Living, Mexico

Visiting Veracruz!

There are so many places to explore in Mexico that for this year’s holiday I am doing several small trips within the country. First stop was Veracruz! From Huatulco it was a hassle-free seven-hour drive to Veracruz City one of Mexico’s oldest ports and also the first stop for Spanish conquistadors back in 1519. While Oaxaca is culturally rich in pre-colonial traditions, Veracruz is culturally-rich in Spanish influenced delicacies. Located on the Gulf of Mexico with a picturesque seawall for walking the city and a population of a million, Veracruz is a thriving metropolis.

My Top 3 Veracruzana experiences were:

33608622_10160402135615243_3688387583022202880_nThese French pastries (vol-au-vent) are everywhere! Their name means ‘windblown’ because they are so light. Growing up in Montreal my mother would use them to make her special ‘Chicken a la King’- covering the pastries with creamy chicken and veggies. In Veracruz there are street vendors selling volovanes from carts and every Veracruzano seems familiar with the call of the volovan vendor. I had an incredible crab volovan in the town of Tlacotalpan- the perfect marriage of pastry and seafood! I also had a chicken mole volovan at the Jarrito de Oro- my favorite café for breakfast! Side note: in 1838 there was a conflict between Mexico and France that has been dubbed ‘The Pastry War’. The urban legend is that some Mexican officers damaged the pastry shop of a Frenchman near Mexico City and the French government demanded restitution for these damages. In reality the war was fought because French citizens living in Mexico during a prolonged period of strife had their investments ruined and the Mexican government refused any sort of reparations, but it also had to do with long-standing Mexican debt. After a few months of blockades and naval bombardments of the port of Veracruz, the war ended when Mexico agreed to compensate France.

 

  1. Casas de Tablas.

Veracruz is a mish-mash of architectural styles and times. Old concrete houses are being abandoned for newer high rises and gated communities leaving some areas of the city less than aesthetically pleasing. However, one of my favorite areas was ‘La Huaca’ with its echoes of Havana. Specifically, I loved the colorful wooden ‘casas de tablas’. These flat board houses that were located outside the protection of the city walls in the 17th century, were said to be built by slaves who had been brought from Africa with the wood of old ships that washed ashore. To get inside one of these houses go have dinner at Fussion restaurant. An evening at Fussion is a complete delight! From the conscientious decor to the innovative dishes and excellent wine selection.  I started with the shrimp and mole picaditas and the fig salad- both full of flavor. I loved the presentation of the black bean and lobster soup with cilantro oil. The venison salpicon paired well with bits of mango and avocado. For dessert there was a cake made with the traditional bread ‘marquesita’- similar to a biscotti. It was a perfect last bite of the evening. I highly recommend a dinner here!

https://www.facebook.com/fussion.restaurante.taller/

 

  1. Aquarium

A1_444.jpgVeracruz has the largest and most important aquarium in Latin-American. While there are the cringe-worthy attractions such as shark-feeding and dolphin shows, there is also a selection 30 species of fish that many of the visitors to the aquarium would not have the chance to see anywhere else such the tambaquias, arowanas, pacus, red-tailed catfish, jackknife fish, African cichlids and many others in a tank holding an impressive 562,117 cubic liters of water.

While animal rights activists may protest, the facility promotes the preservation of the marine ecosystems and the care of the environment. In addition, the aquarium is government-owned and provides an important economy to the city of Veracruz.

To get to Veracruz from Huatulco you can fly with a stopover in CDMX although the easiest is to go via bus or car.  Happy travels and thanks for reading!

Food, Living

My Chicago Top 3!

Just spent a chilly four days in the Windy City enjoying it’s diverse food options, walking along the river and strolling through world-class museums housing everything from miniature rooms that have inspired director Wes Anderson to George Seurat’s well-known A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Sadly, both the Garage Vintage Sale and the Cubs/Cardinals game I had gotten tickets for were postponed due to bad weather. I love heights and there is no shortage of ‘Bird’s Eye Views’ in Chicago- from riding the ferris wheel at Navy Pier to having a cocktail on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building. My Chicago Top 3 however are the experiences that most surprised me- things I didn’t know I would enjoy so much from reading a guide book and the experiences I would travel back to do again!

1. The Lincoln Hotel30962508_10160268303765243_1999029709_o

When I am planning a trip I often put off booking the hotel until the last minute as I seem to have a hard time committing to accommodations- even if it is just for one night. What if I am missing out on somewhere better?

I waffled a bit before settling on The Lincoln as the pictures showed a retro-style hotel that I was worried it would be just old. Plus, did I want to be in Lincoln Park? Despite my initial ambivalence I was thrilled with this hotel! The furnishings were retro-style but not old- just super fashionable. My room was more like a small apartment with a sitting room, two full bathrooms and three windows. One with a fabulous view of Lake Michigan and the others facing attractive city scenes. I luxuriated in the Citrus and Sandalwood Jonathon Adler toiletries in my spacious bubble bath.

The hotel also boosts many options for snacking. Elaine’s Coffee Call for your morning fix and The Kennison, an elegant restaurant where I had flavorful risotto made with carolina gold rice, preserved citrus artichoke and pecorino. If that wasn’t enough to make me love this place I decided to check out the rooftop bar, J.Parker (named after Lincoln’s bodyguard) where I was greeted by a crowd of fashionably dressed people enjoying elegant late-night cocktails. The Lincoln Hotel was much cooler than me- but it welcomed me with open arms and wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Chicago!

2. Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College30772012_10160268303870243_1652799066_o

This free museum was one of the highlights of my trip. Amazing photography beautiful curated to provoke thought and get your creative juices flowing. The exhibition I saw was In Their Own Form which illuminated the myriad ways blackness might hope to exist without the imposition of oppression, racism and stereotypes ever-present in Western cultures, mediated through Afro-futurist themes including time-travel and escapism.  Stunning!

3. Dinner at Everest30771494_10160268304115243_1736026688_o

OMG this meal made my top five meals of all time! It combined my love of heights and art- 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange-  and an original bronze statue by Ivo Soldini adorns each table instead of flowers. The service was anything but stuffy! From the hostess to the waiters, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends when the meal was over. Some of the staff I had the pleasure of talking to have worked there for 15-20 years and, as a restaurant-owner myself, I know that this speaks volumes for the quality of the work ambiance.

Then the food… Pommery Brut champagne- crisp with hints of green apple, Maine lobster in butter and ginger, pasture milk-fed veal tenderloin, dessert was a plate with four different chocolate concoctions. The details were just as delicious- asparagus amuse-bouche, the bread was fabulous and some after dinner truffles to round out the meal were so good I thought I would cry.

Now to decide on where to go next!

Happy Travels and Adventurous Eating!

XO Jane

 

Food, Living, Mexico

New Food Magazine “Bite”!

Bite Cover 2Hi  ‘The Eye’ Readers!

I am so psyched to tell you about our new food magazine ‘Bite’!

‘The Eye’ just put out its 70th issue and over the years we have had such a great response to the articles which focus on real information by real people and not the puff-advertorial pieces we see in a lot of tourist-area magazines. We aim to explore the positive and often-overlooked aspects of Mexico and to enhance people’s appreciation of what a culturally-fascinating and beautiful place this country is.

While I love that every August is our Food Issue – one issue a year is hardly enough to even scratch the surface of all the interesting food happenings, customs, and traditions of Oaxaca.

‘Bite’ will be bigger, glossier, have restaurant listings with practical information such as hours of operation and whether they accept credit cards and delicious information about mouth-watering experiences you won’t want to miss!

Like ‘The Eye’, ‘Bite’ will be distributed for FREE in the best restaurants and hotels and of course, we will have an online version so you can keep up even when you aren’t on holiday.

Look for the Fall Edition of ‘Bite’ October 1st!

Cheers,

Jane Bauer

 

 

 

 

Food, Living

Cooking Class in Marrakech

You may think you have never taken a cooking class but I bet you have. Maybe you didn’t learn to make gnocchi while you traveled through Italy or handmade tortillas in Mexico, but I am sure you have shared kitchen secrets. Your first teacher was likely your mother inviting you to mix the batter as she made oatmeal cookies, your father teaching you to flip a pancake on a Sunday morning and later your college roommate showing you how to make the perfect margarita. Food is the common denominator, a meal shared is the ultimate communication.

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class in Marrakesh at Faim D’Epices. My instructor Ilam, a lovely young woman originally from Meknes (land of olives and wine) led me through the making of a beef, pear and orange tagine (a slow-cooked stew done stovetop in a clay pot), a traditional wheat and semolina bread and msemens (Morocco’s equivalent to flour tortillas).

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The Faim D’Epices Cooking School is located about 30 minutes from the center and after you have traipsed through Marrakesh’s busy Medina (old town) the open landscape is a welcome change with orchards of orange trees and friendly dogs to welcome you.

During the class we were taught how to check the authenticity of saffron- rub a piece on white paper and the color should be yellow, never red. Saffron is the highly prized dried stigma of the crocus flower, it takes over 70000 blossoms to make a pound of saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world.

We were also taught about argan oil. The argan tree is only found in a small region of southwestern Morocco and has not been successfully transplanted anywhere else. The argan tree has the amazing quality of pulling water from the ground and in the driest areas you will see everything brown except for the green of the argan tree. Because of this, goats have been known to climb the tree and eat the leaves. To check the authenticity of your oil you can put it in the freezer. Different oils freeze at different temperatures so they will separate and you will be able to see if your oil is pure.

18767221_10158757557275243_1599565076_oThe highlight of the class was the opportunity to meet Ilam. When touring Morocco most of the Moroccan people you interact with are men. Most of the waiters, tour guides and even hotel staff tended to be men, so I really appreciated the chance to chat with Ilam over lunch.

Overall a great experience!

 

Cooking classes in Marrakesh: http://www.faimdepices.com/

Cooking Classes with me in Huatulco, Mexico: http://www.huatulcocookingclasses.com/

 

 

Food

The Art of the Tortilla

Corn is the most important food in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The base of the Sierra Madres is populated with small rural villages where most households grow their own corn rations for the year. This corn, a diet staple, will be used for everyday tortillas and sopes as well as a thickener for special occasion moles (sauces) that the cuisine of Oaxaca is famous for. In our Street Food class this week we made tortillas on a traditional comal, paired it with spicy salsa from our mortar and pestle and Oaxacan string cheese (quesillo) and washed it down with our hibiscus margaritas!! There is no better way to get to know a culture than through its food. For more information about our cooking classes:

http://www.huatulco-catering.com chiles.chocolate@yahoo.com