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Vibrant Cancun: Street Art to Du Mexique Restaurant

In Nancy's Articles On February 22, 2018 0 Comments

When thinking of Cancun in Quintana Roo, Mexico, this is the image that comes to mind, right? After all, Cancun is renown for its great beaches and luxurious resorts.
Image.CancunBeachCancun Beach View, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In January, I celebrated my birthday in Cancun. And although, we woke up to this spectacular view every morning, my husband and I were anxious to see the culture of the locals in other parts of town.

Braced with our adventurous spirits and a rental car, we drove onto Bonampak Boulevard, a commercial and residential area of the city. We immediately noticed the vibrant architectural scene.
Image.CancunArtHouseMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In Cancun and all of Mexico, you are surrounded by vibrant colors every day. They appear in paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and in glass-domed ceilings such as this one at Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Mall.
Image.CancunGlassDomeGlass Dome, Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Center, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Thanks to the great Mexican muralists of the early 20th century (Diego Rivera, David Alvaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and others), the art of murals (wall paintings) lives on. Here are some murals made by Cancun’s talented artists:
Image.CancunMuralLadyIndigenousMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

This mural is inspired by symbolism related to Middle Eastern cultures. The Hamsa Hand or Hand of Fatima is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol with an eye at center. Native American cultures also used this hand symbol. People believe this talisman protects them from the evil eye and brings them goodness, abundance, fertility, luck and good health. Here, the artist transferred the eye from both hands and placed one eye at the center of what appears to be a heart.
Image.CancunMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The snakes could represent the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, also known as Kukulkan in the Maya culture. The native Maya culture thrived in Quintana Roo and Yucatan from the 9th to the 12th centuries.
Image.DetailMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural Detail on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The mural’s brilliant snake relates to the serpent god Kukulkan (see its heads at base of pyramid (below). It is called El Castillo and is located at Chichen Itza, a large city built by the Maya people. This city thrived from 600 AD. until 1221. You can visit Chichen Itza by driving 2 hours via an impressive toll road.
Image.ChichenItzaKukulkanHeadsEl Castillo Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan (detail); Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

After driving all over Cancun, our hunger pangs led us to Puerto Juarez where we enjoyed guacamole and beer on the beach:
Image.GuacamoleGuacamole Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

However, the most gourmet meal we had in Cancun was at Du Mexique Restaurant on Bonampak Boulevard. It is owned by Mexican entrepreneur Sonya Grimond and French Chef Benjamin Ferra y Castel.
Image.DuMexiqueOwners
As soon as you meet Sonya and Benjamin, you feel as though you are at home. Their warmth and meticulous attention to detail are astounding. Both Sonya and Chef Benjamin serve you personally.

For his foie gras, Chef Benjamin innovatively lays the flavors of both France and Mexico side-by-side on his canvas – the plate. The foie gras (made from fattened duck liver) is complemented by hibiscus sauce and coconut – Mexican ingredients.

Image.FoieGrasHibiscusFoie Gras Torchon, Coconut & Hibiscus, Toasted Brioche Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Did you know that in 2010, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added the traditional and gastronomic French and Mexican cuisines to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage?

This Ocean Terrine with Mexican Flavors combines fresh seafood with vegetables from local, private farms.
Image.DuMexiqueTerrine Terrine Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The Red Mullet couldn’t have been any fresher. Its flesh was still glistening – it truly went from the dock to the table! The Ixnipec sauce tasted of Habanero chile and lime/citrus juices!

Since I eat gluten-free foods, this dish was perfect for me. Notice the French bread. Yes, Chef Benjamin makes bread, too. Surprised?
Image.DuMexiqueFishFilet de Rouget/Red Mullet with Olive Oil & Ixnipec Sauce Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.DuMexiqueNR&OwnersChef Benjamin, Nancy DeLucia Real & Sonya Grimond

Clearly, this was one of the best meals that I have had in a high-end restaurant! Sonya and Chef Benjamin, merci/gracias for a delectable dining experience and your personal attention. We can’t wait to come back to your fabulous restaurant and the exciting city of Cancun!

Text & Photographs ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Belcampo Butcher Shop – Santa Monica, CA.

In Nancy's Articles, Poultry On May 31, 2017 0 Comments

A few months ago, I discovered Belcampo Butcher Shop in Santa Monica. When I walked in, I could immediately sense the great welcome I was about to experience. Meet Belcampo’s manager, Charlie.
Image.BelcampoCharlieMgr
Poor Charlie – I whined about how I missed that pure, wild chicken meat that we served at family meals in Italy. Charlie asked me to elaborate and I did. I told him that chicken used to be gamey and you literally had to “pull” the meat off the bone. So he pointed to the fresh chicken breast in the shop’s refrigerated case. Now, poultry doesn’t get any fresher than this. See the chicken stock bones in the background? That’s right – you can make a delicious broth without buying an entire chicken!
Image.BelcampoChickenBreastCase
Charlie told me that Belcampo gets poultry from farms where chickens are pasture-raised. This means the birds live on the ground, scratch soil and catch bugs. I learned that any supplemental feed (grains) given to these chickens does not contain GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). They are NOT treated with antibiotics or added growth hormones.

Look at this chicken. Although not plumped-up perfect, its color tells you the meat is healthy. Compare it to chicken we buy at local supermarkets where the chicken meat is yellowish-white (i.e., it’s possibly chlorinated).
Image.BelcampoChickeninCaseSkinon
After being educated on good poultry by Charlie, I asked about other food items sold at Belcampo. I was impressed by the sausages. Again, notice their bright pink hue. Yup – they’re super fresh. The eggs are deeply-colored. This is how you can tell the birds are cage-free and forage.

Belcampo.Sausages.EggsCase
On a final note, I went home with a Belcampo chicken; I stewed it. It was indeed gamey and I had to pull the meat off the bone – just like the pasture-raised chicken in Italy. I’m so impressed!

Belcampo also carries beef, pork and salumi, as well. Check it out – you’ll love all of it!
Belcampo Restaurant and Butcher Shop
1026 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA. 90401
Tel. 414.744.8008
http://belcampo.com/ask-belcampo/

BoucherSignage

Butcher to Table/La Grotte des Fromages, Montreal

In Nancy's Articles On February 10, 2017 0 Comments

Many of you have asked which restaurant serves authentic Italian foods such as the ones I’ve taught in my culinary courses. My latest discovery is in Montreal – Du Boucher à la Table/La Grotte des Fromages (From Butcher to Table). It is a cheese and meat deli that has now become a trattoria. It lets you BYOB without charging a corkage fee. This eatery has cool people, great southern Italian foods and a staff that rocks!

BoucherPeopleBar
To start with, the butcher shop next door supplies the restaurant with homemade sausages, salami and prosciutto.
BoucherAntipasto
Keep in mind that Montreal, Quebec is home to two waves of Southern Italian immigrants. Some arrived at the turn of the 20th-century – my grandfather of the region of Molise was part of this group. The second wave, including my Neapolitan father, arrived in the 1950′s.

BoucherToto

The succeeding generations of Italians have cherished the foods they were raised with. One of these dishes is orecchiette with rapini and sausage. At Boucher, prime extra virgin olive oil, homemade sausage and rapini coat each bite of pasta. It doesn’t get more comforting than this on a cold February evening!
BoucherOrecchietteRapini

Even non-meat eaters can enjoy the feast here. The tuna tartare is melt-in-your-mouth fresh. No chewing is necessary.
BoucherTunaTartare
For you carnivores, the stinco di agnello is lamb shank braised in a demi-glaze sauce. A gentle touch of the fork, and the meat falls right off the bone.

BoucherStincoAgnello

When I tasted the rack of lamb, I was astounded by the fact that it didn’t have that gamey odor. So I asked Boucher’s manager Dominic, “How do you manage to get that lamb odor out of this exquisite meat?” He responded, “Quebec sheep graze by the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean’s salt evaporation permeates the grass. In turn, the grass’s salt results in tender and odor-free meat.”
BoucherRackLamb

After our feast fit for a king, Johnny gave us a tour of the butcher shop next door. Notice the 45-day old aged beef that he’s pointing at!
BoucherJohnyMeats

Boucher also carries fine gourmet foods. The Sicilian sea salts are flavored with chili peppers, fennel and more.
BoucherSalt

Of all the honey varieties imported from Italy, my favorite was the eucalyptus honey.
BoucherHoney

Many thanks to All at Du Boucher a la Table and to Dominic who always ensures a fine dining experience!

BoucherN&Dom

We loved this place so much that we went back three times!
BoucherN&V

Du Boucher a la Table – La Grotte des Fromages
4919 Rue Jarry E, Saint-Léonard, QC H1R 1Y1
Tel. 514.321.3733
Text & Photographs ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.ExtwTGSign

Tom George Restaurant – 7th & Grand, Downtown Los Angeles

In Nancy's Articles On January 17, 2017 0 Comments

I’m so glad Tom George, a Cal-Italian-Hungarian restaurant – decided to take its vibe to downtown Los Angeles. One of its owners, George, stated that this LA eatery is one of his newest babies – a distant relation to other restaurants he operates in Budapest, Hungary.

As soon as you walk into Tom George, the “red” ambiance immediately puts a smile on your face.
Image.TGBarpeople

How can you go wrong with a red bar? Its warmth makes it all the more easy to reach out for one of its signature drinks – the “I Like Hendricks”!
Image.ILikeHendricks
Like? It was more of an immediate love affair with this drink whose name boasts gin, gin, gin – laced with lemonade! I need two more, please.

Wondering, “what’s the Italian here?” For starters, we ordered a pizza that looked like it just arrived from Naples.
TGPizza
Our Pizza Margherita’s crust was authentically wood-fired and topped with sweet tomatoes and fresh basil. The Cal-Italian element is the addition of goat cheese, instead of mozzarella. Neapolitans will definitely frown on this – only because they didn’t think of this innovation!

BTW, the Pizza Margherita was indeed invented in Naples in 1889 by chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi. It was to honor the visit of Queen Margherita of Savoy, wife of King Umberto I. The pizza’s colors (red, white & green) were inspired by the Italian flag.

Next up – the burrata. And yes, it’s as good as it looks.
Image.TGBurrata

If you’re on a no-carbs diet, as I am, the Ahi Tuna with roasted tomatoes (a special request, on my part) is a definite specialty here. It’s so fresh that it melts in your mouth.
Image.TGTuna
While I was enjoying light gourmet fare, I detected a distinct aroma of truffles. Now, this is right after my Hendricks drink and a couple of glasses of wine. Man – I thought I died and went to gastronomy heaven! I barely heard someone saying that gnudi, a Hungarian specialty, are made with ricotta. Tom George serves these smothered in porcini sauce, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black truffles. This dish crowned our food orgy. Don’t these gnudi look scrumptious?
Image.TGGnudi
Gnudi are not to be confused with gnocchi, Italian potato dumplings. And, of course, Tom George proudly serves the best goulash you can find anywhere!

Finally, here’s one of the best flourless, chocolate cakes I’ve tasted anywhere.
Image.TGChocCake
As for George of Tom George? He’s your warm, Hungarian host who’ll ensure high quality all around, especially with his attentive staff. We were served by Chris and Rosina who were on top of every minute detail. I was definitely wowed!
NR & George
Note: Last Saturday, we decided to go downtown from LA’s Westside by Metro Rail. We exited at 7th Street Metro Rail Station & walked two blocks to Tom George. Can’t wait to go back to the restaurant by Metro Rail, enjoy my “I Like Hendricks” and not worry about driving!

Tom George
707 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA. 90017
424.362.6263
tomgeorgela.com

Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

zocalo-plaza-de-la-constitucion

Exclusive Art & Gastronomy Tour: Mexico City with Nancy Real October 6 to 11, 2016

In Nancy's Articles On June 28, 2016 0 Comments

EXCLUSIVE ART & GASTRONOMY TOUR: MEXICO CITY WITH NANCY DeLUCIA REAL

Dates: Thursday October 6, 2016 – Tuesday October 11, 2016
(6 days/5 nights)

“Most of you know my style in teaching art history and cooking – I give all of myself! Thus, as a tourist, I expect great quality abroad.

Join me on this exclusive tour of Mexico City (also known as Distrito Federal). As Mexico’s largest metropolis, it is the country’s economic and cultural hub. Mexico City has many well-known museums and is a leader in international gastronomy. We will visit my favorite spots. Let’s discover the rich, pre-Columbian heritage – always by our side –fused with a contemporary world. You will be astounded!”- Nancy

Note: AS OF AUGUST 1, 2016, THIS TRIP IS SOLD OUT

MEXICO CITY TOUR (REASONABLY-PRICED LAND PACKAGE ONLY) INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

Nancy DeLucia Real will lead thIs tour in Mexico City.
-Transfers from Mexico City International Airport to hotel and from hotel to airport (upon departure from Mexico City).
-5 nights stay at the 5-star Hyatt Regency Hotel, Polanco (exclusive & trendy neighborhood);
Image.HyattReg.Room Guest Room at Hyatt Regency Hotel

-Welcome drink upon arrival at hotel;
-City tour (on air-conditioned motor coach);
-5 buffet breakfasts (international foods);
-3 lunches;
-2 dinners;
MEXHR_P424_Rulfo_Brunch_Antipasto_88267_med A Buffet Breakfast Station at Hyatt Regency Hotel

-Transportation via air-conditioned motor coach with English-speaking guide from Mexico City;
-Entrances to all sites and visits with guides to:
-Zocalo (Mexico City’s main plaza or square);
-National Palace (site of Mexico’s ruling class since time of the Aztec Empire) with tour of Diego Rivera’s murals on the History of Mexico);
Image.Rivera.Mex.MuralDiego Rivera Mural at National Palace

-Templo Mayor or “The Great Temple” (one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital, Tenochtitlan);
-Museum of Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) – Mexico’s most prominent cultural center. We will view Mexican Muralism by José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros;
-The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (the largest cathedral in the Americas, and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico);
-The Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), a historic house and museum dedicated to Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo;
-Lake Xochimilco (Mexico City’s “Venice”) – we will enjoy a ride on a trajinera (a gondola-like boat) and explore the lake’s pre-hispanic history re: its canals;
-El Sabado Bazaar – an indoor/outdoor hand crafts and paintings market (with free time to explore);
-National Museum of Anthropology – this museum contains archaeological & anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian era, including the Stone of the Sun or The Aztec Calendar Stone;
-Chapultepec Castle – this was the 19th-century residence of Emperor Maximilian I & Empress Carlota, built on a hill that was sacred to the Aztecs;
-Soumaya Museum – built by Carlos Slim, the museum houses 66,000 art objects, including works from pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to European masters (Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali, Tintoretto, and more);
-Free Evenings – an opportunity for you to discover new restaurants, cafes and entertainment highly suggested by Nancy Real.
-Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe – this is Mexico’s national shrine where it is believed the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin;
-Teotihuacan Pyramids – We will visit the pyramids in the holy city of Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’), located North East of Mexico City & built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D.
mexico-cultural-sightsTeotihuacan Pyramids

-Tips to porters, bellboys and maids at hotels and waiters for all included meals;
-Hotel and VAT taxes.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS INCLUDED IN THIS EXCLUSIVE LAND PACKAGE.

FOR DETAILS, TOUR PRICE & BOOKING YOUR TRIP-
CONTACT NANCY DeLUCIA REAL by email – thekitchenbuzzz@gmail.com or telephone 310.962.4043.

Image.N&VSoumaya2015 Nancy & Victor Real, Soumaya Museum, Mexico City November 20, 2015
Text & Photograph of Nancy & Victor Real, Soumaya Museum ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real
All Remaining Photographs ©Wikipedia