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Food of the Yucatan

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#1 Caarina

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 10:09 AM

Next month, I will be embarking on a culinary/travel adventure with my best friend in the state of Yucatan. I'll be taking a day course at Los Dos Cooking school and then doing other travel around Merida.

Over the years, my cooking has focused on Central Mexico, Oaxaca and Veracruz. My experience with Yucatecan cuisine has been very limited. I have been using my Diccionario Enciclopedico (thanks, Ricardo!) to map out all the primary dishes and referring to my other cookbooks (DK and others) to really find the dishes not to be missed. I have now over 5 pages of handwritten notes! Since I will only be in the Yucatan 1 week, I can't possibly try everything. So here is where I need some guidance.

What is your favorite Yucatecan dish? Is it a must try in Yucatan?
Any restaurants/fondas in Merida and environs that cannot be missed?

I'd love to hear any recommendations/warnings people have.

Provecho!
Caarina

#2 Sneakeater

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 10:20 AM

It may seem too commonplace to say it, but Cochinita Pibil -- the all-time classic -- deserves its repute.

There's a similar dish (with a completely different name) made with cold shredded venison that's also great.

I had a dish of wild turkey in black sauce with eggs that I liked very much.

Edited by Sneakeater, 20 March 2006 - 10:20 AM.


#3 Sneakeater

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 10:22 AM

There's a similar dish (with a completely different name) made with cold shredded venison that's also great.

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And it's called . . . dzik. (Thanks, theabroma!)

#4 docsconz

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 08:53 PM

I managed to try a few Yucatecan dishes during my ttrip, but it wasn't in the Yucatan. I enjoyed tamales wrapped in banana leaves and the scrambled eggs with black beans. That was enough to whet my curiosity for Yucatecan food. Besides, I really enjoy saying the word "yucatecan". I will be very curious to read of your experiences after your trip.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#5 Caarina

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 10:06 AM

I have eaten Yucatecan style food in Mexico City, Cuernavaca and Veracruz. I have also made several of the classic dishes at home, but I have never been to the Yucatan myself.

The primary dishes I have had (which deserve their reputation) Cochinita (and Pollo) Pibil, panuchos, Papadzules, and sopa de lima. However, other dishes like Salpicon de venado, Tamales colados, torta del cielo, pollo en escabeche are high on my list of "must haves." From my reading, deer and pheasant are also highly prized in Yucatecan cooking. My friend will have to report on fish and shellfish dishes (I am allergic :angry: )

In the next few days, I will be transcribing my notes to indicate the primary dishes to share with the group. The cooking is seems to be an interesting mix of Mayan-Spanish-Lebanese-Cuban traditions. The spicing, with recados being the base, is fundamentally different than the rest of Mexico.

The Yucatan developed (or didn't develop in most cases) very separately from the rest of Mexico with their own traditions and history. It apparently is an old running joke in Mexico to call the Peninsula, the "sister republic" (la hermana república de Yucatán) as if it's not really Mexico. You can see the striking differences in the food as well.

Caarina

#6 docsconz

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 01:11 PM

What are recados?
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:18 PM

Oooops. You're right. I forgot sopa de lima -- one of the best soups I've ever had anywhere. (Right up there with Harirra.) Not that you need that from me.

Edited by Sneakeater, 21 March 2006 - 02:57 PM.


#8 ASM NY

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:32 PM

Of the Mexican foods, I think Yucatan has some of the most flavorful and contrasting flavors. For some of the classic Yucatan dishes:

Sopa de Lima

Papadzules

Panuchos (try the shark if you can)

Pollo Oriental

Cochinita Pibil

Pheasant


just to name a few
Arley Sasson

#9 Caarina

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 03:01 PM

Recados (also spelled recaudos) are spice pastes based on achiote (annatto seeds). Achiote comes from the Bixa Orellana tree and was used in prehispanic times for culinary purposes, dye and face paint. I have only seen achiote used in the Yucatan and further south into Central and South America. (for example, it is used extensively in Ecuadorean cuisine as a flavoring agent for lard and oil)

There are several types of recados and the spices vary based on ultimate use. (DK has recipes for at least 3 that I can remember off the top of my head-- red, black and all purpose "toda clase") The primary ingredient is achiote. Other spices used are black pepper, yucatecan oregano, cumin, cinnamon, clove, allspice, salt etc. For example, the reason why cochinita pibil has that vibrant red/orange color is achiote from the recado in the marinade.

Many families have their own recipes for recados that have been passed down from mother to daughter. Some families have commercialized their recipes as a cottage industry, and from what I understand, you can find small production recados for sale in the markets in the Yucatan peninsula.

Ricardo Munoz Zurita (here I am again singing his praises) has a wonderful book co-written with another author on the foods of the Yucatan called La comida en Los Almendros. It's half historical work/memoir/short story combined with recipes. Fun if you can find it!

Caarina

#10 docsconz

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 03:08 PM

Thanks Caarina. Yes, finding the Munoz books is the hard part. Even he wasn't able to get any for us in our group! I am looking forward to the book he is writing with Marilyn Tausend in English.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#11 Hector

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 04:27 PM

Is there anyone that has a good recipe for Sopa de Lima?

Edited by Hector, 22 March 2006 - 06:18 PM.


#12 Caarina

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 10:12 PM

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it can give people an idea of the variety of unique foods available in the Yucatan.

Antojitos/Corn based dishes
Tacos-- seafood of all sorts (escabeches-- light pickle and fiambres--fish in vinaigrette are very popular)
Codzitos-- flautas made from Yucatecan picadillo
Pim-- gordita with lard
Pibipollo-- Tamal in banana leaves with chicken/achiote/tomato filling
Dzotobichay-- chaya leaf tamales filled with egg and pepitas
Garnachas Yucatecas--- tiny sopes filled with picadillo and/or frijoles colados
Panuchos-- stuffed corn tortilla filled with frijoles colados and egg. Fried and topped with cochinita pibil or pollo en escabeche oriental and pickled red onion
Salbutes-- a small tortilla inflada topped with cabbage, yucatecan tomato sauce and meat of choice
Muk-bil Pollo-- Tamal de cazuela, yucatecan style-- chicken marinated in achiote/tomato sauce
Papadzules-- Tortilla stuffed with hard boiled egg served in a pepita sauce. Traditionally this is topped with hand extracted pepita oil and salsa de jitomate yucateca. A purely prehispanic dish.
Tamales colados (apparently very rare and labor intensive)-- strained masa is cooked in like tamal en cazuela and then steamed in banana leaves with chicken marinated in achiote. Served with tomato and pickled red onion
Tamales de chaya-- tamales in banana leaves. filling is totally mixed with chopped chaya leaves.

Soups/Stews
chocolomo--organ meats in broth
Sopa de lima-- chicken/lime soup
Puchero-- beef based soup

Platillos fuertes
Pipian-- made with tomato, epazote, spices thickened with masa;
Pavo en relleno blanco-- Turkey stuffed with pork, capers and olives in white sauce
Pavo en relleno negro-- see above but with black sauce
Pulpo a la Yucateca-- octopus in a tomato/green pepper sauce
Pescado en Tikin Xik-- grilled fish marinated in achiote and seville orange
Sierra en esabeche--fried fish in a light pickle
Cochinita Pibil-- pork marinated with achiote and other spices, traditionally cooked in banana leaves in a pit bbq
Pastel de Lujo-- Sweet/savory dish. A rice "cake" filled with yucatecan picadillo
Salpicon de venado-- shredded deer meat marinated in seville orange juice served with radishes and cilantro
Lomitos de Valladolid-- Pork in recado rojo with seville orange/tomato sauce. Pork is then used to make tacos.
Pollo en esabeche oriental-- cooked chicken in a light pickle w/ vegetables
Bola de queso relleno-- Gouda Cheese (from the trade with Europe!) stuffed with Yucatecan picadillo, then baked. Served in tomato sauce for tacos. (can't wait to try this one!)
Pescado Poc Chuc--grilled or sauteed fish served with x-ni-pek sauce and radishes

Vegetables and Side Dishes
Chayotes en caldillo yucateco-- chayotes in a light broth which includes bell pepper, raisins and almonds)
Ensalada de jicama-- jicama, orange and cilantro salad.
Frijoles colados-- cooked black beans that are pureed totally smooth. Traditionally these beans are also passed through a sieve (hence colados).
Ibis-- small white beans indigenous to the Yucatan.

Salsas
Salsa picante a la Yucateca-- firey salsa made with habaneros and lime juice. Served often with queso de bola
Salsa de jitomate yucateca-- Yucatan tomato sauce. Milder and served with all sorts of antojitos, papadzules, garnachas etc.
X-ni-pek-- very hot salsa made with tomato, red onion, cilantro, habanero and bitter orange juice. "hot as a dog's nose" in Mayan.

Postres
Mazapan de pepita-- Marzipan made with pumpkin seeds
Merengues Paseo Montejo-- Lime flavored merenges
Queso de napoles-- very solid flan with condensed milk. May be made with or without almonds and caramel
Torta del cielo-- almond cake which is sometimes flavored with anise.
Caballero pobre-- fritters in piloncillo/canela syrup

Breakfast
Huevos motulenos-- Fried eggs over a black bean stuffed tortilla. garnished with ham, peas, queso anejo and yucatecan red salsa
Huevos malaguenos--baked eggs with shrimp and oysters

Unique foods:
Longaniza de Valladolid- smoked sausage formed into short skinny lengths. Spicing includes achiote, oregano, vinegar, cloves, allspice, red onion, garlic etc.
Kol-- meat based sauce for Queso relleno which is thickened with roux and seasoned with saffron
Chile x-cat-ik-- unique yucatecan chile
recados-- seasoning pastes used in a wide variety of dishes which are based on achiote
Bread-- teleras or birotes are called "franceses"

#13 docsconz

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 04:14 AM

Papadzules-- Tortilla stuffed with hard boiled egg served in a pepita sauce.  Traditionally this is topped with hand extracted pepita oil and salsa de jitomate yucateca.  A purely prehispanic dish.

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Great, mouthwatering list.

I imagine the eggs used in this dish in pre-Columbian times were turkey. Do you know what kind of eggs are most commonly used today?
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#14 ASM NY

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 06:23 AM

Is there anyone that has a good recipe for Sopa de Lima?

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I have a recipe I can PM to you, it's not very complicated. The challenge, however, lies in finding some "lima". I have had a very difficult time finding lima outside Mexico. It's not lemon or lime, it's sometimes known as "sweet lime", and it's very fragrant and much milder in taste than lemon or lime. You can do the recipe as well with lime, but the taste is not the same.

Let me know
Arley Sasson

#15 Caarina

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 08:57 AM

In pre-hispanic times, I would think that possibly duck eggs (muscovy duck was in the new world) turkey or other bird eggs would have been used. Today, it's chicken eggs.

However, here's a strange thought--what about turtle or reptile eggs!? They eat iguana in other parts of Mexico... who knows! Turtle was/is very popular but now officially banned due to over exploitation. However, turtle eggs are still illegally harvested and consumed for their supposed viagra like properties.

#16 docsconz

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 09:42 AM

In pre-hispanic times, I would think that possibly duck eggs (muscovy duck was in the new world) turkey or other bird eggs would have been used.  Today, it's chicken eggs. 

However, here's a strange thought--what about turtle or reptile eggs!?  They eat iguana in other parts of Mexico... who knows!  Turtle was/is very popular but now officially banned due to over exploitation.  However, turtle eggs are still illegally harvested and consumed for their supposed viagra like properties.

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Interesting thought. I had totally assumed avian eggs. Still I was curious if the full pre-Columbian traditions had held sway. Thanks for your thoughtful answer.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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#17 nickarte

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 09:27 AM

The best Yucatecan food in Mexico City (and I have tried many places) is:
Coox Hanal
Isabel la Catolica 83, 2nd floor, near c/Mesones, (Centro Historico)

Did anyone mention Pan de Cazón? It is one of my favorite dishes...

#18 ASM NY

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:14 AM

The best Yucatecan food in Mexico City (and I have tried many places) is:
Coox Hanal
Isabel la Catolica 83, 2nd floor, near c/Mesones, (Centro Historico)

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Thanks for this nickarte, I have been struggling to find a good place in Mexico City since El Faisan closed, went to Los Almendros recently and was disappointed.
Arley Sasson

#19 Panosmex

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 04:23 AM

We had some Limas Amarillas or Sweet Limes here in Pátzcuaro late last Fall, and although the fragrance was tantalizing, I found the low acidity of the flesh disappointing in flavor.
Could well be that Limas Amarillas are the same as Bergamot Orange (scroll down)

Is there anyone that has a good recipe for Sopa de Lima?

View Post


I have a recipe I can PM to you, it's not very complicated. The challenge, however, lies in finding some "lima". I have had a very difficult time finding lima outside Mexico. It's not lemon or lime, it's sometimes known as "sweet lime", and it's very fragrant and much milder in taste than lemon or lime. You can do the recipe as well with lime, but the taste is not the same.

Let me know

View Post


Edited by Panosmex, 29 March 2006 - 01:46 PM.

Buen provecho, Panosmex

#20 ludja

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 08:07 AM

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it can give people an idea of the variety of unique foods available in the Yucatan.
...

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Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful and scholarly list, Caarina! It does indeed give a good idea of the unique aspects of Yucatan cuisine.

My mouth is watering and I'm sure your preparation will pay off in your trip---Have a great time. I need to make a note for the upcoming Munoz book, especially if it will feature Yucatan cuisine. I"m fascinated by the dish descriptions. Huevos Motulenos is a favorite egg dish of mine but that is nearly the extent of my experience w/Yucatan food except for some fresh and cooked habanero salsas.

I"m particularly intrigued by the various pickled/vinagrette meat dishes; the various salpicon. I really like flavor of habeneros as well, and the way it is combined with tomato and citrus.

Does anyone have recs on cookbooks (in English) with Yucatan recipes? I have a few recipes scattered throughout some Bayless books. Is there a particular Kennedy book to recommend among her many tomes?
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#21 docsconz

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 08:59 AM

We had some Limas Amarillas or Sweet Limes here in Pátzcuaro late last Fall, and although the fragrance was tantalizing, I found the low acidity of the flesh disappointing in flavor.
Could well be that Limas Amarillas are the same as Bergamot Orange (scroll down)


Is there anyone that has a good recipe for Sopa de Lima?

View Post


I have a recipe I can PM to you, it's not very complicated. The challenge, however, lies in finding some "lima". I have had a very difficult time finding lima outside Mexico. It's not lemon or lime, it's sometimes known as "sweet lime", and it's very fragrant and much milder in taste than lemon or lime. You can do the recipe as well with lime, but the taste is not the same.

Let me know

View Post

View Post


I don't believe they are the same thing. I have had Palestine Sweet Lime and Bergamot from Rising C Ranch. I too found the lime to be less than fully compelling. What makes it plausible in the dish though is the fact that it comes from the Middle East. There is a strong influence of middle eastern (especially Lebanese) cooking in Mexican cuisine due to some heavy immigration in the past. Tacos al pastor is a classic example of this and are essentially the Mexican Gyro. It is not unreasonable to think that the same lebanese immigrants (or others :wink: ) brought "their" lime with them to Mexico and that it would have found its way into this fusion cuisine.

That being said, bergamot might make for an interesting substitution, although the dish would likely be markedly different if the Palestine sweet lime was in fact the "authentic" ingredient.

Edited by docsconz, 07 April 2006 - 07:53 PM.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#22 Caarina

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 11:31 AM

Recados (also spelled recaudos) are spice pastes based on achiote (annatto seeds).  Achiote comes from the Bixa Orellana tree and was used in prehispanic times for culinary purposes, dye and face paint.  I have only seen achiote used in the Yucatan and further south into Central and South America.  (for example, it is used extensively in Ecuadorean cuisine as a flavoring agent for lard and oil)



Clarification-- I forgot when I wrote this above that pure achiote is used in Tuxtepec in Oaxaca as well. The achiote seeds are soaked, strained and then reduced to a paste. It is pure achiote essence. In the Yucatan, the recados are almost used exclusively.

#23 Caarina

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 11:56 AM

We had some Limas Amarillas or Sweet Limes here in Pátzcuaro late last Fall, and although the fragrance was tantalizing, I found the low acidity of the flesh disappointing in flavor.
Could well be that Limas Amarillas are the same as Bergamot Orange



That being said, bergamot might make for an interesting substitution, although the dish would likely be markedly different if the Palestine sweet lime was in fact the "authentic" ingredient.


Limas are commonly called "lima dulce" the Latin name is: Citrus limetta.
Link to photo here: http://www.flora-tos...a_patriarca.htm

I know it's in Danish, but they had the best photos!

Great site in Spanish on Yucatecan cooking with recipes! YUM
http://www.yucatan.c...iales/yucateca/

#24 Sneakeater

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 12:11 PM

There is a significant Lebanese presence in Merida, FWIW.

#25 Caarina

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 12:13 PM

Here are the photos for your viewing pleasure of Citrus Limetta


Posted Image

Posted Image

#26 Caarina

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 01:14 PM

I"m particularly intrigued by the various pickled/vinagrette meat dishes; the various salpicon.  I really like flavor of habeneros as well, and the way it is combined with tomato and citrus.

Does anyone have recs on cookbooks (in English) with Yucatan recipes?  I have a few recipes scattered throughout some Bayless books.  Is there a particular Kennedy book to recommend among her many tomes?


I think that the large number of cold and pickled dishes are a unique aspect of Yucatecan cuisine-- anything to deal with the HEAT!

I have seen some Yucatecan cookbooks in English, but I can't personally recommend any of them. I would use from DK, Essential Cuisines of Mexico and The Art of Mexican Cooking.

There are quite a few books in English on the Yucatan which I can find on Amazon, but since I have not personally used them, I cannot vouch for them. You may be able to try them out first at your public library.

Yucatan Cookbook : Recipes and Tales (Red Crane Cookbook Series) (Paperback)
by Lyman Morton, Michael O'Shaughnessy (Photographer)

Mayan Cooking: Recipes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico (Hardcover)
by Cherry Hamman

A Yucatan Kitchen: Regional Recipes from Mexico's Mundo Maya (Paperback) by Loretta Scott Miller

Foods of the Maya: A Taste of the Yucatan (Paperback)
by Nancy Gerlach, Jeffrey Gerlach

#27 ludja

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 03:23 PM

Thanks for the legwork on the Yucatan cookbooks, Caarina. I will scan my libraries to check them out as well as looking through those DK books again.
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#28 Caarina

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Posted 09 April 2006 - 03:28 PM

Taking off this evening... just a little disappointed. Los Dos contacted me and cancelled my class due to no available staff. (this is semana santa...ni modo) However, I do still have the Gastronomy & Liqueur tasting confirmed. I'll be doing gastronomic adventures on my own!

Will report back with photos and info.

Caarina

#29 docsconz

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Posted 09 April 2006 - 03:36 PM

Taking off this evening... just a little disappointed.  Los Dos contacted me and cancelled my class due to no available staff. (this is semana santa...ni modo)  However, I do still have the Gastronomy & Liqueur tasting confirmed.  I'll be doing gastronomic adventures on my own!

Will report back with photos and info.

Caarina

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Looking forward to it. Buen Viaje!
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#30 caroline

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 04:47 PM

I dunno. I'd be a little careful about two assumptions that are creeping into this list.

First that limas are connected with the Lebanese presence in Mexico. It could be. But limas are a specialty of Silao, Guanajuato. I could be proved wrong but I think that this goes back way before the Lebanese started arriving. And I am pretty sure it is not associated with a Lebanese presence there.

Second that salpicones and pickled dishes are a specialty of the Yucatan. They are very common in Central Mexico. They have just never made it into cookbooks for Americans.

Rachel
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