Saturday, April 23, 2016

cocktails at Downtown

Nice change, eh? From food posts to drinks posts? Last weekend we tried this terrace bar at Downtown, in the historic centre of the city. Many cocktails. Nice martinis. A proper old fashioned (or at least I think it was a proper one). And views of the Casino Español and other old buildings in the centre of the city. 

Weird having alcohol Sunday evening... but it counts as a good habit if you're admiring architecture, right?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hop, the beer experience

Back in Toronto we used to go to this place called Smokeless Joe's. Whatever amazing beer they had, they would write it down on a blackboard, with the selection changing regularly. I loved that place. 

Fortunately, we've seem to have found a somewhat similar version in Colonia Juárez - Hop, the beer experience. Huge blackboard, nice variety of beers (including stouts and/or porters, yay!), and they simply erase them as they run out. And the best part? They are all craft DRAFT beers. Double yay! Excellent company for a bit of feminist and Jewish reading.

By the way, their Once you go Black imperial stout was delicious! Coming back to this place for sure!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the rise and fall of the urban library

This immense city always has something interesting or unusual going on, like this Urban Library (Biblioteca Urbana) project, on a busy street in the historic centre. The idea is simple, and it's been done in other countries before - you donate a book, you take one for reading. Once you're done reading, you return the book. In general, there is nobody guarding the library, and its success and survival is up to the city's citizens.

When we passed by, the project had been running for just a couple of days. Books filled every possible space and people were really excited! And who wouldn't! What a fantastic idea, right? 

A couple of weeks later, we passed by again. Sadly, the library was almost empty - it had apparently fallen prey to people who didn't care to donate a book before taking one, and/or who couldn't bother to return those they'd read. Before posting this, I checked Twitter for their hashtag #Bibliotecaurbana. The pictures show the library had remained basically empty for about a week until a donation, today, by the Colegio Suizo (Swiss College). 

Time will tell if this city's citizens allow this space to survive as a public library, or if it turns into a free-for-all bookshop stocked regularly by citizens concerned about the evident failure of the project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

sunset, deconstructed fountain, and monument to the revolution

I think I've posted photos of the Monument to the Revolution at sunset before. But it seems they were giving some maintenance to the fountain and had to raise the mechanisms above ground, which gave it a different an interesting look.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cuerpos en Revuelta Butoh festival

Butoh may not be such a well-known performance art, but for some reason it is popular enough in Mexico for there to be a few Butoh festivals, including one we went to in the beginning of April – Cuerpos en Revuelta, at the Museo Universitario del Chopo.

I'm no Butoh connoisseur, but it's just happened that I've watched more Butoh performances that more or less follow Kazuo Ohno's school. Kazuo Ohno was one of the founders of Butoh and, from what I can tell, his style involves a very improvised performance based on internal images. For me, this sort of performance is kind of like seeing an artist do an impressionistic painting live.

On the other hand, there's the school of Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the other founders. He actually did work with internal images, based on his own personal ancestral family history. But then he created performances where we would orchestrate other performers in accordance with his own images. Again, I would say this would be sort of like the impressionistic painter above then having a group of ten people working on making his impressionistic painting on a grander scale. Performers that follow Hijikata's school one way or the other can have very impressive, but evidently (from my point of view) choreographed performances.

Well, I only saw three performances at this festival. The first one I saw had music I found tedious and ridiculously old-fashioned (think synthesyzer-like), visually pretty at some very specific moments, highly rehearsed, and had me dozing off. In my defence, at the end of the performance, I noticed two good Butoh performers sitting in front of me either not clapping or doing so in the most fake way possible.

The second one, on the other hand, was pretty good. This was "Ja yi me ma shi te", by Kumotaro Mukai and Espartaco Martínez, who offered us a very symbolic and beautiful metaphor for the encounter of these two artists from very different cultures - Mexico and Japan. You could also infer this belonged at least in part to the Hijikata school, as how could you otherwise have two performers interact in such precise and meaningful sync unless some choreographic design has taken place? And yet, there were also very intimate parts, especially during the solos.

Finally, we saw Yukio Suzuki, with his piece Evanescere - Cuerpo Volátil. Like Espartaco and Mukai, a fantastic performer, fully in control of his body and of the stage. I wouldn't quite know where to place him, as he does things that are highly choreographed, such as playing with light bulbs at the end of very long cords and which require a high degree of rehearsal and training lest you end up hurting someone. Though visually - and even musically - this was one of the more attractive performances, this was the one that most resembled Butoh as dance instead of as performance.

If I had the chance, I wouldn't think twice about watching both Espartaco Martínez and Kumotaro Mukai perform, either together or independently. But I'm also left with a bit of curiosity of how a festival that relied more on performers of the Kazuo Ohno school would look (or feel) like. And no matter what, it's good learning being able to go to a festival like these and see how different people are doing Butoh in their own personal ways (whether I enjoy some specific performance or not is irrelevant).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

the bivalve dilemma

Note: this post is about both a reflection and a restaurant, so if you don't care about reflections, feel free to skip all the way to the last paragraph before the first picture! LOL

You may or may have not noticed my profile doesn't say "vegan" anymore, but "vegan-ish". In this very long road that has been veganism (I started in 2002, I think) I've learned quite a bit. I started out of ethical reasons, or probably even emotional ones, as I simply couldn't stand the footage with clear evidence of animal cruelty I had watched back then.

For quite a few years, I was sort of like vegan Monday through Friday, to allow for a more relaxed weekend with my habib in case we couldn't easily get vegan food. Later, thanks to a podcast I started listening to, I realized there was a much wider vegan world than the one I knew, and for some additional years I was really fully vegan - yes, avoiding even honey.

Recently, though, as I felt more at ease with veganism, I was able to start questioning myself a bit. I think it's like converting to a faith - you sort of feel you must prove yourself, you follow all the rules, you're still learning so questioning could prove too distabilizing, and chances are your circle of non-convert friends will be non-supporting at first, so you need to stand stronger.

So, as I began to feel it was not an all or nothing thing, and that what mattered was not to score perfectly, but to do at least something (as some ethical action against animal cruelty is always better than no ethical action at all against it), I began making some changes. If you follow this blog, you'll have already read that, if there's a dish I haven't tried (especially if it's during a trip), or if someone has gone through great effort to cook something for me, I might decide to go for it, vegan or not.

But also I've decided there's three things I don't mind eating either anymore. First, insects. The vast majority live too short a time to benefit from the learning that comes from a nervous system that allows for pain and suffering; the scientific consensus, indeed, leans towards thinking they do not feel pain. Now, I'm not a fan of chapulines (a Mexican kind of cricket you can sometimes be served in Mexico). But, as a kind of nutrient and protein rich item, I have no problems eating insects now (even though I'm no big fan, tastewise, either).

Then, honey. Same reasoning as with insects in general regarding pain and suffering. I still don't have any at home. I mean, I haven't bought honey in ages, and in general I'm not into sweet spreads. But still, if something contains honey, I'll be fine with that.

And, finally bivalves. I'll admit this one is a bit more tricky. But, in general, it would seem that, at least when it comes to oysters and mussels, they most probably don't feel pain and suffering either. They're non-motile (that is, they can't move) or practically non-motile, and their nervous systems are not aggregated in a brain-like structure either. So, chances are, pain and suffering don't exist, or exist at such a level they really don't quite matter. But, please note that other bivalves like clams and scallops are motile (scallops even have eyes), and other mollusks, like squid and octopus have proven intelligence and behaviour change when in pain. So, though not part of my regular diet (oh, the price!), oysters and mussels do make it to my plate every now and then now.

All of which pretty much justifies me abandoning vegan in favour of vegan-ish or flexitarian, right? Sure, I eat vegan at least some 90% of the time. But I feel more comfortable not claiming the vegan label for the time being.

And all this verbiage... why? Because I wanted to mention this place in Colonia Roma Norte, La Docena! We went there for oysters! I think it was my first time at an oyster bar ever! Well, they do serve other stuff, like fish and I think maybe even some meat, but their main sell is oysters. And we sat at the bar. So oyster bar!

Now, take this with a grain of salt, as I'm a non-expert and basically a neophyte, but they were good! They felt so fresh, and the taste is unique! I think my favourite kind were the Kumamoto. We got a mixed platter of 12 oysters of 3 different kinds, and the fact that this is the only name I can remember means that they were my favourite. 

We also got some scallops on tostadas (a sort of hard tortilla) with jalapeño and red onion. Pretty good. Though I got mixed up and forgot scallops were on the do-not-eat-these side of my bivalves list. The fact that these fellows have radically different names in Spanish and English didn't help a bit. Oops. My bad. Won't repeat. 

So, all in all, it was a very tasty and interesting introduction to the world of bivalves (well, oysters and mussels, OK?), and looking forward to a repeat! And my apologies to full-time vegans and anybody who might be offended by this more flexible approach of mine. :-S

Friday, April 15, 2016

from Belgium to Sonora, via Japan

Yeah, I know, another post about food. Surprise. But it is what it is, eh? So, anyhow, I'm glad we've found a way to do some food exploration in this city, trying different cuisines in a single day, coupled with some walking and discovering of the city's nooks and crannies.

I had mentioned Holly Waffles in a recent post, but on this particular day I decided I'd go for what the Belgian owner said was a most traditional Belgian waffle. He did add he would only have that as a dessert. But I made it a very sweet and nom nom breakfast.

At the same location (Mercado Milán, in Colonia Juárez), there's a Japanese donburi (literally, "bowl") place! I think all they serve is kaisendon, which is a bowl of sashimi (and sometimes fish roe) served on a bed of rice. It was a tad expensive for the size, but the quality of the ingredients was most definitely worth it.

Afterwards we walked towards Plaza Washington, not far from there. And the habibi remembered someone had mentioned a Japanese clothes nearby. Well, we got to Plaza Washington, and it took us all of two seconds to figure that it had to be the place called Loose Blues! Really nice clothes, from Japanese brands. Which made them awfully expensive, unfortunately. But really cool, nevertheless. But what we didn't know was that there was a simple restaurant upstairs! Since we had already had enough to eat, I just went for a beer. And what did they have? A fantastic, super refreshing Chicago beer by Goose Island (with the corresponding glass!). Loved the place, loved the beer, and definitely want to try their lunch, so I'll be back!

Last (well, it was supposed to be last), we went for a grill place called Sonora Grill, in Colonia Tabacalera. Sonora is one of Mexico's northern states. And the north is known for heavy meat consumption. The habibi needed some, and I was in a very accommodating mood, right? Well, take note - unless you want to burst and die, come with an empty stomach, because servings are not just good, but plentiful! And, if you manage and are lucky to have nice weather, go for a seat by the window upstairs, you can see all the way to the Palacio de Bellas Artes! 

From there we headed to a friend's place in Colonia Centro, for some rosé, some tequila, and some pleasant superficial chatter. Now that I think of it, yeah, sure, this was yet another post on food. But I think we enjoy food a lot. So why not?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Alsatian pizza, espresso, feminism and Jewish identities

We came across this French bakery/café called Pâtisserie Dominique, in Colonia Roma Norte. Delicious Alsatian pizza (yes, ALSATIAN, had TWO slices), good espresso (a true gem in this city), and the most relaxing atmosphere for some feminist pop-culture reading (of course, my beloved magazine "Bitch") and some Jewish one too (a book I had forgotten I had! "The Jews and Their Future: A Conversation on Judaism and Jewish Identities"). Pretty cool.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

from Sweden to Russia, with love

This person I met on my trip to Amsterdam joked that all my blog posts were about food. Of course, that's totally false, but it's not like it's completely removed from the truth either! LOL

So, to perpetuate the myth, here's yet another post about food...

Mexico City may not have the culinary diversity of Toronto (I mean, that's a really tall order, with Toronto being 50% foreign born), but if you take the time and look, you'll still find quite a few very interesting options when you can't simply hop on a plane to your nearest multicultural megalopolis or to the remote corner of the world where the cuisine of your craving originated.

Last weekend we had breakfast at Fika, a Swedish coffee place in Colonia Roma. Apparently - as per a friend of mine that lived a while in Sweden - the place is plenty authentic. In my opinion, the coffee wasn't as strong as I like it (I blame you, Beirut!), but the selection of sandwiches and cakes, most of them very Swedish inspired, is more than enough reason to come back and fika (Swedish for have a break for a coffee, maybe a snack)!

And, since you're already in the area, you could just take a look at this beautiful building at the corner of Guanajuato and Mérida, which happens to house Forever, a vegan restaurant. Of course, having just fika'd, all we did was look, eh?

And then, to tend to those Slavic roots, we headed to this place in Colonia Santa María la Ribera called Kolobok (I've written about it before) for some nice rassolnik (рассольник), a pear barley soup, ridiculously filling pelmeni (пельмени), and sweet soft syrnik (сырник) with smetana (сметана, sour cream) and varenye (варенье, fruit preserve). Oh, and a glass of kvass (квас, fermented rye bread drink)! 

I guess some of our days do revolve around food?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Holly waffles!

No, not "holy waffles", but Holly Waffles! As in this tiny place at Milán 44 market in the Colonia Juárez where you can get delicious Belgian waffles made by none other than a welcoming Flemish speaking Belgian! 

Though he does make a very traditional (and very dessert-appropriate) Belgian waffle with strawberries and cream, this (über non-vegan version, I know) waffle with egg, ham, onion, tomato, maple syrup... zo LEKKER! (yummy!) 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Xico looking at the moon

When we came back to Mexico City in the end of 2014, one of the more interesting changes we noticed was the emergence of popular culture as a cool thing. Everywhere we saw signs of what was considered "low" culture being reappropriated by the rest of society as a hip culture. 

An example? The xoloitzcuintle, an ancient, hairles breed of dog native to Mexico. So, a company has created Xico, the xoloitzcuintle character you see below, and is selling Xico figures, backpacks, and diverse items, some of them really nicely made and reaching stratospheric prices. A very interesting and nice turn of things, for sure.