Wednesday, April 27, 2011

dining in the halls of moctezuma

Yesterday's post about snack food reminded me that I have not yet related my culinary adventures in Mexico City.

I told you a lot about pretty women thieves, cathedrals, Aztec ruins, canals, archaeological treasures, art and "art," and dance.  But that was only part of the adventure in Moctezuma's former home town.

Mexico City, like any great metropolis, has numerous highly-rated restaurants.  I didn't get to any of them, but I did have a fun time eating my way through the sinking city.

Before some wag (and there are several in mind at the moment) points it out, let me confess.  Yes.  Mexico City was where my Olympian bout of "intestinal disorder" had its onset.

Was it something or someplace where I ate while there?  I have no idea.  But the chances are probably high that it was.  Chronological proximity is not always causation.  Sometimes, it is.

I do know my stomach is convinced that pizza is involved.  I tried to eat a piece in Salem after I had recovered, and one bite was my limit.

But my stomach also thinks there is nothing redeeming in hot dogs.  So, I am not certain I am going to trust its diagnosis.

Whatever the cause, I had three interesting eating experiences in Mexico City.  None of them come close to breaking into my Top Ten.  But they were each remarkable in their own way -- just like Tolstoy's unhappy families.

For fun, nothing outdid La Bodeguita del Medio -- a Cuban restaurant with good food and even better live (and very loud) music.  I had ropa vieja -- shredded beef in a creole sauce.

I love Cuban food, and that dish is a classic.  But it did not come close to what I get regularly at Versailles in Miami.  Not bad.  Just not outstanding.

But what made the evening so much fun was getting to know a large portion of my fellow bus tourists.  Cuban music and food (not to mention other lubricants) can coax even the stuffiest of northern European descendants to pull that stick out of their spine -- and loosen up.

And loosen up they did.  As you can see in the photograph provided by Ruth Hazelwood of Mex-ECO Tours.  Well, we did get a bit looser than this.

The best meal with grandmother overtones was served up by Cafe de Tacuba.  Our tour guide recommended the place.  But, more importantly, so did gourmand (and my fellow blogger) Don Cuevas

The place is a Mexico City tradition.  Both for its food and the decor of the restaurant.  If you never have a mouthful of the food, simply go to look at the colonial-era tiles.  It is impressive.  Don Cuevas did not sell me a bum steer.

I ordered tongue.  For me, it was not an exotic dish.  Both my grandmother and mother prepared it as a regular dinner.  Just like here in Mexico.  (Even though my preference is in sandwiches.)

When my plate arrived, one of my fellow tourists, who I do not recall marrying, asked me: "I wish I had ordered that.  May I have a piece of your tongue?"

By this point on our trip, most of my fellow diners had pretty much sized me up.  You could hear crickets in the park two blocks away.

Rather than take the cheap shot (and several flashed in front of my eyes), I held my tongue and let her have a piece from my plate.  Once again, good, but not outstanding.

But I have saved my favorite experience for last.  After visiting the art nouveau post office Porfirio Diaz left behind to Mexico when he fled to Spain, we stopped for lunch at Los Girosoles.  Right next door to the Mexican federal senate.

My usual routine at restaurants is to order something new and something I do not prepare at home.

The choice jumped out at me the moment I saw it.  Escamoles en salsa verde.  Ant eggs in green sauce.

I love anything with salsa verde.  And here was my opportunity for a symbolic show of support for my battle against the leaf cutter ants.  If they will not leave my garden in peace, I will eat their young.  And did.

The eating experience was neither good nor bad.  The ant eggs had the appearance and consistency of soaked barley -- those white pieces you often find floating in vegetable soup. 

As for taste, all I really noticed was the salsa verde.  And what is there to complain about that?

I eventually need to do a tour of Mexico City's famed high end restaurants.  And I will.

But I suspect my stomach has taken pizza off of the plate for some time.


Rick said...

Steve it was pizza that clobbered Andee (of Chacala) when she stopped at a chain restaurant like Piece a Pizza in Vallarta......horrible result.

Killer cheese is serious stuff.

M Cotton said...

Are you sure it wasn't the ant eggs that made you sick?

John Calypso said...

Wow you have had a lot of tongue adventures - licking your chops - my money is on the tongue getting you sick - I am sick just thinking about it.

Felipe Zapata said...

Man, high-end joints all around. If memory serves, Tacuba is one of those places that lay a cover charge on you just for sitting down, for receiving the honor of being allowed in the door. They call it something else, cubierto, but that's what it is. A cover charge in a restaurant!

I assume it's you in the photo in the black shirt obscured in the bottom left.

Tafreeburn said...

i think i've mentioned before that versailles is also my favorite cuban restaurant. we try to make it there every time we go to miami. i discovered la bodeguita del medio in p.v. but although their music was great, the food definitely did not match versailles. i too love ropa vieja but even though my mom used to make tongue, or was it pig's feet, probably both, i never dared try either.

on a different topic, we've just had our coldest april on record and it seems to me that it's been the rainiest as well, at least in the 18 years we've lived here. can't wait for summer. enjoy your beautiful weahter.


Don Cuevas said...

When you have more time to spend in Mexico City, you will find much better food. Preferably in a small group of friends, rather than on a tour.

As to what made you sick, ¿quien sabe? It could have been a sandwich on the bus, a buffet meal at a hotel, or a salad.
I hope that you washed your hands before eating. Tsk tsk.

We were in el DF last weekend and ate at only fine, upstanding clean places. (One only street food place, and it was hot consomé de borrego and a teeny taco de borrgo each.)

However, by early Monday morning, Doña Cuevas was sickish. Then once home, so was I . I think it came from an excess of rich foods, too many in quick succession. This time, we recovered quickly.

To Felipe: it's hard to escape cover charges (cubiertos) if you want to eat in better restaurants in the big city.

Don Cuevas

sparks said...

Cover charge without the band ??

tancho said...

Lengua is one of my favorite parts to indulge in. There are a couple of small taco stands in our mercado that do an excellent job of chopping that morsel. Anytime I have picked something up has never been from a stand type place but a big fancy cheap joint.
I rather cook it at home and use if for sandwiches and as it runs out, do a nice pasta dish along with tender chopped tripa....Italian style.

Steve Cotton said...

A fellow traveler had pizza at the same place -- with similar results. But no one else at my table got sick. Go figure.

Steve Cotton said...

Probably not. The time gap was too big -- days later. Even if they did, it was worth the symbolic gesture. I really dislike those leaf cutter ants.

Steve Cotton said...

I really love tongue. I was going to buy one to make sandwich meat until I found out how much work it is to prepare. On the other hand, I have nothing but time.

Steve Cotton said...

You correctly identified my left arm. I may have cropped the photo a bit. I forget. As I do so much these days. Locked the keys in the car twice this past week.

Steve Cotton said...

It is a good group. I ran across them while doing research before we went to the restaurant.

Steve Cotton said...

And I get to go to Versailles in just a few days. I fly to Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon.

Steve Cotton said...

I need to get back to Mexico City for a better food tour. One of my favorite experiences was sitting with Kim of Boston over a Coke Light. Friends tend to be the best ingredients for dinner.

Steve Cotton said...

My mouth waters again.

Kim G said...

You've named two, and shown a third one of my favorite restaurants in Mexico City.

Taco Inn downstairs from Los Girasoles, is, in the famous words of a good friend here in Boston, "Quick, cheap, and delicious." I highly recommend it for informal eating.

Los Girasoles also prides itself on offering "Nouvelle Cuisine a la Mexicana," and does a nice job. Lots of interesting stuff there. But I always wonder why it's not more crowded. I just hope it doesn't go out of business.

And Cafe Tacuba is indeed good, solid, and reliable, but not great. Still, the portions are ample, and I've never had a problem there.

By the way, a couple years ago in Taxco, F decided to order the escamoles. None of the rest of us dared. His reward? "Intestinal disorder" for the next several days.

Be warned.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we have a photo of a restaurant in Coyocan proudly boasting of its "Festival of Insects." Thanks, but no thanks. I'll leave them to the birds.

Kim G said...

You are too kind. But I enjoyed it a lot too!


Kim G
Where we also recommend Casa de Toño in Mexico City in Sta María de la Ribera.

Steve Cotton said...

We report only facts here. As Edith Ann would say: "And that's the truth."

Steve Cotton said...

Now you are working my mother's side of the street. It would have been a long time delay for the ant eggs to do their dirty work.