And the winner is…The best of 2011

It’s that time of year, the end of the cycle. Many new restaurants have opened in our sprawling metropolis and, try as we may it’s impossible to keep up. It’s nice to see that the wolf is not beating at the kitchen door here. So, in the spirit of complete autocracy, I offer my best list. Take it or eat it.

1. The Pedro Infante “Best Mexican” award goes to…

Fonda El Refugio – This old timer has been spiffed up, its kitchen brought up to 21st century Slow Food hipness, without sacrificing traditional flavor and recipes. Grandma would be proud.

Runner up: Coox Hanal – still the best Yucatecan food in the city if not nation.

2. The Anna Magnani “Best Foreigner” award goes, once again, to Rosetta. Chef Reygadas’ Italian kitchen just gets better and better.

Runner up: Osteria 8 – this little upstart Italian does the best pizza in town and the ambitious menu doesn’t fail to impress. Now if only we could gussy it up a little and provide a little more elbowroom.

3. The Pan Am International award goes to....
Mero Toro, the Condesa temple of consistantly creative high-falutin cooking.

Runner up: D.O. It's multi-regional Spanish and they get everything right.

4. The Eve Harrington ‘best newcomer’ award goes to…

Máximo Bistrot Local. This pretty, unpretentious place at the corner of Tonalá & Zacatecas in la Roma, does French a la Mexicana, is hip to local and organic, and is generally full of ‘buena onda’. ¡Felicidades!

Runner up: El Beso Huasteco. A pretty, restored house, nicely presented Mexican classics, low prices. What’s not to like?

5. The Jack Kerouac ‘best street stall’ award goes to…

El Caguamo. Still the best seafood stand in the city.

Runner up: El Tacetón. (corner Baja California & Tuxpan, Col. Roma)This busy stand near the Chilpancingo metro stop serves a tempting selection of tacos de guisados.

6. The Frank Sinatra ‘one for the road’ award for best watering hole goes to:

Pulquería La Pirata (Calle 13 de Septiembre, corner of 12 de Diciembre, and right below the Viaducto, Colonia Escandon). For pure Mexican ambience, it doesn’t get any better.

Runner up: Mezcaleria La Nacional Querétaro, corner of Orizaba, Colonia Roma
This fairly new addition to the growing hipster scene in ‘La Roma’ offers a large selection of reasonably priced mezcals, as well as light food.

And the jury’s out on:
Azul Condesa. We really want to love Ricardo Muñoz’ uptown venue but have been repeatedly disappointed.

Izote. I confess I had avoided Patricia Quintana’s world famous venue in recent years due to her sky-rocketing prices and inconsistent quality. But she’s given the joint a makeover and there’s a new menu so we’ll be back soon and let you know.

May my reader’s have a happy and fattening New Year.

A note to my readers: The new, expended 2012 edition of my book is now for sale on Amazon. See the bar on the right of this page to click and buy


From Chiapas to Chihuahua: Regional Mexican Cuisine in El D.F. - Part II

Almost 2000 miles separate Mexico’s northern border with the United States and its southern extreme, which meets Guatemala. While both regions share ingredients and techniques we associate with Mexican cooking – corn, chilies, beans, etc. – the cultural and environmental influences are very different and the flavors are, too.

Chiapas, the southernmost state is home to several indigenous cultures, those least affected by colonialization and the reforms of the Revolution. Poor and marginalized to this day, Mayan people of the region have conserved much of their cultural and culinary identity. The state embraces ocean, tropical lowlands, and mountains, so there’s a great variety of materia prima. Fewer types of chilies are found here, but unusual herbs, vegetables, and fruits, such as chipilin, yuca, chicozapote, guanábana, and chirimoya are daily staples. “Pre-hispanic” meats such as armadillo, iguana and jabalí (wild boar) are found in the markets. Corn, as always in Mexico, is the basis of every meal, but unique to Chiapas are drinks made of ground and toasted corn and a wide variety of tamales.

A short taxi ride south of the centro histórico, Chamula’s is the only restaurant in Mexico City specializing in authentic Chiapaneca cuisine. The old-fashioned dining room is decorated with colorful hand-woven tablecloths and local crafts. Many unusual dishes are offered; start with a refreshing pozol, a slightly sweet drink made with toasted corn and chili. Notable among the entremeses (appetizers) are several kinds of tamales including one scented with chipilin, a pungent green herb. Chicken with mole or pork with pipian are favorite main courses, as is grilled tasajo (thinly sliced beef marinated in an achiote-flavored chili sauce). The Lacondon menu even offers wild boar and iguana. On weekends, a great marimba band, the music typical of the region, plays.

At the northern extreme of Mexico from Chiapas, the rough, dry terrain of Chihuahua has a culture influenced by American and European immigrants (including a large community of German dialect-speaking Mennonites, famed for their cheese) and by the indigenous nomadic tribes. With less variety to choose from, it’s cowboy and beef country up here—they like their meat, spiced up with lots of picante chilies. Wheat tortillas are more common than corn.

This homey place specializes in the cuisine of Chihuahua, the state from which owner Raul Vargas hails (his wife is from Jalisco, explaining the incongruous use of “Tequila” in the name). Red and blue tablecloths, yellow walls, wooden floors, and Northern-themed prints create a warm and comforting atmosphere. Sopa de tortilla is fragrant with cumin, and garnished with chicharrón, avocado, and roast chiles. Frijoles norteñas come sprinkled with pungent, white queso Chihuahua, and slices of pickled chiles. A popular main course is asados: grilled beef prepared in red colorado or green pasado sauce and served with fresh wheat tortillas. Vibrant red cecina adobada (dried, pounded and chilied beef) was a big hit at our table. The lemonade is rich and not too sweet, and the tequila flan is exceptional. Ask to sample their special house mezcal, produced in the state.

Chamula’s Bar
Bolivar 438, corner. Torquemada, Colonia Obrera
Metro José Peon Contreras
Tel. 5519-1336
Open daily 1-9 PM.

La Toma de Tequila
Toluca 28-C at Baja California
Metro Centro Médico (at the exit marked Toluca)
Tel. 5584-5250
Open 1PM – 8PM Daily
No credit cards are accepted.