Orale! My family is from Aguascalientes, and I've been going since the seventies, although it has been a few years since my last trip.
Here are some dishes to look for:pozole ,menudo,pollo a la Plaza de San Marcos,gorditas rellenas , el lechón al horno, el chile Aguascalientes, la sopa campesina, el puchero, la salsa ranchera, los nopales con frijoles, las tostadas de cueritos de cerdo en vinagre,barbacoa de olla, biznaga tamales, taquitos dorados, enchiladas rojas, la carne ranchera de puerco y el lomo en salsa de chile bola.
I had the best pozole of my life on an outing with my family there in Ags., and the best menudo.Wish I had paid attention back then, but I just ate where my family took me.If you can find pollo a la Plaza de San Marcos it's a must.The city is a classicly, beautiful, and prosperous Mexican city.The Plaza de San Marcos is a great place to enjoy walks and look for food.Rincon Maya is a fantastic Mayan cuisine restaurant, that one I do remember.Enchiladas in Ags. are also very special, worthy of ordering at the right place.
Go to the bath houses to enjoy the natural mineral springs, I went with my grandfather when I was 9 years old,amazing.
Other restaurants recommended are:Mitla,Meson del Taco,Catrina,and cenaduria San Antonio for flautas.There are also wineries in Ags., so try the local wine.
There are many sights to see, colonial buildings, and the people are great.I will contact some family to get the latest and report back.
Cenaduria San Antonio is a classic! It's one of the pinnacles of the cenaduria genre not just in Aguascalientes but in the entire Bajio! But it's not just the flautas that's good (I adored the flautas c/cueritos//but you can also get it with pollo, pata etc). The enchiladas, the taquitos dorados, the tamales de pinones y cereza, the tamales de nuez con mantequilla, or the pina con almendras, the whole range of tamales de sal (flor de calabaza, mole etc)-everything is spectacular. As is typical in the cuisine of the region, the rather baroque layers of aderezos (verduras frescas, verduras curtidas, guacamole, crema, queso etc etc) over every dish take everything heartstoppingly over the top!
Rather sadly, while travelling through the Sierra Norte de Puebla last year, I ran into a nice couple from Aguascalientes (city) who told me that Jesus Romo, the owner of Cenaduria San Antonio died a couple of years ago. The place is now run (presumably to the same high standards) by his children. What a kind and generous man Senor Romo was! When I expressed interest in his food, he kindly told me that I could stop by the next morning and watch the ladies cook and ask them all the questions I wanted. Unfortunately, I already had my ongoing ticket and could not accept the offer. Diane Kennedy wrote warmly about Sr. Jesus Romo in her My Mexico.
To the OP:
But there IS stuff on Aguascalientes in the boards. I wrote about it in the ff post from 2003:
It was a long rambling thread that started in one place, went on to Ciudad Hidalgo, continued in San Luis Potosi, followed by Aguascalientes, where I got sidetracked into a long discussion of "cuajo" and the four chambers of the bovine stomach of the menudo of Aguascalientes:
All the places in Aguascalientes referred to on these posts can be located by using the main plaza (Plaza de la Patria) as the central coordinate. Stand on this plaza with the amphitheater (and the column) behind you and immediately in front of (facing) the gates of the cathedral. The street extending to the right (north) is 5 de Mayo and takes you to the city's markets. To the left, steps leading down from the plaza continue on as Calle Jose Maria Chavez, where you will find Jesus Romo and the Cenaduria San Antonio. Crossing Chavez right after the steps is the Avenida Lopez Mateos, which (going eastwards) leads to the very disappointing late-night Taqueria Max (more later).
On the other corner of the plaza (walk through the pretty tree-shaded central section of this plaza), on the Madero and Juarez corner is the shell of the fabled Hotel Francia, the old haunt of bullfighters and city movers-and-shakers. This is the hotel once owned by the de Andrea family. DK notated a number of recipes from Ana de Andrea, who ran the restaurant and a famed catering business. These include a pollo a la uva in an earlier book and, in My M, an intriguing one for chicken and coconut stuffed in guava. This corner building now houses a Sanborn's (department store, open till midnight) and the Hotel Calinda Francia. Presumably, the de Andrea family does not have any stake in the present businesses on this corner and run their catering operations elsewhere (perhaps out of the Hotel De Andrea Avenida). I was quite disappointed to discover the changes as I wanted very much to try some of these de Andrea dishes.
Parallel to 5 de Mayo, the next street starting from the side of the cathedral is the calle Guadalupe Victoria or c/Victoria. A few steps from the corner at #110 is the famous Gorditas Victoria, one of the supposed benchmarks of the gordita rellena of Aguascalientes (it's in DK too) and one of my main objects on this trip as I wanted to see how our Chicago gorditas compare. I was told later by several people that better gorditas could be found elsewhere in the city. I myself came to the conclusion that theirs do not represent a huge leap of quality beyond our Chicago gorditas or some of the many other benchmark gorditas I sampled throughout the Bajio (but this topic is for another post). They still make some very tasty gorditas nevertheless and it is great fun to follow the ladies at every step of the process as they shape the masa, griddle-bake the dough carefully, fill it with the various stuffing etc.
A very short walk north on 5 de Mayo takes you to the Mercado Jesus Teran, which is the city's central market. This is actually the anchor of a series of tiny market buildings on separate streets but close enough to each other for these all to be called one group. There is a small market (a bit poor) for artesanias on Obregon to the north. To the east (walk east on Teran's east entrance, by the flowers) is the tiny Mercado Morelos which primarily houses food stalls. On calle Victoria, to the west is the equally tiny Mercado Juarez, which is also devoted to food stalls. This Mercado Juarez is of course a mere couple of blocks north of Gorditas Victoria.
DK has a bit of information on some of the specialties to be found in the Mercado Teran, but the really don't-miss items are the different condoches sold out of a basket by a girl outside the north side of the market. Condoches are in the family of gorditas (I guess bocoles can be considered so too) but instead of being griddle-cooked (or sometimes deep-fried, as at Green House Steak at Maxwell Street market), they are baked in an (adobe) oven. DK includes the mother's recipes in My Mexico. Actually, I don't know if it is the same woman who makes these. I was in such a hurry on that last morning in Mexico that I did not conduct my usual interrogation ;) but if you run into her, Joan, ask if her mother is Maria (the Maria del Refugio Martinez of the book; chances are she wouldn't even know that her mother's recipe was in a book!) Supposedly, she shows up with her condoches after 9 a.m. but I find that the best time to look for such special items at the market is closer to midday, perhaps after 10 or 11.
There is reportedly another place to find condoches in the city but I could not wait for this vendor at all. This is at the side entrance of the main bus terminal (right hand side when facing the building). If you happen to come into the station around midday, you might wish to ask for a peek if you see any ladies with baskets outside that door.
Incidentally, outside this same door, is a vendor doing a very brisk business selling pre-made (like tacos de canasta) "burritos". This is the only time EVER in all my explorations of the central heartland ANYWHERE, on this trip or on the previous ones, that I have run into a food form called a "burrito". I don't know if the name has deep roots in this region that pre-date the burrito's misadventures ;) in California or if it is a case of reverse influence (immigrants bringing back California forms: DK has a few notes about this-the use of sour cream in guacamole etc). You might also wish to keep an eye for it while in Zacatecas since I caught sight of a so-called "burrito jerezano" (whatever that is) on the menu of Taqueria Jerez. At any rate, this "burrito" is about 4 1/2 inch or 5 inch long, about as thick as a spring roll, is made with wheat-flour tortilla. As I was running very late and getting really frazzled about missing my bus, I could not stop to grab one to find out about the filling (I assume it's meat and beans).
One more note about another gordita variation: there is another type of gordita around in this city which is not filled (stuffed; rellena) but "envuelto". It usually carries the name of its major "flavoring": either frijoles or "migajas de chicharron". Essentially, the bits (migajas) of chicharron are worked into the masa and the whole formed into flat, fat little cakes. There is one place on the way to the bus station that makes four sizes of these (starting from about 2 1/2 inch diameter) but again, as I was on the run, I ended up not taking down notes on the location.
To be continued (re: "cuajo" at Mercado Juarez, Taqueria Max, Cenaduria San Antonio)
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RST Feb 09, 2003 12:06AM
re: RST (continued)
I just found my copy of Iturriaga ("De tacos, tamales y tortas" Ed. Diana, 1987) and see that he uses the word "burritas" intead of "burritos". I wonder if that vendor at the Aguascalientes bus station actually said "burritas" to me. Zacatecas is according to him just about the southern limit of the "burrita", which he classifies as a form of taco but with the distinction that it is made with tortilla de harina de trigo. He says that the most often-seen "burritas" (but remember, this is from 1987) are those of machaca (often revuelto con huevos) and of cabrito asado (roast goat). Iturriaga's book, by the way, is still the most important book written on these everyday food forms and every single essay/study available out there (including those on the various Mexican food websites) either plagiarize him shamelessly or (at the least) copy and follow his categories and distinctions.
Aguascalientes continued (back to the markets):
The smaller market buildings, Mercado Juarez and Mercado Morelos, are both lined with stalls specializing in birria (Aguascalientes abuts Jalisco to the south) and in menudo. This is where you can find the "cuajo" that is mentioned by DK (she calls it cuajadilla, but everyone at the market calls it cuajo). I am not sure why she chooses to bring up cuajo in this chapter as it is available throughout the country. It may be that she simply found specially good versions here or it may be that, this region being cattle country, the cuajo is specially prized in this city and is more readily found.
"Cuajo" is the fourth stomach (the abomasum) of cows (in this case almost certainly of calf) and corresponds to what the French call caillette and to that great delicacy that the Florentines call lampredotto. This is the rennet stomach, which contains the enzyme (called chymosin or rennin) that catalyzes the coagulation of curds/cheese (Fr. caille = curd). There is a long and venerable history of the appreciation of the different parts of tripe and intestines in European gastronomy, and in Spanish culture, this connoisseurship could be traced back through many complicated shifts of word-usage (historical changes, regional variations etc) through the classic texts of Guzman de Alfarache, Cervantes etc. Mexico follows the old world in this connoisseurship. Authentic French, Italian or Spanish recipes calling for tripe always specify the kind required; this is true of genuine recipes for such specialties as "tablier de sapeur" as well as for classics such as "tripes a la mode de Caen". The original "tripes a la mode de Caen" includes all four kinds of stomach but bec of the non-availability of the rennet stomach in the US (and I think the UK), cookbooks in the Anglo-American world almost invariably list only the honeycomb tripe (the French "bonnet") as the main ingredient. Similarly, menudo in this country always seems one-dimensional bec of the use of only one (or sometimes two) kind of tripe. This is why it was such a luxury for me to be able to enjoy a proper menudo here in Aguascalientes with a choice of different types of tissues with their changing textures, thicknesses, and qualities of savoriness. (continued...)
Great stuff! When I was there back in 2003, I hadn't been since I was 11 years old, and while I asked to be taken to local cuisine, I wasn't keeping notes back then, a less formal "hound" .Anyways, I remember how amazing every place was that we went to, and had a better understanding of where my grandmother's cooking came from.
My 82 year old aunt made chilaquiles for me from here own chile de arbol for the spice, and my older cousin was up at 3AM making the most profoundly scented menudo I've encountered.My family was an estate in Los Altos, and on the weekends they get together with food and drink for fiestas.Carnitas from a roadside vendor just out of the city limits.Breakfast was pan con leche, and some succulent papaya.
The pozole I had pretty much ruined me it was so delicious.The OP should have a great time eating in Ags.I can't wait to go back and hit the streets for some serious recon.
Ags is also a great central location to hit San Luis Potosi, Guanaguato,Queretaro,Zacatecas, and Guadalajara.I hit Guadalajara, Tequila,Zacatecas,and Guanaguato in the same week while staying in Ags back in 2004, another reason I didn't do justice to the amazing food culture in town.Zacatecas and Guanaguato were day trips!
Agreed! Do NOT shortchange Aguascalientes at all. It might be the smallest state in the republic (isn't it? gotta recheck this) and might often be overlooked, but there's plenty to enjoy. But DO keep your eyes open for all sorts of eating possbilities in neighboring states. For instance (to add to list above) Aguascalientes abuts the northern shoulder of Jalisco, an area rich in birria and barbacoa traditions: on a ride from Guadalajara to Ags, I saw diff little towns on the way proudly touting its own distinct regional forms of barbacoa etc. This whole area is less than an hour's ride away from Ags (city). Wait a minute, isn't eat_nopal's family from northern Jalisco? Maybe he has something more to say about this.
Yes... my ancestors have been in municipio Union de San Antonio, JAL for at least 200 years... I still have family there... as well as in Aguascalientes proper. With regards to Northern Jalisco... there are many interesting food traditions including Birria (Stewed as well as Pit Roasted), Caldillo Blanco (Herbed Roux's), Mole a lo Pobre (Roux based Moles), Fideos con Platano, Fideos con Leche, Caldo Michi, Tostadas de Escabeches, Longaniza de Lomo, Gordas de Acero, Queso Fresco, Queso Seco, Agua de Cebada, Agua de Alfalfa, Agua de Chia... and many other items.