It has been a long time since I've been this excited about discovering a new city. For me, a vacation has always been about relaxing on a beach or long walks in the countryside. To truly relax, I've always believed I need the opposite of the crazy busy life that I lead in a huge metropolis but when my friend Nick offered me an all expenses paid trip to Mexico City for a few days, I was more than happy to bend my rules. And of course now I can't wait to go back.
I had passed through Mexico City very briefly in 1991 on my way backpacking around Central America. The vibrant, cosmopolitan city I visited a few weeks ago is unrecognizable from the city I caught a glimpse of all those years ago.
The futuristic building of the Museo Soumaya (pictured above) was one of the few museums that we did not enter as we were assured by everyone that it was far better from the outside than in. It was opposite another brand new museum designed by David Chipperfield, Museo Jumex, where Nick was giving a lecture on Cy Twombly for their wonderful exhibit. It was thanks to the remarkable team at the Jumex that we managed to get a tour of Luis Barragan's home (pictured below). The home of Mexico's most celebrated Architect was high on my list of places to visit thanks to Ben's blog on Mexico City. Walking through his home and being shown his genius use of light and color as well as an insight into his life, was my favorite part of the trip. Top of my list when I go back is to visit the stables he designed on the outskirts of the city. His home, in which his housekeeper still lives, is in a neighborhood filled with galleries. One in particular, the Kurimanzutto was so spectacular that I had to have Nick explain the difference between a gallery and a museum!
For those who haven't visited DF (as the cool kids call it), the best way I can think to describe it is a cross between the best of Miami and Bangkok. The Art Deco houses with their central courtyards on leafy avenues fill the glamorous neighborhood of Condesa. We were lucky enough to be staying in the uber hip Hotel Condesa DF with its throngs of beautiful people lounging on beds on the rooftop bar with views of the mountains beyond.
A few blocks away, the mass traffic jams and street vendors reminded me of all that I love about Asia. The wares they were selling were different but equally as mouthwatering.
We were there for just four days and I left wishing I had just a couple more days to tick a few things off the lists I'd compiled from friends who have long been aware of DFs multitude of charms. We visited about four museums or galleries a day and punctuated each with yet another meal. We learnt quickly that no one has lunch before 2.30pm and since there's no way I could wait that long to eat after breakfast, we were averaging four meals a day. Nick kindly indulged my search for the perfect taco and the perfect tostada. I found both at the overflowing Contramar. Their tuna tostada (for which it is famous) was utter perfection. Crispy fried tortilla topped with fried leeks, super fresh tuna, avocada and a touch of crema. Their fish taco was equally simple and equally delicious and the muse for my fish taco recipe below.
The food scene there is booming and I'm kicking myself that I didn't book ahead for some restaurants which I'm now dying to go back and savor - the list keeps growing. If any of you are planning a trip, let me know and I'll send over my favorites so far. Since returning, I've been even more taco obsessed than I was before so I thought I'd include a fish taco recipe with this mini travelogue.
Baja Style Fish Tacos
1/2lb fresh white fish (cod, tilapia or another firm variety)
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
Approximately 1/2 cup of Mexican beer
4 small corn tortillas
2 Radishes (thinly sliced)
1 avocado (sliced)
1 lime (quartered for serving)
Chipotle Lime Crema
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon sauce from can of chipotle in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1. Cut the fish into small strips (about 1"x4") and pat dry. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix ingredients of Chipotle Lime Crema and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and slowly mix in the beer until you get a consistency a little thinner than pancake batter.
3. In a frying pan, heat enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan.
4. When it begins to spit, dip each fish slice in the batter with tongs, allowing excess to drip off before gently placing in the pan. (I strongly recommend using a splatter guard and an apron!)
5. Turn the fish when well browned -approximately 2 minutes per side.
6. When fried, leave on a plate lined with paper towel. Season fish with salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
7. Set your stove top burners to medium heat and brown the tortillas directly above the flames (about 1 minute per side). Remove with tongs and set aside.
8. Compose the tacos by placing 2 strips of fish on each tortilla and covering with a few slices of radish, avocado, cilantro leaves and a drizzle of chipotle lime crema.