MEXICO CITY WANDERINGS.A BRIEF RESPITE IN MEXICO CITY. THINGS NOT TO MISS.

 

My thoughts on Mexico City were terribly outdated.  I thought of it only as a gritty, polluted and dangerous city. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Though it was virtually impossible to ignore the buzz these past few years, especially living and working in New York,  I had remained a skeptic.

What changed? I spent a lot of time in Mexico last year working on various projects and it seemed all roads led to Mexico City.  Everywhere I went, people were talking about the food, the culture, the art galleries, the hotels and the architecture. This city of 19 million actually has more in common with New York and Paris and Istanbul than any place it may have been formerly compared to and there is no doubt that it is having a moment. 

 

Last month I headed down there with my friend chef Camille Becerra to see what it was all about.

 

We left New York on the red eye out of JFK at 1am on one of the hottest nights of this New York summer on Aeromexico. We arrived in the D.F just four short hours later ready to take the city by storm.  We were pretty much up for anything and wanted to taste and see everything. Armed with a massive list culled from friends we set to task. Our first stop was the super cute Stella Bed and Breakfast where we were met by Sylvia who graciously fed us a beautiful breakfast of fried eggs and tortillas while the light slowly came up in the Roma neighborhood where we were staying. Needless to say, in the days that followed, we ate our way all around town, meeting up with some local food writers, stylists and bloggers.

The way I normally travel is to first do a bit of preliminary research myself, then I speak with friends and friends of friends and begin to cull a list.

 

I use Foursquare when I travel to keep track of the places I have been, to make and edit lists and to share them with others easily. I find it is a great starting point to my general list. I follow a few of my well traveled friends and we are always sharing and updating through Foursquare. If you are not onto it yet for travel, I highly recommend it.

 

Below is list of a few of our favorite spots. This makes for one long beautiful eating day! Do not miss these! 

 

Breakfast at La Fonda Marguerita

 

 

For Breakfast, La Fonda Marguerita. It is important to remember that breakfast and lunch are traditionally the main meals of the day in Mexico. So f you are thinking of saving some amazing little taco spot you read about for late afternoon or an evening meal, check first that it is open! We missed a few places before we got hip to this idea.

La Fonda Margarita was recommended by a friend who lives in Mexico City. It is a tiny local spot where they cook most of the night. They open the doors really early, maybe even as early as 5am. though I would call to check on that because time is a bit slow in Mexico. They cook  solely over charcoal, giant giant pots of bubbling goodness, many hands taking turns to stir. We went at 8am and just missed the line and the rush that followed. What did we eat?   We ate Copious bowls full of stewed pork,  simmered for hours over the fire.  We were drawn right away to the pork in  salsa verde and   to another dish of chicharron stewed with tomatoes and chilies, after which came the  most perfectly fried eggs, atop delicious homemade tortillas. Coffee is served hot and sweet and black.

If I could have, I would have eaten every breakfast here. It is great place to go before heading out to the morning markets.

 

 Adolfo Prieto 1364, Benito Juárez, Tlacoquemecatl del Valle, 03100 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

+52 55 5559 6358

 

 

Mid morning coffee at Rosetta Panaderia

Delicious coffee and absolute best Guava pastry. I am kind of a Guava freak. I had them at many places including Ideal but Rosetta Panaderia was the best.

Same owners as the Rosetta restaurant nearby.

 

Calle Havre #73, Cuauhtemoc, Juárez, 06600 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico
+52 55 5207 7065

 

Lunch at Contramar

A long luxurious lunch at Contramar that turns into late afternoon day drinking, is often recommended by highly trustworthy people. .You will find this place on 99 percent of the must do's of Mexico City. We had a short lunch only because we weren't feeling it. We didn't love it, it felt really "New York" and that isn't what I look for when I travel. It is like going to Paris and only searching for "Tres Brooklyn" Many people are looking for familiarity and comfort when they travel, so if that is you, then why not? It is a fabulous spot for people watching and the tuna tostadas are highly recommended and they are said the copied around Mexico City. Personally, I felt they lacked any depth. Judge for yourself and report back.

 

Delegación Cuauhtémoc C.P. 06700. México D.F.. RESERVACIONES 55 5514 9217 · 55 5514 3169

 

Sunset drink on the rooftop of Hotel Condesa D.F

Take a late afternoon stroll around the Condesa Neighborhood, one of the D F.'s hippest area's. Stop into the Hotel Condesa and head straight to the rooftop for a sunset cocktail. I highly recommend the Hibiscus Margarita with Hibiscus salt. Found around on the plush cushions and watch the lights come on over this low flat city.

 

Dinner at  Quntoni

 

Quintonil is all about beautifully presented, thoughtful, modern Mexican food.  The flavor combinations are new and exciting. They are well known for their cactus ceviche. It was perfect and swimming in the most delicious herby green broth. The portions are not big. We mostly ordered seafood and it was super fresh.  Order a few things to share. The service was excellent. Oh, and the house cocktail... Mescal and worm salt. YES! THANK YOU.

reservations are a must.

 

 Newton 55, Polanco, 11560 Federal District, Mexico

+52 55 5280 1660

 

 

Late night post mescal bar tacos at Los Parados.

This is an absolute.

First a few words about the Mescal bars. You must experienceat least one. Mescal is an essential part of the experience.

 

Bosforo Mezcaleria

 

Bosforo, located in the historic city center is a tiny hole in the wall place. Try many different wild sourced mescals.

Tiny bites available. The night we were at Bosforo there was a small gathering of Mescal makers there to talk about their work. I learned a lot even though the lecture was in Spanish! Thank god I am visual person, have studied Italian, between this and photos, I got the gist. I honestly had no idea that some  Mescals are aged with rotten fruit and even raw chicken and sometimes turkey, rabbit or deer meat.This type of Mescal is called Pechuga. Some Wild  hunted agaves take as much as 25 years to grow. Who knew? I have much to learn here and I need to investigate this subject further. I tried Pechuga and it did have a distinctly different taste from the other Mescals, more funky for sure.

 

 Luis Moya, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

 

La Clandestina in Roma Nord.

 

Small, great location over fifty different Mescals. All locally sourced from Oaxaca.

Av. Alvaro Obregón 298 (Sonora), 06100 Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico

 

 

Once you have sufficiently imbibed head to the late night taco stand called Los Parados.

Los Parados actually translates to "standing", there are no seats here at this swift shop where they move hundreds of tacos an hour. We were three people and we probably had at least 15! Tacos from Mexico City are not like their overstuffed American cousin. They are small and discreet but pack major flavor.

There are many kinds to choose from. There is a taco master at each station and they move swiftly. My suggestion is to go for one of each.

 

Los Parados

Monterrey 333 Col. Roma

06760 México, D.F.

+52 55 5264 7138

leave there sated and happy and grab a taxi or an uber, both easy to find and roll into bed.

 

Tomorrow will be another day and there is Casa Azul to see and the Frida and Diego Studios, there is a cocktail to be had at the Sant'Angel Inn and the Markets... so many Markets! Museums, Galleries and The Barrigan House. You will barely scratch the surface of this amazing city in a week.

 

Historic city center

 

 

 

Flower Market

Fruit along the exterior of the Flower Market

Rosetta Panaderia

Churros from The Roma Nord  specialty food Market

Flea Market finds

Shrine at Casa Azul

Luis Barragan House

Breakfast at Fonda Marguerita

Breakfast at Fonda Marguerita

Herbs and flowers at Mercado Sonora

Street Food stall at Mercado Sonora

Fruit at Mercado Coyoacan

Casa Luis Barragan

Overgrown garden at Casa Barragan

Ideal Panaderia

nomad and rishikesh

Written post October snow storm.

Soho was very quiet the morning after the bizarre and historic October snow. While  everyone slept, I found the perfect moment to escape into Nomad a global approach to interior style, a new book from  Sibella Court. Nomad, follows her previous books, A Stylists Guide to NYC and Etcetera. Her book is a personal journey of her travels that inspire her sense of style , her interiors and her soul. There is a story about about her mother that is both incredibly real and personal. This is not just a book of suggested places to visit, it it a personal journey. I worked with Sibella, a kindred spirit, many times during her stay in New York and I was always inspired by the bits and pieces of travels she carried with her to every shoot. Like a tiny Weaver or Bower Bird she constructs the most elaborate nests wherever she is, pebble and shell, pieces of string, fragments of fabric all find their way to her into her pockets and onto her walls, sets and tableaus.

Nomad is divided into sections by country. She covers Italy, India, Syria and Mexico. Sibella gives  a personal account of travels through these countries and takes us to some of her favorite places. There are many beautiful travel photographs that make me want to pack my bag and hit the road. I have said before that I too collect things on my travels, like sea salt and honey, but it really goes far beyond that. On my last trip to Istanbul I had an entire fleet of paper cups wedged into my tripod bag, as they were just too beautiful to leave behind. I am a pilferer of matches and menus as well. I too am always looking for bits to bring home, things that remind me of a place or something I can later use in a shoot. I am a bit of an obsessive collector in that way and that is one  reason I enjoy working with stylists who share that same obsession. Last April, I was in India on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler. The days were hectic and the weather in the Northern Himalayas was unseasonably bad! A monsoon had rolled in and threatened to eradicate all blue skies with blinding rain and wind. It was one of those times that we had to wait it out a bit, something which is very hard for me to do when I am on a job. After giving in to the weather one evening we decided to take a couple hours and travel the twenty minutes down to the town. The town of Rishikesh is really very special as it marks  the beginning of the  River Ganges as it comes down from the Himalayas. The river is very clean there and it is a very sacred place. The Beatles wrote most of the White Album in Rishikesh in 1968 when they visited the now closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. Even in the rain, the little riverside town at the edge of the Ganges was busy with activity. We sat through Ganges Aarati ceremony, performed each evening at sundown at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram and listened to the most beautiful chanting and watched brilliant flowers and candles of offerings float silently along the river. After the ceremony we walked across a suspension bridge over the Ganges to the other side of town where the evening market was taking place. Single light bulbs hung on cords  illuminating each vendors stall like a perfectly styled theatrical stage. One  thing I have found is that markets stay open quite late in other countries ( it was on this same trip, though in another country, that we found ourselves making our way towards a hidden spice market on the outskirts of Dubai at nearly midnight!) It was in that hour or so in Rishikesh that I found some of my favorite souvenirs. A brass Ganesha, some ribbon, two pairs of tiny handmade shoes a pair of scissors some prayer beads and a medallion, but more than these it is the image of the little town in the blue evening , music floating up between the mountains that I will never forget.

 

Like Sibella, I am inspired by travel and try to make the most of wherever I am at any given moment. I carry my finds home where they work  their way into our lives. These bits are always there whether in a box of treasures or on the wall to remind me that I really did stand at the edge of that river clear across the globe.

 

 

You can buy Nomad at Anthropologie. And visit Sibellas shop The Society Inc. in Sydney Australia where she has landed.

 

hartwood tulum

 

Last night we ventured about 1000 yards from our hotel, just up the dusty dirt road  to the jungle side of Tulums beach road, toHartwood, a new restaurant from chef Eric Werner and Mya Henry.

After working for many years at Peasant on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan and Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, they decided to give it all up and move Mexico and open a restaurant here in Tulum. Together, they bought a piece of land and built the restaurant from the ground up. The construction took about four months to complete but the whole process of finding the land and building took well over a year. Everything is intentional and equally beautiful. Drinks are served in mason jars and glass hurricanes line the long hand hewn wooden tables.

The couple has made a lovely place to gather and eat. There are two open fires, one a grill and the other a brick oven. Crates of local fruits and vegetables line the front of the open kitchen. All the food is seasonal and local as they have established relationshiips with local farmers and fishermen and even the Mayan bee keepers who sell the miel de selva (jungle honey) from their backpacks on the beach. the Mayan jungle honey has a distinct and unique flavor, it is complex and reminds me of the miele de foresta of italy. We tasted some last night with our appetizer of whole wood fire roasted eggplant drizzled with olive oil sea salt and Mayan honey.

We shared a spicy red snapper spread and a lentil salad with pickled grapes, ricotta salata, plums and pea shoots. We then moved on to a whole roasted local fish and beer braised pork ribs with house made slaw and a rabbit lasagna.

Everything was delicious and a welcome change to the rice and beans we have been making over here in our little bungalow.

 Hartwood is open for dinner at 6pm .

The menu changes nightly.

cash only. 

tomatillo salsa

Today, while everyone was at the Ruins, India Showed me how to make a fresh tomatillo salsa. She made it with a friend last year around this time when they were vacationing in Mexico.

This salsa is super easy and really versatile. We have been using it on our fish tacos, our rice and beans, as a dressing for our salads, and with tortilla chips and guacamole. It is fragrant and fresh and very easy to make.

TO MAKE:

husk, clean and quarter, rougly 30 tomatillos 

coarsely chop a generous bunch of cilantro

cut the fruit of three avocados into small pieces

chop 1 or 2 red onions or a combination of red and spring onions (depending on your preference)  we used a combination of red and spring onions because the spring onions were available.

squeeze and set aside the juice of 6 small limes

when everything is chopped and prepped, dump it all into a big bowl (with the exception of the lime juice) and loosely toss until it is mixed

puree the chopped ingredients a little at a time, adding a bit of lime juice for some liquid (we used a small immersion blender, but you can use a food processor or a regular blender)

as your ingredients become pureed, set the puree aside in a clean bowl and keep adding to it until all your chopped ingredients have been pureed.

add salt to taste.

this is a very loose recipe, one that can't really go wrong. add more avocado if you would like the salsa to be thicker or add more lime juice for a little more punch.

if you want a little spice, chop and puree with the ingredients a single deseeded jalapeno pepper

 this recipe will yield about 4 cups.

la flor de michoacan - helados and paletas

helados and paletas

Midway down the the strip in the town of Tulum, just on the left before Jupiter Street, amid the bevy of hammocks, blankets and dresses is a spectacular treasure of an ice cream shop that is not to be missed, La Flor de Michoacan.

They make delicious helados (ice cream) and paletas (fruit posicles) in every flavor imaginable. Our favorites of the paletas were the lime, the tamarind and the chili mango and jicama. The combinations of flavors are really unique. Sit in the peaceful back garden a quiet reprieve from the bustling dusty street and enjoy one, two or THREE each, as we did, surrounded by tamarind and papaya trees.

La Flor de Michoacan has two locations, one in Tulum and one in Playa del Carmen.

mangos, avocado and lime

It is nearing the end of our first full day in Tulum and we haven't really done much at all. The turquoise water and blinding white sand has created a quite lull amongst us. Waves of tiredness wash over me. Could this possibly be relaxation?

Today was a great day. Emily and I were up first and while Marty made coffee we spent the first quiet hour cutting up the sweetest little avocados and mounds of yellow mangoes and lime. It was the perfect beach breakfast.

We spent a little while in the sun and then walked down the beach to Coqui Coqui where we spent a good hour smelling their amazing perfumes and oils, before deciding on orange blossom and tobacco. I picked up a great straw hat and one of their silk rope necklaces.

Tulum has many things to do and see, like the Biosphere, the Ruins, or the many shops in town, but our little group is perfectly happy, at least for today, to just sit here and eat mangoes and to stare out at the brilliant blue sea.


owl goes to tulum

As the last vestiges of Winter dusted the city this morning, We headed out to a sunnier place...Tulum!

I was really happy to discover that the Jet Blue terminal at JFK has both a Muji outpost and Balthazaar Croissants! I think I am really into Jet Blue!

So it was, with the usual flurry of early morning confusion, airport security and seat appropriation...We were finally off.

The smallest of us in years is Odette, and she is turning out to be a great traveler. I brought a little owl cupie doll that she is obsessed with. A new toy never before seen is an essential item when traveling, for just those moments when there might be a small meltdown.

After what seemed like the shortest flight possible, Odette's tiny voice said "we are landing..." and next thing we knew she and owl were skipping happily towards the ocean.