We felt obligated to take advantage of both of us having New Year’s Day 2009 off from work, and so parlayed it into a 2-night stay in Querétaro, a town of ~1.6 million people located two hours northwest of Mexico City. Our recent string of luck continued, as we happened upon yet another holiday festival– the town squares were bustling with folks celebrating the New Year with their families & street vendors doing a “land office business”, as we like to say back in the Midwest.
I will admit, I have been a bit shy about partaking from street vendors during my stay in México thus far. The food always (well, almost always) looks amazing, but my stomach is not über-resiliant to new bacteria friends in general, and YMMV when it comes to hygiene practices at any given food cart. However, the delights being proffered in the aisles of vendors along the north & south sides of Jardin Zenea were attractive enough to inspire me to gamble.
To cut to the punchline, I ate at SIX fantastic street vendors in Queretaro and did not get remotely sick!! I was very excited about this accomplishment, which I interpreted both to mean that my stomach is becoming as strong as a team of Clydesdale horses, and that Queretan food stalls excel in cleanliness.
To highlight our fine dining selections between John & me:
- a tamale verde (tamale stuffed with green salsa & pork), probably the most flavorful tamale I’ve ever had. (Confession: as my first course of the evening, this is an admittedly wussy choice– tamales are known for being one of the “safest” options from street vendors, because they are made in advance, wrapped in their protective corn-husk jacket and steamed, thereby being the epitome of safe food handling practices. But hey, I was easing into things, ok?)
- elote (corn), cut off the cob, piled into a styrofoam cup, and covered in lime juice, mayo, chili powder, salt & shredded cheese
- pseudo-flan (aka, something that looked like flan & we thought was just plain-old flan but apparently we misunderstood when we asked the lady who was selling it, because though it had the consistency of flan, it had a nutty flavor. Still good though!)
- tacos al pastor , these are cooked on a spit similar to another favorite of mine, gyros. The pork is marinated with various spices & chili peppers, cooked vertically, then served with onions, cilantro, and whatever other toppings you desire! I always get excited about adding guacamole salsa to them, which is sooo good but also sooo spicy (be forewarned)
- churros rellenos, basically Mexican donuts (with a straight line instead of circular shape) filled with whatever goo your heart desires– we opted for fresa (strawberry) and cajeta (carmel-y syrup)
- and finally, un esquimo, a milkshake-like drink made by blending ice, mystery liquid (likely evaporated milk/water), and flavoring (we recommend Rompope, an intriguing eggnog-flavored liquor).
The best part of the esquimo is that while we were standing in line to place our order, we observed that you could select either a cup or plastic bag as your serving vessel. John was undecided for a while, but after the two locals in line ahead of us BOTH opted for the plastic bag + straw, he determined that must be the auténtico way to go. This was another first for me (drinking from a baggie), and I think it totally helped us to blend in with the locals & offset my height…
In summary, our New Year’s Day dinner cost a total of about 80 pesos for two people (aka $5.78 USD), and each course was fantastic! My street vendor bravery continues to increase. And don’t worry– when my luck runs out, I will try to spare you the details of any gastrointestinal repercussions.