Fresh Bread From the Bread Guy

Fresh Bread From the Bread Guy
Find us at our new location on Madero at Constitucion, one block north of the Parque VelascoOpen daily 8-230 except Sunday

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On bread, part IV

On bread, part IV. How a Mexican baker invented a New York tradition
Everything you are reading in this story is untrue. It is fabrication, a flight of fancy. The wingspan on it is so wide that you can’t see from one tip to the other. It is the story of how the early Mexicans created the bialy.

We really don’t know much about the baker who created the first bialykuchen. What we do know however, is that its inventor followed Jewish religious traditions. Here’s what we’ve been able to piece together from historical accounts. During the time of the Spanish inquisition when a person’s choices were Catholicism or death, some Jews chose a third option, find a new place to live. Some families went to Mexico with Cortez and other early Spanish explorers. Like every other transplanted culture, familiar foods were introduced to the new lands. One of the breads the Spanish had long enjoyed were buñuelos, a slightly sweet bread, fried in oil and topped with sugar . The Spanish version looks remarkably like a filled jelly doughnut, while the Mexican buñuelo is flat, like a tortilla, and the jelly has been replaced with a honey syrup poured over the top.

After toiling long years to try to keep the Spanish buñuelo version alive, the Mexican born baker Jesus Perez decided to move his family and bakery to Poland, where there were large communities of followers of the Jewish faith. The only problem was, everyone was making buñuelos! Jesus thought about switching to the Mexican version but to the world’s delight, he decided to present a deconstructed buñuelo by baking the dough instead of frying it and putting the jelly on the outside. And in another moment of serendipity, this was during the Polish sugar shortage at the turn of the century, so he decided to use beets instead of the red jelly to top his baked buñuelos. History shows us that the sweet-onion topped version was more popular. He also needed to find a name for his new creation and decided to name it after his new town, Bialystok. His was a very successful bakery and others copied his delicious new offering, the bialy.

History repeats itself and Jesus had heard the first hints of the formation of another religious purge movement and quickly sent his family to New York, staying behind to continue his bakery. He, along with most of the Jewish population of Poland were wiped out during the pogroms that swept the Russian empire, but his family survived and prospered in the new country. Thus, a Spanish born Mexican baker was the inventor of the hero of the New York Deli scene, the bialy. Its all true, you can look it up if you don’t believe me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

loncheria nuevo oriental

When you crave Chinese food and are ready to resort to do-it-yourself you have been in La Paz just long enough to appreciate the restaurant Nuevo Oriental. It’s a house semi-converted into a restaurant on Marcelo Rubio between 16 de Septiembre and Reforma.
Back in the day when La Paz was unknown by readers of Money magazine as a great place to retire, a strong Chinese presence existed in the heart of downtown and the best of the Chinese food palaces was known as the restaurante Dragon. It’s still there, on the top floor above a coffee place on 16 de Septiembre and Esquerro. Food isn’t bad, but imagination and authenticity long went the way of progress. What happened was, the chef/owner passed away and the family kept the restaurant open.
The folks who were privy to the ancient one’s recipes, however, split off and opened the loncheria out of their home, for those who still wanted what they used to have.
Imagine a small place keeping the same menu and traditions for 21 years now…

From the street, one sees a small sign on the light pole announcing the Cantonese loncheria with the interior open to the street and two lonely empty tables daring up to 8 people to cross the threshold. Once you do decide to chance it, you see the action is just to the right, where there are 9 other tables, families gathered over their platters of chow mein, chop suey and cashew chicken. I opted for takeout and selected a half order of sweet and sour chicken with white rice, to go.
All I can say is that if I didn’t find Cantonese style so boring, I would be very excited. The meat was chicken wing, just the first bone, and the bone had been frenched, leaving a tender drumstick of battered white meat chicken. The sauce was a pineapple sweet and sour sauce and it was nicely studded with celery, wedges of pineapple and yellow bell peppers. Classic!
Loncheria Nuevo Oriental, Marcelo Rubio between 16 de Septiembre and Reforma. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 1pm until 6. dine-in or take out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three rupees

About a mile out of town, town being arbitrarily delineated by Boulevar Colosio, is a rosticeria called Rupes3s. Monday through Saturday from 11 until 6 they proudly offer racks of “barbeque” ribs plus fried chicken, roasted chicken and roast chicken bathed in barbeque sauce. Meaty french fries and sour onion coleslaw salad are available and every order comes with salsa and tortillas.
On the day I stopped by, the she behind the counter was delighted to show me around and proudly demonstrated their secret for making juicy, golden brown fried chicken with up to 90% less fat retention than other chicken places. The fried chicken, slabs of ribs and french fries are all cooked in their state of the art pressurized deep fryer. In the case of the ribs or barbeque chicken, after it comes out of the fryer, it gets dipped into barbeque sauce then is microwaved for several minutes to glaze the sauce onto the meat.
If you call ahead, your order will be ready to go when you get there; all meals are strictly take-out. An assortment of bottled soft drinks are also available. The next time I go, I have to remember to ask them about something called “our original slopy”’
Rosticeria Rupes 3 on the carretera al norte just before Motel Villa del Sol 124 13 44

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An unabashed plug for bakery Pan D'Les-update

Update: Summer is over and the bakery is now open six days per week, closed on Sundays. Pastry classes are over until next summer,as well
This week the summer hours for Pan D'Les kick in. That means that on Tuesdays, the bakery will not be open to the public.
New hours are from 8 am to 2 pm on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Always closed on Sundays and now on Tuesdays as well.

I'll be taking advantage of this pause in production to offer a pastry workshop. Every Tuesday from now until the last Tuesday in July. Come participate as we prepare a brunch menu that includes Lemon Souffle pancakes, hibiscus flower syrup, chicken apple sausage and gourmet biscuits. We'll sit down and enjoy our creations and best of all, someone else will clean up after us!
During the class, we will have time to troubleshoot your recipes that you're struggling with. Oh, and the June classes will be conducted in Spanish, to the best of my ability. The English language class begins in July. The fee is 200 pesos.

For some reason the bakery is very hard to find. Sorry about that and let me try again to help you find the place. We all know I'm in La Paz in Mexico and most everyone knows I'm in the downtown area. Unfortunately street signs are missing from most intersections and the driving habits of others make sightseeing while in a moving vehicle almost impossible. As a matter of fact, I see near-misses all the time as people come to the top of the hill and try to cross Madero street or make a left turn onto Ocampo from the right lane. And when school is about to let out, forget it.

Sorry, I was stuck in traffic for a second. So. Landmarks: I am on Madero street between Sr. Sushi and FFYY Choy chinese restaurant. I am directly across the street from a hand car wash and there is a private school across the street that takes up almost the entire block. From the malecon, Ocampo street is where the National Car rental agency is. There is a short block then Ocampo slopes upward. On the left there is a convenience store called Chiflon and across the street is Tequilas bar. As you proceed up the hill, on the left is the Perico Marinero.

If you come to Buffalitos grill, you have gone past me. My bakery has a yellow and white striped skirt around the corrugated metal patio cover spanning the sidewalk. Printed on the skirt are the words Panaderia and Bakery. The windows have latticework metal bars on the window. They are green. The top of the windows with the green bars have a yellow and white striped valence upon which are written Pan Natural, choux, brownies, granola. Sometimes there is a white resin chair outside.

Beginning at the corner, from north to south, you will see sr. Sushi, then a parking lot. A private home. A business with polyurethaned flagstone and silver bars. At the moment it is for rent. Then a driveway, a store called Sunset, another private home with a fenced front yard, then the dentist, then me, then the chinese restaurant.

Sign up for a class if you have three hours. We'll have fun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The steel aquarium

For over thirty years Taco Fish La Paz in Guadalajara has prepared a special version of fish taco by using a tempura batter rather than the fritter batter preferred here in Baja California Sur. Gleaming stainless steel tables and stools are a signature look for Taco Fish La Paz as well as a completely stocked bottled salsa bar and a cold table worthy of Ramsey, holding dozens of relishes appropriate for seafood.
Rather than two stainless steel carts and a remote kitchen as is found in Guadalajara, the La Paz Taco Fish La Paz has its own kitchen and a large covered dining room. Stainless steel is still the favored décor and there is no lack of it! The salsa and condiment bar remain the center of attention—easily accomplished as they are in the center of the dining room.

Now in its second year in La Paz, Taco Fish La Paz has captured the interest of many paceños and quite a few tapatios who now live on the peninsula instead of the mainland. Friends had told me about the La Paz location, exclaiming,"you need to ask for two tortillas—the portions are so big!”
I wandered into the place and over to one of the food bars to see battered fish the size of a slice of Bimbo bread and stacks of fried shrimp balls the size of oranges. Deep fried fish empenadas have a pastry crust with an attractive fluted edge. Giving in to my gluttony, I ordered two fish tacos and a marlin empanada. However…
What hasn’t been precisely duplicated is the very thing that makes Taco Fish La Paz so unique. Tempura fish or veggies or what have you are characterized by a delicate batter that is as light as cotton candy and goes soggy just as quickly. The tempura battered fish on the day I visited seemed to have been twice-fried as it was extremely thick and crunchy. The large piece of fish was unceremoniously broken in half for my two tacos. On the other hand, the empanada wasn’t bad. The filling was ample, the empanada itself was not greasy and I was only sorry I hadn’t thought to add some condiments before completely devouring it.
I’m gonna go back to try some other things. I’ll bring D with me; she really likes fish tacos.
Taco Fish La Paz of La Paz. Marquez de Leon at Heroes de Independencia. Green curb parking for four vehicles. Tuesday through Sunday 8:30 to 4:00pm

Friday, April 30, 2010

Americano’s cheesesteak grill-oh, and pastry shop, too

Americano’s cheesesteak grill-oh, and pastry shop, too

Just off of el centro on Bravo between Revolucion and Madero you will find John’s Americano’s Grill. I’ve long debated whether the name referred to the man running the place, or if it meant that here be eponymous land of freedom food, or exactly what. Given the logo, with the proud head of lady liberty surrounded by a cheesesteak sandwich and glittering aerial bombs bursting in the air, one might be tempted to think the food was Authentic American.
Checking the menu, the cheesesteak grill is a parody of Americana. Sure there are kraut dogs, and cheesesteak sandwiches, and malted milkshakes, and pies, too but it all has a decidedly local flavor about it, from the beans side dish to the rolls holding the meat for the sandwiches to the variations on the pseudo namesake sandwich itself.
The look of the place is decidedly bowery chic. The walls are yellow with green sponge paint or is it the other way around, ubiquitous plastic tables and chairs covered in unhemmed oilcloth, a rattling air conditioner over the door and the smell of fried foods that hover over the dining area. Termite-softened wood molding at the entrance greets each customer and occasionally on my morning neighborhood walks (the restaurant is a block away from my bakery) a homeless person obligingly lends character and charm by sleeping in the doorway alcove. He is usually gone by the time the restaurant opens at 10 a.m. Closing hours are three p.m. unless prior arrangements are made. And on Saturday, there is an all you can eat buffet for 75 pesos. “It's based on what we have left from the week's activities so we can clear out and start fresh on Tuesday.” Now that’s truly the American entrepreneurial spirit! Seriously, though. Check the place out. It’s a real contender.
Americano’s cheesesteak grill and pastry shop. Wi-Fi/Delivery. Bravo 150. Ten to three Tuesday through Saturday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Little Buffalo

What if the owner of Buffalo’s had a little brother? What if the little brother wanted his own place? And what would you call it?
Buffalito grill is on Madero between Ocampo and Nicholas Bravo. Its where meat meets fire. Ostensibly a carnivores’delight, vegetarians successfully navigate the menu with juicy portabello mushroom burgers and guacamole tacos.
One of the litmus tests I and my circle of friends apply is the french fry onion ring challenge. Will the fries be crispy with just enough salt? Will the onion rings be homemade, crispy and ample? A bright ketchup red yes to those questions. Is the burger meat juicy and natural or has it been worked to dry toughness and preseasoned with gallons of salsa Inglesa tipoWorcestershire? Succulent and tender!
The dining area is open air patio and painted concrete floor. Tables and chairs are not the plastic resin found everywhere else, but do carry the Tecate trademark. Speaking of Tecate beers, they have Bohemia and Indio beer for those fans of beer with character and substance. Wine, too by the glass. Music appropriate for dining plays sometimes a bit intrusively but a quick word to the attentive servers brings the ambience back to quiet enjoyment of good food well prepared.
How does little brother do it? Create a place worthy of a second meal? First, have a family that operates a successful restaurant then take all the good bits and leave off the bad. Buffalito grill, open 1 pm until closing, except Monday when the grill’s not hot until 5pm.

It's been a whole year and what a time!

It has been more than a year since my last post. Incredible watching this big little city twist and bend to adapt to what has been a world-shaking year. Financial crisis! Swine Flu! Drug cartels!

For a time, restaurants and businesses held on. Some rents went unpaid, a few people went unpaid, suppliers went without. But this is Mexico and just because the phone and electricity are cut off, that does not mean instant closing. Harsh reality finally squeezed the last breath out of at least three hotels and countless eateries. Of the places I highlighted last March, Dalle Regazzi is in the process of closing. Caballete and Uva lasted a month. Fussion went a few months and folded. Captain Tony's closed and reopened as a pizza place just off the malecon. I think Placeres Argentina is kaput. Estancia Uruguay and Tres Virgenes have survived.

A rash of new places came in as quickly as others left. La Tosca blipped in and out. The Original Baja Kettle Corn is gone and will reopen as Paco's Palomitas in the near future. El Trocadero and Bistro Gastronomico are gaining ground in a declining market. Kudos to them! I feel I'm rambling a bit so this post is closed. I'll try to post regularly this summer, time permitting. Thanks for reading me.

Les, the bread guy

About Me

My photo
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Before gaining control of my life, I created pastries for some cool places in California: San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Brix Restaurant in Napa and The Lodge in Sonoma. Now I am the chef/owner of Pan D' Les bakery in La Paz. My personal favorite is the Multigrano loaf, full of crunchy seeds and a nice chewy crust.