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.

Baja Fish Tacos

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I’ve long searched for the perfect recipe to recreate the first fish tacos I ever had as a kid, and I’ve finally found it. The sauce is creamy, the fish are fried in a light batter, and the slaw is slightly tangy.


baja fish tacos

Ingredients:

1 cup dark beer
1 cup flour
1 t salt, plus more to taste
1 lb boned, skinned tilapia fillet
vegetable oil
10 corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
3 T lime juice
1/4 t hot chile flakes
1 1/2 T canned chipotle chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup chopped onion

1. in a large bowl, mix cabbage, lime juice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, hot chile flakes and salt to taste. set cabbage slaw aside.

2. in a bowl, mix the chiles with the mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish and onion until until well blended. set chipotle tartar sauce aside.

3. in a bowl, whisk beer, flour, and salt until well blended.

2. rinse fish and pat dry; cut into 1-inch-wide strips.

3. pour 1 inch of oil into a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. dip each piece of fish into beer batter; lift out and let drain briefly. slide fish into oil, a few pieces at a time, and cook until golden, turning if necessary to brown on all sides, 2 to 4 minutes per batch. with a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

4. to assemble each taco, stack two tortillas and top with a couple of pieces of fish, then a spoonful each of cabbage slaw and chipotle tartar sauce.

Ferry Building Marketplace

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so my updating habits have gotten a little sporadic. things will be back to normal soon, really. in any case, last week was my birthday and i spent it with with a friend at the ferry building marketplace in san francisco, which happens to be my favorite place in my favorite city.

to begin our day of tasting, we had brunch at tsar nicoulai, where we split a sturgeon chowder in a bread bowl, served with tennessee hackleback caviar on a blini. it was tiny, but the caviar was delicious. (not as delicious as caspian osetra caviar, but you’ve got to be insane to pay for that outside of iran.)

it was so cold outside
birthday wishes in the freezing cold. (seriously, why is it so cold this year?)

afterwards we walked around, sampling and admiring the goods (the scent of the roast chickens for sale was unbelievable), and finally gave in and bought this beauty:
gorgeous
romanesque broccoli. almost too pretty to eat. almost. we decided that it would go into a salad alongside cheese and prosciutto.

we stopped by cowgirl creamery where i salivated for a few minutes before i decided on the roncal – kind of like a manchego but nuttier.
cheese!
in awe of all the choices. can you see why i love this place so much?

our last stop at the ferry building was mastrelli’s delicatessen, where i picked up some prosciutto di parma, and then we drove to north beach for cappuccinos at caffe trieste. before we headed back to the east bay for the evening, we stopped to have one of our favorites – lomo saltado, for dinner at fresca. not bad for a day’s worth of gastronomy.

A Long Weekend in New York

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i’ve been on east coast time for the past few days. i flew to new york city¬† towards last week for the occasion of the tanya morgan moonlighting release party at opus 22. upon my arrival on thursday, it took an hour to get to the hotel; by the time I got there around six in the evening i had about ten minutes to get ready before the big event. despite my extreme fatigue (by the time the party was over i’d been awake for 24 hours) and hunger (i never did get to eat a meal that day), i was thrilled that it was all a great success.

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monica came all the way from dc; von on the other hand calls brooklyn home sweet home.

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ilyas!

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von pea! (loves dilla!) together they plus donwill make up tanya morgan. duh.

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tim and dwine. both are california transplants to the east coast. both are super tall. both are well-rounded gentlemen.

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this is michelle the publicist and frank the graphic/web designer.

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tara was there too, which was fantastic because she’s fantastic.

after the party a whole bunch of us went to triple crown where i met ali shaheed muhammad. ordinarily i would have been super excited but i was so tired that all i could see was mirages of my hotel bed.

speaking of which, my hotel was an unpleasant experience to say the least. i never could catch up on sleep since every few minutes i’d hear a door loudly (and i mean LOUDLY) slam shut down the hallway or overhear the pseudo-party a few rooms down at four am. and our bathroom was about the size of a shoebox. the room itself wasn’t much bigger. and the staff was rude. i’ll stop before this turns into a hotel review.

our group spent friday exploring record shops and wandering the streets. the highlight of the day was a visit to the offices of scratch magazine. the lowlight of the day was my decision to order chicken soft tacos at a diner for lunch. mexican food in new york city – what was i thinking?

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at least i got to pose with dog the bounty hunter. hi melody.

saturday was a bit more eventful. despite the rain, we made a trip to the united nations after a disappointing faux vietnamese lunch. my main reason to visit was to purchase some iran flag keychains; the one i’d bought during my last trip had long fallen apart. it turned out the gift shop was out of keychains for nearly every country that begins with an “i.” i was heartbroken. stupid UN. thanks, kofi.

we got to pose with our favorite secretary generals, though. the UN had an exhibition of persian rugs featuring the likenesses of all the past secretary generals on display, courtesy of the iranian government. (the least they could do is carry their keychains in return.)

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me and u thant. how cool is his name?

from there we took the metro to brooklyn.
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grand central station. we saw two sets of newlyweds there.

brooklyn was fun but chilly. afterwards i went back to manhattan to meet dwine and his girlfriend for dinner. my tekka maki was the best meal i’d had since my arrival. afterwards tim and frank joined us at a coffeeshop for chess and hot mochas. then came the highlight of the day: our security-laden foray into the offices of hot 97. it was almost reminiscent of the time when i visited the state department.

for my last day in new york, i had gray’s papaya for lunch. i was surprisingly pleased with my humble hot dog and banana juice.

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mmm, new york.

i made a disappointing trip to canal street where i attempted to hunt down a pair of lacoste sneakers. even though i was unsuccessful, i did run into a dean and deluca on our way towards brooklyn. from there it was more record shopping and then a quick dinner and everyone parted their separate ways. i had to be up early the next morning to catch our flight back, 3:30 am to be exact.

it was a great trip and i was thrilled to finally meet so many people i’d heard all about and to catch up with ones i hadn’t seen in a while. that said, i’ve been more than a bit sleepy all week long.

Tehrangeles

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i’m back from yet another quick weekend trip to southern california. like the last, i spent a considerable time stuck in the notorious los angeles traffic. this time around, however, i played tourist. i didn’t take nearly enough photographs; in fact i only snapped a few on saturday afternoon.

on friday i took the scenic route down along highway 101, and although it meant spending a couple extra hours in the car, it was nice to look out of the window and see san luis obsipo and santa barbara as opposed to endless overcrammed herds of cows. by the time i reached the hotel, i had just enough energy to have dinner at california sushi roll in west la. i’d been (and still am) craving authentic japanese food, but i willingly obliged and went with japanese-california fusion instead. i was pleasantly suprised. my house special maki of salmon wrapped around seaweed, rice and fried fish cake was pretty good, and the beef gyoza’s offbeat hint of lemon was a good match.

the next morning i set out for lunch at the infamous roscoe’s house of chicken and waffles. my fried chicken was seasoned well and the syrup-laden waffles were yummy too, but i’m sure my arteries were begging me to stop.

afterwards i set out with a friend to the museum of contemporary art to check out their new exhibit, ecstasy: in and about altered states. to my dismay photography was not allowed, but i was really impressed. in particular i enjoyed olafur eliasson’s, erwin redl’s, and fred tomaselli’s pieces.

Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art

i spent the early evening in santa monica along the beach, and continued along to the third street promenade.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

that evening i ate at korean char-b-que with a friend. i mistakenly ordered naengmyon. i’d accidentally ordered it a few weeks ago at another korean restaurant and found it to be anathema to my favorite flavors prominent in korean cooking. to my misfortune, the menu we ordered from on friday night didn’t have english translations, only pictures. i ordered what looked good yet recieved something quite different. the slushy ice water, flavorless beef and rubbery noodles and slices of pear made me wish i had ordered something else.

we redeemed ourselves by going to westwood to grab a mango hookah and mint tea at habibi cafe. i was in awe most of the time; almost everyone was iranian. i’d never been around so many iranians in public outside of iran at the same time. i don’t quite know how to say this politely without generalizing, but a lot of iranians i saw were, how should i put this, special. glitzy clothing and makeup, glitzy cell phones, glitzy attitude. everything seemed a bit overdone. i wondered if any of them had ever been to the iranian countryside, to ramsar or tabriz, to isfahan or shiraz. it seemed so far-removed. still, i had a great time people-watching. the music was great, as was the hookah, but the tea was a sorry mug of lipton with a couple of crushed mint leaves thrown in.

sunday was spent having lunch at farmer’s market. we met up with another friend for brazilian at pampas grill churrascaria. little did i know how delicious brazilian food is. the hearts of palm and cucumber salad, fried bananas, okra stew, and grilled garlic steak were all mouthwateringly perfect.

after a quick stop for shakes (i had banana flavor), it was time to say goodbye to los angeles and its sunny weather. tony toni tone was right; it never rains in southern california.