Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TWD: not this week

When I read the recipe I really wanted to make this cake. But with the 4 days and 1 hour delay on the way back home from Mexico and the things that come with that I just didn't have the time.

I will be back next week though with the Peanut Butter Torte (page 282-283) picked by Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food.

You can find out what the other bakers made of this week's recipe by checking out the blogroll on Tuesday with Dorie.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mexico City - round 2

After a six hour bus trip over the Sierra Madre mountains we were back in Mexico City again. We had three days to look around some more before we would fly home, at least that's what we thought....
When we tried to check in, which we can do 30 hours in advance with KLM, there was no sign of our reservation, when I checked further, our flights were moved up a day. We called Amsterdam and were told that our group of three was split up, one had to fly via Paris to Amsterdam on the original date, the other two a day later on the direct flight.
That was of course not acceptable for us and it took a few more phone calls, one more than 45 minutes to set things straight, now we are flying back on Saturday, FOUR days later than planned!
Reason? Boeing is doing a maintenance check on their 747's and flights get cancelled all over the world, our flight was one of those.
I'm so glad that I brought my laptop on this trip and that I have skype up and running to make all those calls, otherwise we would have stranded at the airport instead of being in our nice comfy hotel!

What did we do so far in MC? We went to so the crowds at Chapultec park on Sunday, it's hard to believe that people come here to relax, it's so busy with stands selling all the usual stuff, noisy clowns, loud music etc.
On Monday we visted the biggest market I've ever been to in my life, La Merced. This is one of the main fruit and vegetable markets in Mexico City, and moves an avarage 24.000 tons of it per day!
Limes at Merced Market
After that a visit to the Basilica de Guadalupe to watch the portret of the Virgin of Guadelupe. For dinner we went to Don Chon hoping to try the stewed armadillo, but unfortunately they were out of the little fellows so we had to settle with the more "regular" stuff. I had very nice stewed goat in a chile sauce that was delicious. they also had pulque, an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of the agave. It tasted like a distant cousin of hard cider, but it looked more like light chocolate milk and was more slimy, but still quite refreshing!

Tuesday we spent trying to arrange things for our flight back, Wednesday I spend sick in bed, Montezuma's revenge got me. We are trained travelers and know the basic food rules in countries like this but there is always the chance that you end up eating something not totally up to standards, this was one of these times....

Thursday I felt good enough to get out again, though not 100% and we went to the Anthropological Museum to see among others the Aztec calendar.
Today we did a little shopping and tried to reserve our seats for our flight tomorrow, but when it rains it pours, so one of us has a seat and the others have to see if we can sit together tomorrow at the airport, dispite two more hours in phone calls to KLM and NWA, sigh.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Papantla

The main attraction in Papantla are the El Tajin ruins but for a foodie this area is also interesting because this is where vanilla was used for the first time and from here it was spread by the Spaniards over the globe.
You can find lots of places here where they sell vanilla pods, liquor, extract but also vanilla art, like scorpions, crucifixes, rosaries made out of vanilla beans. I stocked up on half a liter of extract and 20 fat juicy beans.
Vanilla Art

The next day we visited El Tajin, it was a nice gray day, not to hot and it was very quiet at the ruins which gave it a special atmosphere. Last year it was almost to hot to walk around. J. loved it and due to the weather we were able to enjoy it a lot more! Of all the sites I've visited so far in Mexico this is one of my favorite.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Costa Esmeralda

We spend our time in Costa Esmeralda relaxing, J. and I tried line fishing which was harder than it looked, I did manage to catch a crab though. Omid, the owner of Tobago, our hotel here, was nice enough to take me to the local fishing store. I bought 2 rods and some lures which made fishing easier. Not that we caught anything... The first thing my brother said that that was justice, since he couldn't join us :-)
We also couldn't stand to long out in the water without the risk of getting serious sun burns, but at least we tried.

One day we took a boat tour through the mangroves which was very interesting, our guide, a local fisherman, caught one of the red mangrove crabs to show us, picked local waterflowers, pointed out the different birds and other wildlife. At the end of the tour he took us to the end of the river and almost in to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the tour we went to the reason we stopped here this time, barbecue restaurants. Along this stretch of beach are little places with barbecues build from old oil drums. We picked one that had three barbecues in front and ordered chicken, which came with rice, salad, tortillas and 2 salsa's. It was delicious!
Our stay at Taboga was very pleasant, the owners went more than out of their way to help us have a pleasant stay!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oaxaca, Xalapa and Costa Esmeralda

While in Oaxaca we rented a chauffeur and visited El Tule, the world's oldest tree being over 2000 years old. The church behind it in the picture is a full size church!

After El Tule we visited Teotitlan, a village were rugs are made in the traditional way with all natural dyes. We got a demonstration on how the process works, very interesting to see how the colors are made with fermented leaves, a parasite that grows on the cactus, herbs, pomegranite seeds (which produce green!) etc.

From there on to the Benava distillery to see how mezcal is brewed. I have been to wiskey distilleries in Scotland so I know how the process works, but it was interesting to hear that they put the agave cores into a hole in the ground with smoldering wood for three days, that's where the smokey flavor comes from.
Yes, you do eat the worm!

Than some last minute shopping at the Oaxaca markets and took the bus for an eight hour ride to Xalapa, home of the JalapeƱo pepper. Not that we'll do any chili related stuff here, we there for the museum that houses the largest selection of Olmec heads. Well contrary to what our lonely planet and the museum website say, the museum is NOT open on Monday, we already made arrangements to travel further, so J. missed this beautiful museum, which is in our opinion one of the nicest in Mexico. Nothing much else to do in Xalapa but to wonder around the city center and drink some fabulous coffee.

Today we arrived at Costa Esmeralda along the Mexican Gulf coast. When we drove by this place last year we decided that if we were in the neighborhood again we would stop here.
A long stretch of beach that is not spoiled by high rise hotels and resorts.
From the bus station, well a sign in front of a Hostel, we caught a ride to one of the hotels that had a good review on the tripadvisor site, the Best Western Noray. Nice place, nice pool at the beach what more do you want.
Well we went for a walk along the coastline and ended up for a drink and a bite to eat at Taboga, run by and English/Mexican couple and open since a few months, they showed us around and it was fabulous! For only 100 pesos more per night we'll get a room with an ocean view, great restaurant and we'll go fishing on the beach with Omid, the owner :-)

Friday, April 11, 2008

What to do in between meals?

What do you do when you are Oaxaca? Well there are fabulous restaurants here, so it's more like how do we fill the time in between meals...
So far we discovered two great new restaurants.

Marco Polo, a seafood restaurant, that has wood fired brick ovens in a garden setting. Your food goes in these ovens and when done straight to your table. Relaxed atmosphere, high quality, great cocktails and very friendly staff.

Casa Oaxaca, a little more upscale, but again great food! We went for some of the local specialties and it was superb. I loved their tamales, I had a combo, one in corn husk with lamb and the other in banana leaf with venison, very tasty!
They also had a fabulous salad, the dressing was a with flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers) and a touch of chile, a beautiful combination that I'll try to recreate at home.

Nice selection of chiles at the market.

And of course we went to the markets here. I bought a nice bag of chipotles (got some for you too Mevrouw Cupcake), some cascabel chiles, chapulines (grasshoppers) and chocolate.
We got 2 kilos of mayordomo chocolate and 1 kilo from a local vendor that had his own mixtures that was great, we went for the not so sweet one, he also had one with almonds and another with cinnamon.
Different kinds of chocolate and moles at the market.

Yesterday we visited the the former Zapotec capital Monte Alban. The site is totally different from Teotihuacan but very impressive too. Way more people than our last visit, it's good to see that the tourists have found this part of the world again after the trouble in 2006.

It's located on top of a mountain overlooking two valleys, I am still amazed at what moves people to build places like this at these impossible locations.

The day before yesterday we visited the museum which houses the gold found at Monte Alban. Nice building, nice collection. J. isn't too much into museums and we saw it before so it was a quick visit.

And than there is always food in between. Mezcal ice cream at the Zocalo, hot chocolate with a sweet bread for dunking at the market, fabulous coffee (iced or hot), fresh potato chips near the Zocalo and the list goes on, too much food for the short period we are here. Oh well we can always come back!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oaxaca

Last year when we stayed in Oaxaca, Jon the owner of Ollin, the B&B we stay in, told us that the food at a restaurant just 2 blocks away was great, but their strawberry margarita's were even better.
Well, we had to test that of course and they have been haunting us ever since! When it is hot weather or when we eat Mexican food, the memory of this fabulous drink always surfaces.
So after checking in to Ollin our first stop was La Biznaga, to order a strawberry margarita, we weren't disappointed, they were still as tasty as we remembered. Nice strawberry taste, good kick from the tequilla, not to sweet, just perfect!
The Perfect Strawberry Margarita.

And the food was still very good too. A few adjustments in the menu but our favorites of last year were still on there.
Garlic shrimp over rice with a tamarind sauce.

We did eat way too much though, so we are in/on bed and in the hammock outside too full to walk, hoping we have space again for the fabulous breakfast Sophie will prepare for us tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Teotihuacan and on the road again

First thing we did yesterday was arranging tickets to our next destination, Oaxaca, which went pretty smooth. Public transport is very well organized here in Mexico and even if you don't speak the language it's not hard to get around.
With that hurdle taken it was on to our destination of the day. We decided to take the bus to Teotihuacan, we had been there before but with a tour, which takes you to a lot of other things too, we just wanted to see the ancient city and could care less about the tourist traps.
The bus leaves from the North autobus terminal and the counter for tickets to the site is on the left side, I give this info for fellow Europeans with a Lonely Planet Mexico guide book out there. The lonely Planet says go to the North side of the terminal, well we Europeans don't do North and South very well :-) It's about an hour to the site.

Teotihuacan is were the Sun and the Moon pyramid can be found. The sun pyramid is the third largest pyramid in th world and you can climb it! J. did, it is his first time in Mexico and he's still young :-) We'd been there, done that so stayed below. I can really feel I'm not totally adjusted to the height here.
Sun Pyramid

The site was still as impressive to us as the first time I were here, J. loved it!
The Moon Pyramid seen from the top of the Sun Pyramid.

Foodwise nothing spectacular yesterday, although the hamburguesa at the little restaurant near gate 4 of the site was very good!

Now off to get some breakfast, grab a taxi to TAPO, the eastern bus terminal and than by bus to Oaxaca, the foodies mecca of Mexico.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Angels and Insects

From our hotel it's a nice walk through the Zona Rosa to "el Angel" on top of the Monumento a la Indepencia, one of Mexico City's most recognizable icons.
The colomn with the angel is found on Paseo de la Reforma, which was shut down for cars today, they have been doing this for a while now on Sundays, to give the city back to the people, a lot of people were walking, rollerskating or cycling down this 12 km long, broad boulevard.

We strolled along Reforma for quite a while and visited the Palacio de Belle Artes (the Palace of Fine Arts), we had never been inside before and the interior is beautiful Art Deco with Pre-Hispanic details and more murals by Diego Rivera.
Man, controller of the universe, by Diego Rivera.

After a drink on Plaza Garibaldi, where the Mariachi bands hang out, we went to Los Girasoles for lunch. This is one of the places in Mexico City where you can eat Aztec style food.
I had the blue corn quesadillas as a starter, which were filled with squash flower and Oaxacan cheese which were very nice but not what we came for. The thing to eat here are insects, my main course was the Aztec Mosaic, which is like a sampler plate of worms, grasshoppers and ant eggs, served with guacamole and green taquitos (small tortillas).
Worms, Grasshoppers and Ant Eggs.

The worms are maquey worms who live in the agave plant and can also be found in bottles of mezcal, these tasted very nice! The grasshoppers we ate before in Oaxaca and these weren't as nice, way to salty for my taste. The big surprise were the ant eggs, fried in butter, a very delicate taste, a great new discovery!
I also realized that I didn't even think about this food as being odd, it's like I pulled a switch when I ate insects the first time in China, it was scary the first time, but after that it's just food.
For dessert I had a cajeta gelatin with rompope sauce (gelatin made of the Mexican version of Dulce de Leche with an alcoholic eggnog sauce) which was fabulous.

After buying some fruit at the produce market near the hotel, we went back to the room for a little rest.

Dinner was down the block from our hotel, tacos al Pastor and tacos with cheese and nopales, part of the prickly pear cactus.

Temple Mayor, Cakes and Churros

It was eight AM when we left the hotel and had breakfast, after that we went to the Zocalo, the main square in the historical center of Mexico City. It's our fourth visit to the city but we never went to the Temple Mayor, which lays just behind the Zocalo.
The Temple Mayor ruins, the Cathedral and the Zocalo in the background.

The Temple Mayor is the excavated ruin of the double pyramid temple that the Aztecs built on the spot that they considered the center of the universe. Legend has that their god told them to build their capital where an eagle stood on a cactus with a snake in it's beak, the icon you can still find on the Mexican flag. That is where they built Tenochtitlan, the Temple Mayor.
It was discovered in 1978 by workers who were working on the metro.

For me it's so impressive that you have this enormous city here and you can visit the ruins of the place where it all once started! No idea why we never visited it before.

There is a nice museum which has some of the excavated treasures from the site including the great stone disc Coyolxauhqui.
After the temple mayor a quick visit to the presidential palace to have a look at the Diego Rivera murals. There is a renovation of the stairs going on so you couldn't get a clear view of the murals in the staircase, in my opinion the most beautiful ones.

By that time we were getting a bit hungry, so we went to Pasteleria Ideal (1927) a cake store / bakery that I saw on the net and knew I wanted to visit. This is where kitsch meets cake. Enormous cakes some more than three meters high with kitsch decorations, so bad that it's fun again.
Kitsch Meets Cake

On the ground floor they have trays and trays of every kind of Mexican pastry you can imagine and gelatinas, beautiful jelly cakes.
Gelatin Chicks

After buying some pastries to take with us, we went to another Mexico City institute, Churreria el Moro, this restaurant has been here since 1935 and serves churros and chocolate. Churros are star shaped dough sticks that are deep fried and covered with cinnamon and sugar. You dip them in the hot chocolate.
The baker making the churros.

I can be short on these, they were the best I ever had, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and not greasy at all!
Four kinds of hot chocolate to choose from, Especial, the one with the least sugar; Espanol, the sweetest; Frances, the most basic and Mexicana the milkiest of the lot. We took the Mexicana, which ended up fabulously sweet after dunking your churros in it!

Seven hours later we are back at the hotel, a little tired and a little shorter from all the walking, tonight dinner in the neighborhood of the hotel.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Weekly Cupcake Collection

After a nice and comfortable eleven hour flight we arrived in Mexico City yesterday. We were here last year too and nothing changed much in the neighborhood were we are staying again, the Roma district.
Had nice chicken fajitas across the street and forgot to take pictures of the food, what a food blogger I am... Or maybe the reason was that it was already 5 AM at home and had been up all day and night.

When I checked my email at the hotel I saw that my Red Velvet Cupcakes were picked for the Weekly Cupcake Collection on All Things Cupcakes! I'm so thrilled, first time I ever made cupcakes :-)

If the time on my posts look odd, the reason is that if I change the timezone on blogger to Mexico City time, it will change the time on all my previous posts too! So odd times it is for the duration of the trip.

It's after 4 AM local time when I blog this, I guess we will be outside early today, oh well that is one of the benefits of jet lag.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mexico here we come!!

Tomorrow we'll leave for two and a half weeks to Mexico. That means that I won't participate in Tuesdays With Dorie during that period. Also I won't be posting any recipes.

But I'll be posting while on the road, I'll show some of the sites we'll visit and of course food related items.

So my next post will be from Mexico City, first stop on our trip!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

TWD: Gooey Chocolate Cakes


Another Tuesday another recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, this week selected by Leigh of Lemon Tartlet. She choose the Gooey Chocolate Cakes and what a good choice it was, we all loved them here!
They were very simple to make, I also made the creme anglaise to go with it. The cakes and the creme anglaise complement each other nicely, as Dorie says, these cakes aren't meant to be served alone.

As a lot of other members of the TWD group, I didn't have any chocolate oozing out, but it was close, they were very , very gooey.
Ingredients:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounces coarsely chopped, 1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar

Preparations:
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter (or spray - it's easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted - you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don't beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatual to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.

It didn't last long..

Next week recipe is The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart (page 331-333) choosen by Mary of Starting From Scratch.