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

Whereas I confess to enjoying stirring a pot or two, resorting to spit, either literally or by word, isn´t something I would do, having graduated from the Third Grade many, many years ago.

No, I could swear that I once read that the traditional pulque method included spit in one form or the other. It´s why I have never tried pulque, and won´t.

Perhaps I am mistaken. I hope so. For your sake.

Don Cuevas said...

Thank you, Felipe, for your comments, past, present and future.

They often, as in the instance cited, give a desirable leaven to our blogs. No spit necessary or implied.

I seriously doubt that pulque is started with a spit. It's true, the process of drawing sap from the maguey involves sucking it into a hollowed gourd, so it is theoretically possible some saliva could enter, but not, to the best of my knowledge, deliberately.

Are you aware of the nature and origin of sweet bee's honey?

Saludos muy cordiales,
Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

Yes, but a little bee spit hardly compares to that of a hungover campesino.

Don Cuevas said...

I was so stirred by Felipe's comments, that I read the Wikipedia.org article on pulque more closely. There is this ugly rumor, probably spread by greedy German-Mexican beer brewers:

"The decline of pulque began in the first decade of the 20th century, when the Mexican Revolution caused a decline in its production.[3] In the 1930’s the government of Lázaro Cárdenas campaigned against pulque, as part of an effort to reduce alcoholic consumption in general. But the most decisive factor to the decline of pulque has been the introduction of beer.[15][9]
European immigrant beer brewers in the early 20th century had their own campaign against the native pulque, which emphasized a practice of using a “muñeca.” This muñeca was a textile bag that contained human or animal feces, which was placed in the aguamiel in order to hasten the fermentation process. Some insist that the “muñeca” is completely a myth, but there are enough accounts of this to indicate that it had been done in the past, although only by a minority, and the practice had been stopped long before the 20th century. The promoted the idea that pulque still had this, generally by word of mouth and insinuation. This was done to inhibit pulque sales and to promote the consumption of beer, which they claimed was 'rigourously hygienic and modern.'"

All I have to say is "¡Gúacala!"

Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...
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Lesley said...

I love the smoked provolone at La Holandesa! The owner there (Jorge, I think is his name?) is extremely nice. Plus they have a good selection of flavored goat cheeses (which you can also get at places like Costco, but it's nice to patronize a smaller establishment when you can).

I adore El Progreso, too. Ran all over the city looking for dried figs for Crayton's figgy pudding last Christmas, and they were the only place that had them. And they have garbanzo bean flour, for the times I'm in the mood for a socca pizza.

Don Cuevas said...

Hola, Lesley.

We are just nearing the end of our little smoked provolone. However, I'm beginning to think it's actually smoked mozzarella, as the basic cheese is relatively mild.

Yes, Jorge at La Holandesa was kind to allow me to take pictures. That reminds me, I told him I'd send him a link to to the pictures. I need to locate his card...

Don Cuevas