News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
By Darren M. Popik —
One of Mexico City’s most interesting fairs is now underway!
This year’s edition of the Feria de las Culturas Amigas (running May 25-June 9) is thee place to enjoy a whole lot of food and drink from different cultures.
Over 80 countries are participating this year, with their tents lining Avenida Reforma, between the Torre Mayor and Avenida Insurgentes. (And FYI, they’re organized by region.)
The tents are open daily from 11 am to 8 pm, and on the weekends (Fri-Sat-Sun), there’s even live entertainment too.
For me, the highlights this year are Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela.
All four feature a nice variety of food and other products these nations are known for.
When I stopped by the Venezuelan tent Sunday, to sample one of their very tasty arepas, I waited in line almost 30 minutes, only to discover that they were out of the key ingredient — carne mechada (shredded beef).
The real Venezuela is experiencing food shortages these days, so I suppose it’s only fitting that this would occur at their tent as well. (Thankfully, on my return visit today, they had restocked on the carne mechada. And I have to say, I had one of the tastiest arepas I’ve ever had.)
I got a chuckle out of the note in front of the grill, ordering people to line up to the left. This is what you might expect from the current Venezuelan dictatorship. (Recall that a few years ago, Hugo Chávez had the Venezuelan coat-of-arms changed, so the horse now runs backwards, to the left.)
Anyway, despite my affinity for Venezuelan food, I passed on the chance to buy a Hugo Chávez hat, coffee mug, or key chain. Um, no gracias.
And I had a pleasant surprise on my visit to the Colombia tent, where I encountered representatives of Juan Valdez Café, the country’s iconic coffee brand/coffee house (and favorite of mine) which has just opened their first café in Mexico City, in Santa Fe. And, good news — they’ll be opening two more cafés here very soon!
Chile’s tent showcases a nice variety of food and drink from the South American nation — lots of empanadas, choripan, Chilean wine, and pisco.
I checked out Brazil’s tent to sample some of their delicious snacks, pan de queso (or pão de queijo, as they call it). Also worth trying are the risoles de carne, which are basically like empanadas, and very tasty ones at that.
Upon visiting Perú, I found one of my favorite beverages – Inca Kola! If you’re not familiar with this golden-colored soft drink, it’s been around since 1935, and in fact, it’s so popular that it outsells Coca-Cola in Perú — one of the rare places on the planet where any other drink outsells Coke.
If you visit the Bolivia tent, try the Mate de Coca, the signature drink of the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. It’s a coca leaf tea, which helps in combatting altitude sickness, a common problem for visitors to the highlands of those two nations.
One of the disappointments for me this year is the lack of food and drink (and anything cultural) at the Argentina tent, a complete change from last year. All they seem to be doing is promoting some sort of a human rights campaign in the tent. Strange, given the large Argentine population in this city, and the very excellent food and wine that comes from this country. It was one of the countries I was most looking forward to checking out. (Conversely, their neighbors in Uruguay have an impressive tent.)
Great Britain has a nicely decorated tent, complete with distinctive phone booth, and cardboard cutouts of William and Kate, and Queen Elizabeth — but they seem to have forgotten to include food. There’s a Strongbow Gold Cider booth, and a few boxes of Weetabix on a table. But that’s it. I was really hoping to find the delicious bangers and mash that they had last year.
Also notable by their absence at the fair are Canada and Italy. Thumbs down to both of these countries for not taking part. (Seriously, how on earth could Canadian officials miss out on such a promotional opportunity, in a country where Canadians comprise the second largest number of tourists? Dumb dumb dumb.)
Nevertheless, despite these few countries who are missing in action, the others do their part to pick up the slack. Not all tents offer food, but many do, and it’s worth researching on your lunch break.
If you haven’t made it down to Reforma yet, do make a point to check it out. Just a tip — get there early to avoid the crowds.