Archive for August, 2010

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Puebla’s Patriotic Dish: Chiles en Nogada

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

An enormous chile en nogada served at Mi Ciudad restaurant.From late July to early October, all forks in Puebla seem to point toward one entree: chiles en nogada. This labor-intensive dish, an icon of local gastronomy, consists of a poblano pepper that’s stuffed with ground pork and dried or fresh fruit, batter-fried, and then covered with a walnut cream sauce, pomegranate seeds, and parsley leaves.

The first recipe for chiles en nogada was developed at the Santa Monica convent by Augustinian nuns (although some historians credit the Claristas). Whatever their religious leanings may have been, the sisters got caught up in the fervor surrounding the Mexico’s independence in 1821. When Agustín de Iturbide — the liberator who co-wrote the peace treaties signed by Spain and later became Mexico’s emperor — passed through Puebla, a huge banquet was held. The nuns, seeking to demonstrate their national pride, presented Iturbide with an entree they’d concocted to display the red, white, and green colors of the new national flag.

“It is a very patriotic dish, because it has the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the chile [and the parsley], white from the walnut sauce, and red from the pomegranate,” Luis Alberto Martínez Álvarez writes on the state’s website. “August arrives, and with it the typical chiles en nogada, which each year you can find in every home in Puebla.”

Chiles en nogada means peppers in walnut sauce. The word “nogada” comes from “nogal,” or “walnut.”

Although some people serve the rich, sweet-and-savory dish served at other times of the year, most chefs prepare it when its key ingredients — apples, pears, peaches, walnuts, and pomengranates — are at their peaks. In Puebla, both seasons coincide with el mes patrio, or the patriotic month, here in Mexico. Independence Day is Sept. 16 and, with the nation celebrating its bicentennial this year, kitchens all over Puebla are churning out chiles en nogada in epic proportions.

Of course, most locals will tell you that the best chiles en nogada they’ve ever eaten were made by one of their family members. Tip: They’re always right. But you’ll also find tasty renditions at nearly every traditional eatery in town. Try chiles en nogada at Mi Ciudad (Av. Juárez #2507, La Paz), Fonda La Mexicana (16 de Septiembre #706-A, El Centro), or any of these 13 local restaurants, which have devoted a website to the dish.

Want to make your own? Try this step by step recipe from Lesley Tellez, who runs a culinary tourism business called Eat Mexico.

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A Day at The Spa: Get Pampered in Puebla

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

The changing room at The Spa in Puebla.You don’t have to book an expensive spa vacation to pamper yourself. Travelers with tired feet and locals looking for a break from city life can spend an hour or four at The Spa in Puebla. This urban retreat provides myriad ways to relax, refresh, and get away from it all without leaving town.

The full-service spa and salon offers much of what you’d expect from a fancy resort — except for the beach, the bar, and the premium prices. Its stylists do hair, nails, and pedicures. Its therapists do facials, massages, wraps, and other treatments, including tanning and waxing. Its instructors give yoga and pilates sessions in an exercise studio. How could a girl resist? I couldn’t, so I made an appointment.

I arrived at the reception desk exactly on time, at noon on a Friday, and expected to wait awhile, as is usual in Mexico, but I was immediately directed up two floors to the spa. A massage therapist greeted me as I exited the spiral stairway. After I filled out the usual form (in Spanish) stating that I didn’t have any worrisome medical conditions, she took me to the changing room, where a robe, disposable slippers and thong underwear, and a locker with a key for stowing clothing and personal items were ready for me.

My spa day began with a 10-minute steam, followed by a quick rinse in the shower, all in one private room. When I emerged, my therapist was waiting for me with a complimentary glass of very green chlorophyll water, ostensibly to help boost my energy later in the day. It smelled funny, but tasted OK. Next up: a one-hour, anti-stress massage. The room was clean and well-appointed, with tranquil Muzak piped in. The treatment was fantastic, with a bit of aromatherapy, a fair amount of pressure on my aching back, and a heating pad on my shoulders.

Afterward, I headed back downstairs to the salon, where I treated myself to a spa pedicure and a haircut. The pedicure, which included exfoliation and polish, was nice (but I was a bit skeptical of the cleanliness of the foot tub). The haircut was my fourth in Puebla — and the best stylist I’ve had so far. My total bill for the three-hour experience was just 930 pesos, plus tip. I’ll definitely return.

The Spa, located at Calzada Zavaleta #3506, celebrates its seventh anniversary on Aug. 5. (Stop by this Thursday and you’re likely find a few festive specials in effect.) Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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