CULTURE THROUGH FOOD


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North America » Mexico » Distrito Federal » Mexico City
February 26th 2022
Published: April 30th 2022
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During all of our travels over the last 20 years, we have always strived to do more than sightsee, and truly experience the culture of the places we are visiting. What better way to become fully emersed in the local culture than by the food they eat? Today, was a day devoted to total emersion in the food of Mexico.

But first, alarms went off at 5:30, sounds early, but I had the best night of sleep since I can’t remember when, so getting up was not so difficult. Besides I got to finish yesterday’s blog have some coffee and watch the sun rise over the National Palace and Zocalo. They were also raising the flag for the day.

We started our food emersion with breakfast in the terrace restaurant. Breakfast is included in the room rate. As I have said many times, the term breakfast is a very broad term. In the US, it is pretty terrible most of the time. In Europe it totally varies by country and even city. But there have always been standouts, such as La Bua in Bangkok, the Intercontinental in Montreal or the Hilton Curio in Rome. Even the DoubleTree in Carcassonne was exceptional. Today, the breakfast at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico joins that elite group. They had a made to order station, Omelets to tacos, then there was the buffet itself, almost every type of Mexican style meat you can imagine, the favorite was chilaquiles. They also had lots of fresh fruit and even a seafood station.

We stayed a bit too long at breakfast so had to take a taxi to our next stop, cooking class.

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I am sure that you noticed that the blog entries stop abruptly. I am now writing this 2 month after the last entry. The short answer for the stop was that I was extremely ill for the next three days after out cooking class (which I will blog about shortly) It was not the cooking class that caused the illness, but a very bad batch of black mole from our Saturday night dinner. That being said, my one full day in the city was a very good one.

Aura Cocina Mexicana

One of the highlights of any of our trips is of course the cooking class, if we can find one that is hands on and includes a market visit. We really lucked out here in Mexico City, it was hands on, a market tour was included as well as a bit of street food and tortilla shops. We also have a very wonderful chef as an instructor, Pam (I am sure her true name is not Pam but made it simple for us gringos). The class consisted of a young woman from Texas, who was studying in Guadalajara, and a family from just north of Mexico City. They were a very interesting and lovely family, the son had studied in England so while he was 100% Mexican, when he spoke English, he had a British accent. His wife was from France, a truly international family. Then there was Jerry and me, the gay couple from Rhode Island. God, it feels good to say we live in Rhode Island and not New York.

The class started with a quick history of Mexican cuisine, including the love of grasshoppers. Evidently on grasshopper has more protein than a steak. I will stick with steak. Next, we were off for the tortilla shops, some street food, and the market. The first tortilla shop was very small, but they pumped out thousands of tortillas a day. They were not 100% authentic as they did use some already processed corn flour in their masa. The process was still pretty amazing and labor intense. Even though a machine made and baked the tortilla, it still took several people to load the masa and assemble the bags of tortilla. If you have never had a tortilla right off the conveyor belt, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Next stop was the street quesadillas. These were handmade blue corn tortillas with vegetables and cheese All the ingredients were grown behind the home of the vendor. We asked if they had to be licensed or have a permit, Chef Pam laughed, “no” she said, “just slip the federales’ a bit of cash and some quesadillas every day and your good to go.” Ok, that was as bit nicer than how she put it, I think she used the word corruption.

The quesadillas were very good. It was our first-time having street food, we didn’t even do it in Bangkok, always been afraid of the health standards. We still are, and probably not something we would do if we didn’t have a local guiding us. Now on to the market. It was a very vibrant market with many stalls for produce, chocolate (of course) flowers and meats. We were not taken to the meat section because I don’t think we were probably ready for the fact that they were still living. We stopped at a few stalls to sample the specialty of that vendor. The first was a sampling of chocolate, worms, ants, and grasshoppers. Yes, I ate the grasshopper, never ever again. First way to salty, and second it is a grasshopper that looks like a grasshopper. Jerry had the ants, again salty but oh so crunchy. We both passed on the worms, but we both had the chocolate.

Back at the cooking school we got down to business. It was all very hands on and of course we ate it all at the end. I am not going to go into the entire process but will tell you what we made.

· Molcajete Red Salsa

· Salsa Verde

· Mole Blanco (yes, a white mole)

· Mexican Corn Bread (some of the best I ever had)

· Antojitos Mexicanos (similar to sopapilla’s in New Mexico) smaller and with toppings

· Mextlapiques (vegetable tamales)

· Tortillas

The while mole was very interesting, not for those with nut allergies, every nut possible is in the base.

Had a great time cooking and then eating finishing off with some mescal and birthday cake since it was two of the quest’s birthdays.

We then found our way back to the hotel, but not until after a horrible subway ride. At the subway was so crowded you felt as if you were being violated the entire time. When it came to the stop we were to get off, we literally were almost trampled to death. So many people were trying to get on, they were not about to let us off. I was behind Jerry and just shoved him so we could get through, I caught my foot and nearly went down. I was thinking if I go down, I am taking at least 10 of these maniacs with me. Fortunately, I did not fall, and we made it off the subway.

The view from our hotel was really beautiful and we enjoyed the large windows and balcony’s every night, even when I managed to stay out of the bathroom.

Here is where the fun ends. That night we had dinner, I will not name the establishment in case it was just a fluke, not far from our hotel in a nice spot with a view overlooking a square. Our appetizer was amazing a steak queso fundido. Jerry’s entrée was also very good grilled prawns and pineapple, mine well let’s just say it was the beginning of the end. It was a poblano stuffed with suckling pig (one of my favorite things) over black mole. It was the mole that did me end, one bite and I knew it was off. And one bite is all it took to keep in in the room for the next 2 straight days.

Summary

That pretty much put and end to my 60th birthday trip. The next day I could not leave the bathroom let alone the room. I had planned on labeling each day of the blog similar as I did this one, they were going to be Culture through Art, Culture through History, Culture through Anthropology. But that was not to be. The next day we just slept in and instead of going the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Museums, which we were very much looking forward to, I stayed in the room and binged watched the Crown while Jerry explored the area around our hotel.

Monday, we did have a private tour guide to take us to the Pyramids, Jerry kept that appointment and enjoyed a nice day at the Pyramids. I again spent the day binge watching the Crown.

That night I did manage to make it out of the room to have a light dinner. A very nice place called Azul. I did not have much of an appetite but did have the best Tortilla soup I have ever had. It was perfect for my condition.

The next day was my birthday, and I was determined to get out of the room. We were scheduled for the anthropology museum, but that just wasn’t going to happen as still really needed to be pretty close to a bathroom. Jerry did a bit of shopping in the morning, then we have a very lovely lunch at Casino Espanola. It was not Mexican but very Spanish. I had a great bowl of garlic soup (definitely helped in the gastric area). Jerry had Veracruz fish (yes very traditionally Mexican) I had suckling pig. It was a very good lunch and almost made up for the last two days.

That night the birthday dinner was very disappointing, service bad, food eh, and way to New York. We spent more money on the Champagne than the food. The Champagne was worth every penny, the food was not.

That pretty much wraps it up. The flight home was uneventful. I do know we both decided that Mexico City deserves another visit, one when I don’t get sick. It is a beautiful city, subways not so fun, and I know there is great food there, we just need to find it.


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1st May 2022

Making Memories
Being sick on vacation is the worst. I’m sorry it was food poisoning AND that you didn’t have a fantastic 60th birthday. But…it was a memorable trip, right? Thanks for sharing all these photos. I’m excited to hear about the pyramid trip from Jerry when we see Rhode Island this summer.

Tot: 0.331s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 12; qc: 60; dbt: 0.0192s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb