Friday, December 23, 2016

A New Year's Eve Cod PIece

I subscribe to an Italian cooking blog called Memorie di Angelina. I enjoy it for its mostly simple dishes.

Borrowed from Memorie di angelina
Today's feature was Filetti di baccalà (Fried Salt Cod Filets). This is a ingredient I have never used, and rarely eaten. My favorite dish using bacalao were the Buñuelos de Bacalao, as made and served in the Cuban restaurant of Morelia, El Bosque de la PlazuelaI have twice had one of the iconic Latin American Christmas and New Year's dishes, the rather oddly composed Bacalao a la Vizcaina.

Borrowed bacalao image
This is a dish, often served at room temperature, of shredded cooked salt cod plus tomatoes, olives, capers, and, I swear, I once had it with a prune. It does, however evoke memories of my first visit, solo, to Mexico City, in January, 1992. I can eat it to be sociable, but really, I'd rather not.

While on a slow train from Cd. Júarez to Zacatecas the year before, we met Silvia, nice lady architect, her two kids and parents. She invited us to look her up if we ever got to Mexico City.

When my plans gelled to attend a language school in Cuernavaca, I wrote to Silvia. She kindly offered to pick me up at the Mexico City Aeropuerto.

My arrival was on the afternoon of New Year's Eve day. She and her parents first drove me to the family home, not far from the airport. New Year's Eve specialty dishes were already waiting to be transported to the site of the celebration. One of those dishes was Bacalao a la Vizcaina. With prune. I was offered the choices of simply going to my hotel, or coming to the NYE celebration. You can imagine which I chose, despite my travel fatigue.

We then divided into two parties. Silvia drove me to my hotel, the Hotel de Cortés, to check in and drop off my luggage. We then drove a considerable distance to Cd. Satélite, where her sister and her husband lived.

Her sister and B.I.L greeted me warmly. I was offered various spirituous drinks.
There ensued extended conversations, me, in my then lame Español, the B.I.L. in fractured English. At one point, he inquired about a management job at my little bakery, back home in Arkansas, leaving me more than slightly nonplussed.

Silvia's parents then arrived with the platters of food. We were invited to take seats in the cozy dining room. Our meal began with tostadas de pollo, if I recall correctly. Then came the bacalao a la Vizcaina. I think it had almonds as well as olives and capers. I, as guest of honor, was given the prune. Oh, yummy!

The B.I.L. proposed a New Year's toast. He had constructed a tower of wine glasses. The trick was to pour the bottle of sparkling wine into the topmost glass, whence it would flow into the lower glasses.

Stock photo
He succeeded, splashing only slightly on the tablecloth! We then went around the table, and offered New Year's wishes as toasts. I think that when my turn came, I said something about amistad internacional y paz en todo el mundo.

As midnight approached, I was really feeling the fatigue of a very long day, so I discreetly requested a departure from Silvia. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and headed outside to the car.

Disaster! If I recall correctly, at least one or more tires had been punctured. We were left with the tedious prospect of getting a lift from another relative, I think Silvia's brother, to the nearest Metro station, which was not close.

So off we went. At the top of the steps of the far western Metro station, ominous street dogs skulked about. There were street urchins, too, who loudly exhorted us to uses a specific turnstile. Who knows? Maybe the had rigged it to allow them to collect coins. It was creepy.

The train came, and we boarded. One or two stations onward, Silvia turned to me and said she was  very sorry, but we had boarded in the wrong direction. We were at the end of the line. Time was running out, for the metro service was about to shut down for the night. We hurriedly climbed tha stairs and then descended to the other side. Gracias a Dios, the last train came and we again boarded.

My stop would be Metro station Hidalgo, at the northwest corner of the Alameda. Silvia advised me to exit, not to linger nor look around, but to head directly to my hotel. Midnight had passed. It was now 1992.

I made it safely to my room, and collapsed into bed, with bacalao memories forever embedded in my brain.

Monday, September 05, 2016

There's Been a Slight Hitch in the Posts, or, Untying the Knots

My Mexican Kitchen has been photo dependent for as long as I can remember. Although I could simply write text, I much prefer to illuminate my posts with images.

To my dismay, my normal image embedding routine/workflow has been seriously disturbed by Google's decision to eliminate Picasa Web Albums, replacing it with Google Photos. Now it has apparently become difficult, if not impossible to obtain an image URL to use in my blog editor (not to neglect to mention some favorite forums).

(Let me say here, make no mistake, I loathe Google Photos, its abstruse interface, but especially its privacy-invading apps, which I have since deleted.)

I reactivated my Flickr account, and I'm learning my way about its labyrinthine but friendlier pages. But I still cannot get an image URL from any of my uploads.

I'm learning workarounds to remedy this dilemma. I can copy a code from a photo on Flickr, and using the HTML mode of the blog editor, paste in the code.

Let's see how that works ...

Libra Mixta at Bawa Bawa
Libra Mixta at Bawa Bawa BBQ, Colonia Roma Norte, CDMX
HEY! That works pretty well. Just a couple more steps than using the built in Blogger image tool.

Another method of embedding an image is a direct upload, from my computer's drive. This uses the Blogger image tool, and a simple file dialog box.
Here's an example:
Barbacoa de Conejo at Nico's México
Gee, this is encouraging. Now I just need to learn how to organize my Flickr images so I can easily find them again.

I'll celebrate with some home baked desserts.

Sticky pecan buns, cinnamon rolls, chile ancho brownies

There is hope.

PS: I see, after publishing this post, that the Flickr stored images are "Flickr branded" and have social network buttons, as well as my Real Name (GASP!). I don't really like this, but I can live with it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Days in Colonia Roma: Galanga Thai Kitchen

We spent three nights last week at the Hotel Stanza in Colonia Roma, CDMX. Our dining choices were made after keen debate, mostly between our traveling companion, Ms. Jennifer Rose and me.

Our first stop was at Galanga Thai Kitchen, a new, authentic Thai restaurant owned and operated by a Thai-Mexican couple. We owe Nick Gilman, of Good Food In Mexico City for this one. His blog post of July 5, 2016 led us to an excellent meal.

The restaurant is small, casual and comfortable. We started with a few appetizers; including both Fresh Spring Rolls and Fried spring Rolls. The former were delightful, fresh, and attractively presented. The Fried rolls were not bad, but less distinguished. The accompanying plum sauce was exemplar.

For our next course, two of us chose salads. I had Tom Yom, or green papaya salad, and Jennifer had a very good Beef Salad.

Som Tom
The Som Tom was good, and spicy, but in a moment of confusion while ordering, I neglected to ask for calamari on the salad. So what I had had less-than-thrilling dried shrimp instead. But I ate it all.

The Beef Salad, of which I was given a taste, had perfectly cooked strips of meat in a tangy dressing.

Beef Salad
Sra. Cuevas moved directly to Phad Kee, a Spicy Noodle dish, again with beef, although other proteins were offered. The dominant seasoning was black pepper. That was, in my opinion, the least attractive of our dishes, but it was delicious.

Phad Kee con res
I am ever lured by soft-shell crab, and so ordered one of the specials of the week, Pu Nim Pad Prik Thai Dum, which translates, more or less, to soft shelled crab stir fried in black pepper and garlic. It was all right, but the soft, watery texture inside the crab was less pleasing. But I really liked the crisp, fresh, stir fried vegetables.

Soft shelled crab
Service was good, the staff was friendly. We chatted at length, in English and Spanish with Sr. Eleazar Castillo, the husband of Chef Somsri.


Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: relaxed, tranquil
Cost: $$$ (Each $ represents $100 pesos per person.)
Our bill, $1020 pesos, was reasonable for the quality of the food.
We would definitely return. Jennifer and I agreed (¡Que milagro!) that at Galanga we had the best meal of our time in Colonia Roma.

Calle Guanajuato 202, Roma Norte
Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 1-10 p.m., closed Monday

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

I beg to differ

WARNING: This post contains negative emotions and contrarian opinions. If you want smiley, positive, cheerful blogging, click here. (Be sure to brush your teeth very well afterwards.)

A few days ago, our friend, Ms Rose in Morelia sent me a link to an article entitled "Hotelier Carlos Couturier's Insider Guide to Mexico City." You can read it here. 

I wasn't too dumbfounded by the opinions of Sr. Couturier. As I wrote to Ms Rose,
Thank you. It’s so interesting to read others’ opinions, which are so radically different than mine. And there’s so much bullshit about restaurants that IMO don’t really deserve their reputation.

"What’s the up and coming neighborhood to watch out for? 
I really like San Miguel Chapultepec. Most of the interesting art galleries are based there. It's centrally located, near a park, bike friendly and smart.

Me: "In April, 2013, stayed three nights at an Airb&b* property in SM Chapultepec, The Best (or Great) House in SM Chapultepec". That stay was the final nail in the b&b coffin for me. (Looking at the Airb&b page, I’m reminded of another aspect that really annoys me: Host reviews of guests. What is this, a grade school report card?)"

Me: "The neighborhood is boring, boring! There’s hardly anything of interest there. At least, we didn’t find anything. There’s a dearth of good restaurants. The best known, La Poblanita de Tacubaya, was terrible. (Our hosts liked it.) The best place was the Amor Casero ice cream stand, close to our B&B. Street food was almost non existent.   
We did find a just passable pizza place. I enjoyed shopping in the huge Soriana. Another highlight was getting a haircut. It was that dull.
The best feature were the MetroBus stations, swift ways out of that dull neighborhood.

* For a similar take on Air B&B, read this.
Back to Hotelier Carlos:
"Local spots so good they make the traffic in the city worth it.
Contramar is still the best place for lunch. For contemporary mexican cuisine, Amaya, by chef Jair Tellez, is the new "it" place. Havre 77 has a great atmosphere and the food is creative. For the vibe and authenticity, Restaurant Covadonga, and for late night, the one and only M.N. Roy (Frank Lloyd Wright meets the aztecs).

We ate at Contramar in 2004, with a local amiga and her then teenage son. I wasn’t in a good mood to start with, and I had a lousy, inadequate meal. The noise level was unbearable. It was like eating in an aircraft hangar, (the room was a barely remodeled bodega) with all engines on. I never want to go back, and I can’t understand the allure of Contramar for so many people.

COVADONGA! We ate there maybe twice, because it’s right next to our old lodgings at the Hotel Embassy. The food is totally pedestrian, and somewhat overpriced. The service indifferent. We had Calamares a la Romana, perfectly ordinary; Sra. Cuevas had a soup which was o.k. I had a Solomillo (filet steak) en Salsa de Queso Cabrales, which was so pungent with cheese that I couldn’t finish it. I like strong flavors, but this sauce threatened to remove the lining of my mouth.

Next time, we just went for drinks and some snack which I don’t remember. The place does have atmosphere, it's an old Asturian expats club, old men playing dominoes. Yet little or no attraction for the serious diner. It's another Old School establishment running on undeserved reputation. (Another such is the Salon Corona, in Centro, which is Legendary, of Mythic Reputation. It’s really just an o.k. cantina, nothing special. Good place for a drink and a torta. BFD.

Those are my negative, contrarian opinions for today. In my next post, I hope to offer more positive thoughts, a guide to the best Mexico City restaurant websites.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Two For The Road

There are some interesting restaurants along the Federal Highway 14, between Pátzcuaro and Morelia. On the Pátzcuaro end, the Restaurante El Mandil has moved yet again. It has departed its shared space at Hotel Villa Gardenias, and previously, in the Posada Mesón de San Antonio. Now it is in a building all its own, within a corunda's throw of the venerable roadhouse El Camino Real. That building was most recently occupied by a barbacoa de borrego a la penca place that I never got around to trying.

The location is definitely out of town, in that nebulous frontier zone between Pátzcuaro and Tzurumutaro. Yes! There is parking!
The building is attractive. There are no more plywood partitions for the rest rooms. It's a solid show.

The food is variable in quality. Here's a repost of my review on Michoacan_Net.

"We ate there yesterday in a very pleasant, if under illuminated dining room. The kitchen's strength seems to me to be in salads and vegetables. I really enjoyed a perfectly cooked cold vegetable salad. The pickled vegetables and chiles en vinaigre were delightful, and I went back for seconds.

Salad bar. Unfortunately, only commercial bottled dressings are offered.

The pickled vegetables and chiles are crisp and tangy
Over on the hot foods table, there was considerable variation in quality. Cerdo en salsa de tamarindo was quite good, and hot, as were fair bisteces en salsa. Pescado empanizado was dull, underseasoned and boring. I didn't try the dry looking breaded chicken breasts. There was a very good hot mixed vegetable dish, with cheese, so good that I went back and had seconds. It was my favorite dish of those that I tried from the buffet. The worst dish were dreadful pechugas de pollo empanizadas en mole, served at room temperature. The texture was disagreeable and the mole was inferior.

Cerdo, arroz, frijoles, mole de pollo (ugh!)
We passed on dessert. Capirotada and arroz con leche were offered, and I think gelatin.

Note that you can get a refresco included in the $70 peso price in lieu of an agua fresca.

The employees are cheerful and very friendly and helpful. The room is attractive but the seats are marginally comfortable. The restroom was spotless.

In spite of a few defective dishes, we'd eat there again."

Food: 5 1/2
Service: 6 There is helpful attention to guests, even though it's a self service buffet.
Cost:  $70  all you care to eat. Don't forget to tip!
Ambience: Pleasant, some decor, under lit. Some chairs may be risky. I had one start to collapse under me.

Closed Mondays.
Open for breakfast from 9 a.m.
Comida from 1:30 p.m.

Let's move on down the road.

 El Borrego Veloz Morelia 
Una amiga Mexicana recommended to us an unnamed barbacoa place on the Morelia highway. It later turned out to be El Borreguito Veloz II. It's between Cuanajo and Huiramba, if that means anything. But we never seemed to be going the right direction at the right time to stop. Then we found what seems to be the parent restaurant, the larger El Borrego Veloz, just inside the Morelia city limits. It's across from a salon de eventos, and almost to the Pemex and the Motel Faro. The restaurant is a large yellow building, and hard to miss.

El Borrego Veloz, in the large, yellow building

We ordered the specialty, a plato grande de borrego (surtido).  It was a very good rendition of the dish. The meat was plentiful, there were plenty of garbanzos, and the caldo was rich and delicious. The salsas were above average.

Some of the best barbacoa in the region
The large dining room was curiously empty.

The superior tortillas are made by hand, not by machine.
Food:  7
Service: 7
Cost: under $100 pesos  per person
Ambience: pleasantly relaxed
Restrooms: Adequate
I don't know the days and hours of operation.
Spacious parking in front
We look forward to eating there again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Restaurante Caracuaro, on the Altozano highway, Morelia

Yesterday, we had lunch in Morelia at Restaurante Caracuaro's newest branch, on Blvd Juan Pablo, the highway to Altozano. (There are 3 Restaurantes Caracuaros in Morelia that I know of. We have been to the matriz, on the western periférico, near Pepsi bottlers, and across from tránsito, at least 3 times previously.)

Food is of a hearty, well seasoned peasant sort of cooking, in the style of La Tierra Caliente. La Señora had a hearty Caldo de Res, (photo from an earlier visit) which was too big to finish, and I ate Carne de Cerdo en Chile. It was a dish of cut pork backbone in a medium spicy sauce made from chiles guajillos, accompanied by decent frijoles and rice. The tortillas were good, and we were given free snacks such as totopos and requesón (like ricotta) and three salsas. The intriguing yellow salsa, complete with fruit stones, was dismally disappointing; the not very fresh, roasted tomato salsa had seen much better days, but the salsa verde was more than acceptable.

I started with a good bowl of Sopa Tarasca, made the way I prefer, with a bean puree. It was tasty and satisfying.

It may look like a Mexican TV Dinner, but it's much better than that.
They also offer cortes de res, such as carne asada and arrachera.

We drank three café de ollas and a bottle of agua mineral. The check came to $270 pesos, or about USD $15.

It's a nice place and quite good, apart from two inferior salsas. Service was attentive but not overbearing. The dining room was empty of customers when we arrived, at about 1:00 p.m. As we were finishing, two customers arrived.

Food: 6
Service 7
Ambience: Way down south in Michoacán. The dining room is spacious and attractive; some of the wooden chairs are cushioned, some are not.
Rest rooms: very nice
Parking in front!

1970 Blvd. Juan Pablo II,
 Morelia Michoacán
(Previously "La Carreta")

Blog photos unempowered by Google Photos

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What we ate in Guadalajara: Anita-Li

Some go to restaurants for the food, some go for the decor and ambience, or the view from the revolving dining room; others go for for fun and entertainment. Anita-Li clearly falls into the last category. One meal does not prove much, but our tentative conclusion is that Anita-Li is a great place for drinks in a festive and kitsch ambience, but serious, well prepared food may be elusive.

It is obligatory to note that the name, "Anita-Li", is a palindrome for "I Latina", an earlier and closeby mother restaurant from which sprang the naughty young Anita.

Where the decor of Allium is spare and lending itself to appreciation of the highly nuanced food, the hyper-kitsch decor at Anita-Li sets the tone for a meal of over-the-top drinks and an unrestrained hand with the seasoning.

Anita-Li Dining Room and bar
Blackboard menu specials continue the informal tone
Let's have a look at the printed menu, this one of entradas.

Fun food awaits you at Anita's
You can look at the menus in more detail here.

We had first seated ourselves in the semi outdoors dining area (reserved for smokers) but moved inside due to the low level of buzz but greater warmth outdoors. The outside dining area lacks the kitsch decor of the inside one, and after all, that is part of the appeal of the restaurant.

We started off with a Chilcanita Peruana coctel, and exotic blend of spirits and fruits. It was quite good.

Chilcanita Peruana
Our first course was a blackboard special, Tacos de Soft Shelled Crab. It's becoming evident that we are crab fans. The tacos were the best thing we ate at Anita-Li. The dishes that followed declined in appeal.

Soft shelled crab tacos
Doña Cuevas ordered Sopes Cantineros, which proved to be an unfortunate combination of pork belly and octopus on cakes of masa. The two meats both were texturally similar, and the overall effect was of heaviness.

Sopes Cantineros
A pause, and another cocktail, this one even better than the first, A "Lupe Reyes", a fantastic drink combining licor de chile de Zaragoza with grapefruit and soda, dressed with fresh raspberries.

Lupe Reyes Coctel
Sra. Cuevas decided to hold at that point, but I gamely charged on, ordering Camarones Asados Thai. This was a dish which tends to demonstrate the flawed execution of "Asian - Mexican Fusion Cuisine", as sometimes practiced in Mexico.

Camarones Asados Thai. That's chipotle aioli squiggled on top.
The large, grilled, spiced shrimp were very good. But underneath the shrimp was a sort of salad of thinly sliced cucumbers and strips of chiles Jalapeños, in an aggressively acidic and terribly salty jus. It was inedible. I was instantly reminded of similar heavy handed seasoning in Asian fusion dishes we'd had at Aquiles Terraza in Morelia. Read here.

We decided not to try our luck with dessert. Besides, we were full.

In conclusion, it was an interesting meal in a fun room, with American Rock classics blaring on the sound system, but the food was poorly done, with the exception of the Soft Shelled Crab Tacos and the grilled shrimp by themselves. The cocktails were excellent, especially the Lupe Reyes.


Food:  6
Service: 7  Attentive, a little pushy, but not obnoxiously so. English is spoken.
Ambience: Garage sale in Asia
Cost: $$$$ La Cuenta, por favor.
Rest rooms: the men's was clean and cute, with a small garden view.

Av. Inglaterra 3100, Vallarta Poniente, 44110 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico

Tel: +52 33 3647 4742

Opens at 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What we ate in Guadalajara: Allium

Allium restaurant is part of the New Wave of locavore, farm-to-table restaurants that are opening in Mexico. Our meal there was among the best we had during our brief stay in Guadalajara. (Señora Cuevas rates the Pozole Blanco at La Chata as the best thing she ate. I liked that, too, but my best dish was the Crab Cakes at Allium.)

The menu is limited, which in my opinion is good.

Wine list
Other beverages
The two small dining rooms, a small inner one abutting the open kitchen, and a a larger, semi open air terrace, are decorated in spare, Minimalist style. At Allium, the focus is on the beautiful and delicious food.

Allium terraza dining area
The food is exquisitely and creatively crafted. There are some brilliant combinations, and as you would expect, some worked better than others. But nothing we ate was bad.

We were brought an amuse bouche of Sopa Fría de Melón, which had a mysterious herbal component. (Hoja santa?)

The house-baked bread was very good, although the black bean spread, in a pool of sesame oil, lacked pizzaz.

Warm bread in a cozy
Puree of black beans in oil
The Crab Cakes, a hot appetizer which could in itself make a light meal, were among the best I'd had anywhere. The cold Robalo curado en sal was wonderful.

Crab Cakes
Robalo curado en sal
Breast of duck, ordered medium well, was a bit smoky and chewy. Not my favorite dish of those we had, but acceptable. La Señora had la Pesca del Día, in the Elote Dulce preparation. It was good. The layered sauces tend to be on the gooey side in texture. That might not appeal to all tastes.

Pechuga de Pato

My dessert, Flan de Elote Tatemado, was pretty but not especially outstanding. The elaborate presentation raised expectations unduly high, but the conclusion was that it was merely pleasant.

Flan de Elote Tatemado
Service was casual but attentive. We liked Allium very much. We applaud the three chef owners for their often daring culinary creations. If we are ever again in Guadalajara, we would return there.

The Three Chefs (names to follow, I hope)
We also drank most of a bottle of a dry white wine, Villa Grand Cap Colombard-Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Reasonable priced at $450 pesos the bottle, or less so at $90 the copa.

Note that the terrace dining room has windows open to the street. Street vendors made perfunctory attempts to sell to the restaurant guests through the windows. Towards the end of our meal, a sudden wind and rainstorm broke out, and there was a lot of wind gust and some debris blowing about in that dining room. Karla, our waitress, found us a table inside and out of the wind.


Food: 8
Service: 8  Friendly and casual, just right.
Dress code: casual
Cost, including a bottle of wine: $$$$$+  La cuenta, por favor.
Ambience: Minimalist. Allium website

López Cotilla 1752 A,
Colonia Lafayette, CP 44150.
Guadalajara, México.


Tel: 3615 6401

Martes - Jueves
13:30-17:00 y 19:00-22:30
Viernes - Sábado
13:30-17:00 y 19:00-23:00

Friday, June 24, 2016

What we ate in Guadalajara: around the hotel

There seemed to be quite a number of small, popular eating places, all within a few blocks of the hotel Morales. There are also some cheapie places offering such comida rápida as hot dogs and hamburgers. We didn't indulge our basest instincts.

The most obvious, and convenient spot, is Taquería Los Faroles, immediately across the street from the hotel entrance. We went there Sunday evening for a late snack. Doña Cuevas had three tacos de arrachera. They were pretty good, but best of all, non greasy. I had a nice torta ahogada, which came with a bonus pair of tacos dorados, but of nondescript content. It was nothing spectacular, yet satisfying. Service was very swift and friendly, and prices are low.

Torta Ahogada
Unrated. "It's a taquería, dammit!"

Slightly closer to the hotel than La Chata is La Gorda, a rather more conventional and even less formal luncheonette. I stopped in and had a tall glass of good horchata, nothing more, while watching the cook make enchiladas. Surprise! Cooking oil plays a major role in the food preparation there. But I would not hesitate to eat there if an opportunity arose.

A more significant food destination, a 10 minute walk from the Hotel Morales, involved birria. The dilemma was which birrieria offered the optimum experience? La Nueve Esquinas or Los Compadres? They face each other across a charming plaza like gunmen on the streets of Laredo. We decided on La Nueve Esquinas, because... well it was a few meters closer and looked more charming. ¿Quien sabe?

Birrieria Los Compadres
Birrieria Las Nueve Esquinas
Las Nueve Esquinas did not disappoint for either charm nor food.

Inside Birrieria Las Nueve Esquinas

The table salsas were especially attractive and sabrosa.

I had a large Birria de Chivo, and Sra. Cuevas a small barbacoa de borrego. Surprisingly, the barbacoa was served dry, without consomé.

Birria de chivo
Barbacoa seca de borrego
Note the small dish of lusciously porky frijoles. It was complimentary.

Food: 7

Service: 7

Cost:$ 1/2  La Cuenta, por favor.

Cleanliness: 9

Cólon 384 esquina Galeana,
Centro Historico.
Guadalajara, Jal, Méx.
Tel. 01 (33) 3613 6260

(Google Maps is incorrect as to the location of the two birrierias. They are transposed.)