In January 2004, the Two Captains and their best buddies Dennis and Lisa of Lady Galadriel made an inland trip together to Mexico’s Colonial Loop, largely inspired by the May 2003 Special Collector’s Edition of Bon Appetit magazine called “The Soul of Mexico.” This issue is an absolute must for anyone who loves to eat Mexican and or who has any thoughts, plans or dreams of traveling in this country. If you don’t subscribe, or if, like me, you failed to pick up a copy on the stands last May, the issue may be available as a back order by calling 1-800-765-9419 or by writing to Bon Appetit, PO Box 37614, Boone, IA 50037.
Among the fifteen or so mouthwatering articles in the issue (including one on Oaxaca with a full page photo of Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo (see Galley #18)), was one entitled “Traveling with Taste: The Colonial Trail”. The area, in the highlands north of Mexico City, was riddled with mines extracting silver, gold and other precious metals, making it the hearth of Mexico’s colonial development from the late 1500s to the early 1800s. The “trail” refers to a popular tourist circuit through the four historically richest cities of that heartland – Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas -- which is also where Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende ignited the movement for Mexican independence of Spain in 1810
Ironically, despite Lisa’s best efforts, we never did actually eat any of the restaurants featured in the magazine article – with the exception of the carnitas stand in Guanajuato’s main mercado! Timing, weather, appetites and wallets just never seemed to match up. However, armed with the Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, and AAA guidebooks, we put together our own culinary trail! Although we had good food most everywhere we went, the most memorable meals were breakfast at a hole in the wall called La Buena Vida in San Miguel de Allende and dinner at Los Dorados de Villa in Zacatecas (Address: Plazuela de Garcia numero 1314.)
At the La Buena Vida, a breakfast café snuggled into a tiny plaza right near the American consulate, we had our best chilaquiles of the trip and charming service. Chilaquiles are a very common comfort food in Mexico, and in pursuit of the best chilaquiles in Mexico, Lisa checked them out just about every morning.
In Zacatecas, we took a taxi through the chilly drizzle to Los Dorados de Villa (Address: Plazuela de Garcia # 1314) at which we had a meal wherein every aspect we care about in a restaurant – atmosphere, service, price and food – was outstanding. For starters we had assorted sopes – small thick corn tortilla cups topped like a tart with different filling – and two soups, Azteca and Tlapeño, while for our main course we had three different types of enchiladas. Mine – Enchiladas Zacatecanas – were made with shredded pork loin in a chile poblana cream sauce dressed with queso fresco and cream! Wow! I am kicking myself that I didn’t beg for the recipes! Although I wouldn’t recommend to anyone doing Zacatecas in January like we did (temps ranged from the low thirties to mid fifties and none of the buildings are equipped for it!), I would nearly recommend going for the meal we had there alone! Did I mention it was WARM at Los Dorados de Villa?
(Chilaquiles appear on the Mexican breakfast table in many guises: the sauce can be red, green, or mole; they can contain chicken or meat or neither, and they usually have cheese mixed in, although we have seen them without. Since Chilaquiles were essentially a way for home cooks to use up leftover tortillas, the variation is not surprising. Here’s a recipe that comes closest to the way I like them.)
Makes about 4 servings
Serves hot onto plates and garnish with cilantro and a dollop of crema or sour cream.
Enchiladas with Pork and Green Sauce (3-4 Servings)
Here’ s a friend’s recipe that looks reminiscent of the Enchiladas Zacatecanas that I had at Los Dorados de Villa. I’m going to try substituting canned Poblano chiles (Americans can use canned Anaheim chiles) for the tomatillos and add some cream, and I think it will be close.