Mexico City is a fascinating metropolis and this was my second trip to this city. I have always been intrigued by the culinary side of the places that I visit and always try to go out of my way to find authentic places to sample the local cuisine.
I have always believed that Mexican cuisine is very misunderstood and often misrepresented abroad. Part of the problem is its association with Tex-Mex fare which is a regional variant and merits a separate distinction. True Mexican gastronomy starts with an appreciation for what the indigenous people ate during pre-Hispanic times followed by the contributions that the Spaniards brought creating a fusion of cultures in which food has become one of its most successful manifestations and culminating with present day reinterpretations of traditional cuisine by talented chefs.
It's hard to cover all the great food that this metropolis of about 21 million people and one of the largest cities in the Western hemisphere has to offer, let alone in a few days. The very few places that I had the opportunity to sample have given me an encouraging start and I have barely scratched the surface, but from what I have seen and ate, I will surely come back.
This is a great gem specializing in Oaxacan regional cuisine located in the upscale Polanco neighborhood.
I chose to dine outside al fresco.
I started with a drink made with Hoja Santa herb, chia, and lemon. A very refreshing choice.
The chief waiter was extremely attentive and brought me different salsas and condiments. I specially liked the black salsa con mole. Most moles contain at least 18 ingredients including chilies, nuts, seeds, spices and of course chocolate.
I then tried a Tlayuda which is a thin crispy tortilla with queso fresco, chorizo and tasajo (smoked meat in aromatic wood). Absolutely delicious!
One of the best restaurants in DF for traditional Mexican specialties with four branches across the city. I had a chance to visit only two - Alameda inside the Hilton and Palma in Centro Historico.
Even though the Alameda one is inside a hotel, I noticed that most of the patrons were well heeled locals the day I visited.
I started with a Molcajete which consists of artisan white cheese produced by the restaurant, served with slices of avocado in a salsa verde with hints of cilantro and onion. It has become a trademark of the restaurant and it is customary to start with one of these before a great meal at El Cardenal. The waiter brought me a basket of breads with the most amazing rolls that are crisp on the outside with a perfect balance of softness and chewiness inside. These could easily come from a great bakery in France. They were that good! The basket also included salty rosquillas and sesame crackers. A container with soft and warm tortillas was also brought to the table and waiters keep an eye for both baskets in case they run low.
Cuitlacoche or corn smut appetizer. This is a fungus that was revered by the Aztecs and has a slight crunchy texture with an earthly mushroom like flavor. Best when it is just simply done to appreciate all its qualities.
For the main dish I had Lomo de Robalo en Estofado de Hoja Santa - Sea bass in a creamy Hoja Santa sauce. Hoja Santa or Sacred Leaf is an aromatic leave that is rarely found outside of Mexico. It has a very complex flavor and has been described as a mixture of eucalyptus, licorice, sassafras, anise, nutmeg, mint, and pepper. The dish was served with a side of rice that complemented it perfectly.
This branch is located at 23 Palma St. housed in a beautiful historical building. I came here for breakfast and this time I decided to try some really exotic fare like escamoles or ant eggs and gusanos de Maguey or worms. It was an interesting experience and I enjoyed savoring both dishes. Service was extremely attentive and efficient.
Mixiote de escamoles con flores de Maguey Escamoles are ant's eggs which was considered a delicacy by the Aztecs. The dish was interesting and had a very delicate floral undertone.
Gusanos blancos de Maguey There are two types of worms - red which are smaller and the white which are meatier. I ordered the white ones and these were a revelation. They were very cirspy and flavorful.
And now something sweet……
Dulceria de Celaya
A lovely turn of last century building housing delectable sweets. The main location is at 5 de Mayo No 39, but there is also a branch in Roma. Confections are made by hand and faithful to traditional recipes.
Pasteleria La Ideal
Not too far from Bellas Artes on Av. 16 de Septiembre No 18 is La Ideal, Mexico City's most famous and ornate bakery shop. This temple of baked goods attracts a faithful Mexican clientele at all times of the day and its second floor with their glorious display of cakes for all occasions is a must for any visitor who comes. On the first floor where the baked goods are, you pick up a tray and a pair of tongs and pile up what you want. When you are ready to check out, bring the tray to one of the girls behind the counter. She will write you a receipt to take to the cash register for payment and then you bring the receipt back to the attendant to pick up your boxed or wrapped goodies. There are also counters for cookies (pasta seca), turnovers, whole cakes and desserts.
I took a private taxi from the hotel to the airport and the ride took about 20 min. I decided to arrive 3 hrs. before departure just in case the strikers wanted to block the road to the airport as they did a few days ago disrupting the travel plans of many travelers. Thankfully there were no incidents and I arrived with plenty of time to spare.
I went to the AS counter and there was already a long line at check-in. I went to the F line and inquired about an upgrade. Luckily there were still seats available and I was offered one for $108.00. Security was quick but my bag had to be opened for further inspection. The search was conducted quickly and the agent gave me the ok to proceed.
When I looked up for the lounges, I noticed that there was an IB one and decided to pay it a visit.
IB Sala VIP
The IB Sala VIP is located in the first floor beyond security at T1. When I arrived the lounge was empty and it remained that way until I left. The facility was festively decorated and it had a bar in the middle of the room. The lounge was divided into different sections and rest rooms were available inside by the reception desk.
Catering looked basic with a refrigerator containing sandwiches, yogurt, jell-o, pitcher of juices and salad components. There were also fruits, chips and candies in other areas.
My snack plate.
I spent some time at the IB lounge and afterwards I headed to the gate. Boarding commenced quickly and FA's offered pre-departure beverages and hung coats.
While taxing, I came across several Mexican airliners.
After take off FA's offered warm nuts with your preferred beverage. There was no choice for lunch and we were given a vegetarian wrap served with couscous. In the back, people were having beef burritos with cinnamon pastry twist. What dessert did we get in F? A chocolate. There is something wrong when the meal in Y is better than F.
Drink with nuts
French twist that people in Y enjoyed
The flight was very uneventful and we landed in LAX on time. AS always does a decent job service wise, but their catering needs to improve. A cold veggie wrap in F is not filling and at the least they should provide a choice.
Upon landing at LAX I noticed a UA 787 taxing, so I took a couple of shots.
Iberia VIP Lounge
Mexico City - MEX
Los Angeles - LAX
Alaska is a reliable carrier that provides decent service. However their catering on this intl. route is extremely disappointing. The lack of a meal choice flying in a F cabin is unthinkable and the meal that I received was cold and did not look very appetizing. Additionally a small chocolate does not qualify as dessert in my opinion.
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