Dónde Comer y Tomar en la Ciudad de México

11 Sep
Chaibar

Chaibar

Solo viví en la Ciudad de México (otroramente conocida como el Distrito Federal) durante diez meses, pero en ese plazo corto, me gustaba explorar mi colonia, la Condesa, y la colonia aledaña, la Roma. Por esa razón esta lista tiene un sesgo por esas áreas. Abajo encontrarán algunos de los locales que extraño y que felizmente visitaría en el futuro.

Chaibar– Ubicado a unos metros del Parque México, Chaibar significa mucho para mi. En el principio, cuando no conocía a mucha gente en mi nueva ciudad, y mas adelante, tras un día laboral intenso y estresante, Chaibar servía como mi refugio. Los empleados siempre eran amables y abiertos, y crearon un ambiente cálido que atraía a la gente día y noche. El chai es cremoso y sabroso, hecho con ingredientes naturales y leche de soya, con tres opciones posibles- té negro, té de limón, o campechano, una mezcla de los dos. A mi siempre me gustaba el campechano. Chaibar es un buen lugar para tomar tu te y mirar el mundo pasar.

Libreria El Péndulo– Es una cadena de librerías que se denominan “cafebrerías”, con restaurantes en las premisas. La que está en la Condesa, en calle Nuevo León, donde me gustaba desayunar los fines de semana, cuenta con músicos en vivo los sábados por la mañana. Hay una cosa que siempre pedía para desayunar, los Huevos Macondo. Era un desayuno con sabor muy mexicano, con un huevo frito encima de una quesadilla llena de quesillo, huitlacoche y flor de calabaza, cubierto de salsa verde. Acompañado por un café o jugo, y sobretodo con un buen libro, es una buena forma de comenzar el fin de semana.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– Visité este restaurante en Roma Norte poco después de su inauguración, y de pronto entablé uan amistad con los dueños, quienes fueron muy sorprendidos cuando les dije que soy libanesa. Pero si mi cara no les convencía de mis orígenes, mi afinidad por su comida lo hizo. Pedir el plato libanés, un surtido de comidas distintas, es la mejor forma de probar todo en un solo lugar. Aunque las hojas de uva rellenas nunca han sido mi comida favorita, me encanta las que preparan aquí, llenas de arroz y carne y bañados en aceite de olivo. Eso, y el kipe crujiente (la cosa en forma óvalo en la foto), eran mis favoritas, aunque en realidad todo es rico.

Helado Obscuro– Vine una noche con una amiga, y cuanto más nieve comimos, mas borrachas nos pusimos. Aquí sirven nieve con licor, y con MUCHO licor. Unos ejemplos de los sabores que ofrecen son absenta y frambuesa o Kahlua chocolate. También vale la pena ir por la música y el ambiente 100% hipster.

Gourmart– Los dueños de este restaurante colombiano modesto en la Roma Norte siempre te saludan con una sonrisa. Tienen una carta sencilla, con solo dos opciones de comida de lunes a viernes. El café colombiano es una buena forma de comenzar el día, fuerte pero nada amargo, y por la tarde las mejores opciones son el  sancocho, un guisado que lleva pollo desmenuzado, elote, rajas de aguacate, una salsa no picosa, y arroz, y el sudado de albondigas, que son albondigas bañadas en una salsa de jitomate y cebolla- todo servido con una arepa al lado. Esta comida es muy buena para el alma cuando hace frío.

Rosetta

Rosetta

Rosetta– Tenía ganas de conocer este restaurante desde que leí noticias sobre ello antes de llegar a México, y por eso pensé que cenar en Rosetta sería una buena forma de festejar mi cumpleaños. Y cuando llegamos esa noche lluviosa, no me decepcionaron. El ambiente es íntimo, y no es de sorprender, ya que el restaurante ocupa una casa porfiriana en la Roma Norte. La gastronomía es italiana con un toque mexicano. Recuerdo un pan divino, crujiente por afuera y con una masa esponjosa por dentro, un primer plato de hinojo frito, y una pasta hecha con un ragú jugosa con sabor a ajo. Para resumir, lo recomiendo para cualquier ocasión especial.

Riviera del Sur– He ido a este restaurante/bar en la Roma Sur varias veces con varios amigos, y siempre me ha gustado por su buena comida yucateca. La sopa de lima es como una sopa de tortilla pero mas sencilla, los kibis son muy parecidos al kipe libanés, y los tacos de cochinita pibil son una rica forma de consumir el puerco (sobre todo si te gusta lo dulce). La Riviera es amplio y tiene un ambiente amigable, así que es un buen lugar para pasar el tiempo con amigos.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma

Biergarten– En la azotea de Mercado Roma, un mercado a la moda donde hay puestos que venden todo, de los sandwiches vietnamitas a las paletas, Biergarten es un bar de cerveza inspirado por los mismos que se encuentran en Alemania. Te da la oportunidad de disfrutar de una buena cerveza al aire libre. La carta de comida tiene buenas opciones, y si la cerveza no es lo tuyo, los ‘smashes’ son una buena opción de cocteles.

Los tacos callejeros cerca de la  Sumesa, Calle Oaxaca y Avenida Álvaro Obregon. Es difícil describir este lugar porque es un puesto callejero sencillo, y tengo que recomendarlo sin ningún enlace, ni foto, ni una buena descripción de su ubicación. Espero que siga allí y que no haya cambiado. Hacen tacos con una variedad de rellenos, con frijoles pintos y papas fritas crujientes encima. Simplemente es lo mejor. Imprescindible comerlo con una botella de Coca Cola.

También cabe mencionar: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

Where to Eat and Drink in Mexico City

11 Sep
Chaibar

Chaibar

I only lived in Mexico City for ten months, but in that short time, I enjoyed exploring my neighborhood, Condesa, and the neighboring Roma neighborhood. For that reason this list skews heavily towards those areas. Below are some of the places I now miss and would gladly visit on any future visits to the city.

Chaibar– Located just off of Parque México, Chaibar is very meaningful to me. During the times when I felt either lonely as a newly arrived expat who didn’t have many friends yet, or disillusioned after a long, stressful day at work, I always found Chaibar to be a refuge. The employees were always so warm and friendly, and they created a convivial atmosphere that attracted people day and night to this closet-sized space. The chai is creamy and flavorful, made will all-natural ingredients and soy milk, with three options available- black tea, lemongrass, or ‘campechano’, a mix of both. I always enjoyed the campechano. Chaibar is a good place to drink your tea and people watch.

Libreria El Péndulo– This is a small, local chain of bookstores that also have restaurants on the premises. The Condesa location, where I liked to eat breakfast on the weekends, had live music on Saturday mornings, which was a lovely accompaniment to the meal. There was one item I liked to order, called Huevos Macondo. It was a tasty Mexican breakfast, a fried egg on top of a tortilla filled with cheese, huitlacoche (like a very pungent mushroom) and squash, all covered in a mild green sauce. With a coffee or juice, and especially with a good book, it was a great way to start the day.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– I first visited this restaurant in Roma Norte shortly after it opened, and quickly became friends with the owners, who were quite surprised to learn that I’m Lebanese. But if my looks didn’t convince them of my origins, my fondness for their food did. I found that ordering the plato libanés, an assortment of different dishes, was the best way to get all of my favorite tastes in one place. Although stuffed grape leaves have never been a favorite of mine, I loved the ones here, moist and full of flavorful rice and meat. That, and the crisp kibbeh (the football-shaped item in the picture), were my favorites, though everything on the plate is delicious.

Helado Obscuro– I came with a friend one night, and the more ice cream we ate, the drunker we started to feel. Not only does this ice cream shop serve liquor-infused ice cream, but the ice cream is VERY liberally infused with the alcohol. Think flavors like absinthe raspberry and Kahlua chocolate. It’s also worth visiting this spot in Roma Sur for the very hisptery music and décor.

Gourmart– The owners of this modest Colombian restaurant in Roma Norte always greet you with a smile. They have a simple menu, with two specials served for lunch each weekday. The Colombian coffee is good first thing in the morning, strong but not bitter, and in the afternoon the best choices are the sancocho, a stew filled with chicken, corn, avocado slices, mild salsa, and rice, and the sudado de albondigas, meatballs in a tomato-onion sauce, all served with an arepa on the side (a corn-based wafer). Especially comforting on a cold day.

Rosetta

Rosetta

Rosetta– Intrigued by reviews of this restaurant that I had read before I arrived in Mexico, I thought that a dinner there would be the perfect way to celebrate my birthday. And once we showed up on that rainy night, I was not disappointed. The ambience was homey and intimate, which is not surprising given that the restaurant occupies a former 19th-century home in Roma Norte. The cuisine is mostly Italian with a strong Mexican streak. I recall having bread that was divine, with a crunchy crust and light and airy dough, an appetizer of crispy, fried hinojo (a leafy herb), and a pasta dish with a meaty ragu studded with garlic and all kinds of delicious spices. All in all, a wonderful restaurant for a special occasion.

Riviera del Sur– I’ve been to this restaurant/bar in Roma Sur several times with different friends, and I’ve always enjoyed the Yucatecan food. The sopa de lima is a citrusy, pared-down tortilla soup, the kibis, which surprisingly are a lot like Lebanese kibbeh, are a good accompaniment to a cold beer, and the tacos de cochinita pibil are an ideal pork-delivery system (and are especially good if you have a sweet palette, since the pork is cooked in a citrus marinade). La Riviera is spacious and friendly, a good place to get a drink and relax with friends.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma

Biergarten– On the top floor of Mercado Roma, a swanky market with food booths selling everything from banh mi to popsicles, Biergarten is a German-inspired beer hall that gives patrons the chance to drink a pint of beer outdoors while enjoying good music. The food options are good-I remember having poutine covered in gravy- and if ice cold beer on tap is not your thing, the smashes are a great cocktail option.

Street tacos near Sumesa grocery store, Calle Oaxaca and Avenida Álvaro Obregon. This one is hard to describe because it’s a street food stall, and I have to recommend it without a link, a photo, or a firm description of the location. I hope that this place is still there and still as good as usual. They make tacos with a variety of meat fillings that are topped with whole pinto beans and crispy French fries. It’s the best taco around.

Honorable mention: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

“The Girls” and the Mansons and Growing Up

7 Sep

Last month I read one of the best books I have read in a long time: “The Girls” by new author Emma Cline. My first exposure to the book was in the tasting room of Cline Cellars in Sonoma, when I thought it was odd that a winery would sell a novel along with cheese boards and wine bottle openers. I asked the friendly woman pouring for our group about it, and she proudly exclaimed that the book was on sale because it was written by the owner’s eldest daughter. I had seen at least two people reading it on my morning ferry into San Francisco. A coworker eagerly lent me her copy, and I finally read it.

If you were once a 14 year old girl, it’s not an easy read. It takes you back where you may not want to go. Cline recreates the ennui and uncertainty and insecurity that go along with being 14, lurching from 8th grade to freshman year of high school. The book details Evie, the protagonist, as she tries to make her way in the world: among other things, she tries in vain to look cool to the boy she likes, only to get teased; she feels terribly alone after her best friend dumps her and she has no one to spend her long summer days with. Cline expertly details what it is to be an adolescent girl in the suburbs. It felt particularly relatable to me because Evie is a 14 year old in Petaluma, the North Bay town only miles from where I grew up. She referred to streets and landscapes and hippie mindsets that I knew. Although the novel is filled with 1969-era period detail (every item of clothing described is straight out of a time capsule), the confusion of being 14 and lonely appears to be timeless. One line that stands out, indicative of Cline’s lyrical literary chops: All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you — the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.

“The Girls”, as every review will remind you, is loosely inspired by the young female adherents of Charles Manson (although it is much more than that). But yes, Evie spends the summer of 1969 falling in with a group of girls who pull her into the orbit of a charismatic cult figure. We see the filth of their rural outpost, the squalor that one girl’s baby grows up in, the casual cruelty with which the girls address each other and their abandonment of all sense of self to devote themselves to their leader and his delusional dreams of pop stardom. Cline shows how it could be appealing to a young girl eager for the kinship and attention provided by the cool girls. The sense of belonging, of common purpose, the perverse joy in subverting societal norms- they are all so important to teenagers. You begin to see how this, plus copious amounts of mind-altering drugs, could lead some girls down a truly frightening path.

After finishing the book, I perused reviews of the book online, and came across this article in Australian Elle.  It mentioned the You Must Remember This podcast, which I promptly downloaded and listened to,  12 episodes devoted to the Manson family (focusing on the Family’s Hollywood connections).  Karina Longworth delves not only into the nitty gritty of Charles Manson’s life and the trials for the Tate/LaBianca murders, but also how the time, 1969- and the place, freewheeling San Francisco and Hollywood- affected the movies that were produced at the time, and how the Manson murders had an effect on future films (Shampoo, Chinatown, Easy Rider, just to name a few). Longworth effectively makes the argument that the masterpieces of 1970’s cinema were inevitably influenced by the horror of the Manson murders. Listening to this podcast was the perfect bookend to reading this magnificent book. It is the reason why I spent August of 2016 in the canyons of 1969 Los Angeles.

I’ll be coming where dreams are made of

9 May
New York

New York

Just two weeks into my stay in Washington D.C., I went to New York for a few hours one day. Why? Because I could. Shortly after arriving, I found out that one can take the Bolt bus from D.C. to New York in 4 hours and for as low as $12-16 each way. I quickly made plans to see a friend who lives in Brooklyn, works at U.N. headquarters, and whom I hadn’t seen in 8 years. I was too bashful to ask her if I could spend the night at her house, knowing that the last thing she needed was to prepare lodging for a guest in addition to caring for her kids. I wanted a no-hassle trip. So I decided to make it a day trip.

The sun was out, the air was cool, and I walked the streets feeling carefree. The bus dropped us off in the Soho/West Village area, which I had always heard about and surely seen on the big screen. I had heard that there was a part of New York that didn’t feel hectic and crazy, with narrow, cobblestone streets and a less frenetic pace of life. I didn’t exactly feel like I was in the middle of Nebraska, but rather that I was walking streets that were bursting with all of the best of city life: conviviality, diversity, vibrancy. There seemed to be a buzz in the air, a crackling energy. Yes, in the evening the streets got crowded, but people were congenial, friendly. It wasn’t a scowling, unfriendly city; it was full of neighborly people of all walks of life. So I strolled the area for a few hours, stopping occasionally to get a slice of pizza, later a hot tea, browsing stores and churches, until the evening came. I had a wonderful time at a restaurant in Chinatown catching up with my friend and her kids, and then I caught the bus back to Washington. I was home before midnight.

I couldn’t help thinking, as the bus pushed through the darkness of Delaware and Maryland that night, if I had chosen the wrong East Coast city to live in. New York had grabbed a hold of me.

Not a Cord Cutter

7 Apr

I’ve definitely threatened Comcast with cancellation in the past: it was always a great way to get them to back down from a proposed fee increase- once, it even got me a month of free HBO. But for me, going completely cable-less was just that, a threat. My TV viewing habits have never been to methodically watch series after series. I like watching television, but as a means of relaxing. It is the ambient white noise that I like to have playing in the background as I do the dishes or lie in bed before I go to sleep.

Yes, I like to watch TV before I go to sleep. Is it a bad habit? I don’t think so. Maybe it means that falling asleep under the stars would be tougher for me. But I go to sleep easily, drifting off as the last sounds and images seep into my unconscious. Perhaps it’s a Law and Order rerun. Most likely it’s Conan, my once and future King of Late Night. There is an element of surrender in laying back at the end of a long day and allowing the lords of programming, whether their command posts are at TNT, PBS, or Bravo, to decide what’s on the tube for the night. When using a smart TV, as many cord cutters have transitioned, one chooses which series he or she will see. If we saw Season 1 of The Mindy Project last week, then this week we watch Season 2 and begin watching Season 1 of something else. I’m experimenting with a smart TV setup now, and it seems to me that our options are rather finite. What happens when, after a few bingeing sessions, all those new series have been viewed? That’s when I would yearn for a live TV feed where I could watch an NBA game, the latest breaking news from CNN, or any content that is new and current. Not something designed for bingeing.

As ESPN and other mainstays of cable flirt with offering stand-alone subscription options to viewers, I admit that my habits are increasingly old-fashioned. Cord cutting is not abating any time soon. Consumers crave the freedom to choose what they want to watch, and when, and how. The days of flipping from channel to channel to channel may be limited. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to watch gems like this in bed while I can.

 

 

Brave/Foolish

6 Apr

The past twelve months have been a whirlwind. Last year at this time I was living and working in Mexico City; by the end of April, I had decided that I would give my boss a full one month notice, and my tenure with the company would be over by the end of May. I then spent the month of June traveling in Mexico, as well as spending time in Mexico City in what had become my favorite spots, seeing friends. Just before I went home to San Francisco on July 2nd, a friend had offered me a job running his boutique ad agency. I happily accepted, relieved that my gamble at leaving my previous job without a parachute had resulted in a soft landing elsewhere. The plan was for me to spend two months back in the U.S., then return to begin my new job in Mexico in the fall.

Sure enough, while I was at home in California over the summer, I communicated with the company in Mexico, and we had some discussions regarding pay. I decided that the pay was too little for me to live off of, and so reluctantly declined the job offer. Thus it was that in mid August of 2015, my plans were once again up in the air. No longer with a job waiting for me back in Mexico, the prudent plan was to begin looking for work in the San Francisco Bay Area. And so I did, though with some sadness, as I realized that my dream of living abroad was really coming to an end. I told myself that ten months of living in Mexico City were sufficient, and that I was still enormously grateful for what ended up being an amazing year. But I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to that lovely life I had created for myself. The culture shock of going from walking tree and flower-lined streets, passing by roving street musicians and vendors, and spending time with interesting new friends to relying on my car to get around in suburbia, driving to Costco and the mall, was real and abrupt. So my transition to life back home was difficult.

I even flirted with the idea of moving back to Mexico in December and January, when I interviewed with another company there. But my gut instinct said it was not the right job for me, and I didn’t want to rush into another job if it didn’t feel right. So I applied for jobs in the Bay Area, hoping to break what turned into month upon month of unemployment. If I am not gainfully employed in two months, it will be a full year of not working, with the notable exception of November and December, when I temped at a friend’s company. It’s the only reason I still have money in the bank. So I apply and apply, tweak my resume, and hope. Hope to be productive again.

I’m also choosy in my next role because during my last months in my last job, I felt my confidence in my abilities erode. My confidence has taken jab after jab in the last year; I am eager to do something that I am good at, where I am fully using my talents and doing work that puts a smile on my face. I don’t want to return to the old Sunday evening dread.

So have I been brave in my choices, or have I been foolish? It’s the question I turn around in my head. What would I do over, what would I do different? How did I end up unemployed and confused in my mid-thirties? I believe the answer lies somewhere between foolish and brave, depending on how I am feeling at the moment. But I am soldiering on, which is what’s important. Never backward, only onward.

2015 in review

30 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.