It was nice to have the weekend together after Robbie’s first week of work – felt like weekends in Brooklyn, when we’d wake up late, wander around for a place to eat, take a long walk, maybe meet up with friends or make a big pot of pasta.
Friday night we met up with Robbie’s coworker who hosts a semi-weekly meetup for journalists at a brightly-lit cantina in Condesa. I had a little bit of a meltdown beforehand: equal parts missing Halloween weekend, feeling burnt out from trying to understand Spanish, and body trying to adjust to lots of tortillas and altitude. I didn’t have the headspace to pick a restaurant, so Robbie found somewhere right near the cantina. It wound up being hilariously bad despite a very appealing font (note to all: do not return to Bonito Popfood). My side of fries came inexplicably drizzled with balsamic reduction (a fancy take on West Palm’s vinegar-fry faux pas?).
At the cantina, over a few rounds of cheap Dos Equis and airplane-sized wine bottles, we schmoozed with a motley crew of mostly-older journalists (with the exception of one couple, a Mexican newspaper reporter and his American girlfriend, a writer for Bloomberg who had come to Mexico 12 years ago). It’s funny trying to make friends here – everyone is so warm and willing to help, but it feels like college, where compatibility is easily swapped for kindness.
The night before, we’d gone to a great mezcal bar in Condesa, La Clandestina, with some other journalists, one a bureau chief at the NY Times with whom we’d once shared a chance drive to Pittsburgh after a cancelled flight at La Guardia. Ten o’clock on a Thursday and a few rounds in (I was washing mine down with agua de Jamaica, which is sort of like a hibiscus tea), we realized none of us had eaten dinner – not unusual in Mexico City, where lunch is late and the main meal of the day. We wandered into an okay Italian place where lasagna and snarky conversation felt comfortingly familiar. But when we left, we wondered – will we do it again?
Saturday we strolled through Condesa and Roma Norte, seeing a crappy apartment and finding a delicious restaurant, El Beso Huasteco, for lunch. The food is based on the region of la Huasteca (not Aztec food, as we mistranslated). We shared bocoles (tiny masa cakes softer than sopes, maybe more like arepas – split in half and filled with a scrambled egg-chile mixture … topped with cotija-sprinkled black beans and lots of lime, they were one of the best things I’ve eaten so far) and a boring fruit salad (my attempt at an antidote to tortillas). I had guacamole and bean tacos wrapped in a sweet plantain pounded thin in place of a tortilla. Robbie had tacos in an enchilada-like sauce, and a zacahuil, a simple-tasting tamale of pork and chicken made better when coated with the taco sauce. Our flanerie continued through Roma Sur and some weird stretches, eventually leading to the Zocalo (the Times Square of Mexico City, maybe?) where we were hoping to see the Diego Rivera murals at the post office. Instead, we found ourselves swept up in throngs of ice cream-licking skeletons, people wearing elaborate Catrina makeup sans costumes. As we got to the square, the costumes got wilder and the crowd grew thicker, people on the outskirts watching from the safety of folding chairs. We couldn’t walk through it, so we tried walking around, and got a few blocks before Google told us what was going on. For the first time, Mexico City was putting on a Day of the Dead parade to mimic the opening scene of Sceptre (the newest James Bond). The government realized tourists would come to the city looking for such a parade, so they decided to give them one to rival Mardi Gras. A million people were expected. We found our way out, passing by face-painted five piece bands and a Music Row that almost swallowed Robbie up. We made like parade goers and stopped for paletas – mine studded with whole frozen raspberries and sweet white cheese, Robbie’s a liquor-tinged vanilla flaked with chocolate. Finally home, we called it with three episodes of the Sopranos and an awful attempt at rental kitchen dinner.
We remedied the dinner upset yesterday after an awesome trip to the Anthropology Museum and Mercado el 100, the Roma farmer’s market where all vendors come from within 100 miles. We had tacos there from the new favorite spot, El Parnita (shout out to Jynne via Caitlin for recommending), bought some fancy beans and organic produce that blessedly doesn’t have to be disinfected, a jar of crystallized honey from Chiapas, and some heirloom tomatoes. I sampled pickled dahlia tubers (the national flower of Mexico!), and a tiny green thin-skinned fruit bursting with citrusy, orange seeds akin to pomegranate, that I thought the vendor called “goruba” but I can’t find it anywhere by Googling. A pot of garlicky beans to whoever can tell me what that shit is.
I felt pretty sick afterwards. Robbie’s stomach was somehow basically fine after a run-in with a bad ham torta (below) and a pair of shrimp tacos topped with squares of melted cheese.
Doing fine today, though – I’m reversing the benefits of my yoga class by dunking a hot, sugar-sprinkled pan de muerto into a latte de cacahuate (there’s actual peanut butter in it! and honey and almond milk) at Eno (Enrique Olvera’s cafe), which I’ve dangerously just realized is a 15 minute walk from our apartment. Woof.
Three more friend dates in the next three days: wish us luck! In the meantime, I’ll be apartment-hunting and signing up for Spanish classes and making space to welcome in whatever it is my new Mexican thang might be.