Puebla, Mexico is old - one of the first places in modern Mexico to be inhabited by humans. We’re talking 10,000 B.C. Archaeologists found THE oldest sample of corn in the world here dating back to 1500 B.C. There is evidence of agriculture and the cultivation of beans, squash, chili peppers, and cotton dating back to 900 B.C.
Interestingly, avocado cultivation also started here (500 B.C.) - we saw a lot of unusual types of avocado trees bearing fruit while driving around the countryside. As a native Californian, I’m super interested in avocados of course - I got busted trying to bring some weird ones back from Hawaii - and I have a strong preference for the Mexican avos from Costco and I stopped buying when they are from Peru. Turns out there are 3 main families of avos, the main commercial ones from Mexico have leaves that smell like anise. A lot of good that does me in the Woodinville Costco though …http://www.ucavo.ucr.edu/General/ThreeGroups.html
The native people of Puebla called the fruit aoacatl —> ahuacatl is the name still used in parts of Mexico for avocado (rather than the Spanish aguacate). But, it turns out ahuacatl is not the Nawatl name for testicle despite how much fun my amigos had describing this etymology to me en español. Read it and weep, chicos. http://nahuatlstudies.blogspot.com/2016/02/no-snopescom-word-guacamole-does-not.html
The city of Puebla is located southeast of Mexico City and it is the fourth largest city in the country. Puebla is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the Baroque historic downtown is very Parisian looking. These days, Puebla is a city of over 5 million people with sky scrapers and modern buildings and a huge soccer stadium.
Mainly we were in Puebla for the food. With my Mexican winemaker friend and his distributor, together we ate like kings. There are a lot of very chic, very sophisticated restaurants here where the staff and the clientele are super interested in gastronomy and food and wine pairings. In addition, there are wonderful charming restaurants serving very traditional regional dishes too.
Crescencio, my friend’s wine distributor in Puebla, loves food maybe more than anybody I know. And I love people who love food! But this guy takes the cake.
You know how sometimes it takes an outsider to be the best guide? Crescencio is a French national, a sommelier from Paris in fact, of Spanish descent, who has lived in Puebla for a long time. 13 years he said. And he is super proud of the uniqueness and deliciousness of his adopted region. Like almost to the point where my friend and I were held hostage, in an enforced fast, so that we could take “lunch” at 5pm at a special restaurant he wanted to show us. I ain’t complaining (now), I mean it was that delicious.
He took the liberty of ordering for us all weekend, which was great since he knew the menus inside and out. Even though I’m not really a spirits person, even though sweetbreads are kinda not my thing, even though I still have a hard time appreciating Mexican cheese - I had the greatest fresh passionfruit and mescal cocktail ever, I scarfed down sweetbread tacos and fought for the last bite of this mexican cheese with squash blossoms. So imagine how delicious it was when I was eating things that I am already nuts for? Chicharron with lime squeezed all over the top! Fresh tortilla chips with wild and crazy salsas like habanero with pineapple to dip into! Lengua tacos! Chalupas with tomatillo salsa! Tortillas del momento!
I tried Pipián Verde on chicken -a rich and brightly tangy green mole of tomatillo, pumpkin seed, onion, I don’t know what other deliciousness was in there but it was absolutely gorgeous. I also tried a Chile Relleno stuffed with ground beef, almonds and these little plums in a tomato and onion sauce -really interesting mix of sweet and savory. My friend got the classic Chile en Nogada - a rich creamy walnut sauce on top of a chile stuffed with fruit and meat garnished with pomegranate and parsley like the Mexican flag.
Between hanging out with the head of the Mexican sommelier society, Somm Marc, at a pool party in his backyard and watching a volcano erupt from an old Nahuatl village, I didn’t have a lot of free time to explore paleterias or shop for the Talavera pottery and tilework that Puebla is famous for. Hopefully my sister the librarian will not fire me because there was no time to even see the first public library in the Americas (founded in 1646). Todo bien, though, I’ll get my popsicle on next time. Hasta luego, Puebla.
A short list of some of the delicious restaurants we visited
Asados Calli in San Martin Texmelucan
El Parrillaje in Puebla
La Unica in Puebla
Fonda la Mexicana in Puebla
La Finca de Mariana y Marcos, on the way to Tochimilco