Quetzal restaurant, co-owned by chefs Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo, along with Grant van Gameren (Bar Isabel, Bar Raval) and Owen Walker (El Rey Mezcal Bar), opens in Toronto later this year.
What draws you to Mexico City?
Definitely the diversity of their gastronomy and culture, which they are always willing and ready to share.
After you land and settle, where do you go first?
We head straight to Medellín market for some tlacoyos (a football-shaped masa stuffed with beans or cheese) and fresh juice or horchata (with cactus pear, garnished with pecans and melon)—our favourite is jugo verde made with fresh cactus. Markets are the heart and soul of any city, where you can learn more about local traditions, ingredients and flavours.
Is that your routine all over Mexico?
Yes, we always go to the local market or street stands where they are cooking whatever is in season with masa on comales. Masa is the dough made from dried corn that’s been boiled and soaked overnight in limewater, then stone-ground. A comal is a circular cooking surface for tortillas, either clay or cast iron.
For a quick weekend—just two lunches and two dinners—where do you go?
In Mexico City, we would go for lunch to the markets (Medellín, Mercado de San Juan, Coyoacán, etc.) and look for the ladies cooking with the ingredients of the season on their comales (like tlacoyos quesadillas, gorditas, etc., which are all made with fresh nixtamal mas —something we’re excited to bring back to Canada at Quetzal. On our last trip, we went to a Oaxacan restaurant called Pasillo de Humo, which is the perfect gastronomic representation of Oaxaca, one of our favourite cities. They make great pan dulce. Comedor Jacinta has delicious ceviches and other creative dishes prepared with lots of flavour and love.
Where do you go for morning coffee?
Other than the good [sweetened and spiced] café de olla in the markets, on our recent trip we had great coffees and pastries at Rossetta Bakery. There’s also a good small cafe called Quentin in the Roma neighbourhood.
And late night drinks?
Comedor Jacinta has a good cocktail list as well as good local beers and cured pulques (a low-alcohol, fermented agave spirit). They blend them with different flavours—we had a really amazing celery one this trip. Some of our favourite cantinas are Covadonga and a little hole in the wall beside Taquería Los Cocuyos (best tacos in Mexico City!) where the waitress will go next door to get the tacos for you.
Where do you go for quiet contemplation?
There are so many nice parks in Mexico City. One of our favourites is Bosque de Chapultepec, which also houses the National Museum of Anthroplogy, the biggest museum in Mexico. It has countless Aztec and Mayan treasures. There are some archaeological sites right in the city centre, like the ruins at Templo Mayor.
What does Mexico have that you wish you could get at home?
Regional fresh herbs like chepiche, chipilín, quintonil, poleo, patita de pájaro, etc. All the native corn—there is so much corn beyond just the yellow sweet corn we have in Canada. There are also about 56 varieties of insects used in Mexican cuisine, which are great additions to many dishes and salsas. Some of the regional cheeses would be great to have at home. We’d love to get some small-production mezcals and share the incredible work these people have been doing for generations.
What do you always buy, pack up and smuggle home?
All kinds of ingredients: dry herbs, spices, dry chilies, chocolate and delicious spicy candies. And as many cookbooks as we can find from all the regions of Mexico, to keep the learning going.
PHOTOGRAPHY: (STREETSCENE AND CORN) BY DUE PINLAC; (OTHERS) COURTESY OF JULIO GUAJARDO