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! 

  

Barceloneta's oldest bar

In the small run down neighborhood of Barcelonta, two blocks from the Mediterranean, on a street corner, without an obvious sign to mark this gem resides Cova Fumada, the oldest fishermen's bar in the area. It's been over 200 years the Sole family have been runs this place, it opens around 11am and closes at 3pm, 1pm on the weekends, you will need to get on a non written list and hope you can get a table in less than 30 minutes. Come hungry but not starving, you will build up a healthy appetite waiting outside or at the bar, and my is it worth it.

 I started eating standing up at the bar, first came the nabajas, fresh razor clams that are seared on the plancha and served with a delicate buttery juice. Second arrived the artichoke, 3 pieces of medium sized halved artichoke, perfectly fried with crispy outer leaves and a soft center that melts in your mouth, a touch of spanish paprika and just the correct amount of oil to drip down the side if your mouth. Artichoke has always been one of my favorite foods, and as I was slowly pulling off chunks of leaves and biting into their flavorful soft bottom I couldn't resist an old family tradition and was placing the half eaten leaves in a flower form, surrounding the plate. This little work of art did't go unnoticed, as the plate got picked up (brother number 1) it was presented to the crew and I received a round of applause from the kitchen stuff (Mama, head chef and two of her grandkids). La chica de las flores was now my name, and when jose maria (brother number 2) asked where I was from I also got a loud "viva Israel" from behind the bar. I smiled and raised my second glass of red wine (poured straight from the barrel) and responded: "viva espana!". Immediate silence spread in this normally chatty little room and I could hear the red hot sensation down my neck climbing up to my face. "lo siento, lo siento", I quickly apologized, "Viva Catalonia" .. not a word.. I'm counting the seconds, feeling the razor clams climbing up my throat, am I going to get thrown out? Jose maria raises his beer half way, looks at me and shouts, "eso!!!!" 

I survived. What a rookie mistake…

My braided hair and flowery dress must have helped me dodge the potential disaster and I enjoyed the rest of my meal, over the next two hours at a table in the company of two Spanish men, both been living in Barcelona for over 60 years and been dining at this joint ever since they can remember. 

We were treated with extra care and kept eating uninterruptedly until the front doors were shut close.
I must have tasted 10 different dishes and that was barely half the menu ..
My favorites were the whole squid, marinated with garlic and paprika, then grilled. The gambas were so juicy and soft that if i closed my eyes I might have not realized I was eating shrimps.
The sardines (and here I must admit that though I often try sardines I usually can't go crazy for them) these were crispy and salty, with a strong fishy flair that was anything but overwhelming. The bombera arrived next, It was (according to Jose-Maria) invented in this bar and since been copied by everyone else in Barcelona, its a ball of meat wrapped in a dough, battered, deep fried and served with garlic aioli and a spicy salsa, I skipped on this one, trying to avoid the red meat, but from the faces of my companions, it was delicious. it sured looked, smelled and sounded delicious. I am going to make another assumption, that the fact they have a fresh trey with roughly 30 balls come out every 10 minutes is a good sign.
What else was there? Pan con Aioli, crab salad, Mussels, more artichoke and a lot of red wine. we finished this nearly 3 hour long lunch with espresso (the men had it with cognac) and I strolled out slowly, with a full stomach and a very happy heart.

This has been my most real food experience in a long time, and it felt refreshing and relevant.
The food was simple and fresh and for me that is always the best way to eat, the seafood comes directly from the port in the morning and there is no need to cover it up, its so fresh and flavorful and is cooked perfectly. 

If you get around this part of town look for number 56 on the south west corner of the plaza out side the market in Barceloneta, the name, most likely, won't get you far, but if you trust your nose you will find it, no doubt.

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...