To refer to a torta as Mexico’s answer to a sandwich would be calumny. Mexico City street food por excelencia, if a torta isn’t exactly a work of art it is by all means a handicraft. A roll is split in half and heated while its contents are cooked on a grill. It might be filled with ham, chicken, cheese, egg, roast pork, a breaded cutlet, shredded pork in adobo or any combination of those. A traditional torta is not piled high with meat, but stacked with additional complementary elements: refried beans, onions, sliced jalapeños or chipotle sauce, avocado, tomato. To call a torta fast food is deceptive. Torteros are often painstaking in their preparations.
Tortas are most often eaten from stalls on the street while standing.
But they are also available at cafeterias like Armando, which claims to have invented the torta in 1892.
The torta combinada, with various ingredients piled atop each other, is also very popular, and without a doubt one of the causes of the extreme obesity problem in Mexico City. Some excellent versions of these are available at the cantina El Portal, about which I have posted previously. The Tepito and the Toluqueña are killers (and I am not referring to the cardiological punch they pack).
A joint on calle Juan Escutia near the corner of Zamora serves tortas a la barda, a specialty from Tampico. They include beans, ham, sausage, head cheese, American cheese, panela cheese, avocado and salsa. I had to try it once. I was underwhelmed. I might have liked it better had the ingredients been heated through.
Photo by Edgar Clement from the Crónica de Castas blog
I draw the line at El Cuadrilatero, on calle Luis Moya near the Alameda, owned by wrestler Super Astro. If you order the torta El Gladiador and consume all of it — that’s about two and a half pounds of sandwich — within fifteen minutes, you get it for free.
Labels: Mexico City
Photo from the Lovelo Beauty blog
Unlike some of the more self-righteous out there, I don’t believe that Starbucks is the root of all evil. They may have muscled in on the business of some small cafes. But there were bound to be casualties in a project that basically redefined the experience of going out for a coffee in the U.S. I think they provide a uniformly decent cup of Joe. And if you were to travel to some of the hellholes I have been through in the U.S. and saw there was a Starbucks, you’d be grateful — anything else in the vicinity is dishwater. I don’t believe they are doing anywhere near the same kind of damage as places like McDonald’s and Burger King.
They have proliferated in Mexico. According to their web site, there are now 273 Starbucks in the country. I would guess that at least half of them are here in the D.F. The worst thing about Starbucks in Mexico City? When the other cafes here saw what Starbucks was charging, all of them — and I mean all – raised their prices.
In the past few years a couple of Mexican chains of coffee houses have opened and expanded. They both serve coffee that I rate higher than Starbucks. They ought to be better — a standard small cup in these places is 25 pesos, compared to 17 at Starbucks. If it is harder to find them, it is worth giving them a try, at least if you are in the vicinity of one. One of them is called Punta del Cielo and the other — my favorite — is Cielito Querido Cafe. As far as I can tell, they are doing very well, despite their high prices. Maybe it’s a locavore thing.
Labels: Mexico City
Many neighborhoods in Mexico City are surprisingly quiet, even small-town in feeling. There are few places where you really get the idea that you are in a metropolis where more than 20 million people live. One of those places, reliably, is Sunday afternoon in Chapultepec Park, where you might believe everyone in town has showed up.
Chapultepec is full of treats that are so modestly-priced that nearly any father, or boyfriend, can be a hero for the day to his children or girlfriend.
Twenty pesos for two photos in a keychain.
Fifteen pesos for a sweetheart pillow.
I didn’t check how much it cost to get your face painted or to shake hands with Spidey … and with his pal Spidey. Could be traumatic for the kids who thought there was only one.
You got to love those disgusting fake teeth. Well, maybe you don’t. My ex-wife never thought it was funny when I would walk through the door wearing them.
Eat enough cotton candy and you won’t even need disgusting fake teeth.
If you have a few more pesos to spend you can rent one of these babies and paddle along the lake.
I always thought Mussolini would have admired this monument. Chapultepec Park really is lovely and is not nearly so crowded during the week. Even on Sundays, if you escape the beaten path, you can find spots that are much more pastoral than these photos would indicate.
Labels: Mexico City