15 Minutes of Fame: The Best of 2012

1. The Gone With the Wind we-knew-who-would-win award for best restaurant of the year goes to: Máximo Bistro Local. The popularity of this now much lauded Roma eatery has gone viral, but the quality remains uncompromised. The chef has integrity and just refuses to abandon ship for Hollywood stardom. Bravo!

2. The Maria Felix award for prettiest and best Mexican is undoubtedly deserved by Limosneros. The newest high-end centro resto, in a gussied up colonial palace is the best option for a romantic dinner downtown. And the bar features everything national. ¡Andale!

3. The Katherine Hepburn she-keeps-on-winning-over-and-over award is gladly handed  to Rosetta. Once again the Roman Italian beauty must be congratulated for the constant high standards of its kitchen. Hats off to chef Elena Reygadas.

4. The Sophia Loren girl-from-the-barrio award goes to Fonda Kelly. It’s a little hip gem of a place in the middle of Tepito, paean to artist Phil Kelly that serves surprisingly good midday chow. And it’s for those on a budget (note: sadly, Fonda Kelly closed as of the end of 2012)

5. The Julie & Julia award for best Mexican cook book of the year is well deserved by Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico. Several books came out this year about street or snack food, but none as uncompromising as this lovingly written homage to the author’s homeland (and home city of D.F.). If you want to open your own puesto, this is the book with which to start.

Honorable mentions:

Best place to get smashed: Chonicler of DF's underbelly David Lida reports that "I would be hard pressed to choose one place, given the number and the variety and of course what mood I would be in. But I would  rely on an old favorite Cantina Tio Pepe at the corner of Independencia and Dolores in the centro

Best Ice Cream: Helados Palmeiro. Eugenio Palmeiro's ice cream stand in the Mercado Medellín is, according to the owner, an Habanero, made according to his memories of that iconic Havana institution, Heladeria Coppelia. He also offers malteadas made with real malt just as they should be.

Best mole – by far, that of the little 50-year-old downtown hole in the wall, Fonda Mi Lupita. Their rich, lightly sweet chocolaty concoction is divine.

Best bakery – Panadería Da Silva, who has a couple of new locations, including the easily accessible mezzanine store in the Downtown Hotel brings great Portuguese breads and pastries to our previously deficient city. His pasteis de nata are unparalleled, better than those famous ones in old Lisboa.

Best bread: Pastelería Bó, with a couple of Condesa loacations does the best baguette in town. The French Lady says so. And their tarts are good too.

Best arrachera - El Hornero in the Roma, is according to the carnivorous Sr. de la Torre, the place to which all such animals must return.

Best tacos al pastor – El Huequito is still it. But only the original, on Ayunatmiento.

Best Asian – Benkay in the Nikko hotel no longer offers that tempting buffet but they serve up fine Nipponese fare in their pretty new space and it’s like a trip to Tokyo. The seasonal bento, at $325 is a good deal too. Runner up: Mojing, in the centro does Chinese for Chinese very, very well.

Best old time market – The Mercado Jamaica is classic, there’s good food to eat, decent quality fruits and vegetables, the aisles are wide making for easy access and they have around the clock flower market. What’s not to like?

Best new time market – The recently disappeared French Market inside the late (and not lamented, by this author, anyway, Le Bouchon) is sure to resurface. J'espère que nous reverrons bientôt…


Silver Bells: The Medellín Night Market

For those visiting or living in el D.F., be sure to pass by the Mercado Medellín night market to see  Christmas in full throttle. Stands line the east side of the market (on calle Campeche) and besides offering real Christmas trees, an apparent D.F. tradition,  feature decorations of all kinds, from baby Jesus's most likely made in China to handmade decorations that conjure a warm Yuletide carol. The mood is pure  gaiety as normally homebound families emerge into the increasingly frosty eve to shop and - best of all - eat.
The comedores open around 6pm and remain in service until midnight. Jolly diners fill long picnic tables set up in the street while purveyors hawk their goods luring new customers in. They offer a large variety of antojitos from rich red pozole with all the trimmings to enchiladas to sopes. Try a tostada of bacalao a la Veracruzana, the beloved end-of-year dried cod stew. Or a sope of romeritos, a green vegetable done in a mole-like sauce with dried shrimp. Tamales waft their tantalizing steam while giant pambazos, those salsa-slathered torta bombs sizzle away.  There is warm fruit-filled punch to wash it all down and flan or buñuelos - giant rounds of crispy fried bread - with honey for dessert. This is a  don't-miss neighborhood Navidad tradition in the city. The Mercado Medellín is located between Monterrey and Medellín, Coahuila and Campeche in the Colonia Roma. If you arrive by Metrobus, get off at Campeche and walk east. Nearest metro stop is Chilpancingo. The market will be open seven days a week until midnight through December 23rd.

A note to my readers: See my DF recommendations in this month's Condé Nast Traveler: