Pachuco – Guadalajara – Even the Salsas Were Spectacular

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The most interesting restaurant discovery on my recent trip to Mexico was Pachuco in Guadalajara. Located in a lively neighborhood dotted with popular bars and restaurants, Pachuco is a casual spot, but with very serious food.

The menu is wide-ranging, with something to fit any mood at any time of the day, and I wish I had spent more time in the city to try more of their interesting dishes.

At first, I was just pleased that the pretty waitress was paying attention to me, but then I realized she was giving me a detailed explanation of the 3 salsas she had just delivered to my table. That’s when I realized I was in a special place.

These were the 3 best salsas I have ever had.

The green salsa was sweet and oniony, made with serrano peppers and all raw ingredients.

The orange one tasted sweet at first, but the heat built up quickly. The chiltepín chiles and apple puree were responsible for that.

The red salsa was served warm, and had the smoky heat of morita chiles, and the ingredients were roasted on a wood fire.

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I had a wonderful torta ahogada as a main course, and two of the most creative ice cream flavors I’ve ever had, but I’ll tell you about those another time.

Here’s the address: Calle Morelos 1743, Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Phone:+52 33 3615 6191

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The Backlash to Mexico City’s High Line-Style Park

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It sounds as if the critics have a good point, but this could be one of the nicest urban park spaces in the world… Right through Colonia Roma, my favorite neighborhood in Mexico City. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

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Here’s the article from CityLab’s website… These photos are taken from the article.

80 Things You Should Do in Mexico City

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Here’s a piece I found on the website MXCITY Guía Insider. The photos are all from the website.

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I’m not usually a big fan of tour guides, but this is something special, with links throughout the article that provide a really in-depth picture of the huge variety of activities that are available in one of the greatest cities in the world.

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Divided into sections, the categories are:

Walking – with links to interesting places by neighborhood, including parks, monuments and spectacular views

Food – linking famous restaurants as well as interesting places for tacos and street food. It mentions Cafe Tacuba or Casa Cardinal, but also doesn’t forget the best ice cream and chocolate shops.

Night Life – with links to recommended clubs and other activities, from dance clubs, cantinas to hookah bars.

Shopping – from high end to the crazy rambling marketplaces.

Art and Culture – ranging from galleries and museums to weekend bazaars.

Magic Places – places unique to the city, including special gardens and parks, unusual buildings and picturesque plazas.

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Here’s the link: http://mxcity.mx/2015/05/turista-en-tu-ciudad-80-cosas-que-debes-hacer-en-la-ciudad-de-mexico/

Luis Spota – Paraíso 25

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Luis Spota had a remarkable career, first as a journalist, then a highly prolific novelist and screenwriter. I’ve probably read 10 of his novels, largely because I was captured by the extraordinary series in which he cynically portrayed the inner workings of Mexican power, politics and wealth in the 1960s and 70s. That series devoted several novels to the gradual corruption of an idealistic young cabinet minister as he jockeys for position, runs for, then is elected president, only to lose focus on what is really important. The series also included books devoted to some of the key players in the fictional power structure, and it stands as one of the most impressive bodies of work that I’ve read.

Several years ago, early in my explorations of Mexican literature, I read Spota’s Casi el Paraíso, which translates as Almost Paradise. Written in 1955, it was the story of a young man who grew up in the slums of Naples, but passed himself off to the highest levels of Mexican society as an Italian prince. The desire of the Mexican “aristocracy” to cut ties to their rough and tumble revolutionary roots, and to be recognized on an international level caused them to open their doors and their hearts to the young prince, without even the most basic due diligence. The book was highly entertaining, and focused on the foolishness of the most powerful members of society. Spota had a strict moral code, though, in which everyone seems to need a good comeuppance, Prince Ugo Conti notwithstanding.

25 years after his abrupt deportation from Mexico, 1980 by now, the young prince has become the middle aged Count Sandro Grimaldi. Surprisingly, the title is legitimate, as he managed to marry a Spanish countess, but was left out in the cold financially when she passed away. The Count becomes involved with one of Mexico’s “Juniors,” one of the young men determined to make his fortune by leveraging the wealth and influence of their families. In this case, the junior is the nephew of the incoming president of the country, and he knows he has exactly 6 years to make his fortune before his influence disappears with the next election.

Luis Spota passed away in 1985, so he won’t be offended if I say I had some trouble getting through this book. The characters are well drawn, and the Count’s back story is fascinating, but there really isn’t much plot to hang on to. The rich kid assumes the European aristocrat has access to huge amounts of capital, so he invites him to Mexico and gives him a whirlwind tour of the stunning magnitude of corruption that goes along with political influence in Mexico. It becomes a series of meetings with other rich or influential people, and descriptions of the outrageous schemes that they are planning. Lots of those meetings, and lots of schemes. After some 350 pages, the Count finally goes home, but with plans to return… That’s the plot.

The Count is never identified as the disgraced prince of 25 years ago, and there is no evidence that the president is party to the corrupt schemes, and there isn’t even any romantic interest to keep our attention. The book felt like a lengthy essay disguised as fiction. My hopes for a follow-up to the witty observational satire of the first book were not fulfilled….

But hey, it’s just one out of many great books by Luis Spota.

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Reseña prestada de Librería Gandhi:

Los personajes que nos indignaron en casi el paraíso vuelven renovados y con menos escrúpulos. El príncipe Ugo Conti, con otra identidad, regresa a México veinticinco años después para emprender una especie de revancha, al insertarse nuevamente en el mundo de espejismos y mentiras en el que viven los poderosos: pocos negocios tan rentables como lograr su cercanía. Sin pudor y sin límites, la -juniorcracia – se apoderó del país y toma las riendas de un juego en el que dinero y poder forman una urdimbre invencible. Paraíso 25 es un duro (y desgraciadamente vigente) retrato de la opulencia y la corrupción desmedida con la que se maneja la clase política mexicana.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos – Los Angeles

It seems that every time L.A. Weekly publishes a 10-Best list, they manage to include Ricky’s Fish Tacos. You know the lists – Best Fish Tacos, Best Tacos, Best Fast Food, Best Food Truck, and so on. Some publication even included it in a list of the best tacos in the United States.

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Having built up my hopes and expectations to supersonic levels, I recently found myself in the right place at the right time, and headed straight for the address I found on Google. I was a bit surprised to learn that it’s actually a food truck parked at a permanent address in Los Feliz. No problemo, of course, because some of the best food in LA comes from food trucks these days.

Service was very pleasant and quick, despite the lines of adoring fans, many of whom were placing enormous orders to take home to gatherings of friends and family. Then my number was called, and I carried my picture-perfect iconic fish taco and shrimp taco back to my spot in the cheerful row of picnic tables. I was bursting with anticipation.

My first bite was exactly what I was anticipating. The crunch of the batter, the flaky, warm fish, the taste and texture of the guacamole and salsa, and the refreshing garden flavors of the cole slaw… all brought together by the warm toasty/corny flavor of the hand made tortilla. My second and third bites were exactly the same. Perfect. As was the entire meal.

While I wanted to go along with the crowd, and declare Ricky’s the best fish taco ever, I was tossed on the horns of a dilemma. Yes, it was a perfect fish taco, but a fish taco is a very specific thing, and there really isn’t much leeway for variations. Either you get it right, or you don’t. I’ve had enough mediocre fish tacos to know the difference, but I’ve also had a lot of excellent ones – Ricky’s included.

So let’s take this as huge praise for Ricky’s getting it exactly right. But let’s also not despair, because even if we aren’t anywhere near Los Feliz, we may still be able to find a great fish taco.

Here’s the address: 1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
And phone number: (323) 906-7290

Rocío’s Mexican Kitchen

For some time. I’ve been a follower of Rocío Camacho, the Mexican chef known all over Southern California particularly for her excitingly creative mole sauces. She has worked at a number of Los Angeles area restaurants, bringing her distinctive style to each, but has never opened her own place… until now.

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Over the weekend, I was invited to AltaMed’s annual fundraiser, East LA Meets Napa, and was pleased to see that Rocío’s Moles de los Dióses was serving beautiful tacos featuring 3 of her signature moles. This is a restaurant in the Valley in which she is a partner. I love her Mole Poblano, Manchamanteles and Red Pipián, and went back several times before I had had enough.

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My surprising discovery at the East LA Meets Napa event was that Rocío Camacho was represented by another restaurant, Rocío’s Mexican Kitchen. When I tried her wild and daring combination of a classic Spanish Paella and a Mole Poblano, I knew I had to make a trip to Bell Gardens to see what she had on the menu.

The location was a surprise. It looks like an old-school burger stand, with a take-out window, and a small seating area. We forgot all about our surroundings when we saw the sophisticated Mexican menu, and made our difficult choices.

First up was a beautiful Aguachile, basically a ceviche dish, of fresh raw shrimps served with cucumber slices, avocado, pickled onion and a thick, earthy chile sauce. Spicy, oceany and refreshing. I ordered the pork ribs in a cheerfully sticky mango and habañero sauce. They were meaty ribs, and were served, another surprise, with Espagueti, a nicely cooked pasta in a green sauce.

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The star of the show was the Chile Relleno, normally a common comfort food, but brought vividly to life with a truly unique Mole Poblano. Of all the standard moles, it seems to me that Poblano can have the widest interpretation, and this was probably the most unusual one I’ve ever had. There was the expected smoky, earthy complexity of course, but there was a strong fruity component that made it truly special.

A lovely Flan for dessert, and a very pleasant staff made this an especially nice experience. I’ll be back soon.

Here’s the contact info. There doesn’t seem to be a website yet: Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen, 7891 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens, 562-659-7800

East LA Meets Napa 2015

AltaMed’s wonderful East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday evening, and once again, I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.

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The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. Once again, the event sold out early, as I’m sure it will next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.

As in the past, the event was held at Union Station. When I first heard about it, I imagined we would be dodging commuters who were headed for the trains, but the airy courtyard of this historic building provides for a free flow of guests trying out the interesting foods and wines, as well as those who came to dance to the live salsa band.

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Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable was the Cochinita Pibil from Doña Rosa, served on one of the most perfect tortillas I’ve eaten this year (for the record, I’ve eaten a lot of great tortillas this year.) Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen offered something daring (and delicious) by combining a Paella (the classic Spanish dish) with her distinctive Mole Poblano. Chichén Itzá, served their Yucatan special Panuchos, King Taco served, yes, tacos, and El Cholo once again brought their spectacular green corn tamales. Casa Oaxaca had people laughing about their grasshopper salsa… until they tasted the delicious flavor.

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There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Delgadillo Cellars and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit LLamas Family Wines, San Antonio Winery, Ceja Vineyards and others, but I can only cover a certain amount of ground in one evening. I have those to look forward to in the future.

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Once again, the event was flawlessly organized, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. My list of must-visit restaurants has grown (in fact, I’ve already visited one since Friday evening) and I’ll be sure to share my experiences in the coming months.

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