Tuesday, June 26, 2012


It had been two years since we'd visited El Racó, a Catalán restaurant at Avenida Sonora 174, near the vague boundary between Colonia Roma and Colonia Hipódromo-Condesa. Both areas are among the most charming of the great city.

El Racó hides its numerous pleasures behind a modest facade, with a view of the northern part of the Parque México. From the moment you walk in the door and are seated with a sincere and warm welcome from Sr. Hector Uguarte, to your first taste of the creations of Chef Alfonso Cuevas*, it all makes a very pleasant experience.

The celebrants two years earlier
We reserved for 3 p.m. although we could have found a table at the hour on that Saturday.
We were bought olives, and after a pause, good bread and butter. 

As this dinner was in celebration of our anniversary, we chose a bottle of vino blanco espumante. We chose one of the lower priced cavas. However, Sr. Uguarte generously brought us a superior bottle at the same price. It was, according to my sketchy notes, Jané Ventura Xarel lo Macabeu i Parrillada. It was delightful, semi-dry and refreshing.

There was a small card on the table with Las Sugerencias del Chef. These were the specials of the week, among them a celestial Crema de Pimiento Rojo, and a woodsy Sopa de Hongas; shiitakes, clavitos y tejamaniles. These came as small but deeply flavored portions.

I realized that one might make a very satisfactory meal at El Racó of nothing but the wonderful soups. On the personal recommendation of Chef Cuevas, we ordered the Crema de Almejas. This was a more ample serving, sufficient to be shared. The liquid was not really "Crema" as I understand it, but a well flavored shellfish stock, with some small, Portuguese clams. We enjoyed the Crema de Almejas, but the two earlier soups even more.

Crema de Almejas
We'd already decided to share as our main course Huauchinango a la Sal. This is a very simple preparation of a whole fresh fish, embedded in a mound of coarse salt, and roasted at a high temperature. 

When it is done, the chef uses two spoons to remove the salt, bones and serves it table side. It's made without any condiments or adornments other than a touch of olive oil. The accompanying Pastel de papas, laminas of potato baked with a bit of cream, were a nice side. If you want the pure fresh taste of fish, this is an ideal dish.

Chef Cuevas bones the Huauchinango streetwise
Afterwards, Sr. Uguarte brought a bottle to our table and offered us two small glasses of ratafía de la casa, a liqueur or aguardiente with an intensely herbal taste, dominated by rosemary.

We finished our meal with Triángulos Rellenos de Crema con Salsa de Café,  from the sugerencias. These resembled wonton wrappers, filled with pastry cream, deep fried and served with a small amount of a coffee syrup or sauce. Very nice, light and not as elaborate nor as expensive as the desserts from the regular repertoire.  

Food:  *****+

Service: *****+ Very warm and personalized attention from the staff.

Price: $$-$$$$

Ambience: very modest, casual, but comfortable.

Bathrooms: down a few steps. Small, but clean and well kept.

We will return whenever we can to this restaurant.

Location and Contact: 
Av. Sonora 174-A Col. Hipodromo Condesa C.P. 06100, México, D.F. Tel. 52862188 Fax 52114343

*No relation to this blogger.

El Hornero, Colonia Roma Norte

We once again were in Colonia Roma Norte, one of our favorite areas of Mexico City. We looked forward to eating at El Hornero, Calle Córdoba 148, where we hoped to satisfy our craving for beef. El Hornero had been well recommended by Ulysses de la Torre, guest writing a three part series on Argentine and Uruguayan parrillas on Nick Gilman's blog, "Good Food in Mexico City".

I am going to touch on this restaurant as gently as possible. We were tired when we arrived at about 4 p.m., so that undoubtedly affected our experience. The dining room is small and was crowded. It was a very busy hour. The furniture was old and worn, something which ordinarily wouldn't matter to me. There was an unpleasant clashing vibe of noise and it was difficult to talk across the small table. 

We ordered a couple of glasses of wine from the short list on the blackboard. The wine seemed to take a very long time arriving. Meanwhile, we nibbled on some o.k. bread and the very tasty chimichurrí and a reddish, smokey salsa. Once the wine arrived, I felt better about the place.

Among the menu attractions was Vacio para Dos, con papas fritas o ensalada, for only $235 pesos. Our waitress said that we could have the fries and salad both. We thought that this was a very good deal. It was, indeed.

The food arrived quickly once we put in the order. The wooden cutting board held the vacio cut. It was tender and juicy. The salad and fries arrived on a large separate platter. Both were fresh and abundant. We were completely satisfied with our choice.

We also tried a couple of empanadas, one of carne molida and the other of espinacas. The empanada de carne was o.k. but not distinctive; the spinach empanada was much better.

I had a soggy cream pastry dessert and a café express, both of which were tolerable but not great.

The bill was reasonable: only $424 pesos. However we had a unpleasant moment when the waitress returned or change, short $50. She stated that the bill was $474. We were too tired for any confrontation, so we wrote it off.


Food: ****

Service: ***

Price: $-$$

Ambience: Too close for comfort; unpleasantly noisy at peak hour.

Would we return? Doubtful, despite the very good meats at a reasonable price.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Misíon Imposible

A few years back, the R.O.M.E.O. men's breakfast group met at the restaurant of the then Hotel San Felipe in Pátzcuaro. It would be kind to say that the spacious parking and the seating arrangement were the highlights of that breakfast.

Patio and parking
Since then, the Hotel San Felipe changed ownership to the extensive Hotel Misíon chain. It was renamed the Hotel Misíon Pátzcuaro. Last week, our friends Mark and Nancy dined with a group of friends at the restaurant, still named Restaurante San Felipe, and were so pleased that they suggested we join them there for a comida.

At 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, we six were the only diners in the warmly appointed dining room. We were attended quite competently by two white jacketed waiters. The menu is not lengthy, but is more than adequate. They brought us some complimentary totopos y frijoles.

The menu is a bit confusing in that there are listings for both botanas and for antojitos. Some of the same items appear under different categories but with varying prices. In the case of the intriguing Chile Pasilla item, our waiter explained that the one listed in botanas was a sort of build your own taco appetizer, while the antojito version is a type of chile relleno. We ordered the botana version and an order of guacamole to share.

The guacamole was fine, and the chile pasilla botana was novel and nifty. It comes as sort of a kit, comprised of a fried, opened dried chile, strips of queso fresco, crema, chopped cilantro, cebolla y chile perón. We were supplied with baskets of warm, thickish handmade tortillas with which to assemble our tacos. The dish was fun to eat, but the sum of its flavor was o.k., but not equal to the appeal of the DIY parts.

Chile Pasilla botana
On the other hand, the two salsas de la casa, roja y verde, were stellar. The tomatoes and milder chiles of the red had been carefully roasted, while the green was just the right heat, tartness, but above all, chopped in substantial chunks rather than the anemic, watery purees so often served elsewhere.


The weather was cool and rainy, so soup was a logical choice for at least three of us. Two chose Crema Tangaxhuan, a creamy corn chowder laced with bacon and topped by small crackers or croutons.

Crema Tangaxhuan
I chose Sopa Tarasca, a Michoacán specialty, a soup often abused and disrespected. (There are at least two schools of Sopa Tarasca; with bean puree and without.) The version at San Felipe could hold its own in the upper ranks of contenders. It was vivid with tomato-chile broth, thick with tortilla strips, laced with crema y queso and strips of chile pasilla, but without beans. It was substantial and enjoyable.

Sopa Tarasca

With the platos fuertes, I think the quality declined. Mark had a Filete de Res con Champiñones a la Mostaza, of which only he can give an opinion. He invited me to taste the sauce, but I did not think that the yellow mustard in a cream sauce was a felicitous combination.

Filete de res con champiñones a la mostaza
Ron had a simple Filete de Res a la Parrilla. I didn't get his opinion on this yet.

Both Georgia and I both had Chuletas Adobadas. Mine, at least was overcooked; a bit thin and dry, but redeemed somewhat by the pretty good adobo. 

Chuletas Adobadas
Note that the chuletas and Ron's platter came with frijoles but Mark's did not. There were no vegetable sides, as far as we could tell, even though fresh vegetables were present in the salads.

Nancy and Sra. Cuevas both had Ensaladas Mixtas, which combined fresh and cooked vegetables and some ham and cheese. The salads were attractive, and cruets of vinegar and oil were welcome to mix your dressing to taste.

Ensalada Mixta: goodbye, cruet whirl

Ron and I both ordered flan, which was poorly made. I have never had dense, chewy flan before. The caramel tasted like a syrup made from piloncillo. 

This dessert did not pass with flan colors
Nancy and Sra. Cuevas had Crepas a la Naranja, attractive and the orange sauce was good. Crepes would never be among my first dessert choices, but of course, tastes differ.

Crepas a la Naranja
 And now, the envelope, please!

Food: ***1/2
Service: *****
Ambience: ****
Price: $$+ (per person, complete meal. See menu pictures for details)
Restrooms: Clean and attractive.
Parking: spacious and free.

Location: Hotel Misión Pátzcuaro
Av. Lázaro Cárdenas No. 321
C.P. 61600, Centro
Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Blog undergoing maintenance

I have installed the Disqus Comment System. Previous comments have temporarily disappeared but should be back in 24 hours or so.

The good news is that you shouldn't ever again have to read and write those ugly, nasty image verification codes.

In case of complaints, please contact my technical adviser or our legal counsel.

Don Cuevas

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tamales and tamales and tamales

Last week I went to the Buen Provecho Mercado in Pátzcuaro. This is a small mercado de especialidades, with a largely affluent expat clientele.
It's open only from 11 to 1:30, on Fridays! Location is in the Posada Yohuanalli, on Calle Dr. Coss in Pátzcuaro.

Although I went only to get a bag of mixed organic lettuces, I was attracted to a couple selling tamales estilo Oaxaqueños. Somehow, I ended up buying 4 instead of 2, but that's not a problem, as the chicken and chile one I tried was delicious. There should be yet another chicken tamal and two of rajas con queso. (Strips of roasted chile Poblano and cheese.)

These tamales are beautifully wrapped. I consider them works of artisanry.

I got some pics of the wrapped tamales. These are among the most beautifully crafted foods I've seen in Mexico. I noted that the number of ties and knots on the tamales differ. I think that this indicates the filling.

I'm looking forward to my next one. Here's a photo of one in its wrapper.

Tamal Oaxaqueño
It's now the following Tuesday, and I just had the last tamal for breakfast. It was filled with mole de pollo. It was almost as enjoyable as the first, but I admit, I'm tired of tamales. I think tomorrow for breakfast I'll have bacon and eggs and toast.

Here are some old and new photos of the Buen Provecho Mercado.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Quest For The Ring

Sometimes little things take on great importance and become obsessions.

So it was with the little rubber gasket of our blender, a Licuadora "Man". It was several years ago when a friend in Oaxaca recommended the Man line of Mexican made blenders to replace our cool Breville blender when it fell apart. A small ferretería in Pátzcuaro had a Man Comercial model in stock. It boasted a powerful, two speed motor (I avoid buying blenders with more than two speeds and especially, multiple buttons that collect goo.) and especially, this blender boasted a nearly unbreakable Lexan beaker. The salesman beat the beaker on the bannister of the stairs to demonstrate its durability.  I was impressed, so I bought it. I think I paid $950 pesos.

Not long ago, as Sra. Cuevas was washing up the blender, she noticed that the small, double layer gasket was torn. It was only a matter of time until it would completely tear, so I set out to find a replacement. This rubber ring may be small, but it's vital to the successful operation of the blender. The Man website was helpful in identifying the part. Ref #5: Junta de Hule. Parte #716.

From there, I obtained a list of authorized service providers, finding two in Morelia and one in México Centro, not three blocks from where we'd been the week before!

It was logical to try Morelia next. There was a shop listed called Proveedora del Hogar on Avenida Madero, close to where a friend once lived. About a week or so ago, we successfully navigated the centro and even found parking less than two blocks away. My good luck ended when I reached the shop, only to find out it had moved and was now a TelCel outlet. (I bet that that there are more TelCel shops than taquerías in any average Mexican city.)

The young ladies there gave me directions to the blender repairs place, but we were unable to find it amidst the welter of businesses at "Tres Puentes".

There was still another possibility in Centro, but we were beginning to wear out. But the lady at La Frontera had told me of a licuadora parts store on Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas, near Mercado Independencia. We slowly drove along that street but couldn't find it.

At that point we retreated and I was preparing for another trip to Mexico City, where we are going anyway later this month, carrying the old blender ring to where the "Laiting" (Illumination) District adjoins Chinatown.

But a few days ago, while in Pátzcuaro, I had the bright idea of inquiring at the original ferretería "Manríquez" where I'd bought the machine. He directed me to nearby Vidrioeléctrica, Pátzcuaro's largest hardware store.

Vidrioeléctrica: If anyone carries it, they will.
 About 10 minutes of discussion with the salesgirl ensued. She pulled out various licuadora parts as I described with increasing adjectives what I was seeking.
"Anillo o junta de hule doble y flexible."
At last, she reached into a drawer in front of her and pulled out a Ring. Although it was only $5 pesos, I knew better than to buy more than one, until I tried this one on my blender.

The results were successful, altough the original ring was somewhat glued into the threaded cuff due to fruit juice leakage. After a short soak in soapy water, it came free, and I was able to fit the new one in place. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm confident that it will work.