Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dia de las Ciruelas - Slow Food Laboratorio del Gusto

The invitation had come for the 51st Laboratorio del Gusto in Mexico City and I had quickly accepted. As an expatriate “foodie” the invitation program was irresistible. Picking plums and preparing recipes with Chef Olivier Lachevre, sipping organic Veracruzan coffee, followed by a Carne Asada luncheon prepared by our host Sergio Ynurrigarro in the gardens of the House of the Sun and Moon. All that was needed were directions and Sergio’s encouraging words “just keep driving until you see the Slow Food posters and then turn right”.

As we left the valley floor of the city and slowly drove up the mountainside on the Camino al Desierto de los Leones my friends and I anxiously scanned every corner for the non-existent street signs and realized it was the road markers we would need. Km. 30 was our destination and we were only at Km. 18 when the grainy hail and rain started to fall. It was Sergio with umbrella and hand signs that finally welcomed us. The cafe de olla was warm, sweet and dark a perfect antidote to the chill breezes of the overcast morning.

As our fellow foodie compatriots arrived, we were delighted by the tour of the orchards and specially the palapa where a 6 foot parilla ladened with scallions, tomatoes, chiles, and avocados were ready and waiting for Sergio to begin, but not until we gathered at the 2nd terrace meeting room/palapa did we begin with the fresh plums and their transformation into jam, jelly and the flavoring for plum wine infused with Mezcal.

Aromas of sweetened plums, sharp onions, coriander, grilling steak had our primal emotions stirring. As a group, we took the cobbled path to the grill and watched as the gnarled hands of an expert tortilla maker took the blue corn masa, formed, pressed and then quickly threw the tortilla on the grill to cook. Sharp pungent flavors, green and red chile salsas, the cooling unctuous flavor of guacamole, carne asada and the scent of mountain chill, culinary bliss !

Our Laboratorio del Gusto was ending but not the memories of taste of El Dia de las Ciruelas.

Ruth Alegría

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