Through my new wine friends from Valle de Guadelupe, I was invited to come down to Mexico City and Puebla for a couple of days of winemaker dinners and restaurant staff trainings. It should be obvious that I love Mexican food a lot (check the links to my favorite taquerias and paleterias on my lab website). I have been wanting to visit Mexico City, claro que sí, and the opportunity to travel there together with Mexican somms and winemakers was very much a welcome and fortuitous invitation, especially now during the summer before harvest starts at the winery.
Iphone weather forecasted thunderstorms every day all week but I didn't understand how much rain would be falling (absolutely pouring) or how cold it would be (below 60F). Mexico City is at almost 7,400 feet in elevation. Umbrellas out, we walked around the 700+ year old Zocalo for literalmente solo un ratito- just saw the outside of the beautiful old Mexican Metropolitan Cathedral there that is really obviously sinking into the ancient landfill the city is built on. Avoiding puddles, we went to the overlook to check out the ruins of the pyramid, Templo Mayor which was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, god of war, and Tlaloc, god of rain and agriculture. Part of the temple was devoted to Quetzalcoatl in his form as the wind god, Ehecatl. (all from wikipedia)
The Aztecs called this place the center of the universe. The first temple was built on that site around 1325 and then subsequently rebuilt six times. All seven stages of the Templo Mayor, except for the first which apparently is submerged by the high water table of the old lakebed, have been excavated and assigned to the reigns of the Aztec emperors who were responsible for them. When Hernan Cortez arrived to conquer Mexico City in 1519, the Spanish army destroyed much of that last seventh version of the temple and built the Catholic Cathedral in its place. Next time I’m in CDMX I want to visit the Archaeology Museum to learn more about this fascinating place.
This trip was so short and I had so many amazing recommendations as to where to eat from you guys (Pujol, El Molino Pujol (poor man’s Pujol?), Contramar, Meroma, Quintonil, the list goes on… ) but we had time for just one dinner at the restaurant called Nido at the School of Gastronomy. One of my friends is a friend of the sommelier/owner there and he recommended some very interesting dishes for us. http://www.sommelierespindola.com/
We drank a chenin blanc from the oldest winery in the Americas - started in 1597- paired with a tlayuda (thin, toasted tortilla) with beans, chorizo and chapulines (crickets). The cuisine was high-concept traditional -the cecina (cured beef) and totopos you can see in the background below came with a black foam made of the ashes of tortilla garnished with lots of wild and indigenous herbs I was unfamiliar with.
The following morning I had only a few hours to explore - we walked along the Reforma which reminded me of Paris, a leafy tree-lined grand boulevard that cut through high rises and government buildings, and passed by “La Bolsa” the stock market of Mexico to arrive at the park by the Castle of Chapultepec which now holds the National Museum of Mexican History. The Castle is on the top of the hill and has a stunning view down the Reforma to the golden “Angel” statue at the roundabout where everybody celebrates when Mexico wins soccer matches. I recognized the roundabout from the Netflix show La Casa De Las Flores. As the only royal castle in the Americas, I guess it’s appropriate it is very European inspired in architecture and decor but there are moments of Mexican-ness in the murals on some of the ceilings and staircase walls. https://mnh.inah.gob.mx/murales
Quickly, we popped into an uber to check out the very posh Polanco neighborhood where Carlos Slim’s art museum Museo Soumaya is located. Free admission made me feel less guilty about doing a speed tour there, we had no time because we were meeting my friend’s wine distributor who would drive us (read: get stuck in Mexico City’s legendary traffic for hours) to Puebla for their winemaker dinner Friday night. So that was it for my whirlwind visit to CDMX, can’t wait to return for more eating, more street food, more fancy restaurants, more art museums, more shopping, more walking around cool neighborhoods…. Vamos!