Archive for the ‘Pescado’ Category

Hot baked fish at Marco Polo

August 23, 2007

So my maniacal devotion to Rick Bayless continues, and I am going through his Oaxaca list of recommended restaurants like a pilgrim on the trail to a sainted relic. Monday was my day to eat fish, to give my body just a bit of a rest from the picadillo I ate on Sunday and the big pot of quinoa, chorizo, potato, and carrot I made on Saturday. So off I went to Marco Polo.

The restaurant has several locations, but it’s generally accepted that the best one is on Pino Suarez, the east side of El Llano or Parque Juarez, as it’s known on all the maps and to no one else. Given how far inland Oaxaca is, seafood is very popular, and the restaurant was crowded at four in the afternoon.

My first regret, as I looked at the menu, was that I was alone. So much I wanted to try, and yet how much could one woman eat? Shark (cazon) quesadillas, shark tostadas, shark all kinds of things, not to mention a whole section for cebiches and pulpos. I took a deep breath, told myself I could come back, and calmly ordered one dish: a filete de pescado al horno, or a filet of red snapper baked in their outdoor, wood-burning oven.

Honestly, when it finally arrived and I had already eaten half the bread basket, it didn’t look like much. But then I took my first bite and smiled. The fish had real flavor, its own flavor and more. I could taste the fire in which it had been cooked, the slight bite with the ground chiles sprinkled on it, and when I smeared a bit of chipotle mayonnaise on it, the fish just took off into outer space. It wasn’t at all undercooked, and of course, it wasn’t overcooked, just the perfect texture to give you something to chew, even as it melted away.

The little mound of rice it came with was very good, too, and I was sorry there was so little of it. Instead of tortillas, there was a dry bolillo, or torpedo-shaped hard roll, that did nothing to change my mind about Mexican bread, and then some flat tostadas, crispy and perfect for dipping into the darkly spicy salsa.

Sadly, because I had scraped every last bit of fish off its foil, I was too full to try the platanos baked in their oven, drizzled with a little crema. I am going to strong-arm my friends Mimi and Alex, who arrive this Saturday, into going with me again.


¡Oh, la playa!

July 24, 2007

I have almost a month’s worth of posts to catch up on, including all the food I ate in Mexico City and the mole negro cooking class that literally brought tears to my eyes, but I have to gloat a bit about where I am, here and now.

Erin, Elena, and I are in Puerto Escondido. It’s a surfer’s paradise, which means there are many bare-chested men walking around. Sadly, surfers are not our type, but there are many other natural wonders to observe and enjoy, including, of course, very fresh mariscos or seafood and other culinary delights. And even if the food wasn’t that great, even I could be happy just swinging in a hammock on the roof terrace of our hotel“, drinking Dos Equis and reading Rebecca West’s amazing “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.” But on this first day of our stay here, the food has been happily surprising.

Life here feels even sweeter because we survived a 9-hour overnight bus ride from Oaxaca City to get here. Erin had to knock herself out with sleeping pills, and Elena got some serious cricks in her neck, but as soon as saw the beach, the memory of the bus ride just melted away.

While you sit in your lounge chair under a straw palapa, you can get almost anything you want from the peddlers walking up and down the sand. You can buy a blessing or a wish from a giant clay pig (at least, I think that’s what he said), you can get your name engraved on a grain of rice (isn’t it weird what tourist-things travel all over the world?), and you can eat a delicious ceviche-like shrimp cocktail with a freshly tart, picante flavor, served in plastic dixie cup with fresh wedges of lime.

Or you can get nieve de coco, or coconut ice cream, from a sweet man who is so proud of his product that even after we had asked for two cones, he insisted we taste it first. This nieve, with a sorbet-like texture, would not have been out of place at the foodiest of foodie NY restaurants, with its rich, pure, and salty-sweet flavor. I have another great photo of Erin with her ice cream cone, but it’s a tad too bodacious for this blog.

And at least so far, even your run-of-the-mill, random lunch place knows how to cook a fish with respect. At Vitamina, on the Adoquin, the pedestrian street lined with your usual flip-flops, crafts, and caftans, I had a lovely whole huachinango, or red snapper, that tasted as rich and fatty as bluefish or mackerel. It had been prepared “al Diablo,” in a creamy, just slightly spicy sauce. With some hot tortillas and a neverending pitcher of watermelon agua, how could I be anything but muy satisfecha? How could I be anything but satisfecha on a beach in Mexico?