To kick this whole thing off, I’m going to describe a time when I made my OWN vegan food which I then quickly consumed. I say this like it’s an odd experience for me, not because I don’t cook – I do. But it’s not usually anything exciting. This, THIS my friends is exciting, tho.
I went to Mexico City (or CDMX for those of us in the know) with my mama in May 2018. And when I say “I went to CDMX” I really mean, “I ate my way through CDMX and couldn’t look at food when I returned to NOLA.” But that was a really long sentence. My mom can’t cook to save her life. (And for what it’s worth, she’s also not vegan.) It’s okay that I’m saying that because she knows. We all know. So I thought, “you know what we should absolutely do? Learn how to make an authentic Mexican meal.” Enter Casa Jacaranda.
We met Alberto and our krewe (I live in NOLA, I gotta do it) outside a grocery store to set our menu, do our shopping, and eat our way through the market samples. There were eight of us students: four young co-workers, a couple, and Mama TWMVO and me. Alberto asked if anyone had dietary restrictions and it was just me and a vegetarian from California. If you’re vegan, you know at this point you’re anticipating how to make an “authentic side salad – without cheese.” To my absolute delight, Alberto thought we should do homemade tamales, adobo, salsa, traditional rice, and fresh fruit for a light dessert.
As we wandered through the market, Alberto explained to us the various ingredients that are important for local cooking and the differences between the various peppers, chilies, and produce. We sampled coffee (I sampled a lot) and the others got some cheese and ice cream. Whatever, I had coffee. I love this photo of the chilies and hot sauce I took in the market. (We may not know each other very well yet so let me tell you – if it’s spicy, I need it in my life. Give me that spice.) So I’m going to share it again here with you.
On our way back to Casa Jacaranda, we stopped outside the market at a stall where they were filling tortillas and grilling them. There is *definitely* a name for this dish, I just have the worst memory. Alberto ordered me a vegan one to eat and while I don’t share well, it was so large and we had just eaten breakfast at Cafe V, that I did let a few of the others try the one filled with beans and onions and deliciousness.
We wandered down to a stall on the street where two men were making tortillas. We watched the process of them rolling it out, cutting them up, cooking, bagging – you know, all the steps required to make tortillas. That was an awesome aside, both IRL and here on this blog.
Once we got to Alberto’s beautiful home, built in the ’20s and decorated beautifully, we put on our aprons and got to work. Y’all, I made some dayum good vegan tamales with coconut oil and because I was the only vegan, THEY WERE ALL MINE. Suck it. We made some stellar salsa, which I have absolutely made on my return though not often enough, rice, and adobo. We chatted throughout the course and we shared the grunt work of actually having to make the food (ugh – work). Alberto explained the traditional ingredients, the chemistry behind some of the food, and how the dishes would have been made traditionally.
Once the food was made, Alberto thought he should explain the difference between mezcal and tequila (and no – it’s probably not what you think. It is not about smoking the agave). And to make sure we understood, we did shots of various tequilas and mezcals. And then he gave us beer. As I write this, I wonder if that was all a ploy for us to think our food was tastier than it might have been otherwise… We ate everything (no, really, everything) outside on his terrace. I’m drooling. I think the worst part of the whole day is that at some point, Alberto wanted us to leave his house. So…that was disappointing, though I guess to be expected.
Afterwards, Alberto sent through all of the recipes we made and then some. I won’t lie, I got a bit cocky and invited a bunch of people over for dinner in NOLA for vegan tamales. The problem was, I couldn’t really remember how we formed them and I got in over my head and hella stressed. Which probably didn’t make a great dinner party (also, my cat knocked an open ink pen into one of our new dining room chairs so that was a whole side drama), but alcohol always helps. That’s a tip from me to you. Also, I made that salsa and that pretty much saved my street dining party cred.
If I don’t make it back to CDMX, let me tell you now where you need to get yourself for the eats. Gatorta (come hungry or come with others who share well and won’t mind you biting their hand if they try to take the last bite), Los Loosers, and Plan V. There’s more, but why don’t you do your own research for once?! Geez. Quite frankly, spend a few hours doing this amazing vegan street food tour where you will eat more than you ever thought you could, but you walk so much that you don’t feel too bad about it. It’s super cheap, the guides are great, and the food is good enough that you’ll regret you didn’t fast for three days in advance. Do not make my mistake and eat breakfast. Oh, and you see some sites in there, too.
Y’all, also the wines – you must hit up SI MON. Owned by César, who makes his own wine in Valle de Guadeloupe (that’ll be a whole other post) and is uber knowledgable, he can introduce you to Mexican wines which will make you rethink your devotion to some of those French imposters. You’re welcome. As a thank you, could you please bring me back a bottle of the MM wine? K, you rock.