DOYENNE OF MEXICAN CUISINE.
In the culinary world her first name alone invites instant recognition, like Coco, Frida, or Madonna. She is one of the doyennes of Mexican food. Al Jazeera America this week named her one of the “Queens of Mexican Cuisine.” She is the co-author of the authoritative Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana, named best Mexican cookbook at the 2007 New York Book Fair, and now in its third edition.
So when whispers began to circulate at Nicos Restaurant — “Alicia’s here” — I knew we were dining in the company of Alicia Gironella De’Angeli.
Alicia Gironella has no reason to remember this, but some years ago I was a student in her cooking class in the Jardines de Pedregal neighborhood near the national university. I attended four weeks of culinary instruction at the school which was then known as Ambrosía del Bosque.
One of the dishes I learned became a standby that I prepare for special occasions. It consists of fava beans and shrimp in a remoulade and enveloped in packets of banana leaves. Being from Georgia, I use collards rather than banana leaves.
In deference to Señora Gironella (and me) I will not tell you how many years it has been since I have seen her. I am delighted the absence has been broken. This Friday I will be in her presence for the second time in a week when she presents a lecture on atoles with pine nuts at Morelia En Boca, the International Food and Wine Festival of Mexico.
Life has a lovely way of repeating itself.
Restaurante Nicos Mexico
Now, about Nicos Restaurant. This will be an amuse bouche because Nicos deserves its own special treatment.
Under the guidance of chef Gerado Vázquez Lugo, the decades old lunchroom in the ancient Azcapotzalco neighborhood has become a white tablecloth fine dining destination. It is among my personal Top Five Restaurants in Mexico City, a five that constantly rotates. Whichever one I ate at last is Numero Uno.
I visited Nicos on Saturday with a Bangkok chef, a Chicago attorney turned foodie, and my dear friend Ruth Alegria, who was also named one of the “Queens of Mexican Cuisine” by Al Jazeera.
The star of the show might have been the simple sounding bean soup. The ayocote beans (Oregon limas) had been soaked in limewater and were served in a light broth perfumed with epazote. A server ladled the elixir over pico de gallo, and crispy tortillas. A dollop of cream, and cheese from the town of Pijijiapan in Chiapas state were added. I wanted to swim in it.
We also enjoyed Nicos’ famous “dry soup,” a Guadalajara recipe from an 18th century convent, and rabbit in pulque and oranges, a recipe from the indigenous women of Tolimán in Queretaro state.
We finished the meal with corn pudding made with double-clotted cream, toasted almonds, vanilla, molasses brown sugar, and eggnog.
Smack smack lick lick slurp slurp.
More to come after Morelia En Boca ……..