Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eating in Veracruz

Seafood, of course, except for breakfast.

On Thursday I had lunch at one of the beachfront palapas on the rather shabby beach next to the aquarium. (I'm not a beach person, so I didn't seek out the good one, further out in the adjacent town of Boca del Rio, a separate municipality but for practical purposes an extension of Veracruz.) These restaurants all have similar menus, so I chose the most crowded one. I had a crab cocktail and pulpo (octopus) a la Veracruzana, both respectable though unspectacular. I always find Mexican cocktail sauces much too sweet, so lime and chile sauce were added liberally. Any seafood dish called a la Veracruzana, which you can find at many Mexican restaurants in the U.S., features a sauce of chopped tomatoes and onions.

One of Veracruz's most famous seafood restaurants, Villa Rica, has a branch at the Gran Hotel Diligencias, right on the Zocalo (main square), where I happened to be staying. I started with an order of shrimp empanadas which may well have been the best empanadas I've ever tasted. For my main course I chose the fish filet stuffed with mixed seafood. This too was quite good except for the fact that it had a white sauce which seemed to be mayo based, which is really not my cuppa, or even my copa. In Veracruz you can get many things stuffed with seafood: fish filet, crab shells, pineapples and coconuts. I washed my dinner down with a dark Bohemia beer and finished with a Herradura Anejo (anejos are the cognac of tequila). This was my Thanksgiving dinner. I'd save the turkey for Yucatan, where it's a staple of the local cuisine.

The next day I had lunch at a food court that's full of stalls selling seafood dishes of all sorts. At one of the stalls I had camaron enchipotlado (shrimp in a chipotle sauce), picante y muy delicioso.

For dinner I tried a place that I had scouted out earlier, but which turned out to be somewhat disappointing. I ordered the stuffed crab, not realizing that it would be pretty much the same stuffing I had the night before, only not as good. Still, the owner/waiter was really nice, and after dinner he brought me several small alcoholic batidas (shakes) on the house, a guanabana and a mango.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The Malecon

I spent Thanksgiving and the day after in Veracruz, before heading off to the Yucatan, and I'll tell you what I ate next time, but now it's time to share some photos of the city. Regular readers of Word of Mouth may have noticed that the pickings have been slim for a while. Well, I've pretty much decided that, for the time being at least, I'll only be blogging when I travel, or to announce new creative publications online.

I've been curious about Veracruz for some time. As a major port, on the Gulf of Mexico, it's got a somewhat different character from other parts of Mexico, a certain cosmopolitanism and an embrace of other cultures, especially Caribbean. I was particularly interested in the music of the region, much of which incorporates Afro-Caribbean rhythms, especially Cuban. So I was rather disappointed that two music clubs I'd read about, El Rincon de la Trova and Kachamba were no longer in operation. Still, in the evening there's really non-stop music around the Zocalo, the main square, the heart of Veracruz cafe culture. Roving musicians play marimba, often augmented by a drum kit featuring a timbal, while other groups play the local son Jarocho (La Bamba is the most famous song in this style), and occasionally mariachi. In truth, while pleasant enough and laid back, Veracruz is nothing special by day, but at night it really comes to life, both on the Zocalo and the Malecon (waterfront).

Veracruz has lots of statues. This one, which I found rather cute, is in honor of the Spanish immigrants who arrived through the port of Veracruz.

Veracruz also has lots of porticoes, which provide shade in a city that can get pretty hot. This feature, along with a distinctive local cuisine, are qualities it shares with Bologna.

The top of the cathedral. Supposedly it's not a particularly interesting one, and I didn't go inside.

A marimba plays for diners on the Zocalo.