Posts Tagged ‘mole poblano’

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Tastiest Dish in Latin America: Mole Poblano

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Grinding mole ingredients on a metate at La Casita PoblanaAll About Puebla features more than a few posts about Poblano food and, perhaps because of that, the upstart company Chowzter last summer asked our founder, Rebecca Smith Hurd, to serve as its chief culinary correspondent for the city of Puebla. As such, she wrote about her top regional dishes and her favorite places to eat them around town.

One of her picks, the mole poblano at La Casita Poblana in Col. Huexotitla, was nominated in Chowzter’s second annual Fast Feasts Awards as the tastiest dish in Latin America—and it took home top honors. Hurd accepted the prize on behalf of the restaurant in London on Sunday and plans to present it to owner Angélica Bravo Gutierrez and her kitchen staff, including Doña Ramona (who’s pictured here grinding mole ingredients on a metate), on May 6. Stay tuned for photos; we’ll update this post next week.

Want more in the meantime? Check out this short video shown during the awards presentation. Or better yet, visit the restaurant and try its mole poblano! Tip: It’s a tad spicy and a tad sweet—our favorite combo—and most traditionally served over chicken breast or thigh. We often order mole with chicken enchiladas too.

LaCasitaPoblana-moleCongratulations to everyone at La Casita Poblana for cooking up such a delicious version of the iconic and traditional dish! Elsewhere in Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle’s Carina Santiago was nominated in a different category for her mole coloradito. For a complete list of 2014 winners, click here.

Chowzter is a free website and mobile app (Android and iOS), that provides reviews of the “tastiest fast feasts” in scores of cities worldwide, chosen by foodies familiar with the area. The fare, which must be authentic and locally sourced, is typically offered by market stalls, street food vendors, and casual restaurants. The idea is to provide residents and visitors with insight into where to find seriously good eats at affordable prices wherever they may go.

If you’ve found a particularly tasty spot in Puebla you think we should try, let us know by leaving a reply below.

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Birthplace of Mole Poblano Reopens to the Public

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Entrance to the ex-Convent of Santa RosaLovers of Mexican food, rejoice! The kitchen of the former Santa Rosa Convent — the place where legend has it mole poblano was invented — has reopened its doors to the public. Visitors to Puebla may once again feast their eyes on the most spectacular and well-preserved talavera kitchen in the city. What makes it so special, beyond its culinary history? From floor to ceiling, nearly all of the room’s tiles are the restored originals, a docent explained during our visit yesterday.

The nuns’ now-iconic recipe is available to all comers in an adjacent room, where it’s proudly displayed in a cazuela (pictured below, far right) alongside those of other classic Poblano dishes from around the state. Photographs are not permitted inside the building without special permission from the state, but the guard let us snap a few of the recipes for the record.

AAP-StaRosaMoleRecipeAn official snapshot of the kitchen where mole poblano was invented.The site closed a few years ago so that repairs could be made to the entire 17th-century building, which occupies half a city block. (After church property was nationalized in the 1800s by reform laws, the old convent served as a military barracks, a mental hospital, and a housing complex before being converted into a cultural center and museum in the 1970s.) The kitchen reopened temporarily during the Tianguis Turístico event in March 2013 and permanently shortly thereafter without much fanfare. The rest of the building remains closed as restoration work continues. —Rebecca Smith Hurd

The Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa (Calle 3 Norte #1203, between 12 and 14 Poniente, Col. Centro) is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Photograph of convent kitchen by Presidencia de La República México

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5 Myths + Misconceptions About Puebla, Debunked

Monday, August 20th, 2012

When I arrived in Puebla in 2007 to study Spanish, I’d never been here before; I’d only taken beach vacations south of the border. In fact, until I began researching my trip, I’d never even heard of Puebla before — or so I thought. I quickly realized that two of Mexico’s best-known cultural exports to the U.S., mole poblano and Cinco de Mayo, were products of Puebla. Right. How could I not have known that?

Mexicophiles of the world, I hear your collective sigh. (Believe me, these days I’m right there with you.) But, in my experience, many foreign travelers have yet to connect those same dots, and those who do too often bungle the information. So, to celebrate my five-year anniversary here this week, I thought I’d try to clear a few things up. Here are five common myths and misconceptions about Puebla, debunked.

Myth 1: “Puebla” is synonymous with “pueblo.”

Given that many nouns in Spanish have both masculine and feminine forms, it’s easy to see how non-native speakers could confuse the two in this case. Puebla’s sister city of Pueblo, Colorado, doesn’t help the matter, either. For the uninitiated, pueblo is a common noun in Spanish that means “village” or “town” or “the people” in general. Puebla is a proper noun, the name of a state in Mexico and its capital city. Although it’s often mistakenly referred to as a “small Colonial city,” Puebla is the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis, with a population of more than 1.5 million people (comparable to Philadelphia). However, Puebla’s quaint and historic downtown — a UNESCO World Heritage Center — often makes this big city feel like a small town.

Myth 2: “Poblano” is a type of mole and chile pepper.

This statement is correct but seems to suggest that the Spanish adjective only applies to food, which is incorrect. Poblano describes any person or thing that comes from Puebla, including mole and chile peppers. My husband is poblano (m.), and Talavera pottery is poblana (f.), respectively. Mole poblano — never pablano — is a popular sweet and savory sauce from Puebla, the recipe for which typically calls for dried Poblano peppers (a.k.a. ancho chiles). It is not the only type of mole made in Mexico. When you visit Puebla, try manchamanteles and pipíanes rojo and verde, too.

Myth 3: Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Cinco de Mayo’s popularity in the United States and worldwide as a fiesta honoring Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latino pride has caused considerable confusion about the origins of the holiday. By all historical accounts, Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s brief but heroic victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Unfortunately, the governor of Puebla — who spent some $62 million in public money to fête Cinco de Mayo’s 150th anniversary this year — now plans to move the state’s official Independence Day celebration to the Cinco de Mayo battle forts this fall. Don’t be fooled: Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is not Independence Day (Sept. 16).

Myth 4: Puebla is a “day trip” from Mexico City.

Some well-known travel guides assert that you can easily see Puebla in a day if you’re staying in Mexico City, just 75 miles away. Do not trust anyone who says this. Yes, it’s true that it only takes about two hours to get here from the DF on the bus — and even less time by car — if there isn’t much traffic in either city. However, as a visiting producer for México Travel Channel told me last week, “We’ve been here for several days now and barely scratched the surface. There’s so much to see.” You need at least a long weekend to explore Puebla and neighboring Cholula, and even more time if you want to visit worthwhile outlying destinations, such as Atlixco and Cacaxtla. Otherwise, you’ll wish you stayed longer.

Myth 5: Puebla and Poblanos are very reserved.

Locals joke that there’s a church in Puebla for every Poblano, which suggests that the city is fairly religious. Pardon the cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover (even if it is the Bible). On any given day, for each Catholic temple you pass you’re likely to spot a shameless and very public display of affection. The oldest cantina in town is mostly open on weekday afternoons. Women who dress rather conservatively during the day wear scandalously little to go out at night. In other words, the upper crust of society may try to “keep up appearances,” but it’s all smoke and mirrors. The reality is that Poblanos are typical urban dwellers who appreciate tradition yet embrace the latest trends. What the city of Puebla lacks, like much of Mexico, is diversity. This seems to be changing, due in part to an influx of residents from other countries and states of the republic and an increasingly vocal LGBT community. It’s also worth noting that in July’s federal elections, the progressive candidate won the majority of votes in Puebla, not the traditional PAN or PRI. Although Puebla isn’t as liberal as San Francisco, my previous home, it isn’t Provo, Utah, either.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

To read more about Puebla, visit The Blog.

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A Week’s Worth of Good Eats in Puebla

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

A sampler plate at La Casita PoblanaIf I had to describe my life last week in Puebla in a single sentence, I’d say that I died and went to some sort of foodie Zion. Seriously, my experience was that divine: I spent seven whole days sampling a smorgasbord of regional cuisine, from humble street foods to elegant restaurant fare, crafted by talented cooks and chefs from around the state. I wish that I could eat so well on a regular basis, but alas neither my waistline nor my pocketbook would support it. That said, for one glorious, mouth-watering week, I ascended to gastronomic heaven in Puebla de los Angeles, the original city of angels.

What made it so great? Everything from preparing mole poblano on a traditional metate with cookbook author Mark Bittman to savoring the contemporary dishes of chefs Angel Vázquez and Pablo Salas paired with small-batch Mexican wines. My schedule was jam-packed with eating, drinking, cooking, listening to experts, and having close encounters with a few of my favorite food bloggers and celebrity chefs.

Want the juicy details? Proceed with caution. This post is likely to make you hungry.

Backstage at the International Mole Festival with Pablo, chefs Lopez and Bayless, and Adam GoldbergThey had all convened in Puebla for the first International Mole Festival, one of the many festivities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. Indeed, my culinary bliss was made possible, at least in part, by the state’s international affairs office, which recruited me last fall to help organize and promote the event. Unlike previous mole festivals in Puebla, this one not only celebrated Mexico’s most iconic dish, but also demonstrated its influence on a global scale.

My role in the mole festival was relatively modest, but being involved left a big impression on my mind, my heart, and my stomach. So, I thought I’d share the highlights of my week’s worth of good eats — and food-related activities — in Puebla, in the hopes of enticing others to visit and attend future events.

Sunday

April 29, 3 p.m.: My in-laws and I descend upon Texas B-B-Q (29 Sur 722, Col. La Paz) to celebrate my husband Pablo’s birthday a day early, given the busy week ahead. Although foreign visitors may bristle at the thought of eating brisket in Puebla, carnivorous locals can appreciate meat cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection, Lone Star State-style — and this is arguably some of the best barbecue south of the Texas border. The restaurant, which opened in early March, marinates its brisket in a special dry rub, smokes its own sausages and beef and pork ribs for hours, and makes its own secret barbecue sauce. It also carries a nice selection of imported beers (although, sadly, not Shiner Bock). We capped off our meal with an off-key rendition of “Las Mañanitas” and passed a complimentary Texas-shaped waffle, topped with berries and whipped cream, around the table. Our stomachs were primed for the rest of the week!

Monday

April 30, 7:30 p.m.: Angelica Bravo Gutiérrez, owner of La Casita Poblana (41 Poniente at 16 de Septiembre, Col. Huexotitla), arranges for a special tasting menu of some of Puebla’s more exotic delicacies at her restaurant. She and I had previously chatted about the fact that I often want to try certain dishes but feel too ashamed to order a huge plate of something that I may not enjoy. As an alternative, she serves up small plates of what seems like half her menu: gusanos de maguey (edible caterpillars), escamoles (ant larvae), tacos de sesos (pig brains), tostadas de pata de res and tinga (pickled cow jelly and chicken stew, respectively), guajolotes (sandwiches of fried-bread and shredded beef), huazontles capeados (deep-fried greens similar to goosefoot weed with panela cheese and an egg coating), chalupas (fried tortillas topped with salsa, onion, and shredded pork), sopa de médula (bone marrow soup), huazontles en salsa roja (the same goosefoot smothered in a tomato-based sauce), huitlacoche (corn smut), pipían verde con pechuga de pollo (chicken breast in a green pumpkin-seed mole) and, of course, the house mole poblano. Whew! Angelica paired each “course” with various Mexican wines, our favorite being a 2009 bottle of Equua, a blend of Grenache and petit Syrah from Baja California.

Tuesday

Mark Bittman takes a turn grinding ingredients on the metate.May 1, 10 a.m.: I return to La Casita with writer Mark Bittman. Mark, a featured speaker at the mole festival, was putting together a new presentation for Puebla and wanted to make mole poblano the old-school way. I tag along as his Spanish interpreter. We meet with veteran cook Doña Ramona in the kitchen. Flanked by a small team of helpers, she explains and demonstrates the process of charring, toasting, and/or frying various ingredients. She then slowly, laboriously begins grinding everything to a smooth, glossy paste on her metate, a 45-year-old slab of volcanic rock that her family in San Pablo del Monte uses to make everything from basic masa for tortillas to elaborate sauces like mole and pipián rojo. Mark and I take turns learning to press the well-seasoned mixture of fruits, nuts, and chiles into a fine paste, which is later brought to a boil and finished with chicken stock. Our version comes out a bit spicier than the restaurant’s recipe. Although this probably has to do with the chiles, I imagine that somehow the fire in Popocatépetl’s belly (which long ago created Doña Ramona’s kitchen stone) has somehow ignited our dish.

Wednesday

May 2, 9:30 a.m.: I pick up celebrity chef Rick Bayless — who’s traveled overnight from Chicago to get to mole festival on time — at the Mexico City Airport. He’s accompanied by Amado Lopez, his chef de cuisine at Xoco in Chicago. As if Rick’s culinary prowess and love of Mexican cuisine hadn’t won me over long ago, I become a fan for life during the two-hour car ride to Puebla when we start chatting about politics and agree that Jon Stewart should moderate a U.S. presidential debate. I’m further impressed when he spends what little time he has in Puebla (like 15 hours) visiting a friend’s new bakery, eating tacos árabes, and tweeting about a street vendor’s five flavors of potato chips. Later, during his talk, he shares personal notes that he took during his first visit to the state capital decades ago.

Salsa de chicales with pork, a specialty in Pahuatlán2:15 p.m.: I’m hungry. I wander among the International Mole Festival food stalls operated by cooks from 10 different municipalities around the state, from Chignahuapan to Huejotzingo. Everything looks and smells divine, but I gravitate toward the Pahuatlán booth. This small town is Puebla’s newest “pueblo mágico,” known for its natural beauty, artisanal goods (such as papel amate), and salsa de chicales (giant ants ground up with chiles served over pork). How could I resist? I’m so glad I couldn’t, because the spicy, savory dish was to-die-for.

Thursday

May 3, 10 a.m.: A series of talks about mole poblano by Puebla-based chefs begins, with Alonso Hernandez and Rodrigo Ibañez discussing its origins, Liz Galicia and Carlos Zorrilla sharing its traditions, and Angel Vázquez and David Fuentes tackling innovation. For me, this is the most exciting part of the festival. After all, it’s said that Poblanos are among the most talented cooks on the planet — and we’re finally getting to hear from some, on their home turf. They explore the legends surrounding the dish’s invention and subsequent evolution, agreeing that conflicting stories merely add to its allure. “No one has the ‘authentic’ recipe,” notes Carlos (a.k.a. Zorri). “Everyone can vary the ingredients.” Alonso refers to mole poblano as “the king of all sauces,” one versatile enough to combine with anything from beef ribs to lasagna, which Angel and David later underscore by passing out a chocolate truffle with mole poblano ganache that leaves festival attendees begging for more (see Friday).

“The best mole is the one served in my house. Right, Mom?” —Chef Liz Galicia

5 p.m.: A group of foreign friends and restaurateurs are interested in a market tour, so we head off on foot to Mercado de la Acocota in Barrio de la Luz. En route, we stop at a molino to see where busy cooks (who don’t have time to use a metate) go to get their masas and moles processed in large batches. We stop at a grocer to buy chiles and find cured goat preserved from last fall’s traditional slaughter in Tehaucán. We search for a lady inside the market who makes a mole with this meat but come up empty-handed. We console ourselves with a sandwich from Cemitas Beto and a pineapple soda.

7:45 p.m.: We cap off a spectacular day with dinner at El Mural de los Poblanos (16 De Septiembre #506, Col. Centro). After admiring the brand-new Cinco de Mayo-themed painting in the entrance hall, we sit down at a table for nine to enjoy a flight of mezcal (with expert tasting notes from foodie Lesley Tellez), a couple bottles of Barón Balché, grilled panela cheese, and assorted salads and entrees, including an exquisite ensalada de verdolagas (microgreens mixed with local cheese, tomatoes, nuts, and avocado) and arrachera (flank steak) grilled to perfection and served with crispy sweet-potato chips. Tip: You know you’ve picked a good restaurant when Mexico City-based chef Monica Patiño and her entourage are dining a few tables away.

Friday

May 4, 3:30 p.m.: Pablo and I head over to foodie Adam Goldberg’s part-time digs in Cholula, where he’s promised to make us “the perfect cup of coffee.” Adam is a connoisseur of the caffeinated brew and owns the gear to prove it (which he lugs all over the world). No kidding: His coffee-making rig is worthy of a how-to article in Wired. It comprises tools for calculating, measuring, and testing whether any given beverage has the proper water-to-coffee ratio. Or something like that. In any case, the man knows how to whip up a strong, well-balanced cup of joe at high altitude (7,000 feet)!

Lesley and Gloria make mole truffles with chef Angel Vázquez5 p.m.: Back to those mouth-watering mole truffles. When the chef himself offers to teach Gloria Dominguez, a California restaurateur, how to make them and then invites you to join the class — and bring a few friends — how do you say no? You don’t. So, I turn up at Intro Restaurant (Calzada Zavaleta #5624, Col. Zavaleta, San Andrés Cholula) with my other half and foodies Lesley Tellez and Kate Blood. We watch Angel Vázquez deftly put together a chocolatey ganache filling with mole mixed in, and then we get our hands “dirty” while piping, rolling, and dusting the chocolate-coated candies with pulverized baked tortillas. We sample our work with a bottle of Aborigen winery’s Tinto de la Casa.

Saturday

May 5, 8:30 p.m. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, we could have attended the free concert by Marc Anthony at Cuauhtémoc stadium. But rather than fight the elements and hordes of people, we opt to splurge on the special menu back at Intro Restaurant, where Angel Vázquez and visiting chef Pablo Salas put together a contemporary six-course dinner with Mexican-wine pairings just for the occasion. The experience is world-class. Carp-roe tacos with cilantro foam. Snapper sashimi with fava-bean purée, warm butter, crispy artichoke bits, and preserved lime. Pork “meatloaf” with almonds, raisins, and epazote. Oxtail with cactus paddle, cauliflower, and grape tomato salad. Braised beef rib in mole poblano with a bean tamal, baby carrots, and chayote.

Did I mention that I died and went to foodie heaven? Many thanks to all of the cooks, chefs, friends, and colleagues who made my week so unbelievably delicious.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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What’s On in Puebla for the 150th Cinco de Mayo

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Some 8,000 military troops are expected to march in this year’s Cinco de Mayo parade.“2012 is a big year for Puebla,” The New York Times recently noted. And, as if the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo — arguably the most celebrated Mexican holiday outside of Mexico — weren’t enough to draw global attention, the Popocatépetl volcano decided to send up a few massive smoke signals last week to make sure the whole world knew where to find Puebla on a map. Now that everyone’s looking, they’ll see that the city of Puebla, which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the nation’s gastronomic capital, has a lot to offer. This vibrant metropolis should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Visitors to Puebla between now and mid-May can participate in the myriad festivities commemorating the sesquicentennial of Mexico’s historic Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. The city and state of Puebla have invested more than $62 million (800 million pesos) in Cinco de Mayo-related public projects and special events, the latter of which include a massive civic parade, a nighttime spectacular with fireworks, scores of world-class concerts and theatrical performances, and an international mole festival featuring celebrity chefs and food experts.

Here are a few Cinco de Mayo highlights, with links to additional information and goings-on:

Cinco de Mayo Parade

Some 8,000 military troops and 6,200 students and teachers from 56 public schools statewide are expected to participate in the 2012 Cinco de Mayo parade, which will be marshaled by President Felipe Calderon and feature 34 decorative floats. Visitors who’ve attended in previous years should note that the route has been changed to inaugurate a new urban byway named for battle hero Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza. Rain or shine. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat with you.
Date and time: May 5, 11 a.m.
Admission: Free; 3,800 seats (chairs and bleachers) available to early birds.
Location: Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza, from Plaza Tolin (at the corner of Calle Ruiz Cortines) to the Loreto and Guadalupe forts.

Cinco de Mayo Spectacular

Following the parade, a nighttime show with pyrotechnics — orchestrated by Five Currents, the production company for the 2012 London Olympics — will represent Puebla and all things poblano. The three-part spectacular, hosted by former Miss Universe Ximena Navarette, will feature star-studded tributes and culminate in a massive display of fireworks, organizers say.
Date and time: May 5, 8 to 10 p.m.
Admission: 3,000 tickets were given away; the show will be broadcast nationwide by Televisa.
Location: Guadalupe Fort, Calzada Ejército de Oriente, Unidad Cívica 5 de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo Concert

Pop crooner Marc Anthony, whose soon-to-be-ex-wife Jennifer Lopez hails from Puebla —er, New— York, is scheduled to end the official Cinco de Mayo celebrations on a high note with a free concert for up to 42,600 people at the soccer stadium. Word has it that the Cinco de Mayo Spectacular (above) will be shown on big screens at the stadium.
Date and time: May 5, 10 p.m.
Admission: No charge, available at the Feria de Puebla (see next item)
Location: Estadio Cuauhtémoc, Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza #666, Col. Maravillas

Feria de Puebla

The 2012 Puebla State Fair comprises more than 500 commercial stands, carnival rides, a food court, a public theater, a children’s area, ice-skating shows, an exhibition of Mexican masks, and a military expo (La Gran Fuerza de México). Concerts in the Foro Artístico include Aleks Syntek (April 25), Juan Solo and Mariachi Estrella (April 27), and Kinky (May 4) and are free with fair admission. Palenque performances feature artists such as Juan Gabriel (May 3-4) and Edith Marquez (May 5) require an additional ticket purchase. Tickets to the bullfights in the Plaza de Toros (April 28, May 6) also sold separately.
Dates and times: April 13 to May 13, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Mon.-Thu.) and 11:30 p.m. (Fri.-Sun.); except May 5, when it’s closed for the Cinco de Mayo festivities at the forts.
Admission: 20 pesos (adults), 10 pesos (kids); palenque tickets cost 300-2,000 pesos, available online and at Farmacias del Ahorro outlets; bullfight tickets cost 150-800 pesos, available at Superboletos outlets.
Location: Centro Expositor, Calzada Ejércitos de Oriente, Unidad Cívica 5 de Mayo; free transportation is being provided from the zócalo, Paseo Bravo/El Gallito, Jardín de Analco, and Estadio Cuauhtémoc (with pickups every 20 to 25 minutes).

Festival Internacional de Puebla

The International Festival of Puebla is an annual cultural event that features artists, creators, and entertainers from around the world. The 2012 lineup boasts performers from two dozen countries — including Mexico, of course — who will perform on 11 public stages and in various parks and venues around the Puebla capital. Standouts include Ozomatli (April 28), Cecilia Toussaint (May 3), and Rubén Blades (May 6).
Dates and times: April 7 to May 6, mostly afternoons and evenings
Admission: Free
Location: Varies; click here for a full schedule of events

Festival Internacional del Mole

The International Mole Festival is a two-day culinary event designed to savor Puebla’s most iconic dish mole poblano and to demonstrate the region’s influence on Mexican food and gastronomy worldwide. Celebrity chefs and food experts, such as Rick Bayless, Mark Bittman, Patricia Quintana, and Marcela Valladolid, will discuss traditions, innovations, and their personal experiences related to poblano cuisine. Live simultaneous translation (in English or Spanish, depending on the speaker) will be provided via headsets. Tastings of mole prepared by traditional moleras from around the state are included in the ticket price.
Dates and times: May 2 and 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: 1,400 pesos for both days, available at Ticketmaster outlets in Mexico
Location: Centro de Convenciones William O. Jenkins, Blvd. Héroes del 5 de Mayo #402, Paseo de San Francisco, in the historic center of Puebla

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Post updated May 5, 2012.

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Why Puebla Is Mexico’s Place to Go in 2012

Friday, January 6th, 2012

While beach-loving tourists plan “end of the world” trips to the Mayan Riviera in 2012, savvy urban travelers — particularly history buffs and foodies — are heading for the city of Puebla. Why now?

The state capital, officially known as Heróica Puebla de Zaragoza, has been steadily racking up travel-related accolades over the past nine months. First, the San Francisco Chronicle called out Puebla as one of the five safest places in Mexico for travelers. Then the Matador Network, an independent journalism site that celebrates travel culture, highlighted Mexico’s fourth-largest metropolis as one of nine safe and awesome places to travel in Mexico. Next, National Geographic Traveler chose Puebla and nearby Huaquechula as one it’s best fall trips (for Day of the Dead). Then the readers of the Lonely Planet travel guides gave the city a Best in Travel 2012 nod, voting it one of this year’s ten hottest destinations worldwide. And now The New York Times has picked Puebla as one of its 45 places to go in 2012.

The widespread recognition of Puebla as a list-worthy travel destination is long overdue.

Young poblanos pose as Colonial-era soldiers on a Cinco de Mayo parade float (2011).Of course, Puebla has been “safe” for a long time, and Day of the Dead happens every year. But 2012 also marks the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, which in Mexico is a state holiday that commemorates the David and Goliath-esque Battle of Puebla in 1862. In the somewhat miraculous military manuever, local forces managed to fend off French troops for several days, despite the fact that they were grossly outnumbered and outgunned. As news of their victory spread, via telegraph and Spanish-language newspapers, its impact on Mexican emigrants in California was profound, historians say. This helps to explain why Cinco de Mayo matters today in the United States.

For this year’s milestone May 5, Puebla officials are planning numerous public events, to which they’re inviting residents, visitors, and dignitaries from all over the world (including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). The activities will include a massive Cinco de Mayo parade and the first international mole festival. The parade, marshaled by President Felipe Calderón, is destined to top the 2011 affair, which featured 26,000 students and schoolteachers, 5,000 military and public safety personnel, and more than 50 decorative floats from communities statewide. The route traditionally follows 5 de Mayo Boulevard from Plaza Dorada/Juarez Park to the Loreto and Guadalupe forts where the historic hilltop battle took place. However, this year officials may alter the course in order to showcase one of various newly completed public works projects: a series of bridges (two of which are elevated) dedicated to General Ignacio Zaragoza.

A float in Puebla's 2010 Cinco de Mayo parade depicts the traditional preparation of mole.The mole festival, slated for May 2 and 3, will celebrate Puebla’s influence on world cuisines through its most iconic dish, mole poblano. Poblano, by the way, means “from Puebla.” Chefs from third-generation moleras to U.S. celebrities will offer two days of mole-related talks, cooking demonstrations, and tastings. Artisans will sell handcrafted kitchen wares, such as embroidered aprons, wooden utensils, and talavera ceramics. (Full disclosure: I’ve been working with the state office of international affairs and CANIRAC Puebla, the festival’s key organizers.) As additional Cinco de Mayo events and details are announced in the coming weeks, I’ll strive to update this post accordingly. I hope to see you in Puebla in 2012!
—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Is Puebla on your 2012 bucket list? Check out our hotel and transportation pages for helpful trip-planning information. If you’re interested in hiring a local, English-speaking tour guide, contact us.

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7 Places to Dine Like a Poblano in Puebla

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

This huge entree at Fonda La Mexicana includes chalupas and mole poblano enchiladas.You haven’t really experienced Puebla until you’ve eaten the food here — and lots of it. From quick bites prepared curbside to slow-cooked meals elaborated in formal kitchens, the region’s gastronomy is an integral part of state and national culture. One dish, mole poblano, is so important to Puebla’s identity that restaurateurs recently began lobbying to have its ingredients and production regulated and, like tequila, given protected status.

The ideal place to try the local cuisine is in somebody’s home, because family recipes lovingly passed down for generations are likely to trump the restaurant experience every time. If you ask the average Poblano where you can find the best mole, his reply is likely to be “En mi casa,” which means “At my house.” Visitors who aren’t fortunate enough to have relatives in the area can instead buy meals at one of the dozens of restaurants in the capital city that specialize in comida poblana.

There are so many inviting places to chow down around town that we have yet to try them all — but we’re working on it! The list below features our top seven picks of late, in no particular order. We chose each restaurant for its varied menu, overall quality and consistency, and generally pleasing customer service over the course of our visits.

La Casita Poblana

16 de Septiembre #3912, Col. Huexotitla, (222) 243-2210
It’s hard to resist ordering everything on the menu at La Casita Poblana. The house mole poblano, which won an award as “tastiest fast feast in Latin America” in 2014, does the dish proud, striking the perfect balance between spicy and sweet. When available in the spring, the huauzontles en caldillo de jitomate are a must-try: The broccoli-esque wild greens are served relleno-style in an onion-infused tomato broth. Adventurous eaters should also try the sopa de médula (spinal cord soup), tostadas de pata (pickled beef cartilage on a fried corn tortilla), and escamoles (ant eggs) and gusanos de maguey (fried caterpillars) in tacos.
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Credit cards accepted.

Fonda La Mexicana

3 Poniente #316, Col. Centro, (222) 242-2837
Stick-to-your-ribs home-style cooking served in a casual, family-style atmosphere makes Fonda La Mexicana stand out. The extensive menu includes all the typical must-try farechalupas, mole poblano, and pipián verde — plus a few more exotic and seasonal dishes, such as cecina (dried beef), mixiotes de carnero (lamb in parchment), and chiles en nogada (pork and fruit stuffed peppers in walnut sauce). Entrees typically cost 70 to 160 pesos; expect huge portions, like those a Mexican mom might heap on your plate whenever you start looking a little too thin. If 3 Poniente is packed, head for the restaurant’s other location nearby at 16 de Septiembre #706-A, which opens at 10 a.m.
Open daily 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Credit cards accepted.

Los Manteles

Calzada Zavaleta #3913, Col. Zavaleta (222) 130-9899
It’s hard to find a tastier, less expensive full breakfast in town than Los Manteles. For 40 to 55 pesos, you can order plates of, say, huevos a la Mexicana (eggs scrambled with pico de gallo), huevos enmolados (eggs over easy in mole poblano), or a three-entree combo accompanied by café de la olla (coffee with cinnamon), freshly baked bread, and orange juice or a fruit plate. After 1 p.m., Los Manteles serves a menu of the day that usually includes three soup or pasta choices (11 to 18 pesos) and five traditional main dishes (33 to 52 pesos), from arrachera (flank steak) to pipián verde (chicken in pumpkin seed mole).
Open daily. Breakfast, 8 a.m- 1 p.m.; lunch, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Cash only.

Mesón Sacristía de la Compañía

Callejón de los Sapos, Calle 6 Sur #304, Col. Centro (222) 232 4513
Nestled inside a Colonial-style boutique hotel, Mesón Sacristía takes diners back in time. Its indoor patio and intimate dining rooms are appointed with traditional pottery and antique books, statues, and furniture. The moderately priced menu features everything from popular street foods, such as chanclas (a small sandwich smothered in a sausage-tinged salsa) and zucchini-flower quesadillas, to formal fare, such as mancha manteles (pork in a spicy, fruity, tablecloth-staining sauce) and milanesa de res (chicken-fried steak). Save room for dessert: Mesón Sacristía offers a mouth-watering selection of sweets, including cremitas estilo La California, a tribute to a legendary local establishment’s pudding-like indulgences.
Open Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Credit cards accepted.

Mi Ciudad

Avenida Juárez #2507, Col. La Paz (222) 231-0277
Although this mid-range chain operates in several locations, we prefer the Avenida Juárez restaurant, which features a colorful mosaic of local cathedral domes and does the best job of separating smoking from nonsmoking diners. You’ll find all of the poblano entrees you’d expect on the menu, as well as a wonderful selection of fish and seafood dishes. When in season, the whole huachinango al mojo de ajo (red snapper in garlic and spices) is fabulous and worth every peso. The shrimp molcajete (served in a hot stone vessel) is tasty, too. Like almost everywhere in Puebla, the service here can be a little slow, so order another tamarind margarita and chill out.
Open Mon.-Thu., 1 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 1 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; and Sun., 1-7 p.m. Credit cards accepted.

El Mural de los Poblanos

16 de Septiembre #506, Col. Centro, (222) 242-0503
El Mural de los Poblanos initially lured us in with its wide selection of Mexican wine, tequila, and mezcal. The upscale restaurant keeps us coming back with its excellent cuisine and customer service, such as accommodating vegetarians. Whether preparing escamoles (ant eggs fried in butter), huasmole de caderas (goat stew) or enchiladas de tres moles (cheese or chicken, with three different sauces), the kitchen takes tremendous pride in its original recipes, artisanal cooking techniques, and use of regional ingredients. The cozy dining room, which occasionally hosts live music, is typically a tranquil space, with a working fountain on one wall and a giant mural of local historical figures on another.
Open Mon.-Sat., 1-10 p.m.; Sun., 1-6 p.m. Credit cards accepted.

Nevados Don Hermilo

Andador Pasaje del H. Ayuntamiento #1, Col. Centro, (222) 211-0624
For nearly century, this family-run operation has drawn locals to the city’s historic center with tasty regional fare. The restaurant is perhaps best known for its namesake adult beverages, or nevados, which come in more than a dozen flavors. (Our favorite is the Iztaccíhuatl, which combines tequila, pomegranate, and hibiscus liqueurs with a tiny scoop of lime sorbet.) Don Hermilo’s wide selection of tortas (sandwiches) and platters of decoratively cut cheeses and cold cuts are also wildly popular.
Open daily. Credit cards accepted.

A couple of dining-out tips: The wait staff is unlikely to bring you the bill until you ask for it (say “La cuenta, por favor”), and a gratuity of 10 to 15 percent is appreciated. If you’re pressed for time, we suggest heading for the Mercado de Sabores Poblanos, where you can sample the handiwork of myriad cooks in one convenient location. What this food court-esque site lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in authentic, affordable good eats. —Rebecca Smith Hurd

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Puebla? Please tell us where you go for mole and more in the comments section below!

Post updated May 3, 2014

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Specialty Food Market Flaunts Flavors of Puebla

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

The facade of the new market features a mosaic of names of poblano dishes.The very mention of Puebla should conjure images of food in every traveler’s mind. Cooks from all over the state are responsible for developing some of the most delicious, iconic cuisine of Mexico—including the internationally beloved mole poblano and the widely misrepresented chalupa. Both dishes were invented ages ago right here in the capital city. Today visitors to Puebla can sample these and other regional recipes at the brand-new Mercado de Sabores Poblanos (market of Puebla flavors).

The market, part of a downtown revitalization effort, opened Feb. 5. It satisfies three municipal needs: increasing tourism, providing a quality space for vendors who specialize in gastronomy, and re-purposing an unused space in the historic center, Mayor Blanca Alcalá said last weekend in an official statement. Alcalá, whose term ends Feb. 15, believes the market will drive future social, economic, and urban development in Puebla—and ensure that poblano cuisine remains one of the city’s biggest attractions. The project took about six months and $4.1 million (50 million pesos) to complete, according to the online newspaper PeriodicoDigital.com.mx.

The Mercado de Sabores Poblanos is a huge U-shaped food court where more than 130 vendors prepare and sell an array of typical street and restaurant fare.

The new market is like a giant food court, with more than 130 vendors.The market establishes an unmistakable modern landmark in the city center. The building’s facade features a vibrant tile mosaic designed by acclaimed painter José Lazcarro that calls out the names of regional dishes. Inside, artist Luz Elvira Torres continues this motif in metal sculptures that dangle from the ceiling, adding a splash of color amid a sea of the white tile that covers the vendor stalls. Laminated signs identify each stall and share a few recipes. By design, the Mercado de Sabores Poblano appears orderly and pristine—a sharp contrast to the chaotic traditional Mercado Venustiano Carranza across the street. Read: What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in hygiene. Meanwhile, the older market is being renovated to house butchers, vegetable growers, and other merchants who did not relocate to the new building, according to a parking attendant who works in the neighborhood and various news reports.

The message: Come to the Mercado de Sabores Poblanos to eat. Go elsewhere for the old-school Mexican market experience.

The food choices are, in a word, abundant. Visitors can sample tacos árabes (pork wrapped in pita), pelonas (sandwiches on deep-fried bread), memelas (bean-stuffed corn tortillas topped with salsa, onions and cheese), pipián verde (chicken in green mole), cemitas (Puebla’s take on the torta), camotes (sweet potato candies), and much more. Vendors range from independent food purveyors to well-established businesses like As de Oro, El Girofle, La Choza del Pescador, and Tacos Tony. Hungry yet?

Pipián verdeCemitasMemela

Mercado de Sabores Poblanos is located on 4 Poniente between 11 and 13 Norte, about halfway to the 4 Poinente bus station from the center of town.

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Holy Mole Poblano!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Chef Alonzo Hernández's mole poblanoLegend has it — and nearly everything in Mexico has a legend — that the rich, savory mole poblano for which Puebla is famous dates back to the 18th century, when nuns at the Santa Rosa convent prepared it for a visiting archbishop. The savvy sisters combined no fewer than 20 indigenous and imported ingredients, including chocolate, garlic, and various peppers, to make the sauce, which they then poured over cooked meat (probably turkey). The result was delicious, and the dish helped to establish Puebla as a destination for good eats.

Fast-forward 300 years, and nearly every cook in the state has developed his or her own recipe. Some moles are made from scratch; others are based on a paste purchased in a market. Their flavors vary wildly. In the mountains, more chiles tend to be used, intensifying the mole’s heat, whereas in lower-lying areas, more fruits are added, making the sauce sweeter, says Alonzo Hernández, executive chef for Mesones Sacristía, a trio of boutique hotels in the city’s Colonial center. Hernandez offers semi-private classes in his kitchen and inspired regional fare in his restaurants. “We want to change, to do what is practical, but it’s also necessary to save the original recipes,” he says. His mole poblano ranks among the best — a thick, mild, slightly fruity version that’s served over chicken breast or thigh and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Many of Hernandez’s dishes, including his signature cazuelita poblana, arrive at the table in traditional clay pots.

“If I couldn’t eat in my restaurant, I’d eat at Meson Sacristía de la Compañía, because it has good food and good moles,” says Luis Javier Cué de la Fuente, who runs El Mural de los Poblanos (16 de Septiembre #506), a cozy restaurant just two blocks from the zócalo. He suggests that travelers who’d like to compare mole poblano with pipian rojo and pipian verde sauces order the three-mole enchiladas at El Mural. The dish is typically prepared with chicken, but vegetarians may substitute fresh cheese. Adventurous diners will also find seasonal local delicacies, including escamoles (ant eggs) and huasmole (goat bone stew), on the menu.

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