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A Culinary Trip to Mexico


docsconz
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Hey- is the tall grey-haired fellow from the CIA in St Helena? I know him from the farmers markets.

You have a good eye, Sr. Gordo. He is indeed. He is the organizer of these Worlds of Flavor trips and an absolutely great guy. He does an outstanding job. This was our second trip with him and I can't say enough about him. When you see him, introduce yourself and tell him I said hello :smile:

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

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Pulque Party: Part V: La Comida

You didn't think we would get through this party without a proper meal, did you? Even after I showed the photos of the dining room all set? Nah, I knew you couldn't have thought that. Of course we had a proper meal, but not until after sufficient lubrication from the tequila and the pulque. In actuality, the pulque is lower in alcohol than beer, so it wasn't really a factor. Let's just say that we were all feeling pretty darn good. This had been a truly delightful day and that was not yet over. We all filed into the dining room along with our host and members of his staff.

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Before and after

On the table was some guacomole while fresh blue corn tortillas were brought out and passed around

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The guacomole was the spiciest food we had had all week and it was spicy, actually too spicy for my taste with guocomole. I couldn't taste the avocado, which was a shame. Fortunately, those tortillas provided a welcome antidote. I also learned to never take the top tortilla as it acts as an insulator for those below it.

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Sopa con nopalitos, granos de elote y calabacitas This was a soup with little nopale strips, chicken, corn kernels and squash blossoms (it did not occur to me until just now how often we had squash blossoms on this trip. I guess I didn't notice because I get them only infrequently at best and I really enjoy them). This was excellent.

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Pollo Xochuca This was a house special variety of michiote with chicken. Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo of it unwrapped.

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Barbacoa de borrego This michiote was the one that Yolanda demonstrated to us earlier in the morning. The wrapper is parchment which plays a pretty good second best to the maguey membrane. The meat is lamb. In addition we were served sides of beans and rice in separate dishes.

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Requeson with Agua Miel Requeson is a ricotta like cheese. The agua miel was super-concentrated and possibly the single most incredible taste experience I had the whole trip. It was balanced like a world-class dessert wine as the complex sweetness was cut by just the right amount of acid. The combination with the simple cheese was just extraordinary. They had a few extra bottles and I managed to buy a small amount to take home. This was a real "WOW".

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And the band played on...

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The whole day was simply a blast. This day was probably the single greatest one of the trip for me.

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As we were heading back to mexico City the next day and had free time that evening, Marilyn kept us abreast of what we needed to know. She and Ana Elena did a fantastic job with the groundwork and their connections in Mexico and keeping things running smoothly.

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It was hard to leave the Ex-Hacienda de Xochuca. They really gave us a spectacular welcome in a truly beautiful spot.

We relaxed on the bus back to Tlaxcala where a free evening awaited us. My wife and I wound up going out with Yolanda, Consuela and Nati. They took us to a small bar with a singer where we had some more tequila and beer while singing along (mostly Consuela as neither my wife nor I knew the words) and dancing. It was a lovely end to a fantastic time in Tlaxcala.

Next: Back to Mexico City for our last day on the trip!

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

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Back to Mexico City

We had to leave Tlaxcala. That was difficult, but I was looking forward to returning to Mexico City. My wife and I had originally arrived in time to be able to check out the archaelogical museum before we met everyone to start the tour. The Museum was great. We wished we could have spent more time there, but it was not to be on this trip. The highlight of that visit, however, was watching a performance of bird dancers from Veracruz outside the museum. The climbed up a very tall pole, wound ropes around their ankles and then revolved off the top of the pole, rotating around it until they arrived at the ground. This is an ancient tradition that was astounding to watch.

We left Tlaxcala after breakfast on a comfortable modern bus with video screens. We watched most of the movie Frieda on the drive. My wife and I had seen it before, but it was awhile ago and watching it in our current context was great even though I really did want to sleep on the bus (ok, maybe there was some alcohol in that pulque after all!). :wink:

It was incredibly impressive when we opened the curtains after we finally stopped and saw the zocalo (main plaza) of Mexico City and its Cathedral.

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The Cathedral.

We spent some time together with Rick leading us through the ancient Mexica (aka Aztec) pyramid just a little ways off the teeming zocalo. His knowledge is astounding. After this we had a little free time to explore the area. We managed to see the Rivera murals in the National Palace and a bit of the cathedral before we had to meet back at the bus in order to have lunch.

This afternoon would be devoted tacos and their derivatives. We rode over to El Farolito to have lunch and ordered whatever we wanted off the menu.

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Unfortunately, without specific notes and this far removed from the lunch my memory for the names of the specific dishes is incredibly faulty. As a result I will simply post photos of the food. If anyone cares to identify the dishes, please do so. While not the most satisfying food of the trip, it was still tasty and better than most of the mexican food I have had north of the border. Here they are:

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This had chicharron and other pork in it.

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This was a cheese crisp much like a parmesan crisp.

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This was someone else's dish. It looked good.

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These were not all my dishes! :wink:

Next up: Our final evening in Mexico City on this trip.

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

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This has been a labor of love and respect. Thank you rancho_gordo and others who have expressed your support. I have but one more recounting post to make before I have been through the trip. I appreciate everyone's forebearance in dealing with my reminiscences. I am happy if some people have derived some enjoyment from this culinary adventure.

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

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A Night in Mexico City

As they say, "all good things must come to an end." This trip was no exception. Fortunately, it ended on a positive note. After we checked into our hotel, my wife and I took advantage of some free time to head back to El Centro Historico to view the murals of Orozco, Rivera, Sisquieros and others at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, before heading back to prepare for the evening.

Two old fallacies are that there is not good wine from Mexico and that good modern Mexican cooking does not exist. Another is that wine does not go with Mexican food. All of these fallacies were shown to be such this night.

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Wine Bar where we went for a tasting of Mexican wines before dinner.

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We tasted five wines at the Wine bar. As you can see that was a lot of glasses to clean. The white was Monte Xanic Vina Kristel 2003 from the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja. The grapes sauvignon blanc and semillon. This was wine pleasant but overoaked for my taste. Next was a rose, the Adobe Guadalupe Uriel 2003 also from the valle de guadalupe. This wine, once again, was nice, but didn't strike me as anything special. because of its good acidity, though, it might have proven much better with an appropriate food pairing. Vina Liceaga Merlot 2001 from San Antonio de las Minas was a typical supple merlot. This was a group favorite. Adobe Guadalupe Kerubiel and L.A. Cetto Don Luis Terra both from 2003 and both from the Valle de Guadalupe were morre interesting wines to me. These had some good depth, body and complexity of flavor. In addition, they had a hint of saltiness on the palate. They were not standard globalized wines. They had some individuality and character. While I wouldn't necessarily rush out to stock my cellar with any of these wines, they were at the least pleasant and fun to taste and at the best serious wines that I enjoyed drinking.

From the Wine Bar it was time for our ultimate group cena. The choice of restaurant for this event was one that interested me personally very much. It was the Restaurant Pujol with chef Enrique Olivera. I had read a number of positive comments about this restaurant including a number here on eGullet. Chef Olivares, a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park, is known to take traditional mexican ingredients and dishes and put his own modern spin on them. The restaurant is fairly small, but elegant. our group took up about half the place. After a nice tequila we dove into the set menu.

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Vuelve a la Vida or "Return to Life" wa a trio of seafood. Focused in this photo is a Cocktail broth with a delicious hearty scallop at the bottom.

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A skewer of octopus and shrimp

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Oyster with mexican Gel salsa. The gel reminded me flavor wise and texturally of sushi grade tuna. This was delicious. I think tuna would have been marvellous as well.

We drank Casa Madero 2003 Chardonnay from el Valle de Parras, a match that worked very well.

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Duck Magret Carpaccio This had a green pipian vinaigrette and mezcal foam. This dish, though fine did not rock me as much as the others. I couldn't really taste the mezcal and the pipian vinaigrette could have been a little more assertive. nevertheless, the dish was fine.

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Frijol con Puerco or poached pork loin with beans and yucatan oregano. This dish did rock me. It was my favorite of the night. The flavors were bold, delicious and complex and it was a fun riff on very classic Mexican foods. The Mariatinto 2002 from Baja was also a supple match for this flavorful dish.

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Chocolate Mousse with cumin, coconut and sour orange. This traditional dessert was given a lovely mexican twist with the added spices.

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A view into the kitchen of Pujol.

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Myself with Chef Olivares. He is an exciting talent doing interesting takes on a very traditional cuisine. It will be very interesting to follow this fine young chef's career.

In any case it was clear after this evening that some very good wines are currently being made in Mexico, especially in the Baja where weather patterns are better suited to wine making (rainy season in the winter and dry season in the summer), that thee is some excellent, creative modern mexican cooking and wine goes very well with that cooking.

The dinner was over and starting as early as that night people were beginning to go their separate ways. My wife and I had breakfast the next morning at the nearby Los Almendros, a much fancier restaurant than I expected it to be. I know some people have expressed disappointment with this restaurant here recently, but I had my huevos mottulenos and I was quite satisfied. As we were all packed up I did not take any photos. :sad: Indeed, it was time to return home to our family and to pay for this extraordinary (to me) trip. We left, however, knowing that as much as we did do, there was still so much more to see, do and eat not just in mexico City, but throughout Mexico. If therre were not so many other places in the world that i hope and wish to visit, I could see returning here frequently indeed. Even so, my wife and I do hope and plan to return to this beautiful country with its beautiful people and beautiful food before too long.

I appreciate the interest and patience that has been shown in this recounting.

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

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  • 1 month later...

May be a little late in the game here, but thank you, Doc, for sharing your experience with us and posting such amazing photos. I just read the entire thread start to finish (needless to say my productivity this afternoon is now shot) and I am amazed at what a rich experience that trip must have been. Consider yourself blessed and lucky to be able to take part in such a journey...

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May be a little late in the game here, but thank you, Doc, for sharing your experience with us and posting such amazing photos.  I just read the entire thread start to finish (needless to say my productivity this afternoon is now shot) and I am amazed at what a rich experience that trip must have been.  Consider yourself blessed and lucky to be able to take part in such a journey...

Thank you. I do. :smile:

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

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Well, I am, as the Brits say, gob-smacked. Not sure how I missed this thread. I'm going at once over to "favorite threads" and praising this to el cielo.

This thread is indeed heavenly.

Thanks for taking us all along with you on your marvelous journey.

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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  • 1 month later...

Hello Doc!

I know this is a really late response to this thread, but I just joined this week. I just loved this thread, so good of you to take the time and share with everyone. Getting to go with Rick Bayless - I'm green with envy.

I've been going to Mexico for years and it's so good to see it's outstanding culinary heritage finally getting widespread popularity and interest. I mean real Mexican cuisine, not the gringo-ized version we so often get here.

I went though Valle de Guadalupe in Baja wine country on my way to Ensenada a few months ago - what a sight! Vineyards as far as the eye could see. I found their reds to be better than their whites, but they aren't as experienced as Napa vintners, just give them some time.

This thread was of particular interest to me because I am in the process of leaving the corporate world and following my true passions, food and travel. I'm starting a culinary tour company specializing in culinary tours to Mexico (Caribbean later, with luck!) and your thread was so inspiring.

Thanks again and I love this forum! :biggrin:

Unfortunately, I will probably be spending time reading here instead of working!

Terri

Somewhere in Mexico...........

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Hello Doc!

I know this is a really late response to this thread, but I just joined this week.  I just loved this thread, so good of you to take the time and share with everyone.  Getting to go with Rick Bayless - I'm green with envy.

I've been going to Mexico for years and it's so good to see it's outstanding culinary heritage finally getting widespread popularity and interest.  I mean real Mexican cuisine, not the gringo-ized version we so often get here.

I went though Valle de Guadalupe in Baja wine country on my way to Ensenada a few months ago - what a sight!  Vineyards as far as the eye could see.  I found their reds to be better than their whites, but they aren't as experienced as Napa vintners, just give them some time.

This thread was of particular interest to me because I am in the process of leaving the corporate world and following my true passions, food and travel.  I'm starting a culinary tour company specializing in culinary tours to Mexico (Caribbean later, with luck!) and your thread was so inspiring. 

Thanks again and I love this forum!  :biggrin:

Unfortunately, I will probably be spending time reading here instead of working!

Hi Terri and Welcome to eGullet! It makes me very happy that you have been inspired by this thread. Mexico is a big and wonderful country with a lot more variety to it than most people from the US know. I know that I hope to become much better acquainted with it over the rest of my life. If there weren't so many other places I want to get a taste of too, I could see spending a lot of time there.

Best wishes on your new endeavor. It is a brave and wonderful thing to do. I hope that we get to read a lot more about it here on eGullet!

Thanks also to AzianBrewer and others for their comments both on this thread and via PM and email.

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

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Hola John,

You are so kind. And so right! There is so much out there, it's so hard to confine oneself to just one area, my head starts to vibrate if I think too hard on all the places I'd love to experience.

Following your excellent example, I'll post a commentary and pics of my culinary adventures as well! As I'm just starting, there should be plenty of misadventures to laugh at too. I'm working on Los Cabos and Guadalajara now, one tour at a time.

Anyone interested in Mexican cuisine should also check out their annual International Gourmet Festival held in Pto Vallarta every year in November, it's one of THE top culinary events in Mexico, attracting top chefs from all over the country and beyond (forgot to add, exhibiting chefs are by invitation only). I'm dying to go, but probably won't make it this year. :sad: And I so love Vallarta.

Best to you.

Edited by azchileheads (log)

Terri

Somewhere in Mexico...........

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Hola John,

You are so kind.  And so right!  There is so much out there, it's so hard to confine oneself to just one area, my head starts to vibrate if I think too hard on all the places I'd love to experience.

Following your excellent example, I'll post a commentary and pics of my culinary adventures as well!  As I'm just starting, there should be plenty of misadventures to laugh at too.  I'm working on Los Cabos and Guadalajara now, one tour at a time.

Anyone interested in Mexican cuisine should also check out their annual International Gourmet Festival held in Pto Vallarta every year in November, it's one of THE top culinary events in Mexico, attracting top chefs from all over the country and beyond (forgot to add, exhibiting chefs are by invitation only).  I'm dying to go, but probably won't make it this year.  :sad:  And I so love Vallarta.

Best to you.

Thanks for the link to the PTa Vallarta event. It looks to be very interesting. Can't do it this year, but something to keep in mind for a future possibility!

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

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The Merced

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Our group buying some of said chiles.

OMG That is Freddie Brash, easily the coolest Chef-Instructor at the CIA! He is easily one of the most talented Chefs at the school too! I would take a bullet for that man, no questions asked.

gkc

"When you love your land

You want to make it known to as many people as possible.

And to make it rich.

Gastronomy is a magnificent way to do all that.

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The Merced

gallery_8158_2659_25410.jpg

Our group buying some of said chiles.

OMG That is Freddie Brash, easily the coolest Chef-Instructor at the CIA! He is easily one of the most talented Chefs at the school too! I would take a bullet for that man, no questions asked.

gkc

Freddie is indeed a great guy and I understand how inspires that kind of sentiment. My wife and I recently met Fred and a couple of other fellow Mexico travellers for dinner at the CIA in Hyde Park. The esteem he is held in there was quite evident. The whole group really was outstanding with everyone having their own contributions.

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

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Really amazing, all of it, I am overawed. What wonderful wonderful looking food and ingredients.

Adam, I appreciate the comments especially given the amazing body of posts and photos you have contributed here on eGullet.

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

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  • 6 months later...

Wow, John. Amazing trip and photos. I actually go the opportunity to cook with Enrique Oliveras of Pujol at MAS in Chicago a few years back while I was sous chef there. He did a guest chef menu with us and his food was spot on amazing. Very creative use of Mexican food food luxury ingredients.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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