travel & recipes

Panaderia, second time around

Last December I was blown away by the pastries this panaderia makes, they are flaky and bursting with flavor, accompanied by a rich, smooth cup of coffee it's no wonder this tiny place is always full.

It's also no surprise I came back for round two..

This time I tried the Amaranth cookies, the mix of sweet and tangy cranberries, with almond meal, almond slices and the crunch of the grain makes for an addicting combination.

I had to pull myself away after the third one....
 

Panaderia, Colima 166 Colonia Roma Mexico D.F.

Mediteranean botanas for a Turkish fashion Show

In this epic journey to Mexico I have connected with many people, all from this magical fertile land yet so different, in their economic status, their culture and even the spanish they spoke. 
I have been undoubtedly blessed with a constant stream of eye opening, challenging interactions that led me to places I did not plan on going and meeting people I never anticipated meeting. One of these random connections was with chef Gustavo, the personal chef of Ricardo Salinas Peligo and now a dear friend.
As stories unfold, Gustavo and I met in Mexico City on my first week in town. Put in touch by a mutual friend, we met for dinner and talked about food, how different are cultures were and our mutual love to traveling, we talked about food the non existing limitations of flavors, we shared our ideas and aspirations all while sipping mescal...
It was a friendly conversation that ended with a promise to try and work together soon (funny enough we ate some Mediterranean knock off that night).
Four months went by and our paths haven't crossed again, I was nearing the end of my trip and Gustavo was heading to the coast of Spain on a private yacht when he called me and said "Mrs Salinas is hosting a fashion show for a turkish designer, I need to make middle-eastern botanas, can you help?", Can I ? Born and raised in Israel, tahini and falafel flow simultaneously in my veins, "sure I can", I responded and hopped on the next bus to DF.
We worked for three days, together with a team of four talented cooks who normally work for Salinas in the kitchens of TV Azteca. Simmering chick-peas for hours, burning eggplants and red peppers on open fire, rolling puff pastry and soaking sheets of filo with rose water infused honey syrup, recreating the smells of my childhood on a Friday afternoon in my mother's kitchen.
The result was stunning, we created a display of bite size delicacies (botantas), authentic and beautiful that have transformed guests at the BNG fashion show to the warm middle east in an instant.
Gracias Gustavo por eso oportunidad, y gracias a grupo de los talentosos y talentosa por la ayudarnos, el placer ha sido mío! 

  

La Sirena

Today is a happy day. The truth is, all days are happy, when you wake up on the beach in Zipolite... So today is an extra special day, because today Cecilia said yes!
She is gonna teach me how to make her beyond delicious Pozole.
I have visited her a few times before, and have repeatedly licked my plates clean, her food is indeed That good.
I especially like her mole, it's not like any flavor I tasted before. It has a deep flavor of cacao without being sweet and a rich mix of chilies and spices, creating a complex odor and a marvelous taste. 17 ingrideants are grind up together to make this mole, all according to her specific recipe at a moleria in Mexico city.

she serves it every day at her beach restaurant, La sirena.
Maybe if I'm lucky she will sell me some before I leave.

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Casa Mixteca, Hautulco

In my quest for good traditional Mexican cuisine I have encountered chef Gustavo, he has been moving all over the world for years, private cooking for the richest. Gustavo introduced me to Reina, who has been cooking in Casa Mixteca for over 20 years, for the many Mexican presidents that have passed through this incredible home and for it's current owners; the Salinas family. The house is located on a small mountains in the bays of Hautulco, and since the main kitchen was under constructions we cooked in the beach-house service kitchen. If that sounds like a downgrade allow me to clarify, the beach house sits on a small stretch of a private beach, and the kitchen is a chefs heaven, fully air conditioned and stocked with top of the line appliances, but the best part was the view of the windows.... 
Reina agreed to teach me some of her secrets and we got together for a day of cooking.
She moves in her kitchen flawlessly, despite her bad knee and a walking cane, in the kitchen she is a dancer.
She cooks simple food, with minimal amount of ingredients, nothing is fancy but all is beyond delicious. Just the way I like to eat, just the way I love to cook.
Mole negro, pollo con salsa verde, two types of ceviche, cochinita pivil, tacos de lengua, tamales, tinga and about 5 salsas. All in about 4 hours. I'm amazed and excited, taking notes like I'm possessed and can't stop dipping my fingers in the pots.
This is what I dream of when I decided to come to Mexico and learn the secrets of Mexican cooking, A mama that will teach me her ways, show me how to fold banana leaves and hand make tortillas.
I am blessed and thankful.

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My date with Isabel, part two

 

Second part of this fantastic experience with the very talented and extremely friendly Isabel.
Panuchos y empanadas
Pamucho is a corn tortilla, slightly dried out that is filled with frijole purée much like you will fill a pita bread, it's then dipped in hot oil and finished on the comal (a flat iron grill). It's topped with your choice of meat and veggies and topped with pickled onion.
Next are empanadas, freshly pressed corn and wheat tortilla is filled with meat or cheese and deep fried. It's served super simple with pickled red onion and cream.
I was struggling to keep the doughy from breaking in the process of transferring it from the tortilla press to the oil, of course Isabel makes it looks like it ain't no thang, and I foolishly thought it to be easy...
The end result was delicious, despite my repeated broken empanadas, and was even told I have gotten it down quicker than usual for a first timer.
Sweet!

My date with Isabel, Tulum

I am so lucky to have met this lovely lady ! Isabel owns a small food cart on a Main Street in Tulum, she makes everything by hand, fresh, every day and serves it to the hungry men and women, children and the occasional lucky tourist of the pueblo of Tulum.
She agreed to spend a night with me, teaching, explaining, eating (a lot, well at least I did..) and sharing her love of food.
She has been doping tis for many years, at least 7 or 8, set up around 7 pm, cook the night away, usually until 3 or 4 am, then clean up and pack. she rarely goes to bed before 7am, only to wake up by noon and start preppering for the next night at work. she does this 6 days a week.

We started with sopes, which happens to be my favorite thing on her menu, she grabs a piece of her hand made dough (word from her mom, it takes about 40 minutes to hand mix) and shapes a flat disc, place it on the plancha with a bit of pork fat and waits. You will see when it's time to flip it, she says, and so it is, the edges soon start to change color. Few more minutes on the other side and she takes it out, now comes the fun part, she quickly pinches it around while simultaneously turning it around to creat a well like shape, that can hold all that's coming next. Mind you, this little piece of dough is really really hot, straight off the comal, covered with hot oil, it's no joke, since she makes it look so easy I attempt to do the next one... I always thought I had high tolerance to heat when it comes to cooking but this experience showed me a different level. Isabel do wasn't even blink when she grabs them, I was making all kind of uncontrollable noises..

Next step is the goodies that fills this beauty up, start with puréed frijoles (black beans) and then raw diced cabbage, meat of choice, avocado, tomato and pickled onions. With a little drizzle of crema and a whole lot of love.

More on my adventure with Isabel soon...

Mexican made Chinese

It's 2 pm, I am in the parking lot of a mechanic shop, last night was spent in the front seat of this car I'm traveling with, after our water pump broke.. I'm hungry and it seems like my options are limited.. I can choose between pork, pork or pork...
Half jokingly I decided to go into the Chinese joint, with hopes of vegetarian meal and very very low expectations. The meal was simple rice with veggies, I got to choose between black or white sauce, "what's the difference?" I asked, "this one is black and the other is white", she answered.. haha, great! i'll take the black.
I had to try the Mexican version of Chinese food. It actually tasted better than I thought it will.

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Comida economica, palenque.

I am so thankful for this abundance! After a week of camping in palenque, with minimal cooking options (the wood is so wet all I can use is a sterno) and therefor lots of bananas and tortillas for breakfast, I'm finally eating a real meal !
This full plate of greens, rice, beans and eggs is making me so so happy! Its so simple, yet I'm drooling, and I get to drink a papaya smoothie, all for $40 (Mexican pesos, Claro).

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Cochinita pibil

On a cloudy day, spent up in the mountains of San Cristobal, roaming the streets with a couple new friends, we stumbled upon a tiny restaurant, 8 seats around one picnic style table.
The hand written sign suggested a combination of tacos, tortas and sopas, all with cochinita. My friends got so excited I just had to get in on it.
Cochinita pibil is a dish native to the yucatan peninsula, made with slow cooked pork that's been marinating in orange juice, vinegar and lime. Once it's cooked it is pulled into shreds and served with pickled red onions and a selection of salsas.
I am not a big pork lover and was hesitant about this, so I ordered a taco and a torta to start. The meat was so tender, juicy and full of flavor, the pickled onions compliment it perfectly and the salsa adds just the right amount of kick. Every bite was an explosion of flavors in my mouth, i had juice running down my arm and a giant smile on my face. This was so good I had no choice but to order another round.

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Street food of Oaxaca

I love street food, it's cheap, easy to find and usually full of flavor.
This goes for a lot of it, but I definitely have my preferences and tamales are high up on my street food list.
Oaxaca's mole tamales are delicious and come in 3 common colors, red, yellow and black, the yellow (which is actually more like orange) has been my favorite, its rich taste and creamy texture are the best. I especially like to get them from these ladies in the market, best $10 (mx) you can spend :)

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Coffee and pastries

I have passed by the panadería several times and was never in the mood for sweets, until today. I'm so happy I walked in.
I only had one of their creations but I will surely be back soon for some more. This pastry was one of the best most delicate things, it's originally called ocho (eight) and consist of two parts, one is a spiral filled with homemade raspberry jam and the other is a little pool of custard. Thanks goodness I'm not strict on the no dairy eating ;) this was definitely worth breaking this rule.

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Black corn tortillas, aka, negras

As the meals goes by, I realize how rare it is to not be eating meat here. I am constantly looked at with a smirk when I explain I don't eat meat, and often my odd request is followed by a giggle and someone repeating 'ella no come carne' ... Then I add, 'y no queso por favor'. Crazy gringos.
But not this lady, she and her husband spend every day from 8-5 at the street corner 2 blocks from my temporary abode making negras stuffed with chicken or pork and topped with her homemade, insanely spicy, salsas. On special days she will have some of what have became one of my favorite stuffing, flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) but today was not a super special day.... Too bad.
Upon seeing me she smiles, but unlike other food vendor that became familiar with my weird eating habits, her smile is sincere. She pulled out some fresh mushrooms and topped them with Negrito (the names can probably be slightly more original...). Negritos are small mushrooms that grows on top of corn and are harvested and added as a delicious topping.

In the 20 minutes I spent with them this morning I watched her hand press the tortillas from a bucket of black dough and then cook them on top of a big metal plate placed on a make shift grill. People will walk up and make special request, some want them to be stuffed with beans, some with cheese, some will pick up one of the ready made ones that are kept warm at the edge of the plate. Regardless of the order, she keeps on a semi teeth-less smile and a fantastic attitude. Gracias señora Gonzales. See you when I'm back !

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