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The Bajío: The Cooks and Vineyards in the Heart of Mexico Part 2

por Elsie Mendez Enriquez

By Elsie Mendez @sabormexico

After a rigorous and very delicious stop between Mexico City and Santiago de Queretaro at the popular Barbacoa de Santiago, we arrive at an interesting destination full of history. It goes back to viceregal Mexico. The famous arches from the old aqueduct welcome us to continue with our culinary tour through the Bajio.

Deneb is our guide during the 3 days of the tour in Queretaro and who we happily would have asked to take us to Guanajuato. Then we learned that the Secretary of Tourism of Queretaro would accompany us. Now we know, next time we will not even ask for permission. Deneb is one of the very few tour guides that achieves a warm, respectful, and above all, affectionate impact on her guests and it was she who showed and explained all of the history that has developed in the City of Santiago de Queretaro to us.

After checking in at the hotel we took a walk through the city that included, with all the luck that accompanied us during the trip, knowing the mercadito queretano, an important initiative of the state government that allows local producers show their products and ingredients in one of the most important streets of the city on the last Saturday of every month; Irvina, Cessie, Eleanor, Matthew, Liz, Marc, Giancarlo were able to appreciate many of the products that this state offers to local and national cuisine.

And with our unfailing luck, we came just in time for market that year after year brings together all the artisans, artists and producers of the state. The Plaza de Armas welcomes them so that everyone can show their creations.

Mercadito Queretano

With Deneb’s help, we introduce our guests to the history of this important city that has been the protagonist of many of the most representative passages of Mexico. And thus, among the walls of the Municipal Palace, we explain how Queretaro, since pre-Hispanic times, has been the path that unites the north of the country with the center. We discuss how during the era of the conquest, the most important rulers of the Spanish crown found the place to settle with their large haciendas in Queretaro. And of course, its participation during the wars of independence and revolution. This tour included the Museum of Zacatecana among others.

Dinner time arrived and with it came another moment full of wonderful details. El Caserio Restaurant offered us a dinner in a local establishment. It was not the typical place of tourists. On the contrary, the most renowned families of the city, as well as politicians and businessmen were all in this place. It is one of those places that still retain the old-fashioned attention and service that few places have. And a bronze plaque with our name was waiting for each one for us. Like those that are used for the most exclusive and assiduous clients, the VIPs. There each of us had a very special reserved place.

El Caserio

The menu that is usually offered at El Caserio restaurant is Spanish cuisine type, but for us they prepared dishes with typical and very traditional ingredients from Queretaro cuisine. To start, there was a plate made of rock where they placed different types of handmade cheeses, produced in localities close to the city. We continued with a salad that turned out to be one of the favorites of the whole trip with green beans, fresh cheese, pomegranate seeds and pear, accompanied by a perfect vinaigrette. As a main course we had to choose between fish and pork loin in chilli and fig sauce, the winner of one of the Flavor of Queretaro Contest in 2010. For dessert, cactus ice cream and typical Queretaro sweets.

For pairings we were offered wines from La Redonda and mango margaritas made with with lime and tequilas with sangrita from the house.

Ensalada El Caserio

The that is how our guested experienced Queretaro cuisine for the first time. Sergio Salmon, the owner of El Caserio, a charismatic and excellent host, showed us the kitchen and the two continual establishments, the Faz bar and the Qbo, a nightclub with live music. We would have stayed to enjoy all of the amazing other establishments if the agenda of the next day had not involved having to get up early.

With a hug as if we were old friends, we said goodbye to Sergio to get to the hotel and rest for the next day.

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling in the province of Mexico is that there is never the feeling of rigor and formality that accompanies some things in the big cities. And although we had an agenda with planned activities, we always leave a little part of the itinerary open. This was worth it when we had the opportunity to get to know one of the factories of local products. In addition to a program to support the communities of the state, Naterra and Laterra produce sauces among others with recipes that can be found today even in the United States.

Laterra y Naterra

The General Director and Chef Ada Valencia showed us their facilities and told us how they had bet on a project that others would never have risked an investment on. The result was some exquisite cheese sauces from the regio that tasted deliciousn.

Just a few minutes from there, one can find La Redonda, a vineyard owned by the Bortoluz Family. Claudio, who had accompanied us since our arrival, was the same heir of this vineyard. Claudio is known for his sympathy and good humor. And there is nobody better than him to be our host and guide through the vineyards that his grandfather founded, that now continue with the third generation running the business.

Many people, including Mexicans think that wine production in our country began in Baja California, when in fact the first vineyards were in the center of the country. It was there that the same Spaniards found wild vines that already existed in Mexico from the pre-hispanic era. With time and the migration and discovery of new lands, the conquistadors, especially the missionaries, found suitable lands for the production of wine.

La Redonda

That’s how we found one of the companies that is rescuing the wine industry in our country and, little by little it will take on the same strengths as those found in Baja California.

La Redonda is committed to making-known and bringing wine to people without a background in this elixir. It tried to educate people and break away from paradigms that the snobs regard as non-experts, and introduce everyone to the world of wine.

The production is focused on the national market and includes events, festivals, and tours for with visitors who want to learn more about wine.

La Redonda

We toured the vineyards in an old truck and Claudio explained to us the different types of grapes that they grow, including the grape that is used especially for Kosher wine, which they are the only producer of in the area. With drinks in hand, we were enjoying this special trip which ended in a well maintained cactus garden.

For lunch we had a very special experience and nobody better than the leader of the Slow Food movement Chef Ada Valencia, together with two young chefs, presented us with a culinary demonstration class where they prepared two of the winning dishes of the Sabor a Queretaro contest. The project originated from Chef Ada Valencia in support of the promotion and recovery of traditional recipes and new creations that incorporate Queretaro products.

La Carambada

The kitchen of La Redonda took us inland from the mountains of Queretaro and showed us the dishes that show the soul of this state. The first dish is a corn pancake stuffed with pork meat and pasilla chili sauce. There is a base of green tomatillo sauce accompanied by xoconostles in syrup, stuffed with goat cheese, and a guacamole with green cactus chopped with pomegranate and white sweet potato chips. Simply unforgettable! The dish is based off of the story of an aristocratic woman who lived among the rich but defended the poor. She lived between light and darkness because she went out at night disguised, in revenge of death of her lover. She blamed the rich for being rich, and gave money to the poor. 

Tiempos de Gloria

For the second course we were presented with Tiempos de Gloria (Times of Glory). The dish is made up of significant elements that represent the first national flag of Mexico. At that time, the first banner of the independent period was introduced on February 24th, 1821. The same day that Flag Day is celebrated today. It is also when the decree for the creation of the trigarante army was promulgated through the «Plan de Iguala» in the city of Iguala de la independencia, Guerrero; the decree defended three guarantees: the CATHOLIC RELIGION as the only religion tolerated in the new nation, the INDEPENDENCE of Mexico to Spain and the UNION between the opposing sides of the war. Thus, the colors GREEN, WHITE, AND RED. Pork ribs steeped in pinal de amoral liquor accompanied by a garambullo sauce, nopales cured in grain salt, and seasoned with oregano vinaigrette and ranchero cheese gelatin. Simply spectacular!

After this magnificent banquet there was nothing left but to continue enjoying the wines that Claudio offered us and to talk about how amazed our guests were when they discovered a kitchen that has had such little promotion in the United States. It is a kitchen that broke with the paradigm of that Mexican cuisine that most think only includes tacos, tostadas, and fritters. We sat in front of a bonfire full of history, traditions, and love for the land, and with the most splendid sunset before our eyes we let the night come.

Atardecer en La Redonda

Continue reading the third part here

Visit our photo album on facebook here

Our gratitude to Aeromexico for the support provided for the realization of this trip. To the Tourism Promotion Council of Mexico, Secretary of Tourism of the State of Queretaro, Viñedos La Redonda, Association for the rescue of traditions and its president Chef Ada Solana, El Caserio Restaurant for their confidence in this project

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