I tagged along on Robbie’s business trip to the city of Puebla right before Thanksgiving. We took a “first class” bus there for the equivalent of $10 and settled in for four days. Because he was there for a conference, I’d be on my own during the day (and an evening or two). I was excited about the opportunity to explore a new place and check out some of the regional food like cemitas (big overstuffed sandwiches with sesame bread), mole poblano (the classic mole made with chilies and chocolate) and mole de pipian (a pumpkinseed sauce). The image above is from a mole tasting we did at El Mural de los Poblanos, a Slow Food certified restaurant where we were treated to an amuse bouche of clear, gelatinous cubes that we later found out were cow hoof cartilage. Oops, I ate it.
The center of the city is beautiful – colorful, baroque buildings and cobblestone streets that had me thinking of New Orleans. Sweet shops abound, selling overly sugared candies and bottles of rompope (similar to eggnog).
Photo tour below!
I did a lot of wandering the first day, then on day two, toured Uriarte, one of only 9 certified traditional Talavera workshops. Talavera is a type of pottery in Puebla that’s characterized by a very thick glaze, use of only a few specified colors, and patterns that are influenced by Italian, Spanish and indigenous techniques. The ornate tiles decorating buildings around the city are made in the Talavera style.
Quartz is used to create reddish glaze, cobalt for blue, and the glass of wine bottles for green. Each part of the process (crafting in a mold or on the wheel, firing, sanding, initial glazing, stenciling, and final design work) is done by a different team of craftspeople. Although the style is very traditional, Uriarte does a good amount of work on commission (I found out they’re working on very simple, undecorated platters and plates for Pujol), and collaborations with local artists. My tour guide was an art student from Dallas who came to Puebla to learn Talavera, and now creates incredibly intricate work that resembles an indigenous storytelling style of design.
On my last full day in Puebla, I stopped for molotes, a street snack sort of like a double-deep-fried empanada, filled (mine with huitlacoche, a kind of corn fungus) and topped with crema and red or green salsa. I cut the grease at La Pasita, the oldest cantina in Puebla, where I had a shot of Puebla’s traditional raisin liqueur followed by something sweet and strong that I couldn’t finish, called Sangre de Bruja (witch’s blood).
Other highlights included: a solo day trip to Cholula where I didn’t find any hot sauce but did enjoy both a paleta and an ice cream cone for lunch; a textile boutique called Iquiti where I learned a lot about the weaving styles of Puebla and Oaxaca; a solo meal with a great margarita at Mesones Sacristia, a hotel that also teaches cooking classes (the trick to dining out alone, I discovered, is a wide-brimmed hat … equal parts “leave me alone” and “who could that be?”).