Wordless Wednesday: Tortillería El Milagro Mural in Pilsen

Pilsen Tortillería El Milagro mural in ChicagoFor many years while living in Chicago, I bought my tortillas each Saturday morning from Tortilleria El Milagro on South Blue Island Avenue in Pilsen. It was also the only place where I would ever buy ensalada de nopales, for which I’d have to wake up extra early because they always ran out quickly. On the back side of the building is this beautiful mural I often stopped to admire when picking up my tortillas. The neighborhood, located on the Lower West Side, is one of the city’s two Mexican enclaves, and is one of the things I most miss about living in Chicago. My weekly trips to the market, tortilleria and panaderia were like briefly stepping out of Chicago and into Mexico for a few hours at a time.

You can read more about the history of Chicago’s Mexican neighborhoods and the murals of Pilsen here.

  • Does your city have something special that transports you to Mexico?

Alambre de la Patrona

I haven’t written much here about my favorite taquería in Chicago, La Lagartija, but have always widely recommended the place to anyone who asked me in person, on Facebook or Twitter about where to get an authentic Mexican meal in my hometown. I wasn’t exactly trying to keep it a secret, but it’s definitely a gem and I always appreciated the neighborhood charm and the way that the meseras and owners always remembered us and greeted us like family. I have so many photos stowed away of memorable meals we ate there, and it was the only place in Chicago where we’d regularly eat tacos al pastor.

But one of my favorite standby meals there, the alambre de la patrona, is both succulent and super easy to recreate at home. The owners are from Mexico City, and this dish on their menu is actually a version of a popular dish at one of our favorite taquerías in Mexico City, El Charco de las Ranas. This dish is sometimes known as alambre de chuleta and is best served with warm tortillas, but you can skip the tortillas if you like and just eat it with a fork.

alambre_de_la_patrona_tacos… 

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Wordless Wednesday: Farmers market chiles

Farmers markets here in Chicago are kind of like a yuppie version of a Mexican tianguis. Despite the strollers and dogs and people yammering away on their bluetooth device or headphones while they stroll the aisles, I put up with it because I love fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies, and I especially love the variety of chiles at the farmers markets here! I got there extra early last week and snapped this photo of the sunshine peeking through the top of the tented produce stand, illuminating the chiles. The thing I love most about farmers market chiles is that they’re all different sizes and shapes, and there are never any mega-chiles that look like they were pumped with steriods. Ahhh, organic!

  • What’s your favorite vegetable to buy at the farmers market?

Flores de calabaza at the farmers market

I’ve been stalking visiting my local farmers markets lately looking for flor de calabaza. And every week since they started bringing them three weeks ago, I’ve arrived too late because they sold out before 9 or 10 A.M. So this past weekend, I got up early on Saturday hoping to get my hands on some, only to discover I’d arrived just a bit too late.

But my lovely friends at Nichols Farm advised me to show up at another market location they visit on Sunday mornings in Wicker Park and to arrive just before they opened. I got there just before 8 A.M. and was able to get a big bunch (15 flowers!) as well as snap these photos with the bucket still full of florecitas!… 

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Wordless Wednesday: quesadilla de huitlacoche

Over the weekend José and I had dinner at Fogón, an upscale Mexican restaurant that opened this spring in a neighborhood near where we live. I’ll write more about it another time, but I had to share a photo of this earthy-tasting, perfectly over-stuffed quesadilla I ate as an appetizer—it had cheese and huitlacoche (also known as corn smut or corn truffle), epazote, salsa rustica with black beans and was topped with a small dollop of creme fraiche and light greens. It’s the culinary equivalent of black gold! (More on the topic of huitlacoche soon, I promise!)

  • How do you like to eat huitlacoche? Have you ever had it before?

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?
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