We arrived in Mexico today, after a one night stay at LAX. As soon as we got off the plane we entered a sauna, the stifling heat of Hermosillo, Luis’ hometown, was almost overwhelming. Apparently we were lucky as today was only 39 degrees and had cooled down from last week’s average of 48!
After dropping our bags off at our hotel, we drove over to Luis’ sister and mum’s place (his mum lives in an apartment opposite the sister’s house) and started drinking straight away. I wasn’t planning on having anything but someone mentioned Malibu and pineapple juice and I couldn’t resist.
Almost straight away, Luis’ mum brought out a big round soft cheese, a Panela, which she had covered in minced garlic, lots of fresh oregano, chili and salt and pepper and popped it in the microwave for a minute. It came out steaming and aromatic – we eagerly cut it up and spread it on top of brown crispbread. It’s a little similar to mozzarella and is a local cheese that is gets it shape (and name – it’s sometimes called Queso Canasta or ‘basket cheese’) by being set in a basket.
We also tried a local goat’s cheese covered in blueberries that was super soft and tangy. Not the first things I had expected to eat in Mexico but absolutely wonderful all the same.
A few drinks later and it was time for dinner. A 10-minute drive and we pulled up at Palominos, one of Luis’ favourite steakhouses just outside of town.
Sergio and I started with margaritas, which arrived with the rims dipped in chilli and salt – everyone else had beer, Luis’ brother in law had his as a chaser for his snifter of tequila.
The food arrived quickly –the Mexican equivalent of a bread basket was first up – fresh tortilla chips served with three small bowls – one with fresh salsa made with tongue numbing green chiles, another with a dark red chile sauce that was very spicy and finally a bowl of frijoles, or refried beans with cheese, super smooth and surprisingly delicate in flavour. These were quickly followed by a plate of guacamole, more tortilla chips and then my personal favourite, queso fundido – melted cheese with chorizo, which you pile onto a hot fresh flour tortilla and then douse with guacamole. Red oily juice leaked all over my hands, so I had to eat from both sides to keep it in check. Luis’ sister, Reyna, told us the cheese is actually called Chihuahua – the state next to the one we are in. Cue many many jokes about Chihuahuas…
Suddenly the table was completely laden with food –lots more guacamole and refried beans, ‘real’ chivichangas –deep-fried tortillas filled with shredded pork and topped with salad and salsa; cheese quesadillas (which Luis referred to as the Mexican equivalent of cheese on toast), barbecued milk tripe, which you were meant to eat in the largest tortilla I’ve ever seen – about 3 times the size of my head. You fold it up so it’s about a quarter of it’s size and then place the tripe inside along with the guacamole and the dark red chile sauce. By that point I was too full to have the full tortilla so I just tried the tripe. This is one of Luis’ favourite dishes but I have to say I found it a little too smoky, almost to the point of tasting like charcoal and it was also super chewy. Definitely an acquired taste I’d say and probably would have benefited from me not just having had that amazing queso fundido.
The last thing to come out was a local skirt steak – steaks in Mexico aren’t the super thick ones you get in the US but instead are nice and thin. It was delicious just simply grilled and served without any accompaniments. In terms of taste, I noticed that it was slightly gamey and Luis told us it was because cattle is grass-fed in Mexico as it’s cheaper than grain. It was very lean but had a real depth of flavour to it.
Paseo Rio Sonora Norte #72 – 214