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Feb 6, 2009 11:34 AM


Anyone have any suggestions for cena in Veracruz. My hotel is on the zocalo; I'm assuming there will most likely be some small cafes and/or street carts in that vicinity. I should probably mention I'm arriving on the 2nd day of Carnaval and have been warned to expect the zocalo to be a mad house :-). I figure I won't be getting much sleep so why not join the festivities and eat my way around the plaza. I'm open to suggestions...

I've searched this board for Veracruz recommendations and other than the link to Menuinprogress's blog entries (which, BTW, were very good) and the Chow article (also very helpful) there isn't a whole lot. Found lots of recs for Xalapa, tho' and they'll be useful when I get there. But first...Vearcruz

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  1. Well, IMHO the best restaurant in Veracruz is not near the zocalo but out in the Boca del Rio area. And it could be a pleasant respite from Carnaval madness. The restaurant is Tratoria/Enoteca Il Veneziano:

    It's not a "fake Mexican Italian" restaurant. The food is superb, expecially the fish. The star is "Lobina in costra di sale marina: Fresco lomo de robalo horneado en su costra de sal marina." ("Robalo" is "snook" in English.) My wife claims it was the best meal she has ever eaten in Mexico--and she's eaten thousands--and I wouldn't disagree. So . . . after you've eaten your way around the zocalo (and, frankly, we found most of the open-air restaurants there very underwhelming--though the atmosphere and ambience was great, even if the food was not) take a taxi out to Il Veneziano and eat a great meal.

    11 Replies
    1. re: dlglidden

      I wouldn't be surprised if most of the places around the zocalo are only so-so. It's an 11 hour travel day to get to Veracruz so I was hoping there would be something good within short range of the hotel. We shall see.

      Thank you for the recommendation, Il Veneziano sounds like a great idea for meal once I get settled in. I'm familiar wtih robalo and have eaten it a number of times.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Carnaval is probably the worst time of the year to be in Veracruz, if you expect to relax and enjoy yourself . . . or enjoy a good meal somewhere. If you're staying on the plaza in Centro, my suggestion is that you eat at Sanborn's the first night - it's in a hotel on the plaza and has an outdoor terraza as well as a room indoors. Expect relatively low quality meals during the visit.

        Boca del Rio is known for the fish restaurants, but the fish eaten there will most likely come from Alvarado. The river and Gulf waters near Boca del Rio are often contaminated, making the fish not wise to eat (fish caught in those waters). A 1.5 hour (maybe 2) to Alvarado for a meal at La Viuda Restaurant on the Malecon would be an experience to remember. Otherwise, there are a dozen or so almost equally as good as one another fish places on the water, or nearby, in the center of Boca del Rio (it'll take a while to get there in a taxi or on the bus, though - during that event).

        The fish market was moved about a year ago and is no longer a short walk from where you'll be staying. It was a great place to have a fish dinner. The new market, maybe a 10-minute taxi ride (under good conditions) has several fish restaurants, if I'm remembering correctly.

        Generally, don't expect to find much that's very good when in town - and if you do stumble across something, consider yourself lucky.

        1. re: gomexico

          The vendors of the lively, bustling (and very central!) old Municipal Fish Market were forcibly evicted over two years ago on Jan 31, 2007. By sheer coincidence, I was staying at the fleabag hotel across the street (Santillana I think?) from it on that night but managed to sleep through all the excitement. I was told that barricades were put up at about 11 and that a number of the vendors had to be physically pulled out-kicking and screaming. I woke up the next morning to find a phalanx of heavily-armed federales over a hundred of them at arms-length from each other completely surrounding the building. You would think that the Zapatistas had taken over the city when in fact it was just small-scale stallholders (fishmongers as well as fonda owners) who simply wanted to continue doing business where they had for decades. I have pictures taken with my disposable camera BTW in case anyone is interested in the subject and wants to see them.

          This fish market used to be my convenient go-to place for breakfast (or lunch, or a snack). Once the bldg closed, I started frequenting a wonderful little restaurant down the same street (Landero y Cos) called I think Playa Tamiahua or maybe it is El Nuevo Tamiahua (although I might be confusing this name with the well-known and well-beloved El Nuevo Tamiahua in Xalapa, which is located about a block from the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology). It shouldn't be hard to find-it's in the vicinity of the Museo Naval and the City Archives and Library-is open early but closes by 6 p.m. or so if I remember correctly. Tamiahua is a town in northern Veracruz. Diana Kennedy has a long piece on her trip to Tamiahua in Mexican Regional Cooking. The cuisine is Huastec influenced so the items you will find on this menu are what you would call "regional" (i.e. not typical of Veracruz city or of the Sotavento): bocoles of course, huatape de camaron, tamales de camaron seco con pipian that sort of thing. For breakfast, you can't beat a cup of coffee and a large plate of bocoles prepared at this place!

          Re: Generally, don't expect to find much that's very good...

          Gomexico might be referring only to the Carnival period with this sentence, but elsewhere I have expressed my disappointment across the board with the quality of food in large mid-sized Mexican cities and so understood it immediately in a broader sense. This was the dilemma I faced while writing the posts on Puebla (city): how to present the extraordinary range of very unique food items (many of them still completely unknown in the English-speaking world) while pointing out that a level of dilution and dumbing-down has set in (for whatever reason: gentrification as in Xalapa; mass tourism as in San Cristobal or Oaxaca; modernity, everywhere). How does one remain respectful to the tradition while pointing out that the quality is no longer what it should be or what it could still be.

          To be sure, if you have never been to Veracruz before, you will find a lot of lovely and unusual foodstuffs that will tickle your fancy. You might even jump up and down over a couple of things here and there-until you move on to a smaller town with a fiercer sense of tradition and discover the better version. For instance there are all these roving vendors selling volavanes de jaiba (from vol-au-vent) out of a basket: not bad, until you go to somewhere like Tlacotalpan and find a completely different level of quality. The so-called nieves de Malecon are a tradition in the city and without a doubt you will enjoy the whole experience of hearing the typical hawker's call (gueroguerogueraguerogueroetc) and sitting around the plaza eating your nieve de jobo or guanabana or maracuya. Maybe the experience (the happy crowds, the breeze from the sea on a hot day etc) is the point here and outweighs the fact that there's really better nieve to be had-in Coatepec or in Naolinco or even Coacoazintla. The same is true as well of every other type of street food there is out there in this city: panuchos, garnachas, the entire range of very unique local sandwiches-the pambazos (completely different from the Mexico City version: these are made on small soft round rolls dusted with flour; then stuffed with chorizo, frijoles, lechuga, queso), the polacas, the medianoches etc. (This said, a good place to try the Veracruzan pambazo is at the bakery called "Don Jamon y Dona Mecha" in the area of the main market.) During carnival time, all the beautiful raspados carts ("Glorias y Chamoyadas") carts should be out in force. For more on the subject of raspados, see an old post of mine from the Chicago Board:

          I have also seen some very beautiful hand-painted elotes/esquites carts that would be well-worth pursuing for a picture!

          On the level of restaurants, it is the same thing. People say fish is better at Boca del Rio (about 20 minutes from city center//very easy to get to normally//although Gomexico warns about gridlock during Carnival time) which is true; until you realize there's even better than that at Alvarado or even furchrissakes at Cardel (a kind of nowheretown on the higway to the north). Yes, I would also recommend La Viuda in Alvarado. I was actually on the Veracruz-to-Alvarado bus on this last trip (Jan 09) on my way to the Tuxtlas (although I did not stop//got off Veracruz and Alvarado just to change buses) and Gomexico's 1.5-2 hrs sounds right. Be forewarned though that Carnival is celebrated up and down this coast and there might be a thousand other people as you with the same idea of a day-visit to Alvarado.

          There are two markets side-by-side in city center: La Unidad Veracruzana and Mercado Malibran. They're both enjoyable for a quick walk-through although neither one is anywhere as brilliant as the markets in Cordoba (fixed structure, of roughly the same size) or in Coscomatepec (tianguis-style, Mondays only). The Unidad Veracruzana has a beautiful Art-Moderne-facade: throne-like massing (cf Chicago Board of Trade), streamlined detailing, two flanking wings with curved fronts that suggest the Bauhaus. Across the street from this front entrance is a row of ladies specializing in pre-packed bags of fruit pulp (mamey, guanabana, maracuya etc) for making aguas, nieves, jarabe for raspados.

          Are you also going to Xalapa? Let me know: good food can be hard to find in Xalapa center. Plenty of sushi and falafel and hotdogs and yuppie places-there are plenty of lists out there of such places. If you are going, I have several "regional" (Huastecan mostly) places to recommend: El Nuevo Tamiahua (as above), Bacan Macut, and a tiny enchanting little Huastecan hole-in-the-wall that as far as I know has never been listed anywhere before. I was truly surprised to find an authentic regional restarant like this right in the heart of this yuppie city (it's in the tiny plaza across from the Public Library on Alfaro, a couple of blocks north of Xalapenos Ilustres). The owners are from a little town in the north called Chicontepec and the small menu is an astonishing catalogue of wonderful regional dishes that no one has ever heard of. For instance, I had an amazing dish called "estrujadas con cecina" which is typical of Chicontepec/Tuxpan but unknown elsewhere. You start by making a memela (plate-sized thick handpatted tortilla), drench it in the sauce of your choice (verde, rojo or chile seco) and while the tortilla is stewing in sauce, you take a spoon and "pull/shred" (estrujar) the memela into long (uneven) strips. The end result tastes astonishingly like chewey very delicious fettuccine in a spicey sauce. There's also a delicious chicken stew called enxonacatado made with the delicate chive-like onions, called xonacate, of the north (nahuatl xonacatl = "cebollines"). There's bocoles too of course, molotes, chileatole de res or pollo, ajocomino de pollo, salpicon de res, the extraordinary Huastec tamal called xala (xala de ajonjoli con chayotes y pollo) and on weekends, a whole zacahuil. For dessert, pemoles, torrejas etc

          Also have good tip for benchmark mole de Xico if you are going there.


          1. re: RST

            RST, you've touched on an important point.One can find excellent food just about anywhere in Mexico, and even in a touristy location I can extract that one stand or fonda that is above the rest.But, the regional cuisine many can't find are there but in constant motion.The scene moves to another city, or might be survived by a handful of vendors in an enclave.Sometimes a whole group migrates to another state where you can find more regional dishes in the adopted state than the state of origin.

            Finding the real stuff in Mexico is a whole other level of hounding that requires a different skill set than just knowing good food.

            People come looking for dishes they saw in a Diane Kennedy book, or a food that has been pounded in their brain as being the "thing" to have while they walk right by a small group of mythical and magical dishes.

            And sometimes, it is exactly knowing how great a food you just ordered is while acknowledging that a better version does exist.That's another skill set, one of food "code breaking", or archaeology.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              I am not sure that Diana Kennedy is the best example for what you are talking about. Her recipes have always been uncompromising in character and have never been meant to be easily assimilable to the lazy. I would argue that the net impact of a direct Diana Kennedy influence on the creation of a middlebrow "Mexican food culture" is virtually nil. I DO use her books as travel guide (and might be the only person in the entire world to do so) and can attest to the fact that her tracks she leaves are not exactly easy to follow. It is not just the sheer marvellous marginality and obscurity of the places she goes to dig up stuff, the most important point about her work is the fact that she never uses sources that has been validated elsewhere before (and this is the eternal source of Diana as a divine inspiration to me!). She does not regurgitate other people's lists, or for this matter validate the already-validated (this is how "media" functions: validate the already-validated, appropriate what others have already appropriated). Thus socialites rarely appear as sources, but you will find maids, humble peasant-women etc It took me hours to find the little girls who sell the rare tamales de espiga in Zitacuaro, and going into the Sierra Norte de Puebla, I was not exactly sure where or how exactly I would find the xocoyol that she causually dropped in one of her essays. Yet, this said, there is no greater "guidebook" to food in Mexico today than Diana Kennedy: even when I am in places that she did not write about (for instance on this last trip-in magical Zozocolco, in the market of San Andres Tuxtla with its mind-bogglingly rich range of incomparably rare food items, or while talking to Chamulan Indians about the variations to their chenek ul'vaj-I was looking through her eyes, and filtering the encounter with what I hope is the same rigorous intelligence. But it is not a guidebook in the lazy sense. Diana Kennedy is not some dumb list that lemmings (the LTH types) flock to. Which reminds me: have you seen Lonely Planet lately? Talk of dumbed-down! I was at a hostel one day and borrowed someone's copy to have a quick look and was shocked at how dumbed-down and gentrified it has become! Once upon a time there was a true LP culture in the world, in the same way that there was once a true adventurous chowhounding culture. Today it is all about MY convenience, MY comfort: I want to go to some Mexican resort and still want to find "authentic food"; I'm going to a completely touristed town and want a nice comfortable dinner at a nice restaurant blah blah blah. Quite incredibly, LP does not even have any real information on second-class bus travel, simply telling readers to take the first-class bus (second-class AFAI'm concerned is still the only real way to travel by bus in Mexico: in an increasingly homogenized world where every highway everywhere looks exactly the same, why should I ride one of those immaculate but anonymous cuota/toll roads when people-rich and landscape-rich backroads are still around?) Anyway, rant over (and flame on if you wish, at least I've spoken my mind.) Let's not even talk about the horrible lonely Planet food recommendations!!!! Not even half-acceptable, I would describe it as abysmal!

              1. re: RST

                The Rough Guide and Lonely Planet both blow.Oudly enough, MTV has the best Mexican restaurant list of any guide books.

                RST, a guy like you can get a lot out of Diane Kennedy, but your average traveler will gravitate to more popular itmes from her books.And, ultimate, it is still a sampling eventhough authentic and deep.But, Diane does gravitate towards regions that are more popular with American mexophiles:Vercruz, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Yucatan.Diane's books are not much help in Sinaloa, Sonora, or Tamaulipas as they are in the aforementioned regions.

                I'm talking about books, hands on experience, and study to be able to extract the gems.Our use of DK is based on a bunch of other experiences, not just a guide book or cookbook.

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Actually, Diana Kennedy's first(?) cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico, had several really good recipes--and a good, though short, discussion of the typical food--from northern Mexico. Several of them I still make frequently. She has constantly championed Mexican regional cooking (from all regions in Mexico) and has done a lot to make non-Mexicans (and English-speaking Mexicans, for that matter) aware that Mexican food is not monolithic and uniform but extremely varied. Her later books did deal with some regions more than others, but not for the reason you suggest. She's an old woman and cannot be faulted for not traveling, repeatedly, everywhere in Mexico and writing a 2000 page cookbook on typical foods and recipes from every Mexican state or distinct culinary region. And remember that when she first wrote about Mexican food in the early '70s, most Americans had not (and still have not) been travelers to Veracruz and Puebla, etc. And most Mexican restaurants in the US didn't feature food from those areas. And I think her publishing her "Tortilla Book" in the mid '70s was brilliant: It suggested the great number of dishes that could be based on the tortilla and gave examples (hardly exhaustive, of course) of the fact that there are hundreds of very distinct types of tacos, for example, to be found in the various regions. And I'd say that, if anything, (in her cookbooks and syndicated television cooking shows) she roamed rather far and wide in Mexico so as to avoid just writing about Michoacán food.

                  1. re: dlglidden

                    (street, this is a reply to you as well, via a reply to dlglidden)

                    Actually she writes about places she has travelled to; and she has travelled to quite an astonishing swath of Mexico; but this swath, however large, has its outer limits. So she has precious little on Yucatan, virtually nothing (in fact, nothing!) on Chiapas, only random things about cultures of the north (in fact virtually nothing north of Durango or Monterrey). Chiding her for not tackling Sinaloa or Sonora is like asking why she didn't write about New Mexico or Guatemala: it's beyond certain physical limits (and I think this is what dlglidden is getting at). (At any rate <sniff> what's Sonora and Sinaloa ;0) are they EVEN in Mexico ;0) <sniff> !)

                    But to get back to the topic of the original query (Veracruz), I would like to point out a completely different type of presentation from DK's, a presentation which is closer to what I think streetgourmetla is talking about. I picked up Zarela's book on Veracruz to see what she has to say. One can see right away that with such a book, it would be easier to draw up a list of "pursuable" dishes along with the corresponding restaurants where they could be found: such and such a dish at Las Brisas del Mar in Boca del Rio, such and such from La Viuda in Alvarado, the canate en salsa de cura from Posada Dona Lala in Tlacotalpan etc.

                    There are many problems with such an approach (and I think this is where streetgourmetla is headed). The first involves a paradox that is well-known to // often-commented-upon in the internet food chat world: namely, the inverse proportion of mass recognition to the level of true creativity. This is precisely why food blogs, food forums, restaurants, creative food professionals etc win multiple awards//are endlessly regurgitated in the food media loop precisely at the moment when they are PAST the richest and most vibrant phase of their work. So while her list of "anointed" places are useful are references (and DiningDiva, I DO urge you to take a look at her book -there's some really quite wonderful stuff in there-before you go just to get a sense of what might be out there), these places no longer necessarily produce work that made them "anointable" in the first place.

                    This for instance is the case with Restaurante Dona Lala in particular and the gorgeous town of Tlacotalpan in general. Once upon a time, Tlacotalpan was a beautiful but forgotten backwater town, rather seedy, rather run-down. It also happens to have in its forgotten history a rich very distinctive and unique local cuisine that no one knew anything about (Diana Kennedy has a truly magical essay-one of her very best-about running into a man in Tlacotalpan who rattled off to her the most astonishing list of forgotten dishes-turtle cooked in leaves of the moste shrub and so on-that no one ever heard of//when she returned many years later to see him again and to try to notate more of his recipes, she learned that he had died unexpectedly, taking with him foerver that rich repository of marvellous things.)

                    Tlacotalpan also had a wonderful little posada-cum-restaurant called Dona Lala, whose matron-owner was yet another repository of astounding never-heard-of very unique local dishes. The authors of the state-government-published La Cocina Veracruzana (one of the greatest Mexican regional cookbooks published in recent times//I have posted about this extraordinary book elsewhere) managed to notate several of her recipes inclg the now-celebrated canate en salsa de cura, made with wild ducks caught in winter when they migrate in from Florida etc Zarela used this marvellous book extensively as a guide during her research/travels and in fact ended up including the canate en salsa de cura recipe in an adaptation of her own in a kind of tribute to the cuisine of this town.

                    Then one day Tlacotalpan was declared a UNESCO world patrimony site and suddenly nothing is the same. Virtually overnight, the town became immaculately manicured (in the same way that San Cristobal today is so pristinely manicured for the sake of the hordes of tourists who come). Suddenly (and this is the power of media and the power of suggestion) everyone who visits declares how everything to be beautiful (the same people would have turned their noses up at the seediness of the place a few years earlier). Not surprisingly, Dona Lala renovated too-to keep up with the town's changing image and new-found fame. It became in time a beautifully furnished space with all the amenities to be found in the finest dining destinations of the country (entrees at P180 up). In fact I had a quite lovely meal here chosen from a large menu (a lot of local seafood) that had clever local touches-just enough from the point of view of marketing-but nothing TOO local mind you. Not one of the managers or cooks I talked to could tell me more about the unique local dishes collected from this very restaurant in La Cocina Veracruzana or could tell me more about the canate en salsa de cura.


                    1. re: dlglidden

                      Compadres.Let me be clear so were having the same conversation.I dig Diane Kennedy, have her books, and am perfectly clear of her importance in spreading the knowledge of Mexican cuisine.The ground she covered is the ground she covered, for whatever reasons.I'm not criticizing that.It's her book.

                      I'm talking about the greater body of published works that tends to focus on a small number of regions collectively, and how travelers would most likely gravitate towards the excellent recipes that they are more familiar with.

                      Where Diane Kennedy set the bar really high, others have reinforced certain regions through less extensive research and travel.Why is Oaxaca more important than Chiapas, or more interesting?Outside of our personal preferences, publishers have made Oaxaca a food mecca, as it should be, but Chiapas is very rarely mentioned eventhough it has a fascinating gastronomy.It's recognized in Mexico, but not so much here in the states.

                      I'm talking about the depth of reading, hypothesis, and experience it takes to extract the true gastronomy of the region, which goes beyond a few plates, or specialty foods.

                      I'm not chiding her about Sinaloa or Sonora, only pointing out that she has very little on those regions.Like maybe a dish from each.I'm really talking about the journey, not a region over another region.

        2. re: dlglidden

          Many thanks for the Il Veneziano recommendation. We spent several nights in Veracruz. Hotel had not much to recommend in way of restaurants. Ate a few meals at Los Portales, fun people watching and food wasn't bad, but we quickly tired of it and wanted something better. Ended up going to Il V 3 times - even if it WAS a longish cab ride from centro to boca.
          Cute little place, GREAT bread, excellent salads and really enjoyed their pasta genovese (think that's what they called their pesto pasta -yum) Sorry I get around to trying any of the fish. . . next time. or maybe next time we'll venture further into/beyond Boca for more fish.

          1. re: glover

            Glad to hear the restaurant is still alive and well a year after I recommended it and that this thread is still accessible somewhere in the bowels of the CH archives.

        3. Gentlemen, thank you for your suggestions and for the provocative and thoughtful discussion.

          RST, I have added your recommendations to my short list of places to check out. I will be in both Xalapa and Xico but only for a couple of days on my way to Tlaxcala and finally D.F. I am definitely aware that the fish market was moved and that it was a rather contentious affair. I love Mexico markets, big or small. They all seem to have their own hum and energy, that for me it's kind of like being plugged into an electrical socket.

          I've had Zarela's Veracruz for several years and have done a reasonable amount of cooking from it. The integrity (i.e. are they accurate, do they work and how well does the final product turn out) of the recipes has been surprisingly good; far, far more success than not. I made her Mole de Xico recipe last month. It was time consuming but, in reality, a very easy recipe. Now mind you, I've never tasted Mole de Xico so I have nothing to gauge mine by, but, I have to say, it tasted phenomenally good because it was very well balanced. Not overly sweet as I've been warned Mole de Xico can be. I made the recipe specficially because I knew I was going to Xico and wanted some (any?) point of reference to use as a starting point, good, bad or indifferent. So, yes, I am interested in what you have to say about Xico and mole, as well as the exotic distilled spirits for which Xico is also known. This is my first trip to Veracruz and it was not planned to coincide with Carnaval, that just kind of happened. It's only a short trip in which I plan to do some reconnaissance for a longer return trip in 2010.

          As for the Northern Mexico organization to which I belong was contacted last week by an editor for a large (you'd recognize it) national food magazine. She was seeking contacts in Northern Mexico for a article she wants to do. Here is what she told us her objective was - "Specifically, my end goal is to find families who cook at home, people who cook in traditional--not fancy restaurants--and/or folks who farm or ranch in the area, so that my photographer and I could spend a little time with them and watch them gather to cook and eat (and farm, if that's applicable to their circumstances) their traditional foods."

          She was specifically interested in Aguascaliente and Zacatecas but has had little luck and has expanded her area to include most of Northern Mexico. I immediately thought of both of you as you've recently posted about Aguascaliente, Leon and other points north. If either, or both of you would be interested in talking to this woman, I'd be more than happy to put you in touch. Send an e-mail to and I'll be happy to facilitate the connection.

          Street - I know you've very fond of tequila (so am I <gg>) any suggestions or recommendations for tequilas to be on the look out for on this trip? I'm sitting here enjoying a smooth, smokey Danzantes mezcal and it's certainly making Sunday evening very mellow. And I'm doing an article on pulque and pulque pitchers for the newsletter of the orgnization mentioned above.

          Ya'll have a great week. I'll be boarding an AeroMexico flight Wednesday morning to wing my way South once again...

          3 Replies
          1. re: DiningDiva

            Hey Dining Diva.Every time I come back with a genuine tequila find, a month later it ends up at one of the big liquor chains. But Volcan de Mi Tierra anejo and La Alborada reposado are Mex only tequilas that you should grab if you come across them.Also Tres Tonos anejo.These are outstanding tequilas that have shone on every tasting I've ever done.

            If you can't find something unique, get a high end tequila at the Duty Free in D.F.In recent times I picked up great deals on Esperanto anejo and Herradura Selecion Suprema anejo, and yesterday I picked up Cuervo's Reserva de la Familia with a blend of select anejos.I really love Aha Toro anejo and Tapatio blanco, both of which are now available in well stocked liquor stores like Hi Times in Costa Mesa or the Wine and Liquor Depot in Northridge.If these are hard to come by in your hood, they would be worth having.That's my 2 pesos, a price break on a Duty Free trophy, or a rare and tasty gem.Volcan de Mi Tierra is your ace though.Just talking about it made me have to take a sip right now.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Hi DD!

              Re: mole de Xico
              I will dig up my Xico notes and will put together a post on this town in the Altotonga to Zongolica thread in a few days. You WILL love this place: it's a very important destination that has been sadly neglected/forgotten. With any luck, they would have mole de Xico (served as it should be, with tamales wrapped in xoco leaves-Oreopanax echinops-on the side ) as the daily special on the day you visit. Or even better, maybe you should call ahead of time and request this dish for your arrival. Maybe you could even go and watch the senora make the mole! But more later//

              The mole de Xico in Zarela is from the Izaguirre de Virues family. The version reproduced by Diana Kennedy in My Mexico is taken from the above-mentioned La Cocina Veracruzana. The two recipes are worth comparing and contrasting. But more on this subject later.

              Re: journalist wanting to explore the norte.
              Well, the first image that came to my mind is open-air roast kid (cabrito) like the one in Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Maybe she should try to get herself invited to such an outdoor event. (In 2666, it took place in Caborca I think (???) ) Roberto Bolaño was not a very chowey author, there's virtually no mention of any kind of food in Detectives Salvajes which is kinda unfortunate since there is otherwise such rich detail on everyday life in the DF

              Earlier mention of Bolaño in CH:

              Otherwise, CONACULTA has several volumes on the cuisines of the smaller tribes of Baja and Sonora. There's also a splendid ethnobotanical study on food and medical plants of the Sonoran desert.

              1. re: RST

                Unfortunately, there is no mention of food the Detectives Salvajes, but there is mention of prehispanic cuisine in La Historia Chichimeca by Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl which chronicles pre-Columbian life in Mexico. Some of the dishes mentioned resemble open-air roasted cabrito and mole de Xico although the almendras used in the modern day recipe arrived with the Spanish conquistadores.

          2. There's the famous cafe in the Zocolo where you order more coffee by clinking on your glass with your spoon and the food's OK there. I was very underwhelmed by the food in Veracruz and thought I would find the famous huachinango con salsa Veracruzana everywhere but it proved to be very elusive.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bronwen

              I know...the huachinango is overfished and, although elusive, one should definitely keep looking for it. I've heard one can find it in the esquina with the iron lamp just southeast of zocolo. I wouldn't bother going to that cafe anymore. Due to the popularity of the place now, the waiters have become quite annoyed by the perpetual clinking and give quite a stern glare when this occurs.

              1. re: bronwen

                I, too, have never been impressed by the food I've eaten in Veracruz - the port city (mostly fish) or inland (cattle, and some fish). I think there's a lot of confusion over huachinango - because more than one fish is used for that dish, from what I've witnessed. My understanding is that "huachinango" - Red Snapper - isn't present in the Gulf of Mexico but, rather, is found along the Pacific Coast. Maybe someone can enlighten me on that topic. The attraction the port city of Veracruz holds for me is its uniqueness in Mexico as compared with so many other destinations. Boca del Rio and Veracruz restaurants seem to get their fish from boats offloading in Alvarado these days, and I've personally found my best seafood meals at Restaurant La Viuda, on the Malecon in Alvarado . . . adjacent to the boats and the fish market.

                I have lots of photos of Veracruz - including the port city, Boca del Rio and Alvarado uploaded to online albums, which you can view when you click on the link that follows: