Mexico City, Days Five and Six

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Mexico City has no shortage of stellar cafes and every morning (and afternoon), we’d find a new one to try. On our fifth day, we headed to Quentin Cafe as a starting point to spend the day in the Roma neighborhood.

Quentin Cafe

You know what else is in Roma? Parque Mexico, which is probably my favorite park on earth for one very important reason: dogs. So. Many. Dogs. A pack of huskies taking a nap off leash? No big deal. An Afghan hound, a great dane, and a handful of Australian Shepherds taking a jog? Yeah, this is normal. A couple beagles and a golden retriever making friends with a samoyed? This is just par for the course at Parque Mexico. I could spend all day here.

Tacos Don Juan

Tacos Don Juan

But we had more things to eat so we walked over to Tacos Don Juan for delicious tacos piled high with meat and slathered with avocado and nopales and all manner of fiery, flavorful salsas.

Panaderia Rosetta

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling Roma and stopping for a honey croissant at Panaderia Rosetta before heading to the storied Pujol in Condesa.

Street snacks at Pujol

“Street snacks” to start.

Elotes ahumados

Elotes ahumados. I’ll have 500 more of these, thanks.

Chayote squash with spiny lobster pico

Chaytoe squash with spiny lobster pico. A light and fresh palate cleanser.

Softshell crab at Pujol

Softshell crab, cucumber, daikon, and shiso. Okay yeah, I’ll have 500 more of these too please.

Barbacoa ox tongue, black beans, cactus

Barbacoa ox tonuge, black beans, and cactus.

Mole madre 1739 days, mole nuevo

Mole madre 1739 days, mole nuevo. Infamous.

Hoja santa tortillas

The mole was served with hoja santa tortillas.

Tamarind sorbet

Tamarind sorbet. I would buy this by the gallon if I could.

Coffee tamal, ginger ice cream, honeycomb

Coffee tamal, ginger ice cream, and honeycomb.


Without a doubt the best, most ethereal churros I’ve ever tasted.

So yeah, Pujol lives up to the hype. I’m thankful that we were able to experience this meal.

On our last morning in CDMX, we had one last coffee at our favorite Chiquito Cafe and got ready for lunch at Maximo Bistrot Local. Eduardo Garcia is the chef and founder at Maximo Bistrot. Garcia was born in Mexico and raised in the U.S. After he was deported twice, Garcia started his own restaurant in Mexico City, Maximo Bistrot. The restaurant serves another purpose in that it provides a place for deported immigrants like himself, a chance to find work that not only pays the bills but also provides a deep sense of pride. Today, Garcia is considered one of Mexico’s top chefs and runs several restaurants.

Sea urchin tostada

Sea urchin tostada. This was my favorite course of the meal and could have happily eaten just this and called it a day.

Roasted beets, fig, and pomegranate

Roasted beets, fig, and pomegranate.

Pappardelle with ragu

Pappardelle with ragu.

French toast with berry compote

French toast with berry compote.

And just like that, it was over. I hope to not let another decade pass by before my next trip to Mexico. Anthony Bourdain said it best: Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history.

Mexico City, Days Three and Four

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Our third morning in Mexico City was a Sunday, which is when the Paseo de la Reforma becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare: runners and cyclists and families (and doggies!) all come out to enjoy the day. Think vibrant public spaces and good health via walkable streets.

Near the Paseo de la Reforma is Chiquito Cafe, a tiny cafe serving up some of the best coffee and tea CDMX has to offer (and there is stiff competition for excellent coffee in this city). We enjoyed a quick breakfast here before making our way to Chapultepec Park.

Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Castle

Chapultepepc Castle

Chapultepec Park includes Chapultepec Castle, the only castle in North America to have ever actually housed sovereigns. But to me the appeal was the murals. They were stunning! A mural of the revolution adorns the entrance. If you close up, you can see some of the figures looking directly at the viewer, as if making an appeal to support the revolution.


National Museum of Anthropology

We continued making our way through Chapultepec Park and stopped along the way for a tasty, crunchy, spicy Oaxacan tlayuda before walking to the National Museum of Anthropology, also housed in the park.

Housemade salsa and tortillas

Duck taquitos at Guzina Oaxaca

Short rib barbacoa at Guzina Oaxaca

For dinner we headed to Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco for more Oaxacan cuisine. I could have probably eaten a gallon of the housemade salsa, that is, until the duck taquitos with mole colorado arrived. For those familiar with Iranian cuisine: you know khoresh-e fesenjoon? Okay, think fesenjoon, but in mole form. In the best way possible. Oh yes, I could eat a gallon of these too. By the time the short rib barbacoa arrived, I was already full from the richly flavored taquitos.

All this gluttony was sort of fuel for the next day (or so I tell myself), because we were up bright and early on day four to take the bus to Teotihuacan, which links the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun.




Photos don’t to it justice — Teotihuacan is more expansive and stunning than I could have imagined, and let’s be real, mostly I’m just really proud that I managed to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. Make this day trip: it’s absolutely worth the hour or two drive from Mexico City. Just make sure to bring some water.

Taqueria Los Cocuyos

Taqueria Los Cocuyos

Once we were back in Mexico City we headed to Taqueria Los Cocuyos in the Centro Historico for what were among the best tacos I’ve had in my life. Lengua, suadero, campechano, and cachete. So tender, so flavorful. My happy place.

While in the centro, we checked out the Metropolitan Cathedral before heading back to our home base in Zona Rosa and narrowly escaping a rainy downpour. For dinner, we had a warming bowl of ramen at Kominari Tonkotsu Ramen, a cozy restaurant frequented by the Japanese-Mexican community.

How can one city contain so much energy and so many surprises around every corner?

Mexico City, Days One and Two

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I hadn’t been to Mexico in nearly a decade which is kind of crazy because, you know, it’s only a couple of hours away by plane. What took me so long? I’d been raptured by Pujol ever since seeing the Chef’s Table episode about Enrique Olivera, but there is so much more to CDMX’s food scene. Tacos de canasta! Barbacoa! Churros! Tlayudas! And that’s just scratching the surface.

Our six-day trip to Mexico City was basically a thinly-veiled excuse to eat, with some stunning cultural stops along the way.

Tacos de canasta

Tacos in San Angel

After tacos and ensalada de nopales in Zona Rosa’s Taqueria de Califa on our first evening, we went for more tacos on day two in the San Angel neighborhood. Tacos de canasta and carne asada, to be exact.

Bazar del Sabado

Bazar del Sabado

Afterwards we walked it off at Bazar del Sabado, a Saturday-only market by artists of all kinds. Creative art for days! Not pictured: all the cute doggies enjoying a day out with their families, including an old English sheepdog. My day was made.


Afterwards we headed to the weekends-only El Hidalguense for barbacoa. It may not look pretty, but inside this maguey leaf is the most tender lamb you’ve ever tasted. Tuck it into a tortilla, drizzle some salsa over it, and you have yourself a delicious, albeit heavy meal.

Churreria El Moro

Churreria El Moro

We walked off the barbacoa at Casa Fusion, another arts and crafts market, this time near Zona Rosa. Satiated but craving something sweet, we capped off the day with churros con chocolate at the storied Churreria El Moro, one of CDMX’s oldest churrerias.

Day Nine in Mexico: Puerto Vallarta

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On my last full day in Mexico, I decided to take it easy. I’d been running around pretty hard for most of the trip, trying to pack in as much as possible, so I figured one day of rest was well-deserved. After stopping at Xocodiva to buy some chocolates as gifts to take back (I bought a chili-lime and a tequila truffle for immediate gratification too), I went back to the hotel and spent the better part of the day in the pool:

Playa Los Arcos pool

The sun never came out much during the trip, but it was nice to hang around in the warm water and lament how it came to be that I was in the same space as a large group of endless spring breakers.

For dinner, I made one last splurge at La Palapa, and I am ridiculously glad I did. I started with an amuse bouche of rice paper-wrapped tuna and bean sprouts:

Amuse bouche of rice paper-wrapped tuna and bean sprouts

If the concept of freshness could manifest itself into a dish, this would be it.

I had the seared sea scallops with orange miso sauce, bell pepper and saffron polenta:

Seared sea scallops with orange miso sauce, bell pepper and saffron polenta

I couldn’t taste the miso, but rather a light tamarind sauce. Which is just fine really, because they were the most perfectly sublime scallops I’ve ever tasted. Sweet, briny and tender enough to cut with a fork.

For dessert, I had the chocolate fantasmagoria with fresh fruit compote and coconut ice cream:

Chocolate fantasmagoria with fresh fruit compote and coconut ice cream

I’m usually not very fond of sweets, but this was ethereal.

I headed back to my hotel early, to pack and get a good night’s sleep before the flight back to San Francisco the next morning. This was my second trip to Mexico, but everything I experienced was new and exciting and as cliched at it sounds, a learning experience. I only wish I’d had more time to spend.

Day Eight in Mexico: Yelapa

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If it weren’t for Yelapa, my trip to the coast might have been a bust. Though I’m not a fan of boats, I had done our research beforehand and knew that I wanted to spend a day in Yelapa. A small village forty-five minutes south of Vallarta by boat, there are no roads that lead there, and no vehicles in town. I bought tickets for the morning water taxi and boarded at Los Muertos pier:

Our water taxi to Yelapa

The ride was bumpy. Really bumpy. The water was choppy and our boat went airborne several times, and passengers literally had to hold on to our seats to keep from falling forward. It probably didn’t help that it began pouring rain towards the end of the ride either. Once we arrived, I knew it was worth it:

Leaving Yelapa

I had heard about a picturesque waterfall in the Yelapa mountains, so I teamed up with a gringo group from New York who I met on the boat and began the hike up through town, not really knowing where we were going, but enjoying every minute of it. Despite the heat and humidity, Yelapa looks like it’s right out of a storybook.

El Tuito River

We used a boat to cross El Tuito River, and after about an hour of hiking, we arrived at our destination:

Yelapa waterfall

We spent the next couple of hours walking back downhill and along the coast, occasionally interrupted by crossing iguanas, crabs, and a donkey here and there. Once we got back to the river, we realized the boat we had used to cross the river was gone, and its owner was nowhere to be found. So what else to do but wade through it? We stepped gingerly through the water, looking for the shallowest parts with the firmest sand:

El Tuito River

I know it doesn’t look like that much water, but it was up to my hips. Plus I’m not the most comfortable person in water, so this was a big deal.

One gets hungry after conquering two fears in one day, so I quickly stopped by Hotel Lagunita’s restaurant for fish tacos before catching the water taxi back to Puerto Vallarta:

Fish tacos at Hotel Lagunita

Back in town, I settled on Brasil Churrascaria for dinner, which turned out to be an delicious choice, except for the Vallarta Adventures sales pitch towards the end of the meal. I’ll take this perfect top sirloin, thanks, but I’ll pass on the provocatively dressed women trying to sell me an eco tour.

Brasil Churrascaria

The accompanying sauces and side dishes were delicious too, though I wish they offered more traditional types of meat (chicken heart, anyone?). I suppose that’s not standard tourist fare, though, and I can’t really complain about the chicken wings or fillet.