Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mexican Tradition Series Part II: Nico's Chile en Nogada! Viva México!

The Place: Nico's Chile en Nogada: A Mexico City Food Legend!

The Experience: 
Gringo G had never been to Nico's before he went in search of its famed Chile en Nogada for his Mexico Tradition Series! He thought that taking into account the massive accolades ranging from Food & Wine all the way to Marco Beteta (the famous Mexican celebrity chef/food guide), that Nico´s would be all glitz and glamor. The Gringo was immensely surprised by the austere setting Nico's maintains; they do not even have a sign outside the restaurant. If you were walking by and had not been to Nico’s before, you would not notice that a very renowned restaurant was inside.

In the end this austerity did not matter one bit, because Nico's simply lets its exquisite Slow Mexican Food do the talking. Once you get past the austere entrance you enter a restaurant with minimal decoration that seems like it is straight out of the 1970's. This restaurant is PACKED, like up to the gills packed. Gringo G went at 10 in the morning and Nico's had a line out the door.

If a restaurant over 50 years old with prices, at least for Mexico City dining, that are high-end and there is a line out the door then something unique is going on in the kitchen. Chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo was kind enough to show the Gringo G around the kitchen after his meal and as you stroll through the folkloric kitchen you can see elderly Mexican ladies and men that have been preparing the famed Mexican delicacies that have made Nico´s a Mexico City Food legend for decade after decade. An experienced touch can make all the difference when making a dish as delicate and complex as the September classic, the Chile en Nogada and it showed at Nico’s.

The Gringo started off with some fresh, warm bread and his companions had delicious Mexican sweet breads along with the Mexican classic of café con leche ... a nice home-style way to start off the meal. Since it was a breakfast occasion the Gringo G had an Aporreado Guerrerense, a dish with scrambled eggs, slow-slow cooked tomatillo-chile cuarasmeño sauce along with tasty strips of cecina (salted beef ... with the variety from Yecapixtla, Morelos the most famous).

Then we had the house specialty: the Chile en Nogada. Before talking about the experience at Nico’s, this dish deserves an explanation because of its great importance in Mexico Culinary Food Tradition. The traditional Chile en Nogada is purported to be from Puebla; it is tied to the independence of Mexico since it is said they were prepared for the first time to entertain the emperor Agustín de Iturbide when he came to the city after his naming as Agustín I. The legend says that it took months of experiments to finally invent a dish with the country’s three colors (green, white and red) for the banquet of Agustín I and the Chile en Nogada was the result. This dish is a source of pride for the inhabitants of the state of Puebla (as is the famed mole poblano). This dish is traditionally served in August and September when the pomegranate fruit is in season in Central Mexico and can complete the legendary dish (Source: Wikipedia).

Back to Nico’s, as any decent Chile en Nogada should be the Chile at Nico’s was presented with the strong patriotic colors of Mexico with the dark green chile poblano on the bottom (with filling), the bright red pomegranate fruit on top of the flowing white "nogada", a rich cream sauce with two or three types of nuts (usually a mix of walnut, almond and pecan). Once we cut open a piece of the Chile en Nogada it was apparent that the filling was just as rich in flavor and texture as the nogada. The luxurious "picadillo" filling was excellent; composed of a voluminous mix of ground pork and beef with pine nuts, apples, and peach all slow cooked together with the addition of the sweetened biznaga fruit (acitrón de biznaga) which is added to create a contrasting flavor to the salty meat. This picadillo filling was very carefully done and quite complex in its flavoring.

In the end it was a pleasure to try one of Mexico's most famous dishes at one of its most traditional gourmet, slow food restaurants!

The Location: Av. Cuitlauac 3102, intersection with Clavería, Colonia Clavería, Azcapotzalco, DF.


Nico's Chile en Nogada

Chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo in his Legendary Kitchen

The Dining Room

VIDEO: Café con Leche

The Specials: During the month of September the Chile en Nogada is the specialty of the house. Nico’s only serves a limited amount of chiles per day and you almost have to reserve the chiles when making the reservation.

As part of the Slow Food movement in Mexico Nico’s openly tries to buy most of its ingredients at fair prices from providers that do not use preservatives or chemical processes while producing the ingredients that eventually grace the plates of Nico’s customers. They are famous for using special, unprocessed corn for their tortillas and for making their bread in-house.

According to reviews from other websites and many user reviews online, the Sopa Seca de Nata (a soup created with layers of semi-solid skim of cream with chile flavors mixed in) which was purportedly taken from a recipe of nuns in Guadalajara, is the most famous year-round house specialty. In addition there are several Mexican seafood classics from crab to shrimp that are popular among patrons … Gringo G simply did not have enough room for all of these plates since the Chile en Nogada was immense.

The "Picadillo" Filling of Nico's Chile en Nogada

Aporreado Guerrerense

Taco of Aporreado Guerrerense

Nice little Tri-Color Salsa with Sea Salt

Tips: Gringo G must underline that you really, really need a reservation to get in the door at Nico’s or you will most likely wait a very long time if you arrive without one. A reservation can be made by phone using the contact below or using OpenTable.com.

If you want a Chile en Nogada make sure to make an early lunch reservation BY PHONE and specify that you will be going for the Chile that way they will prepare them ahead of time.

Even in Gringo G's House the tradition of Chile en Nogada is celebrated!
Gabo & BB's Chile en Nogada
Viva México!

Price Point: $$$
$: Takeout or fast food $$: Casual sit-down $$$: Formal sit-down $$$$: La Crème de La Crème

Website: www.nicosmexico.mx/ 

Contact: Telephone - +52-55-5396-7090 

Coming Next: Mexican Tradition Series Part III: A sweet Mexican tradition lives on!

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