Tag Archives: Pulque
When trying to talk about pulque, it is only possible to scratch the surface. An ancient fermented drink made with nectar from 12-year old agave plants, this milky alcoholic substance has a soap opera-worthy history. Once a prominent sacred potion, and esteemed secular remedy to which aphrodisiac and extraordinary nutritious properties were attributed, pulque has also gone from being anything from the stigma of the demons of a caste, to the protagonist of the movement of Mexican independence.
500 years later, and after enduring both the rejection and nationalistic embrace of its own people, this drink continues to be a relevant part of Mexican life and popular folklore. In the early 1900s, more than one thousand pulquerías peppered the streets of Mexico City, with catchy, tongue-in-cheek names reflecting the innate humor of Defeño* social dynamics- “The Other Church”, “A Lady’s Belch”, “Better Here than There” (for an establishment across from a cemetery). Also, many of them are hosts to quite a collection of Mexican art.
Although today pulque is consumed primarily in rural areas where its complex drinking and serving etiquette lives on, there seems to be a movement of resurgence in Mexico City. Tasting tours are now also available.
Because the drink is fermented, selling it in cans is impractical, but may still be found. The best pulque is freshly fermented, and it is usually enjoyed by itself or mixed with fruits, in which case it is called curado. I have not stumbled upon pulque breweries in Chicago, but then again, I have not purposefully looked for them either yet, although I have read about people who brew their own for personal consumption. If you are outside of Mexico and know where to find pulque, here is chef Victoria del Ángel’s recipe to make your own coconut curado:
Curado de Coco
• 4 cups of fresh pulque
• 1 cup of shredded coconut
• 1 can of creme of coconut
• Sugar to taste
- Mix all the ingredients in a blender slowly incorporating the pulque.
- Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
*Defeños are citizens of Mexico City
Chef Victoria del Ángel discovered her passion for cooking at the age of three. Fascinated by Mexican cuisine, she obtained a degree in gastronomy by the Escuela Superior de Gastronomía in Mexico and a graduate degree by the Culinary Institute of Switzerland. Currently, Victoria is the owner of a chocolate boutique, Xocolat del Ángel, in Jilotepec, México.
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Underneath the supernatural halo that surrounds the concept “Shaman”, you will find the fascinating meaning of a cross-culturally relevant word that some say can be traced back to Sanskrit: survivor.
Fittingly, Soraya Rendón, the owner of Chicago’s “Shaman” and “Chilam Balam” is that and more. Just like the concept, she has crossed countries and cultures. Beyond surviving, she has thrived. She has conquered.
Leaving her native Mexico in her teens, Soraya remembers how she was passed up for a job as a receptionist because she did not speak English. Unfazed, she told the hiring manager she would learn the language and then come back. A few months later, and faithful to her promise, she returned to land the job. Actually, Soraya negotiated a higher-paying position with a better title because, as she explained, she “was now bilingual.”
Consistently fearless, Soraya soon opened Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant focused on sustainable cuisine. “It survived, so we decided to open Shaman,” Soraya said about her second “child” as she calls each one of her establishments. “The name made perfect sense to me.”
True to form, Soraya would continue to challenge convention and predictability. Her BYOB eatery treats patrons to a dynamic menu featuring Mexican-inspired small plates. The dishes are a creative take on traditional recipes, and are thoughtfully brought to life by none other than chef Natalie Oswald, an Ohio-born chef who brace yourself, happens to cook fluently “in Spanish”.
But what is absolutely certain is that when you visit Shaman, you will be charmed by a fascinating out-of-country atmosphere that you could very well find in a restaurant in Coyoacán. The food is a reflection of the story behind it: bold, creative, passionate… Delightful.
What we loved: If you visit, try the porkbelly tacos. I was impressed by the balance of textures and flavors packed in a small bite. The tortillas, by the way, were perfect.
Shaman by Chilam Balam
1438 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Hours: Tue-Thu: 5pm-10pm Fri-
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I accidentally stumbled upon La Diosa (Spanish for “goddess”), a little café in Lincoln Park that I did not remember having seen before. I was first curious about the name, and since we had already had lunch, we decided to go in for dessert.
I had no idea that I was really in for a treat.
We were greeted by La Diosa‘s owner Laura Martínez, a young Mexican chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. We exchanged pleasantries in Spanish (the restaurant had just opened in January). The pictures on the wall prompted more questions. I learned that Martínez honed her cooking skills while interning, and later working for Charlie Trotter.
As if these accomplishments were not already impressive, Laura Martínez happens to be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US.
The entire concept behind La Diosa, from the menu to the name, are both her idea and her dream. Losing her eyesight as a baby, Martínez is convinced that her condition pushed her to succeed. “Being a chef was not the easiest path for anyone in my situation, and I did not want anybody to tell me that I was not able to do something. I am the only one in my family with a degree,” she said.
Her kitchen is completely open and pristine, and watching her prepare empanadas with great precision, is nothing short of amazing. Her husband, Maurilio, doubles as both Martínez’s eyes and her sous chef. “Sometimes it can get frustrating, you wish you could see when it gets busy so that you can move faster,” she added.
Why La Diosa? Martínez said the name is a nod to her faith. As she spoke, I could not help but be reminded of her strength and resolve. Plus, if I could ever imagine of anyone embodying supernatural powers, it is her: Martínez masterfully wields a knife without sight.
If you visit La Diosa, please say hi to chef Martínez from us. We recommend that you try her tequila-cheese pie or the flan. The hot chocolate is heavenly indeed.
2308 N. Clark St.
8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
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