Baja California Culinary Fest: A 10 course multi-chef dinner at Mision 19

Probably half of L.A.’s food writing media was in Tijuana over the weekend as part of the Baja Culinary Fest 2011, “an international event that will allow the projection of Baja California [as] an important culinary venue with first class cuisine and innovative proposals” according to their website.

Fellow Mexican food reconquista writer Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet L.A. organized this whole trip for Angeleno “foodbloggers and friends of them”; he’s been the underestimated food city’s main food writing advocate for the last couple of years. The $205 ticket included this dinner, a two-nights stay at The Gran Tijuana hotel, access and almost unlimited food at the food festival component of the event, and a three stop street food crawl with Bill and Javier themselves. With the seafood intensiveness of the meals, free flowing booze and transportation, the ticket was a steal. It was obvious this was an event not really made up to make money but instead to really just spread the word that Tijuana’s “Baja-Med” exclusive cuisine and food community is if not the most bad ass of all of Mexico, then definitely comparable to it…

We arrived in Tijuana at around 7:30 PM and drove directly to Mision 19, the latest and hippest new restaurant of Chef Javier Plascencia, the city’s local food superhero. He organized this whole event and this particular dinner was the hottest ticket in town, combining the efforts of three different regional Mexican chefs, two different sommeliers and Julian Cox, the Mexican-inspired mixologist extraordinaire from Los Angeles. Amongst some of the high profile attendees were Lesley Barger Suter of L.A. Magazine, Barbara Hanson of Table Conversations, Garrett Snyder of Los Angeles Magazine and Search and Devour, Joshua Lurie of Food GPS, Matthew Kang of Mattatouille, Fiona Chandra of Gourmet Pigs, Esther Tseng of EstarLA, Caroline on Crack, Elina Shatkin of LA Weekly, Dave Lieberman of OC Weekly, Pat Saperstein of Eating L.A. and many, many others that I am too lazy to type out.

Mision 19
hungry foodies

Everyone was pretty freaking famished. It took five long bus hours to get to Tijuana from Los Angeles on a Friday afternoon during peak rush hour. We waited around half an hour to eat once seated. My randomly chosen table mates and I were even starting to think of ways to cut and eat the centerpiece! A huevo!

nopal centerpiece

Eventually, the food started to come out. I won’t poetically bullshit too much about each course as the food-writing norm goes, but I will share some thoughts on the dishes.

Primer Tiempo: Chef Angel Vazquez (Chef from Puebla)
tiradito
Tiradito de Hamachi: Rabanos/charales/chicharron/limon en conserva/habanero/sal

Wine pairing: JC Bravo-Palomino 2010.

Raw fish is always awesome as a first course, especially when the fish is local, fresh and as high quality as the hamachi on our plate. You can tell it was fresh because of that sinewy chew fresh sashimi has. I liked the fried charales as garnish, the little white fish were crispy and addictive like chips. Habanero was cool too.

Segundo Tiempo: Javier Plascencia
tuetanaso!
Tuetano de Res Rostizado: Atun Aleta Amarilla/Tobiko/aire de serrano

Cocktail pairing: “Negrito Sandia” (Julian Cox)

The cow bone was split lengthwise, roasted and propped on a bed of coarse salt; it was topped with chunks of fresh Yellowfin tuna, micro cilantro greens and ultra-thin slivers of toasted baguette. I liked it, somehow the fish lightened up the beef fat. It could have been a little more roasted though; some of the luscious beef fat still had the texture of a fat looogie. Nonetheless, the cilantro was fucking brilliant with the marrow The best part was Cox’s cocktail that tasted like a fresh watermelon with Tajin sprinkled on it. I’m pretty sure that was everyone else’s favorite of the night too.

Tercer Tiempo: Pablo Salas (Chef from Toluca)
ensalada de barros
Ensalada de Berros con Vinagreta de Piloncillo: Queso de Rancho Alegria

Wine pairing: Paralelo Emblema (2010)

The salad course couldn’t have come at a better time. The full flavored watercress greens paired with the toasted-amaranth-grain infused piloncillo vinaigrette was pretty awesome. The cheese was a standard stiff-curdle pressed farm cheese, known as a “cuajo” to Mexican cheese people.

Cuarto tiempo: John Rivera Sedlar
flan
Sardineria: Flan de Elote/quinoa Negra/flor de calabaza

Wine pairing: Pijoan Dominica 2009

Classic Sedlar! The popular chef brought his signature New Mexican-Los Angeles fangled dishes to Baja for this event. The corn flan was creamy and buttery as always, topped with chewy black quinoa and served alongside a piece of mystery fish that resembled cod in texture. The sauce underneath was a madras curry one, mmmm Indian flavored Mexican-esque food.
Quinto Tiempo: Sedlar
Chile Relleno
Codorniz de Valle Guadalupe: Chile verde/duxelle de champiñones

Wine pairing: Pijoan Dominica

Classic Sedlar again! The best part of this dish was definitely the chilito relleno, it was stuffed with a meaty ground mushrooms paste. The tiny local Cornish game hen was a tad underdone and still pink inside. I loved it actually, “Salmonella-risk is flavor!” I always say, but others seem bothered with it.

Sexto Tiempo: Salas
Cerdo Almendrado
Cerdo Almendrado: Papa Cambray/aceitunas (sorry for raping the dish with flash; I was pretty buzzed)

Wine pairing: Vino Shimul-Yumano 2009

The almond sauce smothering this was bomb, like a “vanilla” equivalent option to traditional Mole if there were such a thing. It was way lighter and easier on the palate than any Poblano or Negro. As the Mexican usual, the overcooked meat only served as vehicle for the minimalist, chunky almond sauce.

Septimo Tiempo: Vasquez
pork belly
Pork Belly: Platano/vainilla/naranja/relish de tomate verde con frijol de olla/reduccion de cocoa

Wine pairing: Estacion porvenir-textura 3 2009

Despite the dessert like sweetness of this and undercooked beans (a turn-off…especially for beaners!), I actually really liked this dish. But then again it was properly cooked pork belly and chocolate on a plate, so when isn’t that going to be amazing?

Octavo Tiempo: Plascencia
pato en seco
Pato añejado en seco: Persimo Fuyu/granada/col de bruselas/Mazapan

Wine pairing: Viñas Pijoan-Leonora2009

The duck was the last savory course of the evening and was traditionally served with a bunch of sweet stuff to contrast the rich duck fat. Duck is one of my favorite animal proteins and I grew up on the crumbly peanut candy known as Masapan, so, the pairing of these two things worked finely for me. The persimmon was on the ripe side too, which was a plus.

Noveno Tiempo
queso
Quesos Artesanales: Miel de Abeja/mermelada artesanal

The cheeses in this cheese course were all locally sourced from Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s own wine country down by Ensenada. They were arranged from youngest to oldest, in other words, from least funkiest to most! The first one was like Monterey Jack, the middle one was a little more cakey and more nuanced, but the last one was the winner for the average cheesehead. The honey and guava jam underneath rounded out the creaminess of each. The añejo was some serious stuff, it was the cakiest of all and had a thick rubbery rind like a pair of super old, dirty Chuck Taylor’s, a little too funky for me but the camarada Garrett was all up in that shiiit!

Decimo Tiempo
dessert
Calabaza de Otoño: Cacahuate salado/chocolate amargo

I received the sweet component of this tasting meal with open arms after the savory onslaught. No one got credit for the dish but they should have. It was artfully presented and rationally thought out, each ingredient was served in paste form except for the Butterfinger-like crunchy salted peanuts. The calabaza de otoño paste had a camote-like flavor, the traditional Mexican dessert of yams cooked in brown sugar. It was described to be “like those chocolate bars that would melt in your pocket and accidentally make it better” by Garrett.

I came in buzzed off three Mexican craft beers and a tequila shot before the dinner and by the end of this wine-o dinner, I was pretty plastered. That still didn’t stop me from going upstairs and taking advantage of our open bar wristband, a Tamarind-Coffee Margarita and couple of Agavia tequila shots later, I was officially annihilated. Garrett and I ended up eating oysters at 3 AM somewhere in Tijuana and I woke up in my room’s hallway at 5 AM but one thing was for sure, this was certainly an “once-in-a-lifetime” type of collaborative dinner that I will never forget. It brought together skilled chefs from both sides of the border.

To Javier Plascencia for organizing this epic event and Bill Esparza for making the trip happen and deal with fifty hungry, impatient food-minded Angelenos who don’t know how hard it to make an event of this caliber run so smoothly as it did. I know next year’s will be even better and smoother.

Mision 19 cockails
Tamarind-Coffee Cocktails at Bar 20: Part of Mision 19

Salud!

Mision 19 “Cocina de Autor”
Misión San Javier 10643
Piso 2, VIA Corporativo
Zona Urbana Río
Tijuana, B.C., México
Tel: (664) 634.2493

Pambazos in Mexico City: The Street Food Sandwich To Rule Them All

As soon as I got to Mexico City, I stopped at my friend Edwin’s house. His name on facebook is Edwin “Beerman” so you can only imagine what was to follow shortly thereafter for the rest of the evening.

leon shot
Leon: Mexico’s “Munich Style” Dark Beer

Several innumerable oversized caguamas later, the Mexican beer munchies came a knockin’. Luckily, Doña Loreto, colonia Ahuizotla’s resident nocturnal Pambazonera was located down his street.

doña

She doesn’t even start setting up until 9 PM but there were already people lining up waiting for her shimmering flat top to heat up.

the pambazo scene

She specializes in quesadillas and pambazos, sencillas (as is) or tricked out with a fat scoop of her homemade guisados.

pambazo opened

I opted to order mine with slivered sautéed champiñones (mushrooms) in addition to the traditional stuffing of Mexican chorizo spiked, fried mashed potatoes. I was lightly drooling as I patiently waited for the red-chile-sauce drenched telera roll’s edges to crisp up.

Fortunately, I was beer goggling it sick and didn’t think twice about the amount of creamy, unrefined lard she must have spooned over it, on both sides of the halved pieces of bread of course.

Around maybe seven eternal minutes later, the fried sandwich was finally ready. A pambazo is a unique individual in the pantheon of Mexican street food. Some people describe it, as a “Mexican French Dip” but that isn’t quite politically correct for this day and age, it certainly deserves much more respect than that. A pambazo is a proud sandwich transsexual who wished it were born an enchilada and damned it will be if it lets gastronomy norms get in the way of that.

Who’s to say it has to be tortilla and not a piece of bread that has to be drenched in red chile and griddled in order for it to be stuffed with cheese or potatoes? Hell, let it do whatever it wants. If it wants to have multiple toppings, so be it! Salty, crumbly cotija cheese, thinly shredded crisp iceberg lettuce and thick Mexican crema? Si se puede! Especially, if it’s still soft and moist on the inside while the edges are golden brown and crisp.

pambazo full body
Equality for all!

*Pambazos can be found pretty much everywhere tacos roam in Mexico City

Good Morning Merida! A Typical Breakfast at a Local Mercado in Merida, Yucatan

The early bird gets the worm, but in Merida, the early [loud and tropical!] bird gets things like Panucho’s, Salbutes, Papadzules, Polcanes, Mondongo and much, much more…

It’s a little known fact amongst seasoned travelers and thrifty backpackers alike that to truly experience a destination, you must bypass the boundaries of the popular tourist zones. The food at La Chaya the night before was absolutely fine but I knew that if really wanted to eat like the locals, I had to visit the local mercado de comidas.

mercado hustle

The local mercado is where the workers who work those tourist destinations eat at, there will never be any air conditioning or glossy menus here and you will eat off a plastic bag-lined, weathered plastic plate. But if you are like me, you will consider the almost unbearable tropical heat and humidity just another terrific ambiance factor for the Mercado actually.

Not to mention the food will also be about ½ the price. The portions may not be as large but you can rest assured knowing that the flavors of the food not be either dumbed down or jacked up. See, the food at a mercado is made specifically to satiate the town’s working-class residents, people who most likely have lived in that town for generations and know what a dish should taste and look like. Hence, the food at a Mercado is almost always… bomb!

Our hotel Residencial was fortunately located about eight blocks away from the town’s zocalo, adjacent to the towns local Mercado.

A mercado will always have more than a handful of stands and most of them will be slanging the same thing. It can become a bit of a daunting experience to choose one with each one of the vendors trying there hardest to get you to eat with them over the rest. I usually settle with the one with most people, as the food will be more often rotated, ie. fresher. But whatever you choose, chances are it’s going to be pretty good.

La Lupita Signage

My family and I sat La Lupita’s, one of the cocina’s located inside the mercado as opposed to the ones you initially walk by on the outside. I am pretty infatuated with my roots and culture but even then, I need a break from the almighty tortilla once in while. Fortunately in Merida, they also have some quite exceptionally crusty French baguettes that are used for tortas instead of the more fluffier telera or bolillo rolls.

Merida Mercado offerings

The display case with the morning’s offerings was pretty exciting, boasting a colorful array of things to sample. Being a full time advocate for the beyond-thanksgiving consumption of turkey, I was ecstatic to realize that Pavo in Yucatan was just as common a filling as Al Pastor or Asada is in the rest of Mexico.

torta de relleno negro

I jumped at the opportunity to have the meaty fowl as a breakfast option, especially when bathed in that wondrous, jet-black Yucatan Relleno Negro mole like sauce and propped atop some toasted baguette. Exercise a bit more caution with the salsas on the table though, they will tentatively have some sort of habanero effect in them.

The delicate petite sandwich didn’t quite satisfy my voraciously curious tummy so I ventured into the neighboring stand to see what else I’d find.

Score! They had yet another exclusive turkey rendition! This time, the roasted whole bird was drenched pickled in a vinegary, onion-heavy marinade called escabeche.

Yucatan offers many more cool-sounding, carby vehicles to enjoy these fillings with, its not just tortillas or bread anymore in the land of the South. No, there are things like Panuchos, Sambutes and Polcanes. I didn’t know what the hell any of these really were so I decided on the craziest sounding one to try naturally, “un sambute de pavo en escabeche por favor, con todo!”

Salbute de Escabeche de Pavo
It turned out to be quite the lovely surprise. A thick, handmade pocket of yellow corn dough that is fried medium hard and then topped with the filling of your choice. It reminded me a lot like a Mexican version of the Indian street food classic, Pani Puri.

Another plus of eating at a mercado is the high probability of a roaming vendor stopping at your table to offer you some of his home cooked bounty. Like this dulces tipicos hawker that stopped at ours. I forgot what each of their names were but I got one of each of course. My particular favorites were the meringues, the crisp meringue clouds that exuded sweet syrup and were still creamy on the inside, this piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) taffy with bits of chewy young coconut baked within it and the chili pepper-shaped pumpkin seed candy that had a similar texture to Italian Marzipan even.

dulces tipicos de yucatan

Ahh…pansa llena y corazon contento!

A Moment for Marquesitas: A Southern Mexican Street Food Dessert Favorite

If it’s a summer night and you are in downtown Merida, a “Marquesita” will most likely be in your near future. The pedal-powered street dessert hawkers are basically in every corner of the Zocalo and central tourist district. No, they aren’t swordsmith’s crafting metal as they push down on their blue-flamed, huge waffle-machine like cast-iron griddle set up with all their might, they are just making Marquesitas.

marquesito griddle

The traditional filling is actually a base of shredded “Bola de Queso” or Edam cheese with whatever else you’d like. The older couple who were in front of us asked for theirs with peanut butter and the zesty cheese, while the lady behind me ordered hers with the cheese and smothered with cajeta de cabra envinada (Mexican goat’s milk caramel flavored with red wine).
Marquesitas

If the smell of toasted sugar and vanilla doesn’t lure you in, the curious Indian dosa-like funnel shape of it will. The French have crepes, the Italian have pizelles, the Indonesian have Teram Bulan and well, this is like a combination of all those but better. A sweet version of a paper dosa? Err, even more crispy and fragile than that, it is almost like a freshly made pirouette cookie even. Especially when prepared with creamy nutella and lechera like I did when I got mine in Merida.

marquesita in action

You might also luck out if the local feria is in town; I caught one at the Feria de Playa during my stay in Playa del Carmen too. The ingredients to stuff it with were more varied there. Nonetheless, I got mine with nutella and sliced banana. As if it wasn’t going to taste bad, haha. Whatever stuff’s your Marquesa with…its all good. Just make sure you eat it with your arms extended because the filling tends to leak from the bottom. Or you can just eat it like a sword-swallower like I did.

marquesita money shot
Marquesita in 3D!

La Chaya: Yucatan Food in Merida and Finally Eating It (Merida, Yucatan)

We arrived to Merida a little before sunset. I couldn’t believe it; I was finally in the south of Mexico! After years of being fascinated by the unique cuisine of the motherland’s south I was finally going to get to eat it. Until now, my knowledge of the cuisine was strictly limited to L.A’s “Chichen-Itza” restaurant.

Keeping it strictly adventurous, we didn’t reserve any hotel so that was first on the list. We settled for “La Residencial” eight blocks away from the central zocalo. We walked and walked around the town, I couldn’t believe the chirping clamor of the tropical birds were not coming out of a speaker or something.

La Chaya

After buying our fair share of trinkets, it was time to eat. I asked around and was led to “Chaya”, one of the cities more popular restaurants apparently. I was a little turned off at the half-hour wait and strictly-tourist customers, but whatever, my dad was getting cranky.

tortillera
totopos con salsas mayas

It looked a little gimmicky with the handmade tortillas being assigned to two stations inside the restaurants but the chips and salsa proved to be an interesting surprise. Just like every other Yucatan food that has a cool-ass name, the chips are called “Totopos” here. They were served with a toasty, green-pepita paste, a black bean puree, a thin salsa and a habanero relish. Not a bad start.

Agua de Chaya
Agua de Chaya at La Chaya

When in Yucatan, drink Agua de Chaya! especially if you are eating at a restaurant that is called after it. The spinach-y green doesn’t really taste like anything different from any other meaty green, especially when combined with lots of lime and sugar but its good and its “green”, so its cool.

La chaya Menuage

I kinda wanted to order everything on the menu, everything sounded so cool! We started off with an order of “Vaporcitos”. Which I quickly found out were really just banana-leaf wrapped tamales with a stuffing of turkey. They weren’t the softest or most flavorful but the fried tomato salsa smothering made up for it.

I ended up ordering for my dad and little sister since they didn’t really know what the hell any of the food was.

I recommended the Tixin-Xic to my dad.

Mariscos Tikin-Xic
Tixin-Xic

This dish is a common Yucatan dish, an Achiote-marinated fish baked in banana leaf. Here, it was a mish-mash of a bunch of different seafood and was served “sizzling” style. It wasn’t bad.

And for my sister? Los Tres Mosqueteros Yucatecos
Los Tres Mosqueteros Yucatecos at La Chaya

Without a doubt, this was the winning dish of the evening. It consisted of three thin, yellow corn crepes enveloping braised turkey meat, each one showered with a different Yucatan sauce, then glued together with this sweet plantain mash. The most interesting was probably the Relleno Negro sauce, Yucatan’s emulsified, thinned-down, ink-like answer to a black Mole. The second one was their Pipian, the usually-thick pumpkin seed sauce got the velvety treatment as well. Last was the Papadzule sauce, another pumpkin seed centered sauce but more toasty. T’was bomb indeed.

The first dish that drew me to L.A’s Chichen Itza restaurant was Pan de Cazon so I decided to try it straight from the source here.

pan de cazon
Pan de Cazon at La Chaya

It was just as I expected, a hell of a lot better! The dish consists of lightly-fried stacked tortillas layered with black beans and seasoned Thresher Shark meat, then of course, showered with more of that signature Yucatecano, marinara-like red salsa. In other words, they are what enchiladas would look like if a contemporary architect had his way with them, an enchilada skycraper if you will. Note to self, lightly fried handmade tortillas is way better than spaghetti to sop up tomato sauce with.

The meal came out to about 350 pesos, aka “tourist prices” in the words of my cranky papa. Sure, I could had probably eaten the better versions of the same dishes we got for 1/3 the price at the local mercado but at least one splurge was imminent for me in Merida.

Now, it was time to make up for it and find some tasty street food dessert outside…

La Chaya Restaurante
Calle 62 X 57 local 2 |
Centro Historico,
Mérida, México

Pulqueria “Las Duelistas”: Drinking it Old School in Mexico City

As soon as you step foot in any part of Mexico you will quickly realize that Mexicans love beer. A cold, frosty chela will be readily available at an airport sandwich shop before you hop on your flight as well as be given to you free of charge aboard a Mexican airline if you ask nicely enough. Furthermore, what we call a “40” oz, they call a “Caguama” and it actually has 22% (1.2 Liters of beer to be exact) more beer than any 40 oz in the U.S. But before there was beer, their was pulque, the ultra-viscous libation of my pre-hispanic ancestors made from the fermented sap of the Maguey plant (Century Plant).

As a coming-of-aging Mexican-American pocho on the quest to find his opposing dual self-identity, I have sought to imbibe this elusive drink voraciously. Perhaps because it is portrayed as the official drink of thick-moustache’d Mexican revolutionaries, the heroes of the modern day literate chicano. Or maybe because it conforms to my punk-rock way of living… an alternative option that a dedicated few choose to produce and drink? Sounds like the perfect alcohol correquesite for a latino that is into punk-rock to me! Whatever it is, I am fascinated with this drink and I treat it as French Romantics treated absinthe, drinking it for deep self-reflection but ultimately, as an homage to my pre-conquista roots.

Every time I am in the motherland of my parents, I make it a point to hunt and drink pulque at least once during my short visits. Last year, I was lucky enough to actually witness how it is produced while I stayed at my tio Aurelio’s rancho in Nopala, Hidalgo. I think it was a turning point in my adult life.

First, the maguey plants needs to be “castrated” before any pulque can be acquired, that is, the tall tree-like stalk that grows from the middle of the plant is chopped and pulled off. Where the stalk was, there is now the chamber where the illustrious “Aguamiel” sap water collects. According to my uncle’s friend who drinks pulque daily, the plant produces sap three times a day, perfect for the human dietary meal plan of three meals a day. Coincidence? I think not!

Fresh from the plant, the aguamiel it is not yet alcoholic, at this point it is considered medicinal and tastes similar to drinking fresh unsweetened aloe-vera juice. As bacteria are introduced to it, the fermentation begins. After a few hours it is finally pulque. Fresh, raw pulque is like yogurt and has probiotics actually!

The Modern Pulquero
The pulquero tools
La Aguamiel
Aguamiel chamber
La Resadura Del Maguey
Maguey shavings

Anyways, the pulquero uses what I can only explain as a big-ass pipette that he sticks under his armpit to squeeze and suck up the sap and then empty out in an old plastic bottle. The pulquero must be cautious and wear this leather forearm protector, as the maguey surface around the chamber is highly irritant to the skin. Like anything else a man treasures, he must groom and maintain the maguey. In this case, he uses a sharp wedge to shave the dried surface around the spherical sap chamber. But like everything else in this world, the Maguey does not live forever. After the plant is actually old enough to produce pulque (at about 8-9 years of age), the Maguey slowly dies after each offering of its elixir, lasting only about 1-2 years shortly thereafter. It is pretty sad too, the plant slowly droops and weathers, until its completely brown and decomposed.

Ok, ok enough with my chicano-pulque 101-Dissertation stuff, back to Los Duelistas!

pulqueria duelistas
Pulqueria Los Duelistas: Signage

So, somewhere along my three-year strong twitter neuroticism, I stumbled into the account for @LaPulqueria “Los Duelistas”. They post their flavors daily, one day it would be “Martes de Maracuya” (Passionfruit Tuesday) another day it would be Jueves de Tuna Roja (Cactus Fruit Thursday) and so on and so on. Day after day, I would be tempted by their pulques, only to realize I was thousands of miles away in LA. Well, not today!

The pulqueria is located just down the street from the “San Juan de Letran” metro stop on the green line. The Aztec-graffiti layered façade shows you the new school qualities of the place, while the Mexican saloon-style swinging doors demonstrate traditional Pulquete architecture.

pulqueria ambiance
Hey! Mexico has hipsters too!

At about five pm, the place was hella-cracking with local Mexican hipsters and rasta (dreadlocks) touting brown bohemians alike. Pulque attracts the roots-revering, conscious youth of Mexico. Nobody in the room was above 30 years old. Well, except for the seasoned old servers who hustled the drinks. But even then, the old man pictured on the facebook page sported his stud belt proudly as he reached over to take peoples orders promptly. Only two flavors (out of five) were left: a fluorescent green apio(celery) and a creamy avena (oatmeal). Late 90’s U.S alternative rock favorites were being bumped loudly. A pitcher of each please!

These flavored pulques are known as “curados” (cured) pulques. And they are made by blending the unsweetened sour-as-hell natural stuff with other pureed flavorings and then letting it rest for a couple of hours for the flavors to marry. The first pitcher to arrive was the avena flavored one. After pouring it out into the plastic cups used to drink it, I now knew why Anthony Bourdain best described it as “Ryan Seacrest’s love juice”.

oatmeal pulque
Cinnamon-sprinkled oat flavored pulque at Las Duelistas
pulque viscosity porn
Pulque viscosity porn

The cloudy liquid was as thick as the sickest loogie you ever coughed up in your life but yet tasted so heavenly. It was sprinkled with cinnamon and tasted like a sweet kefir-kombucha-yogurt-adult milkshake-super-drink hybrid. It is served at room temperature so its flavor and signature viscosity is wholly unabashed and thoroughly enjoyed. The celery cured one was a lot lighter and less sweet, I actually preferred it to the oat version for that reason.

I quickly guzzled mine and ended up drinking my friends leftovers of their’s too. Not to mention still ordered an uncured and unsweetened aka. ultra-sour “blanco” pulque to taste. They wanted to progress to the next bar already and drink beer already but I could care less. I ended up going with them and drinking three “Leon” caguamas through the evening. But even the dark, Mexico-only “Munich” style beer was no match for my pulque-lined stomach anymore…

otro pulkito?

Pulqueria Los Duelistas
Aranda 28, Col
Centro (entre Ayuntamiento y Puente Peredo)
Ciudad de México, Mexico
Tel: 5513940958
Twitter: @LaPulqueria

Huaracheria “El Huarache Veloz” (Mercado Ahuitzotla, Mexico City)

We touched ground at a little past midnight on Monday night. My dad had proposed sleeping at the airport until sunrise to go to Don Aurelio’s. “Ya va estar dormido” he contested, he didn’t want to be rude. Surprisingly, I convinced him to at least buy a phone card and try calling the guy to see if he was still awake. He was, we took a taxi, arrived and slept in beds actually. It was nice.

The next morning I woke up feeling weak and famished. My dinner the night before was a pack of roasted seaweed I packed as a snack, a complimentary shot of Cuervo aboard the airplane, and a banana with a ripe Mexican guava at Aurelio’s pad. But before I was to go hunt for streetfood. I had to go say wassup to Edwin “Beerman”, a friend I had made in the previous years of coming here. His mom has an estetica (hair salon) and I went in for a haircut three years ago…I’ve been friend’s with his family ever since.

Fortunately, Edwin and his mom hadn’t eaten lunch yet so she closed shop and invited me out for some huaraches. We walked down to el Mercado where these type of tasty eats–along with many other delicious others–gathered usually.

menuage
El Huarache Veloz Menu

Located on the corner space of the Mercado was an exclusive, little Huaracheria where the locals came to eat. They only sold huaraches, with whatever fresh topping ingredients they could get their hands on for that day. Today, they had salchicha (cut up grilled-wieners), bisteck (beef sirloin), Quesillo (Oaxacan unpasteurized string cheese), ham and fried scrambled egg. Along with the minimalist Sencilla, that is, only topped with only crumbly, salty wet cotija cheese and salsa of your liking, that is it.

The huaraches came about five minutes after ordering. I settled for the egg one since I never had seen that topping on a huarache before. Beerman went for the salchicha and sencilla.

huaraches

Huaraches can be found just about anywhere in this city. It is probably the most typical Antojito and makes a satisfying, quick wholesome lunch or dinner. Though, these huaraches were not the oversize, sloppy East LA ones I had been raised with. These were delicate thinner corn cakes, about 1/3 the size at least, golden-brown and crispy all around not just around the edges. They were stuffed with a scant layer of black bean puree, showered with a moderate portion of a salty, moist cotija cheese and then splashed with controlled amounts of tart-tomattilo green salsa and a Morita chile red salsa. Finally, it was crowned with a fluffy two-egg scramble.

huevo huarache
Fried Eggs riding a Huarache at El Huarache Veloz

I inhaled mine almost immediately and tasted some of beerman’s. I wanted to order one more but if its one thing I learned on these Mexico City trips it is to be frugal. Mexico-only treats loom everywhere in this part of city and I knew that Edwin and I had a lot of catching up to do for the rest of the evening. Meaning, many, many caguamas and Pambazo’s were in my near future…

edwin munching
Edwin Beerman Munching

Mercado Ahuizotla
Naucalpan, Estado De Mexico, 53000
Naucalpan De Juarez Centro