Blanca Navidad - The 10 best Mexican Foodie Gifts of 2010

It’s that time again and I just hauled out my favorite Christmas LP – the cool jazz queen June Christy’s This Time of Year. I’m not a shopper and I think it's gauche to order gifts online. Food related presents are the best kind (except for diamonds, some would say) so I’ve put together a list of my favorite reasonably priced regalitos for your chowhound loved ones. All are under $40 US (some well under) And all are guaranteed to pass those capricious US or European customs agents.

1. Olive oil, jam and salsa from Mónica Patiño’s Delirio - Monterrey 116 (corner Av. Alvaro Obregón), Colonia Roma
Chef Patiño’s shop does marmalades and salsas that come in cute granny-like jars. For the serious chef, her fruity olive oil, from Baja California is a must and at 145 pesos a good buy.

2. Mole pastes from the Medellín Market
Mercado Medellín, entrance on Monterrey or Medellín between Coahuila & Campeche (the stand is near the La Morenita seafood fonda)
A selection of rich, dark mole pastes - very well wrapped- makes a great, economical (at around 20 pesos per 1/4 kilo) gift and it lasts forever. But you may have to include instructions (i.e. sauté some onions and tomatoes, add about a cup of paste, and breaking it up with a wooden tool, sauté lightly. Then add chicken - or vegetable stock, little by little until it reaches the consistency of heavy cream. Be carefull not to add too much liquid. Do not boil. Pour over warm chicken breasts or dip tortillas and fold).

3. Patrice’s wacky, campy aprons, covered with skulls, Fridas or Mexi-what-have-yous will bring a smile to mom’s lips. They're around $300 pesos and are on sale at the following venues:

Mumedi Café y Librería
Francisco Madero #74, 5510-8771

Tienda de Museo de Arte Popular
Independencia corner of Revillagigedo, 5510-2201

Centro Cultural de España
Guatemala 18, 5521-1926

Museo Franz Mayer, Av. Hidalgo

Caravanserai de Thé
Orizaba 101-A y Alvaro Obregon, Roma, tel. 5511 2877

Gabinete Libros y Arte
Alvaro Obregon 101-F, Roma, tel. 5511-8599

Tienda de museo de Arte Popular, Polanco
Emilio Castellar 22 y Temostocles

El Chiribitl: Bazaar Sabado-Plaza San Jacinto, Horacio Gavito & Rogelio, San Angel

4. Dried mushrooms from Mercado San Juan
Ernesto Pugibet & Delicias, Centro
Enter the market and immediatly turn left; towards the end of the front isle is the amazing mushroom stand. Porcini - about 100 pesos per 100 grams, girolles (here called duraznillos), chanterelles and morels all come dried and pre-packaged in 100g cellophane bags. They're a fraction of what they would be in, say, France, and guaranteed to blow the mind of any chef. They should go through OK at the airport, as they are dried...

5. Napkins and or Placemats from the huge Ciudadela Market (Av. Balderas, about five blocks south of the Alameda - metro Balderas). These napkins and placemats (at around 20 pesos per) are the very best gift for those who will be traveling as they weigh next to nothing and pack tight.
The napkins can be machine washed, no problem for those poor gringos who don't have anyone to do the laundry for them. You can also pick up myriad knick-knacks for stocking stuffers here.

6. Lead-free Cazuelas from Fonart (http://www.fonart.gob.mx/, Av. Patriotismo No. 691, Mixoac, and Av. Juarez 89 at the foot of the Alameda). I have a huge selection of these that I've picked up over the years. They're great on the stove or in the oven and cook just as well as Le Cruiset at a fraction of the price. Finding them is hit-or-miss. Fonart is the national crafts store outlet, but it has seemingly been run by a flock of headless chickens and the once abundant and ubiquitous stores have dwindled to three. The large one down on Patriotismo is most likely to have a good selection of ceramics.

7. A Molcajete (around 120 pesos) from the Jamaica Market (at metro Jamaica, Av. Morelos near Calz. de la Viga, south of the centro)
OK, I know they weigh a ton, but no cook I know can live without it once they have used one. I shlepped one to New York for a needy friend once (but will never do it again). I grind black pepper in mine to the exact size I want in seconds. To be fare, William Sonoma sells them for about $35 US which really isn't bad. And if you've never been to the Jamaica market, which is home to a 365 day a year 24/7 flower market you've got a treat in store. A nice selection of molcajetes is to be found at the extreme right side, as you face the market from the street.

8. Mezcal Enmascarado ($365) from La Naval (corner Insurgentes & Michoacan, Condesa,
What could be a better gift for your boozing hipster pals than a bottle of oh-so-trendy mezcal with lucha libre figures on it.

9. Chocolates from Sanborns (locations everywhere, various sizes and prices)
I know, I know you're thinking "Sanborns ?!" ....
But to my grandmother, the blue box brought back fond memories of Mexico City c.1957. And really, they're not so bad...

10. A Selection of Salsas from the super.... (too, too many locations, various prices from $20 to 45)
These cute bottles will make a picant-o-phile muy feliz and are a good last minute gift. If you're flying, just be sure to check the suitcase containing them unless you want to make the national news...

I loved this beautifully designed bi-lingual Mexican foodie calendar last year and can't wait to see what they did with it for 2011. It's $190 pesos.

You can pick one up in el DF- the office is at Tlacotalpan 37-602, Col. Roma Sur. Tel. 5584 8995. Or they can be ordered to be shipped nationally or internationally by calling or writing to: graficatododemexico@gmail.com. You can even pay with Paypal!

And last but not least, why not order a copy or two of my book, Good Food in Mexico City (Come Bien en el D.F. en español) - even armchair chowhounds enjoy it. Just click on the link above and to the right. Jim Johnston's obra maestra, Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler (for which I did the photography) also makes a good companion piece for anyone coming to visit us.

¡Feliz Navidad!

A Note to my readers:

*** Gastronomes will enjoy the extraordinary Christmas food stalls set up outside Colonia Roma’s Mercado Medellín (Calle Campeche between Medellín and Monterrey). Every savory ‘antojito’, from tamales to tostadas to piping hot pozole is on offer from midday until around midnight.Through Christmas.


  1. I liked many of these suggestions.

    And, thanks for the font change, and ¡Feliz Janucá!

    Don Cuevas

  2. Not since William Castle has there been such showmanship...better than Sophie Tucker at Grosinger's!

  3. Oh Santa, come to Paris! Having got many of those gift already from ye....I say that was a juicy blog!

  4. Nice idea for the season. However I'm not agree with the 3rd and 10th. The aprons looks so gringo fashion and not original Mexican. I could even add the traditional "mandil de do~ita" jus check it out the traditional outfit from the "marchantes" at the mercados (top picture of your left), THAT'S an apron!
    For the 10th, you can found them here in USA in any regular mexican store or online. Not big deal.
    I will make a brief research for Wood MOLINILLOS -for hot chocolate-, METATES or the typical vintage bag of any "carniceria, panaderia or a big wall calendar of cervezas mexicanas.:)
    Greeting from Chicago!

  5. A Molcajete in indonesia called " ulegan sambel "


  6. nice article, nice list, nice review with nice blog.

    thank you for sharing