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Tourist Spots in D.F.

Condesa & Roma: the trendy neighborhoods of Mexico City

Please check out my latest article up on the Mexico Today website– http://mexicotoday.org/article/condesa-roma-trendy-neighborhoods-mexico-city!  This month I’m recounting some of the highlights of our favorite colonias in DF– Condesa and Roma, located just east of Chapultepec Park.

Some of the hyperlinks to the businesses I mentioned didn’t come through on the Mexico Today page, so I’m including them here for your convenience. Take a look at the article for additional commentary on each!

B&B:

Restaurants:

Shopping:

More Mexico Today Updates!

In other news, here are some of the great articles my fellow MT folks wrote this past month for your leisure reading:

https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda

Mexico Today- Keep track of all the news!

I am excited to have the opportunity to continue working with the Mexico Today program in 2012!  (You may recall my post on this from last year.)  We have even more great contributors involved this time around, and there are a whole host of ways for you to keep track of what’s new and exciting in Mexico these days.

In other news, my first post for Mexico Today this summer is up on the site here: http://mexicotoday.org/article/exploring-mexico-city-foodie-tour-coyoac%C3%A0n!  If you’ll be in Mexico City anytime in the future, I outlined a great self-led food tour in Coyoacan that we did with almost all visitors that we had in town.  You start at Tostadas Coyoacan with some amazing fresh seafood tostadas, get a dessert coffee (café de olla) at Cafe El Jarocho, dip a sugary churro in it, and then wash it all down with some mezcal! You’ll find all the details + directions in my post above. Even if your Spanish isn’t great, you should be fine as long as you’re able to translate the types of tostadas on the menu! (But even that is pretty easy, since you order with a sheet of paper, kind of like a sushi restaurant.)

Here are a few more of the great articles that my fellow contributors & the Mexico Today PR team have shared lately that may be of interest to y’all!

Thanks for staying with me & you’ll hear more updates soon!

Back to Mexico City!!

This past year has been a struggle for me & John to readjust from the “every other weekend = a 3-day+ vacation to a beach, jungle, colonial town or archaeological site” schedule that we got accustomed to living in Mexico City. :) (Yes, I can almost feel your waves of sympathy washing over me.)   So after a long, challenging, nearly-vacation-free 2011, we made last minute plans to zip down to Mexico City today (Friday Jan 6th).  We debated going somewhere new & unknown to us, but for this particular trip, the comfortable & familiar won out. Consider it a greatest hits tour….just 15 months after the original tour.

Planning has been pretty light thus far… all we’ve really accomplished is starting a list of places we need to eat…. So far we have:

Point being– we are super excited to eat & wander through all the fun neighborhoods, mercados, etc. & track down some friends while we’re there.  More photos to follow of anything else new we discover while there. My current fascination is this— Bamboocycle, a company that makes bicycles out of bamboo. Love it!

Is it wrong to just want to replicate this photo again in person? Love ya, tacos al pastor (& even the sullen taquero).

What’s happening this December in Mexico City?

December in Mexico City is jam-packed with opportunities for celebration, highlighted by the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on Dec 12, posadas, office parties, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.  I found during our time in DF that the Mexico City goverment (a.k.a. “GDF”– Gobierno del Distrito Federal) really gets into things around the holiday season. 2009 brought a new Guinness record for the World’s Largest Christmas Tree, followed quickly by the World’s Largest Rosca de Reyes.  What could possibly be on tap for December 2011, you may be wondering??

The record-breaking Christmas tree I saw in Mexico City in 2009 was definitely not a natural fir.

Well, the GDF just announced some of their plans for this year’s Christmas/New Year events.  I was curious how the general economic climate might affect things, but this hilarious sentence from the article in El Universal put my fears at ease: “Los festejos de Navidad y Año Nuevo en el último periodo de la administración de Marcelo Ebrard en la Ciudad de México serán más austeros y con menos atractivos espectaculares que las temporadas anteriores, excepto por el posible concierto de la estrella pop Britney Spears en el Ángel de la Independencia.”

Rough translation?  “The Christmas/New Year’s festivities in the last perod of the Ebrard administration in Mexico City will be more austere and have fewer spectacular attractions than previous seasons… except for the possible Britney Spears concert at the Angel of Independence.”  What??  While I’m not certain whether bringing in a washed-up-but-surely-still-high-dollar American pop star says to me “we are keeping a close eye on the budget,” I appreciate their enthusiasm nonetheless!  :)

You’ll obviously want to monitor for Britney confirmation (they are trying for concerts on Dec 1, 3 & 6, and we’ll know next week whether negotiations have been a success), but here’s what you should mark your calendars for in the interim.

Christmas Events in Mexico City 2011

  • Ice Skating in the Zocalo!  December 4th will be the first day that the 2400 square meter ice rink will be open in the Centro Historico.  Check out the photos of its construction.  The ice rink should be open through January 7, 2012.
  • 50-meter-tall Christmas Tree!  Alas, they won’t be trying for a new world record this time, but there will still be a sizeable tree to view in the Zocalo. You’ll be able to see it from the pedestrianized street, Francisco I. Madero.
  • December 4th Parade!  At 6PM, lit-up floats carrying athletes that competed in the Panamerican Games will depart from the Diana statue on Reforma & head towards the Zocalo.
  • **UPDATE–December 4th! Britney Spears free concert is confirmed!! It will be at 7PM @ the Monument to the Revolution.
  • Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th!  Now this is not a GDF-sponsored event, but rather an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City made by tens of thousands of people.  To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going on the actual feast day due to the crazy crowds… but if you want to experience a massive cultural event that happens all over Mexico & see its source, this is the place to be. I posted some logistical instructions here for how to get to the Basilica– scroll down about halfway through that post.
  • More Glamorous December 18th Parade that includes a FAKE SNOWSTORM!  This parade will start at La Morena and go up Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas. I believe it will cut right and end at street 20 de Noviembre in the Zocalo, but the map is a little unclear… (see below)  But to reiterate: they are going to have machines launching fake snow into the air to fall on parade watchers. Love that.
  • Nativity Scenes Galore! Apparently Reforma will have 3 nativity scenes instead of the usual huts selling random gifts/food, but there will also be a LIFE SIZE nativity scene in the Estadio Azteca parking lot. It just makes sense, people!
  • More Stuff for Kids! The Zocalo will also be packed with various other activities/games/inflatable bounce houses/etc. to entertain your kiddos, so bring them on down.
  • Another Crazy-Big Rosca de Reyes!  While I am unclear if this is a world-record-breaking contender, there will nonetheless be another massive rosca de reyes (the king’s cake traditionally eaten on King’s Day) created on January 6th. Keep this in mind if you haven’t eaten enough during December.

Logistics

Here’s a blurry map to give you a feel for the parade routes:

Parade maps courtesy Milenio online: http://www.milenio.com/cdb/doc/impreso/9068350

More info:

If you read Spanish (and/or can send website through a translator), monitor these two newspaper pages online that are tracking updates on holiday events in Mexico City: El Universal and Milenio.  Also Ciudadanosenred.com.mx may have additional details– thanks to them for their helpful article summarizing these events!

Finally, you can check out the current progress of the Mexico City ice rink & general Zocalo preparations in the video below, courtesy of El Universal:

Have a great holiday season & take advantage of all that Mexico City has to offer during this festive time!!
**Updated 11/30 to reflect the dramatic free concert news of everyone’s favorite pop star. 😉
Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

A race to the finish: our final days in Mexico City!

One year ago last weekend, John & I were on our way to the Mexico City airport for the flight that would end our 2+ year experience as chilangos. All our worldly possessions were packed, all our kitschy souvenirs had been purchased, all the tacos al pastor that one person should ingest in a one-month period had been ingested, and most of the tears had already been shed. (Luckily our flight was so early that our driver wasn’t able to see me crying in the dark during our pre-dawn trip to the airport.)

Having lived in several cities now, I’ve experienced a lot of these permanent departures which usually involve a period of “holy crap, we have to do all our favorite things one last time before we leave!!!” combined with “I can’t believe we haven’t been to place x; we have to go before leave!!!” I thought it might be amusing to reflect on what made the Final Hurrah list for us in Mexico City.

  1. Eating. At a lot of places. Repeatedly.

This should come as a surprise to no one, as obviously I wasn’t able to maintain my corn-fed, Midwestern figure by NOT gorging myself on the amazing food in Mexico City. But which were the top priorities??

Tacos Don Guero: corner of Rio Lerma & Rio Guadalquivir in Colonia Cuauhtemóc

John was such a regular here that it merited a photo on his last day of work. Great source of al pastor & bistec (beef), or ask for “a la gringa” to get it on a larger flour tortilla with tasty Oaxacan cheese.

John informed me that the "good" taquero is working in the background.... along with a whole lotta pastor!

Dulce Patria: Anatole France 100 in Polanco, in the Las Alcobas hotel

If we were still in DF, this place would have definitely become our go-to when visitors are in town for fancy, “modern” Mexican food. Much has already been written about Dulce Patria + Chef Martha Ortiz but let me second—the food is amazing, presentation is gorgeous, service is impeccable, and while prices are not cheap, I think they are very fair for the neighborhood + the quality of the food. Don’t skip the trendy drinks either.

I had a fantastic salmon dish...

...as well as a savory huazontle tart

P.S. -Learn more about huazontle from Lesley here!

Restaurante Lampuga: Ometusco 1 at the corner of Nuevo Leon in Condesa

Friends Scott & Aryani tipped us off to this great seafood spot . While many may argue for Contramar as the seafood go-to in Condesa (which I agree is amazing), Lampuga is open in the evening & has a nice bistro atmosphere with great food + reasonably priced wine. Great option for a seafood-centric dinner where you want to sample a variety of dishes among friends.

The Coyoacán Trifecta: start at Tostadas Coyoacán in Mercado de Coyoacán on Ignacio Allende, between Malintzin and Xicoténcatl

It would be hard to count how many times we did this circuit with friends/family on a Saturday afternoon.  First, find the brightly-colored yellow Tostadas Coyoacán stand inside Mercado de Coyoacán. Order an assortment of AMAZING tostadas—be sure not to miss the jaiba (crab), camarón (shrimp), and ceviche, and don’t be shy about trying the salsas on the counter. Get an agua de sandia (watermelon), jamaica (hibiscus flower) or maracuyá (passion fruit) to drink.

I could eat the tostada de camarón all day, especially with a glass of agua de maracuya

Next, leave the mercado & get to the intersection of Ignacio Allende and Malintzin. Walk south down Allende (in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic) until you see Café el Jarocho, where you’ll order a café de olla—basically dessert coffee with cinnamon & piloncillo (brown sugar). Continue a few more steps & pop into the Churreria on the same side of the street. Order either a bag of churros or an individual churro filled with dulce de leche. Dip these in your café de olla.

Everyone loves a churro

Then, go sit on the edge of the coyote fountain & reflect on how much food you just ingested.

My dad Larry and I, preparing for a rest post-churro.

Astrid y Gaston: Alfredo Tennyson 117 @ Masaryk in Polanco

I don’t think I’d tried many Peruvian ceviches before living in DF, where there are several high-end Peruvian restaurants: Astrid y Gaston, La Mar, and Restaurante Mankora. FYI—they are amazing. I’d always lumped most Pervuian food in the “variations on a theme of meat and potatoes” (which you’d think coming from the Midwest, I would have been more excited about). But Astrid y Gaston does an amazing job sexing up the traditional dishes as well as whipping out several flavorful, spicy ceviches. The service can be annoyingly hit-or-miss, but the food was solid. Don’t forget the popular Peruvian cocktail—the pisco sour. Thanks to my many Peruvian MBA classmates for introducing me to this fan-favorite. Though note to self: they go down easy but cost probably ~$150 pesos each at this joint, so budget accordingly!

I liked the "sampler" appetizer that let you test out several traditional Peruvian dishes.... I believe this was the "piqueo limeño para dos."

2. Finally taking a photo of someone sleeping in their car

This is one of those things where once you notice it happening, you suddenly see it EVERYWHERE. It made sense, as what else were the many drivers in DF to do while waiting on their passengers to emerge from their appointments/lunches/etc.?  But the sheer number of car sleepers we saw made it oddly fascinating to me. Finally I got the nerve to snap a pic, albeit from a healthy distance.

De riguer for the streets of Mexico City

3.       Stock up on guayaberas & lucha libre items

Check out our guayabera source here, and a smattering of possible lucha libre souvenirs here. The week before we left, I purchased yet another lucha libre purse, as well the lucha heads that are now gracing our bathroom….

4.       A few carefully selected museums

While I am generally not a huge museum fan (see #1 for where I am probably spending my time instead), Mexico City does have some amazing options. I made a special effort to get to-

Museo Dolores Olmedo: Avenida México 5843, La Noria, Xochimilco– you can drive or take the Xochimilco light rail (el Tren Ligero) to the Estación La Noria, after first taking the blue metro line #2 to Tasqueña. The metro & the light rail each cost 3 pesos.

Not only does this museum have a great collection of pieces from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and beyond, but the property/gardens are gorgeous. Check out these two amusingly-divergent obituaries of Dolores Olmedo herself, one from her museum website & one from the Times.

A view of the gardens + main building at the Museo Dolores Olmedo

Some may be drawn to the screeching peacocks that roam the grounds, but the highlight for me was the collection of xoloitzcuintlis (or “Xolos” among their friends). These hairless dogs are rather fascinating, and the best part is that they all hang out sunning themselves next to a statue of a xoloitzcuintli. This results in hours of entertainment while you try to distinguish actual hairless dogs from statues of hairless dogs.

Dog vs. dog statues: you be the judge.

Casa Luis Barragan: General Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza. Easy taxi ride from Polanco/Condesa/downtown, or take the subway to the Constituyentes stop. Tours cost $150 pesos.

This architect’s home is totally off the radar for most DF visitors, but I highly recommend a visit, particularly if you’re an engineer-y/architect-y type. There’s a little more prep involved, as you have to call (+52) 55.5515.4908 or email casaluisbarragan@gmail.com to make an appointment for a tour (available in both English & Spanish). When friend Brandi & I went, we had a great tour guide who offered lots of color commentary—but I may have been biased because he was so excited to have me on the tour. Apparently I am the same height that Luis Barragan was (6’2), so the guide regularly paused for my input of what various perspectives were like since I would be experiencing it the way Barragan did. :)

So why is this place cool?  Barragan won the Pritzker prize in 1980 (which is *the* award to win for architects, so he must be good, and he also designed the Torri Satélite that you may have seen driving north out of DF). There are several tall-guy tricks, like floating walls that were high enough for only him to peer over to spy on people & furniture designed to accommodate his tall frame.. There’s a staircase consisting of wooden planks sticking out from the wall, and fascinating mixtures of paint/shadows that offer really different perspectives depending on where you’re standing. The bedroom where his female guests slept was the only room in the house to have no religious iconography in it, which I found amusing. This description is obviously not doing it justice, but just trust me that it’s worth a trip. :)

Unfortunately I was not able to take any interior photos, as I was told there exists some tricky arrangement where his heirs sold the rights to a foundation in Europe & they own all images of his work… However, I did find a couple blogs with a few pics. All I can share with you is the rather uninspiring street view to assure you that this nearly-unmarked door is indeed the entrance to Casa Luis Barragan.

If you're looking for the Luis Barragan house, you've come to the right barely-marked place. :)

Basilica de Guadalupe: Plaza de las América #1, Colonia Villa de Guadalupe. Take either metro line #3 up to Deportivo 18 de Marzo (if you’re going from the Centro Historico) or line #7 up to El Rosario (if you’re going from Polanco), and transfer to line #6 in the direction of Martín Carrera.  Get off at the La Villa Basilica station, and walk north 2 blocks.

While this is more than a museum, I’m bucketing it here due to its historical value. This is a must-do for anyone intrigued by the history of the Catholic faith in Mexico. You can visit both the old & new churches, see the cloak that Juan Diego brought back after the Virgen appeared to him (while you’re on a moving sidewalk), light a candle, be sprinkled with holy water, get your photo taken while riding a fake horse, etc. etc.  This merits a full blog post to really describe the experience, but I’ll whet your appetite with a few highlights.

Moving sidewalks to control the crowds viewing Juan Diego's cloak w/the image of la Virgen

The unique roofline of the new basilica (since the old one on the left is sinking, like many other historic buildings in DF)

Doesn't this just scream "Christmas card photo"??

5.       One more visit to Mercado Jamaica

My “top market in Mexico City” rating for Mercado Jamaica was recently seconded by an unbiased third party. :)  Besides flowers, they always have a great assortment of accoutrements for whatever holiday is coming up on the horizon; I made one last trip to pick up some papel picados around Mexican Independence Day for my future decorating needs.  And don’t forget to visit for all your flower animal purchases!

This flower frog is not only precious, but he also had a button you could press to make him ribbit. Hilarious, people!

6.       See the Ballet Folklorico: performing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes; tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster

I had unwisely assumed the word “ballet” in the title equated to “boring,” but after enough friends tried to convince me otherwise, I finally brought my dad to this when he visited a couple months before we left. It was awesome. Great music, amazing dancing, a guy dancing like a deer while wearing a deer head, what’s not to love? Put the Ballet Folklorico on your list, people!

7.       Get your picture taken with the Ángel: intersection of Reforma + Eje 2 (a.k.a. Rio Tiber or Florencia)

When a city has one icon widely associated with it, I feel moving away without a photo of you + that thing is ill-advised. In Mexico City, this icon is the Ángel de la Independencia, located on the main east-west drag through town. I recommend doing this on Sundays when Reforma is blocked off to vehicle traffic. This will significantly reduce your odds of getting run over while posing with the Ángel.

This is about as iconic as we're going to get folks, outside of me draped over a green VW bug.

8.       Attend a bullfight: Plaza México in Ciudad de los Deportes, tickets available on Ticketmaster once the season kicks off in November 2011. Take metro line #7 to San Antonio station, or take the Metrobús to the Ciudad de los Deportes station.

Attending a bullfight wasn’t on my “favorite things to repeat” list, but I did feel like I had to experience it + Plaza México once before leaving Mexico. The spectacle is fascinating, albeit a bit depressing. The phrase “not very sporting” kept running through my mind as we watched the bull be weakened by successive rounds of picadors + banderilleros before the matador even came onto the scene…  But it was interesting, many tasty snacks were served, and I’m glad I went. FYI for the sensitive among us if you decide to brave it—there are 5 or 6 rounds (each with its own bull), so go towards the end to ensure you’re watching the good matadors who make the process as quick & painless as possible.

Early on in one of the bull fights at Plaza México

Now I know this isn’t a comprehensive Mexico City to-do list …. You may be asking, “But where is the Anthropology Museum? Xochimilco? A street food tour? Attending a lucha match??  The Centro Historico??”  Do not fear– this is just a combination of our favorites + places we didn’t prioritize when moving there but later realized we had to do pre-departure.  :) Former and/or current Mexico City residents—what else have I missed?? Anything unusual spots or activities that were/are on your DF bucket list (or lista de cubeta, rather) before you leave this amazing city??

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Olympic Festival this weekend in Mexico City

If you’re hanging around Mexico City this weekend, consider checking out the Festival Olímpico Bicentenario. This Bicentennial thing just keeps on coming!! It wouldn’t be a festival in Mexico if a major thoroughfare wasn’t closed off, so of course several blocks of Reforma are shutdown as of last night through Monday. Unaware of this excitement, we chose the Marriott Reforma for our “last few nights in Mexico” hotel, which turns out to be right in the thick of the action. Luckily I can sleep like the dead, but John awoke this morning to the soothing sound of hundreds of angry drivers honking up a storm at the ensuing traffic cluster. :)

I’ve not had much luck finding a detailed itinerary of what’s happening on Reforma (this programa offers the helpful guidance of “start of activities & exhibitions” for 2 full days). But I do know they are setting up multiple olympic-sized pools, basketball courts, gymnastic areas, tennis courts, rugby fields, and more. This is basically the equivalent of setting up a mini-Olympics along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago & completely blocking the most heavily traversed part. It just makes sense, people. You can see the general area below, but you have to go to the website to see the map showing exactly how many fields/courts/pools are getting set up. Hilarious.

Come to Mexico City's pseudo-Olympics & see money being well-spent!!

Additionally, word on the street is that Michael Phelps is supposed to be town for the excitement. This begs the question: how do I get to see Michael Phelps, one of the few people in the world who probably has even longer monkey arms than me? Anyone with a Michael Phelps connection, please advise. Maybe I can get access as a member of the press??

Photo of someone who may or may not be Michael Phelps stolen from the Festival Olímpico website. We are totally going to be hanging out this weekend, I'm sure of it.

After 2.5 full days of packing/loading, the movers seem to be almost done packing our apartment here in Polanco, so I am excited to return to our hotel on Reforma to see if the pools are ready for me to take a dip!

P.S. I think there might be synchronized swimming. This is going to be awesome.

A Visit to the Corona Brewery (aka Cervecería Modelo)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What could I do today to support a giant, soul-crushing monopoly?”  If you happen to be in Mexico City, I have just the ticket: a visit to Cervecería Modelo, just north of Polanco!

The iconic Corona sign hovering over the large brewery in Mexico City.

The name Grupo Modelo may not immediately ring any bells for non-Mexico residents, but it is the company responsible for many well-known Mexican beers– Corona, Pacifico, Negro Modelo/Modelo, Leon, Victoria, Estrella, Montejo, and Barrilito. It also holds 63% of the Mexican beer market, with nearly all the remainder covered by Heineken/FEMSA; between the two of them, they make life difficult for any young upstarts in the Mexican beer world who are going after that last 3% market share.

That said, I am a fan of both Pacifico and Negro Modelo, and I imagine there may be other readers who have been swayed by Corona’s impressive marketing efforts, so I decided to go check things out this afternoon. I took some guidance from my husband, who went on a Modelo brewery tour a few months ago– he felt the tour was interesting if you’ve never seen the brewing process before, but if you’ve been to other breweries, this tour likely won’t knock your socks off. Needless to say, this girl has seen one or two breweries in her day, so I decided to skip straight to the good stuff: the gift shop.

WHERE: Finding the brewery was easy, and the appropriate entrance was fairly obvious. The map on Grupo Modelo’s website shows roughly where the door is located at Lago Alberto 156 in Colonia Anahuac, Mexico City. You can actually walk there quite easily from the Polanco metro station– once you exit the station, just walk up Arquimedes going north. After carefully crossing a busy street (Ejercito Nacional), you will cross under an overpass (Rio San Joaquin) and then take a right onto Lago Alberto.

You will see these large beer vats as you approach the brewery... Walk forward along the left side of these and then turn right (walking along the far side of this fenced-in area); this will put you on Lago Alberto

The view as you walk towards the entrance of the Cervecería Modelo. Your entrance will be under the flag/seal, just past where all the beer trucks are turning in.

Cross Lago Alberto & enter beneath the seal:

This was taken seconds before I got yelled/whistled at by the security guard in the middle of the photo, who obviously sensed that I was snapping highly-sensitive pics FROM A PUBLIC STREET as part of my plan to infiltrate the brewery.

Once you enter, tell the security guard at the desk that you are there to visit the “Tienda de Propaganda”. You’ll be asked for an ID (so bring some sort of ID with you), signed in & given a badge. Then someone will lead you to the gift shop. The gift shop is open Monday – Friday from 8AM to 5PM.

WHAT: The amusingly-named Tienda de Propaganda is wisely hidden inside the factory, rather than being easily accessible from the street for tourists. 😉  A Modelo employee will lead you along a roped-off sidewalk, while large trucks & carts zip along nearby. Eventually you’ll be dropped off at the uninspiringly-signed hallway leading to the store.

Just look for the Propaganda sign, and take care not to get mowed down by a rapidly-moving forklift.

I think I was hoping for a more over-the-top gift shop (and maybe the chance for a beer sample, let’s be honest), but Modelo’s Tienda de Propaganda nonetheless fulfilled its reason for being: there was no shortage of Corona-covered kitsch to be purchased!! If you are a big beer drinker and/or Modelo-brand beer fan, you should at least find some products here that will help you outpace the Jones’s in the “beer accoutrements” department. :) A lot of the stuff there, neither John nor I have seen elsewhere (though admittedly we may not have been looking that hard).

In the event that you’re on the fence about whether the Corona (and friends) Gift Shop merits a visit, here’s the smattering of its offerings that I was able to surreptitiously photograph:

Oversized 2L plastic beer bottle with screw-on plastic top? Check! ($34 pesos)

A whole bunch of shirts with beer logos/commentary on them in a mixture of English & Spanish? Yes! (prices unclear on my grainy photo, but I believe <$100 pesos)

Old-timey beer trays with old-timey ad images + a tacky surface to prevent glasses from sliding all over the place? Yep! ($42 pesos)

German-looking beer steins that would probably crack in shame if beer this light gets poured into them? Check! And Corona-branded dominos to show up the locals during your next cantina visit. (Dominos ~$140-150 pesos)

Miniature coolers with handles, a magnetic top & a built-in bottle opener? Absolutely! These are one of my favorite items-- John got us the red/blue Corona one a few months back. Prices seem to range from $350 to $600 ish. John estimates ours might hold about 18 beers, so a fun item to have on your counter for a party.

The inflatable section! I succumbed to buying a 1.5m-tall inflatable Pacifico beer bottle. And if we weren't moving back to a pool-less townhouse, I would have definitely bought the sand + palm tree floating bottle holder. I mean, your beer can float next to you in the pool AND be covered in shade at the same time. Brilliant. ($40 pesos for tall bottle)

MY 2-CENT BREWERY TOUR: As previously mentioned, I didn’t do the official brewery tour, but I did snap a couple photos on my way back to the entrance (for which I also got yelled at by a concerned man in a suit).  You’ll quickly be able to decode all the secret details I captured & perhaps start your own competitive brewery, or create an elaborate scheme for breaking into this one.

Apparently Corona & friends come from the cleanest, purest, mountain-fresh water known to man.

To keep morale high, there is colorful old-timey truck & fake beer barrels inside the main entrance. Que preciosa, eh?

The best part is that no one yelled at me for taking a photo of the Modelo cerveza-making process:

OMG! It's all out in the open now, people. I trust you will have no problem replicating these beer-making and packaging processes to create your own brewery intent on world domination!!

If you’re interested in a more elaborate tour of the Cervecería Modelo than what my photos can provide, drop an email to visitas@gmodelo.com.mx. I even received a same-day response to my inquiry! Their tours seem to skew more towards large groups, but the email I received indicated that if I was alone, I could be attached on to an existing group. Lic. Flor Santillana is the woman from the PR dept who coordinates tours, and tours are available Monday through Friday, seemingly at 9AM, 11AM and 3PM, but I would definitely call/email first, as I’m not sure they’ll accommodate you if you just show up. Additional questions, you can call 55.5262.1200 ext 2336.

Tours are available at Modelo’s other breweries as well, so if you’re in Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Ciudad Obregon in Sonora, Mazatlan, Tuxtepec in Oaxaca, or Torreon in Coahuila, check here to get the contact info & set one up!

I hope this satisfies anyone who was curious about where Coronas come from before they end up in a million photos of people’s feet on a sunny beach…. or where you should go once you convince your wife that this should be your new dining room table:

Ahhh if only we had a proper Man Cave for John back in our townhouse in Arlington, VA...

As we say in Mexico before slurping down a cold beer, ¡Salud!

http://www.primus.com.mx/

What to eat at the Tacos & Mariachi Fest in Mexico City

We visited the aforementioned First [Annual??] Tacos & Mariachi Festival after work today in Plaza Garibaldi, as I was curious to see what kind of festival could be organized in two weeks. I really should not be surprised to discover one does not need that much time to bring together numerous tasty taco vendors in Mexico City!

While business was a bit slow at 5:30PM on a Tuesday, there was a very respectable turnout of taco vendors (maybe 20-30 stands? I am unable to estimate things…). One of the workers told us there had been a great turnout over the past weekend and they had high hopes for this coming weekend (the festival ends this Sunday, September 12), but activity during the week was looking a tick sluggish. (Which means YOU, Chilangos, should go support these diligent taco vendors, since it’s not like there are taco stands on every block in Mexico City…  Err… well, maybe there are… but I digress.)

If anyone reading this has the fortune to be in DF this week, here were our highlights…

First Stop: We were drawn into the Molcalli stand by smell alone. When we realized it was only mole, we almost reconsidered (as John & I are not huge mole fans)… but luckily the pointman for this stand was an excellent salesperson and seduced us in for some samples.

Molcalli had probably the best moles I've had in Mexico. Fair enough, I've not tried *a zillion* moles in Mexico, but these were really good. :)

Here are Susan, Luis, Margaret & John sampling our blue corn tortillas + meat in mole sauce + rice. Note the witty pointman dancing in the background.

These moles (which covered various types of meat– pork, turkey, etc.) were fantastic– my top three in order were the almendrado one, the adobo, and the verde.  There was also a pipian option & some romeritos that were both underwhelming.  If you don’t make it to the Festival, Productos Molcalli is located at Mariano Escobedo #22, San Pedro Atocpan, Milpa Alta D.F., molcalli@yahoo.com.mx, phone 55.5844.2350.

Second Stop: we got thirsty. Since Luis & Margaret are new in town, we felt it was ok to deviate from the festival stands briefly to stop by La Hermosa Hortencia pulqueria to ensure they sampled some pulque.

John & I display the mango and fresa (strawberry) pulque options available today at the pulqueria in Plaza Garibaldi.

I have to say, I was fairly impressed with both pulque flavor choices. I now realize the mistake I made by first trying pulque in its “au natural” state (i.e. natural flavor) when I moved to Mexico City– that stuff tastes/feels like snot. Flavored pulque = quite tasty, once you get over the texture. :)

Third Stop: Ayluardo’s, where I was drawn in by their display of “Tacos en Nogada.” This struck me as a brilliant way to cheat on the true Mexican Independence Day dish, Chiles en Nogada. Genius!

How tasty do these tacos en nogada look?? They were great, AND they were served warm-- to me an added bonus vs. the traditional way of serving chiles en nogada cold.

Ayluardo's also offered a nice, spicy cochinita pibil + pickled onions.

Good job Ayluardo's on your cohesive marketing plan-- easily visible prices/menu AND sample food offerings displayed along with their variety of salsas.

I don't cover this a lot on the blog, but here's a little snapshot into my life-- constant height comparison opportunities. I mean, truly, if I had a nickel for every time...

The tacos en nogada are definitely worth a try. In real life, Ayluardo’s is located at Aldama #72, Colonia Bo. de San Pablo, Iztapalapa, Mexico D.F.  Phone #55.5685.3288. We really felt like we formed a bond with these guys when, after we’d already moved on to stop #4, one of the workers ran over with the following note:

This note informed us of an upcoming "Fair of the Enchilada" that will be celebrated October 7-17 somewhere in the Delegacion of Iztapalapa... I think in La Explanada of Iztapalapa, if I read that correctly.

We were flattered to be invited to the Enchilada Fair next month in Iztapalapa. I could not find any further details online regarding the 8th annual event in 2010, but I did find proof that it happened last year. Keep an eye out for further Enchilada Fair details!!

Our last stop was two stalls to the left, though I forget the name. This place lured us in with a charcoal grill heating up two wee little vats of queso fundido (as well as some bistec).

Hello, individual-sized pots of queso fundido.

Here we are with a bounty of salsas & accoutrements.

This spot offered your more traditional Tacos al Carbon fare, and a variety of salsas to match… but I would have to nonetheless rank it at the bottom of the 3 taco stands we visited. Still very good, but the wee pots of queso were not novel enough to top tacos en nogada and dancing mole vendors.

We paused briefly to watch the action on the festival stage:

The stage is set up just in front of the soon-to-be Tequila Museum.

During our visit, it featured age-mis-matched couples (i.e. 55 year old woman + 15 year old boy) dancing to music that seemed to be sourced from Looney Toons cartoons (probably one where Sylvester is chasing Tweety Bird). BUT it was full of life & entertaining, and surely the mariachis were going to perform next. 😉  As you may have gathered, our experience at the festival was a bit light on mariachis & heavy on tacos, but I’m certain you can suss out more mariachi action if you see fit. If you’re looking for bustling activity, go on Friday or Saturday night, but if you’re just looking for tasty tacos, go tomorrow!

Enjoy! :)

1st Taco & Mariachi Festival in Plaza Garibaldi!

Alert to any Chilangos and/or Mexico City visitors during the week of September 3-12, 2010: two of my favorite things (tacos & mariachis) are being celebrated in yet another Mexican festival!!  (Lest anyone forget how successful the LAST festival was that I recommended, please feel free to revisit my Burro Festival recap.)

Another brilliant mascot!! A sombrero-wearing, guitar-playing taco who's just waiting to be dipped in the roja or verde salsas at his sides.

I am hoping this is the first in a series of awesome Mexican-themed events to occur in DF in the run-up to the Bicentennial excitement this September. To be fair, if I was planning this event (at which CANIRAC anticipates 100,000 attendees), I might have started inviting taco vendors prior to 10 days ago… But I did learn when I was coordinating events at TI that excessive advance notice just doesn’t sit well ’round these parts (or at least may not be as effective as you might think when trying to get people to attend something), so I’m counting this as “cultural differences”. :)  Perhaps the 2-weeks notice is right on track for the taco vendors!

Regardless, I know for sure that the mariachis will be amped up & ready to go, so any “artistic events, cultural events, Mexican snack sales & many more surprises” will just be frosting on the cake!! Mark it on your calendar, people. Not sure where Plaza Garibaldi is? Check the map here. And for anyone of the opinion that Plaza Garibaldi is a den of iniquity & thieves, I beg you to give it a chance– you might have as much fun as these folks did. :)

I need a cactus chair

I came across an interesting blog today entitled “Hoy es un gran día para mostrarte lo mejor de México.” (Today is a great day to show you the best of Mexico.)  It’s kind of an assortment of travel hot spots, activities, and design highlights around Mexico. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, he has some great pics to peruse.

Juan Carlos’s blog tipped me off to this chair, which now has me wondering, a) how much of our existing furniture would we have to throw out in order for this chair to look good in our townhouse, and b) should I start playing the Mexican lottery in hopes of winning enough money to buy one?

Do these chairs not scream "I love Mexico"?

And look, they even have pseudo-prickles, in keeping with their namesake prickly pear cactus! (both photos courtesy Juan Carlos's blog)

These are entitled “Prickly Pair Chairs” by the designer Valentina Gonzales Wohlers, who graduated from Ibero here in Mexico City. Check out her website for more info re. the cactus chairs (under “What”, then “Furniture”, then “prickly pair chairs”) or her Facebook page for additional pics. If the prices shown here are accurate, I will be playing the lottery for a looooong time before springing for one of these…  Valentina– any discounts for people who actually live in Mexico??? 😉

This same blog also tipped me off to a new trendy hotel located just across from the US Embassy in the Zona Rosa. While I typically don’t highlight the Zona Rosa as a must-see area for visitors to Mexico City, it is a good central location with easy access to the cooler neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma, and the Centro. The new hotel is from the Room Mate chain, which we found to be quite popular when we were in Spain last year.

My understanding of the concept is that each hotel is given a person’s name & personality traits to make you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house, combined with fun decor, reasonable price points, and good locations.  Coincidentally, Valentina is the name of the new Room Mate hotel that’s opened in Mexico City, and she is “curious, sporty, and sexy.”

The trendily-decorated lobby of Room Mate Valentina

One of the junior suites at Valentina

The decor looks fab & the price is right (or at least reasonable), starting at $76USD pre-tax for an “executive” room with free wireless, so I will be curious to see if the actual experience matches their fashionable website! Let me know if you’ve stayed here; I will try to pop by & check it out in person sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, I am accepting donations toward a Prickly Pair Chair… :)

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