Monday, June 21, 2010

Muy Sabroso, estoy lleno.

It took me a while to wrap my tongue around the name of this little town that has been swallowed by Guadalajara, Mexico. Tlaquepaque. (Tlah-kep-pah-keh). The taxi driver asked why I wanted to stay somewhere so quiet and I stumbled through the little spanish that I know to explain that I was actually looking forward to it. He asked "Why not go to the Downtown {Guadalajara} and dance all night?" It's a curious question, indeed, since the main city (the second largest in all of Mexico) is famous for it's mariachi musicians, hat dances and nightlife.

I was attracted to Tlaquepaque because it's an historic artisian community, with good food and a smaller neighborhood feel. After meeting the husband and wife who own La Casa del Retono I felt immediately comfortable. She gave me a list of restaurants and dishes to try and a key to my quiet little room in their historic building, once home to a famous craftsman. It's modest, and slow- presently I'm their only guest all week- and I won't argue with the guide books' description of the garden being 'uninspired'. It's charming, though, and the stone and brick construction in close quarters with trees, potted plants and a water fountain is pleasant. The owners have a young child that keeps their hands full. And an old, blind dog named Benji that sleeps wherever he pleases, most often in the middle of the walkways.

I was intrigued by her recomendation for a dish called 'Chiles en Nogada' at a Restaurante El Patio, a few blocks away. With it's origins in the neighboring state of Puebla, Chiles en Nogada consists of poblano peppers stuffed with 'picadillo' (a mixture of ground meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) and covered with a walnut-based cream sauce. Usually topped with pomegranate seeds, it envokes the colors of the Mexican flag and is considered a representation of their independance. Today, the kitchen must have been out of pomegranate, but it was no matter.

The texture of the ground meat stewed with fruit and spices and the roasted poblano chile was very nice. At first I was questioning the slightly sweet flavor of the sauce, but I enjoyed how it paired with the the occasional hint of spice. I couldn't tell where exactly that spice was coming from, but it was filling and delicious.

I lucked out with a patient waiter (though I wish he would have silenced the busboys' kissing noises). He showed me how to squeeze lime juice and sprinkle salt & chile powder over the sliced jicima and cucumber that he brought out as an appetizer. He also brought me a sweet 'Mexican coffee' with cinnamon, sugar (a bit too much for my black coffee loving palate), a twist of orange and a dash of rum. I was happy.

I was asked three times if someone was joining me, a frusturation I haven't endured since traveling in Spain, but felt as though it was indeed a table for two: a bee took to my cucumber/lime appetizer and spent most of the meal resting on the side of the plate. A few times a bird rushed past my head, and it occured to me that the restaruant only had a roof and walls on two sides. The weather is so temperate here they don't need to enclose the space.

Eslye told me that I can get good tacos and fried bananas in the main square during dinner time. I saw the vendors setting up their carts and the smells were exciting, but I don't know that I have any more room in me after such a filling lunch so late in the afternoon.

I only briefly explored some of the many stores that sell traditional art. It's slightly confusing that they use the same currency symbol $ as in the US, but it's actually in pesos. Logically it's very easy to do the math (the exchange rate is about 11 pesos to the dollar), but I still feel conservative when looking at something priced at $80 regardless of my logic. I'm sure I'll get over that by tomorrow. I saw many colorful, simple still lives in brightly painted frames, day of the dead figures with glittery gowns and skeletal grins, bicycles made of wire with pesos for wheels and a lot of beaded jewelry. I also saw several stalls selling Mexican wrestling masks, which look hillarious hanging from hooks en masse.

The travel time here was shorter than I expected, and it's only two time zones away from home.
I'm looking forward to gaining my footing after a full nights sleep. Tomorrow: downtown Guadalajara, with it's catedral, museums and food.


duiceburger said...

hey, sounds like a great place to stay. quite is better then crazy. sounds like your already finding all the good food in town.

Vanessa said...

Another premonition: "looking forward to gaining my footing". Gah!

Claire said...

I am happy to hear you are enjoying the quiet! I can't wait to hear more!