Father´s Day Asado

Almost a month ago my dad had a stroke, it was the day after my birthday, as soon as we found out my sisters and I didn´t hesitate to run to our hometown, to be there with him and our mum. So, together, as a family, we made it, my dad has almost fully recovered and he is very keen to take the most out of this second chance life has given him. So, last weekend we came over again to celebrate father´s day with him. Indeed, it was a very meaningful celebration.

For this weekend, one of my sisters decided that we should feast as we always do on special occasions, throwing a massive asado (or “carne asada”, as we know it here in Mexico).

Ribs, picanha, and more meat... plain and simple

Ribs, picanha, and more meat… plain and simple

We used a charcoal grill, medium high heat, only using half of the cooking surface. This turned out to be a great idea as we usually just spread the heat all along the grill, in order to use all the cooking surface. However by doing this we were able to cook perfectly the pieces of meat and the rest of the veggies without burning them. Start by putting some jalapenos and tomatoes on the grill until they burn, later we place them on a mortar and make a salsa out of it. Wrapped in tin foil we placed some potatoes and onions really close to the fire, we want all the heat on them as they take longer to cook.

Let those jalapenos burn,  and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Let those jalapenos burn, and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Finally, for the “piece de resistance“, this time we had beef ribs, some fillets, and a 1.5 kg piece of picaña (which comes from the top back part of the cow). For the picaña (or picanha), the meat had to be scored first, it has a thick layer of fat, and you want the scoring not to get all the way to the meat but to be slightly deep, as you will be rubbing the whole piece with pepper and salt. Asado 3 My strategy is simple, put it on the fire, and let it cook on the surface, when you reckon it has a nice colour on the outside put the meat away from direct fire and close to grill´s lid, we are going for a medium level of doneness,  lots of juices and a beautiful pink in its core. The whole asado takes around 1.5 hours to 2 hours to cook, including the meat, ribs, vegetables, salsa and sides. Asado 4Indirect grilling turned out to be a fascinating technique, as it allows the meat to cook evenly, but without burning it, giving you more control during the process. Certainly the result was outstanding and it was the best way to celebrate not only Father’s day but also the successful recovery of my dad, he is getting there and we couldn’t be happier.

Beautiful indeed...

Beautiful indeed…

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Hot Wings and Beer

Wings_Army

That’s, I reckon, the best title I’ve ever come up with for any of my posts in this blog. The reason for today’s topic is plain and simple, Hot Wings and Beer are awesome (it’s in the bible, look it up)

Beautiful

Beautiful

Here in Mexico City we tend to go for wings every other Wednesday, and when I say “we”, I mean my mates from my hometown who live here and sometimes we bring a special guest. This sort of tradition began with my friends up north in Monterrey, most of them from my hometown, Tampico, used to get together every Wednesday. The day was chosen not because we love Wednesdays, but because of the specials they have that day at this restaurant (Wings Army), you order 20 hot wings they bring you 30. This place, Wings Army, besides serving great wings, also has a wide variety of national and international beers, which is awesome. From the local brews, to artisan beer, all the way to Cuban or great German beer. The place has it all.

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know... North Korea

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know… North Korea

I must admit I don´t really know how they do it, how they cook these wings to perfection, I’ve tried at home and the result is not disappointing but just “not the same”. I’m not going to explain how to cook the perfect wings, or what to look in a hot wings joint. This is just a reminder that there are some things that other do better, and we should appreciate them and munch our way through.

What other dishes you’d love to cook at home but just don’t turn out as good as your favourite food joint cooks them?

Ps, Oh, by the way, do you know that this guy in Guadalajara registered the “Duff Beer” and branded the bottles to commercialize this brew.

presentacionduff

Quesadilla Sans Fromage

For all my American friends, the title of this post is actually “Quesadillas without cheese”, and that´s today complaint.

See that melting cheese coming out of the tortilla... in love dude, in love

See that melting cheese coming out of the tortilla… in love dude, in love

I´ve been living in Mexico City here for 2 years already, and besides being an amazing place full of history and culture and stuff happening around you literally all the time, there´s one thing that I can´t understand.

Quesadilla with chorizo...

Quesadilla with chorizo…

And this sole thing seems to be a concern not only for me but for the rest of the country. Let´s do something together, ok? I want you to picture a soft corn tortilla, nice and freshly made, now, I want you to mentally put some cheddar or Edam cheese (grated) on one of its side, right? Now place that tortilla on the pan, medium heat, cheese side facing up. Imagine how that cheese begins to melt on that soft, freshly made tortilla, right?

That´s what I´m talking about!

That´s what I´m talking about!

Now, we are going to mentally do this together, right? Fold that tortilla, involving that sweet, melted cheese in all its glory. How do you call that?

A QUESADILLA, that´s right. 

Turns out that in  Mexico City, this is a Quesadilla with Cheese, meaning that the term quesadilla, when you order one on the street, doesn´t necessarily mean that they will give you what we just described in the above paragraph. When you order a quesadilla in Mexico City they´ll ask you if you´d like that with or without cheese, or what kind of stew will you like in it, not cheese involved.

Folded into perfection ...

Folded into perfection …

For the rest of the country, a tortilla with anything in it, is a taco, but when it has cheese it becomes a quesadilla (it´s in the Bible, trust me, Deuteronomy or something like that, true story “And Abraham melted cheese on a soft corn tortilla, using the heat of the pit of fire of sins of the gentiles…” ).

That´s the spot...

That´s the spot…

Apparently in Mexico City they don´t respect this, and will often confuse a taco with a quesadilla, only troubling the mindset of the tourists and other Mexicans, offending our history and traditions.

I will not rant about how much this pisses me, and the rest of the Mexican community, off, I rather write these lines to en-light all of you out there.

Whenever you come to Mexico City, it is your right, no! it is your Human Right (universal and stuff) to demand your quesadilla with cheese, always, and to ensure that melting cheese is always part of your gastronomic needs. Whatever they serve you in a tortilla, without cheese, is a taco, period! Quesadilla_de_Queso_by_mclaranium Damn… is anybody else hungry too?

Home Cooking for the Brave

So, this is my report from last weekend, I was out of town for around a week, you know, work related stuff. Anyway, that´s not the point, as soon as I got back to Mexico City, my sister and I started cooking like maniacs for three days in a row, and it was awesome.

Not actually us... I´m bald, for instance.

Not actually us… I´m bald, for instance.

I´ll go as fast as I can with the dishes we prepared that weekend, full of laughs, adventures and inside jokes.

Friday

I was shattered by the end of  the week, couldn´t be bothered to do anything else, my sis went out and I decided to treat myself with something elegantly delicious. So, I rushed to the supermarket and got myself a neat piece of salmon, 1 kg of clams, spring onions, butter (oh yeah, baby, lots of butter), and a fancy rosé.

ButterBreak

These dishes can be cooked at the same time, so let´s start with the clams:

Put a regular size pot to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, spring onions, carrots (1 inch slices), sliced garlic, and half a sliced onion, then stir-fry until the onion softens. Now it gets interesting, put half a kilo of the clams in the pot (freaking rinse them, mate, don´t just cook stuff straight from the bag, you are better than that and you know it), now you either pour 1 cup of white wine or 1 cup of water, let it simmer for a while and put the lid on.

clams

The clams will open nicely, discard those that don´t.

For the salmon, follow these simple instructions:

Put some salt and pepper on the salmon, don´t mind the skin, leave it, it´s important, and if you are into it add some dill weed or smoked paprika to the rub. Turn on the heat to medium on a regular size pan, a table spoon of extra virgin olive oil and butter, let it melt, wait until the fat browns slightly and put the salmon skin down, now let it cook.

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

This technique is super easy, as you don´t need to turn the salmon to finish cooking, just let the heat flow from skin up. This will allow you to cook your meat to perfection.

And that´s it, just plate and enjoy it with a good rosé that you´ve obviously put in the fridge while you were cooking this.

salmon

Digg in, bro, you know you want to.

Ps. What´s the favourite dish you like cooking with your family or friends? Share your stories if you have something to share.

Duc In Altum

MissionBay

Duc in Altum, it is Latin for “Into the deep ocean”, or something like that, my Latin is sort of rusty at the moment, but trust me on this one. It was taught to me during junior high and high school, almost 20 years ago (damn) by the Jesuits. My professors and academic community encouraged us to always go forward, looking for new challenges and frontiers, for adventures and knowledge, to open or wings and fly away…

LakeLouise

 

 

How do you like that for the opening paragraph of this post? Pretty epic, right?

 

 

Anyway, so later on, these thoughts and the urge for adventure, made me travel around the world and to visit many places, from France, Canada, Norway, Argentina, and my second home, New Zealand. Recently I got the chance to read a great article written by Kellie Donnelly, titled “The Hardest Part Of Traveling No One Talks About”. In this entry she describes perfectly the way I´ve felt after my trips abroad, specially the last one, coming back from New Zealand to Mexico after three years away.

MissionBay2

Indeed, traveling changes you; it transforms you into a different person and makes you an addict for just flying away. Realizing that coming back home is an obligation that you enjoy, that your friends are grownups now, with kids and responsibilities, with a retirement fund and a decent relationship gut. You find your parents and relatives a little older now, their hairs are greyer and their eyes look nostalgically into the distance. They listen to you blathering about your adventures and sincerely enjoy your stories, as you enjoyed their bed time tales when you were a kid.

Coromandel

Kellie describes perfectly that “travel bug” that annoyed me at the beginning of my return. Now it is clearer, it isn´t that you don´t like your home country anymore, it is much more; the need to get to know the world, as an addiction that is only beneficial for you, and your free soul.

As she concluded:

“This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.”

Kidrunning

 

Ps. All  the pictures in this post were taken by myself, pretty neat, huh?

No Sex in the Champagne Room

Wait a second, is it March already? Where the bullocks did this year go? Anyway, so I´m on the hunt for a new place now and I´m quite excited about this. Let´s put it this way, there are many plans ahead and the rest of this year is going to be bloody awesome. Well, except for the fact that Ukraine is in a terrible political turmoil, Venezuela is experiencing an awful social revolution, the Mexican government intends to pass a law that will allow the authorities to block telecommunications in case of national security issues (aye, just like Egypt, Iran, or Syria), and somebody vomited on Lady Gaga for … let´s put it this way: art.

They say it looked a lot like this…

So, one quarter of the year gone already? And what have we learnt so far?

1.- Street food is an awesome sin

This is one my favourite “sports” since I moved to Mexico City, street food here is freaking glorious and without hesitation the best meals I ever had here were on the run.

From pambazos, to “tacos de canasta”, pork crackling quesadillas, or just corn in a cup (no girls); this city is the bomb when it comes to urban/informal gastronomy.

 

2.- It´s ok to protect human rights in other countries except yours

I´m talking to you “Murica”, don´t think we haven´t noticed the amount of people lined up for execution in your penitentiary centres. That´s right, there are several inmates that are there waiting for their lives to be “Terminated” by the American government without a proper trial. If you want to find out more, go to the Death Penalty Information Centre website, and see “who´s next”.

3.- Christmas decorations are fine on February but not March

I´m not going to go deeper on this subject, you know who you are, and no, it is not “ok” to leave them all the way until August and then say “well, Christmas is just around the corner, why bother”. Get those bloody cardboard boxes and put those obnoxious holiday annoyances away!

Neither saying “happy new year” after the second week of January.

4.- No matter what the stripper says, there´s no sex in the champagne room. 

Amazingly explained by Chris Rock on this great 90s hit:

Ps. Remember mates, learn the difference between positivism and optimism, they are not the same, and no, reading Paulo Coehlo isn´t cool either.

Ps2. Speaking of optimism, tend to hang out with happy and optimist fellas, learn from their ability to see the good things in life. Usually these people are empathetic, caring, good listeners and they share their happiness with those around them.

Mexico City: One Year After

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Well, not really, I´ve been in Mexico City for over a year already and honestly I´m loving it. This city is amazing, so alive, so busy, vibrant and full of surprises. Living here was one of my goals in life, regardless of how the rest of the country sees the capital city, the Federal District (or DF as it is known in Mexico) is one of the most amazing urban centres of Latin America.

Just don´t mind this… I mean, sometimes it gets pretty casual.

I got here around the end of January last year, I didn´t know what to expect, but now I can say that this is a great city to visit, live and do pretty much whatever you want (legally, obviously, this isn´t bloody Amsterdam, you know, we are Catholics and stuff).

I still have that crazy bird in my head telling me to do other stuff and fly away, but for now, this place is pretty awesome.

Last weekend I noticed how lucky I am, I went to Reforma Avenue on Sunday. This is perhaps the most important avenue in the country, which on Sundays becomes a pedestrian-only road. On this day you can find people riding their bicycles, practicing yoga or just hanging out around freaking old monuments. 

Pretty awesome day, right?

Pretty awesome day, right?

After wandering around for a while I went for some churros with hot chocolate close to the main square (known as Zocalo) of the city. This place is pretty famous and old, it is called “El Moro” and it is just delicious, for USD$4 you get hot chocolate and 4 large churros, fantastic.

These are the bomb!

These are the bomb!

As well, every Sunday, but in the my neighborhood, the Colonia Napoles, a street market makes this “hood” a literal food parade, where fresh veggies and fruits can be found. Also, taco places and Mexican food stands sell their products to the general public.

These are deep fried quesadillas filled with cheese and pork crackling - Pure love

These are deep fried quesadillas filled with cheese and pork crackling – Pure love

My favourite stand, and I reckon they might know who I am by now is a “carnitas” stand, where they offer amazing pork crackling, pork meat and pork… and more pork, it is just heaven (I love pork).

The heart of Mexico: El Zocalo

The heart of Mexico: El Zocalo

Anyway, the point here is, Mexico City is freaking awesome, give it a chance, and if you are ever around do not hesitate to give me a call, I might even take you to my favourite “carnitas” stand and share a taco or two with you. 

The Soumaya Museum, for example, has one of the largest Rodin´s collection in the world.

The Soumaya Museum, for example, has one of the largest Rodin´s collection in the world.

Ps1. Honestly, that #100HappyDays thingy is really working, I do feel more optimistic and enjoying the simple things in life.

Ps2. Did I mention last time that I found this ubber delicious coffee place just around the corner from my flat? It´s an original concept and the way they prepare coffee is very traditional, not more Starbucks for me on the weekends. The place? El Guapo Café 

Ps3. Wanna see more pics of how is life in Mexico, go for a wee visit to the following link. 

Happy Mexican Festivus

Can I talk to you guys about happy things? I just feel like talking about great things today, as far as I know, regardless of how cloudy the day gets, well, there´s always a bright side, right? Besides, only two more days until Christmas, so, let´s be nice to each other (especially you, the quasi-hipster about to complain to the clerk at that organic coffee place because of the temperature of your soy-slim-latte-machiatto-doubleshot).

IMG_20130323_121556

Even if you aren´t feeling particularly optimist today, that doesn´t mean you aren´t thankful for the life you are living and the people walking alongside with you every day (except those vegetarians… but until we find a cure…).

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Mi casa es tu casa

So, let´s talk about something awesome, my country: Mexico. This is a great place where to be, regardless of the political turmoil, the poverty, the corrupted political system, having the U.S.A. as neighbour, still, Mexico is amazing. I´m thankful I was born here; I love travelling around the world and being able to say proudly “I´m Mexican”. There´s nothing greater than to listen to people´s reaction when I say where I´m from.

  • “So, you like to party hard?”
  • “Do you guys ride donkeys as a primitive form of transportation?”
  • “Why do you speak English, aren´t you supposed to speak only Mexican?”
  • “You guys are great at dancing”
  • “What is it with the chilli lollies?”
  • “Are you a Luchadore?”
  • “Eat this Jalapeno!”
  • “Ay caramba!”
  • “Do you sell weed?”

Besides, being Mexican is clearly a competitive advantage, specifically in how we find our way into happiness every single time. I know, after the war on drugs (“after”, it is still happening no matter what the current administration´s efforts to hide it), people decided that life must go on, and that they couldn´t be living in the shadows.

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The Zocalo, the cathedral, the flag… this is Mexico

Today, Mexicans know these are hard times, the political arena is confusing and the government isn´t really focusing on the people but in the private sector to reactivate the local economy. However, Mexicans have something more important, the strength of this country is its people´s faith, passion, patience, and hope, intangible values that motivate my countrymen into believing they can do it, and trust me, most of the time they do and achieve amazing things.

So, this existential post is dedicated to my country, its people, culture and values. Whenever you get the chance, come to Mexico, you won´t regret it.

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Happy holidays to all of you, I´ll be hanging out with these amazing girls: my sisters.

Some Foodie Recommendations in Mexico City

One of my favourite hobbies, besides cooking and traveling, is obviously eating. Since I arrived to Mexico City I´ve been amazed by the amount of great restaurants, markets and street food stands that have totally satisfied my foodie needs. What I do in order to find these places is to go for long walks, loooong walks, like bring a tent and stuff, and casually bump into them.

Dating Service

Something a lot like this… some beef jerky might be cool as well.

On the past few weeks I´ve found, or I´ve been introduced to great restaurants, which I´ll like to recommend you whenever you are having some spare time in the capital of Mexico, or if you just feel like having some good lunch while experiencing something new.

La Burguesa (Cozumel 67, esquina Colima, Roma Norte; Mexico City)

I went to this place last week, not expensive at all, it prepares some of the most amazing burgers in the city. This place is located in the Roma Norte neighborhood, and the meals go from NZ$12 to NZ$16; the quality of its ingredients is outstanding. La Burguesa serves its food in a wee place, nice tables and decoration, great ambiance and some familiarity in the air gives you enough confidence to try the intrepid combinations that its chef has created.

The main specialty is “La Fuerte”, which is a burger with lamb mince, Camembert, and spinach cream. As one customer said on the internet, this is the kind of food that when you chew it you don´t know if go for the next bite or just hope that what you are enjoying in your mouth never ends.

burguesa

“Le Pain Quotidien” (Insurgentes Sur 1630 or at Oscar Wilde 30 esquina Virgilio, Polanco)

Oh well, the name says it all, this is “the traditional” French place for a good, and somehow healthy, bite. The service is efficient and unexpected, and the food is simple but beautifully arranged. The “Tartines” seem to be the specialty at this place, I´ve tried some of them and I recommend the smoked salmon one, which might be their finest product. This tartine just melts in your mouth while salmon, rustic bread, olive oil and dill weed mix in your mouth, taking you somewhere else.

They have a sharing table concept, so you can enjoy your meal with strangers if you are there by yourself, as well as a decent selection of beer and wine and the quality of the ingredients is remarkable. Oh, don´t forget to visit the “groceries” section, fantastic, however brief, variety of organic and delicious products. Visit their website, it is pretty neat as well.

Follow them on twitter too, don´t be shy: @le_pain_q_mx

Now, put your trainers on and go for a good walk around the city, we might bump into each other and might even share some tamales…. not, I don´t share my tamales, ever.

The Heart of Mexico

I recently visited Mexico City, one of the biggest and most populated cities in the world. It’s the capital of the country; the most important cultural, financial, educational and political centre of Mexico. This North American city is located in the Valley of Mexico; the origins of the city go all the way to the Aztecs, who built it on an island of Lake Texcoco (following an old legend) during the mid 1300’s.

Angel de la Independencia

As soon as I got there, two earthquakes were felt in the city, “You don’t have to worry”, said the girl from the lobby of my hotel. The Defeños and Chilangos are used to this and many other random things that the city has to put up with. Regardless of the bad reputation it had before the war on drugs, (one of an overpopulated, unsafe, traffic clogged city) DF, as it is mostly called, is now a dormant monster which allows its inhabitants to carry on with their lives, investments, jobs, studies and to welcome visitors like me.

DF has something for everybody, from the ancient Aztec ruins behind the Zocalo, the Chapultepec forest crowned with the only Castle in the Americas (true story), a milliard museums and a diverse and vast offer of restaurants, to the interaction with almost 21 million people who live there.

If you are planning a trip to Mexico, visit the capital, go to the Zocalo, enter the Cathedral, try its public transportation (the underground system is marvellous and freaking cheap), and eat whatever gets in your way, you won’t regret it.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Mexico City is, by far, one of my favourite cities, so much culture, national identity, education and with some of the best food in the world. My recommendations: La Condesa‘s night life, Coyoacan‘s casual drinking, Bellas Artes, the Memory and Tolerance Museum, and eat whatever the city has to offer, so much flavour (Unless you get the Moctezuma’s revenge… in that case: Pepto Bismol).

 

Ps. Don’t worry about eating too much, as far as you walk it off.

Ps2. Did I mention that the weather is sweet as most of the time? 20 Celcius.