Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pig In a Poke

Cochititos recíen nacidos. ¡Coman bien, mis amiguitos!
(Know your food sources.)

The temptation was irresistible.
Nearly 7 kilos of pierna de cerdo at Costco. What a deal! But what to do with it?

I took it home, opened the plastic wrap, washed it in cold water and removed the stretchy netting that holds it together.
Then I cut it into 4 pieces, ranging from 1.5 kilos to 2.5 kilos.

I put all but the largest piece in freezer bags and focused on the 2.5 kilo piece. A smaller piece, just over a kilo, was earmarked to become Spicy Country Sausage. The others were frozen.

My focus was on Cochito al Horno, a savory, slow cooked dish redolent of herbs and spices, related to Cochinita Pibil, but with some differences.

It had been may years since I'd made it, from a recipe of Diana Kennedy's in her book, "Mexican Regional Cooking" (Originally published as "Recipes From the Regional Cooks of Mexico".) See page 41 of the former.

Cochito al Horno is fairly easy to make, with very satisfying results for your efforts.

This is Diana Kennedy's recipe, edited to reflect some small changes of mine.
4-5 chiles anchos, cleaned of seeds and veins
1/4 tsp thyme
4 Mexican or Californian bay leaves
(I'd like a tablespoon of Mexican orégano about here.)
10 peppercorns
6 whole cloves
20 (yes, twenty!) whole allspice
2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
4 peeled cloves of garlic, or a few more to taste.
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup vinegar (or part fresh orange juice plus juice of a few Mexican limes. I used the citrus juices plus some natural Vinaigre de piña).
5 pounds, approximately, pork roast (shoulder is best for this, but leg of pork (fresh ham, or pierna) will work. Avoid pork loin, as it's too lean and dry.
1 cup warm water.

Cover the chiles with boiling water and leave to soak until softened. Put the herbs, spices, garlic, salt and vinegar into a blender jar and blend thoroughly. Gradually add the soaked and drained chiles and blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to release the blades of the blender—you may need to add a little water, but the mixture should have the consistency of a loose paste.

Pierce the meat all over with the point of a sharp knife. Smear the meat liberally with the seasoning paste and set aside for a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight. (Covered with plastic film, NOT aluminum foil, and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 350º F. (Wrote Sra. Kennedy. I prefer a temperature of from 275º to 325º, for a slower cooking time, around 6 hours, which, in my experience, results in a juicier, more tender roast.)

Put the meat in a casserole (I just marinate and bake in the same casserole, thus avoiding one more vessel to clean.) and bake 4-6 hours, turning a couple of times and basting with the juices. Here's where the extra cup of warm water comes in, if needed. Don't let the juices dry up. The meat should be falling apart tender.

When the meat is done there should be plenty of sauce in the casserole.

Serve the meat sliced (or shredded) and topped with thinly sliced white onions and accompanied by shredded romaine lettuce. Plenty of hot tortillas, of course, or even French Bread.)

(I reached over from Chiapas to the Yucatán and made Pickled Red Onions, as written by Rick Bayless.)

Pickled  red  onions
3  large  (about  1  1/2  pounds  total)  red  onions,  sliced  1/8  inch  thick 2  cups  fresh  sour  orange  juice  OR  1  1/3  cups  fresh  lime  juice  plus  2/3  cup  fresh  orange  juice.

Simple  pickled  onions.    While  the  meat  is  cooking,  prepare  the  onions.  Scoop  the  onions into  a  non-­aluminum  bowl.    Pour  boiling  water  over  them,  wait  10  seconds,  then  pour  the onions  into  a  strainer.  Return  the  drained  onions  to  the  bowl,  pour  on  the  sour  orange  juice  (or the  lime-­orange  combo)  and  stir  in  1  1/2  teaspoons  salt.  Cover  and  set  aside  until  serving time. (I squirted in a couple of scant teaspoons of homemade Habanero Vinegar. -DC)

At our Cochito al Horno meal, I accompanied the main course with frijoles negros, lechuga orejona (romaine lettuce) arroz integral, y tortillas caseras hechas a mano.

Cochito al Horno y Cebollas Moradas Encurtidas
Frijoles negros y arroz integral; lechuga dimly seen.
With this meal, we drank an Agua Fresca de Melón, made simply by peeling, seeding and cutting up 1 medium ripe cantaloupe, cut the flesh into large cubes, put 2/3rds into a blender, add cold water to cover, the juice of a couple of limes, a couple tablespoons sugar, to taste, and blend until liquified. The remaining part of the melon may be cut into small dice and stirred, not blended into the whole.

Agua de Melón. Image from Food Network

Better than carnitas: Cochito al Horno

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don Cuevas' Favorites of 2013

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
I have never been very inclined to write "my favorite whatsit" type lists, but I am in a rare mood, and so I will highlight the best, (in my opinion) of restaurants, foods and hotels we have enjoyed in 2013.

Best restaurant, Morelia

Top prize: Parrilla y Canilla
Casually elegant, cool atmosphere, attentive but unobtrusive service, top quality meats, salads and wines. The terraza is a fine spot to dine on nice days. My review.

La Parrilla does steaks right

Second Place:
 La Plazuela del Bosque (Cuban) restaurant
Very casual and relaxing restaurant amidst the hubbub of Morelia Centro. The Banquete Cubano is the best meal deal in the city, for $180 pesos, you are brought numerous small plates of savory Cuban foods.

My review.

This is only the second half of the Banquete

Best Restaurant, Pátzcuaro

Top Prize: Mariscos La Güera (matriz)
Generally reliable seafood place with good service, reasonable prices and immaculate hygiene. Not perfect, but consistently good on average
(I haven't reviewed La Güera in a long time. One is overdue. But here are photos.)

Ensalada de Mariscos
Ancas de Rana al Mojo de Ajo

Second Place:
Lupita's, in their new location. Cuesta Don Vasco Quiroga, Pátzcuaro, uphill on the right from the Plaza Grande.

Nice Mexican cuisine with only gentle surprises. Tacos de camarónes or de pescado are good, as are breakfasts. Avoid the ultra dull Ensalada de Pollo. Photos

Chilaquiles Campesinos

Best Mexican Restaurant, Mexico City:
Nico's México. Avenida Cuitláhuac 3102, Colonia Clavería, Delegacíon Azcapotzalco.

By far the best in exquisitely prepared traditional Mexican dishes. For the serious aficionado of upscale Mexican food, but without egotistical chef pretensions. Expensive. Review
Cerdo en Adobo de Antaño Nico's

Best New Restaurant (Italian, steaks, pasta, pizza, sandwiches): Macelleria Roma. Calle Orizaba 127, Colonia Roma Norte. Moderate.

Wonderful, casual restaurant serving very good steaks, pizzas and pastas. Lunch special, soup to dessert, $140 pesos. We haven't tried their creative sandwiches. This is one place to which we'll return repeatedly. Review.

Vitello Tonnato Macelleria

Favorite Street Food, Colonia Roma Norte: Super Tacos de Guisados. Calle de Puebla, between Calle Orizaba and Calle Jalapa.
Fresh, highly varied, tasty, cheap, hygienic, can't ask for much more than that. Review

Best Hamburgers:
Top prize: Hamburguesas Richard's.
 American style, small but delicious hamburgers, served with Mexican condiments. The fresh cut French Fried Potatoes are not to be missed. Cheap. Old review.

Colonia Roma, Mexico City:
Hamburguesas a la Parrilla. Corner of Calle Colima at Calle Morelia.
Bare bones burger stand, cheap, super fast, tasty, nothing but burgers with your choice of fresh condiments, bottled sodas. Old, old review. (revisited November, 2013 and they are as good as ever.)

Top prize: Cafe Santina, Paseo del Palmar, between Calle Los Cocos and Calle Los Mangos, Zihuatanejo.
Pizza with that Neapolitan crust and flavor. Food only to go. Review.

Pizza: second place, Macelleria Roma. Lushly beautiful toppings.


Mexico City: El Cardenal. Rich, elaborate classic Mexican almuerzos in an Old School Tie settingExpensive. Review.

Zihuatanejo: Fonda Doña Licha Doña Licha's homestyle cooking. Cheap, tasty, satisfying, clean. Review.

Pátzcuaro: Gran Hotel Restaurante and Fonda Mamá Lupe.
Omeletes Poblano or Florentina recommended at Gran Café; at Mamá Lupes, Enmoladas.

Best Barbacoa de Borrego:
Top Prize: Grutas de Tolantongo, Tolantongo, Hidalgo (Sunday mornings only) Review.

Second place: El Hidalguense, Colonia Roma Sur (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only) Review.

Best Bakery, Bread and Best Bakery, Sweets. UNDECIDED

Best Hotel:
 Top Prize: Hotel Del Parque, Matehuala, SLP. Review.

Hotel Del Parque=Comfort

Second Place: Hotel Embassy, Calle de Puebla 115, Colonia Roma Norte, México, D.F. Old review. The hotel is better than ever, prices have scarcely risen, if at all, and the wifi works!

Best Mercado: Pátzcuaro? Ixquimilpan? Undecided.

I welcome your comments about these and your favorites of the past year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Zihuatanejo From Z to O: The Great Santina!

Kingdom of Naples Flag
I am a Brooklyn boy, from the Bensonhurst barrio. I had early exposure to Italian immigrant cooking, mainly from our Neapolitan neighbors downstairs, whose kitchen, nay, the entire ground floor apartment was redolent of garlic, wine, herbs and strong Italian cheese. The two sons were my best friends (this was back in the mid-1940s). Living close to them prepared me for other, later food adventures. My first pizza of memory was in a restaurant on 86th Street with a pizza chef statue in the window advertising this exotic Neapolitan delicacy.

Borrowed from the Web
(It was there, also, that I had my first sip of the bitter brew, Rheingold Beer.)

"My beer is Rheingold the dry beer. Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer. It's not bitter, not sweet, it's the extra dry treat—Won't you try extra dry Rheingold beer?"

(For entertainment purposes only)

Oh, yes. Rheingold Beer has nothing to do with pizza in Zihuatanejo; our topic at hand.

Never would I have imagined getting a pizza in Mexico that equalled or surpassed the pizzas of cherished memory. This is not to say that we haven't had good, even very good pizza in Mexico: Pulcinella in Morelia; Rústica in Oaxaca; Macelleria in Colonia Roma, Mexico City. Now Zihuatanejo has perhaps the best pizza in Mexico. I have had only one so far, but indications are that it is destined for greatness.

You can find this pizza at the Café Santina, on Paseo del Palmar, between Calle Los Cocos and Calle Los Mangos, a half a block from the Hotel Fiesta Paraiso and close to the Posada del Palmar. It's only been open about a month. There is no seating; it's purely standup or takeout. The hours of operation are from about 8:30 a.m until 5:00 p.m.

There are several notable things about Café Santina. First, it has some of the best tasting, deep, rich aroma espresso and cappuccino ever. (A small demerit for serving in throwaway cups.)

Second, the baked in house Italian pastries are very good. I have tried only the Torta della Nonna, a wonderful custard filled pastry that took me back to New York when I tasted it. There is also a Chocolate-Requeson cake that was pretty good, although not as great as Torta della Nonna. There were more pastries, but I did not have time to try them. There is a short list of panini, which I didn't try.

Torta della Nonna (pic does not do justice to the cake)
Torta di Cioccolato e Ricotta
After several coffees, and a lively chat with Angelo, the Napolitano owner a man with an opinionated personality, we decided to order a pizza. I was told it would take 15 minutes, and it was ready in that time. I decided to get a "Napolitana", with anchovies and capers. A medium, the only size available, was $110 pesos.

I hurried the box back to the table in the hotel patio. The pizza was beautiful.

A good pizza has good sauce and toppings, but a great pizza has great crust. This one met that criterion. I'd told the order taker that we liked the crust "muy bien dorada" (very well browned) and my wish was fulfilled. Not only that, but the "sauce" was made authentically, of crushed tomatoes and not much more.

This crust was on a par with the pizzas at Pepe's Pizzaría Napolitana, in New Haven, CT

We ate it on paper plates, with some tangy tomates cherry from the mercado.

This was close to being the perfect pizza in my memory. Another good clue to the quality and care in the making of this Great Santina Pizza were the crust rims. Look here, at the inside, to see the results of proper fermentation and development of the dough.

Cafe Santina
Paseo del Palmar, between Calle Los Cocos and Calle Los Mangos
Tel: 755-100-85-65
Hours: officially, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m (one would wish they would be open until later.)

Food: *****
Service: *****
Price: $+ (Pizzas, $100 to $220 pesos; desserts, $35, coffees, about $20 to $25 pesos)
Ambience: Coffee bar; no seating

The rest of our Zihuatanejo stay was good, and we again ate at Fonda Doña Licha as well as Carmelita's Cafe. Our farewell breakfast at Carmelita's was Filete de Sierra (mackerel) a la Veracruzana, very well prepared. But the memorable discovery was the serendipitous Cafe Santina.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Zihuatanejo From Z to O. Part Hua!

One of the enjoyable things about staying in Zihuatanejo's mercado district is the abundance of inexpensive eating places. We barely sampled these but bookmarked the untried places for future visits. I did eat twice at Taquería El Güero, a mere block from our hotel, on Calle Los Mangos, between Calle Tamarindos and Calle Las Palmas.

El Güero is noted for tacos de cabeza, and offers a wide choice of parts for your delectation. I thought the lengua and the cachete were pretty good, but I passed up a chance for some tacos de ojo* or of trompa. (muzzle).

*Taco de ojo has a secondary meaning, one not used here.

The tacos are a little expensive, at $10 pesos each, but you can also get some free or almost free consomé. The aguas frescas are just o.k., but the outstanding attraction is the friendly staff. On my second visit, I was given a nice calendar.

I have to say that the accompanying thick salsa picante de aguacate y chile is the most unattractive salsa I have ever seen, but it tastes good and is definitely picante.

I am not guacamole
The tacos are decent, although I found it difficult to tell one type from another.

Taquería El Güero
Food: ***
Service: ****
Price: $ Bargain! A light meal for about $40 pesos.
Hygiene: Looks good, but I passed up the ice for my agua fresca de naranja, when I had the chance.

Directly behind El Güero is Fonda Miriam, offering a $40 peso comida corrida, but I never got around to trying it.

Speaking of comida corrida, has anyone tried Fonda La Costeña, next to Doña Licha's on Calle Cocos? It might be an overlooked treasure!

Further into the mercado, I found a pair of fondas, one crowded with customers, the one across the aisle nearly empty, with access to the street on one side. I didn't get a chance to eat at either, but I did listen to an old man play a plastic toy bugle and sing in a good voice.

I'd made the mistake of being attracted to slick surroundings when we ate at Fondas Valencia, reported on earlier. We went one evening to an even slicker operation, to Ruben's Hamburgers, a fairly new restaurant that had not been there last year. It's close to Villas Naomi. We had a recommendation from a friend, who had not eaten there herself, but who had a glowing recommendation from another friend.

It's slick, it's flashy, it's over the top, and in my opinion, doesn't belong in the quiet ambiance of Colonia La Madera. The menu is ambitious.

Our meal could have been more enjoyable if the pace of service had not been so rushed, in which everything we ordered came to our table almost at the same time. We decided to try the Sopa de Elote, first thing featured on the menu. It was unattractive, but tasted all right. But in the end, it's skippable.

A real highlight of the meal were the complimentary pickled vegetables. The huge head of pickled garlic was especially magnificent.

We were overcome by our own greed, and of the two weights of hamburgers, we chose the 150 gram ones over the 120 grams. The hamburgers, and an order of shoestring french fries (which arrived almost instantly with our soup) were not bad, especially if you like your burgers to be bases for stacks of condiments. I this case, there was caramelized onion, lettuce, I think tomato, coleslaw and Gouda Cheese from New Zealand.

Although I didn't order it myself, both burgers came with a large side of bacon. The bacon was uniformly cooked and crisp, (not bad if you wanted it) and was the killer, finishing touch to the overloaded burger. It didn't taste bad, but I prefer a simpler burger, where the quality of the "100% Sonora Sirloin" beef could have been fully appreciated.

Big heap o'burger
Ruben's Hamburgers

Food: ***
Service: ** (Too rushed.)
Price: $-$ 1/2  La Cuenta
Ambience: Flashy resort
Keyword: Hyper

Let's step away now for a moment from the pleasures of eating to other pleasures; a massage. This one was at Paty's Mar y Mar Restaurant (the name is spelled in numerous variations.) and Yoga Studio, on Playa La Ropa. I had a 50 minute tejido profundo (deep tissue) massage, and I will only say that everything was just right: the setting, on a terrace overlooking the beach, Estela, the masajista's hands were expert; and the price was only $300 pesos. Massages are available by appointment. Yoga studio web site here.

Massage Rate list
Just to prove we were there, here's a photo of the beach.

Paty's Mar y Mar Restaurante, Playa La Ropa

We made another visit to the Gringo Gourmet Gulch of Calle Adelita in Colonia La Madera. It's obligatory for us to dine at least once each visit at Rufo's Grill. The place was in fine form, and Rufo was there, greeting guests, waiting tables, and running the grill. The charm of Rufo's is that it's always predictably simple and delicious. We had grilled chicken breast, accompanied by the expected grilled vegetables, and grilled shrimp.

A guitarist/keyboard player lulled the guests into a state of blissful somnolence with lethargic renderings of '60s top hits, including "Honey" (I miss you). Nothing startling or jarring here.

Rufo's Grill
Calle Adelita, Esq. Calle Nuestra Señora deLos Remedios
La Madera, 40894 Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, México
+52 755 120 5494

Food: *** 1/2
Service: ****
Price: $-$ 1/2
Ambience: My little old grass shack
Keywords: I found my grill beneath Adelita hill.

In our next episode, return with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear. A remembrance of things past comes back to life in the form of a pizza.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zihuatanejo From Z to O. Semi-total Immersion.

A review of the Hotel Fiesta Paraiso.

When you think of mercado districts in a Mexican city, you tend not to think that there could be a neat, clean, and comfortable hotel amid the raffish refuse of banana peel streets lit by avocado oil lamps. But, take my hand, I'm a stranger in paraiso:

Now, it's true that this hotel, on Calle Los Mangos # 5, Centro, is closer to Paseo del Palmar than it is to the central fish market, but it's only a matter of stepping out the gate of the hotel to find the wealth of offerings of Zihuatanejo's nearby mercado.

A little map is in order here. (I think it's cool that the streets of the mercado district are mostly named after fruits.)

View Larger Map

As I mentioned earlier, I found this hotel when I went last year to nearby Calle Tamarindos in search of tomates criollos. I'd been curious for sometime what a hotel outside of the Calle Adelita—Colonia La Madera Gringo Gulch might be like. Sra. Paty, the manager, showed me some very pleasant rooms, and so this year I cast all doubt aside and booked a room over Skype for $500 pesos a night.

A room like ours, from the hotel website.
Although I knew exactly where the hotel is, getting to it from highway 200 was very perplexing, owing to the whimsical nature of Google Maps in a city noted for whimsical street layouts. After driving about in loops for 20 minutes, we finally broke loose and came in via Plaza Kioto, a well known landmark, and only two blocks from the hotel via Paseo del Palmar.

The entrance is easy and straightforward and there was sufficient interior parking in the central patio and under the shelter of the building.

Paty and her son, Rubén (fluent in English) helped us select a room. The rooms are in two basic categories: larger with either two camas matrimoniales or a king bed, facing Calle Los Mangos and with AC but usually no fan (a couple of corner rooms have sink and kitchen counters; OR smaller rooms facing the patio, with two camas matrimoniales, facing the patio. We decided on one of the latter.

This page describes the rooms and the services available, including rental of a refrigerator. I see that the water is solar heated, and with one early morning exception, we had the hottest, most abundant supply of hot water.

Our room was adequate to our needs, with the exception of sufficient electrical outlets to recharge the various electronic devices we carry. Up until our last day, I was scheduling charge time for laptop, iPod and cell phone atop the toilet tank, which for me is not a desirable place to put expensive electronics. On our last full day, Rubén revealed that there was a far more convenient outlet behind the night table between the two beds.

Closet space and hangers were all right, and the furled hammock strung along the length of the room made a handy spot for hanging clothing, as well as a guideline to the bathroom during night time forays. There is a plywood shelf in the closet, which looks like a desk, but is not.

The small dresser was against the one window, which increased privacy but somewhat diminished ventilation. I used it as a laptop desk, but its small cushioned bench grew uncomfortable after about 20 to 30 minutes.

We used the ceiling fan almost constantly, plus the AC during the hottest part of the day. Paty told me that really, the AC was supposed to be used between 8 p.m.and 8 a.m., but she allowed us to us it when we wished, no matter the hour.

The pool was nice and well kept, although it wasn't useable until 2 p.m., which might be a negative to many water loving guests. I'm not sure why this rule, other than perhaps giving the chlorine powder a chance to dissolve and dissipate.

An odd thing is that guest rooms are not supplied with bottles of agua purificada, but there is a self service garrafon (jug) near the reception desk. Bring your own empty bottles. The hotel is flanked by shops selling miscelanea, including water and refrescos. I also got some interesting, bi-lingual conversation at he deshechables store to the left of the hotel entrance.

I did look into some of the larger, Calle Mangos facing rooms, and I decided that #7, on the segundo piso, was optimal if we decide to stay there again. It has 2 double beds, AC, a ceiling fan, a small balcony overlooking the street, cross ventilation, a larger closet, and the rest of the amenities.

Not # 7, but similar
King Bedroom with fan, facing street, second floor
One of the nicest aspects of the hotel is the friendliness and informality of the staff. On our last afternoon, Paty, her husband Luis, and Ruben invited us to sit down with them at the patio side picnic table and enjoy tiritas de pescado (strips of fish "cooked" in lime juice, with slivers of purple onion and bits of chile verde). Best of all, we had a very enjoyable conversation on various topics. Rubén and I shared interesting websites, using our favorite Apple devices. It was very relaxed and friendly.

L-R: Luis, Rubén, Paty
So, to sum up, the Hotel Fiesta Paraiso provided what we wanted: a hotel close to the mercado, secure, clean, well kept and above all, friendly. If we stay there again, I would want a larger room, although one we had was o.k. There are plenty of eating places, some excellent, others ordinary, within a short walk. There are plenty of shops for supplies. There is no shortage of fresh produce and piñatas.

If you want beach access, this is not for you. It's probably a 10 to 15 minute walk to Playa La Madera. If, on the other hand, you want to immerse yourself in the barrio, and a short walk to the center of Zihua, you might like it very much.

Calle Mangos No.5
Colonia CENTRO
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, México

Tel: +52 (755) 544-87-45

Friday, December 13, 2013

Zihuatanejo From Z to O, Part Z

Token Zihuatanejo Beach Photo
For this years' customary December visit to Zihuatanejo, we stayed at a hotel on the edge of  Centro, in the mercado district, a 15 minute walk to the beach, to which we didn't go anyway. (With one exceptional moment.)

Through an exhaustive process of in depth research, I chose this particular hotel, the Fiesta Paraiso, on the basis of a 15 minute inspection visit I'd made last year, while on the way out of town. Hotel website here.

Calle Los Mangos and our hotel

Hotel Fiesta Paraiso patio, parking and pool area.
It's on Calle Los Mangos #5, a short distance from the Municipal Mercado. That suited me very well, for one of my goals was to more throughly explore the mercados. In fact, the small, Mercado Campesino was almost across the street, where Los Mangos and Los Tamarindos meet. (Sounds like a chutney I made last year.)

As you can see, the street is "down to earth" and "del pueblo", while the hotel provides simple but comfortable accommodations in a centric location. Best of all, the hotel management is a congenial family with Sra. Paty at the helm, aided by her two sons, Rubén and Omar and some pleasant employees. Later, I may review this hotel separately.

Part of the family that manages the Hotel Fiesta Paraiso
The Fiesta Paraiso was well located for me to explore the Mercado, plus, it is only one street north of the deservedly famous Fonda Doña Licha. We had our first Z-comida of the visit there, Caldo de Pollo for Doña Cuevas and Barbacoa de Res for me. We also had a small pitcher of agua fresca and a mineral water, and left satisfied, after paying a bill of only $105 pesos.

Fonda Doña Licha Calle Los Cocos #5, Centro
Food: ****
Service: ****
Price: $-$1/2 BARGAIN!
Key words: "Comida de tu Mamá"

Hardly anything beats serendipitous food finds, and the first came within the Mercado Municipal Campesinos. I went in looking for special tomatoes, and found at least two tamales vendors (on Sunday, at least), and we bought five, $10 pesos, each some of carne and the others of pollo, accompanied by thick hot atole de avenas. (Oatmeal drink. Other flavors were available.)

Tamal de carne
Tamal de pollo
There were special tomatoes, also.
Tomates "cherry"
Our second significant meal was at Carmelita's Cafe (about 5 blocks north of our hotel.) on Sunday afternoon. I had filete de dorado al mojo de ajo and Sra. Cuevas had a plain filete de dorado a la plancha. We both had very nice ensaladas verdes, with greens, avocado slices, sesame seeds and Granny Smith apple slices.

Carmelita's is often erroneously located, as in TripAdvisor reviews, and described as "hidden" and hard to find", which is nonsense. It's here. See below.

View Larger Map

Ensalada Verde

Filete de Dorado al Mojo de Ajo
Carmelita's Cafe
Food: ****
Service: *****
Price: $$
Ambience: Friendly, gregarious.
Key word: "FRESH"
Location: Heróico Colegio Militar s/n,
between Super Cacahuate and a carwash

During an afternoon stroll into Centro, looking for Café Caracol, we came upon "Zen Wishes", a café offering light fare. Only later we realized the corny pun inherent in its name. We stopped to refresh ourselves from the sultry afternoon heat. I enjoyed a very good brownie, but the coffee was just so-so. The people in charge were very friendly.

Earlier, we'd lunched at Fonda Valencia, on the edge of the Mercado on Calle Los Cocos, near the corner of  Av. Benito Júarez, but the food was mediocre or worse. The service was brisk but rote. My Tiritas de Pescado were o.k., but the Señora's Camarones al Mojo were oily and had more shell debris than shrimp.

Tiritas de pescado
Shrimp shells in garlic oil
Fonda Valencia
Food: **1/2
Service: **1/2
Price: $
Key word: "mediocre"

This ends Part one. In Part "O", I get some tacos de cabeza and eat an over the top hamburger and more too much more. The greatest serendipitous prizes still lie ahead.