Thursday, November 29, 2012

New On The Block

There have been a number of new eating places opened within the last six months or so that have attracted my attention. Several are in Morelia and one is in Pátzcuaro.

The junction of Calzada Ventura Puente and Avenida Lázaro Cardenas in Morelia house a few of these spots.

View Larger Map  A marks the Centro Uníon de Diagnóstico.

The star is Chenito's Comida Mexicana, a small, semi open air restaurant run by Sr. Chenito and his family. It's located right between the Farmacia de Ahorros and the Centro Uníon Diagnóstico, on the NW corner.


The food is typical antojitos and burgers, but influenced by the Apatzingán area from which Chenito and his family come. We like the guisados best and you can get a nice platillo of guisado, rice and beans for $30 pesos.

Chenito's menu board

The food is better than average, but the salsas are stellar. There are from four to six available at any moment.
Salsas at Chenito's. Don't ask. Just taste!

Chenito's is clean. You can eat in confidence.
Chenito's is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Food: ***1/2
Service:  ****  Sometimes lags when busy.
Ambience: What you see is what you get
Price: Bargain. $
Hygiene: Excellent. Restroom, limited parking.

Moliendo Café- the upper level coffeehouse.

On the opposite, SW corner of Ventura Puente is Moliendo Café, a very pleasant, well lighted and ample cafetería upstairs, serving coffee and other hot and cold drinks. I've had only a few very good café express cortados and can't speak to the other items. There are very limited food and pastries, I think. The express cortados were made and presented very much to my liking.

Café Express Cortado
I also enjoyed the spectacular murals painted in coffee.

Moliendo Café
Food/Drink:  ****
Service: ****
Ambience: Very pleasant, nice view of intersection.
Price: Café Express Cortado, $20 pesos

Tacos Lore's
Across Ventura Puente from Chenito's is Tacos y Quesadillas Lore's, the old gal on the block. It's extremely popular with white coated students from the nearby medical school.

In my opinion, Lore's main draw is low price. I had several tacos de birria, their specialty, and while they were not bad, they were nothing special. Lore's gets very busy at times and finding a seat may be difficult.

Food, ***,  service ****,  price $ bargain; hygiene, well, the tacos are hot. Seating is offhand. Parking nearby at a farmacia .
Located just south of the corner of Calle Luis Banuet at Ventura Puente.

Special note: the neighborhood seems to be a locus for unusually attractive women. Maybe it's just the Medical School nearby.

In Pátzcuaro, the new place on the block, one worth watching and visiting again is Rincón Huasteco.
It's on the corner of Ponce de León and Romero, about 1/2 block off to the SW of the Plaza Grande.

View Larger Map (approximately correct. Restaurant is across street from place marker.)

Rincón Huasteco serves antojitos such as tacos, quesadillas, sopes and gorditas with a touch of style. The cavernous space was once a T-shirt shop but now has above average guisados and attractively made food, at a low price.

We had a number of sopes, some with beans, some with a plate of three guisados of my choosing for less than $40, complete with arroz y frijoles. Service was quick (the place was nearly empty when we came in.) There's much more dining space up a couple of steps, in a room of considerable size but stark of decor.

It's open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., then reopens from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. to serve pozole and other night time cena specialties.

These ratings are provisional.
Food: ***1/2
Service: ****
Price: $ Bargain!
Ambience: stark, minimalist decór. Front room at the corner is relatively cozy. Large back room, bring some wall hangings, gracias.
Restrooms: Just serviceable. No toilet seat in los Caballeros. Floor was not very clean. Hand washing sink in its own closet between Las Damas y Los Caballeros.

Here's a video of sorts, of Linda Ronstadt singing "Rogaciano", una cancíon de La Huasteca.

Here's a slideshow displaying some highlights of El Rincón Huasteco.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Pie In The Sky Guy

Thanksgiving is coming soon, and a recent topic on pumpkin pies on our local Yahoo mailing list evoked some memories for me.

It was November, 2005, and we had only recently arrived in the Pátzcuaro area. We had heard good things about Cha Cha Cha, a beautiful restaurant of eclectic international and Mexican cuisine. (It closed a few years ago, and the space is now occupied by the more traditionally Mexican Restaurante Lupita's).

"Cx3" was owned by Rick, a Californian and Enrique, his Mexican partner. Rick decided to make a Thanksgiving buffet dinner for the expat colony and friends. This grand and highly appreciated  gesture would entail a lot of work. I went to him and introduced myself as a retired baker, and volunteered to make pies for the dinner. I also made potato rolls, but those I could do at home.

Rick at work in the Cha Cha Cha kitchen
Rick showed me around. I was especially interested in the "back" kitchen, where there were two vintage gas fired ovens from Mexican Army surplus, circa La Revolucion. These ovens had narrow chambers, with no racks to lift products above the floor, and no way to regulate the temperature, other than by eyeball and "feel". The pies were to be elevated off the oven floor by placing two, inverted cazuelas de barro inside. Rick introduced me to his assistant, young Rubén, who would be my helper.

Rubén y los hornos de Pancho Villa
I arrived at Cx3 late Wednesday morning, and we set to work.
Rick had scored several kilos of "Real pumpkin!" in chunk form in Morelia. They were irregular in size and shape. I decided that the best way to cook them would be by simmering them on the stove top. This took several rounds of cooking as we couldn't do them all at once.

This all had to be well drained or the filling would be watery.

Rubén strains the pumpkin
Next step was to scrape the cooked flesh from the husk and puree it in a somewhat undersized food processor. The puree had to be drained so that the pie filling wouldn't be watery.

The blending of eggs, milk, spices and sweetener was the easiest part.

On to the crusts. These proved to be truly daunting, as the only available shortening then available in Pátzcuaro Centro was Inca, a solid and durable shortening. It is so tough that you have to hack off pieces with a heavy knife. This proved difficult to blend with flour and to form crusts. Several trips to the Super Lloreda store nearby were necessary to get more Inca and harina.

Somehow, I managed to patch together enough dough to form ragged crusts. These were filled with the rich, amber, sweetly spiced filling, and placed, one at a time in the pre-Revolutionary ovens. I couldn't do it. The oven opening was too narrow to pass with quivering uncooked pie in trembling hands without receiving painful burns. But Rubén was able to do it. Checking for doneness was infrequent, due to the hazards of passing objects in and out.

I think we had made 6 to 8 pies, some supplemented with carrot puree to enrich the pale Mexican pumpkin flesh, and a couple of payes de mamey, a rich and easy to work with tropical fruit. I think that there also were some payes de camote (sweet potato, sort of). This process took many hours, due to the above mentioned limitations. It gave "over reaching" new depth of meaning.

Preparing mameyes for pie filling
I left the finishing up to Rubén, and went home with  "huesos molidos". I was wiped out.

Next day, Thanksgiving Day, the expats gathered, with high anticipation at the restaurant for a taste of home. The buffet was attractive and varied, the turkey, dressing, and the traditional fixings all succulent and delicious. Seconds were offered. The meal was a real crowd pleaser. I think that the cost was $150 pesos, a true bargain.

Fill your plate with your favorites
The pies were portioned and served by staff. They were received and eaten to acclaim. Only Rick, Rubén and I knew the arduous labors involved in their making.

For this event the next year, I made the pies at home. It still was hard work, but it was much easier. I didn't miss those hornos Revolucionarios a bit.

The Thanksgiving Dinner, 2006 at Cx3 was even better than the previous, but served at table. Rick sensibly raised the price and it was still worth every centavo.

Yours truly, Don Cuevas, pictured  below, smoking his then favorite puro, after another special occasion meal at Cha Cha Cha.

Saludos, Don Cuevas
As a special treat, I'm going to share my favorite (sweet and spicy) pumpkin pie filling recipe. It's from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, by Anna Thomas.

pastry for two 9-inch 1-crust pies.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups pureed pumpkin
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups undiluted evaporated milk
3 tbsps sweet dark rum
2-3 tabs chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Prepare two 9-inch pastry shells with high fluted rims. Chill the shells for about 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 400º F. When the shells are cold and firm, line them with waxed paper or foil, and fill them with raw beans or rice. (I skip this step. -DC)
Bake the shells 10 minutes, then remove the paper or foil or beans or rice, prick the shells in several places with a fork (I skip this, also. DC)
and bake them another 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the two sugars, molasses, salt, spices and pureéd pumpkin. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and rum. Combine the two mixtures and mix them thoroughly.

Sprinkle the chopped crystallized ginger evenly across the bottoms of the pastry shells. Ladle the filling carefully over the ginger, dividing it evenly between the two shells.

Bake the pies in the preheated 400º oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool the pies on a rack and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes two 9-inch pies.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tried and True and a Few Surprises—Sanborn's

Sanborn's Logo

Sra. Cuevas and I wanted an easy and unchallenging lunch out in Morelia last a couple of weeks ago. We chose Sanborn's at Plaza Las Americas.
Sanborn's does "unchallenging" very well.

The buffet was very tempting at $145 pesos pp, so we chose that. Ordering a la carte cost more in the aggregate, except for small items.

The quality of the food is very uneven, but nevertheless, we found some appealing and satisfactory items.

The steamed vegetables were perfectly cooked and delicious, al natural. The salad bar selection was very limited, but what there was was fresh and good.

There was steamed, more or less plain white rice and Arroz a la Mexicana. We didn't try either.

A Crema de Verduras soup was mellow, buttery and Mommy-to-the-max comfort food. Delicious, and a winner.

Crema de Verduras
Tempura-like battered fish fillets were dry but not bad tasting. Nevertheless, skippable.

The tacos dorados de pollo were dry, hard and almost tasteless. Pass them over. A true dud.

Coliflor enrebozado, very dull despite the attractive chile molido sprinkled on top.

A sleeper item were the potato chunks with crumbled chorizo, delicious, and even better, served HOT. (Unlike some of the other dishes, notably the tacos dorados and the tempura fish, which were tepid.)

The Paella del Mar; the rice was savory and moist but the seafood overcooked,, as one might expect. The chorizos o.k. and the salchichas skippable.

Then, amazingly, there was Lengua Al Chipotle con Tomatillos. (Do you read me, Steve Cotton?) If you like tongue, this is the dish to have. I had one fork tender slice, with lots of the wonderful sauce, over otherwise "MEH!" mashed potatoes (evidently reconstituted instant), and wished I had skipped the earlier dud dishes. One could choose rice as a base instead of the pah-pahs.

Lengua a la izquierda, braised beef a la derecha

A sort of braised beef or stew was so-so but came nowhere close in savory appeal as the lengua.

There was a choice of agua de horchata or a fruit blend to drink, both good. A small dessert is included in the buffet price, which we skipped.  A sliver of cake, arroz con leche, gelatina, one remaining choc mousse that looked tired and was starting to film over. You might want to hold out for a gelato. See below.

The winning dishes were the steamed vegs, the crema de verduras, the papas con chorizo and the lengua. The Lengua takes the Grand Prize.

Believe it or not, we didn't try everything. Just a sampling, and in small quantity.

The Gioiello Gelato stand down the way toward Sears lower level was very appealing for its presentation and visuals of its cute, hot pants, red  capped and uniformed, all girl sales staff. But I hadn't room for a gelato, no matter how appealing the scene. (Though I had a camera, I didn't think it appropriate to take pictures inside the mall.) I settled for a café cortado at a Café Europa stand.

Sanborn's Saturday Buffet,  Ground Floor, Plaza Las Américas, Morelia


Food: ***

Service: ****

Price: $145 peso per person

Ambience: Staid, bourgeois, traditional.

Rest rooms: clean and attended.

Special Note: One can still buy cigars and other tobacco products and accessories in the Sanborn's tabaquería, although the boxes are decorated with dreadful tobacco origin diseases and sick-making illustrations.

View Larger Map

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Remedy For The Demon Gluttony (reprise)

The Demon Gluttony

No doubt about it: we like to eat. And we like comida picante. I have noticed that as the years go on, our tolerance for spicy chiles and comida rica pero pesada has diminished. There are uncomfortable after effects to our indulgence.

But, there's hope! While shopping at the Farmacia de Ahorros in Pátzcuaro, While waiting to pay I was watching the entertaining promotions on the TV monitor, amused by the following ad for that venerable Mexican anti-acid indigestion remedy, Sal de Uvas 'Picot'.

Its appeal lies in the sensitive blend of hot, spicy food served by sexy waitresses plus eventual absolution for gluttony with Sal de Uvas Picot. I've tracked down the video and embedded it here, for your edification and viewing pleasure.

(This is a reprise post, as the original was deleted in a horrifying accident. Sorry, followers, your comments were lost.)

On my other blog... Turotel

... a description and review of the Morelia Turotel, where we stayed recently for a total of 5 nights.

 Some foods are mentioned briefly.

Recommended by Don Cuevas and for your information and reading pleasure.

Friday, November 02, 2012

¿Ah-CHÚ? ¡Ajo!

It is now the season of rapidly changing temperatures, and the season of colds, AKA "la gripe".

Other than get lots of bed rest or mix and drink your favorite hot toddy (mine: boiling water, rum or brandy or whiskey, a little honey, fresh  lime juice and a pinch of chile molido.)

Another remedy that may work for you is Sopa de Ajo. Garlic Soup. It seems to have originated in Spain and it's easy to make, even if you can scarcely say, "Tengo un resfriado."

Here's how I make it.


• 8-10, or more to taste, medium to large cloves of garlic, peeled and root end removed. Slice thinly along the length.

• Good Olive Oil, about 1/2 cup or a little more.

• Approximately 2 liters of chicken or beef stock. You may use Knorr-Suiza or similar products. After all, you don't have the time and energy to spend on making a stock from scratch. Go with a light hand if using Knorr Suiza.

Indispensable Knorr Suiza
• Large, well browned croutons, preferably made from good, sturdy, peasant style bread and olive oil. Please; no packaged croutons as for salad. One or two per diner.

• Pimentón de La Vera, both dulce y picante.

Pimentón de la Vera
• Freshly ground pepper.

• Optional: one or more eggs per diner, poached lightly.

• Optional; chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

Method: slice the garlic lengthwise.
Gently heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to contain the soup but not so deep as to be difficult to cook the garlic.

Cook the garlic gently, over a low flame, so it just begins to brown. Do not let it burn.

Heat the stock in the microwave or in a pot on the stovetop until near boiling.

Add the stock to the lightly browned garlic slices. There may be spattering.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat so soup simmers. Season with Pimentón dulce and picante to taste. The soup should be slightly picante. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Poach the eggs. An easy way to poach eggs is to lightly spray the inside of small custard cups with non stick food spray. Crack one egg into each cup. Have a pan of simmering water large enough to hold the egg cups. Cook on very low heat with a lid. Check for doneness in about 3 or 4 minutes.


Place a crouton or two in a shallow soup plate. Un-mold the poached egg using a small, silicon spatula. Place egg on crouton.

Gently ladle or spoon soup into bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley of cilantro if you wish.

A squeeze of fresh lime juice if you wish. I prefer it without.
It's ready to eat.

Image borrowed from the Internet

(You might want to compare the Spanish recipe for the above image with my recipe. Click here.

This, just in: my own image of Sopa de Ajo.

Batch # 2 in 3 days. This time, I had a camera ready.