Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: From corn fritters to affogato

Kicking this food post off with our favorite way to end a meal in Guanajuato: an affogato from Estacion Gelato. Particularly when cardamom gelato is among the offerings to serve as the base for the pour of espresso.

Most craved dish is the corn and jalapeno fritter appetizer at Los Campos Cantina y Restaurante. In fact, Los Campos proved our all-around favorite restaurant during our fall visit.

We were also taken by the addition of a new sister spot, Metate Tacos – Mezcal – Vino. The best guacamole ever, spicy fried chickpeas, a delightful stuffed guero chile and falling-off-the-bone-tender pork shank for making tacos to share at the table. The owners were tinkering with the menu though, and the last time we tried to go none of those were available. The online menu appears as though the chef settled on keeping most of the dishes we loved. If you go, let us know.

Enjoyed new menu items at the upscale Mestizo. Pulpo carpaccio was sweet and tender, and the tuna “carnitas” tacos were a nice change.

In the Presa neighborhood, Amatxi appeared particularly popular with chilangos, but we found the laidback front porch of nearby La Victoriana a more suitable fit for us.

While restaurants encircle the intimate, shady and mariachi-filled Jardin de la Union, we have always shunned eating there. Kind of more of a beer-sipping people-watching spot. We decided to end our snobbery and try the always-bustling Casa Valadez. We found nothing wrong with the food and extremely professional service; all fine if you want to pay higher prices than needed and be assured of eating with all tourists.

We countered that by going into the hole-in-the-wall seafood spot tucked away behind Iglesia de San Diego – La Vela Marisqueria. As tiny and casual as a shack on the beach, La Vela has great fresh ceviche and tacos.

And El Santurrona Gastropub is a perfect spot for people-watching away from the jardin. The fried chicken sandwich is not a bad choice at all.

And then, for a total change in flavor, the fresh food at Delica Mitsu, Campenero location, is great, and you find yourself surrounded by a sea of young Asian college students who agree.

We also enjoy the funky Escarola with its fresh falafel burger. But we must confess that part of its appeal is its convenient location near our favorite after-lunch spot – Estacion de Gelato.

Postcard from Rome, Italy: Finally, a food break for you

This blog has been dragging you through museum after museum and church after church in Rome, even through my museum meltdown, without one food break. Time to forget art and culture and be honest about why we really travel to Italy. To eat.

This first food post represents an unusual grouping of what ended up being our favorite spots. Even though we traipsed miles across Rome every day, three of these were within three blocks of our apartment.

Let’s get right to a full confession. Our absolute favorite restaurant in Rome is a vegetarian one, Arancia Blu. That luscious stuffed red onion above, roasted until sweet and tender and resting in a pool of red pepper sauce, is among the offerings that seduced us back for repeat visits. Whether a warm bean salad, a crispy radicchio lasagna, chickpea with walnut ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, creamy risotto topped with fried artichoke or pistachio sorbet with caramelized pear – we loved everything we tried. The inside of Arancia Blu is like sitting in a friend’s personal library; outside tables are perched on a side street with little traffic.

We stumbled almost directly off the plane to set our forks twirling in our first plate of that Roman classic pasta dish, cacio e pepe. The rich sauce is the result of few ingredients – aged Pecorino Romano cheese, water from the pasta and a proper dose of freshly ground black pepper. We lucked out because our neighborhood Caffe Vergnano 1882 on Piazzale Flaminio turned out some of the best we tried.

Yes, you can find Caffe Vergnano affiliated coffee spots numerous places, but this location has a chef hidden inside. There is no printed menu, only a blackboard outside listing a couple of pastas and no prices. Reasonable enough in pricing to attract locals, the contemporary spot generally is bustling, which offers a chance to peer at the regulars’ tables and realize there are more dishes than the server recites. Spying is how we discovered one of the best vegetable platters in Rome for us to share with our pasta dishes. More roasted fennel, please.

And, when we were not too overstuffed from lunch, we would swing by Mondo Arancina Flaminio for Sicilian-style arancini to-go. The freshly made balls of rice were filled with things like spinach, prosciutto and cheese, mozzarella and peas or eggplant ragout before frying. Okay, another confession. We were always overstuffed but would grab some for the approaching wine hour anyway.

The final place in this post was way off the beaten tourist track; TripAdvisor only has seven reviews in English posted. We only made the trek once to La Gallina Capricciosa, but the meal was memorable. We barely snagged two seats in the packed family-run, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The Mister’s Spanish worked fine here, as we were probably the only customers without Peruvian blood running in our veins. We way over-ordered, and the waiter was nice enough to eliminate one of our dishes. We started with fried yucca and an inexpensive, extremely generous serving of fresh ceviche in leche de tigre with the traditional corn and sweet potato on the side. We scarcely made a dent in our shared order of seafood rice.

I promise, more Italian dishes later.

Postcard from Mexico City: Trolling for seafood in Roma Norte

We kept trying to find just the right seafood fit for our tastes while we were in Mexico City. The ceviche de atun with ginger at the reasonably priced Marlindo was among our favorite dishes, and the shrimp atop a tostada were beautiful. But Marlindo definitely is an ultra-casual neighborhood spot without much atmosphere, better for grabbing a quick bite than for lingering over a bottle of wine.

El Parnita is amazingly popular and bustling, but the dishes failed to excite us. On the other hand, we found ourselves the only ones in the dining room for lunch at Lucas Local. But the softshell crab sandwich at Lucas Local was phenomenal, and the pulpo and dried shrimp ceviche was refreshingly good and imaginatively presented in a coconut shell. Softshell crab is never easy enough for this Chesapeake Bay girl to find; wishing I had returned for seconds.

Our final week, we finally hit our favorite spot, Campo Baja. Casual, bustling rooftop with an open-kitchen concept, and it was not even a full block away from our apartment. The approach to each dish was distinctively different, making wandering through numerous shared plates feel as though we were venturing into new territory.

If you are visiting the neighborhood, hope our photos help you find the right spot to suit your seafood mood.