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Street Food – La Gourmandista

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Categoría: Street Food

Barbacoa at Home: A Fancy Lunch

Nothing more obnoxious than a plate of cold food food when, in order for it to taste good, it ought to be warm. And this is exactly what I went through when encountering for the first time the traditional lamb barbacoa from the State of Mexico at the young age of eight. Still such a bright memory. My mom served me a portion with the plate full of the greasy cold meat while looking at me defiantly, almost sparkling firecrackers at a distance off her eyes. You all know what I am talking about, right? I mean, moms do that to their offspring, sometimes. The following 20 years, as I’m sure you can imagine, I wanted nothing to do with the popular lamb barbacoa.

I grew up and began to give food that I previously wasn’t fond of a second chance. Maybe my previous first impression of a dish could change now. I was right and it has become a beloved the dish. Something served at parties in small towns and prepared in different forms for weddings, Easter, and even family get-togethers. Now, I drive more than 100 miles to get the one carefully prepared by chef Cristina Martínez of Philadelphia’s South Philly Barbacoa.

Therefore, when she announced they’d come to DC, and orders for sale would be available, I quickly put my name in the list. I wanted to be among the fortunate ones so badly. Lucky for me, I was. I received an SMS the night before confirming my order. Now, I only had to arrive on time to the address in my message sharply at 11:00 AM. 

I woke up quite early since I had a dentist appointment. What was I thinking?, I told my self. Who in the name of God goes and gets anything fixed in their mouth before being able to taste these delicious tacos and believe it would be a good idea? That was SO stupid of me! Oh well! Half my mouth was numb. Fortunately I had no pain, I drove as fast as possible to arrive just in time at Rabaut Park in the Adams Morgan area of town. It was only necessary for me to find a parking spot.

15 minutes going round and round and nothing. I started to get worried and desperate at the same time. I didn’t want to end up losing my beloved package. My order wasn’t big, but it was lunch, and I had only had some fruit and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Round and round again, I finally found where to park the car. I ran and followed my Google Map to arrive in the least time possible to meet with Ben, Cristina’s husband, by his truck. There, he had all the packages ready and labeled for the craving souls who stared at them as the greatest treasures on the face of Earth.

I have no idea how, but I made it there. 5 minutes later I was about to receive my little piece of heaven in the form of lunch. I got the package, paid for it and headed home, but… where was the car? I started walking very doubtful of my whereabouts and hoping to find it without getting lost. Totally unsuccessful, about 30 minutes later and a bit tired of walking, I got to the car. Exhausted, but happy, I went home.

Upon arrival, there was fanfare. A few minutes in the oven for the meat to be warm and ready to eat. That memory of the cold barbacoa left a mark, so, let us all be patient for a little more time. Warm up the tortillas on the comal for a moment as well and serve with all the toppings on a platter for everyone to prepare their tacos as they like them. In bowls, we served the stock that goes on the side of this meat with rice and chickpeas. It’s a bit spicy, but Cristina makes is perfect for all of us to tolerate.

Finally, I have my taco. It’s warm, just as it should. The tortilla is not masa, but nitxtamal and her aroma gives the information away. It’s like going back in time, to my hometown in the 1980s. I bite it and you can see it in my eyes. I’m crying. They’re so good, they remind my of my dad, of my grandma, and even of my mama looking dagger at me. I reflect on it for a moment and come to the conclusion that giving a second chance to this taco was the best decision ever. Our first encounter wasn’t good, but now, it’s fascinating and I go wherever necessary to find it. The only requirement is for it to taste like my homeland.

Address: 1140 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA

Phone: (215) 694-3797

Note: Only cash payments accepted here. An ATM is available for withdrawals if necessary.

Mexico City: A Vibrant capital that’s Multi-Facetic and Always on the Move

Having left Mexico, even though I don’t know if it will be permanently or just an adventure that when it finishes I will keep in my memories, my heart, my experience, and obviously, in this blog, has made me conscious of everything my land has to offer and I didn’t notice, even though it was there, in front of me, every single day.

Today, I am sitting in one of those coffee stores which have become famous in my country because they are authentic, Mexican, and they lawfully compete with the green siren logo. I see pedestrians passing by, and just as any tourist in my own city, I ask myself for each one of those places a foreigner shouldn’t miss when coming to visit one of the planet’s biggest megalopolis: My dearest Mexico City.

Being here for a few days can be a whole adventure. There are many neighborhoods that make us travel through the country’s history. Hence, given that I was born and raised in Mexico City but who’s become a Parisian by choice for now, I think that coming to my hometown as a visitor demands that you don’t miss as much as possible by goint to many, if not all of the following places, for they always make me sigh:

Starting in the Chapultepec fence, you should walk through the forest and walk all the way up to the Castle -I think the least athletic visitors can also ride a small train up/downhill. I’m sure you will be speechless upon your arrival, for I find many opinions very similar to mine. This castle is just as beautiful as those in the Old Continent.

Now, I am not a zoo fan, but if you like animals, I understand we have a very beautiful zoo right there. My walk would then end by the Auditorio Nacional, where I would take the tourist bus to go sightseeing downtown.

The places I like visiting in the city center is the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), the Cathedral, the Templo Mayor (Main Temple), and why not, just walk with no specific direction through the pedestrian streets and walkways. If you have time, there’s always the option of visiting the MUNAL (National Art Museum), the Main Post Office, some of the churches in the area (I am personally fond of ‘La Profesa’), and even the Franz Mayer Museum. But the fact is, that there’s so much to see and visit downtown that I fall so short. I’m still missing San Ildefonso, the famous Canteen & Bar ‘La Ópera’. Oh God… Well, energy and time are so necessary here. But, the place one should definitely go in and see is the Palace of Fine Arts -if you have the opportunity to get tickets for a show, even better- and then, why not just promenade yourself through the newly renovated Alameda. It’s really beautiful. If not, you can always go and sing-along with the mariachis in Plaza Garibaldi or have a tequila shot at the Tenampa.

Another day, I would dedicate it to the Coyoacán area. Have breakfast at Los Danzantes or have a cup of coffee at El Jarocho, and then just walk around the plaza, the church, and end the stroll by the plant nursery.

In the afternoon I would go to San Ángel. I just went there for the first time, and just fell in love with it. You can walk for hours around the small streets of the neighborhood and end your day having drinks on the terrace of the San Angel Inn restaurant to later have a culinary delicacy for dinner in the main dining room in front of the chimney.

And then, what?

Well, then you’re still missing La Condesa. There, you have to go have some ice-cream to the famous Roxy soda fountain, where couples and families have been going since the 1960s and walk around the Parque México, where you can finish eating at a traditional quesadilla stand in the uniquely Mexican style we are very popular for. Of course, if you have the energy, you can go to one of the popular bars around the area. It’s not my style, but everyone knows about them. It’s just an option the visitor has, hahaha!

If a Sunday happens during your stay, take advantage of Paseo de la Reforma. It’s closed to the cars, so you can walk, skate or ride your bike without any risk of being run over. I think it is an initiative that even though it’s not popular among the city drivers, pedestrians get a break in the heart of the city, and what a chance for it to be before a cultural visit any local or foreigner should do at least once in his/her lifetime: The Anthropology Museum.

And that’s it?

Of course not. The city is enormous. But for me these are the ‘not to be missed spots’. The rest, I think it’s up to each visitor, depending on what you like, what you’re curious about, etc. The offer the city has in terms of concerts, theater, and in general, entertainment I feel it’s quite important in Mexico City, and one can always find something different to do more than just be a couch potato in front of the TV set.

Needless to say, that the list of restaurants here falls really short. I am missing so many, but I cannot leave without inviting you to the famous and well-ranked Pujol, Dulce Patria or Quintonil.

Last but not least, and hoping there is time in your program, I take my chances and recommend that you make the small journey to the Teotihuacán pyramids. Stroll down the Avenue of the Death connecting the Sun and the Moon Pyramids, the Mesoamerican Ballgame and end your visit at La Gruta restaurant, which as its name states, is a restaurant inside a cavern. There, you can freshen up with a cold Pacífico beer and get to taste typical dishes just as those which women of my grandmother’s generation used to cook for their families at home while pre-hispanic classical folk dances are performed before your eyes such as the Deer Dance. Also, remember and take into consideration that if you find a tour guide available from the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology) to have them tell you the story of the place, the visit will be twice as interesting. And this will happen not just in Teotihuacán, but in every corner of the city. I am sure you will find unexpected secrets of my dear Mexico City.