All tagged mexico

Favorite Dishes of 2012

In compiling this list, I faced the difficult task of choosing dishes that stood out on their own, outside the context of the meals in which they appeared. My favorite dishes from this year are very different from my favorite meals, which can be viewed here. For me, 2012 was an incredible year. It brought me from Noma to Sukiyabashi Jiro, from Tickets to Saison and Masa. Nearly 200 Michelin stars later, 2012 was the most diverse eating year of my life. But despite the many dishes I've consumed (and pounds I've gained) in fine-dining restaurants, the dishes that stick out in my mind this year are the simplest ones. Not the caviar and foie gras from Europe, but rather the shellfish tostadas from Mexico's Baja peninsula and fresh fish from Tokyo.

Of all the places I’ve visited this year, these are the dishes that particularly stood out ranked one through twenty five.

Favorite Meals of 2012

There is no question that 2012 was the best eating year of my life, with experiences in places ranging from Copenhagen to Kyoto. To create this list, I examined the dining experience as a whole, factoring in the progression of dishes and overall story they told. I can only hope 2013 will bring as much culinary excitement as this past year has. One theme that links my top 10 meals of 2012 is the focus on intensification of flavor. Cooking with fats is not the only way to maximize flavor. The Japanese intensify flavor by aging, cooking over a wood-burning fire, or using a pure umami-rich dashi broth. In Denmark, many of my best dishes were served raw or still alive. This theme, a focus on intensifying an ingredient's natural flavor, led to a reduction of fats being used in the cooking process of many dishes. An unintentional side effect of this is the health benefit of lighter cooking. Chef Joshua Skenes of Saison, for example, didn't even realize he was cooking without butter. The Japanese have been doing this for thousands of years, but recently other restaurants like Relae and 41 grados have sprung up embodying similar principles.

MAD 2012 w/ Enrique Olvera

Mexican cuisine remains one of the most interesting cuisines in the world, and is finally starting to get the attention that it deserves. This past July, I had the honor of introducing my close friend Enrique Olvera of Mexico City's Pujol at the MAD 2012 conference in Copenhagen. Below is the video of our presentation, as well as the transcript. Enrique Olvera:

Good afternoon everyone, I would like to first thank Rene, Ali and all the staff at noma and MAD for the hospitality and opportunity to share our work in one of the most exciting food events in the world.

I would also like to introduce you to Alex Dzib, alex has been part of our family for a few years now and he will be assisting me in the cooking demo.

And last, but defenetly no least is Mr. Adam Goldberg, a foodwriter from NY that has visited Pujol at least twenty times in the past year. So because I can be as objective about my cuisine as my mother can be objective about me and because he has beaten the record of most visits in a year, I wanted instead to let Adam talk about his experience at Pujol and I will talk about our thought processes a bit later.

Pujol Revisited

What is authentic Mexican cuisine? Ancient dishes like bírria, menudo, and chochinita pibil are the easiest to categorize as authentic because of their age, but what about colonial dishes like chiles en nogada or mole poblano? Tacos al pastor and tacos de pescado were brought to Mexico even more recently by Lebanese and Japanese immigrants. Are these dishes still "Mexican?" The more recent the dish, the trickier it becomes to call it authentic. Unless of course, we agree that Mexican cuisine is constantly evolving with new dishes being created all the time. In this sense, Pujol has evolved significantly since my first visit in 2010. It is now not only a restaurant that recreates ancient dishes, but a restaurant that pushes Mexican cuisine forward by creating new ones. In the beginning Pujol looked inward at Mexico's rich culinary history, cataloging, studying, and improving upon very old dishes. Pujol still does this but with more confidence, now looking outward as well, placing one of the oldest cuisines into the context of international dining.

Frontera Grill

Mexican cuisine is extremely regionalized; each state has its own specialties and variations on national dishes. A lot of this regionalization is due to Mexico's diverse climate. Tacos al Pastor, the late night street food where pork is sliced from a spit and layered in a corn tortilla with pineapple, originates far from the ocean in Mexico City where swine is abundant.. Ceviche, campechanas, and seafood cocteles can be found in coastal states like Baja California and Sinaloa, where fresh fish is plentiful. Tinga, a dish where shredded pork is placed in a clay pot and stewed with chipotle, tomatoes, onion, and garlic, can be traced back to the farms of landlocked Puebla. Given this incredible specialization of regions and their dishes, creating a single pan-Mexican restaurant that tackles all of the regions while maintaining quality, is no easy task.

Café Passmar

En route to the Frida Kahlo's house in Coyoacán, I made a pit stop for lunch at Mercado Lázaro Cardenas, the covered market in Colonia Del Valle. The market, abundant in colorful piñatas, fruits, and antojitos, also had another surprise: excellent coffee. I was floored to see a La Marzocco occupying the small space squeezed between two fruit-vendors. It's hard to imagine a more perfect afternoon snack than fresh tostadas followed by an espresso (or three). Café Passmar has some of the best coffee I've tasted in Mexico. Passmar's house blend is entirely Mexican in origin, a secret mixture of beans from Guerrero and Chiapas. The coffee is roasted just next door to the storefront at Passmar's micro roastery. This was the first time I'd tried coffee in the same country from where the beans originated. All the best espresso I'd had previously contained beans that were cultivated, packaged, and air-shipped halfway the world before being roasted. After seeing what the dryness and low pressure environment of air transport does to food I've packed myself, it would be hard to imagine that extended air transportation doesn't have an effect on coffee beans.

The coffee I tasted at Passmar was some of the nuttiest most chocolatey espresso I have ever tasted. My girlfriend -- who despises coffee -- took one sip and nearly finished my first cappuccino.

Taquería Liliana

I always thought a taco implied a hardshell. At least in the US, I grew up with the crispy yellow pre-folded U-shaped shells that were stuffed to the brim with ground beef, iceberg lettuce, flavorless tomatoes, and buried in orange cheddar cheese. Only after visiting Mexico (a lot), I learned, or at least I thought I did, that truly authentic tacos consist of double-layered soft corn tortillas -- each no bigger than 6-inches in diameter -- dotted with a sprinkle of meat. Turns out this was wrong, too. The contrast of authentic tacos being smaller in size with a soft shell versus the oversized crispy-shell impostors is overly simplistic. The texture, size, shape, and filling of authentic tacos varies tremendously. Some of Mexico's most delicious tacos are in fact hard-shelled, native to regions like Los Mochis and Baja California Sur.

Mercado de Cholula

Sunday mornings in Mexico are strange. It's apocalyptically silent: streets are empty, stores are closed, even stray animals are too tired to roam the alleys. The only sound that can be heard is that of church bells, and it's pretty much a guarantee that even there, most of the people are hung over. It's Sunday, a day of rest and a time to spend with family. Things are slow-paced and laid back. One place is an exception, however: the local market. Almost all towns have some form of a mercado central, a market where fresh local fruits and vegetables are sold, as well as an abundance of smoothies, snacks and homemade foods for comida. While the rest of the city is asleep, the football-sized market rings with knives chopping, customers shouting, and and the satisfying sound of hundreds of crisp tortilla shells cracking all at once.

The closest market to where I've been staying here is the Mercado Central de Cholula. It always has something great on the menu. While it's open every day, Sundays are the busiest which means fresher foods: things sit for a lot less. Vendors sell fresh pico de gallo and deep-fried chicharrones made to order.