Friday, September 07, 2007

La Buena Tierra, Parte Dos

Ana and her Buena Tierra Roll.

When I'm travelling around the world, I'm not one who usually eats a place twice. Too many places to try to eat at any one twice. But after a long day at the Compentencia Mexicana de Baristas, Ana, Tia Cristy and myself just wanted something to eat - and we didn't want to go to McDonald's and Tia Cristy didn't feel like riding all the way across town to try another place, so we chose a different location of La Buena Tierra - the same place we had breakfast earlier.

Located on Insurgentes just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center, this La Buena Tierra isn't as nice as the one in Condesa. It's on the second floor and just a big, open space which makes me wonder if we had eaten here first if I would have been as charmed by the food and the menu.

Again, it's the same wide and varied menu featuring a large assortment of blended fruit drinks and traditional Mexican cuisine with a conscious touch. This time, I've decided to forgo the Guayabera and attack the Lemoncito, another blended fruit drink filled with Limón, hierbabuena y menta. It's darn good and I'm tempted to guzzle this one and order another. But the odd thing is that it's green. Maybe I really do need the English menus Ana keeps asking for, but I thought that lemon would be yellow. Whatever the case may be, it's good.

For our evening cena which, I think, means "dinner" Tia Cristy is taking a bit of a turn away from the traditional Mexican cuisine she has been favoring to something a little Italian-inspired: Raviolis Poblanos. It looks to be on the soupy side for a ravioli dish with what I gather to be a light mole (but I could be wrong) and a good bit of cheese.

Is the Raviolis Poblanos too much for Tia Cristy?

Which reminds me of something else I like about Mexico. These people like cheese. They're not afraid of it. They put it on or in just about everything. It's like: "Well, this enchilada de mole is good, but it could use a good dose of fresh cheese." How can anyone find fault with that??? Cheese, lard, fat, it doesn't matter. These people eat it and God Bless Them for it.

Ana is sort of staying with her theme for the day by choosing the Buena Tierra Roll. That's a pan arabe, or pita, that's stuffed with Jamon de Pavao, chicken, frijolitos, guacamole and manchego cheese. It looks pretty good though I didn't have a taste.

For my dinner, I chose the Arracheta de Pollo. That's grilled chicken topped with grilled cebollitas, a side salad and a sort of bean concoction with what tasted like meat (but could have been tofu, for all I know). It was pretty darn good. The chicken was grilled beautifully - just the right amount of carmelization on the meat but still tender and juicy on the inside. The salad was a colorful mixture but a bit bland to the palate and the bean side dish was interestingly compelling - even if I didn't know what it was.

It was a nice way to end a long day. The past few days have been long ones. Some of them tough days - especially last night. But the adventure continues.

A glimpse of my tasty chicken - the Arrechera de Pollo.

La Buena Tierra - Insurgentes
Insurgentes Sur 1026

La Buena Tierra

The Guayabito, the California and The Ana.

It's unusual to find a restaurant that focuses on quality, environmentally friendly and organic foods - especially when that restaurant is part of a seven location chain. And since my thoughts and approaches towards food and coffee have been trending that way this past year, it's cool to learn that Ana finds this approach to food exciting enough that we've eaten at Lw Buena Tierra twice in one day.

We started off with breakfast at the Colonia Condesa location (here, "colonia" is equivalent to "neighborhood"). It's a small-ish space with both indoor and outdoor seating, featuring open walls and a large juice bar that dominates the center of the space. It's light earth tones play on the notion of fresh ingredients and a "green" approach. It's inviting and friendly.

The menus are large and pretty exciting for a place that is vegetarian-friendly. They serve meats and fish here too so the vegan freaks will probably find something to whine about, but for this omnivore, I'm pleased to see a balance of foods that are well-executed (not a typical situation for vegetarian/vegan "restaurants). The juice list is extensive. Happily, Mexicans are very serious about their fruit. This means a nearly endless supply of tasty fruit drinks no matter where you go.

My Huevos Motulenos, oh so tasty!

Ana starts off with a California - it's a blended drink of melón, manzana, naranja y jengibre. I'm having the Guayabito - also a blend of fruits featuring guayaba, hierbabuena y jugo de limón. Ana's Tia Christina starts off with some coffee. I chose the Guayabito because it's different and something I've never had before, it's pretty good but I find the hierbabuena to be a bit odd. After a taste of Ana's California, I think that was the better choice.

First round is pan dulce or sweet breads. It's something that we seem to eat at the beginning of every sit down meal here. Our server comes up with a big tray of pastries and we choose. Here at La Buena Tierra, they take the organic approach and the pan looks and tastes delicious. I'm having some sort of lightly glazed cinnamon pastry topped with granola. It's light, slightly crisp and tasty without being too sweet.

Since I arrived, Tia Christina has been hanging out with us on most days. She's visiting from Mazatlan and returns home on Sunday. The thing I enjoy most about Tia Cristina is her disposition. It's very warm and welcoming. She was the first person I met when I arrived on Monday and while she doesn't speak English (and I'm speaking a haphazard Spanish), I feel like we get along like old times. It's strange, odd and comforting all at the same time. Like Ana, Tia Cristina loves to laugh and these two (three, when Senora Garcia is with us) laugh continuously all day and all night.

Ana - pondering her Desayunos Universitario.

The menu at La Buena Tierra is large and inviting, and Ana has started this habit of asking the serving staff if they have a menu en ingles. At first, I'm slightly annoyed - I mean, I've traveled throughout the world, I've eaten Wagyu in Hiratsuka, bought knives from a non-English-speaking master, bounded through the streets of Ethiopia, eaten from the carts at Soi 38 in Bangkok and managed to get by, so I'm relatively sure I can order without an English version of the menu. Of course, I realize that she's only doing this out of the kindness in her heart and to help this hapless gringo and I'm no longer annoyed - especially since I ordered the Guayabito without really knowing what a "guayaba" really is then realizing that, perhaps, it isn't to my palate...

But you know me, I'm up for adventure. I don't want to think too much about it. Sounds strange and interesting? Give me a fork! But really, when I'm with someone who I trust and that knows the cuisine better than I do, I prefer to let that person do the ordering.

With that in mind, Ana directs me to the Huevos Motulenos, it's got fried eggs, tortillas, frijoles and peas smothered in a delicious sauce and topped with plantain chips. It was amazing. Just the perfect balance of ingredients and since I love fried eggs, I couldn't resist.

While Ana's favorite food is enchiladas, she'd been having a craving for La Buena Tierra's ayuno Universitario, a simple dish of ham and cheese on a pita with lettuce and tomatoes - evidently, the average breakfast for the starving college student.

Tia Cristina and her Molletes Los Tradicionales.

Tia Cristina had the Molletes Los Tradicionales, it's a popular dish here in Mexico where you take a piece of bread, slather it with frijoles, top with cheese, bake until the cheese melts and serve. This one came with a side of pico de gallo.

One thing I'm starting to drink less of is Coke. Prior to coming here, I had been looking forward to drinking "Mexican Coke" - that sweet and crisp sensation made with real cane sugar instead of the High Fructose Corn Syrup we have in the United States. Instead, I find myself indulging in the many fruit drinks that are ubiquitiously popular here. Ana tells me that she almost never drinks Coke and I'm starting to understand why. The depth and variety of the fruit drinks here are amazing. The flavors are delicious. Visions of a life with Agua Fresca de Sandia float in my mind and I make a mental note to bust out my blender when I get home.

Of course, La Buena Tierra's juice menu is a bit larger and more extensive than the average Mexican joint but it's a promising beginning.

La Buena Tierra
Atlixco 94
Colonia Condesa

Chilaquiles On The Move

In a city of 33 million people street food is everywhere and yesterday morning, rather than spending thirteen dollars at the hotel breakfast buffet, I decided to head out and grab something on the way to the Compentencia Mexicana de Baristas which is being held at the World Trade Center - about two blocks from my room at the Crown Plaza.

It's a short walk but there are a number of choices, most of which I don't know anything about. On the first block, there's a lady deep-frying some sort of cake filled with something or other. Fried food always attracts me but I pass. Maybe it's because I want to see what else is available or probably it's because my command of Espanol is poor and I don't know what to call it much less order.

On the next block, at the corner, is a married couple selling a variety of foods - all of which look delicious. Luckily, there are two women ahead of me armed with a list and ordering everything under the sun for their co-workers. As they prepare this barrage of food, I'm able to spy on the offerings and make my decision - not to mention that it allows me to listen to the name and read the names off the list of the two girls.

Feeling very cosmopolitan with my Torta Chilaquiles while strolling along the calle.

Everywhere I go on this planet, I try to blend in as much as possible. Try to savor the local flavor. See things are the people who live in that place I'm visiting do. Which means I try to pick up some of the local lingo as much as possible. Of course, with such a superficial knowledge of language, one has difficulty communicating thoroughly and I almost inevitably get in over my head with their conversation that I have to admit that I don't know what they're saying and that I'm just another pinche gringo from Los Estado Unidos.

But sometimes, I can move along without being busted (too much).

My turn to order comes and I tell the lady: "Una torta chilaquiles, por favor."
She replies: something, something "...a todo?"

I've learned enough to know that todo means "all", so I reply with a casual: "Si, gracias."

By now, I'm feeling hip, cool and very cosmopolitan about myself. You know, here I am in another part of the world, speaking the local lingo, hanging out with the people, mingling, entertaining - sheesh, I've become The Great Communicator.

Of course, Ana tells me the other night: "You're 'Rs" are not very good." What she means is that The Great Communicator's "r" rolling sucks.

Without a doubt, upon the opening of The Great Communicator's mouth, the lady and her husband have already labeled me as the guy who's thinking he's cool, hip and cosmopolitan while trying to pass himself off as part of La Raza. In other words, they're thinking: Pinche gringo.

To their kind nature, they don't reveal any of this, they just prepare for me a great sandwich.

Until this trip, I was one of the uninitiated on chilaquiles but Ana says they're good. I had some at the hotel buffet the first morning in Mexico City and it was good. Basically, you take fried tortilla chips, mix with salsa rojo and cook until the chips have been thoroughly soaked and softened. And, oh is it good.

To make my Torta Chilaquiles, she took pan or bread and pulled out some of the interior of the bread (it's pre-sliced) to make room for the filling. Add a big scoop of chilaquiles, some shredded chicken, grated cheese, top with a big squirt of crema and you're ready to go.

She wants to know if I'm eating it ahora? Si, I am going to eat it now and she hands me my sandwich with a couple of sheets of wrapping paper "to go."

The torta is good. Not spectacular. Just good, solid eating. These two know what they're doing and it's truly Mexican comfort food. It's also very large. I'm eating mine for the next half hour as I walk to the competition and chat with people with this huge Torta Chilaquiles in my hand and starting to spill out as I near the end of meal. It's good, tasty and a perfect way to start the day - although a good coffee (or Coke) and some fried eggs would be wonderful accompaniments.

One thing I still haven't figured out - mainly because I haven't tried it alone, is what exactly is this "crema" stuff. I mean, it's everywhere and on almost everything. Mexicans are fanatical about it. Ana tried to explain it to me while shopping for groceries the other day and I think it's something similar to sour cream - of course, I'm saying this because the Mexican joints in Ameria use sour cream, but it could be different.

I'm thinking a more thorough investigation is necessary. Time to head out and eat!