Monday, March 31, 2008

Mexico In Review

At the beginning of 2008, we spent a fantastic couple of months traveling in Mexico. Below is an index of all of the blog posts from the trip, grouped by location.

Mexico City:
Mexico City

Mexico City
Mexico City - Salón Corona
Mexico City - Happy Chinese New Year!
Mexico City - Candelaria
Mexico City - El Vampiro
Mexico City - Bellas Artes
Mexico City - Slow Food Tamalada and Mescal Tasting
Mexico City - Some Miscellaneous Pictures
Mexico City - Views From La Torre Latinoamerica
Mexico City - Boating the Canals at Xochimilco
Mexico City - The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Post
Mexico City - The Red Tree House
Mexico City - El Huarache Azteca
Mexico City - Chapultepec Park
Mexico City - Tacos Al Pastor at El Tizoncito
Mexico City - More Miscellaneous Pictures


Oaxaca - Season of My Heart Cooking School
Oaxaca - Tamales at the Etla Market
Oaxaca - More Tasting at Etla Market
Oaxaca - Pipían
Oaxaca - Tetelas de Juxtlahuaca
Oaxaca - More Cooking Class Dishes
Oaxaca - Celebrations in the Street
Oaxaca - Mariscos La Red
Oaxaca - El Tlapanochestli Cochineal Farm
Oaxaca - Mexican Breakfast
Oaxaca - Anatomy of a Carnicería
Oaxaca - Mole Coloradito
Oaxaca - Dance Festival
Oaxaca - La Biznaga
Oaxaca - Some Miscellaneous Pictures

Both coasts: Puerto Escondido and Veracruz:
Puerto Escondido and Veracruz

Getting from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido (and back)
Puerto Escondido - La Vida Tranquila
Veracruz - Breakfast at Antojitos Lolita
Veracruz - Port of Veracruz and San Juan de Ulúa
Veracruz - Café Lechero at Gran Café de la Parroquia
Veracruz - Fish Market

And some more food pictures from the trip:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mexico City - More Miscellaneous Pictures

Jacaranda trees are all over Mexico City, and are in full bloom at the moment. The back courtyard of the Sectretaria de Educación Publica is filled with them. It makes for a great setting to view the huge number of Diego Rivera murals here.

Coconut filled candied lime from Dulceria de Celaya.

Preparing the set-up for tacos al pastor.

Rotisserie chicken is a big thing in Mexico. They serve up whole or half chicken on location or to go, usually accompanied by tortillas, rice and a little bag of salsa.

The corrugated tin exterior of parts of the Mercado Jamaica are covered with a large mural. The market itself is known for its large selection of fresh flowers.

There is a "Turibus" which does a roughly two and half hour tour of central Mexico City. We had heard good things about it, and planned to take it, but during Semana Santa it proved to crowded as all the locals with time off work turned up.

We stopped in at the Dolores Olmeda museum on our way to Xochimilco. It is set on the grounds owned by the late Dolores Olmeda Patiño, lover of Diego Rivera and lover of hairless dogs. In addition to a fine collection of works by Rivera and Frida Kahlo, it houses a collection of "Perros Xoloitzcuintles". The large one in the photo below is a statue. Thee smaller one is not.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mexico City - Tacos Al Pastor at El Tizoncito

Tacos al Pastor, much like the Greek Gyro or the Turkish Döner Kebap, are carved off of large cones of layered meat (usually pork). The yellow bit at the top is pineapple (a chunk gets cut off to garnish each taco), and the bottom is help up by large onions.

El Tizoncito claims to have invented Al Pastor. While they certainly have been around for a while, these days they have a hard time claiming much street cred - what with logo-emblazoned staff and a flash-heavy website.

Still, their tacos are pretty good. We had their "Pastor Al Centro", a combo plate with cebollitas (grilled small onions), chilangos (corn tortillas topped with frijoles and pastor), pollitas (flour tortillas with cheese and pollo al pastor) and tacos de pastor.

They also give you a very attractive and tasty assortment of salsas, along with chips and a nice warm bean sauce.

The taco de pastor in all its glory, garnished with onion and cilantro.

Here is a short video of the tacos being cut:

El Tizoncito
Tamaulipas 122
Col. Condesa
Mexico, D.F.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mexico City - Chapultepec Park

Covering 1800 acres, Chapultepec Park is a vast oasis in the center of Mexico City. We were there during Semana Santa, and it was packed with local families.

We climbed the twisting path up to the Castillo, erstwhile home of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota.

Atop the castle is a beautiful courtyard and gardens.

The castle now houses the National History Museum, containing numerous relics from its days as the ruling seat of the empire. It also hosts a number of large murals, including this one by (I believe) Juan O'Gorman featuring Benito Juarez:

Chapultepec is also home to the famous National Museum of Anthropology and History. It really is an incredible museum, but since we had seen it on a previous visit, we skipped it this time around.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mexico City - El Huarache Azteca

After shopping at Mercado Jamaica (we bought some Chiles Costeños and some Mole Verde en Pulvo - powdered green mole paste), we were getting hungry. Based on a recommendation from Good Food in Mexico City, we wandered north of the market to a side-street packed with Huarache joints and stopped at El Huarache Azteca.

Huaraches, named because they are shaped like the sole of a sandal, are masa pockets filled with refried black beans and then fried. They are then layered with a variety of toppings. Above is the Huarache Pueblerino, which boasts longaniza, nopalitos and queso fresco.

The other one we tried was the Huarache Granjero - topped with a massive slab of marinated, grilled chicken breast and drizzled with crema.

Both were good, but the Pueberino was definitely the winner. Here is a shot of their menu:

El Huarache Azteca
Torno 154
Col. Artes Gráficas
Mexico, D.F.

Mexico City - The Red Tree House

Located in the picturesque neighborhood of Condesa, the Red Tree House provided great bookend stays for us at the beginning and end of our trip. The house is beautiful and the owners are friendly and welcoming. With comfortable rooms and shared living and dining areas (not to mention the friendly house pooch, Abril), it is easy to feel right at home.

We will certainly be back some day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mexico City - The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Post

Any visit to Mexico City would not be complete without seeing the works of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Especially if your mother is a fan (mine is) and wouldn't forgive you if you didn't (she wouldn't).

First stop on our agenda was the Palacio Nacional, where huge murals by Rivera line several of the second-floor courtyard walls.

A closer view of a section of one of the murals:

Bellas Artes also houses some great works by Rivera. Below is a section of "Man, Controller of the Universe":

Another mural from Bellas Artes - "Carnival of Mexican Life. Dictatorship":

The Museo Mural Diego Rivera is a must stop on the edge of the Alameda opposite Bellas Artes. It houses a single, huge mural - "Sueño de una tarde de Domingo en la Alameda" ("Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park"), part of which is shown below:

But the absolute best place to see Rivera murals in Mexico City is the Secretaria de Educación Publica, a public building just behind the Catedral Metropolitana. It took us well over an hour just to see everything. I tooks tons of photos, but I'll limit myself to just a few here.

"The Capitalist Dinner":

"Entry into the Mine":

"The Embrace":

Ok, so this is mostly a Diego Rivera post, but we did see some Kahlo as well. While visiting Coyoacán, we stopped at the the Museo Frida Kahlo, located in the house where Kahlo was born and lived with Rivera until her death. While it doesn't house any works by the pair, it is filled with many of their personal belongings. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the museum.

When we were in Oaxaca, the Oaxacan Cultural museum had a fascinating exhibition of photographic portraits by Juan Guzman of famous artists in Mexico, including Rivera and Kahlo.

We saw a nice collection of works by both Rivera and Kahlo at the Dolores Olmeda musuem in Xochimilco, but again, no photographs were allowed. We also tried to see the famous "Las Dos Fridas" at the Museum of Modern Art in Chapultepec Parque, but it was not currently on display (the museum was well worth a visit, though).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mexico City - Boating the Canals at Xochimilco

Xochimilco on a Sunday was all we hoped it would be - a barrage of color and sound as groups of Mexicans enjoyed a beautiful afternoon on the canals.

Because there were only two of us, we didn't want to rent our own boat. Instead, we took a lancha colectiva (a shared boat) from Embarcadero Salitre to Embarcadero Nativitas. At only 10 pesos per person for a roughly half-hour ride, it was a great deal.

As you float down the canals, vendors in their own boats come by hawking their wares. This boat was selling cervezas preparadas (prepared beers).

In particular, they were selling cheladas. They have large plastic cups that they have pre-prepared by adding some lime juice and spreading chile salt around the rim. When you order, they take a large cold bottle of beer and dump it into the cup.

This is the result. Tasty and refreshing.

When we arrived at Embarcadero Nativitas, we had lunch in a restaurant called El Mirador overlooking the canal. We had Conejo al Carbon (barbecued rabbit) and Barbacoa de Borrego (slow roasted lamb). Both were very good - especially the rabbit, which had fantastic flavor.

This is the official price list posted at Embarcadero Nativitas.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mexico City - Views From La Torre Latinoamerica

Completed in 1956, the Torre Latinoamerica was, at the time, one of the tallest buildings in the world and the tallest in Latin America.

Located near the Alameda, it is well worth a trip to the top. You get a top-down view on Bellas Artes.

And a nice perspective on the Zócalo.

You can see the color-coordinated street vendors as they stretch out down the street.

When we were there a local scout (or some such) troop was having a ceremony at the top. Maybe it is where you get your "Conquering Fear of Heights" merit badge...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Veracruz - Fish Market

One of the places we hoped to visit in Veracruz was the downtown fish market. Unfortunately, it was closed at the end of January and moved to a new location. Apparently the vendors didn't want to go, and had to be forcefully removed by riot police. You can find more information here.

We went to the new market ("Plaza del Mar"), and were disappointed. It is a sterile, uninteresting location north of downtown. The fish stalls are not really inviting for public perusal, and while there were a number of fondas around, they had no customers. Unless things change, I wouldn't recommend going. If you do want to go, take a bus marked "Pescadaría" from the east side of Plaza de la Republica.

Fondas still exist at the old market location downtown on Landero y Cos, but they aren't faring much better. No customers to speak of - just annoying hawkers trying desperately to get business.

The only place we saw any evidence of locals in number enjoying seafood was in fondas in and around Mercado Hidalgo. Unfortunately, we didn't go there until our last day, and had already eaten, so we didn't try anything.

Update: I looked more closely at the link I posted above, and it turns out that the restaurants that used to be in the old fish market have moved to a new location - "two blocks from the Zocalo, between the Holiday Inn and across the street from the Post and Telegraph offices".

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Veracruz - Café Lechero at Gran Café de la Parroquia

Gran Café de la Parroquia is an institution in Veracruz. I took the above picture in the late morning when it was quiet, but come evening the place gets packed.

The reason people come is for Café Lechero. In essence, it isn't much different than cafe con leche/latte/au lait, it is more the presentation that makes Lechero special.

You are served a glass partly filled with strong coffee. The waiter then clinks on your glass with a spoon.

Another roaming waiter brandishing a kettle comes by and artfully pours a tall stream of scaldingly hot milk into your glass. It is quite the production, and the end result tastes good, too.

Here is a video I found that gives you a feel for the process.