Tag Archives: restaurants

Too Much Fun and Where to Eat in the Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain, is a food and wine lover’s paradise. It is one of the best tourist attractions in the city. Here, your eyes can be bigger than your stomach. So, watch out!  Most dishes are huge enough to share by two people.

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Remember you can always order more. Unless you take a grazing route through the market nibbling on cheese, red wine, raw oysters, crusty bread, Spanish ham, olives and the most divine desserts I’ve ever seen.

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On our first full day in Barcelona, we roamed the market in search of El Quim tapas bar (recommended by friends) and never found it until after lunch.

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The allure of plates of fresh cooked shellfish was too compelling to dismiss. We scouted the restaurants to determine which one was the most packed with locals and settled on El Cochinillo Loco (The Crazy Pig), which we walked by thrice before deciding.

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The fresh shrimp, langostinos, clams, oysters, mussels, octopus, squid, sea bass and other unidentifiable frutos del mar were piled high and our eyes got bigger just looking.  So, we waited for two seats to open up and sat between two local couples immersed in platter sharing. It was 2:00 p.m. Boqueria_49 Best-11By 4:00 p.m. we had finished our sangrias, had too many leftovers, and become best friends with our lunch neighbors.  We were happy to divide the remains with them since we couldn’t carry out to our hotel!

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Then, one couple ordered a bottle of Spanish cava (sparkling wine) while the other bought a basket of fresh organic strawberries. The strawberries landed in the sparkling wine. Of course! I have many more photos of all of us hugging, laughing and giggling, too many to publish here.

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I can’t imagine a better way to get a cultural immersion and practice Spanish than to share lunch and a bottle of wine with Ines Natera, who works at the Universidad Politecnica Catalunya and her husband.

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Then, my sister reminded me we had a dinner reservation three hours later at the Michelin 1-star restaurant Alkimia. How were we ever going to get our appetite back? Since dinner doesn’t really start until 9:00 p.m. we were hopeful.

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So we said goodbye to our friends and set out for a market walkabout. By now, our eyes could not deceive us and it was easy to pass by the chocolate covered berries, the nougat, the dark chocolate coated orange rinds, and the custard tarts… (well, not really)

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the freshest fruit, bottles of sweet red vermouth, mounds of crustaceans, farm vegetables, sardines, anchovies, and every imaginable food gift perfect for a special friend (or yourself).

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To walk it off, we took a circuitous route back to our hotel through the medieval old quarter of Barcelona bordering La Rambla, and then into the narrow streets where locals were celebrating Sant Jordi Day with gifts of flower bouquets for sweethearts and books for beaus.

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We didn’t take home the emu eggs or crustaceans or pintxos or tapas. We did bring home Catalunya olives, vermouth, Iberian ham, super ripe stinky goat cheese, and lots of chocolate.

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And, what did we do on our last day in Barcelona. Stock up with a final visit to the Boqueria market, of course, followed by a run through the basement food section of El Cortes de Ingles at Placa Catalunya. Can you tell? I’m in love with Spain (second to Mexico, of course).

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Boqueria Market Eateries

  1. El Quim (Located mid-section of the market on one of the center aisles. It’s a very small bar. You could miss it. Great tapas.)
  2. Bar Central. There are two locations in the market. I like the one with long bar in the back.
  3. El Cochinillo Loco, Portico Sant Josep 6-8, Tel. 93 119 19 54

Footnote: Since returning to Oaxaca earlier this week, I haven’t done much except sleep, eat, visit with a few friends and venture out for a few afternoons in search of wifi service. I have none at the casita, so my communication is limited. I’m sitting in the wonderful fresh breeze at Tierra Antigua Restaurante in Teotitlan del Valle, with a delicious lunch and internet. Hallelujah. In celebration of small wonders.

 

Food Alert! Guzina Oaxaca Opens in Mexico City

Casa Oaxaca is one of our favorite go-to restaurants in Oaxaca.  Sit on the roof. Overlook the spectacular roofline of Santo Domingo Church. Indulge in a tamarind mezcalini. Follow this with a perfectly prepared seared sea bass or duck tacos. Each sauce that accompanies is an art form in its own right. Finish with something made with Oaxaca chocolate and then walk down the Macdeonio Alcala to walk it off.

Now, when you are in Mexico City you can enjoy Oaxaca food at is finest.  Chef Alejandro Ruiz has opened Guzina Oaxaca in the upscale Polanco neighborhood where Quintonil and Pujol share addresses.  Guzina, which means kitchen in Zapotec, the predominant indigenous language of Oaxaca, showcases some of Oaxaca’s finest ingredients, include mole and mezcal.

It is also pricey.  Entrees are about 350 pesos or $25-28 USD. But if you have an appetizer, a cocktail, wine, entree and dessert, you could spend about $70 USD per person. But, then, Mexico City is one of those places with European ambience and style, a bargain if your economy is the dollar.

Food writer Leslie Tellez tells her story about Guzina Oaxaca. And, you can read more on Trip Advisor and El Chilango, too.

Chef Ruiz is not the only Oaxaca entrepreneur to make a foray into Mexico City.

Remigio Mestas Ruiz, textile curator, promoter of indigenous weaving and textile traditions ,and a man with a social conscience, opened Remigio’s at Isabel la Catolica #30 several years ago  His Oaxaca gallery, Baules de Juana Cata in the Los Danzantes patio, is where Oaxaca textile lovers go to find the very best backstrap loomed garments created with Thai silk and Egyptian cotton by the finest weavers.  These are all available in Mexico City, too.

More good reasons to come to Mexico City, don’t you think?

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Art History Tour in Mexico City, November 13-17, 2015.  

Oh, and did I mention that Mexico City is safe?

This restaurant tip came from one of my readers. Got tips about Mexico and Oaxaca you want to share? Send me an email.

 

Mexico City’s Quintonil Restaurant is Simply Delicious

I asked Deborah Morris, MD, PA-C, who met me in Mexico City before we traveled together to Oaxaca, to contribute to this blog by writing some of her impressions.  She was dazzled by Quintonil and gives us this report.

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On our last evening in Mexico City, after a day of eating homely (and tasty) street food, we decided to splurge.  Lesley from Eat Mexico recommended upscale Quintonil and we snagged a last minute reservation there.  We dressed up, and took a cab through pouring rain and awful traffic to an inconspicuous side-street in the Polanco neighborhood. Parked along the streets were Mercedes’ and BMW’s, yet, the restaurant entrance was unassuming except for the doorman who opened his umbrella and sheltered us from rain pellets as he guided us in.  Impressive!

The restaurant is not large, seating maybe fifty people.  The decor and ambience, streamlined, subtle and quiet.  We could tell this was going to be all about the food and service. Our waiter presented us with a paper menu folded like origami, a secret package revealing an astounding menu, each dish described in loving and mouth-watering detail.  The Mexican red wine we wanted was only available by the glass, but the manager agreed to sell us a whole bottle at a very reasonable cost.

Last things first, flan for dessert.

Last things first, flan for dessert.

Almost immediately, our servers delivered a small loaf of fresh-baked sourdough bread, along with a small bowl of butter infused with huitlacoche, the delicious corn fungus, a second bowl of a silky black bean purée with shreds of hoja santa, an anise scented herb, and a third bowl filled with a complex sweet-tart-deep-picante salsa. The bread on its own would have been good.  The accompaniments made it heavenly.

Making a first course choice was difficult. We passed up the smoked spider crab tostada with lime, watermelon radish and Habanero mayonnaise. Instead, we opted to share a melt-in-your-mouth scallop carpaccio on a sprinkle of a green lime and onion flavored oil.  The  garnish was slices of plantain rolled into cones and dabs of a tart lime chile mayonnaise. Texture, flavor and temperature met in small perfect bites that had us moaning superlatives under our breath.

First course to share: scallop carpaccio

First course to share: scallop carpaccio

Between each of our three courses, our waiter delivered a little surprise. After the scallops, we both received a small gourd bowl holding a smooth potato purée flavored with little crunchy bits of chorizo.  It was glorious. (Photo below.)

For her entrée, Norma selected a Baja red fish fillet (photo below) perfectly cooked with a glossy center, presented on a base of kale and kohlrabi purée glazed with an orange and red chilhuacle (meaning ancient chile in Aztec) sauce and topped with fresh lettuce leaves.

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Mine was a square of duck breast with crisp skin and red juicy middle, tender enough to cut with a fork, covered with an amazing dark red mole flavored with huitlacoche and garnished with tiny ears of corn, quartered and sautéed. We shared these dishes, too, oohed and aahed, and felt grateful to have found this place.

Another little regalo, or present, came after the main course in the form of a green tuna sorbet.  Topping the tuna, or nopal cactus fruit, was black smoked sea salt.

We certainly could not pass up dessert, although we did resist a Mexican chocolate dish baked in a pottery bowl that had that spicy, cinnamon and nut rich aroma that wafted in our direction when delivered to the next table.  Norma’s mix of fresh and candied figs was adorned with a little scoop of a creamy cheese ice cream and lacy wafers of caramelized honey (below right).  I had flan with fresh flowers.

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Of course, there was no way we could finish drinking that entire bottle of red wine, so we offered what remained to two women dining at the next table.  They were drinking the same wine by the glass.

In anticipation and before we could even ask, the manager came to the table to ask if we needed a taxi, which arrived muy pronto in less than ten minutes. We traveled back to our B & B completely content.  Now, back to real life!

  • Quintonil Restaurante
  • Newton 55, Polanco  Álvaro Obregón, 11560 Federal District, Mexico
  • +52 55 5280 1660

And the last gift, a sprinkle of chocolate mints in a surprise package grand finale — as if we needed anything else!

Regalo of chocolate mints

Regalo of chocolate mints

 

Oaxaca Food Heaven: Restaurant Reviews by Guest Contributor Eva M. Olson

Our blog post today is written Eva M. Olson, a writer and former arts administrator based in Austin, Texas. I invited Eva to share her Oaxaca “foodie” experiences after she and a friend made a recent whirlwind eating trip.  Eva first visited Oaxaca with her family when she was 13, and says she has been fortunate to return to her casa de alma many times since then.  Here’s her take on several of Oaxaca’s best restaurants.

 

Oaxaca Comida–Buen Provecho! by Eva M. Olson

Returning to Oaxaca always feels like coming home. The air, the people, and the active zocalo are soothing and familiar.  My last visit was in November 2007, when Oaxaca was still reeling from the teachers’ strike and its aftermath.  Now, almost six years later, the city’s energy feels whole again.  Since dining well is central to any journey, and especially here, my best companion and fellow foodie B. and I decided to try a few new restaurants as well as some of my old haunts.  We stayed at Hotel Casa Oaxaca, a centrally located spot from which to launch our dining expeditions.

Our first night, we wandered into one of my favorite spots, Casa Oaxaca Restaurant where chef Alejandro Ruiz has developed a succulent tribute to the distinctive cuisine of the region. And it turned out to be the best meal of our visit.  Every detail was covered – the presentation and the service were perfection – and our food was luscious.

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B. had the silky blue bean soup and I had a gorgeous salad of fresh tomatoes, queso fresco, and watermelon (above).  Our entrees were simple grilled seafood – shrimp for B. and for me a whole octopus (breathtaking and perfectly prepared). For dessert, a trio of sorbets  – limon, coco, y leche quemada –lime, coconut and burnt milk (below).

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(Sadly, the wine here – as well as everywhere we ate – was disappointing. The list of wines by the glass was thin and the choices expensive. I realize that Oaxaca’s beverage of choice is mezcal, but it overpowers food, and I really enjoy a glass of wine with a meal.)  But, did I mention the attentive, relaxed, and thoughtful service?  The bill for this extraordinary meal was just over $100 USD (plus about a 15 percent tip).

Do you agree with Eva?  Let us know what you think!  Leave a Comment.

We had Saturday night reservations at Origen – friends had recommended it highly, and we were looking forward to discovering a new restaurant star.  It was underwhelming and ordinary on all counts – definitely not the outstanding meal we’d been anticipating.

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Our salads were adequate – mine with grapefruit and smoked trout (though not much of it) and B.’s mixed greens with an abundance of purslane (definitely an acquired taste). My sea bass with rice was unmemorable; B.’s ribeye with marrow was well prepared, and the marrow rub was excellent (arguably the best part of the meal).  Our merengue dessert was delayed for almost 30 minutes – and the mushy white paste that arrived was inedible.  We were the only people there, until a couple showed up at the end of our meal.  The bill here was $110 USD plus tip.

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The following day we walked a lot, and on an early afternoon jaunt stumbled across Carbon de Palo, a brand-new restaurant on 5 de Mayo.  Billed by our waiter as Continental fusion, with a Colombian chef, it was a lovely surprise.  Our lunch starters were excellent   – a grouper ceviche with lime foam and an incredibly fresh caprese salad (above).  B. chose squid ink pasta topped with a giant scallop, and pronounced it the best he’s ever had.  My entrée was a beautiful – the only word that fits – avocado, skinned and presented whole, stuffed with crab.  I had a glass of Penedes and B. had a Victoria. We vowed to come back for dinner as soon as possible.

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One night we had dinner at our hotel – not surprisingly, it was a beautiful meal with exquisite service provided by Daniel. To start, ceviche tacos and a beet salad, sea bass with green mole and shrimps in mole as entrees.  We all but inhaled the dessert – a delicate camote y piña flauta.

Want to make your own recommendations? Leave a Comment!

We returned to Casa Oaxaca Restaurant for our last supper, and admittedly overdid it.  We started with a cheese platter – a wide assortment of local cheeses, all delicious and rich.  B. had the pulpo – and was awarded an extra-large serving of rice loaded with huitlacoche after letting our server Omar know how much he craves this tasty corn fungus.  For me, Omar recommended the grouper served with chicatana salsa –a delicacy, and a very distinctive taste.

I can’t forget to mention the incredible breakfasts at Casa Oaxaca Hotel.  Included in the cost of the room, and served in the sunny courtyard, each meal was outstanding. Freshly squeezed juices of our choice (usually apple for B., papaya and orange for me), a variety of eggs, a fresh fruit plate with granola and yogurt, enchiladas, quesadillas, chilaquiles, freshly baked breads, homemade jam, as well as cappuccino and espresso, and hot chocolate made to order.

We’re already thinking about restaurants for the next trip – we’ll definitely return to Carbon de Palo and Casa Oaxaca.  We made reservations at Pitiona but never got there – that has to go on the list.  Also missed Los Danzantes.  Oaxaca is calling, and we’ll be back.

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Norma’s Note:  There are wonderful restaurants and outdoor cafes all over Oaxaca with varying price ranges, from comida corrida (food of the common person) to gourmet extravaganza. Eva’s review here give us her “top shelf” dining experience!

If you would like to contribute a blog post about your Oaxaca experiences, please contact Norma.

Crunchy, No-Cook Nopal Cactus Salad with Fruit and Sprouts: Healthy, Fresh, Fast, Easy

My sister Barbara and I were in Puebla, Mexico recently and during our three-day stay we ate at El Mural de los Poblanos Restaurant three times.  We can’t get enough of Chef Lizette Galicia’s good food.  We each have a favorite salad there.  Barbara loves the fresh nopal cactus tossed with tomato, onion, cilantro, queso fresco, radishes and little slices of fresh serrano chiles. I love the sunflower sprout salad tossed with toasted pecans, sunflower seeds, radishes and a light olive oil and lime dressing.  Everything goes crunch.   Be patient.  There is a recipe and photos below!

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This week I bought three nopal cactus paddles at my organic market, spines and all.  I buy them in the Teotitlan del Valle market already trimmed, diced and waiting to be cooking.  Those spines pricked me in the market and the check-out clerk had to cover her hand in a plastic baggie.  Today, I put on my thick rubber dishwashing gloves to handle them.  It was much easier than I thought.  With paring knife in hand, I scraped off the spines and trimmed the edges.  Facile.

Based on the ingredients in my kitchen and Chef Lizette’s method for preparing perfectly crunchy, delicious nopal, here is my recipe I know you will find tasty.  It is a merging of these two salads we love, a blend of nopal and sunflower sprouts.

Norma’s No-Cook Nopal Cactus Salad with Fruit, Sprouts, Seeds

Ingredients (Norma’s Innovation)

  • 3 cactus paddles, cleaned and diced
  • 2 cups fresh sunflower sprouts, washed, dried
  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1 small romaine or bibb lettuce, washed, dried, torn into 1-2″ pieces
  • 8 strawberries (mine are organic, small, flavorful), whole
  • 1 medium mandarin orange, peeled, segmented
  • 1 mango, ripe, seeded, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 T. coarse sea salt
  • 2 T. vinaigrette salad dress (scratch or bottled Cesaer)

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Method (attributed to Chef Lizette Galicia, El Mural de los Poblanos)

  1. Clean the cactus paddles.  Here is a link to how to do it.
  2. Put the diced cactus in a small bowl.  You should have about 3/4 to 1 cup.  Add coarse sea salt.  Stir.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the diced red onion to the cactus.  Stir.  Let mixture sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  4. Wash and dry lettuce and sprouts.  Put into mixing bowl.
  5. Soak berries in water for 2 minutes with 1 T. of white vinegar to clean. Drain. Dry. De-stem.  Add to salad.
  6. Add mandarin segments to salad.
  7. Prepare mango by cutting it in half along the seed plane.  Score each half as if it was a tic-tac-toe board in 1″ cubes.  Fold the skin under and peel flesh from skin with paring knife.  Add to salad.
  8. Go back to nopal cactus and onion mixture.  Turn out into a mesh strainer.  The mix will be slimy like okra.  Run under cold water for 5 minutes or until the water is clear.  Taste for saltiness.  If too salty, continue to rinse.
  9. Drain cactus and onion well over a bowl.  Put bowl in refrigerator for 10 minutes until mix is cold.  Add to salad.
  10. Toss salad well with sunflower seeds.  Dress and serve.
  11. Serves 4.
  12. Enjoy!

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The health attributes of nopal cactus is legendary. Years ago, Andrew Weill, M.D., exclaimed that by eating nopal cactus you would get more vitamin C, reduce cholesterol and add fiber to your diet.  Health experts say it also reduces blood sugar to help keep diabetes under control and is great for weight loss.  Lore has it that it can prevent a hangover and control hypertension, too.  Let’s eat more nopal!   Just be careful not to prick yourself :)  

I am planning to make this again next weekend for the TMM-Day of the Dead Photography Workshop 2012 Reunion.  I’ll be writing more about that. Suffice it to say, seven women in the workshop last fall connected and wanted to get together again.  They are coming to North Carolina from all over the U.S.