Earlier this year I spent several days in the historically rich capital of Jalisco, but I arrived in the middle of a national holiday, which brought a traffic tsunami that began taking its toll on the long, loud, dusty drive in from the airport to my hotel in Tlaquepaque [a conurbation of Guadalajara]. Every excursion was bedeviled by traffic; the one-hour tour of the city took three, much of it spent in a cacophony of car horns. Clearly, the moral here is to check out regional and national holidays, especially when traveling to a country that celebrates its holidays with gusto.
Still, I have some fine impressions of Tlaquepaque with its colorful house-fronts and enticing shops. And I cannot say enough about my charming hotel, aptly named the Villa del Ensueno or Villa of Dreams: spacious rooms, gracious courtyards, several meticulously maintained pools, and a beautifully decorated al fresco dining area, where guests tucked into three course breakfasts, beautifully prepared by resident chef Sandra Elizabeth Serratos.
Near each table is a pechero, a stand with ornate prongs on which to hang your handbag; these elegant and practical items are to be found everywhere in cafés and restaurants, one of several delightful finds on this trip.
Here’s another: how about corn smut with your breakfast? Specifically, scrambled eggs with huitlacoche, aka Mexican truffle, a fungus that grows on corn kernels and adds an earthy vibrancy to all sorts of dishes, in this case, scrambled eggs. I ordered it for breakfast every day.
Available in the U.S. in frozen or canned versions, huitlacoche is as good for you as it is delicious. Food Republic reports that, “as far as the healthfulness aspect is concerned, huitlacoche offers more protein than regular corn and has high amounts of lysine, an essential amino acid not found in normal kernels.”
At the other end of the spectrum, a sweet treat that I also had for the first time during my stay at the Villa del Ensueno: pan dulce nuez con chocolate. Pan dulce is a cross between a bread and a cake and comes in many variations. Perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea, pan dulce is sweet but not cloying, with a fluffy texture and a light flavor profile, in short, simply delicious. Chef Sandra has graciously agreed to share her recipe:
- 2 cups regular flour
- 2 cups pancake mix
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup condensed milk
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
- 1 ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 ½ tsp chocolate syrup
- ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all the ingredients, carefully folding egg whites in at the end. Makesure there are no lumps, then pour into two 8 inch cake pans, sprinkle with the nuts, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Before I leave, here are some images from Guadalajara’s vibrant culture….