Stumbling upon the famous Nevería Roxy in Mexico City

Don’t you love when, sometimes, what you desire magically comes to you without any effort? You might receive a call from a long-lost friend you’ve been meaning to reach out to, or get a big discount on something you’d expected to pay full price for. Every once in a while, the stars perfectly align and you can’t believe your luck.

I had one of these moments on a trip last month, when K and I joined our friends Becca and Bryan for a weekend in Mexico City. A mere four-hour flight from Washington, DC, Mexico City seems like a world away. The four of us squeezed a lot into 36 hours (we left early on Sunday), eating plenty of street food, taking a long walk through Chapultepec Park, exploring one of the city’s largest markets, and enjoying a fancy meal at Pujol (quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the world). The only disappointment of the weekend was when we took an Uber over to Frida Kahlo’s house on Saturday afternoon, only to find that they had temporarily stopped letting visitors inside due to a power outage in the neighborhood. The line was getting quite long, so we bailed in favor of taking a stroll through the beautiful neighborhood of Condesa.

Since we had so little time to spend with our friends in Mexico City, I wasn’t planning on going out of my way to find a new ice cream shop. But, alas, the stars were about to align for me (and the blog!): our Uber driver dropped us off in the middle of the Condesa neighborhood. Without a specific plan, we began meandering down the pretty tree-lined streets. We couldn’t have walked more than two blocks when we came upon a true Mexico City ice-cream establishment: Nevería Roxy.

Nevería Roxy is a small family-run ice cream chain, with four locations around Mexico City. The first shop opened over 70 years ago, and the shops are known for their nostalgic 1950s vibe. When we just happened to stumble upon the Condesa shop, I took it as “a sign” that we had to take an ouce-cream break! Nevería Roxy was crowded on a Saturday afternoon, with a long line to get to the counter and plenty of people sitting around the formica tables enjoying ice-cream floats, cones, and sundaes.

Like their decor, Nevería Roxy sticks with good-old fashioned ice cream flavors. With a couple dozen flavors of ice cream (“helado”) and sorbet (“nieve”), there is something for everyone. Some of the ice cream flavors that caught my eye were Arroz con Leche, Tutti Frutti, Amaretto, Macademia, Menta (mint), and Mamey (a local tropical fruit). But several of the sorbet options — Sandia (watermelon), Tamarindo, and Maracuya (passion fruit) — sounded enticing. But when I saw Cajeta, I knew there was no turning back. Cajeta is a traditional Mexican caramel made with goat’s milk, and it reminded me of one of my favorite ice creams of 2015: the Greedy Goat’s salted caramel goat ice cream. Since we had big dinner plans that evening, I stuck with a small cone (called “bola chica”).

While the serving size was small, this cone  set me back a mere 22 pesos, or  USD$1.25. It would be difficult to find a better deal than that!

The verdict? I had high expectations for this ice cream, and Nevería Roxy delivered! The ice cream itself was smooth, dense, and creamy. It was slightly too soft, thanks to the hot day and no air conditioning. But the Cajeta flavor more than compensated; it had a deep, carmelized flavor with just the tiniest tang from the goat’s milk. I found myself wishing the scoop was larger, because I finished this cone in about 2 minutes flat (despite savoring and “mmm”ing the whole time). I’m so glad that we stumbled upon this Mexico City institution!

The Stats:
Nevería Roxy (three other locations)
Av. Fernando Montes de Oca, 89
Cuauhtémoc, Condesa
06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
http://neveriaroxy.com.mx

Mexican Flavors at Santa Clara

This fall, I had an opportunity to spend a weekend with K in Mexico City. K had to spend a week there for work, so I accompanied him for the first couple days. I’d never been to Mexico before and wasn’t sure what to expect. While I’d heard that Mexico City has a reputation for being hot, crowded and polluted, I found the city to be vibrant, beautiful, and – yes- crowded!

K and I stayed at the W Hotel, which is located in a quieter residential neighborhood called Polanco. We didn’t mind being further away from the downtown action, as UberX rides were incredibly cheap and easy. We fit a lot into my day-and-a-half in Mexico City; we visited the Frida Kahlo Museum, drank horchatas and wandered the stalls of the Mercado de Coyoacán, and wandered around the Zócalo. We also had one of the best meals of my life at Pujol. In fact, nearly everything we ate in Mexico City blew me away. It was not only cheap, but everything was fresh and flavorful. Gosh, what I wouldn’t give for a street taco right now…

El Madero

El Madero

On Saturday afternoon, K and I were walking along the pedestrian-only Francisco I. Madero Avenue when I spotted yet another Santa Clara ice cream and dairy shop. I’d begun to notice the chain earlier in the day, when I saw someone exiting a shop in a different part of town with a cone of colorful ice cream. I later learned that Santa Clara has around 160 ice cream stores around Mexico, making it one of the country’s most popular and historic (opened in 1924!) dairy companies. With our dinner reservation still hours away, I figured a bit of local ice cream was in order.

Entrance of Santa Clara

Entrance of Santa Clara

Santa Clara shops are bright and playful-looking (that cute cow logo!), and the Mexico City locations seemed to be popular at all times of day. This location’s storefront was entirely open to the pedestrians street, and it was the long, colorful ice-cream case that ultimately drew me in. Made with domestic Mexican dairy products, Santa Clara churns out dozens of flavors — from the favorites you can find around the globe, like Napolítano, Tiramisú and Fresa (strawberry), to some  local ones like Piñón (pine nut) and Chamoy (based on the popular Chamoy condiment made from pickled fruit).

IMG_6383In the end, I decided to get a double-scoop cup filled with Tequila and Queso con Cereza (cheese and cherry). Both sounded refreshing and interesting. My cup ended up costing the equivalent of $5 USD.

IMG_6384 IMG_6385 IMG_6390The verdict? While I had high expectations for this ice cream (particularly the boozy one), I was a bit underwhelmed. While the Tequila  had an alcohol-tasting aftertaste, the cream and sugar overpowered it. But its flavor was better than the Queso con Cervesa, which sadly tasted entirely artificial and sugary — like those little cups of strawberry ice cream you can get in 12 packs at the grocery store.  And the ice cream base tasted like plain vanilla ice cream — not like the cheesecake advertised on the flavor’s label. What was most interesting about this ice cream was the fluffy and light texture, which reminded me of frozen mousse… So I bet the chocolate flavors would be good! I think Santa Clara is worth another shot, if not for the fun atmosphere and the ice cream’s interesting texture. I just have to find an excuse to get back to Mexico City!

IMG_6393

Tequila on top, Queso con Cereza

The Stats:
Santa Clara
Paseo Francisco I. Madero #56
Cuauhtémoc
06000 Mexico, D.F.
https://www.santaclara.com.mx/principal.asp

La Michoacana brings Mexican flavors to Sonoma County

Happy Holidays! I hope everyone is relaxing and enjoying time with loved ones.

Before heading to Massachusetts for Christmas, I had to fly out to the West Coast to present at a conference in Sonoma, California. While snow in Washington, DC threatened to cancel my trip, I ended up having an easy time getting myself to the Sonoma County Airport. This quaint single-gate airport is named after cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who created the comic strip Peanuts. I got a kick out of all the Snoopy paraphernalia in the teeny-tiny airport.

Sonoma is nestled in the heart of California’s wine country. Wineries in Sonoma County tend to be a bit smaller and are mostly family-owned, and thus Sonoma is a bit less crowded and commercialized than neighboring Napa Valley. Sadly, I didn’t have time to visit any wineries during my 48 hours in Sonoma. But the beautiful vineyards and dry, rolling hills left me breathless, and I’ve already asked K to travel to Sonoma together someday.

On my one full day in Sonoma, I did manage to make time for ice cream. Priorities, people! Sitting in my rental car after the conference, a quick iPhone search resulted in a couple choices. But when I read that the New York Times recommended an ice-cream shop called “La Michoacana” in its 36 Hours in Sonoma article, my decision was made. K and I regularly turn to the “36 Hours” series for restaurant and sightseeing tips before traveling to new cities.

Even in the dark evening, it was easy to spot La Michoacana along the busy Highway 12 in Sonoma; the brightly-lit and colorful storefront stands out in an otherwise grey strip of stores. I had read that the owner, Teresita Carr, grew up in Tocumba, Mexico, where the La Michoacana chain was founded. Located in western Mexico, Tocumba is a small town with a big reputation: about 90% of families living in Tocumba are involved in the ice-cream industry (according to this USA Today article).

From what I’ve read, La Michoacana is fairly ubiquitous in Mexico; rather than an official brand, the name is applied to any establishment that carries traditional Tocumba ice cream (referred to as “Michocán-style”, after the state in which Tocumba is located) and traditional Mexican paletas. Ice cream from Tocumba is known for its simple, all-natural ingredients and focus on inventive flavors. Paletas are like better versions of American popsicles — all-natural frozen pops made out of fresh juice, chunks of fruit, and (sometimes) a bit of real cream.

Like a typical shop in Mexico, Sonoma’s La Michoacana offers an incredible variety of flavors. I could’ve easily spent an hour reading through the entire menu of ice cream, sorbet, paleta, and agua fresca flavors and tasting different samples. But since I had to get back to work, I tried to make a quick selection. Many of the fruit flavors sounded delicious (particularly the Coconut Pineapple and Banana Nut ice cream and Guava sorbet), and so did the traditional Americanized flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake, Cookies and Cream, and Rum Raisin. I went with my gut and ordered a two-scoop cup of Chongo (translated as “Custard”) and Peanut Butter, which cost me $4.

Bottom scoop: Peanut Butter
Top scoop: Chongo, or “Custard”

The verdict? Each batch of La Michoacana ice cream is handmade in the back room, and both flavors were fresh and creamy – not a hint of icy freezer burn or artificial flavoring. I wasn’t sure what Chongo would taste like, but I found it very pleasant. It was smooth and creamy, with a rich egg-y flavor reminiscent of Spanish flan or Australian custard. The smoothness of the Chongo offset the crunchiness of the Peanut Butter ice cream, which was very different than the traditional American peanut-butter ice cream. La Michoacana’s version was a bit less sweet, allowing the true peanut taste to shine through. The ice cream was as chock-full of peanut bits as my favorite “super-chunk” peanut butter (maybe even more?), which made for a very satisfying scoop. Think of all that protein! I thoroughly enjoyed both scoops; neither flavor was so unique that it knocked my socks off, but this was excellent ice cream. La Michoacana is on to something, and I hope Mexican ice cream continues to grow in the United States.

The Stats:
La Michoacana
18495 Highway 12
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-1773
https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Michoacana/131064026931857