Category Archives: Mexico City

Mexico City #2: Mercado de la Merced

On my final day in Distrito Federal we visited the massive Mercado de la Merced. It is one of the largest markets in Mexico and covers an entire city block. We took the subway to Merced station and you can take the exit directly into the market itself.

The sheer volume of food and goods was overwhelming at first- my eyes just kept darting from left to right trying to take in all of the colors, smells, sounds, people… was incredible! The fruit stands showcased tons of mangoes and papayas that just permeated the air with a tart, tropical scent that made me want to pluck one up and take a bite. There were piles of different kinds of mole and stacks of dried chiles next to stands selling shoes and purses. Well-priced denim skirts hung directly over the delicious-smelling smoke rising from carne asada being tossed on hot cast iron grills and there was a constant stream of people navigating their way through all of this lively activity. It was awesome.

Instead of trying to explain it any further, I’ll just treat you to a bunch of photos I snapped while making my way through the Mercado de la Merced. If you’re even in Mexico City I highly recommend you take a few hours to join the parade of people shopping in the market.

Giant blankets of crispy chicharrones

For more information here’s an excellent (and very long!) essay on Mercado de la Merced. Photos and a map are also here.

Review: Contramar, Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City

During our recent trip to Mexico City, we had the pleasure of dining with our lovely friend Kasia at Contramar, which has been widely touted as one of the best in D.F. Since the restaurant serves only the freshest food, their operating hours are from 1:00- 6:00 PM. We took a taxi to the restaurant and arrived a bit early to find the staff having their daily, pre-opening meeting. After a short wait, we were allowed into the wide open and well-lit space. I was excited!!!

Contramar specializes in seafood, and has a large menu featuring everything from octopus to ahi. Kasia recommended that we start with the ahi tostadas (a favorite of her husband’s who unfortunately was here in Los Angeles and couldn’t join us). We then asked the waiter to recommend the other dishes and in the end we ordered the tostadas, ceviche, the pescado al pastor tacos, grilled marlin and some octopus in a chile sauce (hey- we wanted to try a lot!). An array of accoutrement were set on the table- some pickled onions, sliced chiles and a bread basket- and we were on our way to a Contramar meal!

First up- the ahi tostadas. They were everything Kasia had described- fresh ahi marinated in what seemed to be a light soy dressing and layered on a crispy tortilla topped with avocado and aioli. Similar in flavor to an ahi poki that you’d find at most sushi bars in Los Angeles, it was the perfect way to get our appetites going. The ceviche was also very fresh and light, which thin slices of yellow and red bell pepper perched atop tender, just-cooked (in lime juice) white fish. I noticed that it wasn’t too tart, like a lot of ceviches tend to be.

When the marlin was brought out, I was dismayed to find it topped with my arch nemesis- the BLACK OLIVE! Eek! The fish looked so lovely, however, that I couldn’t resist taking a bite as it was, and resisted the urge to scrape every single offending black sliver. It was actually pretty good and the olives didn’t overpower the flavor of the marlin. I didn’t dig into with the fever that Kasia and J did, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. My eyes were drawn away, however, when the tacos appeared. They looked like the cochinita pibil or al pastor tacos I’d seen here in Los Angeles- a mass of shredded meat reddened by sauce, topped with marinated red onions. However, the “meat” here was made of fish, and in the following days in Mexico I’d discover that this dish existed in many restaurants throughout Mexico City and Zihuatanejo. We all loved it, and J and I vowed that we’d search high and low for this dish upon our return to Los Angeles.

The true show stopper came in the form of the octopus. It was a simple-looking plate of octopus chunks covered in a red sauce, but once we took a bite, we were wowed by the complexity of its flavor and the extreme tenderness of the meat. WOW. It had the texture of pillows (not that I eat pillows) and was just spectacular.

We probably should have ended the meal with that dish but we couldn’t resist ordering some raw oysters. They appeared in all their glistening, brined glory but the minute I slid one down the hatch, I was overwhelmed with the fishiness factor. They were also room temperature, which isn’t really how I like my oysters. J, like a trooper, ate four of them, and we both think they were the cause of some unpleasantness later on……a bit for me, a lot for poor J. I think we’ll skip the little suckers next time.

The dessert tray that the waiter brought out had a beautiful mound of fresh lychees, various cheesecakes (including a Nutella one!) and a couple types of flan, but we were too stuffed to indulge. Kasia ordered an espresso and I got a coffee, and we finally ended our seafood fest.

After lunch, we took a walk around her neighborhood, where we couldn’t resist getting some freshly made sorbet from the local stand (did I say we were stuffed? naw….!). Most of the ices were made without dairy and there were so many flavors I couldn’t decide what to get! I finally settled on a scoop of elote (corn) and one of passion fruit while J got strawberry and lime. The corn one was slightly sweet and creamy but the passion fruit blew my socks off- so tart and delicious with the crunchy seeds still in it. YUM. J loved his lime ice as well.

Our Mexico adventures will continue with another post coming soon!!!!!!!!!!

Avenida Durango 200Mexico City, TX 06700 Mexico
+52 55 5514 9217 / +52 55 5514 3169

Mexico City: Dinner With Friends

We’re back from a week in Mexico (3 days in Mexico City and 3 in Zihuatanejo) and had a fabulous time! I wish I was still in Zihuatanejo, listening to the sound of crashing waves and living almost entirely on seafood. I took a ton of photos, ate lots of great food and will have the next ten or so posts dedicated to our trip. So, I hope you’re interested in Mexico because otherwise you might get bored of the Mexico Series!!

We started our trip in Mexico City. After the 3 1/2 flight from Los Angeles, we checked into the W Hotel in Polanco. I was looking forward to staying there since I’d heard a lot of good things about it. It was nice, but I have to admit it just wasn’t our style. The constant throbbing of bad techno music, the outwardly sincere yet impersonal service and the I-Think-I’m-Hip crowd which poured into the bar area every night just did not suit us at all. Yes, the rooms were large and the hammock in the shower was interesting, but next time I think I will skip the W. It simply wasn’t worth the price and the staff tried to nickel-and-dime us for every little thing, in addition to claiming that I didn’t pre-pay for our three nights there. I finally printed out a copy of my credit card statement for them to look at, and although they said they would resolve it, I find myself checking our account every couple of days to make sure they don’t try and charge me again. It just isn’t something you’d expect from such a renowned hotel chain.

On to more pleasant topics! On our very first night, we were invited to have dinner at Cesar and Abril’s house- they were friends of friends but I am happy to say they are good friends of ours now as well. After the short trip from our hotel, we were welcomed into their lovely apartment by Seattle resident Erin, who was staying with the couple for two months while studying Spanish at the local university. After a few minutes, we were joined by Abril’s brother Lucas and his girlfriend Jasmine and we dug into the homemade appetizers of green grapes rolled in soft cheese and nuts (delicious!) while sipping on wine and talking. We felt so well taken care of in their home and lucky to have met such warm people who had obviously put a lot of thought into the whole experience. Their adorable dog, Scott, trotted around the room and we gathered at the table, ready to eat!

Erin cooking up a storm…..

Salad to start the meal…..

First up- a fresh, colorful salad of greens, tomatoes, red onions, red bell peppers and beautifully rich avocados. It was yummy and refreshing- and one of the few salads we would eat during the week! Abril also made a spinach, mushroom and cheese pie which she called a “spinach cake.” It reminded me of quiche but with no eggs, and was wonderful as well.

The beautiful spinach “cake”

For the main course, Erin whipped up a delicious pot of shrimp in a tomato and garlic sauce which she ladled over spaghetti. J and I sat and enjoyed the food while they spoke rapidly in both English and Spanish, putting our feeble attempts at Spanish to shame. We discussed music, food, cooking……….in my personal experience, I find that non-Americans are so much more passionate about food and Mexicans are no different. Food is not just something they enjoy- it’s a necessary part of and expression of their culture. I know Americans love their food, but the way other cultures talk about, think about and enjoy their food is on a level much deeper than here in the United States.

Our lovely hosts, Abril and Erin

J chatting with our other lovely host, Cesar

After dissecting a plate of gorgeous pastries that Abril bought from the local bakery, we ended the evening sipping on Don Julio tequila (muy sabroso!) and patting our full bellies. Cesar, Abril and Erin- thanks for being such amazing hosts and having us over for the delicious food and fabulous company. Your hospitality was so wonderful and made us feel so welcomed on our first night in Mexico City.

Stay tuned for more Mexico City and Zihuatanejo posts!