Piloncillo- The Unrefined Sugar in Mexico

On my trip to Mexico, I was introduced to piloncillo- an unrefined, whole cane sugar that has minimal processing. It is called by different names throughout many countries. In english, it’s referred to as panela. It was in a truncated shape every time we saw it at the markets or in restaurants. It seems similar to brown sugar, but it still contains most of its minerals due to the less interference. For this reason, it is considered the more beneficial way to sweeten your food or drinks. The process involves the boiling and evaporation of the sugar cane.

The way I first tasted this sweet delight was in a cup of coffee called “Cafe de Olla,” coffee from the pot. This wasn’t a typical coffee pot however. “Cafe de Olla” is a popular way to have your coffee that starts by preparing it in an earthen clay pot. The clay pot is considered to play part in how the coffee tastes. Then, the piloncillo comes in. It is dissolved in the coffee along with some cinnamon and voila!

Piloncillo-Unrefined SugarI first declined the coffee. I don’t frequently drink coffee. I will have random cravings for iced and hot coffee that contain a good amount of sweetness, and most of the time, milk. When Michael ordered the “cafe de olla,” I was sure it was going to be a strong tasting coffee since he doesn’t put anything in his coffee. He asked me to taste it and said there was a sweetness to it. I tried it, and loved the flavor. The sweetness was subtle but definitely bent the punch of the coffee into a pleasant combination where one doesn’t overpower the other. This is why Michael still liked the coffee even though he likes it strong. The piloncillo didn’t dull out the bold flavor of the coffee bean. We were impressed and my uncle asked the waiter to brink out some piloncillo so that we may meet this new ingredient that just came into our lives. They brought it out on a plate, and we wrapped it up in our napkin.

That same week, I told another uncle about my introduction to this sugar, and he later provided me with a bag of about 20 piloncillo pieces. Now, we enjoy our coffee by chopping off bits of this sugar and mixing it in. It was one of my favorite souvenirs from Mexico, and I’m happy to see it on my kitchen counter.

Piloncillo Sugar at Home

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Sanborns Restaurant, The House of Tiles- Mexico City

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Sanborns “The House of Tiles” is to the right

In the Historical District of Mexico City, stands an old 18th century palace built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family.  Sanborns is a chain of stores and restaurants, but this restaurant is special because of it’s history and beauty.  It’s known as the “Casa de los Azulejos,” translated into the “House of Tiles.”  Its facade is covered in expensive blue and white tile.  It’s debated how the tiled walls came to be.  One version is that a widow of the family came back after her husband’s funeral and wanted to show off the family’s wealth by remodeling it.  Another version involves a man being fed up with his son’s lifestyle and told his son that he would never amount to anything or have a house of tiles (meaning a proud home).  The son would then prove him wrong by covering his estate in tiles.  This property was sold many times as a private residence, and then businesses took over.  During the Mexican Revolution, the Zapatista army occupied this building.  Eventually, Frank and Walter Sanborn wanted to expand their drugstore/soda pop business and bought the mansion.  They added a beautiful stained glass roof and murals.  The overall style is a mix of baroque and oriental.

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Image 2nd floor of Sanborns, House of TilesImage

The dining room is gorgeous with views of the surrounding landmarks.  From the second you sit down, you will see another interesting part of Sanborns, and that’s the china.  Notice the design, for it holds a tragic asian love story.

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Here is the story…

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Pretty cool.

Now to the drinks and food!

We all had micheladas 🙂 Very refreshing after a day of walking ruins and the historic district.

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“Nuestros Famosas Enchiladas Suizas”

As far as the food goes, they are known for their famous chicken enchiladas in chile verde, topped with bubbling cheese. The name of this dish translates to “Our Famous Swiss Enchiladas.” They have five other enchilada plates but the name immediately challenges the tourist to find out why they are famous.  The sauce is plentiful and it makes you want scoop up as much as you can with every forkful of enchilada.  The sauce is surprisingly light and won’t make you feel disgustingly full.  If you don’t read español, they have an English menu 🙂  This place is very affordable in contrast with its fancy walls.  These enchiladas were 96 pesos, which the exchange rate was about 12 pesos per US dollar, making the plate about $11.

This was a great way to wind down a day of walking to the roof of a cathedral, exploring ruins, and taking a tour of the opera house, “Palace of Beautiful Arts.”  We could see some of these famous sights from our window seating.

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And then watch the sun set behind it…

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Oh, and their store had this little guy….

 Porcelain Dogs at Sanborns store in Mexico City
Porcelain Dogs at Sanborns store in Mexico City

It’s a cocker spaniel like our dog Guinness!

Mexico City-Gorditas (A Tie for 1st Place)

This was a new treat for me.  I’ve now been introduced to a true “Gordita.”  I love the cheesy gordita crunch at Taco Bell, but this is the real deal in Mexico. This is “Las Vikingas.”

I was taken to this hole in the wall kitchen that only has enough space for the cooks and one small table.  Every patron is seen eating on the sidewalk and standing in line for more.  Tucked away in the back, is a tiny kitchen where men are chopping up meat.  Up front, there’s a griddle where women are making thick tortillas on one end, cooking and stuffing them to perfection in the middle, and then topping them off with cooling condiments at the end.

They are known for their Gorditas de Chicharron.  This chicharron is a tender, almost sticky kind of meat that is from the pig’s skin.  It’s minced up and placed in in the slit of a fat sauteed tortilla, with a smear of light grilled cheese that might be manchego,  a scoop of cilantro and onion, and a spoonful of hot salsa.   This tastes amazing!!  My family took me back on my last day to have this again.  I usually don’t like dishes that contain a fat tortilla because it tends to take away the flavor of other ingredients and just fill you up instantly.  These are pretty thin considering they need to be thick enough to stuff,  and they are cooked perfectly so that there is a nice light greasy crunch.  It is the perfect pocket for the combination of ingredients it holds.  Everything tastes fresh and is served piping hot off the griddle.  These women made about a hundred of these just in the time we were there.  I love that you can watch them do your gordita from start to finish.

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Cooking Tortillas on left, cheese in the middle, and chopped chicharron
Cooking Tortillas on left, cheese in the middle, and chopped chicharron

Best Gorditas from Mexico City

That row is for our group!
That row is for our group!

If I had a bad day, drunk munchies, good day, or just hungry, this would be the food that would do it for me if I lived in this town.

Back from Mexico City!!!!

I had limited Wi-fi so i decided to hold all my food pictures and comments until I was back.  I already miss the food! From street vendors to fancy restaurants, the food was amazing.

One thing I have noticed in the past year is that when i eat food at home, especially fast food, i always have a clearing throat fest afterwards due to phlegm.  In Mexico, I had only two post meal annoyances that were very brief.  Many food experts have pointed out that Mexico actually uses a lot of fresh produce and don’t serve some of the over indulgent processes dishes that you would find at a U.S. chains.

Of course, there are definitely guilty pleasure food in Mexico that you would have to limit yourself to if you didn’t want to die of a heart attack, but it’s vacation, so i tried whatever they throw in front of me.  I just didn’t push it to the limit like i’ve been guilty of in the past visits.

The first place I knew I was going to eat at, was a hole in the wall taco place that my Mexico family always takes visitors after the airport pick-up because it’s so close to the airport and has delicious meats that not every taco place has.

Taco post in Mexico City
Taco post in Mexico City

One of the tacos we eat here are tacos de “nana,” this is uterus of the pig.  I know, it doesn’t sound appetizing but if you don’t mind eating any other part of the pig, you shouldn’t discriminate on this part just because it hasn’t been glamorized like ribs or hot dogs (which i wouldn’t be surprised if it contains all parts of the pig).  It is served as chopped pieces of tubular meat in a warm hand made tortilla.  It’s tender, a bit salty and very tasty.  Not many places have nana meat but i hear it’s spreading more and more.

Tacos de nana
Tacos de nana

Michael had carnitas which i never had at this place, and boy was i glad he ordered it.  I know this joint now as the best place to have a taco de carnitas.  It was the most tender and juicy handful of carnitas i have ever had.

I thought i would be brave with the hot sauce, and it sort of kicked my butt.  Very spicy but i was happy to be in  Mexico where salsas have strong seasonings and aren’t for the wimps.  Check out the giant molcajete of salsa!

Hot Sauce!
Hot Sauce!

Check out the pot of oil!

El Jacal

Started this trip right!

Off to Mexico City!

At the airport, waiting for our flight 🙂 I can’t wait to try the delicious food where my parents grew up. The food, art, history,music, and family really make this trip worth taking.

Here we go!!!!

Remembering Ireland [Food] A Year Ago…

DUBLIN

Click here for the The Shamrock Pour

Guinness St. James Gate
Tossing Barley at Guinness Factory

🙂

Guinness moustaches
Barley Risotto, Dublin
Murphy's in Dublin
Oysters in Doolin, Ireland

Temple Bar District, Dublin

GALWAY & DOOLIN

Mary Tyler Moore Moment on Cliffs of Moher
Galway Oysters
Monroe's Pub in Galway

🙂

Guinness Sherbet at our Reception, Galway

CORK & KILKENNY

Jameson Tour
Whiskey Tasting at the Jameson Factory
Sandwich on the Run in Cork
Kilkenny, Ireland

Aillwee Cave, Ballyvaughan, Ireland
The English Market, Cork, Ireland
The English Market and Cafe

Kilkenny, Ireland
Cappuccino at Waterford Crystal Center
English Market
The English Market
The English Market
Waterford Crystal Worker
Pretending to be a Waterford Crystal Master

Zuni- Best Gourmet Food in Ireland- And you know where it comes from!

One of the best restaurants ever! Look at their awards on the wall

This restaurant and hotel is located in Kilkenny’s City Centre.  It was across the street from the Pembroke Hotel where my family and I stayed.  It just so happens that my travel book listed this restaurant as a highly recommended place to dine if the craving was fancy cuisine.  We hadn’t been to too many gourmet restaurants in Ireland at this point, so I was set on trying this place.  Some of the best food I have ever had.  The presentations were as elegant as the restaurant and staff.  And the taste was phenomenal.  What immediately caught my eye from the menu wasn’t a dish but a “Food Suppliers” list at the bottom.  Even on the website, you can find this list at the bottom of their menu.  This is faaaantastic.  We need to demand this more in America.  We should know where are food comes from without feeling like a pain in the ass if you ask your waiter to list suppliers of every item you are eyeballing on the menu.

Did I write that the food was amazing?

Assortment of freshly baked bread with pesto butter


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pork Belly with Poached Egg

 

Ask to sit in front of the kitchen, you can see the chef's execution!

Zuni website