La Pulkata: Drinking Against The Grain in Guadalajara, Mexico

El Mariachi Loko
El Mariachi Loko

Of course, my first post after a two-month hiatus is going to be about drinking pulque in Guadalajara.

Is there a better way to decompress after finally applying to transfer to a university and finally (somewhat) writing for a living? I think not. OK, perhaps drinking some Tesqüino, corn booze, from Raramuri natives in Chihuahua? One day. For now, I’ll settle for this.

Although Guadalajara has contributed to perhaps the most popular craft brew in all of Mexico with its prideful “Minerva” beer. There are still some local pulqueria’s if you look hard enough. Google “pulqueria” and “Guadalajara” and one of the first hits you will see is a message on Yahoo Mexico Respuestas stating “no creo porque en guadalajara no son pulqueros, son cerveceros y tequileros.” Well, while that is undoubtedly true. There are still a proud few available to those who choose to chug the luscious fermented sap of the Maguey plant instead.

La Pulkata is a chill pulqueria in Guadalajara, one of two left in the whole city according to the guy who was serving us. La Pulkata located in a suburban part of town, on two small streets named Pedro Loza & Eulogio Parra. It’s still hard as hell to find with the nearest metro stop being a couple of miles away. But as soon as you spot an old toilet that has been transformed into a pot with a flowering Blue Agave plant with a hand brushed sign that reads “La Pulkata” in opaque paint – you’re there.

Padre Nuestro Pulquero
El Padre Nuestro Pulquero

La Pulkata not so much a bar or place to drink alcohol than it is a café to meet a friend and chat. The room is small, with a few tables and a sofa set before the main counter. The walls are adorned with those popular black and white portraits of thick-mustached Mexican revolutionaries like Pancho Villa sipping pulque, you know, those that make you wonder why pulque is almost extinct?

Some pleasantly fast Mexican Ska-core music will probably be bumping loudly on one of those old-school, blocky wooden consoles in the middle of the drinking area. Sit down anywhere, the easygoing young dude with sagged pants and frizzled hair will come to you and take your order.

The menu for “curaditos,” the cutesy name given to pulque that is blended with fruits, veggies and grains is hand written and is rather extensive. It includes flavors like carrot, peanut, oatmeal, jicama, cucumber, guava or just “blanco,” the pure milky sap served as is without anything added; sour, my favorite.

My lovely girlfriend and her friend acting as my drinking mates for the evening ask nicely if there is a way we can taste a little of all of them. A minute later, tiny “probadita” sized shot cups arrive to the table in pairs and sometimes trio’s. They show up as fast as the bar’s small blender in the back could whip them up. Each curado is blended only moments before so the fruit sediment is still floating around the inside of your cup when you receive it.

The server and one-man kitchen staff started me off with a blanco “na-tu-ral.” The sap tastes just like it did when I sucked it out of the Maguey myself in my tio’s rancho in El El Jagüey, Hidalgo. The taste? Hmm…well, something like the Indian probiotic drink, kefir but mixed with the acidic tinge of G.T. Dave’s “Green Algae” Kombucha then add the texture of the Korean, unfiltered rice wine, Magkoli? Even then, the flavor and texture is completely unique of all these things.

Next to the blanco is the unfermented counterpart of pulque called Aguamiel, the sweet, translucent juice before the sugar is turned alcoholic. Then the guayaba (guava), tasting more like a Mexican licuado or thicker version of an Agua Fresca made with the aromatic fruit. Then the cacahuate, thick and extra milky with blended roasted peanuts that tastes like a drinkable version of the Mexican candy, Mazapan. Every other curado followed this delicious pattern of tasting just like the fruit or vegetable or grain it was blended with right after after.

As per Mexican tradition when out drinking, a complimentary “botana” or snack is always available if you ask for it. The botana for this particular evening at La Pulkata was a plate of sliced crisp jicama and slivered cucumber with a tiny bowl filled with Chile con Gusanito, the dried chili powder mixture enlivened with the earthiness of Agave wormies.

curadito de cacahuate

After trying each of the pulque’s. I ordered a full cup (similar to the traditional “tornillo” size cup of the drink) of the peanut one followed by a cup of the natural, white one, extra sour.

Like beer, pulque is pretty damn filling. After tasting all of them and drinking two full tornillo sized portions, I was pretty full. Although, not really buzzed at all. Fortunately though, someone had just brought in some local raicilla for the bar to try. Raicilla is the other agave liquor made from the non-blue wild agave’s that grow around the Jalisco Mountains. In Mexico, we don’t have digestif’s but we do have sharp tasting agave spirits “para el desempanse.” Literally translating to “de-gut” your belly after eating a lot of food or drinking a lot of liquids.

Mezcal Sierra Mascota

And the raicilla did just that. It was called “Sierra Mascota” and it was the best I have ever sipped, tasting elatedly of tropical fruits like cherimoya and pineapple; not aggressive at all. I would of bought a bottle if it wasn’t the bar’s only one they had.

I liked the light curados and thin blanco’s here a lot more than the thick-as-hell, slimy ones that I had at Pulqueria “Las Duelistas” in Mexico City. But no matter what, there is nothing like sucking it out of the Maguey itself and drinking it at room temperature a few hours later.

Nonetheless, I’ll take pulque over beer, any day and any way.

La Pulkata
Pedro Loza 719,
Guadalajara, Mexico
44100
tel. 33306825
cel. 3310978086
mail. pulquimia@gmail.com

5 PM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday
5 PM to 1 AM Friday and Saturday

http://www.pulquimia.org/

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

Its Here: “Mexico Feeds Me: Exploring Mexico’s Culinary Heritage” My First Cover Story on Saveur Magazine

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Photo Credit: Todd Coleman

Its here.

My first 2,390-word cover feature for freaking Saveur Magazine, including 14 (painstakingly-acquired!) original Cabral family recipes and a 500 word “Kitchen Glossary” story on my favorite fruit, Mexican Tunas (prickly pears) …is out on newsstands nationwide now.

Read the full story on www.saveur.com if you can not wait, but please go out and buy the print edition and support the print cause!

What else can I say? Other than thank you to everyone who has read and supported me over these last five years of my coming-of-aging through food writing. A big thank you to everyone at Saveur that made this whole thing happen, especially James Oseland for granting me the opportunity and Todd Coleman for making everything look lovely. Check out his tasty slide-show on the trip, here.

It is the greatest accomplishment for me thus far in my twenty-two year old life to have my mother and father’s recipes from los ranchitos Zacatecas up there in the cuisine pantheon of the world. This article is a turning point in my life as I vow to keep following my dreams…no matter what. This magazine finally made my parents understand what exactly I do.

As I dig deeper into the craft of writing and discover myself along the journey, I hope all of you will be there next to me, both the new and old readers alike!

To many more cover stories in the future and a long life full of humble writing!

Salud!

IX Tijuana Tequila Expo 2009: 3 Day’s Straight

9th annual Tijuana Tequila Expo!

Tequila hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserves in my life as a Mexican American. Would had loved to enjoy it in an earlier point in life, but was always subdued by the smallest bottle of East L.A punk youth favorite: Jack Daniels, or even cheaper, despicable Popov vodka, both…straight swigs of course. In between songs in my back yard punk day’s, it would do the job.

My earliest memories of Tequila are of chilly Christmas or New Year’s eve’s, my mom’s side of the family would brew Ponche con piquete , a motley winter brew of anything sweet that grows (pomegranates, Jocotes, Guavas, Apples etc) on trees infused with cinnamon tea…along with a generous dash of Sauza blanco, that was the Piquete, the “bite”. I would never get a full cup but would always get a thirsty sip from my mom, only for everyone to laugh at me as I cringed and felt the vicious burn run down my esophagus and into my stomach.

It was time to record new memories (and fuzzy ones at that).

In these three day’s…it was time to learn bit more about my heritage, I knew there had to be some better Tequilas out there, right?

Thanks again to the strenuous efforts of the foodbloggero elder StreetGourmetLA, we were to spend three days and two short nights stumbling in the illustrious streets of Tijuana, Baja California, drinking and eating our way through town to better understand Mexican culture.

Considered an unofficial “Part II” of our earlier epic Tijuana foodblogger family trip that took place last July, this featured only the truly dedicated bloggers of the last trip, including Food GPS, Gourmet Pigs, Pleasure Palate, Kung Food Panda and Eating L.A, amongst some that only joined us for one short day. Even Chef John Sedlar of the popular Rivera Restaurant in Downtown was spinning inspiration from T.J’s great splendors.

A quick crash course in the art of Tequila.

By law, Tequila can only be made in the state of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan and Tamaulipas and Nayarit. Anywhere else, it can not be labeled Tequila. Nonetheless, Jalisco still controls the market since its one of the few states abundant in rich volcanic soil, perfect for growing the Blue Agave plants. Only after 8-10 years of caring and tending are the piñas (pineapple shaped base) ready to be pulled out, roasted, then extracted of its sweet liquid to be fermented into alcohol.

DSC06189
A fine example of a piña

When cooked, the Mezcal is also a popular inedible snack with a smoky, sugar cane like flavor and texture.
Mezcal

Knowing that I was stepping into a country where the legal drinking age was 18, I was determined to Carpe Diem–FULLY take advantage of all my temporary privileges.

tequila expo first booth oh yeah

Already, the first taste was a splendid sip.

los tres toños

Los Tres Toños Extra Añejo is aged for three years in bourbon cask and grown in the central lowlands of Amatitlan. This starter shot had noses of molasses and faint dried fruit with sweet Vanillin finishes, only the subtlest burn…not a bad start.

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Gimmicky sounding and labeling, but with a respectable taste actually.

Chamuco’s (“Demon”) Reposado brand, aged six months in white oak barrels with a 38 proof, this taste was quite straightforward with mostly spice notes, smooth, with no throat burn at all.

Per the wisdom of Streetgourmetla, a general rule of thumb is that the hotter the Tequila model, the worse the Tequila will be.

random models

As was the case with this random brand I can’t even remember, tasted like motor oil though.

The flavored Tequilas deserved some attention to, being a nice little sweet break from the hardcore tasting.

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A refreshingly tart pomegranate infused Tequila from La Pinta brand; lanky, girl-body background courtesy of my profused buzzness enhanced attention to girls.

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Feeling Fuzzy, not just picture–

Tequila con Jamaica was stronger than expected, keeping that sweet-tart flavor of it but with that renown burn.

Of the three day’s, the showstopper had to be “Volcan De Mi Tierra’s” Reposado, aged 6-8 month’s. A product of El Arenal, Jalisco, this was a definite underdog; an unexpected small producer with only an old man sporting a handlebar mustache at the table, no ditsy model or fancy engraved bottle in sight.

The nose on this was surprisingly light, not burning the inside of your nostril or making your eyes roll over. It smelled simple, herbaceous, like taking a small whiff of a stalk on a hot, dry day.

volcan de mi tierra

The flavor was phenomenal: a crisp, nutty beginning, a fluid, oak-y continuation and alas the sweet, elegant burn tickling your throat–not torching it.

An added bonus, some primordial Pulque!

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Cured with Guava: Multiple flavors usually available like Walnut, Tuna etc.
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br />Milky, viscous and tart in texture, Pulque was the original beverage of Mexico with it’s earliest records being 200 C.E, 1319 years before the Spanish conquest.

Originally, it was reserved as a purely ritual drink due to the Maguey’s sacredness, drunk only by priest’s and sacrifice victims to….yeah. It takes a maguey plant twelve years to produce the sap for this wonderjuice. Unlike Tequila which only uses the cooked heart of only the Blue Agave, Pulque is made with the uncooked whole Maguey plant, stalks and all.

It’s popularity has decreased severely over the generations, the introduction of European Beer basically killed it off, being given a ‘dirty and low class’ appeal when the first beer manufacturing plants started showing up in Mexico around the beginning of the 20th Cntury. Now, it’s almost completely forgotten.

It is really hard to find this authentic drink outside of Mexico City, Hidalgo and Tlaxcala states–at least the unpasteurized, thick, layered, legit stuff. They sell it now here in the states, but it’s pasteurized, sweetened and all that other usual stuff that’s done to American products.

Oh well, I fully appreciated it, getting a full glass cup of the luxurious stuff every day I went, and event taking a pint home, illegally.

layers of complexities
Just take a gander and behold the Layers of sun kissed complexities

Hasta La Proxima…