I want to thank Albatz for their gracious invitation to guest blog on their blog, or as I like to call it: double-blogging.
Al(&)Batz have been fans of the great United States of Mexico for a lot longer than I. How many times have you guys been down there anyway? But though I may have come late to the party, I am making it up with an obsession that borders on stalking. The thought of travelling elsewhere holds no appeal for me at this time. I see an almost infinite number of possible tours; from the jungle to the high plateau, from pristine beaches to UNESCO-listed colonial towns.
And in every part of Mexico there’s food. Glorious food. Far more variety than most people think. It ain’t all burritos and enchiladas. The variety of tacos alone will keep my lips smacking for a long time.
In December I am off to Mexico again, including Mexico City. While I await my flight I thought I’d share the yumminess I found there last time in November 2011.
Like Washington DC, Mexico City is more than just a city. Locally it’s known as El DF, short for Districto Federal. And it is massive: 22 million souls call it home. From the air it’s mind-boggling. But on the ground you get a strong sense of neighborhoods or, as they say in Spanish, colonias.
My last visit was the first time I spent time getting to know the DF and I fell in love. Walk around most North American downtown areas and the action is mostly out of sight. But in Mexico City the streets are alive. It’s a rare street corner that doesn’t have at least one food cart from which emanate the most fantastic smells. Obviously with its population the streets are busy with both pedestrians and vehicles. But pedestrian traffic controls are good and I never felt in danger.
Like most tourists my first culinary forays were to the more well-known restaurants and cantinas. First up: the Opera Bar on Cinco de Mayo.
Legend has it that a hole in this cantina’s ceiling was made by a bullet fired by Pancho Villa himself. A great place to hit after a show at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the food here is not the star attraction, it’s the atmosphere. But still, I enjoyed the green enchiladas. The sauce had a good kick and a nice smokiness. Also good were the shrimp and octopus cocktails. But the snails in chipotle sauce were rather bland.
Still, any deficiencies in the food were more than compensated for by the place itself. Ornate woodwork and high ceilings and music, music, music! I doubt you could spend much time in the the place without the appearance of a band from off the street. And there’s no lack of amateur crooners ready to pay their pesos for a chance to sing a favorite tune. Mexicans so love their music!
Another stop on the regular tourist trail is the Tacuba Cafe. It too is a history-soaked landmark sporting colonial era frescos on its walls. But despite the visual and atmospheric flash, the food was merely decent. Maybe the fact that jet lag had yet to dissipate influenced our taste buds.
Still, everything I had read told me that culinary nirvana awaited me on the streets and they did not disappoint.
First off in Coyoacan, home to Frida Khalo house, where a busy warren of food vendors just off the main square produced delicious deep-fried quesadillas, handmade while you watch and packed with savoury fillings like huitlacoche (corn fungus) and potato.
Then in the Centro, the street-side seafood stand Marisqueria El Caguamo served up whole fried fish and a spectacular eel that had me moaning. That was a result of a habit I have of ordering things that I have never heard of. For your purposes it may help to know that anguilla is Spanish for eel.
Even the simplest of street fare, tamales sold out of portable pots near the zocalo, were scrumptious, and from these guys, only 10 pesos or 80 cents
Each time the police would come near, shrill whistles could be heard and the sellers without permits grabbed their wares and ran.
On a visit to Mexico City’s very fine anthropological museum the fuel for the tour was a wonderful torta. A torta is a sandwich, but not any old sandwich. Peppers, avocados, tomatos and quick-cooked beef made for a hearty, delicious brunch
So, all great food, much of it from street vendors. But the best meal of the trip? Well, that was from Tacos Toritos, a hole-in-the-wall place on Isabel La Catolica in the Centro. 10 peso tacos that contained… well, maybe you can tell by the picture. Bon appetit!