Mexico City Jet Lag Journal: Otra, Otra, Otra
Perhaps. Yet here I am, typing with all ten digits, to tell the tale of two non-Spanish-speaking, unarmed, and unconcerned American girls. Mexico City could not have treated us better. It truly required us to struggle through our elementary Spanish as tourism is not the huge priority it is in other Mexican coastal cities (and thank goodness for that, as we were totally immersed in this gorgeous city). It was enormous – we had an incredibly cruddy map and had no concept of just how far away from home we were many times. And oh, was it sophisticated. Was it ever.
I’d like to share a few of our favorite restaurants. It is easy to be a foodie here – you can eat your way through the chalupes and chilaquiles in the street markets (and you should – I recommend this AFAR travel guide that makes the many markets less intimidating. I didn’t use this guide, and I regret it.). Or, you can play the upscale game like we did, eat like queens in some of the most remarkable restaurants, and pay a fraction of what we would have gladly forked over in NYC.
Rosetta is an earthy, Italian-influenced restaurant run by Chef Elena Reygades and her architect husband who turned a historic mansion into this dreamy, calm, almost New Orleans-feeling space. Chef Elena is Mexican but has spent much of her life in Italy. All the breads are baked in-house, and Kyra and I sat for hours marveling at how much we loved the dining experience. It got a little dark, but the photos of the food below are made up of homemade ravioli, a scoop of olive oil gelato served atop salted herbs, and a mango and strawberry “lasagna.” In a former medical supply store in the up and coming La Roma neighborhood is Maximo Bistrot Local. The ingredients are Mexican, but the style and ambiance is French, and every cloth napkin, cocktail glass and plate is handmade locally in small quantities just for the restaurant. Our first introduction to Mexico City food was the gorgeous and packed seafood restaurant Contramar. This spot is the standard for impeccable fish and I loved the raw tuna and the aguachile (a shellfish ceviche that is hot-cha-cha!). We scanned the room and noticed that no one looked….well, Mexican. Everyone looked international and European, although only Spanish was being spoken. We searched and searched for this next spot in the Polanco neighborhood – Malamén, named for a girl whose dream was to own her own restaurant and whose cookbook was discovered in a basement. Her stories are woven throughout the menu. For instance: Doner Kebab, just as Malamén used to eat it right by the Nile, with french fries. A trip with A+S is just not a trip without a visit to shop local goods at a market where we can barely figure out money conversion. At La Lagunilla, a wonderful flea market that takes place every Sunday, we strolled through tons and tons of crap to find a few hidden and very special gems. My favorites were a handmade blanket in dove grey thread that I watched being created, and a painter name Leobardo Huerta who creates bright 80’s-style slashes and polka dots across old black and white photographs. (Check out what Kyra brought home in her Magpie post.) I particularly adore the fiendish woman giving the death stare to her grilled tortillas. I saw it happening as I clicked, and oh I bet those tortillas are infused with a magical rage, one that only she can put a stop to. On one particularly hot day, in the middle of a walk on an uninspired, corporate street, we came across Pasteleria Esperanza and immediately grabbed a giant tray and a giant set of tongs, and got to work picking out the loveliest breads and pastries. My particular favorite was the dark, charcoal gray dome of a kind of cinnamon cake coated with the sweetest gray seeds. I still have no idea what this pastry is called, don’t know how to find it in the States, and still dream of it. Finally, a truly cultural experience, one that is hysterically fun and dirt cheap, is a night out watching lucha libre, a form of professional wrestling. Most of the wrestlers wear colorful masks and we had no idea what the rules of the match were. There was a referee, although sometimes he appeared and sometimes he didn’t. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the trio wrestling, where three wrestlers could gang up against one. There also seemed to be rhyme or reason as to why vendors were serving steaming cups of ramen soup in Mexico City as opposed to tacos, but there it is.
This is affordable entertainment, so it’s often a family affair. Throughout the matches, kids shout out at the top of their lungs, “Otra! Otra! Otra!” which means “another time.” As in, put that guy in a headlock with your hairy legs another time! Catapult yourself from the center of the ring onto the cement floor another time! This is how I feel now about Mexico City – once was not enough, I need another time. Otra, DF, otra. Please stay tuned for more of our Mexico City Jet Lag Journal, particularly for our very favorite part of our entire trip – a visit to the home of Frida Kahlo.