Monday, October 16, 2017

La Nueva Pizza Mandala

Photo from Pizza Mandala website
Pizza Mandala left its historic location, on Calle Lerin in Pátzcuaro, sometime last summer. The cozy pizzeria with Bohemian atmosphere, on the ground floor of the Posada Mandala, close by the famous arches of El Sagrario, has now made a giant leap forward. Its new quarters are in a spacious house at Ibarra 130, Pátzcuaro. Inside the modest gate is a broad grassy area, with a shade tent. It would be suitable for a major fiesta.

The entrance is close to Refacciones Sami's, if that is meaningful to you.

I was apprehensive that the quality of the food might have slipped due to the move, but I needn't have worried. If anything, the pizza, and even the salad (of which I'd never been a fan) were better than ever. Moreover, the three dining rooms are spacious, naturally illuminated though large windows.

More formal "upper" dining room
The Bohemian atmosphere, alas, is vestigial.


The menu is the same as before, with an emphasis on umami-rich toppings: anchovies, olives, goat cheese, etc. The Mandala Ensalada "Niçoise" is quite unlike a classic Salade Niçoise, but is good in its own right.

The six of us ordered 3 large pizzas: two Mandala Plus, and the worthy, but easily overlooked Margarita Plus.

Mandala Plus
Margarita Plus
We washed this down with cerveza, agua mineral, and vino blanco. Note that it's possible to get individual bottles of Peñafiel Agua Mineral, an improvement over the previous glasses of mineral water from a bulk bottle.

Beer served with frosted mugs!
Large ("pizzas grandes") run about $140 MX. A large salad, $50 MX. There's also a short menu of pasta dishes, but as I rarely order pasta in a restaurant, I can't give an opinion on those.

Here's an update: the Official Pizza Mandala Menu


Food: 8

Service: 8

Ambience: pleasant, upper middle-class Mexican home. Smooth jazz plays in the background.

Cost: up to $200MX pp.

Horario: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Opens at 2:00 p.m. Closes 10 p.m.

Calle Ibarra 130. Pátzcuaro Centro, Michoacán. (The Google Map is slightly erroneous, as it places the Pizza Mandala a little too far east.)

Tel: +52 434 342 4176

EXTRA: There are two modest rooms offered for rent, at $400MX per night. The bath is shared.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

El Nopalito CDMX

Los Nopalitos (Las Cuevas, Michoacán)
We'd a long day of travel, flying from New Jersey to Mexico City. We'd had a couple of home made sandwiches on the plane and several beverages. (United Airlines is now serving excellent Illy coffee, at least on international flights.) But by the time we arrived at the Hotel Brasilia in mid-afternoon, we were ravenous.

I had seen El Nopalito on the Google Maps site, and it seemed a likely prospect. The typically terse Google Map reviews were favorable. Even though it was near the Hotel Brasilia, we took a taxi as we very tired and the walking route had at least one pedestrian bridge to traverse.

The entrance to El Nopalito is unprepossessing. It looks like a garage entrance.

Don't pass this by!

But just beyond, all is transformed. There appeared two spacious and attractive dining rooms. The first is partly outdoors and the second, obviously newer, is under a roof. Beyond appears to be an ample garden space. I imagine that it's used for special events.

El Nopalito's attractive dining rooms
"Árbol" comedor
Our table held some tempting noshes. Our genial waiter explained that these were not free, other than the salsas and the chips. But we were starving, so we dug in without restraint. The trio of salsas was outstanding. There was a brisk, fresh salsa verde, a salsa cruda, a fiery salsa roja, and a thick, dark, barbecue type sauce. We dipped the crisp totopos (tortilla chips) to sample each salsa. We tackled a bowl of guacamole. The guacamole was past its peak of perfect freshness, yet we ate it with gusto.

Salsas and guacamole
Taking center place on the table was a pair of crisp, brown quesadillas de papas y carnitas. They were quite good, although pulling out the fastener toothpicks was a challenge, but we soon met it.

We then turned our attention to the very extensive menu. Rather than take up space with images here, I'll post links to the photos.


Main MenuCocina de la Familia, Cocina Tradicional Mexicana, Del Mar 

De la Taquería, de Nuestra Parrilla


Food for a crowd

It was hard to choose what to order, but we finally decided to start with soups.
(We were intrigued by "Taquitos Borrachos de Barbacoa", but the barbacoa had not yet come out of the oven. A Google review says it's available starting at 3:00 p.m.)

I chose Sopa de Médula, a soup rarely seen on our local restaurant menus. If ever.

Sopa de médula
Here's a video recipe, in Spanish, of how to make this Sopa de Médula at home.
It's not for the sqeamish.

Sra. Cuevas had a classic Caldo Tlalpeño. It was good, with lots of enriching garnishes, despite a somewhat thin stock.

Caldo Tlalpeño
Caldo Tlalpeño is more commonly found on restaurant menus. Here's a recipe.

When I see "Mixiotes" offered, my eyes light up with anticipation. It typically is composed of well seasoned pieces of meat, often lamb but other meats too, baked in a parchment pouch. Originally, the parchment was derived from the inner tissue of pencas de maguey. Now it's usually just parchment paper, which is acceptable, but never the use of aluminum foil.

I found this image of a maguey and I just have to share it with you. To me, it speaks of the essence of México.

The menu offered Mixiote de Carnero, which should be veal, but to my delighted surprise, it tasted definitely like lamb. It was a very impressive dish.

Mixiote de Carnero
It was huge, with surprise morsels of meat tucked away in the rinconcitos of parchment. The spicing was complex. I found a large leaf inside, and when asked, our waiter told ust that it was hoja de aguacate: avocado leaf.

La Señora selected Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo. This is a standard menu item, available in most Mexican restaurants. But this version was exceptional. Not only was it beautifully plated, the enchiladas were generously filled with quality white chicken meat, in a tangy tomatillo salsa. The traditional queso fresco y crema garnish was applied tastefully, not drowning the enchiladas in richness.

Enchiladas Verde de Pollo
With our meal, Sra. Cuevas drank an agua de mango, then an agua mineral. I had a pricey Michelada con Clamato ($85!), then a Cerveza Victoria.  All these were summed up in la cuenta. But we considered it money well spent.

RATINGS (Calibrated on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being dismal and to be avoided. 10 is the supreme heights, but rarely reached. A 5 is mediocre but acceptable in a pinch. Any rating above 6 is worth of attention.)

Food: 8

Service: 9  Our waiter was outstandingly helpful and genial.

Ambience: 8 Very pleasant and attractive dining rooms.

Cost: $$$ 1/2 per person. $=$100 pesos  This is not cheap, but it's worth the price.

Restrooms: Clean and very functional

Summary: an outstanding example of a superior traditional Mexican restaurant. Excellent food, outstanding friendly service.
We would definitely return if we are in the area again.

Contact info: Av. Insurgentes Norte 1037, Gustavo A. Madero, Guadalupe Insurgentes, 07870 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Tel: +52 55 5537 3375


(Implies breakfast service)

(Implies breakfast service)






Friday, October 06, 2017

Hotel Brasilia, CDMX

For our return from the United States, we had planned to stay four nights in the Hotel Stanza in Colonia Roma Norte. But due to the earthquakes in the two previous weeks, we changed plans. We decided instead to spend a single night in the Hotel Brasilia, located a few blocks from the Central de Autobuses del Norte. Friends had stayed there recently and had traveled on buses of Primera Plus lines.

The taxi ride from the Aeropuerto to the hotel took about 20 minutes. Our taxista was a talkative and informative older man. We arrived unexpectedly early at the hotel, so our room was not ready. The hotel decor has a '70s feel. The lobby area is spacious enough for Mexican roller derbies. To one side is what I call the "Lemon Drop Lounge".

Lemon Drop Lounge (web image)
Brasilia lobby (web image)
The manager stored our luggage in the safe room, and we went to comida. I had spotted nearby Restaurante El Nopalito on Google Maps; but we took the hotel taxi as we were very very tired from our long day's journey. I'll describe El Nopalito  in another post.

The Hotel Brasilia is an older, but generally well maintained property. We splurged on a jacuzzi suite, at $1300 pesos. The spacious suite consisted of a short hallway; a salita; the bathroom complex, containing toilet, shower, jacuzzi and sink; and an ample bedroom, with a large desk/shelf and a king sized bed.

Suite bedroom (web image)
The salita had a small table and several office type chairs and a small, comfortable sofa. Dominating the bedroom area was a very large overstuffed leatherette easy chair.

There were two TVs, one in the salita, the other in the bedroom, but we were tired and didn't watch either. Furthermore, we were not Certified TV Remote Operators and so, tv viewing was not available to us. We needed sleep more than anything.

But first I wanted to bathe in the soothing waters of the jacuzzi.
When I filled the jacuzzi tub and immersed myself, it was pleasant at first, but when I fired up the jets pump, it became disgustingly stinky. Cold sewer-smelling water gushed forth. I immediately got out and went back and showered again. The shower was fine.

I called the desk and when I finally got an answer, they sent up the maintenance man and for some reason, a bell man. The Maint Man got immediately to work, and probably flushed the tubes with fresh water and was sweet and clean.

Wifi signal was strong in the bedroom but very weak in the adjacent salita.

There was a Dolce Gusto coffee maker, with two coffee capsules (I may write a diatribe about these in another post.) which seemed easy to operate, but it didn’t make coffee. But it was not an issue, as we carry instant coffee and an immersion heater.

The 5 office type chairs would not roll. In fact, I don’t think they had any rollers. So it was awkward to position them. In fact, the long desk was uncomfortably high.

There were numerous electrical outlets and wall switches a-plenty.

The king bed was o.k. although the bedclothes tangled easily.

A highlight of the bedroom was a super cushy, overstuffed easy chair that looked like a recliner, but wasn’t. Our seventh floor room was quiet except for the occasional sound of a passing emergency vehicle.

A mediocre but nutritious breakfast buffet was offered in the hotel restaurant. $135.

The Hotel Brasilia is adequate, moderately priced and convenient to the Terminal Norte Bus Station.

Location: Hotel Brasilia
Av. de los 100 Metros 4823, Ampliacion Panamericana, Tlacamaca, 06770 Gustavo Madero, CDMX, Mexico

Tel: +52 1 55 5587 8577

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fat Chance

This is NOT how to get chicken fat! (web photo)
A good friend and cook has exhorted me on several occasions to make chicken stock from scratch, instead of using shelf-stable Kirkland Organic Chicken stock-in-a-box. Cooking a chicken or two is requisite to obtain the precious chicken fat.

I’ve thought of making my own chicken stock, but there are numerous reasons I don’t.

One: I’d have to go to the Mercado to buy chicken. Currently, we try to stay away from the mercado. We love the tradition but abhor the energy burning reality. I suppose I could buy chicken at La Bodega Aurrerá. Mmmm?
Two: I’d have to cook it within a limited time frame ere it spoils. When we return home from the Mercado, we just want to rest.
Three: I’d have to strain out the solids.
Four: I have to make sure that there’s room first, in the fridge, then in the freezer. (The Kirkland needs no refrigeration until opened.)
Five: After it’s refrigerated, I carefully lift off the valuable fat. It would be a good idea to further render the fat to eliminate moisture. It will keep longer.
Six: Get appropriate size container(s) and refrigerate/freeze the fat.
Six-(a): mark containers with date, and ID.
Seven: clean up pots, pans and utensils. Pay attention to thorough grease removal.

I’m sure that the resulting chicken stock is superior in every way to the Kirkland, other than in convenience. Oh, it’s not organic, but that’s not a high priority for me. Convenience is the keyword for why I use Kirkland. Plus it doesn’t need refrigeration until opened.

Chicken fat is not a healthy food, but I admit, it would be nice to have some at hand every once in a while. It's a must in potato knishes and in kasha varnishkes. (I never have toasted the kasha in the oven, as in the linked recipe; only in a pot on the stovetop.)  I substitute vegetable oil. Fat chance that I'm going to render chickens for stock and the golden bonus of chicken schmaltz.

We need an image of chicken schmaltz here. Maestro!

Pure, rendered chicken fat. (Borrowed from the Web)

Potato Knishes
Good looking knishes recipe here.

Kasha Varnishkes with yogurt topping. Yogurt is not common on KV
Kasha Varnishkes, Step-by step recipe.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Forum of the Three Squeezers

The title of this post has nothing to do with the former New York restaurant, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars. It's just a play on words that amuses me. Instead, this is a loose, product  comparative review of three citrus juicers, one ancient manual and two shiny electric models.

We'll begin with the manual, lever action squeezer; Old Faithful. Fuel: muscle power. I bought this cheaply at a moving sale some years ago.

The lever-action, manual juicer is reasonably fast and effective, although larger orange half shells frequently lodge in the upper cup and must be dislodged with a knife blade. It isn't difficult, but it slows down the production flow. The lever/handle becomes slippery and I try, fruitlessly, to keep it wiped dry with a paper towel. When squeezing large quantities, the strainer and cone need to be emptied of excess pulp and seeds, or it may clog, then overflow.

I must have been in an enchanted spell when I sought an electric juicer, one that I hoped would be faster and require less energy input than the manual juicer.

I fell into the clutches of and in a moment of heedless impulse, purchased the cute little Oster citrus juicer. (below)

Oster does make juice! While it lives.

This I regard as more of a toy than a serious kitchen appliance. Oh, stoopid me.

These are its good features:
  1. It's cute and looks good on the counter top.
  2. It's easy to assemble, disassemble and to clean.
  3. There are two ways of capturing the juice output; a retaining receptacle or a continuous flow spout. I think it's foolish to use the retaining receptacle.
  4. The receptacle has graduated markings, for those who want to know how much juice was made. Why?!?

Here's the bad things about it:
  1. It's slow. Very slow
  2. Almost as much or more muscle power, compared to Old Faithful, is required to press the orange half against the juicing cone.
  3. If you carelessly use the retaining receptacle, it can overflow.
  4. My machine died in less than two weeks after I received it. I was juicing 3 kilos of oranges, and the machine was doing fine until the last half orange, when it suddenly and silently died. Now, maybe I'm to blame, for tasking such a toy juicer with a commercial quantity of oranges. But the instruction sheet had not given any advisory as to limits.
Moving ahead now into deeper realms of impulse shopping. I'd read positive reviews of this Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer made by the respected company that made my food processors, and other quality kitchen tools. I saw it at Bed Bath & Beyond in Morelia. I was enthralled, and swept it off the shelf into my shopping cart, heedless of its high price. At least it wasn't an online purchase that had delivery challenges.
It looks much more serious than the Oster. It looks positively ecclesiastical.

I've juiced with the Cuisinart several times, and it seems superior to the Oster. It hasn't yet died under the loads with which I task it.

Here are some advantages:
  1. No retaining receptacle. It's simpler without that less than useful feature.
  2. The motor reverses the direction of the juicing cone when you lift the fruit for a moment. This action aids complete juicing. See #3.
  3. It really, really gets every drop of juice out of the fruit, if used properly. This is its best feature.
  4. There is a supposedly adjustable pulp strainer, but I've not yet learned how to use it. See YouTube video, below.
  5. Easy assembly, disassembly and cleaning.
  6. Looks good, not cute, but more distinguished and stately than the Oster.
  7. Juice output is good, but almost creamy with pulp. Unless you dislike pulp, it's unnecessary to strain the juice.
These are the negatives:
  1. Considerable force must be applied to the fruit half to start the juicing.
  2. Slow output. Slow motor, I suppose for consumer safety. At least half the output speed of the manual juicer.
  3. Sometimes makes loud, rattling noises.
  4. Sometimes the juicing cone spins without any fruit on it, spraying pulp bits about.
  5. It's a good idea to clean out the strainer at intervals if juicing. Easy enough as there are no nuts, screws, bolts or latches in its construction. (A negative reference to my Turmix Juice Extractor, a very different machine for a different purpose.) 
I can optimize my use of the Cuisinart Juicer by, ah, reading the effing manual, and even better, watching the highly instructive video below.
Note the rocking motion of her hand while holding the citrus half. That action yields the most juice.
Also note the use of the clear plastic dome to extract any juice remaining in the pulp.
Another nuance is the electric cord storage receptacle. (I know, not a biggie.)

I am delighted to have found this video. It gives me hope that I can progress in getting the most from my Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer.

UPDATE: At last, I gave in and bought a PDH Industrial Model Citrus juicer, from on line. This monster, weighing in at almost 10 kilos, ain't walking off the counter. It's all stainless steel and is of simple construction. It's fast and powerful. I can juice 3-4 kilos of grapefruits in about 15 minutes, without breathing hard. I did have to find a taller juice receptacle, but that wasn't too difficult. Clean up is easy, as there are only three simple parts in contact with the fruit. It can be cleaned disassembled or in place. Even the on-off switch is better. It's an industrial type rocker switch that lights up red when on.

I learned to place a strainer over the receptacle container, as the machine puts out an excess of pulp mixed with seed fragments.

Tonight I had a little difficulty in disassembling the operating head, so I started to clean it in place. But then, the parts in question loosened and I finished cleaning it disassembled.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dining in Malinalco: Las Palomas

Las Palomas was the second restaurant recommended by our hostesses at Casa Navacoyan. The service was acceptable and the food decent, but with a tendency to heaviness.

The menu is extensive, with cheese a common element in very many dishes.

The entrance is on a street currently closed to vehicular traffic but easily traversed on foot. Just inside, up a gentle slope, is a covered dining area. To the rear there's a partially covered patio area. We chose to sit in the front due to flies in the open patio.

Our waiter brought us some dips and chips to munch on while we decided what to order. The nearer salsa was interesting for the fruit in the blend. The frijoles were a heavy paste.

I started with a Crema Fría de Aguacate. It was very smooth, soothing and mild.

Sra. Cuevas had an Ensalada de Espinacas y Peras con Queso de Cabra vinaigreta balsámica. That was very nice, although I was surprised to see that the pears were cooked and seasoned.

I was intrigued by a Tamal Envuelto de Acelgas Relleno de Champiñones con Mole.

But when I tasted it, it was too heavy and the dominant brown color did not add to its appeal. I wouldn't order it again.

This next photo is an unidentified mystery, and appears to be pechuga de pollo con mole, but strangely, I don't have any notes on it and can't definitively identify it. Could it be a Chile Jaral of some sort? It must have been eaten by my wife.

For dessert, I ordered a Crema Catalana, but the waiter returned to say that "se terminó". Not available. That was moments after guests at another table received one, with a glorious topping of golden spun sugar. I suspect that making two in close succession was onerous to the kitchen staff.

So, instead, I had a deconstructed Tarta de Manzana, which despite its somewhat disheveled look, was all buttery goodness.

Food: 7

Service: 7

Ambiance: Tranquilo

Cost: Sorry, I didn't photograph the check, but I do recall my surprise that the total was more than that at Los Placeres. I'd had a half bottle of a semi-dulce white Rioja wine which increased the total check.


Dirección Restaurante- Bar Las Palomas :
Guerrero 104, Barrio de Santa Mónica Malinalco, México

Sitio web Visita el Restaurante- Bar Las Palomas (No se encontró)

Horario : Martes -Jueves 11:00 a. m.a 6:00 p. m. Viernes y Sábado 11:00 a. m. a 10:00 p. m. Domingo: 9:00 a. m. a 8:00 p. m.

Telefono: 01.714.147.0122

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dining in Malinalco I: Los Placeres

During our stay at Casa Navacoyan, both Margarita and her daughter, Lucrecia recommended two restaurants to us: Los Placeres and Las Palomas.

These were generally good recommendations, and soon after our arrival at la Casa, we took a taxi to Malinalco Centro. It's a small but charming town with a lengthy plaza, set on a hill slope. The bread vendors offered bounteous bags of bread at very low prices, although the pan dulce was not to my taste. I liked the cut bolillos very much.

We wandered around the Plaza, tempted by street food stands that lined one side of the park. But we resisted their alluring aromas and instead went to Los Placeres on the opposite side of the plaza.

Los Placeres has several dining rooms and a patio dining area. Some of these rooms seem unfinished. We were led to a small table at an outside corner, right on the main route from kitchen to diners. This could be defined as "a bad table". My seat was uncomfortable,  but I was able to exchange it for a better one from a neighboring table.

Arbor of hoja santa next to neighboring table

The annoyances began when we'd scarcely sat down. The waiter was overeager to get our drink order. In fact, I had scarcely started to look at the drink list when he asked to take our order. I dismissed him so I could look over the beverage menu at leisure. Meanwhile, Sra. Cuevas had ordered a glass of agua de sabor, chía limón, which arrived quickly, and a glass for me, which I hadn't wanted. I gave mine to Sra. Cuevas.

When I did decide on a drink, I then flagged down a passing waiter. My order must have become lost, because much time passed. I hailed our waiter again, and in a few more minutes, he brought what I'd requested.

Mezcal Amor. Very good!

A better start: We were brought very good bread, butter and both red and green salsas.


When we ordered our food, the hurry-up-and-order nonsense turned on again. I really dislike such behavior, as it deprives me of the necessary time to intelligently peruse the menu. But worst of all, it puts me in a bad mood, and tends to spoil my dining experience. Bad service can overshadow the good aspects of a restaurant. Fortunately, the food was quite good.

For an entrada, Sra. Cuevas had Sopes de Conejo, small corn cakes holding spiced, shredded tinga de conejo. The portion was generous and the presentation interesting. I tried a bite. I thought that they were pretty good. My wife liked them more than I did.

I ordered Dobladitas, a local variant on a quesadilla, served in wedges. The filling was good, of frijoles, quesillo (Oaxacan style string cheese) and hoja santa. Plain looking, but savory, especially enhanced with the accompanying guacamole and salsas.

We moved on to our platos fuertes.

Sra. Cuevas had Caldo Malinquense, a vegetable soup with cheese. She told me that it lacked seasoning.

I was drawn to Trucha en Clemole Verde. What's a clemole?  Google tends to define it as a prehispanic soup. At Los Placeres, it was a light, herbal sauce. Nothing soupy about it.
I liked it, but wished for more of the herbal sauce. The abundant vegetables cooked pre-al dente, were a plus.

I don't recall having dessert, but I did have an excellent, toasty and aromatic Café Americano. It was one of the best ever in my experience.


Food: 7

Service: 6 Sometimes confused and disorganized; waiters in too much of a hurry to take our order. It was a bad beginning but service improved with the course of the meal.

Ambience: Casual, rustic, nice garden patio. Some tables are uncomfortably close to the waitstaff delivery route.

Cost: I didn't get a photo of the check, but I'm guessing that it was around $800 pesos for two.

Rest rooms: nice

Keywords: be nice, but be firm.

Contact info:

Phone: 01 (714) 1470855