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Chef Diego Muñoz: Running the Show at Astrid y Gaston, Part 2

Chef Diego Muñoz: Running the Show at Astrid y Gaston, Part 2


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In the second of a three-part interview, Muñoz shares how he would rather be in front of a stove than a camera, and much more

This is the second installment in a three-part interview with chef Diego Muñoz. You can find the first installment here and the third installment here.

The Daily Meal: Unbeknownst to most, you have actually been running the show at Astrid y Gaston since 2012. Does Gaston Acurio cast a long shadow, and is it challenging for you to be recognized for your work?
Chef Diego Muñoz:
It is hard to erase that image and I think it is going to be pretty much impossible to change people's perception. Even customers who come to the restaurant here believe that Gaston is still cooking. Even those who heard the news of his retirement last year still don't believe it. The funny thing is when sometimes guests visit the kitchen they think I am Gaston!

They will notice a picture in the kitchen and ask how is your wife Astrid? So I just say, “Oh she is fine.” I think I am never going to come out of that shadow and it's going to stick with the name of the restaurant. Gaston did a promotion of my work here but it still didn't work. My own friends who know of my work here don't believe it either.

When chefs become well-known, usually their egos expand, their personalities change, and sometimes even their food changes. You are always very down to earth. How do you keep that in check and maintain your stability and focus?
Last year I was very sick and took some time off and had an opportunity to think about my position and how I work. I try to lead my team by example. I am very hands on at work and work a lot, but I am always discussing things and we all listen to each other and work as a team. Naturally, I am a really shy person and not prone to focusing attention on myself.

I don't feel very comfortable visiting every table or to walk around the tables in the restaurant and prefer to stay in the background. I love it when people come in the kitchen to say hello before the meal. We start the guest’s experience on the terrace and then they walk into the kitchen before being seated at the table. The director here at the restaurant actually takes care of the guests and I take of the kitchen. There are some chefs who like that attention and some like me who don't. Some like to do TV shows while other don't, and that’s the way I am. I am happier busy working than showing off!

Do you think that the idea of Peruvian cuisine as a contender in the world of gastronomy is something that has already happened or is it going to happen in the future?
I think it has already started happening and it is a huge opportunity for us here in Peru to take advantage of this and develop further. It is not only beneficial personally or for the restaurant industry but for our country. Peru is a country that has suffered a lot and with this attention we can give something back and motivate people to keep growing. The fact that Peru has three restaurants in the top 50 in the world is very significant. It is an opportunity for us to show off our culture and encourage people to come and visit our country so that restaurant and hospitality industries, even the taxi drivers or shop keepers and market vendors will benefit. The common man will get a piece of that action and feel responsible to work hard and keep the momentum. This attention is not going to last forever and we have to keep that in mind.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


KH Suites's Blog

To the crowd of young Mexicans carrying on behind the swinging doors of a pulque parlour one Saturday afternoon, participating in a cultural revival is perhaps the last thing on their minds. They are simply basking in the humble camaraderie of that uniquely Mexican institution, the pulquería. Frida Kahlo, an early post-modernist who embraced indigenous kitsch, would approve.

No drink is more Mexican than pulque, not even tequila or mescal. Pulque has been consumed by Mexicans since Aztec times and no fewer than four Aztec deities are devoted to the beverage. Though it is made from the same plant as tequila (the magical maguey), pulque is not distilled.

Sometimes called drool, Babylon, bear soup, vulture soup, white face, moustache broth, chalk and nectar of the gods, pulque is the sort of drink you have to learn to like, if only because you have never tasted anything like it before. In its natural state, the white, viscous liquid slides down your gullet with an earthy tang. Not a strong drink, it has an alcohol content similar to that of beer and some even say it has healthful properties. “Pulque is a step away from meat” on the nutritional scale, said Arturo Garrido, the kindly proprietor of Pulquería Las Duelistas as he dispenses a greenish version of the beverage into a couple of tall mugs.

Pulque is a private quaff, an old-fashioned one at that, and it remains largely unknown to the public palate. You will not find it in the nightclubs of Mexico City or even in cantinas. Of the 70 or so pulquerías that remain in Mexico City, most are extremely rustic places with bathroom-tile facades and institutional green interiors. Sporting sassy names like The National Nectar, Ancient Rome, The Hen of the Golden Eggs, Firing Line, The Worst Is Nothing and Men Without Fear, most of these dives are patronised by a handful of elderly men who tote their own containers to be filled. But in certain pulquerías that demographic is changing. Mexican youth have collectively rediscovered the virtues of pulque and the happy, scruffy vibe of the pulquerías.

One such rediscovery is Pulquería La Risa (Mesones 75). Housed in a tiny colonial structure on the south end of the city’s historic core, La Risa retains its rustic, minimally hygienic ambience, with a urinal behind a greasy curtain. But it has been adopted by students who engage in intellectual pursuits like playing chess or reading history as they sip their pulque. Sitting on a shelf above the bar are barrel-shaped urns of the drink in an array of colours, like sweets in a candy shop. Old timers generally like their pulque straight up but to make the beverage somewhat more palatable, most pulquerías “cure” their pulque with various natural flavours, and the resulting milkshake-like concoctions are called “curados”. The menu may include such flavours as tamarind, guava, walnut and strawberry, and from time to time, beet (“for the heart”) and celery (“for diabetes”) make an appearance.

Most popular with the pulque renegades is Las Duelistas (Aranda 30), near the San Juan market. Going for at least 90 years, it has undergone a startling makeover. Walls and ceiling are covered with psychedelic pre-Hispanic imagery: maguey plants, Aztec gods and goddesses, plumed serpents and skull racks. On any given afternoon, pierced, black-clad youth crowd around tables sharing mugs of pulque from pink and blue plastic buckets. A row of painted barrels, delivered earlier that day from Hidalgo, stand behind the marble counter, where a few older patrons sit, lifting mugs of pure pulque to their lips. The jukebox plays rock en español at a tolerable volume. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than aggressive.

“Many identify pulque with the climate of camaraderie of the pulquerías,” said Alberto Felipe Ramírez Aldama, who belongs to a group of pulque enthusiasts devoted to finding and trying out pulquerías. “One is nourished there. You have your buddies, and your enemies too, but no one causes any trouble with a glass full of octli,” he said, using a pre-Hispanic term for the drink. Ramírez Aldama’s group, Colectivo El Tinacal, also organises tours of Mexico City’s pulquerías, and visitors are welcome to join them. Information about upcoming pulque tours is posted on http://pulquenuestro.blogspot.com.

The pulque resurgence has spilled over to a few bars. Bósforo (Luis Moya 31, at Independencia), located a block south of the Alameda Central, is an earth-toned lounge that embraces mexicanismo. In addition to such iconic items as mescal — another previously disdained drink that is regaining cachet — and toasted grasshoppers, they keep an urn of pulque behind the counter. Revueltas, the tall, pony-tailed owner, makes a mean peanut curado. Having graduated from the grunge, pulque seems poised for broader acceptance.

________________________________
© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The return of Mexico’s national nectar’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.


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