Delicious destination: Mexico City

IMG_1435When I convinced my friend Daphne to come with me to Mexico City for a long weekend, I had no doubt in my mind we’d have a great time.

I’d been to Mexico before, back what feels like three lifetimes ago in 2011, but to the Quintana Roo region known for its beach towns along the Carribean.

This time, however, I swapped the shorts and bathing suits for gym leggings and forgiving jeans with a lot of stretch because my plan to explore Mexico’s capital involved doing so mostly through as much of its delicious food as we could get through in the few days we were there.

Let me first say that three and a half days is barely enough time to put a dent in the neighborhood we stayed in, Roma, much less the whole city. But if you get the chance to visit Mexico City, be it for three days or three weeks, take it. GO. Eat everything.

From the tacos and tostadas to the pastries and sweets, the fruit and even the convenience store snacks, everything we ate was delicious (and so cheap!), but it was the first meal we had, molcajete at the Mercado Roma, that really set the tone for the rest of our trip: awesome.

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Made from porous volcanic rock, a molcajete is the Mexican version of a mortar, and the one we ordered was filled with wedges of grilled queso blanco, an assortment of meats— pork, steak, chorizo, nopales (cactus), charred peppers and onions, all served with a stack of warm tortillas. Like me, our molcajete was shaped like a little pig.

IMG_1433Assembly was DIY and deliciously simple: grab a floppy tortilla, plop down a bit of meat and maybe a little something else, an onion or a pepper, drizzle some salsa on it, give the whole thing a squeeze of lime, and enjoy. Almost every table we sat at had the same selection of condiments: a bowl of lime wedges and a few salsas and hot sauces for flavor tweaking and adjusting, and they never went unused. Our molcajete was delicious on its own, everything juicy and tender with a subtle char from the grill, but a little lime juice and hot sauce added just the perfect, zesty finishing touches.

A little sloppy but worth every bit of saucy, juicy mess, I couldn’t have planned for a better first meal in the city. And if you check back in over the next few days, I’ll tell you about some of the other great things we ate, which I’ll probably still be daydreaming about for months to come.

Yes, more of everything!

wn-everything-but-the-bagelListen, I’ll just come straight out with it.

I’m on a full blown kick— bit of a binge really—over Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. Yes, I know. I just wrote about everything bagels and everything bagel inspired doughnuts but one post ago. TJ’s seasoning blend isn’t anything new, either. I also know that. Some of you have been worshiping at the altar of everything-but-the-bagel for a while now, but I’m new to the game and if there’s anyone out there who still hasn’t been converted, I’m here to spread the good word.

During a recent rare visit to Trader Joe’s, (because side note: I would, for the record, exclusively shop there if I could, but the closest one to me is 1. not that close to me at all, and 2. a complete and total fucking nightmare. So I love from afar.) I saw the famous seasoning blend and tossed it in my basket. Once home, I looked at it and thought, “Ok, now what? What do I put you on?”

The answer is… EVERY-SINGLE-DAMN-THING. All of ’em. You put this stuff on everything.

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Good on everything but this might be my fave.

I’ve sprinkled it on all sorts of things while I cook: quinoa, salmon, asparagus, shrimp tostadas, even chowder. The other night, I roasted a big fat sweet potato, then sprinkled it with my new favorite seasoning blend, and shazam!—delicious dinner! When a softball sized rice ball from the deli section of my local supermarket ended up being less the arancino I was hoping for and more just a fried ball of very bland rice, everything seasoning saved the day and made it actually tasty. Even my seasoning averse boyfriend admitted an avocado was actually better after I sprinkled a little bit of everything on it. (This is my favorite, by the way. Something about the mix of creamy, buttery avocado and all those savory, crunchy crispy little bits just makes all of my taste buds dance!)

After I posted something about it on Instagram, a friend messaged me to tell me she loved it on oatmeal! Repeat after me: everything is good on everything.

Remember this great song? I mean, she wasn’t wrong.

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Llama Lovin’

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Just a girl who loves llamas

Ever since I met a baby llama at the Central Park Zoo’s Children’s Zoo a few years ago, I’ve been completely obsessed with the goofy, long-necked fluffy animals. And after a recent brunch at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn with my sister, I’m kind of obsessed with that too.

We started off with pan de yuca, a simple but tasty Peruvian inspired take on bread and butter. Each little bun, soft and sweet, is made from the hispanic staple and root veggie, yuca. With it, a velvety, creamy sweet honey butter of sorts, so good I could’ve spread it on rocks and happily eaten those too.

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Admittedly doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you, they make up in taste what they lack in fancy presentation.

My sister’s entree was the food envy inducing beef tenderloin stir-fry, a glorious heap of scallion topped fried eggs, french fries, plump caramelized sweet plantains, grilled onions, and juicy tenderloin medallions, all served in a bowl and drizzled with a spicy cream made from rocoto chilli peppers. Every ingredient was bursting with flavor, the plantains so sweet and soft they were almost custardy, the beef just the perfect amount of pink and juicy, and the fries pure golden, starchy goodness.

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 A gorgeous mess of breakfast deliciousness

To match my sister’s bowl-of-awesome was my amazing crispy pork shoulder sandwich and crunchy plantain chips. A thick smear of spicy mayo, a colorful, tangy red onion salsa, and my favorite surprise element, a soft, almost buttery, sweet potato wedged right in with the crispy pork shoulder, which was tender and testy, with perfectly burnt edges for that bit of charred flavor.

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A downright magical way to start a Saturday.

And because even brunch calls for dessert, we split the only one on the brunch menu, a bowl of chocolate sorbet and lucuma cream, made from a Peruvian fruit with a mapley, butterscotch flavor. To top if off were wafer-like crisps made from cappuccino foam. A mix of flavors and textures and now I have a whole new fruit that I love! Success all around!

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Don’t let looks fool you, this dessert is a solid TEN.

Since originally writing this a couple of days ago I’ve also been back for dinner and drinks and I can tell you, my llama love is stronger than ever. Once one of my favorite animals, now one of my favorite restaurants.

An old favorite in a new way

Even though I was born in Costa Rica and raised in Miami, mine wasn’t the typical Hispanic household. (My dad, a crotchety old Italian-American, is to blame for this.) We never salsa danced,  celebrated Noche Buena, or had abuelitos and dozens of assorted family members.

But if there’s one stereotype we absolutely perpetuated, it’s eating sweet plantains, or platanos maduros as my mom calls them.

They’re usually a side dish, served alongside rice and beans as I most frequently had them growing up, but really I could eat a whole mountain of plantains just on their own, I love them so much. So recently, during my visit to San Francisco, when I saw a burrito at The Little Chihuahua that was stuffed with plantains instead of meat, I HAD to have it.

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A not-so-great photo of a fantastic burrito stuffed full of sweet plantains

The Little Chihuahua’s plantain burrito is first of all, anything but little. It’s a hold-it-with-two-hands heavy affair of sweet fried plantains, black beans and rice, pico de gallo, roasted red peppers, sour cream, cheese, salsa, cilantro and onion.  And as I thought it might be, this burrito was freakin’ delicious. The plantains added a nice sweet flavor to the otherwise savory, zesty, spicier flavors and a soft, almost creamy consistency.

As a lifelong plantains lover, I would order this kind of burrito every time if places other than The Little Chihuahua had it. Add a plantain burrito to my long list of reasons for loving San Francisco.

The Little Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

Best bread in North Beach

The onion focaccia at Liguria Bakery

The first time I went to Liguria Bakery in North Beach was during my first week in the city. The sign hanging in the window read “We will be closed for vacation from Aug. 2nd thru (sic) Aug. 22nd.” Well, how very Italian of them, I thought. Taking almost the entire month off. Must be nice.

I came back after August 22nd, and it was closed again. They close at noon. It was 12:25.

So I came back again another day, not sure what time it was but it was probably around 11:30 or so because I distinctly remember giving myself enough time to be there before noon. Closed again. This time because they sold out and went home for the day.

These people are really making me work for this damn focaccia, aren’t they? I thought to myself. I’m gonna come back one more time, and if they’re still not open, I’m never coming back ever again. Screw their focaccia.

So I went back. A fourth time. And finally, it was open. Continue reading