Monday, May 30, 2016

Weekend in Burgundy, Part 1

First off, a weekend is nowhere near enough time to spend in Burgundy. Second, if the thought of driving through picturesque Bourgogne villages, tasting wine in chateaus, and eating delicious meals paired with said wines doesn't sound like your kind of holiday, we probably won't get along.

September of 2014, Forest and I left Lyon and made the easy drive towards Beaune, which would be our home-base while in the wine country. We stopped in the town of Puligny-Montrachet and had a decadent lunch at Le Montrachet, seated outside on their elegant terrace. Few things make me happier than enjoying the sun with a glass of Cremant, a tasting menu, a bottle of 2010 Bzikot Puligny- Montrachet, and a luscious cheese trolly!

We had a bit of time before we needed to check into our Airbnb in Beaune so we walked across the street for our first wine tasting at the Caveau de Puligny-Montrachet. This is a wine shop that also does tastes; once we got a chance to sit up at the counter and get some information from owner Julien Wallerand it was a very nice experience. We had 6 wines for 18Euro each, my favorites were the 2012 Puligny-Montrachet from both Domaine Bzikot and D. Jean Pascal & Fils (the latter was a 1er Cru)


We made our way to Beaune, driving past the tiny villages of Meursault and Volnay. I was blown away glimpsing these famous appellations that mark the bottles of some of the best wines in the world. To see how truly small they are is head shaking! We found our Airbnb, which was a little house just outside Beaune, made a quick run to the grocery store for provisions, and had aperos in the back yard that seemed to be expecting a much bigger party.
That night we had dinner at the charming Ma Cuisine. The restaurant is housed in a little wine cave and is quite well known in town. The owners were very helpful as we tried working through the 800+ bottle wine list. Some delicious charcuterie, garlicky Burgundy snails, a lovely 2010 Gran Cru Corton, and a nightcap of rare Spanish Chartreuse made for a fabulous first dinner!
Friday morning we decided to drive the short way into town as it was gray and drizzly. We started with a 3-fixe lunch at the Caves Madeleine and a 2011 Butterfield Monthélie Blanc, an appellation I'd never had before. This little restaurant had really great food, wine, and service!
We dashed through town in the rain to make our first tasting appointment at the grand daddy, Domaine Drouhin. Our vacation had coincided with the season's harvest, which we found out when we started calling and emailing for tasting appointments and were told by the smaller houses that they would all be in the vineyards!

At Drouhin we had a nice tour and tasting of six wines in the cellar. All the wines were great but the highlight for me was getting to taste the 2008 Meursault-Genevrieres Premier Cru Hospices de Beaune.
When we were done it was still raining so instead of heading out to the surrounding villages we stopped in at the Marché aux Vins right in town and signed up for a tasting. This was a self-guided tour of the cellars, with self-pouring tasting stops along the way. We had one white and one rosé, which were ok, and then a 2008 Chateau Marsannay Marsannay which was good, and a 2006 Comte de Moucheron Premier Cru Beaune which was quite nice. We finished in a space that use to be a church where they had a dispensing machine of Grand Crus which we got to choose two from. It was pretty funny that the entire tour and tasting was self done. I'd say this is a fun thing to do if you're palate is a bit busted from other tastings or you are with people who are not geeking out on the individual wine makers and houses as much as you are!

We headed home to chill out, have an apero, get cleaned up, and then out to dinner at 21 Boulevard. Our meal here was excellent! The restaurant is in an old farmhouse and we were seated in the cave area, low lit with curved ceilings. They offered a delicious 3-course menu; the highlight for me were ravioli with escargot and sweetbreads in a garlic cream broth. Swoon! We chose a nice Cote de Nuits Village from their massive list, followed by a nightcap of Marc de Bourgogne. 

So far Burgundy was working out quite well for me!

Part 2 here. Photos here.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sights on Mexico City Sites

When I was in Mexico City last year I got to see some really incredible sites. I barely scratched the surface of incredible sites however, I'll just have to fill in the blanks when I go back. And I will go back.

Besides the awesome walking Market Tour (which I highly recommend), experiencing a lot of delicious food and drink, and getting a chance to visit the Bacardi rum distillery and other very cool events with Tales on Tour, my brother and I set out to see some of the incredible art and history that this city (and country) is known for.

My first four nights were at the very central Hilton Reforma, where Tales on Tour was being held. Deciding to stay central I chose the uber cool Downtown Mexico Hotel for the last part of my stay. As I entered the historic building through massive wood and metal doors, I found myself in a beautiful and serene courtyard which contained various boutiques, bars, and the restaurant Azul. After I found my way to the very dim check in counter I was shown upstairs to my room. We took the antique lift to the second floor of what I learned was once the Palace of the Countess of Miravalle. This tiny boutique hotel has just 17 rooms, and all of them are very industrial-chic. Mine had incredibly high ceilings, a big open bathroom/shower, and a huge king size bed. The rooms are dim but they feel intimate instead of oppressive.
I dropped my bags and headed up to the rooftop pool for some sun and a beer. This will surprise no one who knows me.

The next day my brother and I started out by walking over to the massive Zocalo (Plaza de la Constitución), which is one of the world's largest squares, and into the cathedral which sits on the north side of the square. The cathedral is quite grand with two huge gold alters; The Alter of Forgiveness and The Alter of the Kings. There are also 16 chapels and a crypt. The church was built on the site of an Aztec temple and has been sinking since the day it was built, as all of CDMX was built on a lake bed.

From here we walked across the Zocala to the south side and through the covered passages of the Federal District Buildings. There were police lined up all over, dressed in riot gear but nothing seemingly going on. I asked if it was ok to take a photo and these guys gladly posed!

We continued over to the National Palace. You must have your ID/Passport to enter but there is no fee. Inside a central patio are Diego Rivera's History of Mexico murals. They are amazing! We spent a good amount of time admiring them and thought it was so interesting to see images of huitlacoche (a 'gourmet' corn fungus), agave, pulque, tortillas, etc. Of course there are also images of power struggles, slavery, war, politicians, etc. I loved getting to see these, and we were pretty much the only people there!

The Palacio de Bellas Artes is another place to see some amazing murals by Spanish artists. The building itself is stunning with its glass and iron dome.

The works of Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others are beautiful and larger than life. The art deco design of the building seem perfect for the mood. It's a good size collection with two floors housing the murals. When we were there one of the pieces was being cleaned and restored which was interesting to watch too.


Another day we took the subway out to the Anthropology Museum. I've been to a lot of museums but I have never been anywhere with such an amazing collection as this; highly recommend! The U-shape set of buildings are comprised of 11 salons, each focusing on a certain period of time in Mexico, starting with the Introduction to Anthropology from BC-50,000 to 6 million BC. So there's that!

I loved these replicas of temples with surrounding jungle!
We spent some time walking through the park that surrounds the museum as well, it is gorgeous and the perfect place to grab a torta and eat it on a park bench.

On our last night my brother and I caught the sunset at the Top of the Latin Americano Building. The most touristy of things you could do, but the views are amazing. The cocktails not so much, so we stuck with aged rum on the rocks and took in the 360-degree views of this incredibly huge city with an amazing past.
I can't wait to go back!

All Mexico City photos here.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mexico City; From Street Food to Fine Dining

I was in CDMX for a full week in April 2015 and I never had a bad meal (or drink), the place is seriously delicious! And I found the prices to be very inexpensive, whether eating finger-licking street food or dining at award-winning meccas. If you love food (and drink) get yourself down there.

The first night, after almost 15 hours of travel, it was all I could do to walk next door to our hotel for my first al pastor of the week at Taqueria El Caifan. This is street food in a casual eatery and it was good!



The next morning Forest and I had some fantastic food during our incredible walking tour of the markets which I wrote about here. That night we were doing our first of a few bar crawls and needed some food after our second round of cocktails at Felina Bar. We walked (it was safe, bar manager Jane even confirmed!) to El Califa for tacos. And chicharron de queso, a specialty of the house and damn excellent! Basically, it is a huge sheet of baked and melted cheese, rolled up into a cylinder which you break off and eat. Sounds simple, tastes amazing! I also revisited this place a few days later with my brother for more of the same!




Another highly touted taco place is El Faraon. We went there after a full day of Tales on Tour parties. Forest said I liked it, but all the rum, tequila, and mezcal had caught up with me and I really couldn't tell you. I'd take her word on it though.

Probably my favorite taco place was El Tizoncita where the specialty is al pastor. Al pastor looks like shwarma or gyros only the meat is pork and usually at the very top where the meat is skewered into the grill there is a large piece of pineapple and an onion. As the waiters sliced the meat from the large rotating cones, they swiped up with their knives freeing a slice of pineapple; meat and pineapple landing in the small delicate tortillas and then topped with diced onion, cilantro, fresh salsa, and lime juice. Sooooo good. And cheap! My brother and I sat at an outside table with my friend Tracy and ordered plate after plate, all washed down with a chelada; beer, lime juice, and salt.



El Cardenal has a few locations around town and is a locals favorite. We had one of them inside the Hilton so Forest, my brother, and I met for breakfast one morning. Fresh baked Mexican breads, amazing hot chocolate, huge plates of grilled steaks, scrambled eggs with housemade chili sauces... there's a reason why everyone loves this place!

Right off the massive Zocalo, my brother and I found the terraced restaurant Balcon del Zocalo one day for lunch. The tableside guacamole service could have been kitschy but with add-in choices like chapulines or chicharrones  (which we got both) it was just delicious. And the gorgeous views of the Zocalo, the cathedral, and the palace made it a perfect afternoon stop on more than one occasion.



Mexico City is more than just tacos, much much more. The city is full of award-winning chefs using traditional flavors and modern techniques to create amazing fine dining experiences.

Azul Restaurants have four locations around the city and one just happened to be in the same building as my hotel, Downtown Mexico. The open air courtyard of this former palace was a magical place to dine. And our dinner, modern takes on cochinita pibil and mole negro, was fantastic.





I also had an amazing meal at one of the most talked about restaurants in this huge city, Pujol. Pujol is currently #16 on the World's 50 Best restaurant list and offers some of the most unique food in town. Chef Enrique Olvera has a mole that when I was there was 637 days old. It's like nothing I have ever had, nor will I again as now it is over 800 days old. They serve it simply with tortillas and alongside a fresh mole. You can hear him talk about the ongoing mole dish in a recent interview he did on Splendid Table.




The service at Pujol was impeccable from start to finish. We were assisted in choosing wines from Mexico, including a rosé to start our meal with. Each dish was stunning, both visually and flavor-wise. And I got to try unusual (for me) ingredients like tongue, ants, and ant eggs (another thing they are very well known for).



So no matter if you are a linen napkin type of diner, or a torta in the park washed down with a Jamaica aqua fresca, Mexico City has it. And you'll still have change for a taco.


All photos here.