Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mexico City: The Hunt For Lunch

Sheets of warm chicharron to nourish the soul.

Our story today begins in the late morning as our intrepid crew piles back into the Chrysler Caravan Minivan for the quick trip to the Del Valle Mercado where we hope to visit and have a coffee at reigning Mexican barista champion Salvador Benitez' Cafe Passmar. The sun is out and the day is bright as we make our way past colorful vendors selling the red, white and green in celebration of the approaching Mexican Independence Day on September 16th. Independence Day here is when the entire nation seems to gather in the Zocalo and the Mexican President traditionally sings from the balcony.

It's 11:30am and the market is surprisingly quiet. A number of vendors are surprisingly closed. At first, I'm not totally 100% sure that Cafe Passmar is even in this market. All I know is what I've been told and what I've been told is that Passmar is in a market and that Salvador lives in Del Valle. It's a slight gamble, but checks out with a quick phone call to Sylvia.

Sarah, Sonja and flowers at the Mercado Del Valle.

The mercado is like a Mexican Food Dream - vendors of all sorts selling just about everything you could need to make mole or fix your car. Fresh chickens, fresh tuna (the cactus fruit, not the fish), freshly ground mole paste in all sorts of colors. Over there is fresh calabasa flowers, to the left are large sheets of chicharron, down a bit are a complete assortment of chiles, or how about some pinatas? Of course, there's freshly boiled tripe, pig's heads and fresh hearts.

In a far corner, I spy a couple of guys hacking away at fresh pig quarters. It's a sight to warm the heart - until you notice the Swift brand cardboard boxes. American commercial pork in the mercados of Mexico City. NAFTA really is evil.

Along the way are quite a few food vendors selling cheeses, menudo and the whole assortment of Mexican cuisine. It's the kind of food that excites me but causes some stomachs in our party to shiver and we must press on.

Andrew gets a bib.

Like I said, I don't really know exactly where Passmar is located. I just know it's somewhere here and guess that it's inside the market since the pictures I've seen of the place look like it's inside the market. I know, I know, it's not hard science, but that's how I roll...

After querying more than three vendors, whose directions I can barely understand, much less remember, I find a security guard who promptly tells me exactly where to find Passmar (down this aisle) but it's cerrado. Closed. Damn.

I don't know if they're simply closed on Saturdays or because Aleli is competing in the finals today.

Anette hungry for chilaquiles con salsa rojo.

Undaunted and hungry, we make our way over to the Delta Parque Mall for lunch at one of my favorite Mexico City restaurants, El Bajio. I had come to believe that I wouldn't make it back here this trip so I was more than happy to persuade our group to eat here. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Sonja had also been to El Bajio on one of her previous visits. With fond memories of great food, we were on.

If you ever get down to Mexico City, I always recommend El Bajio. The food is traditional, originating from Oaxaca, and just delicious. For lunch, we had chilaquiles, nopales, huevos, enfrijoladas, tamal, and more. Andrew even got a complimentary bib to cover his judging tie.

Sonja and her chilaquiles negro.

More on our trip to Mexico City:

Competencia Mexicanas de Baristas

Sarah's Barista Magazine's Blog.

Anette's Square Mile Blog.

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