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Where's the Hungarian Paprika?

Thanks to all who replied to my inquiries. I didn't know about Penzey's spice store in Rockville, and it sounds like that would be generally useful. The loophole in EU regulations is interesting to me as an economist: Hungary would like to forbid Brazilian peppers, but EU requires free trade between Spain and Hungary, and Spain is open to Brazil, so transhipment from Brazil through Spain is legal and inevitable. And then it did cause an aflatoxin problem in 2004.

From time to time I have a doctor's appointment that is close to a Harris Teeter, so that's where I'll look next time I'm in the area.

Mar 04, 2013
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Group Dinner in DC

A decade + ago I went to a bachelor's dinner at Old Ebbit Grill. I believe that have a "private room" in the basement that could accommodate you. The food is (I haven't been there lately) very reliable, but not adventurous. It's right across the street from Treasury, which is right next to the White House.

(Oops, I see ipse dixit beat me to the punch. Anyway I'll second his/her thoughts.)

Mar 03, 2013
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Visit in April

Jaleo (near the Gallery Place or Archives metro stops) is a great tapas place is a Jose Andres restaurant (it's the first place I heard of him, so I'm inclined to think that it was his original restaurant). Small shared plates, so you can try a lot of different things (say 6-8 for the two of you), and keep your bill under $70, if you stick with water for a beverage. And all I can say is, I'm never disappointed. A lot of thinking and experimenting seems to have gone into every single thing, so the beets and blue cheese salad is a beets and wow-what-kind-of-blue-cheese-is-this-and-how-did-they-get-one-so-perfect-for-the-salad salad.

If you internet search for Jose Andres in DC you'll be directed to some other great restaurant, including I think Oyamel Mexican (almost across the street from the DC Jaleo).

Mar 03, 2013
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where's the Hungarian Paprika?

I shopped yesterday for Hungarian Paprika (in the familiar red can, in the fine print I see that it appears to be "Pride of Szeged" (from memory, so spelling may be off)). No stores in my neighborhood (PG county) stocked it -- Wegmans, SFW, Giant, Safeway, Yes Organic.

Has anyone else had this experience? Is there an obvious explanation? Are we at war with Hungary and nobody's told us?

And does it matter? should I just use the cheapest Paprika I can find as a substitute, or is the available but much more expensive "organic" really better?

Finally (if it is permanently gone from the DC area, and if it really does matter) is there an online source for the "normal" Hungarian paprika, or something better? (Not smoked Spanish paprika.)

Mar 03, 2013
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Request advice for a christmas gift black truffle

It is fresh, wrapped in paper. The box says "Perigord Black Truffle" and I think it's from France.

Jan 15, 2012
howardl in Home Cooking

Request advice for a christmas gift black truffle

The weight was torn off with the price (it was a gift). But it's about the size of an irregularly shaped golf ball.

Jan 15, 2012
howardl in Home Cooking

Request advice for a christmas gift black truffle

I received a single black truffle as a Christmas gift, and I'm seeking advice of what to do with it just for me.

My initial plan is scrambled egg with truffle, to make sure that I'm getting the "pure" flavor in a traditional setting.

But even there I could use some advise from experienced chow-hounders.

(1) should I shave the truffle or grate it with a microplaner?
(2) should I scramble the eggs and then add the truffle at the end?
(3) or should I mix up the truffle and eggs and then cook?
(4) should I scramble the eggs in a double boiler type set up, or in a very low heat frying pay?
(5) can i do this with (say) 3-4 eggs (just for me with a bite or two for my wife), or do I need to follow recipes that start with (say) 8 eggs (and invite others)?
(6) How much -- and when and how -- butter should be added and is butter quality critical (land o lakes ok, or should I seek out french/irish/vermont special butter)?

Finally (I suppose I'm willing to listen to advice on this)
(7) Should I really use the truffles for some other use (risotto?) rather than just simple plain eggs?

Jan 14, 2012
howardl in Home Cooking

Seeking advice on how to cook rotisserie chicken (charcoal, weber)

jjjrfoodie is exactly right. Those restaurants have a wood fire and a large circular hoop that 10 or so bars, and multiple chickens on each bar, and as the hoop rotates, the chickens are brought very close to the wood fire, and then carried away to the top. And his (her?) comment confirms my original doubt about whether I could recreate that cooking method on a Weber. I can't bring the chicken as close to the fire and (probably) an open air weber does't recreate the "heat box" effect of the restaurants. Ricepad's suggestion above is probably what I would have tried -- lot and lots of charcoal to move the fire as close as possible to the chicken. But this discussion has really helped me clarify my thinking, and I think I'll go back to the top on. No experimentation for the time being: I've got to get food on the table for the week.

May 15, 2011
howardl in Home Cooking

Seeking advice on how to cook rotisserie chicken (charcoal, weber)

Thanks to all for the input. For others who venture here, the dadscookdinner.com site is a good step by step on rotisserie chicken, and it does specify top on.

May 15, 2011
howardl in Home Cooking

Seeking advice on how to cook rotisserie chicken (charcoal, weber)

I have a charcoal weber kettle with a rotisserie attachment, and I want to cook whole chicken.

I have some ideas about how to marinade, and I have some experience with this, but I haven't been able to find answers to two questions.

1. Can I (should I) cook the chicken with the top off? I've cooked it with the top on (charcoal banked on the sides, and a drip pan under the chicken), and it's okay, but I notice the peruvian chicken places all cook over an open fire. I'd like to try cooking the chicken without the top on, and seek advice from anyone who has done this. (Reminder: charcoal, not gas) Is this just a bad idea. and if not, How long will it take per pound? and I do plan on adding charcoal throughout the process.

2. If I can fit two chickens on my rotisserie rod can I cook them simultaneously? Will that add to cooking time?

Thanks in advance.

May 14, 2011
howardl in Home Cooking

Current Status of Wegmans in Landover and Crofton?

I know this is two years later, but I see there is an opening planned for October 24, 2010 of the Landover Wegmans.

http://www.smartbrief.com/news/gwbot/...

Oct 20, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

In search of updated College Park dining

"Dining with Doc" correctly describes Franklins. Rhode Island Reds food is American cafe food -- soup, simple salads, pizza, quiche, etc -- with occasional forays into a specific country cuisine. a few brands of beer by the bottle.The menu is limited, and you wouldn't go there for a fancy meal, but it's an interesting alternative to Franklins, and I think the food is better than Franklins.

Oct 19, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

In search of updated College Park dining

Just a couple blocks further into town from Franklin's in Hyattsville is Rhode Island Reds cafe. It's small, not fancy, not expensive, and better than Franklins. You can park beside the cafe, but it's a little confusing in the dark.

Oct 12, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

A good butcher in Adelphi/College Park/Silver Spring areas?

I live in College Park, so I'll be checking back to this to see if anyone else has good ideas. We've been going to Laurel Meats in downtown Laurel (a few blocks off rte 1). It's a small general grocery store, but with a big meat dept. I would say that their target audience is not way upscale foodie. They can get prime grade beef, but I'm not sure if you have to order. Same with (say) veal. There are two (more?) of the upscale butcher shops in Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. One Xmas we special ordered a suckling pig from an upscale butcher over by American U (I can't remember the name, I'm sure you can google). I have visited two halal butchers in Langley Park; I think I was looking for ground lamb one time; they are specialty niche, and won't have everything you want. There's an "international grocery" (Asian and Latino) on University Blvd (more or less across from the shopper's food warehouse and old Ledo's location). They have a big and active (and inexpensive) fish counter; but you need to have a pretty clear idea of what you want.

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Ledo Restaurant
4509 Knox Road, College Park, MD 20740

Oct 12, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Need Thanksgiving advice

I was thinking of recommending Tabard Inn, and I see there's a post from a couple years ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663190
Here's a Washington Post review from 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/bar... (and see one very negative and one very positive reader review.

)

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Tabard Inn
1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Oct 12, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

Cooks illustrated question

I know this an old thread. I'd like to hope that somebody from Cook's will see these and realize how much this practice is hurting their business. I subscribed to CI for some years, and then purchased the bound magazines for a couple of later years, and as a result of that purchase ended up on their unsolicited cookbook list. After a number of phonecalls and letters I finally resolved the problem by returning the unopened package. But it sure wasn't worth the aggravation. Now I don't even dare to register my email address for the free recipes on their website, and it leaves me with a bad feeling about the entire enterprise. Which is too bad, because I like the general approach of trying a lot of different things and reporting what happens. Chris Kimball (or somebody) you are losing your base with this practice; revise your business plan.

Aug 30, 2010
howardl in Food Media & News

trip report from Puebla, Mexico, July 2010

Thanks to Veggo and RST for informative comments and corrections. In retrospect, I would have been better off if I'd read the chowhound info months before left (as we were planning itinerary, for example, and figuring out whether we should rent a car in Cancun) rather than just the night before we left. (Oakland Barb seems to have already learned this lesson.) Richard especially I hope you can tell how helpful and inspiring your Puebla posts were for me. My reports are an attempt to give a little back, and already, these replies should be helpful to others planning Mexican trips.

Aug 24, 2010
howardl in Mexico

Dropping off daughter at college need some recs for dinner in DC or Silver spring or Bethesda

Jaleo in Bethesda has never failed to please. Ray's the Classics in Silver spring gets good writeups, but I think you need a reservation well in advance. (And right in college park -- if that's where you are headed -- there's a burger king and 12 sandwich shops.)

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Ray's the Classics
8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Aug 23, 2010
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore

trip report from Puerto Morelos, Mexico, August 2010

Trip report from Puerto Morelos, Mexico, August 2010.

After our week in Puebla (if you care, see my post on a trip report from Puebla), we went to “riveria Maya” mexico for a week. These are my observations.

We spent a few days in an “all-inclusive” Catalonia Riveria Maya. It was very nice. The food was okay. You got a ticket for one (evening) meal in a fancy restaurant, and other meals were to be taken from the buffet restaurants. The fancy restaurant was a little better than the buffet (which had a limited cook to order grill) but it wasn’t “best of the city” compared to “buffeteria”. All the food was good; in the buffet you had to think out the best approach (soups excellent and largely ignored; grilled fish good, grilled beef mediocre). But it was nice to be able to drop into the beachside stand and get a beer or a water with lemon and not worry about cost or having a wallet.

We visited a friend in Playa del Carmen who took us a few (walking) blocks away from the tourist center (in the direction away from the beach, and then to the right a few blocks) to an excellent small cheap restaurant with great soups and tortilla based Mexican specialities. (Sorry I can’t remember the name of the restaurant – I think it was somebody’s luncheonette; but about 30th ave nte and 22 calle nte;

Then we went to Puerto Morelos. It is a small town south of Cancun. It has one or two big tourist hotels outside of town. They are probably listed on the internet as Puerto Morelos, but they are outside of the town center, and they are probably intended as self-contained resorts, rather than hotels in a town. We stayed in a small hotel a block or so off the beach (Posada El Moro). Posada El Moro was extremely quiet and pleasant. We spent one afternoon by their small pool and fountain. The breakfasts were toast/fruit/coffee; but everything was good. We were there “off season” – on season being US winter (Nov-May or so).

And it was hot. Hot hot hot in the mid day sun.

You go to Puerto Morelos for water sports, not for food. Water sports: Go snorkeling in the off shore coral reefs. You will have to bicker with the people at the various off shore snorkeling places. Maybe ask your hotel front desk. Go to cenotes (freshwater underwater holes.) We went to the seven mouths cenote (follow the directions and have faith) and it was wonderful (for an hour or so). Go to Xel-Ha for freshwater rafting and snorkeling (I was dubious about this, it was a surprising amount of fun for the day.) I guess a lot of people go scuba diving and deep sea fishing from Puerto Morelos as well. (Xel-Ha requires you to use and to buy if you don’t have biodegradable sunscreen.)

Where we ate. Our best meal was in “the mother-in-law” restaurant (John Gray’s Mother-in-Law?). We had various kinds of tacos; though I think it has a more extensive menu. We were the last table sitting at about 8 p.m. It has tables on the beach, does not take credit cards. El Pelicano has tables on the beach, takes credit cards, shrimp was good. We wandered into a fish store (not restaurant) and asked what was local: “Fish and lobster,” they said. But shrimp comes from the gulf about 40 miles north, so by my standards it counts as local. We had several pleasant meals (including chilaquiles with eggs for breakfast) at Dona Trini’s on the square (cheaper than mother-in-law’s or pelicano). Argentine empanadas just a few storefronts off the square. Because it was off season everything was pretty quiet and empty, and closed early; presumably this is quite different in winter.

Some advice: Twice we discovered “mistakes” in our restaurant bills (the written bill has 5 orders and we were only 4 people; or the written bill said 688 pesos, the credit card receipt said 868). One suspects this is a tried and true method to squeeze a little extra out of gringos and probably works if they’ve drunk a little, or if their eyesight is poor. I’d just say check your restaurant bills. Also, I came to the conclusion that some bargaining is expected (not at restaurants, but elsewhere). They quote you a price (say for snorkeling); all you have to do is show the least bit of resistance, and the price comes down. When we failed to challenge the first quote at car rental, the agent quickly agreed to upgrade our insurance coverage (leaving me thinking we might have gotten the car for $40 a day instead of $50 a day).

The beach is (for me, and in August) too hot for the middle of the day; but it’s beautiful in early evening. At 5:00 or so, put on your suits and stroll down to the beach front bar at the Ojo de Agua Hotel. Find a table in the shade and order a beer (happy hour two-for-one, beers 35 pesos – about $3, and maybe order some guacamole or shrimp). Go for a swim, finish your drinks, watch the twilight on the beach. (Variations on the theme from last paragraph: One day, the waiter said, “no happy hour this week.” “What d’you mean? We got two for one last night.” “Oh, OK, just for you I’ll do two for one.”) (Elsewhere on the beach people offered to rent us umbrellas and chairs for 150 pesos per item – yipes – but the chairs and shade at the bar 20 steps away are free. This is not a well thought out system.) (Also, the tequila, etc., at the OXXO on the square appears to be much cheaper than that in the tourist-oriented groceria/souvenir stand on the other side of the square.)

If I had it to do over again. I think we should have done more research on car rentals before we arrived at the Cancun airport. (The Cancun airport is a little overwhelming and difficult to get good advice on how best to get to where you are going.) We were thinking we’d get along without a car; but taxis from the airport to Puerto Morelos are expensive, only slightly cheaper are the minibuses. We later discovered that you can take a municipal bus that runs from the Airport to the Puerto Morelos bus station (fairly direct, and pretty cheap presumably); then you’d need to take a taxi from the bus station two miles or so into the beach-side city center. The virtue of a rental car (which we finally did do for a couple days in Puerto Morelos) is you can get to the cenotes, you can drive to Xel-Ha, you can drive to Tulum for the ruins, and then into the town for a meal. (Thumbs up for Don Cafeto – Av. Tulum – the main drag – between Centauro and Orion. Try the marinaded beef.)

Aug 23, 2010
howardl in Mexico

trip report from Puebla, Mexico, July 2010

This is a brief report on my one week stay in Puebla Mexico in July 2010. I read and used extremely useful posts to chowhound notably from Richard (RST), Rachel, and Anonimo. If they are the college professors, I am the second grade teacher; there is nothing I can teach them, but I may have an advantage in communicating with others who are as inexperienced as I was, and my experience now is (well) a week.

General: Puebla is a city for eating and walking. We stayed in, and rarely strayed from, the old part of the city. (low numbered streets and avenues). Once you figure out the numbering system, the city is easy to navigate, and pleasant and safe (feels safe and was safe for us) to walk in. We are not-tremendously-well-conditioned-middle-aged couple but we walked a lot and enjoyed it. Puebla is 6000 ft, so be prepared to be short of breath going up stairs. The weather (in late July) was beautiful -- high in low 70s, low in mid 60s; comfortable in shirtsleeves and sandals. Three days out of the week it rained fairly hard from 5-7:30 or so; we bought 35 peso umbrellas ($3 US) from shops along the zocalo after the first rain. The city is not really oriented to foreign tourists, though there did seem to be many tourists from other parts of Mexico. Pre-columbian art at Amparo (you shouldn’t miss this – the bean soup in the “cafeteria” is good too); El Parrian & Barrio del Artista; the zocalo; lots and lots of 16th and 17th century churches; the Palofax library is just one room, but it’s pretty fascinating; just behind the cathedral from the zocalo is a center for performing arts; we saw a great demonstration of folkloric dancing, including one where the women dance with trays of bottles on their heads.

The street music was exceptionally good and ubiquitous. The plaza at the barrio del artista has great local guitarists and 2 beers for 25 pesos at happy hour; don’t miss the little café on the pedestrian walkway on 3 oriente between 4 and 6 Sur. (Just a few blocks from the zocalo.) A hurdy-gurdy, a community concert band, an orchestra rehearsing for a concert, a counter-tenor singing a capella, a trumpet player with a very limited repertoire, a pan-flute band. (And did you know that a mayan conch sounds just like a vuvuzela – please don’t tell Mexican soccer fans.)

Especially in the downtown center, I felt like I needed to be prepared for beggars. (any other word you prefer, I'm not trying to make an argument here.) there appear to be "worthy" beggars -- women with young children, old people, blind people, people without legs, people playing accordians, or other worthy street musicians. I ended up carrying one and two peso pieces in my palm (and the occasional 50 centavo or half a peso piece) so that I could drop a small amount without having to fish around in my pockets and wallets. I'd give these away until I was empty handed. Is a peso (about 10 cents) an insult? I don't know . THis is what I did. I probably ended up handing out $1 -$2 per day. So do better than I did if you want and can. My point is: think about it in advance and decide on your plan. if you wait until you are asked, you are likely to give nothing and then feel bad about it.

Following advice from a tourbook, we tipped 10% (plus, but rarely 15%) in restaurants, not much for taxis, a little (a dollar a day or so) for hotel maid, and occasional for people who helped us (volunteer museum guide who was well informed and sought out by us).

Tour book told us the water was probably safe; we took precautions (bottled water, avoiding uncooked unpeeled vegetables (lettuce, notably)); one of us got a little travelers diarrhea anyway. (Italian Coffee Company outlets are on every other block and have clean bathrooms, and good coffee at Starbuck’s prices ($1 for a small coffee).) But if you decide to avoid lettuce, can you try cemitas? (advice requested)

It took us a couple days to figure out the daily meal schedule: the norm for locals is a big meal at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. At noon you will be nearly alone in a restaurant.

You can get food from a wide variety of outlets. Try everything: it’s all good, and even if you don’t like it it’s cheap so throw it away.

Many (almost all?) buildings have interior courtyards with an entryway leading from the street. The simplest food outlets are individuals who set up in these entryways. They have a charcoal heat source under a griddle or under a deep fryer, and they produce a single item for sale. For example, an older woman sat by her griddle and pinched out gorditas: a thick oblong tortilla (in this case) from blue corn, topped with a slathering of beans and a sprinkling of cheese and your choice of red or green sauce. She had a thin shelf along the wall of the entryway with two or three stools for customers to sit. (About 15 pesos, or $1-1.50 US).

I can’t pretend to make a comprehensive list (and welcome corrections and additions) but a lot of Mexican street food is variations on the following theme: “bread” (including tortillas), “protein” (meat, fish, beans, mushrooms, corn fungus, etc.), toppings (a little cheese, red sauce, green sauce, mole). So a taco is an unfried tortilla (corn or flour) with some meat and you typically add sauce. A tostada is a torilla fried crispy (like chips) with some protein and sauce. A chalupa is like a tostada with the tortilla only lightly fried.

Street vendors have movable carts (or tables set up in church yards for example) with a limited menu and no seats (but good food). Don’t miss the orange and grapefruit juice from street vendors with nothing more than a box of fruit and a squeezer (10 or 15 pesos, $1 US).

Tiny restaurants have 3 or 4 small tables, a menu board with (say) 6 or 7 items, perhaps a person cooking out front, and perhaps a small kitchen in the back. For example, Antijitos Los Portales mentioned by RST, and across the square from the old theatre served us an order of two chanclas (soft steamed bread bearing a resemblance to dumplings with meat and sauce). (40-50 pesos $3 US with 2 bottles of water).

Medium restaurants have waiters and menus. Some have limited menus. For example, Tacos Oriental – a block through the covered walkway from the zocalo) has a spit with seasoned pork (correct me if I’m wrong) turning out front and sells tacos oriental (the pork sliced onto corn tortillas) and tacos arabes (the pork sliced onto flour tortillas), and other things like pizzas and soup.

Other medium or larger restaurants have waiters and menus and more substantial menus. There are a number of these restaurants near 2nd Norte and Polifax y Mendoza that seem to cater to local office workers (and to tourists headed to the Barrio del artistes). The middle of the afternoon these restaurants serve a “corrida comida” – 3 (or 4) courses – soup, “dry soup” (pasta, rice, or potato dish), and main course, and possibly dessert. We had a nice meal at La Gardenia on Polyfax y Mendoza near 2nd Norte for 46 pesos; I saw others for 35 or so. (Just to emphasize this is very cheap $3-4 US.) You could go to one of these and order ala carte (just a taco for example). I had the chiles en nogada (a famous regional dish) – pobano chiles stuffed with a pork filling, dipped in batter, deep fried, covered with a slightly sweet cream sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranites. I’m glad I had it, but I didn’t come home wishing I could find a local restaurant that served it.

The restaurants of this type (medium or larger) lining the zocalo are a little more upscale (outside tables, upstairs dining rooms overlooking the park). We had a very pleasant meal overlooking the zocolo in a restaurant with “terrazzo” in its name; I had very tasty pozole (a stew of pork and pozole which resembles corn hominy). (Again corrections welcome). My wife had a restorative chicken soup; I think our bill came to about 150 pesos ($10-12 for the both of us).

There are a few “fancier” restaurants; most have been mentioned in other posts to Chowhound. Those connected to hotels (Sacristia, Ekos, the restaurant in our hotel – the Colonial – seems popular with Mexicans and upscale locals, and there’s a hotel with a restaurant right on the Zocalo, there’s a fancy hotel on the 3rd Oriente we passed by frequently with a beautiful beautiful white table cloth dining room that was always empty) will have corrida comida type menus in mid afternoon, but also plan to serve tourists who expect a big meal in the evening. These places have wine lists, etc. as you would expect. Two people can have a big meal with a glass of wine for 400-500 pesos. We ate at Sacrastia and Hotel Colonial and had excellent meals at both. There are two or three independent restaurants that showed up in our tour book. We tried the vegetarian (not vegan) restaurant La Zanahoria and had a nice meal, but it was closing up at about 8 or 8:30. Our tour book mentioned El Mural de los Poblanos (tour book recommends especially for setting) and Fonda Santa Clara (tour book says has become touristy); we tried neither.

So if you wanted to, you could eat every meal in a nice restaurant and still not spend more than $50 a day for a person. But if you did that, you’d miss the charms and the food of the other smaller places.

RST’s posts urge visitors to seek out the “markets”, and I’m glad we did; it was a high point of our visit. On Sunday midday we walked up 5th Norte towards 16th Poniente. There is a big indoor market at that corner. This means aisles and aisles of small stands vegetables here, fruits here, bread here, butcher stands here, flowers, etc. Around the edges some food stands (lots of soup minimal counter seating, short menus), and some stands with prepared foods (potato and egg salad, chipotles in vinegar, etc). This is where poblanos shop for food. Along 5th Norte on Sundays others line the sidewalks (I’ve got grapes and apples; I’ve got pork and headcheese, I’ve got eggs, I’ve got herbs you’ve never see before.) “Behind” the indoor market (along 3rd Norte at about 16th-18th ) are the fish market stands. In only one or two places did I see evidence of “take out” – shrimp cocktail in a cup. But the fish did look good and fresh even though Puebla’s not exactly oceanfront. Also walking up 5th Norte, quite a few marinated grilled chicken places which we never got around to trying, but which looked wonderful. You will see why the papaya at breakfast is so good; all the papayas sold on the street are ripe. And you will ask each other, “what is that? corn fungus, charcoals in their ashes?” “do you recognize those herbs?” “I’ve read about flavoring with avocado leaves; what do they look like?”

We stumbled on another permanent indoor market walking east from the zocolo, beyond the church of San Francisco (across the “heroes of the 5th of May boulevard” – not to be confused with 5th of May avenue running into the zocalo) at (about) 4th -6th Oriente and 12-14 Norte. A stand there had women pinching out blue tortillas and cooking them on a griddle, for sale as tortillas, but willing to add beans and sauce for a chalupa. And on a day trip to Cholula, we found the city market a block or two beyond the zocolo. (Lots of flowers here. Throughout Puebla and Cholula, check out the amazing displays of flowers in the churches.)

(Day trip to Cholula: We took a nice ride on a big bus from the “direct to Cholula” bus station -- out near the paseo bravo at about 3 pnte and 15 sur (you could easily walk, but check with somebody about the exact address, you need to know where you are going). The driver dropped us off on a street close to the big church on top of the Mayan ruin. The altitude is high, the climb is long, buy yourself some red-skinned peanuts from the guy near the bottom and take your time. It’s worth the climb, unless you hate churches. When we were there the underground tunnels in the pyramid were closed. We walked around the outside; it was ok – informative signs, hot sun, and not too long. We ended up back near the entrance to the church and had a cool drink at the bar. Then walked along to town center and had lunch at a restaurant facing the zocolo. Found the market (see above). Went to the San Gabriel church: check out the “barber chair Jesus” over the altar and the “cell phone” Jesus near the exit. With advise from the tourist center on the zocalo, we found the corner for a bus back to Puebla and boarded a much smaller bus marked “puebla”. It was a “local” -- taking us through many back routes in poor neighborhoods, and gentrifying housing projects; it was interesting; it was much longer than our trip out. If we’d waited for a big bus and paid another 10cents we could have taken the more comfortable and direct bus back; of course we’d have missed the bumpy roads of poor suburban neighborhoods. Forewarned/forearmed.)

Back to the issue of city markets. I suppose a trip to these markets is not for the squeamish (ooouu who knew that chickens come with heads and feet?) For that matter, menu items we tried in restaurants included Machitas (intestines), Mollegas (chicken backs) and sesos (brains). Forewarned is forearmed. (corrections welcome)

While you are over on the San Francisco side of the heroes of the 5th of May boulevard, you might check out a couple restaurant groups: a single building with 8 or so open establishments (so that as you sit a table being served from one, you can see the cooking and tables of others) at (about) 12 Nte and 14 Oriente. This might be what my tour book calls Mercado el Alto. Another grouping of restaurants separated from the heroes of the 5th of May boulevard by a thin park at about 10 Nte and 14-16 Oriente. We had a pleasant meal at El Ranchito in this grouping overlooking the little park. This whole neighborhood is anchored (along the 5th of May boulevard) by the convention center; so presumably these two groupings of restaurants cater to the convention trade that is venturing a little away from the convention center hotel and restaurant avenue. (But don’t miss the beautiful park behind the convention center).

Venture in the other direction (west from the zocolo) and find the molotes stands at 5th Pte just west of the zocalo, order and eat standing under the awnings (if it’s raining) or carry the molotes back to the zocalo and find a park bench. (Molotes are tortillas, stuffed with your choice of filling, and deep fried, red or green sauce.) At 8 pnte and just off 7 Nte, there’s a little storefront that sells chileatole. RST elsewhere has a better description, but it is a thick green soup (green from poblano chiles, I suspect, and thick with corn).

Walk south from the zocalo to 15 oriente and find the Parque del Carmen and the beautiful church next to it. On the Park is the storefront selling Carnitas de Mahoacan; get a couple pork tacos. We looked for the Las Poblanitas in Carmen recommended by RST but couldn’t find it. Perhaps he’ll see this post and give us better directions (or perhaps it is closed).

Also (not on this walking trip, but just a couple blocks from the zocalo) at 3 oriente and between 2 and 4 sur is a barbacoa de res stand that specializes in beef. (A taxi driver in Yucatan assured us that “barbacoa” referred only to roasted goat; experts opinions sought.) One morning for breakfast at Colonial hotel I had “molletes” (not “molotes”) – bread (like a good dinner or sandwich roll, not a tortilla) with black beans and melted cheese (manchego?) with a side sauce of chopped tomatoes and red peppers. It was good. Also (from somewhere) a memorable potato taco.

If you get up early and want a walk at dawn, venture down 4 Nte to 6 Oriente and turn west. You will see the beautiful Victoria market at the end of the street (beautiful from the outside, and, for me, nothing whatsoever of interest on the inside); but the street early in the morning is a pallet of the pastel houses lining 6 Oriente. (6 Oriente has lots of the shops specializing in Pueblan sweets which we didn’t make much of, and which also sell containers of moles and pipians. 6 Oriente also has the interesting museum in the homestead of the Serdan family which was shot up by police and family members and supporters killed in 1911.) Finally, 6 Oriente has a little coffee store where the woman roasts her own beans and “has a passion for coffee”. It is close to the Serdan house. Give her a little support; it will cost you a couple bucks and you’ll get a very good cup of expresso (or coffee).

OK. Finally (I think) we did take the 3-4 hour cooking class at Meson de Sacristia. It was expensive (by Puebla standards about 2000 pesos or $150+ for the two of us). I don’t regret it (but obviously I wouldn’t do it if I were pinching pennies). We learned (basically) three things. “Green sauce” is like something I’d improvised at home: tomatilloes, cilantro, and jalapenos dropped in a blender. Their version tomatilloes, serranoes, onion and garlic, browned in a pan, then dropped in a blender with the cilantro. “Red sauce” was tomato based with onions, garlics, all cooked in a pan until browned, and (in a limited amount) chipotle peppers (fried briefly), put in a blender. With these recipes, “green sauce” is a little spicier than red sauce. But in restaurants, we had red sauce that relied less on (or not at all on) chipotles and more on “chiles de arbol” peppers. So red sauce and green sauce (served everywhere) mean different things. Pipian (as I understand it) is red sauce or green sauce with toasted (fried?) pepitas ground and added (Diana Kennedy’s cookbook has a green sauce very much like this.) Mole (check out http://ezinearticles.com/?Pueblas-Mes... ) is a starting point (this is almost exactly the recipe they taught us). Notice the use of burnt-to-a-crisp tortillas as a thickening agent. If you want to change proportions, or add fried almonds or peanuts, or raisins, etc. you can make a sauce as complicated as Diane Kennedy’s. I think this explains the confusion many US people feel about the difference between red and green sauce (which is hotter? Why does this taste so different from restaurant to restaurant?) or “what is mole?”. (Possible additional confusion: what I call tomatoes, Mexicans call etomates (spelling?) and what I call (green) tomatilloes, they call tomates.) (corrections requested.

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Finally (oh did I already say that) “limons” are thin-skinned limes; sopa de lima comes from a slightly more sour version (“lima”) that is also a thin skinned lime but is available mostly in yucatan. (this from Diane Kennedy’s appendix, so correct her, not me). Those big yellow things we call lemons? No such thing in Mexico. Finally (oh did I already say that twice?) when asked how to cook carnitas, we got the following advice in the cooking class – though it wasn’t part of the course: pork shoulder cut into big pieces, browned briefly then cooked in orange juice and sweetened condensed milk for 2-3 hours. Tried it and it came out tasting good, but with big mess in the kitchen (try smaller amounts, bigger pans so no spillage, and no browning at the end5).

Review: (1) in so many ways, I don’t know what I’m talking about; feel free to correct me, but there is no reason to be insulting or mean. (2) If you like food, go to Puebla; be courageous and explore; all the food is good, and if you do make a mistake it is cheap, so throw it away and go somewhere else. (3) if I had to do it all over again what would I do differently? Almost nothing. Maybe fly into Mexico City instead of Puebla and take the dedicated bus directly from mex city airport to puebla. Or maybe – the chowhound and more internet sold me belatedly on the idea of going to Zacatlan, but we’d already booked a full week at our Puebla hotel and Zacatlan was (most likely) an overnight stay and a two-three hour bus ride each way. So is there a way to fly to Mexico City and from there to Zacatlan for a day or two and then only 5 days or so in Puebla? Our trip was wonderful as it was, so perhaps this is gilding the lily.

Aug 22, 2010
howardl in Mexico

Cinghiale

I went there last night (late december 2007) for a special occasion with my wife. I want to comment on three aspects mentioned in earlier comments: portion size; service; and value.

I'm a big guy with a big appetite. After reading here, I went with the idea of ordering the three course price fix, and adding a salumi plate (three types of sliced meat they pick day by day) to begin with. I ate probably 3/4 of the meat, and my wife ate the other quarter; I also had maybe 1/3 of her pasta course. And this was too much food for me. The portions may appear small on the plate, but the pastas especially are quite rich, and larger portions would be a mistake. (I think you have the option of upgrading to a larger portion of pasta for an additional $10 on the fix price.)

The service was fantastic. When we left I realized that we'd been there nearly three hours, we never had to wait, we were never rushed, we never had to look for a waiter to attend. So from my perspective, they've got whatever problems they might have had solved. Or we were lucky; it was a Thursday night between Christmas and New Years, the restaurant was quite busy, but not packed to capacity.

Value: Well this is in the eye of the beholder. Our bill was about $200, $250 with tip. I don't eat at that price level more than once a year. But for us it was a memorable meal and was worth it and I would definitely go back.

What would I do differently? Instead of the $12 salumi plate and the $9 antipasto plate (both from the enotecho menu), I would order one salumi order (example homemade salami $8) and one antipasto ($4 eggplant). The one thing we had which unremarkable was the antipasto plate -- pickled mushrooms (tasted like pickled mushrooms), cauliflower (perfect and pretty, but also nothing special) and tuna and beans (the best of the the three, but still no "wow" factor). I love the paired wines option because I don't know much about wine, and would do it again. It was too much for my wife, who would order a glass and nurse it through the meal if we did this again. I loved the cuttlefish stew, the gnocchi with cinghiale sauce, and the braised veal shoulder. Cuttlefish and veal both on polenta leading me to generalize -- anything with polenta. My wife had treviso with cheese and balsamic vinegar (treviso is like a cross between endive and radicchio). To my mind this is exactly what an appetizer should be -- very simple dish with complementary flavors that makes you hungry for more. We were both wowed by the sausage filled pasta. She said the dourade (fish) was ok, but she'd try something different next time. I was too full for dessert, but had a bite of her pumpkin pannecotta and it was excellent.

Dec 28, 2007
howardl in Washington DC & Baltimore