Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unguided Tour: Mexico City Chocolate

How might one find chocolate in Mexico City? One might bring a guidebook. One might remember to print out the New York Times' 2010 version of its "36 Hours in Mexico City" article instead of the 2007 version. There's nothing wrong with the earlier article, but the current one mentions a shop called Princesse Cacao in the Condessa neighborhood.

But imagine that one winds up in Mexico City for one's cousin's wedding planning to meet a Dutch friend from Guatemala who won't be able to make it after all because she is not currently in possession of her own passport and so one wanders around alone in the rain and then the sun and then the dark until one inadvertently finds (the way one does on the streets of Paris) a chocolatier, or chocolateria. This chocolateria claims to make its own chocolate from beans in the Soconusco region of southern Mexico, and the discovery of the shop makes one as happy as knowing that one is just drafts away from finishing an essay about Guatemalan chocolate titled "Stumbling Toward Soconusco" that one is writing for one's thesis project. One shares this artisan chocolate with one's family and it turns out not to be very good, so one thinks it's for the best that one left the box in the middling hotel restaurant and promptly forgot the name of the chocolateria.

Even without a guidebook or an up-to-date 36-hour schedule, one finds a few blogs about Mexican food written by expats living in Mexico City (The Mija Chronicles, Good Food in Mexico City), one meets some cousins one hardly knew one had (who take one to the National Palace where one can admire Diego Rivera's incredible layered thinking about the complexity of history layered in paint upon the walls), and one takes the sage advice of the tour guide employed by the same cousins to jump out of a van with the entire family in the middle of downtown so that one can sample crisp and sweet and toothsome churros accompanied by a whole set of chocolate drinks at El Moro. Another day, one accompanies the bride and her parents (who are Pittsburghers and who have taken very good care of one while one has lived in that city) to Frida Kahlo's house in Coyoacán where one celebrates another wonderful mind. One's family is very fond of tour guides but one eventually takes one's leave of these guys in San Angel, and even if one doesn't have enough guidance to know that one might find Diego Rivera's studio in that neighborhood if one looks hard enough, one still finds some pretty decent tacos down by the bus station before one stumbles miraculously upon a lady in white carrying a basket of her own handmade chocolates. She too tells one that the essential ingredient comes from Soconusco but give no more details. One samples the stuff and then buys a small package for fifteen pesos, though one doesn't have a chance to eat the chocolate before the wedding (where one is served dinner at 11pm and then panes dulces and chilaquiles and frijoles and cerveza for breakfast at 5:30), so one leaves the chocolates for the lady who cleans one's fancy hotel room. Before one leaves Mexico, one walks through Chapultepec park, stopping at the archaeology museum and the modern art museum before finally arriving in the Condessa neighborhood, which is very Parisian in its effortless quaintness. And even if one doesn't know to visit Princesse Cacao, one does stop at a bar that one's cousin points out was mentioned in the latest New York Times travel communique. It is at precisely this bar that one asks for a restaurant recommendation to which a lovely young man responds by walking one a few blocks to Cafe La Gloria. Having discovered that although one loves one's immediate family dearly but doesn't particularly care to eat with them in restaurants in foreign countries, one calls in the various cousins and asks the waitress if one may sit and wait, which she encourages one to do at a very large bistro table where one sits for half an hour reading poetry disturbed by nothing except a glass of wine while one awaits the trip's harmonic conclusion.


Blogger Julie C said...

Great post! So glad to hear you enjoyed DF. :) I had forgotten about Princese Cacao... may have to make a special trip to go suss it out!

10:54 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Lesley said...

Hey, thanks for the link! I wish we had more chocolate to offer in DF, but to be honest, most of what I know is the thick chocolate that goes with churros. (I would LOVE to go on a quest to find the best choco-churro combination in this city, but I'm too busy searching for the city's best concha roll.)

Que Bo in Polanco has some really interesting chocolate varieties, with guava and mezcal and things like that. I'm not sure if you had time to check them out? It's kind of a fancy place. Not sure whether the beans are actually local or not.

In either case, glad you enjoyed your trip!

4:50 PM GMT-5  

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