L to R, Victor (aka: DJ XXX); Mayolo (king of late-night mariachi karaoke on the jardín), me (queen of the same), Jane, Consuelo, John, & Chelo's parents, Gloria and José.
Buses in Mexico are a beautiful thing, comfortable, clean, affordable, and on time. By mid-afternoon Jane and I were at the Hotel Soledad in downtown Morelia. I adore this place. I've been staying there since forever and it has always been a lovely, perfectly located, mid-priced hotel. The location still can't be beat, but now it's a superb and only slightly above mid-priced hotel. The new owner, Leticia, has some seriously good taste and the staff is just the best.
Jane hadn't spent more than a couple of hours in Morelia, so we set out to see the town. And eat a gaspacho. Yes, that's gaspacho with an S, not a Z. Don't blame me, I'm just telling you what's what, not why. Thing is, first taste and you won't care how it's spelled, your only thought will be "How soon before I can have another one?"
This is the classic version, but there are as many variations of this as there are Morelianos who make it. Some add watermelon, cucumber, I've even seen onion included (horrors!) The most important part of the recipe is that everything be evenly and finely chopped so that you always have a balance of ingredients in every bite.
Ingredients: (2 hefty portions)
1 cup of mango
1 cup of jicama
1 cup pineapple
6 teaspoons grated Cotija cheese
Valentina Sauce to taste
Salt to taste
Red/black chile, ground (Not SW chili powder, but ground chile, like chile de arbol or ancho. Toast and grind it yourself if need be.)
Chop the pineapple, mango, and jicama into small cubes of the same size and toss them together. Place about a third of the chopped fruit in two large plastic or glass cups. Top each with 1 teaspoon of the cheese, a splash of salsa, a sprinkle of ground chile, and salt. Repeat twice, and on the last layer squeeze the orange and lime over the fruit before you add the cheese, salsa, chile, and salt. Serve Valentina or Tapatio Sauce on the side. I've heard tell of people pouring a chilled shot of tequila blanca over it., let me know if you try that.
So, back to Morelia...
Our gang of four - John from Connecticut, Susan from California, Jane, and me - finally all came to roost in Morelia late Friday night. On Saturday we piled into the rental car and headed west to Lake Camecuaro, where we would be spending the night tonight in order to be near the village of Patamban early on Sunday morning.
But first, a stop at Horno Los Ortiz, quite possibly the most creative bakery in Mexico. The bakery is wonderful any day of the year, but it really rocks during Day of the Dead, when Judith sets up her ever-growing display of bread figures that inhabit her "pan-teón." (Get it? PANteón?)
The other remarkable artist we met that day was Jenya (short for Eugenia), Judith and Hugo's daughter, a seventeen year-old helper in the bakery who makes incredibly fine papel picado art. She brought out a piece she is currently working on, a Virgen of Guadalupe about 3-feet tall. Stunning!