Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guadalajara…Home Sweet Home

Having lived in Guadalajara in the late 60’s, I’ve always considered Guadalajara my home. It’s the first place I traveled to in Mexico. It’s also the first place I fell in love with.

The food scene in Guadalajara is pretty significant and I will admit it’s the first time I’ve paid attention. From restaurants like La Tequila and Cocina 88, Guadalajara is known for its culinary specialties. Just head to any of the fondas in the Mercado San Juan de Dios for authentic Comida Jalisciense- Food of Jalisco State.

Three of the most traditional dishes I had were: 

Tortas Ahogadas, the signature dish of Guadalajara is drowned sandwiches made with a roll and overstuffed with pork and spicy salsa. They actually reminded me a lot of the tortas at XOCO in Chicago. The bolillo is such a beloved part of the culinary scene here that some aficionados want Denomination of Origin status… just like Tequila.

Pozole is a corn hominy soup made with pork or chicken and you can choose red pozole for hot and spicy or white if you prefer a milder version. The famous La Chata restaurant in downtown Guadalajara serves up an incredible bowl and proof is in their long lines out front.

Birria is a fiery meat stew made with goat, beef or lamb. It’s cooked very slowly with spices in an underground oven. Like Barbacoa, it’s served with onion, cilantro and limes. You can eat it two ways. Spoon the intense dried-roasted pepper caldo into your mouth – my favorite way - or scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a taco.

Available throughout the city are a range of traditional drinks worth sampling such as these Agua Frescas. You can also enjoy a number of Mexican beers but Guadalajara’s own craft beer, Minerva, produces a pale ale and stout in addition to the more common lagers. This was actually my favorite craft beer when I tried them all at the Beer Company in San Miguel a few months back.

Churros, fritters, rice puddings, pumpkin in tacha and jericalla round out local dessert menus. What’s not to love here? I’ve become a churro fanatic since I’ve been here as they are the most delicious excess to eat off the street.

I went back to Tlaquepaque for the side-walk cafes – been there done that but still fantastic - and of course the Sergio Bustamante gallery…my only non-food indulgence in Mexico this trip.

The Tonola market hasn’t changed much except its gotten bigger. The foods and crafts make this market one of the best Mexico.

At a leisurely and very long lunch at Cocina 88, I tried the Shrimp Al Pastor which was rich and smoky and really outstanding. My friends had the vegetarian rice which I tasted and it was also superb. We of course shared the chocolate pear dessert. It looked better than it tasted and did not have that rich chocolate taste. Cocina 88 is in an old, turn of the century mansion at Vallerta 1342, Colonia Americana in Guadalajara.

      Tequila Photos: Cesar Moscorro Perez

Don’t miss the barrel tastings of ultra-premium aged tequila or a sensory work out in smelling and tasting tequila at distilleries all over the town of Tequila, just 65 kilometers NW of Guadalajara. Currently, there are 154 registered tequila distilleries producing 1,324 certified brands and it seems the number changes almost daily.

Elegant and trendy and so extremely popular now you can find good tequila almost anywhere. It’s come a long way since my first sip (and hangover) back in the summer of 66. In fact, with so much experience under my belt, I’ve decided in my next life I’m coming back as a tequila sommelier.

The highlight of my trip was a dinner with Cupcakes and Crableg’s tequila expert César Mascorro Pérez. As a Regional Manager at The Mexican Trade Commission in Guadalajara, he was in charge of exports for tequila and worked with the US, Central America, South America, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany and Holland. He was an advisor to many international companies on Tequila including my former school, the Universidad de Guadalajara Pro Tequila Industry in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame.

Ask him any question about tequila and he has the answer... except maybe a morning after cure. He is also currently working with Mezcals.

La Tequila was a fitting venue for our reunion since we’ve been family for over 15 years when I first did a marketing study on Tequila distribution in the U.S. for his former company.

Located on Avenida Mexico 2830 in Colonia Ladron de Guevara, La Tequila is rated #1 of 394 restaurants on Trip Advisor, the rating king in Mexico. The tequila selection was extensive and both the food and the service were excellent.

Since there were no gusanos in the kitchen that day (usually tossed in garlic, onions and a little tequila), we ordered a plate of grasshopper tacos. Surprisingly, they were delicious. They are fed apples and roasted in lime chili and salt. The end product is a nutty, crispy, salty and spicy delicacy. It might change your mind about eating bugs.

We also had sopes with bone marrow, pork and chicharrón. I’ve had bone marrow a dozen different ways and this was a unique recipe which I need to try to perfect at home.

This was all washed down with Tequila and Agave Beer with a promise to meet back here soon. And we will. 

Home is where the heart is and food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.

Buen Apetito!