Wordless Wednesday: Salsa taquera

I’ve always been fascinated by the different salsas served alongside my meal at any taquería. I ate all three of these (rojo con chile de árbol; verde con chile serrano y aguacate; cebolla roja con habanero) at my favorite taquería in Chicago, La Lagartija, this past weekend. They were just too pretty to not take a picture! One of the things I love about eating at taquerías is that each one has different salsas, and often the salsas are just as important as what goes in the taco.

  • What’s your favorite kind of salsa?

Wordless Wednesday: Taco de cecina

I ate this incredible taco de cecina last week at La Lagartija Taquería here in Chicago, our favorite changarro. With a homemade tortilla, a light smear of frijoles and a perfectly salted cut of cecina, I was in taco heaven. I topped it with cebolla, cilantro and a drizzle of salsa roja. It’s not on the everyday menu (it was off the daily specials list), but it most definitely should be! If you haven’t had cecina before, it’s a salted and partially dried thin cut of beef (kind of like how some steak houses serve dry-aged steaks).

  • What’s the best taco you’ve eaten recently? We want details!

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Benito Juárez!

Feliz cumpleaños to one of Mexico’s most famous presidents, Benito Juárez, who was born on this day in 1806. This monument pictured above, gifted to the city of Chicago in 1977 by Mexican president José López Portillo, stands along Michigan Avenue in the Plaza of the Americas next door to the Wrigley Building and across the street from the Chicago Tribune.

Often regarded as Mexico’s greatest and most-loved leader, Juárez died of a heart attack in 1872. If you need to brush up on your Mexican history, read about Benito Juárez and what he did for the Mexican people both before and during his presidency. You might also be surprised to know that he spent a short time living in New Orleans from 1853-1854. Juárez came from a Zapotec family in Oaxaca and served in a variety of political positions during his career. Today, there are numerous monuments and locations dedicated or named in his honor. In Mexico City, the international airport is just one of many, many locations named after Juárez.

Check out some additional photos and details about the Chicago monument on the Public Art in Chicago blog.

  • Do you know of a monument or location dedicated to Benito Juárez? Leave a comment with where it’s located!

Mexique: Celebrating Mexican Cuisine with a French Twist

A few weeks ago I attended a dinner given by the Mexico Tourism Board and Chef Carlos Gaytan at his restaurant, Mexique, in honor of the recent UNESCO designation of Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Tourism Board over the last several weeks has hosted authentic Mexican dinners in a number of major North American cities to celebrate, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, so I was thrilled to receive the invitation.

Did you know that French recipes and cooking techniques during the French occupation of Mexico in the 1860s became an important element in the evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy?

Gaytan’s concept behind Mexique is modern Mexican food with French influence. Hailing from Huitzuco, Guerrero, Gaytan’s love of food helped him rise from pantry cook to executive chef. He trained with French chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110 (Gold Coast) and has also spent time in the kitchens at Bistrot Margo (Old Town) and the Union League Club (Loop), all in Chicago. If you live in Chicago or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit Mexique for a meal.

One thing that left an impression on me at the dinner was when Carlos explained why he doesn’t serve mixed drinks in his restaurant: they take away from the palate and so instead, he serves wine and tequila. And God bless him for telling everyone in the dining room that tequila should be sipped. Someone at a table near me chimed in that “only heathens drink tequila shooters,” which caused an eruption of laughter at my table.

And I can’t end without showing you what we ate. It was a lovely four-course tasting meal with excellent wines and ended with tequila. I can’t wait to return to Mexique for another meal!

PRIMERO: Ceviche

Ahi tuna, avocado mousse, chipotle aioli, mango habanero galette… 

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Chicago’s own Mercado Navideño

This past weekend I attended the Mercado Navideño at the National Museum of Mexican Art here in Chicago with my friend, Daniela. It’s been awhile since my last visit so I was eager to see the new exhibits as well. But I loved all the gifts, decorations and crafts that remind me so much of the Museo de Arte Popular (of which I have only ever visited the gift shop) in Mexico City. I sent a picture message from my iPhone of the beautiful paper maché piggy bank to my suegra because she collects all kinds of puerquitos (little piggies). She loved it and said when I arrive, we’ll make plans to go visit the museum since she couldn’t remember ever taking me there before.

If you live in Chicago or are visiting during the Thanksgiving holiday next year, check out the mercado – it’s typically the Friday through Sunday right after Thanksgiving. Some of the items were pricey (compared to purchasing the same item in Mexico) but for the most part, they had a lot of beautiful gifts at reasonable prices. And you can’t visit the National Museum of Mexican Art without also making a stop in the gift shop on your way out! I loved the mini papel picado, juguetes and all kinds of books about Mexican art and culture. I may go back soon for some books on regional art and food!

    • What’s your favorite kind of Mexican popular art?

 

The photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 3Gs using the Polarize app by Christopher Comair.

Spotted in Chicago: Hojas de Maguey

Just when I’m missing Mexico and checking my calendar to see how many days are left until I leave for my holiday trip next month, I find something amazing and unexpected in the grocery store that makes me feel relieved that a little piece of Mexico is never too far away. Thanks to the fact that there are more than 1.5 million Mexicans in Chicago, and therefore no shortage of Mexican grocers, I can often find foods or other Mexican things I’m missing within a 10 or 15-minute drive from our apartment.

These leaves, called hojas or pencas de maguey, from the maguey plant (also known as agave) are often used as an envoltorio, or wrapper, to cook barbacoa. Seeing them at the grocery store this week reminded me of a recent trip to Querétaro with my suegros, while we were en route from Mexico City to Aguascalientes to celebrate José’s abuelita’s 90th birthday.

More on that trip (and barbacoa) later this coming week – I just couldn’t resist sharing the highlight of my day!


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