Category Archives: Mexico City

Flock to the Shepherd -The Charismatic Taco al Pastor

Photo: El Califa, Mexico City
Photo courtesy of: El Califa, Mexico City

RUTA MEXICANA

Whenever I visit Mexico, there is an additional ‘layover’ between the airport and my parents’ home in a suburb of Mexico City. Stopping for tacos al pastor or ‘shepherd-style’ tacos has become somewhat of an unspoken ritual. Luckily, no matter the time or day of the year, my sister is always prepared with a roster of recommendations that she has carefully curated in my absence. Count on her to rattle off an impressive selection that includes taquerías open on Christmas Day.

Despite the fact that taco stands abound, not all tacos are made equal. Ask any local. Finding the perfect taquería is almost a rite of passage for defeños*, one that speaks to the way we connect with our city and beyond- a Mexican’s relationship with their pastor is emotional… personal.

Photo courtesy of: El Califa. Mexico City, Mexico
Photo courtesy of: El Califa. Mexico City, Mexico

When Enrico came with me to Mexico for the first time, he joined me in our recently established ritual. We visited a corner taquería where my family knew Chucho*, the taquero. Enrico was a little nervous as he eyed the cilantro and the onion piling over the tender marinated pork meat and pineapple. As a tourist who visits Mexico for the first time, Enrico asked me if the food was safe to eat. Trying to leverage whatever I could think of to reassure him, I said, “You will be fine. The taquero’s name is Jesus!”

He was an instant convert.

I have yet to find a perfect spot in Chicago to have tacos al pastor. Recently, I was crushed to find that some places serve them with cubed meat. I am on a mission to find a place I can recommend!

In the meantime, if you have the good fortune to be in Mexico City, you must check out El Califa. Aside from their outstanding customer service, they are famous for the way they serve the meat and for their freshly-made tortillas.

You will see why I think that this taco is king.

* Defeño is a Citizen of Mexico City (D.F.)

**In Mexico, Chucho is short for Jesús, which is a fairly common name

EL CALIFA 

Altata 22, Col. Condesa, Mexico City, Mexico 

Click here to find additional locations

Hours: Mon. thru  Sun. 1:00 p.m. –  4:00 a.m. 

Once Upon a Plate in Mexico: Fairytale Fare at Dulce Patria

Fish Pozole at Dulce Patria, Mexico City, Mexico Photo: Brenda Storch
Fish pozole at “Dulce Patria”, Mexico City, Mexico –  Photo credit: Brenda Storch

RUTA MEXICANA

Whenever I visit home in Mexico City, I wish I could bring it back in a suitcase. Perhaps this is why Dulce Patria resonated so strongly with me. I had limited time at home and many new options available to explore. After much research and careful evaluation, I decided to celebrate my birthday at this restaurant. Two main elements influenced my decision,  the fact that Dulce Patria is highly acclaimed chef Martha Ortiz Chapa’s latest creation; and the establishment´s name, which by itself is captivating. “Patria” in Spanish is what “patriotic” in English would be if it were a noun. How perfectly fitting. Dulce Patria spoke to the sweet home country I was physically returning to (I often wander it in my dreams), even if briefly.

Every detail at Dulce Patria has been carefully curated to create an extraordinary experience. Right in the heart of Mexico City’s financial district, an inside patio reminiscent of a hacienda, along with cacti-shaped sculptures, create a new  world. Thoughtful touches like starfruit slices in your water, edible flowers and dishes carefully plated on whimsical handcrafts, add to an environment created to make guests feel they have stepped into a different dimension.  I was moved to realize that somebody shared my sentiment: Dulce Patria is like a little piece of Mexico that has been taken for safekeeping: chef Martha Ortiz Chapa keeps Mexico in her heart.

Asphalt jungle outside, beautiful patio inside. Photo credit:  Brenda Storch
Asphalt jungle outside, beautiful patio inside. Photo credit: Brenda Storch

And from her heart she speaks and cooks: Ortiz Chapa draws inspiration from Mexican artisans, poetry and art, all ingredients of the edible stories she creatively and passionately tells through her food.  Her characters are popular dishes that can be either found in the streets of Mexico, or more elegantly presented at fancier tables. Says Ortiz Chapa about her protagonists, “estos platos son los héroes que nos dieron patria” (these plates are the heroes that have given us our homeland).

Photo: Brenda Storch
Bucket of pepitorias with chamoy salsa.  Photo: Brenda Storch
A twist on mole con pollo, mole con pato.  Photo credit: Brenda Storch
A twist on chicken with mole sauce: duck with mole sauce. Photo credit: Brenda Storch
Mexican folk candy on a whimsical handcraft. Photo credit: Brenda Storch
Mexican folk candy on a whimsical handcraft. Photo credit: Brenda Storch

Mentioning that  food at Dulce Patria is absolutely extraordinary feels like stating the obvious. Suffice it to say, that at some point during my meal, the gastronomic narrative of chef Ortiz Chapa began feeling less like fantastic prose and more like pure poetry.

Restaurante Dulce Patria

Anatole France 100

Col. Polanco

Delegación Miguel Hidalgo

11560 México, D.F.

Teléfono: 3300-3999

Fax: 3300-3955

Horarios: lunes a sábado, de 1:30 pm 11:30 pm.

Domingos: de 1:30 a 5:30 pm.

A Cup of Magic with a Hint of Baroque

Churros and chocolate at El Moro - Mexico, CityPhoto: Brenda Storch
Churros and chocolate at Churrería El Moro – Mexico, City, Mexico
Photo: Brenda Storch

     

RUTA MEXICANA

It was not by coincidence or like we say in Mexico, “de puro churro” * that Churrería El Moro was on my agenda as a place I had to check out this time.  I usually visit my family in Mexico City during the holiday season, which makes it almost impossible to make a stop at all the places I either want to go back to, or experience for the first time. This time around, I made sure to move this famous establishment to the top of my list.

I visited El Moro, like locals call it, on New Year’s Day, and I was particularly impressed to find quite a large group of people lined up outside. A look at the menu makes it clear- El Moro masters the alchemy of  churros con chocolate, and its simple menu has delighted guests for nearly a century.  Here you can find four types of chocolate differentiated primarily by thickness and degree of sweetness. These deliciously baroque concoctions have been simmering to perfection since this legendary café opened in 1935.

Churrería El Moro - Mexico City, Mexico Photo by: Brenda Storch
Churrería El Moro – Mexico City, Mexico
Photo by: Brenda Storch

The line moved quickly, and after a short wait, we were warmly greeted and escorted to a table by someone so cheerful to see me on a holiday, I almost felt like family.  I was delighted to have a front row seat to a performance, as churros were being charmed into delicate wheels of fried dough destined to vanish in a matter of seconds.

The city’s hustle and bustle are part of the décor and the overall experience of this urban, simple and non-pretentious locale: El Moro welcomes locals and tourists from all walks of life.

Growing up in a place like Mexico City, where you can find  a cathedral built on top of an Aztec building ( originally built on a lake that is no longer there), I anticipate magic whenever I visit. I have never been disappointed, and this time around, I drank magic in a cup.

*Literally translated as “by virtue of a churro” which means, “accidentally.”

El Moro, Mexico City- Mexico Photo by: Brenda Storch
El Moro, Mexico City- Mexico
Photo by: Brenda Storch
If you visit: 
Don’t be deterred by long lines if you encounter them, they move quickly. The area is busy, but generally safe. Exercise precautions you would observe in any major city. Consider getting your churros to go, as this is also an option.

Churrería El Moro

Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42

Centro Histórico

México, D.F.

Tel. 55 12 0896

Chiles Rellenos with a Twist

 RUTA MEXICANA

Photo Credits: Gerardo Hernández
Mexico City, Mexico
El Cardenal in Mexico City, uses chipotle chilis instead of poblano peppers to create an absolutely remarkable chile relleno dish.  The sweet and smoky taste of chipotle offers a very creative take on a traditional plate. The peppers are stuffed with a blend of two cheeses.
This restaurant makes its own bread, tortillas, cheese and chocolate; its a wonderful place for breakfast and  has many locations throughout Mexico City. This photo was taken at the Polanco location.
Reservations are suggested, but not required.
Not in Mexico City? No worries! Make your own chiles rellenos

Mexican Restaurant “Pujol” Among World’s Best

Find Chef Enrique Olvera´s Elotito Asado Recipe here and find out how you can purchase his new recipe book,                   “En la Milpa”.  Photo Courtesy of ¨Pujol¨.

¨Pujol¨ Francisco Petrarca 254  Polanco, Mexico City (01 55) 5545-4111

Just like movies sketch the reflection of a society in celluloid, Enrique Olvera captures a piece of Mexico in every single one of his dishes. Complex, surrealistic and magical, his cuisine catches the soul of an ancestral culture, and artistically presents it through the lens of modern, world-class gastronomy.

For those fortunate enough to be familiar with the extraordinary array of delicacies that make up Mexican food, Olvera’s flagship restaurant Pujol, offers a haute-cuisine take on a culture that bends time and overlaps the past with the present. Pre-Hispanic ingredients such as insects and chiles, interact with other elements through the alchemy of modern techniques to delight guests with a piece of this fascinating country.

For those of you with the impression that Mexican food does not go far beyond your chain burrito establishment, a stop at Pujol is a must if you are interested in experiencing authentic Mexico in one single bite.

Pujol is the first restaurant in Mexico to be inducted into the prestigious San Pellegrino List of the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants, by Restaurant magazine. The private, understated establishment is a treasure to be found in the heart of Polanco, Mexico City’s financial district.