On the last full day of my most recent trip to Mexico City, my sister-in-law and I ran some errands together, culminating in a stop at the mercado Coyoacán—one of my absolute favorite places to visit in Mexico City. There’s a little, nondescript stand on the outskirts of the market with a yellow sign, which our family has long frequented because of the awesome quesadillas and gordas. My favorite item on the menu is the gorda de chicharrón, served with cheese on the inside. I like to also add some fresh salsa verde. As you can see, I REALLY enjoy eating these because you just can’t get the same thing at home in the U.S.
Last week while we were visiting Mexico City, we checked out a new coffee shop we hadn’t seen before called Cielito Querido Café. Not only is the coffee some of the best we’ve tasted in Mexico (even their café de olla passed my test), but I also loved their cute, cheeky to-go cups that poke fun at Starbucks. Like Starbucks, they have the normal assortment of coffees, espresso and frappes, but they have a host of other offerings on the menu that are muy Mexicano, such as chamoyadas (in no less than four flavors), additions to your café con leche that include cajeta and rompope, chocolate caliente con chile and a house-made horchata. The snack offerings didn’t disappoint either, with selections such as muéganos, palanqueta, molletes, panqué, pasteles and galletas.
I was surprised to learn that the quickly-growing Mexican chain has more than 30 locations in Mexico City as of July 2013 and that I hadn’t stumbled upon one before. I went looking for some more information after a friend on Instagram mentioned that the company is looking to expand to the U.S. (and possibly to Los Angeles) and and found this story on NBC Latino with a great slideshow so you can get a feel for the ambience of Cielito Querido Café. We’ll definitely be back again the next time we visit.
- Have you been to Cielito Querido Café? What did you order? If you haven’t been, do you think you’ll try it out next time you’re in Mexico City?
Each time I visit Mexico City, I end up going home with my suitcase full of books that aren’t available in the U.S. Lately, my bookshelves are looking rather full (despite thinning my library when we moved) so I’ve been a bit choosier about which books I take home since I’m running out of places to put them. I always browse the cookbook and culinary history sections for books that are new since my last visit. Yesterday, I made a stop at the bookstore nearby José’s parents’ house. This book caught my eye because there are tons of books in Spanish about Mexican cuisine and using traditional ingredients, but not as many that highlight healthy recipes. It’s the latest acquisition for my extensive collection of books about Mexican cuisine. I can’t wait to cook my way through it!
If you want to try your luck looking for it, the book is called “México Sano” and is written by Pía Quintana Beristain.
- Do you like to buy books in Mexico? What kind of books do you look for that you can’t get in the U.S.?
I don’t have a green thumb by any means—in fact, I’ve been known to accidentally kill hibiscus bushes so many summers in a row that I gave up on having them anymore—but I really love nature and plant life. Especially in Mexico, there are lots of plants that I’ve grown to love that I wasn’t exposed to while growing up in the Midwest. The Reserva Ecológica del Pedregal de San Ángel at UNAM is one of my most-cherished nature spots in Mexico City because of all the wildflowers, wild nopales and cactus fruits known as tunas. As you might recall, bugambilias are one of my favorite plants in Mexico (I’ve shared photos of them in Cuernavaca, Huatulco and other cities).
Another of my favorites is the jacaranda tree, pictured here, which has beautiful bluish-purple hued blooms. They bloom in the spring in Mexico City, so I love going to visit during Semana Santa to see them. My suegro sent me this photo several weeks ago, taken on the UNAM campus, because he knows how much I love to see the trees full of flowers.
In Los Angeles, thanks to the climate, bugambilias are abundant here, and jacarandas too. In fact, the jacarandas have been blooming for several weeks in my neighborhood. Aren’t they beautiful?
- What kind of plants do you love in Mexico?
In December 2012 during a visit to Mexico City for the holidays, I had a chance to once again visit La Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, which is now the Museo Frida Kahlo. I visited specifically to see a new exhibit called “Las apariencias engañan: los vestidos de Frida Kahlo” (which runs through January 31, 2014 and is a must-see exhibit for any serious Frida fan).
In the museum, there are several displays of Frida Kahlo’s personal journals, filled with artwork between the pages of her thoughts. There’s a famous quote of Frida’s from one of her personal journals which reads: “Pies para qué los quiero si tengo alas pa’ volar.”
It means: “Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly.” As I flew over Ciudad Universitaria in early January on my way back home to Chicago, I snapped this photo of one of my favorite views of the city and added the words.
- Do you have a favorite Frida Kahlo quote? Share it with me in the comments below!
Whenever we visit Mexico City, I always hope to visit El Cardenal—a restaurant with a focus on classic Mexican cuisine.
On one of my first visits to Mexico City, I ate lunch with my future suegros at the Alameda location in the Hilton downtown (although at the time, it was a Sheraton). It was there that I was introduced to chongos zamoranos, a traditional dessert made of milk, sugar, cinnamon, and rennet, used to curdle the milk. Since then, we’ve always gone to another location in the Centro Histórico (Palma #23, between Cinco de Mayo and Francisco I. Madero; opened in 1984) that has a stunning French-Porfirian facade and stained-glass windows bearing the restaurant’s namesake bird, the cardinal.
Aside from dessert, my favorite thing on the menu there is an appetizer—a molcajete filled with queso fresco, avocado, salsa verde and cilantro that’s served with warm tortillas. So simple, yet the dish is so satisfying and representative of El Cardenal.
José has been visiting his parents this week and ate lunch at El Cardenal a few days ago. He sent these photos to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla. I hope you like them as much as I do.
Queso fresco with flor de calabaza and jalapeño, wrapped in a banana leaf
- Have you ever been to El Cardenal? What is your favorite dish on the menu?