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eG Foodbog: Caroline


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Then we get to unpacking.  I bought some beans in the San Angel market for Rancho Gordo who will be arriving in a week's time to spend two or three days with me.  He probably has them already but here they are.

Wow! I knew about the black ones (and had a hell of a time with them here in Napa) but the red are new to me. I would almost bet money that the brown ones are what we call Yellow Eyes:

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but I've been wrong before. Actually, they could be butterscotch calypsos. Or brown vacaitas as you say.

Is that a stray Flor de Mayo among the brown vacacitas?

Yes, I do want to touch them!

I can't wait until we're breaking bread, er tortillas, together.

Yes, that Flor de Mayo had strayed in in the market and I thought I'd let it stay. On breaking tortillas, that's just what the ones in the middle in the photo (from the barbacoa place) do. Bad news. So we'll roll our tortillas together.

Rachel

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Then we get to unpacking.  I bought some beans in the San Angel market for Rancho Gordo who will be arriving in a week's time to spend two or three days with me.  He probably has them already but here they are.
I can't wait until we're breaking bread, er tortillas, together.

Ahem. :cool:

With jaymes, of course, who is integral to so many of my Mexican food adventures!

Do you think you will have time to take a class at María Ricaud Solórzano's cooking school? http://www.traditionalmexicancooking.com.mx/index.html

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Really enjoying the blog and totally appreciate your patience and good attitude with the image uploading issues. The tamal with spinach- was that the main flavoring or was there a protein component? The chicharron- oh my!!! Your thick glass with the blue rim I was surprised at- I am drinking out of one now. Thought it was a Baja Mexico thing, but are they common everywhere? I love how the thickness holds the cold and how the light plays through the blurry glass.

No protein content in the tamal. And whoops, I made another error, it's acelga (chard) not spinach (espinaca), though I doubt if you could tell the difference if you were blindfolded. I suspect the acelga stands up a bit better to the steaming.

The glasses are everywhere. I bought these in Mega, the big supermarket in town. You can get them in Wal-Mart too. I think there are producers all over the place, there's certainly one in San Miguel, a colonial town about an hour's drive away.

And this is my chance to say something about one of my favorite things in Mexico, aguas frescas, that whole tribe of lightly sweetened long cooling drinks of fruits, nuts, flowers, grains and so on. I am working on a project to have a different one from every week of the year and it's more than possible. I'm not fond of canned soft drinks so these are a life saver for me.

So shock when a Mexico City buddy and ardent NY Times reader,Ruth Alegria, calls me up and says that Mark Bittman has an article on eating in Mexico, and shock, he talks about the watery juices of Mexico. Hasn't anyone told him, she says, that juice is jugo, and that agua fresca is something different. Apparently not.

And this is my chance to say that if any of you want a guide to cuisine and much else in Mexico City, think of Ruth. Born in Nicaragua, owner for many years of a Mexican restaurant in Princeton, Ruth arrived in Mexico City to live three of four years ago. She really knows the city and the culinary scene. And she's one of the best friends anyone could hope to have. http://www.mexicosoulandessence.com/

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I know it will be shortly after this Herculean effort, but please consider documenting your time with Rancho Gordo - pics and diary!

Have you met before?

I'm just the drive. Rancho Gordo and Jaymes can do the work!

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Those tiny avacado's are really interesting. I have seen serveral books mention the anise flavour of avacado leaves, but to date none of the leaves I have tried have any of this flavour at all. Is it a variety thing or a location thing do you think?

Adam, I haven't the foggiest notion but I can ask around. What I can say is that my dog who avidly consumes our over-ripe avocados, spitting out bits of skin and the seed all over the garage, even though warned that the Aztecs fattened their dogs on avocados, would not touch these. I assume because of the strong scent,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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According to University of California's Agriculture and Natural resources site (the three avacado groups) The Mexican varieties have an anise scent to the leaves and the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties do not.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Now for something in real time.

Here's Don Bruno. He has taken care of my garden for ten years. I'll tell you more about him later but he's waiting for his lunch and I want to show him this before he goes.

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And here he is in his milpa (a flashback)

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And here's Emilia who works in the house. She's making chicken milanesa, rice and salsas for their lunch (and the salsas for us too). More about her later.

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Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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And here's Emilia eating her meal and looking at herself on eGullet.

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And here's Don Bruno doing the same.

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Ay Señora, que todo esta fama nos lleve suerte!

May all this fame bring us luck.

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Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Ay Señora, que todo esta fama nos lleve suerte!

May all this fame bring us luck.

that is wonderful and makes me well up a bit!

And yes, there will be lots of photos.

No to cooking school and San Miguel de Allende beyond a day trip. Too little time!

Rachel, with the whole Cervantes festival, would you say Guanajuato has a more Spanish influence than other Mexican cities?

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Two Mexican sweets that I adore are Flan and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding).

I think I could eat each almost every day. Not the nasty gelatinous flan found in many restaurants and packages in the supermarkets but the eggy, lightly sweetened home made kind.

Would you comment on why pan dulce is so much better when made in Mexico then when made in the USA? I've bought it in panederias here and it just doesn't have the same aroma and flavor.

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And this is my chance to say something about one of my favorite things in Mexico, aguas frescas, that whole tribe of lightly sweetened long cooling drinks of fruits, nuts, flowers, grains and so on.  I am working on a project to have a different one from every week of the year and it's more than possible.  I'm not fond of canned soft drinks so these are a life saver for me.

So shock when a Mexico City buddy and ardent NY Times reader,Ruth Alegria,  calls me up and says that Mark Bittman has an article on eating in Mexico, and shock, he talks about the watery juices of Mexico. Hasn't anyone told him, she says, that juice is jugo, and that agua fresca is something different.  Apparently not.

I just had occasion to spend six weeks in Michoacan, four of them with a family in Morelia. The cook, Chila, made a different agua fresca each day. And she would announce them in the morning: "El agua del dia es jamaica." And then later, the soup: "La sopa del dia es tarasca."

There was something about these announcements, and their accompanying solemnity, that made me smile. Not sure why. But she noticed, and from then on in, it turned into a joke. Everything was announced as being "del dia."

And, Rachel, I agree with you. I'm not a soda pop drinker, either. Far too cloying and sweet for me. Those cool, refreshing aguas are one of the best things about Mexico. But very far removed from "juices."

Chila told me that her secret for her exquisitely-flavored orange and lime aguas was to add just a touch of the peel.

And when a particular day's agua was a blend of various left-over fruits, she would announce, "El agua del dia es tooti-frooti." But never without collapsing in a wave of giggles.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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This is a lovely and fascinating blog. Thank you so much!

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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I know it will be shortly after this Herculean effort, but please consider documenting your time with Rancho Gordo - pics and diary!

Have you met before?

Thanks for the comment. And it sounds as if exploring the agua fresca world might just add a bit to those ways of drinking water. Rooting for you,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Then we get to unpacking.  I bought some beans in the San Angel market for Rancho Gordo who will be arriving in a week's time to spend two or three days with me.  He probably has them already but here they are.
I can't wait until we're breaking bread, er tortillas, together.

Ahem. :cool:

With jaymes, of course, who is integral to so many of my Mexican food adventures!

Do you think you will have time to take a class at María Ricaud Solórzano's cooking school? http://www.traditionalmexicancooking.com.mx/index.html

Thanks for introducing María, Farid. I've learned more about Mexican cooking from her than from anyone. Right now instead of nattering happily with all my eGullet friends I should really be getting on with translating her book on salsas. I think it could be foundational. The sauces are the basis of any great cuisine and they have a structure. Most books on Mexican cooking just give separate recipes and don't even take a lick at the structure,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Ay Señora, que todo esta fama nos lleve suerte!

May all this fame bring us luck.

that is wonderful and makes me well up a bit!

And yes, there will be lots of photos.

No to cooking school and San Miguel de Allende beyond a day trip. Too little time!

Rachel, with the whole Cervantes festival, would you say Guanajuato has a more Spanish influence than other Mexican cities?

Me too. I've had such a protected life. Here as in Hawaii, on the mainland US, the stories of people's lives, well, they make me well up.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Ay Señora, que todo esta fama nos lleve suerte!

May all this fame bring us luck.

that is wonderful and makes me well up a bit!

And yes, there will be lots of photos.

No to cooking school and San Miguel de Allende beyond a day trip. Too little time!

Rachel, with the whole Cervantes festival, would you say Guanajuato has a more Spanish influence than other Mexican cities?

Complicated. Guanajuato, like some of the other great colonial cities of Central Mexico such as Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, was founded in a place with only a nomadic population. In the case of Guanajuato, the predominant group in the eighteenth century were the Basques. But when the Catholic Church and/or the Spanish crown tried to take censuses by ethnic group the priests just wrote back and said, hopeless, I'm sorry, we can't do it. Otomis, north Africans, West Africans, were just some of the bigger groups here and intermarriage was, to say the least, widespread.

The after Independence the French became the greatest influence. Then came the English and the French and the Americans who owned mines, set up electric companies, etc.

Then in the Spanish Civil War there was a new influx of Spaniards.

In short, fewer indigenous influences than in the south. But as Mexican as tortillas and rice,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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gallery_8553_5278_60810.jpg

Brown vacitas (little cows)

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Aren't they glorious? Don't you want to stroke them?  And red vacitas.

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We buy the big brown blanket-sized sheets at a carniceria next to the within-smelling-distance bakery around the block. Southern folks finding fried pork rinds that take two hands to hold---Heaven.

And the vacitas---yes I DO want to touch them. Also memories of my Southern childhood, when dried beans of several colors were a fascination. Relatives had a little grocery store, and just inside the flappy screendoor, a rank of perhaps six or eight half-barrels were bolted to the wall, just hand-height. They each held an immense quantity of beans, and the colors and their cool slippage through my fingers and the slishy sound of them as they rattled back into the pile---I've never forgotten.

Uncle didn't seem to mind our grubby fingers buried in someone's prospective dinner, and he allowed us to man the silver scoops at will, but his first words to children through the door, repeated countless times in that cavernous deep-rumbly voice: "Don't mix the beans."

Put me on your mailing list so that I can read your memoirs as soon as they appear. I love all this, Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Great blog.  I have a question regarding a chain of restaurants in Mexico City.  There are called La Parrilla Suiza (The Swiss Grill).  We have a few in Arizona and I really enjoy the "Mexico City style" food there.  But I've wondered, since I really have no idea what Mexico City style should taste like since I have never been there, how are these restaurants regarded in MX?  Is it considered quality food or something akin to real-Italian-food vs. Olive-Garden-Italian-food? 

I really like the chuletas and their chicken soup is phenomenal.  The table salsas are the best in town (by my standards) also.

You have me there. I've never run across this chain in Mexico City. But then it is huge. Chicken soup is almost universally good in Mexico City. And I would bet that within a decade many Mexican franchises will give American ones a run for their money. Lots are experimenting now, and many are quite excellent, or at least I think so.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I have the general opinion that sweets and sweet dishes translate much less well from one country to another than savory dishes.  What do you think?

Rachel, I completely agree. Much as I love and crave and admire the cuisines of Asia, Latin America and India, I cannot wrap my tastebuds around any of their sweets and desserts. Far too different from what my experience says is "dessert". Perhaps its because sweets and desserts are so closely associated with childhood memories, and our own cultures and history?

At any rate, thank you for your gracious answer to my dopey question about the water, and I am TOTALLY loving your blog. Your writing style is a joy.

P.S. Any chance of doggie pictures?? Always a winner in my book :wub:

Well you have the doggie pictures. And now you've prompted me to finally post the sweet pictures. here we go, imagegullet willing,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Finally here is a post on the sweets. An eternity ago I talked about José Luis's book on sweets. What this means is sweets in the English sense, sweeties in Scotland, candies in the US. Here's the most famous candy shop in Mexico, just two blocks from the central square in Mexico City.

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If you haven't got used to overlooking my blurry, ill-lit photos by now here's your chance. The shop has been in business over a hundred years. The display counters came from DesPlaines which always amuses me.

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Display window done up for Day of the Dead.

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The interior.

Forget chocolate. Forget vanilla. The base of most sweets is boiled down milk, milk fudge. The flavorings are nuts and fruits.

Think the Arabian Nights, think the Nawabs of Lucknow, think the highest luxury of the courts of Europe who hired Spanish and Portuguese confectioners to teach them how to reproduce these sweets.

Forget children. Think gifts for monarchs, think gifts for the gods, think of the nuns in the convents creating these as the highest form of culinary artifice.

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Here you have a selection, some of them with little nibbles in the side where I haven't been able to resist. -Roughly from top left clockwise

Candied lime filled with coconut, coconut sweet made to look like an apple, sweet of red pine nuts, tastier than the white ones, almond marzipan pear, amaranth covered milk fudge, prune stuffed with milk fudge, tissue wrapped sweet, coconut sweet, pecans round milk sweet, spiraling in to milk fudge in wafers, egg yolk sweets of various kinds.

This is confectionery of the highest order. This little lot cost about $20. And they have very little shelf life, hence the nibbles.

Rachel

Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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According to University of California's Agriculture and Natural resources site (the three avacado groups) The Mexican varieties have an anise scent to the leaves and the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties do not.

Yes it seems that the Mexican sub-species Persea americana var. drymifolia has the anise scent and flavour. This doesn't mean that all Mexican avacados have the anise scent, for example Mexico grows a huge amount of Hass and this is likely to be hybrid of Guatemalan and Mexican sub-species.

How strong is this anise flavor? Could I add a some ground anise to guacamole to approximate the flavour?

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Two Mexican sweets that I adore are Flan and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding).

I think I could eat each almost every day. Not the nasty gelatinous flan found in many restaurants and packages in the supermarkets but the eggy, lightly sweetened home made kind.

Would you comment on why pan dulce is so much better when made in Mexico then when made in the USA? I've bought it in panederias here and it just doesn't have the same aroma and flavor.

Good to talk to you again. I agree that flan and arroz con leche are great desserts. In fact I think that the Mexican repertoire of desserts, candies, cookies, etc is greater than we usually realize but it doesn't fit American categories.

Glad you like Mexico's pan dulce. I haven't had much of it in the US, none come to think of it, so it's hard for me to comment on its quality. Here I yearn for the old days when lard was used. Now it's all Inca (or is it Aztec, Inca I think) shortening which makes Crisco look like the gift of the gods. I'm crossing my fingers that very soon some smart Mexican entrepreneur is going to figure out that instead of opening a trendy French bakery (OK I patronize them) he will open a great traditional Mexican bakery.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Great blog.  I have a question regarding a chain of restaurants in Mexico City.  There are called La Parrilla Suiza (The Swiss Grill).  We have a few in Arizona and I really enjoy the "Mexico City style" food there.  But I've wondered, since I really have no idea what Mexico City style should taste like since I have never been there, how are these restaurants regarded in MX?  Is it considered quality food or something akin to real-Italian-food vs. Olive-Garden-Italian-food? 

You have me there. I've never run across this chain in Mexico City. But then it is huge. Chicken soup is almost universally good in Mexico City. And I would bet that within a decade many Mexican franchises will give American ones a run for their money. Lots are experimenting now, and many are quite excellent, or at least I think so.

Rachel

Mexican franchises haven't yet hit Philadelphia, but Mexican restaurants sure have. Most of the new good ones are in the general vicinity of the 9th Street market, better known as the Italian Market, and I've said on several occasions that it's a fortunate coincidence that the national flags of Mexico and Italy use the same three colors.

Most of the restaurants are run by immigrants from the state of Puebla, who also now make up a good portion of the kitchen staffs in a number of Philadelphia's better restaurants. They are uniformly inexpensive, and uniformly good, though some of the dishes give gringo patrons pauze (cabeza de res at Taquitos del Pueblo, for instance). And they've introduced scores of Philadelphians, who up until now had only Tequila's (a fairly fancy restaurant specializing in Central Mexican fare) and Tex-Mex to choose from, to a wider range of Mexican food.

But all I've noticed in the way of Mexican foodstuffs -- largely from poking my head into the tiendas along 9th Street -- are new varieties of hot sauces (Bufalo, Valencia, El Yucateca...), new beverages (note to self: see if you can find aguas frescas locally), and Bimbo, which appears to be Mexico's answer to Wonder Bread.* The baking concern has decorated "Team Bimbo" cars cruising the streets promoting -- what, I don't know, besides the bread.

What might we expect when the franchisors figure out NAFTA and invade the US?

And pardon my free-associating on the restaurant name above, but I wonder whether you have run across the fast-food delicacy called the "quesadilla Suiza" anywhere in D.F. I had one of these at a taqueria in San Francisco's Mission District; as I wrote in this description of the day I ate San Francisco, it struck me that "quesadilla Suiza" was Mexican for "cheesesteak." Are they common street fare down your way the way cheesesteaks are up here?

One more comment: Your explanation of the ins and outs of using water -- along with your earlier statement quoting someone saying something to the effect that Mexico could build reliable water-treatment systems for just about all the urban population for what Mexicans spend on bottled water -- strike me as a prime example of the one-foot-in-the-First World, one-in-the-Third character of the country.

*Edited to add: And tomatillos. Completely forgot the tomatillos. They were unheard of a decade ago and ubiquitous now.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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According to University of California's Agriculture and Natural resources site (the three avacado groups) The Mexican varieties have an anise scent to the leaves and the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties do not.

Yes it seems that the Mexican sub-species Persea americana var. drymifolia has the anise scent and flavour. This doesn't mean that all Mexican avacados have the anise scent, for example Mexico grows a huge amount of Hass and this is likely to be hybrid of Guatemalan and Mexican sub-species.

How strong is this anise flavor? Could I add a some ground anise to guacamole to approximate the flavour?

You could. I don't think these tiny avocados are usually made into guacamole. Most people eat just the flesh or flesh and skin. The everyday avocado for guacamole is the Hass. There's a trend to add fruit to guacamole but it does nothing for me. Mash the avocado, add a spoon of salsa verde, and done,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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