La Excéntrica

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen La Excéntrica

La Excéntrica was the last meal I had on a recent summer staff trip to DF and one of the very best.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen La Excéntrica

The tables in the spacious and clean courtyard behind the restaurant are a beautiful spot for lunch. On the day we visited, they had ladies making tortillas by hand.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen La Excéntrica

We drank tamarind agua fresca and stuck to a menu of Mexican classics, with a focus on the Yucatan. The cochinita pibil and wood-grilled octopus were amazing, enhanced by the many bright house salsas and smoky slow-roasted black beans.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen La Excéntrica

The platter of warm corn cakes in berries and fried dough drizzled in cajeta are a warm last memory of DF.

Mercado Roma

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen mercado roma

Mercado Roma is to DF what Eataly is to NYC and Chicago: a paradise of culinary pleasures. We loved the collection of vendors in this very modern and stylish market. I was attracted to their locally produced cheese, coffee beans from the mountains of Chiapas, the agave spirit Sotol, and only wish I had purchased more truffles from Que Bo!

Staff Trip DF

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen

I was excited and scared to visit a city thousands of years older and more than twice as large as NYC. Chef Rick gave me some good advice on the first night: if you want your photo with someone, ask to take a selfie. The fun of seeing yourselves on screen puts the other person at ease. He also said that all Instagram photos look more delicious with the Hefe filter, but I think that was just the jet lag talking.

Lactography

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen lACTOGRAPHY QUESO STORE

Having met the night before, we got a treated to an amazing presentation on cheese-making by Georgina Yeclas, who along with her brother Carlos, recently opened this small cheese shop in Mercado Roma.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen lACTOGRAPHY QUESO STORE

In addition to some of Mexico’s finest cave-aged cheese, the specialty of the house is a sheep’s milk cheese wrapped in fragrant green leaf of indigenous criollo avocado. I have never had a cheese so delicious.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen lACTOGRAPHY QUESO STORE

These guys are focused on raising cheese-making in Mexico to the highest level, and they are doing so while supporting local producers. At Lactography, they offer some breathtakingly tasty cheese and more (I also bought some fantastic family-grown Chiapas coffee!)

La Casa Tropical

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

We woke up to a class by chocolate genius Héctor Galvan at La Casa Tropical: in many ways I felt I was still dreaming. Héctor Galvan’s background in design translates into a trippy, beautiful space, and the creativity to paint pictures of concepts that astounded me, despite my own relatively deep knowledge of cacao.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

As the manager of a restaurant that houses one of the only bean-to-cup chocolate programs in the US, it is part of my job to lead countless chocolate tours, from groups of students to journalists from Zagat, throughout the year. This chocolate talk blew mine out of the water!

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

Héctor’s description will stay with me forever: how it all begins with a flower, how cacao at sea level reaches to sun to pull down the bright, acidic flavors, while cacao in the mountains reaches down to the depths for earthy and complex notes. The team at Casa Tropical kept us comfortable with some of the most delicious food I’ve had.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

The cacao and sea salt butter, the palette cleansing lemon verbana tea, the sparkling vanilla water, ridiculous bread. I’ll say it again: that Héctor Galvan is a genius.

Vinícola Urbana

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Vinícola Urbana

Not only is Vinicola Urbana a biodynamic vineyard on a rooftop in the heart of Mexico City, it is also a badass place to host a party.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Vinícola Urbana

The chefs on our team shopped at local markets and brought all the beautiful produce and even a whole lamb to Vinicola, where we held a dinner party. The chefs knocked it out of the park with multiple courses of Mexico City meets Chicago-style flavor. I especially loved dessert with local cheese, cherries and figs: what else is new!

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Vinícola Urbana

It rained that night, but the vineyard’s standing heaters and rooftop tent kept our tables warm and dry. It was amazing talking to Máximo Bistrot Local Chef Eduardo García and his wife Gabriela. Chef Lalo picked fruit and vegetables in the US for years as a kid. It was great meeting Hector, from Chiapas, and his partner Georgina, cheese expert. Hector even put up with thirty minutes of me talking about the ice age in terrible Spanish.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Vinícola Urbana

When dinner ended, we all stepped out into the open air and danced in the rain. Hector did a handstand, with the help of Chef Rick, and the party really got started. Even though we were on the rooftop already, somehow it went to another level. Let’s just say that shirts came off.

Castillo de Chapultepec

Castillo de Chapultepec 3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen

The walk up may be intense, especially once the overall elevation of Mexico City is taken into account (something like 2 miles higher than Chicago!) However the grounds of Chapultepec Park, and the view of the city, as well as visiting the only castle in the Americas, make the journey worthwhile.

Museo de Arte Moderno

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Museo de Arte Moderno

The museum was free on the Sunday we visited, but would have been worth paying for.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Museo de Arte Moderno

The building itself embodies modernism, as does the sculpture park on its grounds.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Museo de Arte Moderno

I found the galleries, ever changing, to be full of curiosities…

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen Museo de Arte Moderno

…from a collection of mind-bending paintings of wizards, to humanscale three dimensional tunnels and spheres made of antlers.

Contramar

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen contramar

Contramar is the definition of a killer classic restaurant. They know exactly what to do to play into their strengths (seafood, service) and consistently deliver a top level experience that has guests returning again and again over the years. I loved it.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen contramar

The tuna tostada is a legend for a reason. The rich tuna, the bracing acidity of citrus and pickle. We also had delicious whole steamed fish, super fresh, perfectly prepared, falling off the bone. We arrived just as they opened to a mostly empty dining room; by the time this fish appeared the entire room was full and buzzing.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen contramar

Desserts were fantastic: I love when a restaurant pulls off sweet and savory with equal skill. The strawberry and meringue dessert harkened to a schaum torte from Wisconsin. The fig tart was absurd, and the banana cream pie was gone before any photographic evidence could be gathered.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen contramar

After espresso, I briefly used the washroom. Returning from the facility, the waitstaff had not only completely cleared the table our large group had used, they disassembled it and were carrying pieces of tabletop over their heads out to the patio. Some of the most on point service I have ever seen. Bravo Contramar.

Templo Mayor

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen templo mayor

My whole life, I have been deeply fascinated by the history of American civilization. It was the focus of my first independent project at the end of elementary school. When I found out I would be traveling to Mexico City, I was so excited to visit Templo Mayor, ground zero for American empire over the past thousands of years.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen templo mayor

Most of where we visited, the restaurants we ate, the hotel where we slept, would have been under water hundreds of years ago, until the 1970s, when the lakes of Mexico City were drained permanently. The Aztec temples have always sat on the highest ground.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen templo mayor

The restoration of giant art pieces, description of rituals, the human touches that have survived the conquests: it is a place of deep importance to the heritage of all people. I have renamed the place where we gather for meetings at work, “The House of the Eagles.”

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen templo mayor

The animals, landscape and climate have been forever changed by human beings’ journey through time, I’m proud that steps have been taken to preserve the path of our ancestors.

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