We reach the State of Guanajuato!
We arrived at Dolores Hidalgo in the Mexican State of Guanajuato around 1pm. The full name of this city is Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia. 'Cuna de la Independencia' means the cradle of independence. This is where Father Miguel Hidalgo made the famous cry for independence from Spain on September 16, 1810 (now the national holiday Diez y Seis). His cry for independence was called "El Grito" or the Cry -- and is reenacted all over Mexico at midnight in the early minutes of September 16th each year by the President, Governors, Mayors and other public officials.
Dolores Hidalgo Church
Although Dolores Hidalgo is not a major tourist destination, many people make the trek here to see where Mexico's independence began.
When we got to the home of Maria's mother, Isak jumped out of the car to greet his cousins, Errie (Errenderia) and Luis, and his Grandmother. Juan and his wife, Sarita, also were there to welcome us all to Dolores. Juan had turned a part of his mother's house into a small restaurant here and was very proud to show what he had done. He had developed quite a following among locals in Dolores, as well as many who made the drive from San Miguel, as there are no other true Thai restaurants in the area. That rising demand is what convinced Foo and Juan that they should be opening a place in San Miguel where there is much more tourism and is more of a destination place than Dolores.
Placque of the Tree of the Noche Triste
Juan's restaurant was quite small -- with only five tables for 4 each. The kitchen was even tinier, as it was just his mother's kitchen in the home. Still, he was able to produce top quality, authentic Thai food here, proving that it is the willingness to work hard that provides true success. Juan had taken a page out of other Asian cusine restaurant how to manuals, and put together a poster of his main dishes with color photos to show the various entrees. This approach is quite common in Japan and Hong Kong, and I think helps with potential language barrier issues, particularly with a cuisine that may be new to people.
Juan's mother welcomed us with freshly made limonada -- a very refreshing drink made from limes, water and a little sugar.
Tree of the Noche Triste
I love the Mexican 'aguas refrescas' like this -- and they come in many flavors -- tamarindo, melon, horchata and jamaica being some of my other favorites. They are light, fresh and very tasty.
Juan, Sarita and Foo got busy right away with preparations for a large catering job that Juan had in San Miguel for that evening, so I walked down to the main square to take a look around. I had last been to Dolores in 1992, and much of the square remained the same. The old church looked the same, the majestic trees in the square seemed larger and the people still flocked here for a leisurely afternoon's stroll, a chance for young lovers to sit together to enjoy an ice cream and music, or for younger children to play with their friends.
the Ice Creams of Dolores
The church was built in 1712 and is the place that Father Hidalgo made his famous cry for independence. The large tree in the middle of the plaza is called the tree of the "Noche Triste" -- the tree of the sad night. It is said that is was here that Cortes wept after being forced out of Tenochitlan (the Aztec capital that eventually became Mexico City) after being forced out early in his campaign to conquer the city. In the center of the square is a statue of Father Hidalgo, the father of the Independencia.
One of the big attractions at the square in Dolores is the ice cream sold here. The ice creams are all hand made and each vendor tries to out do the others in outrageous flavors. There are the usual ones like chocolate, vanilla and fresa (strawberry) -- and then there are exotic fruit ones like guayaba (guava), guanabana, zapote and tuna (not the fish -- tuna is the name of the fruit of the cactus and is quite delicious.
Ice Cream Stand in Dolores Hidalgo
Beyond that are the wilder flavors like aguacata (avocado), tequila and pineapple combined and pulque -- a local cheap liquor. And then you have the outrageous flavors like queso (cheese), alfalfa (not kidding) and chincharron (fried pork rinds). When I was last here in 1992, good friends from Mexico took me here to show me the square and let me sample the ice creams. Then, there was only one vendor -- and his sign was handmade and hand-lettered -- not like the signage and competition that exists today. Back in 1992, I had already learned about the difference between 'tuna' -- the cactus fruit and 'atun' -- the Spanish word for tuna fish. My friends were having a great time getting me to sample the ice creams and watching my face change between delight for the exotic fruit flavors -- to disgust for flavors like alfalfa and pulque.
Guarambullos on the Cactus
Then they asked me if I wanted to try the tuna ice cream. Of course I said yes and was looking forward to the cactus fruit flavored treat. Instead the slipped in the 'atun con cebolla' -- tuna fish with onion. I gagged as they laughed until they cried. I was glad to see that the outrageous ice cream tradition continued -- albeit more commercial than my last visit. I decided to forego the ice cream this time, and instead tried some of the delicious freshly roasted corn with chile and lime juice that you can buy on the corner. I love corn this way -- a real treat in Mexico.
Later that evening we went to 'el rancho' -- a small property that Juan's family owns on the outskirts of Dolores Hidalgo. It was the birthday of Maria, and we had a celebration for her complete with barbacoa (roasted young goat) and pastel (birthday cake).
Chilitos -- fruit of a small cactus
We also got to sample some local fruits of the various cactus -- tunas (described above), guarambullos (small purplish berries that grow on larger cacti), and 'chilitos' (small red pepper looking fruit). The tunas are like eating a very dense, sweet melon with big seeds like bb's from toy guns. The guarambullos are delicious as well -- a little larger than a blueberry, sweet and a bit tart and with a fleshier texture than blueberries. Chilitos are also wonderful -- sweet and more tart/tangy than the guarambullos. I loved trying them all out and seeing Foo delight in trying new things. Her mind immediately started spinning on the various sauces she might make with these new-found fruits for her restaurant desserts!
Juan's family insisted we stay with them at their house -- they would not hear of us going to a hotel.
Tim, Juan and Sarita
Mexican hospitality is a wondeful warm thing -- and we were treated like family here with Juan's relatives.