Midwesterner in Mexico Rotating Header Image

Mercado Jamaica

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.

Mexico Shopping Spree

John and I are not what one might call “interior design visionaries”. We’ve been living in Mexico for about 16 months now, and we’ve spent many a weekend wandering through various markets, stores, tianguis, etc., assessing the wares on display but unable to make any big decisions…  I think we suffer from an overly analytical mindset + a need to price-compare indefinitely, despite prices inherently being much more compelling than what you’d see for anything similar in the US.

Anyway, we’ve been on the hunt for things to perk up our current lame-o apartment decor, as well as items for our townhouse once we return to Arlington, VA next year. In a recent burst of decision-making, we’ve actually managed to commit & buy a few pieces, so thought I’d share our recent acquisitions (as a means of looking for affirmation that we’ve not made any gauche purchases…) 😉

We found this trifecta of vases at the Tonalá market outside Guadalajara. Apparently everything that has shards of glass in it comes in sets of 3, so we thought it best not to question the trend.

We found this trifecta of vases at the Tonalá market outside Guadalajara. Apparently everything that has shards of glass in it comes in sets of 3, so we thought it best not to question the trend.

In keeping with the "sets of 3" theme, we also found these decorative balls there... The middle ones have brown shards of glass, the right ones are some wacky crazed silver glass, and the left ones are covered in coffee beans! Don't worry; we don't plan to display them awkwardly in a big clump like this photo depicts.

In keeping with the "sets of 3" theme, we also found these decorative balls there... The middle ones have brown shards of glass, the right ones are some wacky crazed silver glass, and the left ones are covered in coffee beans! Don't worry; we don't plan to display them awkwardly in a big clump like this photo depicts.

Next stop: Mercado Jamaica. These purchases are a bit more temporary, but worth noting nonetheless. John & I have yet to grow up and buy real Christmas decorations, lights, the 6-foot tree, etc. So I thought we'd start out slow this year with an 18-inch Christmas tree that already has its decorations glued on. ;)

Next stop for shopping: Mercado Jamaica. Plant-based purchases are a bit more temporary, but worth noting nonetheless. John & I have yet to grow up and buy real Christmas decorations, lights, the 6-foot tree, etc... So I thought we'd start out slow this year with an 18-inch Christmas tree that already has its decorations glued on. ;)

Also in Mercado Jamaica, we found this stunning flower frog. He actually has a button near his butt that emits a "ribbit" sound when pressed. In interest of full disclosure, the ribbit button has ceased to function after 5 days, but I fear that may have been due to me accidentally watering the button.

Also in Mercado Jamaica, we found this stunning flower frog. He actually has a button near his butt that emits a "ribbit" sound when pressed. In interest of full disclosure, the ribbit button has ceased to function after 5 days, but I fear that may have been due to me accidentally watering the button.

Here is the front view of my friendly frog, whose mouth is even created out of red flowers. For those of you interested in other animals, we also spotted a flower-based giraffe, horse, teddy bear, and several types of dogs.

Here is the front view of my friendly frog, whose mouth is even created out of red flowers. For those of you interested in other animals, we also spotted a flower-based giraffe, horse, teddy bear, and several types of dogs.

Next up, a small non-apartment-decor purchase: lovely earrings from friend & jewelry designer Daniela!

Next up, a small non-apartment-decor purchase: lovely earrings from friend & jewelry designer Daniela!

And now for the wall hangings: we found this fun print at the Saturday market down in San Angel. The artist is Patricia Juarez. We also bought a print of a lovely, colorful market scene, but it was currently unavailable for a photo due to it being rolled up in a tube until we go get it framed. :)

And now for the wall hangings: we found this fun print at the Saturday market down in San Angel. The artist is Patricia Juarez. We also bought a print of a lovely, colorful market scene, but it was currently unavailable for a photo due to it being rolled up in a tube until we go get it framed. :)

And finally, our big purchase: this massive red oil painting by artist Enrique Mondragon. This puppy is about 0.8m wide x 1m tall, unframed. He exhibits in San Angel on Saturdays and Parque Sullivan on Sundays. We loved the distinctive flowers that remind us of all the beautiful flora here in Mexico (like the bird of paradise peering out at the top), and the thick, textured paint that makes it almost seem 3-D.

And finally, our big purchase: this massive red oil painting by artist Enrique Mondragon. This puppy is about 0.8m wide x 1m tall, unframed. He exhibits in San Angel on Saturdays and Parque Sullivan on Sundays. We loved the distinctive flowers that remind us of all the beautiful flora here in Mexico (like the bird of paradise peering out at the top), and the thick, textured paint that makes it almost seem 3-D.

So those are our recent acquisitions as we attempt to take advantage of all the beautiful artesanias that Mexico has to offer. A few more details below in case anything has spoken to you! :)

Tonalá: just outside Guadalajara to the east off of Highway 15. The big market is on Thursdays and Sundays from 8AM to between 3-6PM, but get there early or expect to sit in a lot of traffic trying to get off the highway. Loads of furniture/home decor stores plus stands selling just about anything else your little heart might desire. Good map available here.

Mercado Jamaica: I’ve posted about Jamaica before, but just to reiterate– easiest way to get there is take the Metro to the Jamaica stop on the brown line. If you buy too much crap to get back on the metro, there is a sitio taxi stand just outside the mercado, behind the flower section. (Exit from the back, left door in the flower section & turn to the left; cross the street & the sitio stand is in the middle of an intersection (I think under an overpass, if I recall correctly).  You can ask any of the merchants and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Daniela Millan: Check out her website link (click on her name) to see some of her other lovely designs.

Patricia Juarez: She does a variety of classic Mexico scenes of markets, mariachis, weddings, children playing, etc. plus amusing animal prints. All would be great for a kid’s room, but most could also be framed in black for a fun accent anywhere in your house. No website that I know of, but her email is pajua62@hotmail.com and phone 5848.0566.

Enrique Mondragon: In addition to the large flowers-in-vase oil paintings, he also does smaller versions + a variety of other scenes (countryside, bridges, old man w/dogs, etc.). No functioning website, but there is some info here in Spanish. Alternatively, his cell is 044 55 2152 5060, and he speaks some English. As I mentioned above, he’s in San Angel on Sat and Parque Sullivan on Sun.

San Angel market & Bazaar Sabado: also covered in a previous post; Saturday is the day to go!

Parque Sullivan: just northwest of the Reforma/Insurgentes intersection, between Calle Sullivan and Manuel Villalongin. The action is on Sundays between around 10AM and 4PM. Lots of the same artists from Saturdays at San Angel can be seen here on Sunday, but it is considerably less touristy.

Best kid-friendly Halloween decor

My mom is down for a visit this week, so I was excited that she would be able to see some of the Dia de los Muertos action here in Mexico. We had a successful trip down to Coyoacan today in search of ofrendas (pics to come!), but I first wanted to quickly share this gem of a Halloween decoration that we came across on Wednesday down at Mercado Jamaica (which reaffirmed its place in my mind as “the best market in Mexico City”).

This TOTALLY won't give your kids nightmares-- a wiry/styrofoam spider eating a fake bloody rat. Brilliant!

This TOTALLY won't give your kids nightmares-- a wiry/styrofoam spider eating a fake bloody rat. Brilliant!

To be clear, this was secondary to a piece of Halloween paraphernalia that we did NOT manage to get a photo of: a fake furry, rubber, bloody, slightly-mashed-up rat glued inside a dustpan. As I was gesturing vigorously towards that item, trying to convince my mom that we should buy it, the salesman jumped into our conversation– explaining in Spanish how the funniest thing ever is to put a little water in the dustpan & throw it at someone, so they think you’ve just thrown dead rat blood on them. Ha!

This week’s Mexico City lesson learned: nothing is funnier than throwing fake rat blood on a friend.

I may have to go back tomorrow…

Mercado de Jamaica– the flower market of Mexico City

This Sunday afternoon, we decided to go for a exploration of the wholesale flower market of Mexico City, Mercado de Jamaica. This massive market is apparently *the* place for purchasing flowers for basically all flower vendors in Mexico City and for locals looking for fresh, gorgeous, bargain-priced flowers. We decided to go here with John’s dad Bob (who’s visiting along w/John’s stepmom Pam) because he’s a certified master gardner (I’m told this is an actual title? Who knew!) & thought he would be amused. If I was holding any sort of celebration here in Mexico City, I would definitely hit up Jamaica to stockpile on stunning flower arrangements in advance, since I cannot arrange my way out of the proverbial paper bag. 

We were initially somewhat skeptical of how different this would be from the other bazillion mercados here in Mexico, but I can confirm: it is definitely worth a visit & also a good spot to bring visitors. (Most of the aisles are quite large/spacious, making it both easy to gawk & take photos from afar, and less stressful for disoriented gringos as you are less likely to be run down by locals with small grocery carts or men carrying sides of beef.) That said, there is plenty of the standard market fare as well, so if you are looking to see piles of avocados, hanging pig heads, or the best damn carnitas stall I’ve experienced, you will still be in luck.

Bob poses with roses (as well as bags of pre-plucked rose petals, in case you are too lazy for a full-fledged game of "He loves me, he loves me not")

Bob poses with roses (as well as bags of pre-plucked rose petals, in case one is too lazy for a full-fledged game of "He loves me, he loves me not")

John's favorite-- pollen-laden lillies. That said, by some act of God, we managed to get through this whole market with neither John's nor Bob's allergies acting up. A small miracle.

John's favorite-- pollen-laden lillies. That said, by some act of God, we managed to get through this whole market with neither John's nor Bob's allergies acting up. A small miracle.

This intriguing arrangement has complements its roses on top with another set of roses upside down, dipping into the water in the vase

This intriguing arrangement has complemented its roses on top with another set of roses upside down, dipping into the water in the vase

The boxes of brightly colored gerberas were some of my favorites

The boxes of brightly colored gerberas were some of my favorites

I have never seen such a vibrant blue dye-job on a calla lily

I have never seen such a vibrant blue dye-job on a calla lily

Whatever your religious ceremony needs-- wedding, funeral, baptism, you name it-- Mercado de Jamaica has you covered

Whatever your religious ceremony needs-- wedding, funeral, baptism, you name it-- Mercado de Jamaica has you covered

For those of you who find individual flowers a bit dull, but love dogs, do not fear: Mercado de Jamaica has something for you as well…

In case this isn't immediately obvious to you, these flowers have been formed into a white dog carrying a rose in his mouth.

In case this isn't immediately obvious to you, these flowers have been formed into a white dog carrying a rose in his mouth.

Pam has a little white kick-dog named Teddy back in Florida, and since she was trapped in our apartment today with a displeasing illness, Bob brought her back a white Teddy look-a-like made from flowers. These are brilliant-- cost $2.10 USD in Mexico, but I bet you could sell these puppies for $30+ in the US. :)

Pam has a little white kick-dog named Teddy back in Florida, and since she was trapped in our apartment today with a displeasing illness, Bob brought her back a white Teddy look-a-like made from flowers. These are brilliant-- cost $2.10 USD in Mexico, but I bet you could sell these puppies for $30+ in the US. :)

 And finally for those of you who hate flowers altogether, still do not fear: like I said, you can always just eat. :)

For those of you familiar with the fruit-like vegetable jicama, this was a stand that sold "paddles" of jicama (note round, white thing on a stick in the back), which were then dampened & dipped in various colored/flavored sugars. A fan favorite with the kids.

For those of you familiar with the fruit-like vegetable jicama, this was a stand that sold "paddles" of jicama (note round, white thing on a stick in the back), which were then dampened & dipped in various colored/flavored sugars. A fan favorite with the kids.

And finally I think we found the best stand for a late lunch-- "Carnitas Paty". The carnitas tacos (braised/carmelized pork) were fantastic. Though we were a bit more skeptical when the client after us ordered what appeared to be several pig penises chopped into taco filling. Concerning.

And finally I think we found the best stand for a late lunch-- "Carnitas Paty". The carnitas tacos (braised/carmelized pork) were fantastic. Though we were a bit more skeptical when the client after us ordered what appeared to be several pig penises chopped into taco filling. Concerning.

John & Bob, mid-pork festival. A productive market trip on all fronts!!

John & Bob, mid-pork festival. A productive market trip on all fronts!!

HOW TO GET TO MERCADO DE JAMAICA IN MEXICO CITY: It is conveniently located right on top of the Metro stop of the same name (Jamaica) on the brown line (#9), whose endpoints are Tacubaya & Pantitlan. By taxi, it is just north of the Viaducto east-west highway and about ~2 miles southeast of the Zocalo.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...