Postcard from Mexico City: Yes, they’ve got it for sale

Opportunities to buy things large and small present themselves almost every few steps you take in Mexico City.

The city is famed for its street food and inventive ways to sell it, such as the motorized empanaderia. We stumbled across one food truck that sported a second story with stools and a counter for rooftop dining (sorry, no photo). It’s amazing how one can start with a healthy mango and add layers of psychedelic toppings to completely disguise the fruit at its base. Vibrant colored chips and doodles fail to convince they are high in beneficial beta carotene.

Never tempted to hire a clever all-weather pedicab, but did keep envisioning mounting the trio of horses in Chapultepec Park corralled by a vendor for photos for a fee, the perfect souvenir to share on facebook for holiday greetings. But, alas, the Mister and nuestra hija declined. Bet they are sorry now that Christmas is almost here.

Chocolates and Proyecto 125 wines were about our only purchases outside of restaurants. Kind of wondering if we should have succumbed to the numerous offerings of loteria tickets. Potential winnings look so impressive when promoted in pesos.

Postcard from Parma, Italy: Festivals fill the streets with art and regional flavors

Beginning in early April, for 45 days contemporary art popped up in public spaces and unexpected places throughout the city as part of Parma 360. Although the event map listed 40 venues, we tended to stumble upon them rather randomly.

Man cannot live on art alone. In the midst of the art events, Parma hosted its three-day Street Food Festival with approximately two dozen food trucks and portable booths in Piazzale della Pilotta in the shadow of the Farnese Palace. Street food in Parma covers a broad sweep of flavors. In addition to burgers and brews, vendors offered some of the region’s finest hams, cheeses and wines.

Am still unsure whether the clever plays on the “do not enter” signs we encountered in our immediate neighborhood were part of Parma 360 or vigilante street art, but hope they remain past yesterday’s closing of the festival.

Postcard from Lisboa, Portugal: Yes, we did eat out a bit.

Traveling for six weeks, we did not always make it to the restaurants with the hottest chefs. We were reserving some of them for the end of our trip, and, by then, we weren’t up for such major meals. Plus, we had some favorite spots beckoning return visits.

Am arbitrarily dividing the food into two categories. The second post will deal with restaurants serving “foreign,” as in not Portuguese, fare.

The Mister’s favorite fish dish of the trip, meaning we went to the place twice so he could enjoy it again, was what I believe is called bream fish at Belem 2 to 8. The flaky fillet topped layers of greens, potatoes and a richly seasoned tomato sauce. For the first time after seeing it on many menus, I broke down and tried the traditional fried green beans. These are whole, long beans in a tempura batter. The Portuguese claim to have originated tempura cooking for seafood and vegetables – tempura referring to the “time” of no-meat fasting during Lent – with missionaries spreading its usage to Japan in the 1600s.

There were a multitude of restaurants within a few blocks of our apartment. Carmo Restaurante was on a lively plaza filled with jacaranda trees and street musicians. Enjoyed freshly steamed clams and octopus rice there. We were prowling for vegetables when we found Café Royale, with a “parcel” of thinly sliced eggplant wrapped around vegetables, tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella and a goat cheese salad. Another great haven for lighter vegetable dishes was Vertigo Café, a place one immediately felt comfortably at home. There, we enjoyed eggplant and zucchini toasts, a chicken and couscous salad plate and a “jacked-up” potato, with vegetables and tzatziki sauce.

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The seductive patio on a hilltop drew us for several meals at Lost in Esplanada. Everything we sampled was good, from a healthy beet soup to the decadent arugula and gorgonzola cheese toast. We also enjoyed roasted vegetables, rosemary grilled shrimp and tender octopus there.

At a nearby park, grab a table, if you can, at the Café Esplanada. Humongous rubber trees provide the shade for this spot filled with locals sipping beer. On Saturdays, there’s a farmers’ market, and the people-watching is great. Don’t delve far into the menu; order what everyone else is having – large toasts, panini-like sandwiches filled with oozing cheese. So good, and so inexpensive. And they convinced me to order a panini-maker as soon as we got home.

Smoke swirls around booths set up in the streets on the Feast Day of Saint Anthony, and many nights surrounding the date, vending fresh sardines and grilled meats slapped into sandwiches. Some vendors just go whole hog, speared from head to tail.