Stanley and I had the great pleasure of dining at the recently opened Da Toscano on Minetta Lane.
The most recent occupant of this space was Perla, and after a couple of years of remaining empty, it has been taken over by the former chef of Perla, Michael Toscano.
What he has accomplished here is remarkable. Even though the gas has not yet been turned on, the kitchen is functioning with electric hot plates and turning out wonderful food.
The menu is imaginative and varied. Main courses are huge and can easily be shared. We started with the minestra with pig snout and tripe and a special, crudo of razor clams. Initially, they mistakenly brought a plate of trout crudo, so I got to try both that and the clams, which were extremely delicious.
For our main courses, we had the pork chop wrapped in crisp pork belly and the veal head parmigiana. These were phenomenal, and we ended up taking home half of each, which made for a fabulous lunch the next day.
We shared the cheese cake for dessert. There is a small but nice selection of beers. We liked the “Stranger than Fiction” porter.
I can’t wait to come back and try some of the pastas.
The West Taghkanic Diner, on Route 82 just off the Taconic Parkway, at the Hudson/Ancram exit, had closed after being in business since 1953. We’ve been going there for occasional lunches for almost thirty years. While the food was not exceptional, it was a bit better than the average diner, and prices were quite low. I particularly liked the corned beef Reuben, and burgers were well-made. The building was thoroughly unaltered, giving it an old-fashioned charm.
The diner reopened last year under new ownership, after a thorough cleaning but with all the original features intact. Chef/owner Kris Schram, a Columbia County native and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, returned to his home region after working in major restaurants in the Napa Valley and Copenhagen. He focuses on locally produced ingredients and has created a limited menu of modern takes on classic diner specialties.
Though more expensive than it had been in its previous incarnation, it is still reasonable considering the quality of food, and it has become more popular than ever. Initially serving only breakfast and lunch, we had lunch there several times, and were excited when dinner was added recently.
We started with spicy chicken wings and a beet salad, moved on to Hudson Valley trout and roast pork shoulder. The food was not only delicious but also creative. For dessert, we had an excellent chocolate pudding. There is a nice wine and beer selection, along with cocktails. We drank a Snowy Night stout with dinner.
Lunch is also great, and they still serve a Reuben, though now it is made with pastrami.
Having returned to Mexico City from San Miguel , later in the evening we walked over to El Califa taqueria.
We had pork al pastor tacos, queso fundido with poblano peppers, and a tres leches cake for dessert. They have a great selection of craft beers, and Stanley and I had a Minerva Stout. It was a simple but excellent dinner.
Thanksgiving in the US, but a regular workday in Mexico. We started the day with a trip to the Frida Kahlo museum, in Coyoacan.
The neighborhood is charming and interesting. I wish I could say as much for the museum, which we waited an hour and a half to get into. If you do go, buy your tickets online a few days in advance to avoid the long lines. If you’ve never seen the works of Rivera and Kahlo, it may be satisfying, but having been to the Olmedo museum and seen the best, we found this disappointing.
I only photographed the building and courtyard, as the rooms were too crowded with people and the artwork not exciting.
After the museum we walked about ten blocks to the Jardin Centenario, which is surrounded by restaurants.
For lunch, we chose Corazon de Maguey, which had gotten rave reviews on Tripadvisor, and it made up for the museum.
Corazon de Maguey:
The restaurant has outdoor seating facing the gardens, but that requires a reservation, so we sat inside. I had a wonderful fish done in Mazatlan style, split open, coated with spices and grilled. It came with a quesadilla and guacamole topped with chopped tomatoes. Stanley had cochinito de pibil, a dish from the Yucatan, very similar to the carnitas that I make, but with a slightly different flavor, from bitter orange and achiote. The cocktails here are all made with mezcal. I don’t recall the ingredients in the ones we had, but they were creative and delicious. For dessert we shared a tamal de chocolate, a chocolate cake with mezcal cream that was quite good.
In the evening, we went to the restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel, which serves a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. There were seven of us, and though the food was mediocre, the company made up for it, and the atmosphere is pretty.
We had an early lunch at Quintonil, which we had been to in 2013, and it has evolved into one of the top restaurants in Mexico City.
I had the cured trout, sea bass barbacoa style, and mamey (a tropical fruit) panna cotta. I tasted Stanley’s avocado tartare and braised oxtail. Everything was artfully plated and intensely flavored. There was also an amuse-bouche and a palate cleanser of cactus sorbet.
Reservations must be made well in advance.
For dinner we went to Dulce Patria, another high-end reataurant with creative Mexican cuisine.
I began with a risotto with huitlacoche, then seared tuna and for dessert, a chocolate and coffee mousse. A nice plate of assorted mignardises completed the meal. It is really impossible to put into words the wonderful flavors and artful presentation. This was one of the best meals of this trip.
We went to the Tamayo Museum in Chapultepec Park in the late morning.
Afterward, we had a simple lunch at Eno, which is under the same ownership as Pujol. The food is decent but there is really no similarity.
Saturday night we had dinner at Cabanna, which specializes in seafood in the style of Sinaloa, on the West coast.
The portions are generous, prices low, and flavors forthright and delicious. I had a spicy marinated shrimp dish, grilled corvina barbacoa style, a cocktail of mezcal with mandarin orange juice, prosecco and mint leaves. For dessert we shared a molten dulce de leche cake with ice cream.
We had lunch at El Pialadero de Guadalajara, a cheap and popular spot, where we sat outside. Some of the dishes were quite good. The best were the torta ahogada de carnitas and the lonches de pierna.
We strolled home through Chapultepec Park, stopping into the Modern Art museum, where there were three special exhibits.
After the museum, continuing our stroll, we came upon a performance of Los Voladores de Papantla. This consists of five men climbing a pole with ropes, one controlling the ropes as they are unfurled so that the other four spin until they reach the ground.
Most restaurants close early on Sunday, but taquerias are open for dinner, so we went back to El Califa (see above).
After a wonderful week in Mexico, we arose early and headed to the airport for a 9 AM flight home.
Arriving in San Miguel mid-afternoon, we found our hotel, the Casa San Miguel, and got settled in before strolling through the historic district to El Pegaso for a late lunch. The hotel is beautiful, hidden behind a wall with a tiny doorway into a small lobby that opens into a gorgeous planted courtyard. The rooms are on three floors (no elevators) with terraces outside. Cheap and charming, we had a spacious room with a small bathroom, for about $100 a night.
We had a late lunch at El Pegaso, which was nearby and had gotten great reviews on Tripadvisor.
We were seated on the rooftop terrace, which was pleasant.
We all began with gazpacho, which was done properly and made a nice light starter. I had a seafood salad and we all shared a flan for dessert.
Then we stopped into the cathedral, before heading back to the hotel for a short nap.
Dinner was a couple of blocks away at Aperi.
Wow! This is a magnificent restaurant. The decor, food and service are beyond reproach. Stanley and I both started with a cocktail, the Yellow Bird, a mixture of rum, banana, strawberry, pineapple, and Galliano. It was delicious. The wine we ordered was a Cabernet from Chihuahua, and it was perfect.
I started with frog’s legs, which were probably the best version I have ever had, with mushrooms, cheese, a tomato sauce, etc. I then had rack of lamb, done perfectly medium rare. For dessert we shared a banana sponge cake topped with chocolate.
We had a wonderful day. Danny has an old friend, Jose, who lives in San Miguel with his wife Monica, and we spent the entire day and evening with them. They are very lovely and interesting people. They’ve both worked in restaurants and Jose was a sommelier, so we had a lot of conversation about food and wine.
We began with breakfast at Casa Blanca (Stanley and I didn’t eat, but the food looked delicious).
Then we then went to La Aurora, a former textile factory that now houses many art galleries, artists’ studios, antique shops, and furniture and decorative arts stores, along with several restaurants.
We had a fine lunch at one of them, Food Factory. I had a tasty plate of trout with mashed potatoes, tomato stuffed with cheese, broccoli and zucchini. This dish was only 230 pesos, which is about $12.
Dinner was at Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, which certainly lived up to its name.
Small plates, but not really small, two dishes per person and a shared dessert is about all we could handle. The food is absolutely fabulous, creative Mexican. The chef is Mexican, but has worked in several European countries, so there is an international influence. The mushroom risotto was a standout, and the roast chicken with peanut sauce, fish tacos and roast pork tostada were truly wonderful. An unusual chocolate mousse is hard to describe but delicious. We had some great cocktails and a good bottle of wine, a blend of cabernet, tempranillo and barbera.
We checked out of the hotel in the morning and drove to Queretaro. Patricia has family there, so she and Danny visited with them, while Stanley and I got together with our friend Joan’s cousin Barry, who she had connected us with and has a lovely house in the historic center.
Barry is a real estate broker. If you are interested in buying or renting, short or long term, check out his company, Queretaro Realty:
Barry graciously gave us a tour of the town, and we had an enjoyable lunch at a Xoaxacan restaurant, Tikua Sur-Este, which was excellent.
We liked the jalapeno Margaritas, and I had a dish of several sausages from Xoahaca, chopped and mixed with melted cheese. It was served with tortillas, but after having one rolled in a tortilla, I just ate it by itself. It was terrific.
After lunch, Danny and Paty picked us up and we drove back to Mexico City (next post in progress).
After an uneventful flight on United, we arrived late and got a taxi to Polanco, where we are staying with Danny and Patricia. Danny is the son of our late friend Vy, whose Thanksgiving dinners we attended in 2013 and 2015. This time, we are making a longer visit, to include two days in San Miguel de Allende, Monday to Wednesday.
We had thought that Danny’s sister Laurie would be making a Thanksgiving dinner, but due to work being done on her apartment, she has been staying with a friend and is now going to Playa del Carmen to stay with her daughter Leslie. Consequently, Danny has reserved at the Four Seasons for Thanksgiving dinner and invited a few other people.
After a light breakfast, Paty accompanied us to a local wine store, where we were able to find a good bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry. We also bought some port and Grand Marnier. We all then took off to the Museo Soumaya, which was built by the billionaire Carlos Slim, and named in honor of his wife, to house his massive collection of art works.
The building was designed by his (now ex-) son-in-law, and certainly makes a statement. Whether it is a positive or negative one is a matter of opinion.
The collection is a hodgepodge of European, Asian, Mexican and Latin-American works, including sculpture, painting, and decorative arts, displayed rather haphazardly.
Apparently it was not vetted by a professional curator. Nonetheless, there were some very impressive works along with a lot of questionable ones. Admission is free.
Our next stop was lunch at Villa Maria, which we had liked on both of our previous visits.
Again, the food was excellent, the service and atmosphere lovely. We shared a number of dishes including roasted bone marrow, two kinds of seared tuna tacos, guacamole, shrimp and octopus in garlic sauce, tongue in green sauce and a wonderful tres leches cake. The massive Margaritas were very tasty, but as in the past, contained relatively little alcohol (not a problem as we would have been unable to move afterward if they’d been more potent).
Before returning to their apartment for a nap, Paty drove us downtown, where we took a look at the murals in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (an opera house with an archtectural museum) and then, after a walk through the park known as Alameda Central, to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera.
This one-room museum was built to house a mural, salvaged from a hotel that was destroyed by fire.
After a short nap, we went to dinner at Hacienda de los Morales, on the western edge of Polanco. This was originally a private house, and its land encompassed what is now all of Polanco.
Hacienda de los Morales:
It’s a formal place, with a small orchestra playing during dinner. The menu is extensive, and includes both Mexican and other cuisines. We started with a lobster taco, my appetizer was a sea bass ceviche, main course was a whole pompano baked in a salt crust. It was absolutely delicious. I love this preparation because the salt seals in the moisture so the fish is tender and does not lose any flavor in cooking. For dessert we shared a souffle, a mixture of chocolate and vanilla with sauces to match. In all, it was a lovely experience.
We drove off in the late morning to the southern part of the city, to the Dolores Olmedo museum. We had been there in 2015, but much of the collection had been lent at the time to the Orangerie in Paris, in exchange for works from that museum. Now the full collection is back.
The museum was once Olmedo’s home and is absolutely beautiful, but there is a darker side to the story of how she acquired the collection, through her friendships and affairs with corrupt government officials and other shady characters.
Before lunch, we stopped at the home and studio of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Lunch was across the street at the San Angel Inn, a former Carmelite monastery, where we had been with Vy and Laurie on our 2013 visit.
San Angel Inn:
They make a great Margarita, so Stanley and I each had one. I had an appetizer of crepes filled with huitlacoche, topped with melted cheese and a light tomato sauce, then calf brains in green tomato sauce for my main course. Both were scrumptious. For dessert, Stanley and I shared chocolate layer cake, also very good.
Next we had planned to visit the Frida Kahlo house museum but there was a long line so we skipped it, and will try to go later in the week when we return from San Miguel.
After napping and attending to some work, we went out for a light dinner at Los Panchos.
This is a simple, brightly lit place with very tasty food. We had tacos of carnitas mixed with chicharrones, and some queso fundido. Great Margaritas (I had tangerine).
Monday morning we leave for San Miguel. Watch for Part 2.
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