Birria and a Bullfight

On Wednesday I took a guided street food tour through a company called Eat Mexico (more on this in another post). It was fantastic, in no small part due to our guide Francisco de Santiago. Aside from his enormous knowledge of Mexican cuisine, he is also a former professional bullfighter. I have been curious about bullfights and the culture of food around them since arriving here, so when he offered to take me to a special fight that was happening on a thursday night, I jumped at the chance. It didn't hurt that in the same breath he said that we would meet up early to eat birria, from a vendor that only sells it on bullfight days, outside the stadium. He also said his father had taken him to the same place as a child.

Wait, how old is this place? What's birria?

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Birria is the single best thing I have had to eat in Mexico. It is basically a goat stew in which everything is diced very finely but I still don't understand exactly how it's made. I think the ingredients are all prepped in advance so that they can be combined and served up nearly instantly to hungry fight-goers who are eager to get to their seats. You can take big bites of meat and onion, slurp the broth, strain out the solids for tacos, add salsa for even more depth of flavor, or lime for more brightness to cut through the rich goat. There are a million ways to eat this stuff and none of them is really better than the others. You can't go wrong. This is an old school one pot dish but it is a chameleon of flavors.

About the vendor at Plaza de Toros. It turns out they the same family has been cranking birria out of this spot at basically every bullfight for the past 60 years. That is the same amount of time that McDonalds has been a franchise. But 60 years really just has to do with how long this bullring (the largest in the world) has been open. Apparently the family has been making it for well over 100 years. This bowl of soup is a national treasure. It should be in the museum of regional fast food that doesn't suck. Unlike McDonalds.

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Whatever your feelings about the institution of bullfighting, when you actually go to one, you see there is a lot more going on than the fight. It's like a baseball game. Do you go to watch baseball? Sort of. But it's equally about the experience of community. Everyone sits down together, grabs a drink, and breaks bread. On that level at least, it's pretty great.

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Regarding the killing of the bulls, all of the meat is butchered in the stadium as soon and the animal is brought out of the ring. Every bit is used. So I ask myself, is it really worse than the practices of industrial slaughterhouses?

Mercado de Medellin in Colonia Roma

I wish I could shop like this in DC. 

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I also wish I could eat like this in DC.

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But this place takes it up a notch. As in many markets around the world, you can have it both ways. Need groceries but don't want to shop on an empty stomach? No problem. Slide into a plastic chair over by the fish dudes and tuck into a healthy portion of octopus or ceviche. Or sidle up to the bar by the butchers for a steak and potatoes kind of affair. Then buy a pound of figs for a dollar or whatever because produce might as well be free.

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And who wants to shop sober? Along with the usual suspects they have crazy drinks like the Morenaza Cubana, which reminds me of a Baltimore Margarita (Natty Boh in an Old Bay rimmed glass) but packs a bigger punch. If you are playing along at home you will need the following: dark, light, or amber lager, lemon juice, salt (rim), mezcal, and some unidentified spice blend that tastes exactly like old bay. Served over a few ice cubes. It's messy and ugly but would be so good with blue crabs and corn on the cob in the summer. We will meet again, delicious brew.

Another good option, find the guys that just finished work at their stalls and drink mezcal with them.

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2000 Year-Old Pyramids

Taking a little time away from food today, we decided to see a very unique archeological site in teotihuacan and make a few photos for Jackietara's blog. Not only are these the world's second tallest pyramids, but they were also built around 100 BC  to 400 AD. They actually predate the Mayans and the Aztecs. Also the population of this city is estimated to have been around 150,000. Some of the first communal living buildings have been found here, which are essentially 2000 year old apartment buildings. All around wild place.


I've been told a lot of things around the park are overpriced but waiting for us at the bus stop was a man selling a cooler full of popsicles. This is a pineapple with chili pepper. $0.50 and a Total slam dunk.