Day Three in Mexico: Plaza de la Liberacion and Mercado Corona

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During the planning stages of this trip, I’d made sure to keep my third day open so I could take the bus to Chapala for the charreada, the Mexican rodeo. No one in Guadalajara could confirm that the event was actually happening though, and given all the changes in the local events schedule due to the mariachi festival, I decided to play it safe and spend the day in the city instead.

I had a leisurely breakfast at El Globo, a coffee shop near our hotel where instead of choosing from a menu, you take a tray and pick what sweets you please and get charged based on the items on your tray. My coffee didn’t come with fresh cream (only powdered!)and the frosting on my doughnut was sickly sweet:

Breakfast at El Globo

Afterwards, I walked around Plaza de la Liberacion, people watching and taking snapshots. Like all the other plazas in the neighborhood, this one had no shortage of impressive statues and fountains either:

Plaza de la Liberacion

Teatro Degollado faces the plaza, which is where I was supposed to have watched a folkloric dance performance that morning, except that it had been canceled due to the ongoing festival:

Teatro Degollado

I admired the view from outside instead, and began exploring outwards past the historical district until we came across a new market.

Mercado Corona may not be as big as Mercado Libertad, but it makes up for it with the best taco stand ever. I followed the golden rule of going where the line is, and twenty minutes later had four of the best (and tiniest) steak, potato, and bean tacos I’d ever tasted. My only regret is that I didn’t order more!

Hello, we are the tastiest tacos in the world

Encouraged by finding Tacos Don Jose, I looped around to Plaza Tapatia in search of more good street food. About an hour later, I hit gold again with a tamarind paleta:

Tamarind paleta

I spent the rest of the day taking it easy, but all that searching for good food makes one hungry, so I headed over to La Chata for an early dinner. I’d seen long lines in front of the restaurant the day before, so I figured it’d be a safe bet.

The tortillas at La Chata come with a trio of fresh salsas: avocado, tomato-onion-cilantro, and a mystery one that had strong tamarind and chili overtones.

Salsas at La Chata

I started with the queso fundido, which was mediocre and too heavy.

Queso fundido at La Chata

My main course, the Platillo Jalisciense, made up for it. It came with pan-fried chicken leg and thigh, pan-fried potatoes, an enchilada, flauta, and a sope. The sope was easily the standout:

Platillo Jalisciense at La Chata

It takes a few days to get situated in a new city and find where the good eats are, but it was worth the wait.

Day Two in Mexico: Mercado Libertad, Palacio del Gobierno and Chivas

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One of the main reasons I we chose to travel to Guadalajara instead of say, Mexico City, is because Guadalajara is home to the Chivas soccer club. It just so happened that they’d be playing during our stay, but more on that later. When I found out that the city is also home to Latin America’s largest indoor market, I was hooked.

Mercado Libertad, or Mercado San Juan de Dios as it is locally called, houses over one thousand vendors, and it is easy to get lost among the three intertwining levels. Each level has a different theme, with the top level selling mostly clothing and electronics. The middle level has traditional clothing, leather goods, hardware, and endless eateries offering mostly local fare, like birria and tortas ahogadas. The ground level was my favorite, as it houses the butchers, and produce, spice and sweets vendors.

Mercado Libertad

Mercado Libertad

I stopped for a quick bite at Mariscos Brisa on the second level and had a shrimp cocktail and fish taco. I wasn’t crazy about the cocktail, and forgot to take a photo of the taco, which was delicious.

Lunch at Mariscos Brisa

After buying some sugared tamarinds, I spent another couple of hours wandering around the market before heading over to Palacio del Gobierno, or the Government Palace. There are four huge plazas in the historical district, and by Plaza de Armas, the most impressive of the four, stands the palace. Inside, an imposing staircase and council chamber displays murals depicting Padre Miguel Hidalgo in the War of Independence. Like the murals at the Cabanas Cultural Institute, these were also painted by Jose Clemente Orozco:

Palacio de Gobierno

Staircase at the Palacio de Gobierno

Former Congress Hall in the Palacio de Gobierno

Back outside, it had started raining lightly, so I hurried to catch the bus to Estadio Jalisco in time for the Chivas versus Tigres game. By halftime, it was pouring rain and the players struggled to run in the slick mud and grass. The fans made it even more exciting – they kept up the cheering, chanting and drumming throughout the whole game, despite the downpour:

Chivas fans

Chivas won and I took a very wet bus ride back to my district. By the time I arrived near our hotel, all the restaurants had closed so we settled for a late-night hot dog and nachos from the 7-11 down the block.
It may have not been adventurous eating, but at least I put lime with ketchup on my hotdog. I try!

Day One in Mexico: Hospicio Cabanas

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If it seems like I’ve abandoned my blog, I haven’t. The past few weeks have been incredibly hectic, with a trip to the state of Jalisco, Mexico sandwiched right in between. I had been planning for a few months, and though my passport renewal hadn’t yet arrived (thank God for the temporary lift on passport requirements to the region), I took a red-eye flight to Guadalajara anticipating nine jam-packed days of musueums, distilleries, mercados, futbol, and the ocassional adventure or two. I’ll be documenting the trip here, so the cooking entries will be postponed for a bit. But don’t despair – I took plenty of food photos in Mexico!

I was starving after the flight, long line through customs, and cab ride to the hotel, but my first meal was pretty disappointing. Exhausted and groggy, I stumbled a few doors down my hotel to Restaurant Bar Familiar, a dimly-lit space with more liquor options on its menu than food. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign, as my camarones al mojo de ajo was more like a plate of overcooked shrimp with bacon bits and mushy, unpleasantly sweet rice on the side:

Resturant Bar Familiar

After lunch I walked back to where I was staying, Hotel Frances. Built in 1610, it is Guadajalara’s oldest hotel and a national monument. Despite the noise from the street and the late-night mariachi music from the downstairs bar, its charm was worth the stay:

Hotel Frances

And the views weren’t bad either. Directly across the street from the balcony was the Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace), hence the police cars parked outside every day:

View from our window

After a short nap, I started exploring the city, starting with a walk through Plaza Tapatia. The plaza, like so many others throughout the Centro Historico, boasts a number of beautiful fountains, not to mention lots of mariachi, since I happened to be in town for the annual International Mariachi Festival.

Plaza Tapatia

Plaza Tapatia

I ended up at Hospicio Cabanas, or Cabanas Cultural Institute, one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in Latin America, founded in 1791. Today, it houses a wealth of art, including Jose Clemente Orozco’s allegory of The Man on Fire, a series of huge frescoes created during 1936-39. Painted following the Mexican Revolution, Orozco’s socially-charged murals are all over Guadalajara’s public places.

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

I was hungry after all that exploring, so I stopped for dinner at El Mexicano Restaurant Bar. It looked promising, I swear. I was dreaming of grilled beef, burned ever so slightly at the tips for that perfect charred flavor. Instead I got a sorry, withered plate of what looked like steak:

El Mexicano Resturant Bar

I may have had some trouble finding good eats on our first day in Guadalajara, but our search eventually unearthed some gems. It turned out to be a pretty delicious trip after all.

Oven-Roasted Snow Crab

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One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is the multitude of Asian grocers boasting an abundant and varied supply of seafood. (I’ve even seen soft-shell crabs and razor clams around!) When I visited recently, they were out of the Dungeness that I was looking for, so I bought snow crab claws instead for my oven roasted crab recipe. I was thrilled with the results – delicious and oh so simple to make!

Oven-roasted snow crab

Ingredients:

2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1/2 T minced shallot
1 t dried crushed red pepper
1 lb snow crab claws
1 T chopped fresh thyme
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup orange juice
1 t finely grated orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 500F. Melt butter with oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, shallot and red pepper. Add crab; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle thyme and parsley over crab. Stir to combine. Place skillet in oven and roast crab until heated through, about 10 minutes.

2. Transfer crab to platter. Add orange juice and peel to same skillet; boil until sauce is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over crabs and serve.

Crepes with Carmelized Apples, Rum Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

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i don’t make desserts often, partially because i don’t have much of a sweet tooth and partially because i usually second guess my method if i’m baking. but every once in a while, i stumble across a recipe that instantly becomes a favorite, one of those i know i’ll turn back to time and time again. crepes with carmelized apples, rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream is one of those:

also:

spaghetti with scallops, white wine and chile-butter sauce


steamed asparagus with anchovy butter


calamari, papaya and cashew salad

here’s the recipe for the crepes:

3 eggs
1 cup milk
5 T dark rum
6 T butter
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 c flour
3 lbs medium golden delicious apples, peeled, quartered, each quarter cut into 3 wedges
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 T lemon juice
1 t grated lemon peel
vanilla ice cream

1. mix eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the rum, 2 tablespoons of the butter, sugar, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a blender until smooth. add flour in 2 additions, blending until smooth after each and scraping down sides of the container. let batter stand at room temperature for an hour.

2. heat nonstick skillet with 7-inch diameter bottom over medium-high heat. brush with melted butter. pour in 3 tablespoonfuls of crepe batter, rotating and shaking pan so batter covers bottom evenly. cook crepe until golden on bottom, about 45 seconds. turn crepe over and cook until light brown in spots, about 30 seconds. turn crepe out onto paper towel. repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with butter before making each crepe.

3. melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over high heat. add apples, saute until deep golden and tender, tossing often, about 15 minutes. add sugar, apple juice, lemon juice, lemon peel, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinamon. simmer until juices thicken and apples are very tender, turning with spatula, about 3 minutes. remove from heat.

4. butter large ovenproof rimmed platter. arrange crepes on work surface and spoon apples into center of crepes, dividing equally and leaving sauce in skillet. fold 1 side of crepes over filling; roll up, enclosing filling. arrange on platter, seam side down. stir ru into sauce in skillet. bring to boil, stirring.

5. preheat oven to 350F. spoon sauce over crepes. bake until warm, about 10 minutes. serve with ice cream.