A decorative charanda barrel at the entrance to Distilería El Tarasco in Uruapan. Charanda, distilled from sugar cane and bottled as both blanco (newly distilled) or reposado (aged), is a regional alcohol specialty of Michoacán.
Eighty hardy souls, chefs, journalists, travel specialists and food writers all, recently toured Mexico's Central Highlands on a two-week fact-finding and eating binge that brought us together from Europe, South and Central America, the United States, and other points around the globe. Aromas y Sabores de México, Ruta del Bicentenario 2010, organized by Mexico's national tourism department and led by the marvelous chef Patricia Quintana, kicked off in Mexico City on May 29 and ended its culinary wanderings in Michoacán on June 10. Naturally Mexico Cooks! thinks they saved the best for last!
Eleven o'clock on a hot spring morning and my friend Betty Fussell was sucking down a charanda piña colada AND a torito at the distillery! It was Betty's first full-blown taste of Michoacán and we had a marvelous time together.
The two-bus, multi-van caravan wound its way from Mexico City to the State of Mexico, then to Querétaro, to Guanajuato and, for the last four days, to Michoacán. Tour participants, accompanied by Chef Patricia Quintana of Mexico City's hot-ticket Restaurante Izote, slept when they could, partied when sleep eluded them, visited countless historic sites gussied up for Mexico's 2010 bicentennial celebrations, and ate till they could eat no more.
John Rivera Sedlar, of Rivera Restaurant in Los Angeles, California, enjoys a super-refreshing torito (made with charanda, of course) and a visit with Mexico Cooks! Photo courtesy Cynthia Martínez, Restaurante San Miguelito, Morelia.
The kind of drink dispenser that Mexico Cooks! uses for toritos for a party.
If you'd like to make toritos for a party, they're really easy to prepare and are always a huge success. If you can't find charanda in your hometown liquor store, substitute an inexpensive white rum.
TORITOS (Little Bulls)
Makes approximately 25 5-ounce servings
1 liter charanda or white rum
2 liters pineapple juice
2 liters grapefruit soft drink
Salt to taste
Crushed chile de árbol or other spicy chile
Crushed salted peanuts
Mix all of the liquids together and add salt to taste. Pour into a large pitcher and chill thoroughly. If your drink dispenser has a center cylinder for ice, you can fill it and keep the toritos cold without diluting them.
At the time of serving, place a pinch of crushed chile and a teaspoonful of salted peanuts in each person's glass. Fill each glass with the rum mixture and serve.
This recipe is easily cut in half, if you're expecting fewer guests, or doubled (or tripled) if you're expecting a crowd.
Salud! (To your health!)
Two of Michoacán's best known products are the avocado (the state is the world's largest avocado grower) and the macadamia nut. This chilly and refreshing mousse, unique to Restaurante Tony's--(Morelos #183, Col. Morelos, Uruapan)--combines both delicacies. The creamy white macadamia bottom layer supports the pale green avocado top layer. It was absolutely delicious.
A metate y metapil (three-legged flat grinding stone, made of volcanic rock, and its 'rolling pin') on display at the regional museum at Uruapan's La Huatápera. La Huatápera originated in the 16th Century. Nearly five hundred years ago, Bishop Vasco de Quiroga created the building as a hospitality center for the Purépecha people. Many Mexican kitchens still depend on the metate for grinding corn, beans, chocolate, herbs, and a hundred other ingredients.
For the Ruta de Aromas y Sabores tour, La Huatápera once again became a hospitality center. Tables along the portales (covered terraces) around the building held tastes of regional treats: ceviche de trucha, guacamole, paletas, and much more. Brought by Restaurante Tony's, the avocados in the photo above were halved horizontally, the meat partially removed and then mashed with cream cheese, spices, and stuffed back into the avocado shell and decorated with these charming faces. The parsley eyebrows especially tickled me.
Restaurante Los Mirasoles in Morelia hosted the welcome dinner for the Michoacán portion of the Ruta de Aromas y Sabores tour. Executive chef Rubí Silva Figueroa pulled out all the stops to make the meal a high-end version of Michoacán's regional foods. Seated at a table with food professionals and journalists from Europe, South America, and the United States, Mexico Cooks! explained the food. It was, as one friend said, a comida didáctica--a teaching meal! Photo courtesy of Los Mirasoles.
Paracho, Michoacán, is known as Mexico's guitar central, but it is also famous for weaving, embroidery, and other artisan work. Michoacán's Secretaría de Turismo (state tourism department) had arranged for a small tianguis artesanal (artisans' street market) for our tour. Among the items on display and for sale were rebozos (long rectangular shawls) woven by the famous reboceros de Aranza (rebozo-makers of Aranza). Finely loomed and beautifully patterned and colored, each of these dressy cotton rebozos take anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete.
We had a marvelous time on the tour! Left to right: Lic. Elizabeth Vargas Martín del Campo, director of the Politécnico de Guanajuato; Chef Patricia Quintana, innovative executive chef, caterer, and restaurant owner, Mexico City; Sacha Ormaechea, Restaurante Sacha, Madrid, Spain; Olivia González de Alegría, Director General, Instituto Gastronómico de Estudios Superiores, Querétaro; Cynthia Martínez, owner, Restaurante San Miguelito, Morelia; and Mexico Cooks!. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Martínez.
Originally published in 2010, this article about Patricia Quintana's amazing tour of Michoacán bears repeating. Mexico Cooks! is on the road at the moment but will be back soon.
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