#Mexplaining by Morenita 05


We’ll be dropping a new #Mexplanation every month via our newsletter. 


“Be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it…” said God to delicious little corn-based Mexican snacks.

When it comes to street food, Mexico City is an incredible pan-regional smorgasburg. Yes, yes we know you’ve had tacos, flautas, tortas and pozole, but have you ever heard of tlacoyos, pambazos, esquites & guisados? Yup… exactly. Welcome. Take a seat, can I get you some water? Let me help you with your coat.

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For a snack to be considered a garnacha, it must have corn/ wheat dough base, must be oily AF, cooked in a comal (a griddle-like flat surface), must be filled with some sort of stew or casserole, consumed in a street stall and cannot be pricey. You should be able to eat a garnacha and pay with a couple of $10 peso coins (about $1 USD for these small heaven-sent fatty delicious appetizers)

Garnacha is in its essence soul food eaten on the street. However, not any street food can be considered garnacha. See what we did there? Step into the Morenita Glossary, right this way:

A thin, fried dough patty with a “pocked” sliced into it where all the fillings go. Think of a kangaroo pouch-like concoction, filled with any meat under the sun and lettuce, onion, cilantro, queso fresco, salsa and sour cream.

Imagine a long but elongated shape, emulating the shape of a sandal. This edible chancla is covered with beans and you can top it with anything: maybe start with carne asada, nopales (cactus salad), pumpkin flower or huitlacoche (corn smut)?

Looks like a diamond but elongated with the edges rounded out, always best to choose the ones made of blue corn. This flattened football-looking thing can be topped with beans, potatoes and cottage cheese along with your favorite animal protein, mushroom or legume.

A bun dipped in red chile sauce, cooked over a comal and filled with potatoes and chorizo. It is garnished with cream, cheese and lettuce. Like a wonderfully ghetto Mexican burger from the barrio.

Enjoyed this content? Clic here for more #Mexplanations

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#MorenitaGenius: food & drink


I love my key words, slogans and tag lines, as you’ve probably noticed. “The-Out-of-Towner-Turned-Insider”. “Elevate Your Travel Game.” “We showcase cultural excellence”. “The genius of Mexican culture.” It’s this last one in particular that I vibe with on a deep level. Mexicans are known for being many great things, yet “genius” doesn’t seem to be an adjective thrown around often when it comes to describing our national talent. That is until now.

At its core, Morenita is a colorful socio-anthropological experiment where I recognize ourselves and our cultural value. I know it’s a company, but it was born out of my heart and soul, so in my mind it’s a movement, an awakening, a cultural homecoming. Over the last two years I’ve built this perfect little universe of food, art & culture for myself where I am always inspired and stimulated by our Mexico, and in this personal process of focusing on the positives I help our client also zero-in on la verdadera genialidad de nuestra cultura.

#MorenitaGenius is a new piece of content where we show off aquellos genios who are at the top of their game, even though they’re all still so young and many, just like me, with 15-20 years of experience, are just getting started. This first story will focus on the restaurant world: we all know Enrique Olvera, Elena Reygadas and Jorge Vallejo, but wait til you meet the new school of chefs, sommeliers, maitre d’s and purveyors who are bringing the game to a completely new level. These talented youths and their spectacular work alone are worth you booking your next Morenita Experience in Mexico City

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Cristina Lugo, Founder & CEO of Morenita Experience, has developed a reputation as a Mexico City culinary and cultural ambassador thanks to her extensive experience in the world of hotels and restaurants. In this story, co-written with Viridiana Ramirez, Morenita’s Communications Director, she shares who she considers to be the most distinguished food & drink personalities currently changing the CDMX industry.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Sofía Hernández - De Garo Jamat

Sofia was born and raised in Ensenada, a 90-minute drive south of San Diego. Her dad is from Oaxaca and her mom from Sinaloa, two major food areas in Mexico, making her childhood a food-centered cult of fish and shellfish. Sofia is the Sales Manager at her family-owned De Garo Jamat, a company that commercializes the highest-quality seafood products from Baja & the Mexican Gulf and sells to distinguished national restaurants like Pujol, Quintonil, Rokai, Rosetta and Maximo Bistrot. Basically, any oyster, crab, fish, shrimp, lobster or uni you’ve ever had at any of these award-winning restaurants was most likely hand-picked by Sofia. Not only that, but the family is also partners at Campobaja, our favorite seafood restaurant in Colonia Roma.

One of Sofia’s many responsibilities is communicating with the chefs and kitchen staff the properties of every fish and piece of seafood sold, so they understand how to best clean, cook and store it, and accurately pass this information on to the waiters, who are then able to correctly answer your questions when you’re ordering from the menu.

Asian food culture has always had a large influence on this family. When Sofia was a child, in addition to egg and black bean burritos (along with fish tacos, burritos are Baja staples), her school lunch didn’t consist of PB&J sandwiches, but of bento boxes and makis. Few people have I had more passionate & eloquent discourses about food with: Sofia is an old food expert soul living in the body of a young beautiful woman.

Photo by @emiliarest IG

Photo by @emiliarest IG

Lucho Martínez - Emilia

His quirky glasses, slim frame and wrist tattoo referencing his baby daughter’s name are the first thing that catches your eye, not to mention his youth and his taciturn character. Lucho has a cool-punk-rock-Harry-Potter-esque thing about him, and we’re here for it.

Don’t call him a chef, “soy cocinero”, Lucho - a nickname for Luis - tells us. Born in Veracruz but raised in the US, Lucho moved back to Mexico at age 14, when he was taught how to cook by his grandmother. At 17, he relocated to Cancun to work and since then, has left his stamp in the kitchens of renowned restaurants, such as Quintonil & Máximo.

Lucho is currently a partner at Emilia - another tribute to his daughter - one of the new culinary spaces of the Edo Kobayashi group, and in our opinion a most exciting fine dining destination with its chef’s table and ultra sleek aesthetics. The menu changes daily and is inspired by Japanese, French and Mexican ingredients and techniques. What I like most about this place is how much I have to step out of my comfort zone whenever I visit, my ego is wonderfully bruised as I have to ask (or even worse: google! ME! a seasoned foodie!) what most of the 10-course menu is as I’ve never even heard of half the items on it. I dine there to delight my senses but also to learn, and I so appreciate Lucho and his vision for it.

The dishware, glassware, open kitchen, marble tops, furniture: everything at Emilia is exquisite, fine, seductive. The team of young chefs, both men and women in their mid 20s, all have a distinctive yet super-cool kid look about them (when did everyone in the restaurant industry become this attractive and fashionable?! Sheesh!) and do what seems to be a dance around the kitchen as they make their way over to explain each course, always smiling, enjoying themselves. As a cook, team leader and restaurateur: Lucho has what it takes to go far, and he’ll get there quick.

Photo courtesy of Pujol

Photo courtesy of Pujol

Eréndira Díaz- Pujol

In 2006, Eren was hired as a line cook at the already-world famous Pujol, where she worked for seven years. If you last 7 days in Pujol, let alone 7 years, you are already at the top of the proverbial food chain. Wanting to mix it up a bit, Eren asked chef Enrique Olvera for an opportunity to join the select service team that waits the tables of the 12th best restaurant in the entire planet, and he said yes.

As a waitress, she learned the basics: how align glasses and tables with perfect accuracy; how to take the order of a table of 6 from memory without a pen and paper; how to use hand signals to communicate with her peers so as to never raise her voice in front of a diner; and, amongst many other neat practices, how to leave the dining room perfectly impeccable for the next day. But she also learned and excelled at the intangibles, what truly sets leaders apart: how to make friends with everyone; how to be in a good mood and smiling (always), regardless of how exhausted she was; how to make everyone laugh: from the dish wash to the security guard at the door to each and every diner, Eren’s presence is appreciated and welcome.

Eren didn’t last long as a waitress. Her global superstar boss understood he had a true gem in his hands, and in 2017 Eren’s tenacity and dedication led him to promote her to be the General Manager of what today is the best restaurant not only in Mexico, but in all of North America.

In my late 20s, I served as GM at several important restaurants in CDMX, and at each one I was always the first woman to do so. The fact that Pujol has its first female GM, and that its Erendira, is such a monumental win: for women and for the industry alike, not just in Mexico but in the entire world. It’s the dawn of a new era, and Eren is a shining bright star in it.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Norman Pérez - Le Tachinomi Desu

Le Tachinomi Desu is one of the most peculiar bars in Mexico City, as it is inspired by traditional Japanese tachinomis, an after-office casual bar where you have a quick bite and drink standing on your way home from work. One of the key components of our very own CDMX tachinomi - where only 20 people can be served at a time - is our friend Norman Pérez, beverage Director for Grupo Edo Kobayashi. Norman is quite possibly the most prominent beverage curator in Mexico, thanks to his extensive experience with Japanese whiskey, Mexican sake and natural, biodynamic and orange international wines, of which he is completely self-taught.

Norman is painfully charming and attentive. When I first met him I instantly wanted to be his friend. Le Tachi is the only bar in Mexico City that I’ve truly made my own, meaning, this is where I take everyone I want to show a good time, I’m always in the mood for a glass of funky natural wine, a lil’ jazz, hamachi crudo, coriander salad and of course the decadent AF omu rice (ok. get this. japanese rice, egg omelette, foie gras, truffle oil, fresh truffle and parmesan cheese. LAWD gimme strength! If that’s not true love in a tapa dish meant for sharing then I don’t know what is.)

In large part, making Le Tachi my own was thanks to Norman, and his brilliant talent and demeanor. He’s a most gracious, knowledgeable, professional and accessible host. Norman is the real deal, the quality service staff that secures permanent success for any establishment.

Photo by @miwiwimi IG

Photo by @miwiwimi IG

Miwi - Pizza Félix

This platinum blonde-haired chef is from Monterrey and one of the master minds of three distinguished CDMX locales:, Felix Bar, Pizza Felix and Belmondo, all in the bohemian neighborhood of La Roma.

At 20, Miwi never imagined that cooking would become her life’s passion. She was an interior design student who relocated to Barcelona to specialize in sideboard design. It was in Spain where she discovered a love for cooking (hard not to fall in love with the entire concept of food in a country like Spain) and with her parents’ support and blessing, changed her career. For four years, she worked in small restaurants in Barcelona under immigrant status, a situation that forced her to experience labor abuse, such as overtime without pay and, obviously, no vacations.

Upon returning to Mexico, Adriana Lerma (Miwi’s birth name) met with her friends and now business partners, Alejandro Romero and Gabriela Romero. The three opened Felix, a spot that a few months after opening became the hot-spot go-to La Roma dive bar in where everyone and their mother met for drinks and tapas. The next opening was Belmondo, a sandwich sanctuary - but not just any ole’ sandwich: “they have love and creativity”, says Miwi. Options to choose from include roasted vegetables, chicken curry with cranberry sauce, bacon, homemade corned beef, short ribs slowly braised with muenster cheese ... sandwich heaven on earth for the palate.

Miwi's most recent venture is Pizzas Félix, located behind Felix Bar in a charmingly cozy courtyard. To really offer the quality of a Neapolitan pizza (thin but with high edges and slightly burnt), Miwi did a six-month field study in Italy to learn everything she could about dough.

I moved to Mexico City 7 years ago. The very first bar I went to, the first place anyone would even mention when it came to socializing or nightlife, was Félix. When I first tried their mini sliders and the truffle fries, I straight up almost fainted. It was beyond delicious. It was around those first few months of moving here (I was renting a tiny studio in Condesa I could barely afford) that I somehow ended up flipping through the pages of a magazine (perhaps Time Out?) that featured a story on Miwi. She was sitting on top of a bar, wearing a cool-girl suit with flat vinyl shoes, her cool-girl blonde bob parted to the side, and I think the headline was “the new school of restaurateurs”, or something like that. I had an instant girlcrush on her, the concept of her, her career and her success: “when I grow up, I aspire to be this level of industry cool girl”, I thought to myself. This petite norteña owned & operated the best bar in Mexico City: no one could possibly understand how difficult it is to attain this. Unless of course you are a woman, trying to succeed in this mega cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, ultra competitive universe that is professional life in Mexico City, a space where 25 million people are racing against each other, where they make it a billion times harder on women (of course) and on foraneos, those of us who weren’t born here/into wealthy CDMX families. Miwi made me feel like I could one day stand out, I could one day be mentioned alongside the greats, I could one day make it.

This whole time, Miwi probably had no idea her story paved the way for mine and for, I’ve no doubt, many others after her. Gracias chef, y salud!

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Filipe Neves- Aiko

Filipe will be the one exception in this list as he, believe it or not, is not Mexican, regardless of how well he curses in Spanish! He was born in Portugal, where his mother taught him how to cook for himself at a young age so he didn’t have to depend on a woman to properly feed him. She was raising a young boy to grow into a feminist adult man and we couldn’t be more grateful for his wise mother and other women like her.

Filipe studied computer science, but he is a rebel at heart and knew he wouldn’t be able to live glued to a desk. In his early twenties, his alternatives were join the army or become a chef. The answer was clear and Filipe traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, where he spent a year taking a cooking course. He carried on his culinary journey at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe for a few years, until one day he felt it was time to move on. And he did… to the other side of the planet.

In 2017, he moved to Mexico City to open Can Can gastropub, one of the coolest bars in La Roma with the most heart-warming Euro-style soul food. He also put in some time at Masala y Maíz, the Mexican-Indian-East African fusion spot in San Miguel Chapultepec. Today Filipe heads the new Edo Kobayashi Polanco pizzeria Aiko, where he’s developed a sourdough crust that’s revolutionizing the CDMX pizza ecosystem.

This Chef of 30, learned how to make pizza through books, YouTube videos, and a short visit to Brooklyn where a friend of his showed him the secrets behind caring for and working with sourdough. 

His favorite pizza was always the Hawaiian, which he is currently working on to add to the AIKO menu as a way of playing with the idea of tradition in the world of pizza.

I first met Filipe at Bar Oriente, a Japanese restaurant belonging to the same group as Can Can. He spoke perfect English so I asked where he was from. “I’m Portuguese”, he replied. I had a couple of glasses of natural wine in me so I got very excited & began speaking Portuguese, explaining I lived in Rio de Janeiro for 2 years. Filipe was completely uninterested and continued speaking English (lol). Somehow despite our very sarcastic natures, we very quickly became great friends & mutual cheerleaders. I have no idea how long he’ll stay in Mexico but so long as he’s here, he is one of our most prominent talents.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Zavala

Photo courtesy of Nancy Zavala

Nancy Zavala - Máximo Bistrot

She’s easy to spot at 5’10”, clear-skinned baby face, nose ring, dreadlocks down to her waist, nose permanently locked into a glass of wine. Nancy grew up as a talented basketball player in the sleepy beach town of La Paz, Baja California, until, as frequently happens, an injury took her off the court for good. However, this was not an impediment to her professional development, as she moved on to study gastronomy and even won a scholarship at Fundación Turquois, a nationally-acclaimed training & development center for customer service in the world of hospitality, specifically restaurants.

Nancy’s extensive and impressive knowledge goes beyond wine and includes coffee, teas, beers and endless cocktails. “In the end, my heart belongs to sherry”, she says. Having worked at Pujol, today Nancy is the sommelier of Máximo Bistrot, one of the most outstanding gastronomic spaces in Mexico City, under the command of chef Eduardo García.

Studying will never cease in the life of Nancy Zavala, as she is currently becoming certified as a cicerone (beer sommelier) and is also in the process for certification in the Court of Sommeliers of the Americas. Soon after, Nancy plans on also dominating the world of mezcal.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Alex Zárate - Campobaja

Gastronomy has always been part of his life, growing up in a family devoted to it, mainly women. His dream was to be a historian, but when it was time to decide his profession he was swept away by the kitchen. Alex was born and raised in Ensenada, Baja California, and his inevitable gravitation towards seafood led him to join Chef Ezequiel Hernández in opening Campobaja in 2016.

Alejandro Zárate (Chef de Cuisine at Campobaja) and I had similar childhoods: he was a sort of "gringo" Mexican kid growing up in Mexico, but still being, well... sorta gringo. (Did any of that make sense? It does to us.) Kids like us celebrated Thanksgiving and were familiar with soul food and didn't discover the beautiful complexities of Mexican moles and cumbias until we were adults. We were both raised in tourist beach towns, Puerto Vallarta is my hometown, Ensenada is his.

For Zarate, being in the kitchen is a delight, enjoy creating new dishes and, above all, see the reactions of diners when trying one of their creations. The look on their face, the gestures they make after they taste is what inspires him to keep learning about the products of the sea. Alex was classically trained in French techniques, which is always noticeable in the finishing touches of his Campobaja menu: its a casual seafood spot with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, but somehow feels like a fine dining destination. Every detail is just that excellent.

Photo courtesy of Fernanda Torres

Photo courtesy of Fernanda Torres

Fernanda Torres - Emilia

Another norteña, Fer was born in Mexicali, Baja California and studied in the colonial city of Puebla in central Mexico. Kitchens have always tempted her heart, starting with a love affair she had with the smells coming from a bakery next door during her childhood. When she graduated, Fer, moved to Mexico City and one day applied for an opening at Rokai restaurant, where Edo Kobayashi gave her a job.

Fernanda worked as a waitress and with the customer service team until 2017 and today is the operations manager for all of Grupo Edo Kobayashi, which consists of no less than 16 of the country’s most successful & popular establishments. Fer quickly became Edo’s right hand and is responsible for coordinating all managers, as well as overseeing all reservations, and even the design and aesthetics of restaurants!

I first met Fernanda about 6 yeas ago when having dinner at Yakitori-Ha, Kobayashi’s Japanese skewer spot in Colonia Cuauhtémoc. I was with my then-boyfriend having dinner and when it came time to pay the bill we realized he had dropped his wallet on our way there and I left mine at home! We were unable to pay for our dinner & were very embarrassed, to say the least. Fernanda was the most gracious, and I never forgot her kind demeanor. Years later as I keep coming back to the Kobayashi restaurants I’m like this proud coach on the sideline, internally cheering Fernanda on as I see her climbing the ranks and expanding her authority within the fastest-growing culinary group in CDMX. This young woman seamlessly handles Japanese chefs, Mexican wait staff, international diners, investors, managers, and single-handedly oversees the personal agenda of the group’s Founder & CEO, all while being a new wife and mother.

If the future ain’t female then I don’t know anything about anything, seriously.

Photo by: @joseracastiillo IG

Photo by: @joseracastiillo IG

José Ramon Castillo - Que bó!

José is the most recognized chocolate maker in Mexico and founder of Qué Bó!, an upscale gourmet chocolaterie that we love so much, one of the farewell amenities our VIP guests receive is a box of his gorgeous chocolates. His centro historico chocolate shop is a space where you’ll find some of the most unique, beautiful and delicious chocolates and truffles, all made with Mexican ingredients.

His experience has earned him countless awards, such as being the first chocolate maker in Latin America to belong to the respected international chocolate guide, Club de Creuquers du Chocolat. He worked for eight years in Spain and was the first Mexican to win the Cocina Joven de Catalunya contest.

He is the author of the book Kakaw, where he makes a deep investigation of cocoa and rescues 40 traditional chocolate recipes. The dedication & rich knowledge behind his writings earned the publication to be recognized by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Book".

José Ramón is currently a judge on the TV show Masterchef Mexico.

The Story of México Told in One Woman

Morenita means brown girl, brown woman. When I started Morenita Experience almost a year ago, like any creative start-up, I went through the exercise of developing a brand identity, starting with a name. Something that instantly communicated the idea I would offer to the world amid my personal and professional experiences. At the heart of what I wish to express is a deep love and respect for my culture coupled with exposure to the many faces of México.

Morenita embodies these many faces in the most positive sense. I continually get the same reaction when I tell people the name of my business.

“Hello, my name is Cristina Lugo.”
“Nice to meet you. What do you do?”
“I own a travel experience agency called Morenita.”
Head tilt.
The the overwhelming feeling that 'yes, that makes sense, that feels right.'

Morenita is la Virgen de Guadalupe, morenita is the matriarch, the nucleus of Mexican family and society, morenitas are las señoras en la calle vendiendo quesadillas. Morenita is me recognizing our Aztec and Mayan greatness. Morenita is a term of endearment between father and daughter. Morenita is a positive reflection of racial diversity. Morenita is the story of Mexico told in one woman.

I'll explain.

In so many parts of the world, calling people out by the color of their skin is negative, a judgement, a divisive behavior and product of colonial systems: it makes us turn against each other. But when you walk the markets of México, it’s a kind gesture to hear vendors call out “qué le damos güerita!” ("What will it be, blondie? or, white girl") It’s a way of saying ‘I see you’. Similarly, when called morenita, I am understood, I am celebrated, revered for the history and traditions painted on my skin like tattoos of a collective memory too precious to forget. I don't understand when people say “I don’t see color”, trying to remove themselves from the accountability that all humans face when confronted by their participation in racism. If you don’t see color, you don’t see me! Because I am so colorful! If you don’t see me, then how can we relate to each other, how can we have a real conversation?

México is predominantly a Catholic faith country. The Virgin Mary (we know her as La Virgen de Guadalupe) is our most important religious icon. We lovingly refer to her as morena, mi Virgen morena, mi morenita. We pray to a brown-skinned indigenous woman, we rely on her guidance and protection. 

It’s also no coincidence that MORENA is the the political party that just won power in Mexico’s most recent presidential election under AMLO, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a brown skinned man. Believe it or not, in Mexico we've usually had white Mexicans running the show. Morena references a rhetoric of “power to the people!”. The visual of a brown fist in the air, that for many marginalized people around the world including the United States, is held as a symbol of pride and positivity.

I grew up in a tourist beach town. I was born in Sinaloa and raised in Puerto Vallarta. I am super gringa by all accounts (y'all already know), born in México yet surrounded by expats, raised by my gringo dad, playing soccer at my gringo high school, then off to gringo college in Wisconsin of all places, all the while listening to American hip-hop and other imported gringo pop culture. I began to experience Mexican music, traditional culture and even food, as an adult.

My professional life was spent in high end hotels and restaurants, surrounded by great minds like Enrique Olvera, people who took the rich ingredients of Mexican heritage and coupled them with the highest and most refined global standards. Whether they understood it or not, they were building a new México. Whether the world understands it or not, Morenita is redefining travel, redefining how you experience Mexico. How Mexicans recognize and understand themselves. Morenita is very actively participating in being the solution. I've lived in like, 5 countries? (I think.) I speak 3 languages. I'm a global citizen, but I am first Mexican. My connections on the ground and experiences throughout my years working in the highest levels of gastronomy and hospitality have taught me that, sure, it’s very much who you know, but it must be anchored in authenticity if I’m to carry out my vision. This cultural narrative needs to be REAL if Morenita is actually about what it says its about.

If you read the July newsletter you know how devastating Anthony Bourdain’s death was for me. He understood us as a country, he understood the potential and dimensional complexities of our culture. One of Bourdain's critiques on the world's prejudice toward the Mexican experience was that it should be cheap, "this is frankly a racist assumption that Mexico ..should be cheap. That's not right." We've been seeing Mexico elevate its game in the food realm for years now. But take Bourdain’s statement and apply it to art, architecture, craftsmanship, the booming wine industry, and you’re seeing México through my contemporary and cosmopolitan lens. México is the most fascinating destination in the Western Hemisphere, this is the cradle of centuries of the most enchanting traditions and history. Discúlpenme, pero, why should anything here be cheap?

This is the lens I use when designing products like the Xochimilco Sunrise Experience. You want to ride around the canals on those colorful little boats, get a little tipsy and listen to mariachi? Cool. That's fun for me too. But I'd rather use every contact I can think of to get the exclusivity to Yolcán, a large farm crop inside those canals, where no tourists ever access, and serve a gorgeous breakfast at sunrise with indigenous brown women making you fresh blue corn tortillas on the spot, while their 3rd generation Xochimilcan farmer husbands explain the agricultural methods they've used since the beginning of time. Linen table cloths, talavera dishes, exotic birds flying over you, and the feeling that Xochimilco, this UNESCO nature reserve, if only for this morning, belongs entirely to you. The same vegetables and herbs you see growing there are only sold to the best restaurants in México City in an effort to support fair trade and maintain Yolcan's vision of sustainability and cultural preservation. When your private driver takes you to dinner that evening - in our luxury town cars, of course - you'll see world-famous restaurants like Pujol and Maximo Bistrot will have prepared your meal with those same ingredients that earlier in the day the farmers at Yolcan described so passionately. That is a Morenita Experience. In many ways, traveling around the world discovering international food cultures, then returning home to collaborate with visionary chefs who wanted to expose the potential of our history, is my true north and vision for the Morenita Experience today. I can say with great pride and responsibility, that via my experiences personal and professional, I am the story of México told in one woman.

A letter to Anthony Bourdain


The image below comes from Asia Argento's Instagram story, Bourdain's 2-year girlfriend at the time of his death, where in one moment she is alone sunbathing poolside, reading a book, smoking a cigarrette, and the next her face is swollen, she's drowning in her own tears, she can't help but embody the literal definition of heartbreak. It's clear she's probably soaking in the sun's rays for physical warmth and not for the sake of a tan: you can tell she's just trying to hang in there, and staying alive is her life's challenge right now. Her partner is gone,  she can't explain to herself why, she just wishes he'd come back. Her expression haunts me.

All she wants is for him to come back. 

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It's been a few weeks since his horrendous suicide (really, Bourdain?! You had to hang yourself, you asshole?) and I have to admit: I've never cried over a celebrity dying. Bourdain, though? At least 5 times that day, sitting down, face buried in hands. I couldn't even stand and just shed a tear like an adult. I had to crumble down and weep like a wounded child. 

Here's why this senseless suicide hit me so hard. It wasn't so much his rock n' roll lifestyle, his charm, his attractive bravado, his courageous outlook on life and his sensitive understanding of the human experience. It wasn't even the fact that he made eating, drinking and traveling (my life's passion) an actual religion with millions of devoted followers around the world who would tune into his award-winning shows and series every week. 


What I am about to share is not about you, dear reader. You are our friend and our ally, I fully recognize that and am eternally grateful for the bond we share, and for you taking the time to read this. (You're still here, right?) Nobody on this mailing list has anything but love and respect for Mexico, I know that. Which is why I also know you'll take in my perspective for what it is: its a perspective, and nothing more.

What hit me was the fact that he was a powerful, famous, rich, influential white American man who was passionately in love with Mexico, with all our defects, with our problems, with our poverty, with our corrupt government. He recognized us as brothers, not just as neighbors: he was vocal about the fact that the US has a historically uncomfortable relationship with Mexico. Many Americans love to vacation here, but they can't seem to hold a meaningful conversation with a Mexican for very long. They love our culture, our food, our vibrant traditions, but its so easy to distance themselves from the problems we face.


Many in the US aren't aware that most people trying to cross the US-Mexico border these days aren't even Mexicans: they're Salvadorians, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans running away from horrible dictatorships birthed from US-financed geopolitics, from American empire-like strategies. It's just a lot easier to call the whole mess a "problem" caused by "Mexico". It's easy to consume the majority of the drugs available in the world but at the same time issue travel warnings every week about how unsafe cartel violence has made Mexico, therefore hitting us where it hurts most: shutting down income produced from tourism. Its easy to expect every waiter in Cabo, Vallarta or Tulum to speak english but Mexicans would never dream of being addressed in Spanish from a white waiter at a US restaurant. The thought alone is laughable. 

But, anyway... back to Bourdain, back to this letter. 

Bourdain was aware of this injustice and was publicly against this unnecessary double-standard. He worded it beautifully in his famous Tumblr post "Under the Volcano", which you can read here. "Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace", writes Bourdain.

So, naturally, as a Mexican, I felt validated by him. I felt supported, protected even. And it doesn't stop there, as a woman, he represented everything I thought was right in a man. What I think every man should aspire to be. His production team, under his instruction, always sought out both men and women local experts to share the story of the destinations they traveled to. Having a woman there was important for him and for the show, which in turn was important for the world. And as we could witness through his relationship with Asia, the woman he loved was rebellious, feminist, liberal, outspoken. Again, my place in the world was protected. It was a reminder that there are important, powerful, privileged men out there who are not threatened or put off by so much of what I am, on the contrary, it's what they value most in a woman. 


Bourdain's suicide was a triple-loss. One, for food and culture. If the culinary world is Wakanda, he was our King, and the King is dead. Two, for Mexicans: our American cultural champion who always had our back was gone. And three, for women: we lost the alpha male prototype, the protector who stood by our side on all matters of equality. 

I traveled all over the world by myself in my 20s. I spent months aimlessly wondering around India, southeast Asia, Europe, I lived in Brasil, Nicaragua, and all thanks to what Bourdain inspired in me, the seed he planted in my head. Not only that a life of pure adventure was possible, but that as a woman, then even as a young girl, I could do it, I could even do it alone. Morenita Experience was in large part inspired by him. 

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It's still hard to digest that he didn't die from illness, or even from an accident. This man hung himself in a hotel with a bathrobe belt. I mean... come on. It doesn't get more fucked up than that. He always came off as so wise, so cool and collected, so together. I can't imagine how loud the voices were screaming inside his head that night, how nasty and vile the things they were saying to him, what lies he had convinced himself about. I hope none of us ever know. Drug addiction is the biggest curse of them all, because its self-inflicted, but a heroin addiction has to be the closest thing to having the devil live inside of you forever. 

These are not easy times in the world right now, it seems every day there's a new scandal, a new human rights violation, a new fire to put out, a new conflict to deal with. We must make every effort possible to put compassion first, at the front of every conversation, of every interaction, of all situations. Compassion is the antidote, its the priority. Even when someone seems like they have it all, like they're winning, like they sleep easy every night: let us take a moment to check on one another. Nobody has any idea what the person standing next to you is going through.

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It's not easy for you either, for our American, Canadian, European friends reading this, we know that too. If you need a break, come here, you are always welcome here. At Morenita our only goal is that you feel like royalty, its to pamper you, to shower you with attention, to expose you to cultural contexts that will leave you feeling inspired, in love with discovering cultures, thrilled with the fact that we're just next door, that you can come back as often as you'd like. We want to help heal the parts of our relationship that are wounded, we want to put misunderstandings in the past. 

We need each other, now more than ever.

I touched several major subjects here, so I would like to conclude by leaving contact information for organizations that can help you, us, and others. Please reach out to any of these as you see necessary, and please come visit us as soon as possible. We will always be happy to welcome you en esta su casa que es México.



Don't order off the menu: four chefs & a GM explain why.

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It's no secret I like to eat. I'm on a self-imposed never-ending search to find the most interesting, delicious and unique culinary proposals in Mexico City. (Pobrecita, I know.)

I recently sat down with restauranteur friends to talk about the current state of CDMX dining and why you're better off not even looking at the menu.

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Last I googled there are over 50,000 restaurants in Mexico City: this is a culinary Mecca where I'm rarely disappointed. The X Factor, in my opinion, is running into restaurants that leave me thinking, overthinking, analyzing, trying to figure out the details, the philosophy: a restaurant that provokes an emotional reaction. Here's a restaurant group with three different destinations that are currently doing that for me, and the people behind them. 

Calle Colima 124, Colonia Roma. 

Ensenada, Baja California is an important exporter of fish and seafood throughout Mexico. If you've eaten seafood at any serious restaurant in Mexico City, chances are its from Ensenada and it was personally delivered by the one and only Ezequiel.

Chef Ezequiel Hernández of Campobaja. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Chef Ezequiel Hernández of Campobaja. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

I first met him years ago when I worked at Pujol: he would come in every morning with huge coolers full of flamboyant tuna, sea bass, octopus and oysters like a seafood Santa Claus of sorts, delivering Christmas gifts. The cooks at Pujol would get restless and giddy when they would see Ezequiel pull up: he brought the goods.

Ezequiel represents the youngest generation in his family of fish purveyors and exporters, not only in Mexico but now also sending Ensenada fish to restaurants in Europe. 

Tuna, uni and salmon over algae and blue corn tostada. Photo IG @campobaja

Tuna, uni and salmon over algae and blue corn tostada. Photo IG @campobaja

The first time I ate at Campobaja I had dinner with friends: we enjoyed fabulous ceviches, fish machaca, fresh tuna and seafood tacos. The second time Ezequiel asked a rhetorical question: "How hungry are you?". Even if I'm not that hungry chances are I'll eat anything you give me. He brought in oysters, tostadas and tacos that were off-menu. He said "it's always better if you just let the kitchen send whatever they want." 

He was right, and it left me thinking: I already knew that... Why have I forgotten to just let cooks cook? I had four courses then told him I was satisfied, he would have kept going otherwise. I had dinner in a few hours, otherwise you bet your butt I would have kept going. Unsurprisingly, that lunch at Campobaja was substantially better than the first dinner.  

I realized how conceptually genius it is to have a purveyor, a profound expert in product and it’s origin, become a chef. I also felt like in a perfect world, menus wouldn't exist. You would just sit down and let the feast begin, allowing yourself the pleasure of being surprised.

Chef Alejandro Zarate of Campobaja. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Chef Alejandro Zarate of Campobaja. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Alejandro Zárate (Chef de Cuisine at Campobaja) and I had similar childhoods: he was a sort of "gringo" Mexican kid growing up in Mexico, but still being, well... sorta gringo. (Did any of that make sense? It does to us.) Kids like us celebrated Thanksgiving and were familiar with soul food and didn't discover the beautiful complexity of Mexican moles and cumbias until we were adults. We were both raised in tourist beach towns, Puerto Vallarta is my hometown, Ensenada is his. Alex was classically trained in French techniques and has been friends with Ezequiel for many years. 

Scallop ceviche. Photo IG @campobaja

Scallop ceviche. Photo IG @campobaja

He wonders why people with serious food restrictions insist on going to restaurants. Truth is, we all wonder. Its unfortunate that people suffer painful physical allergies to certain foods, but those of us in the industry also question how much of that is the cook's responsibility to look out for? Aren't cooks just supposed to... cook? When did restaurants become ERs and chefs become physicians? 

Even at Pujol, one of the most important restaurants in the world, the mentality is pretty much the same: the customer isn't always right. Now more than ever, as a professional diner, I'm convinced that's a great thing. Let's leave the experts to their expertise, no?

Bar Oriente
Calle Durango 181, Colonia Roma. 

"You'll love it, trust me", said my friend Juan Carlos. "They're doing things nobody's doing." That's all I need to hear. I was invited to try their new menu at an ultra-chic chef's table inside Bar Oriente's kitchen, where Chef Bruno personally served and explained. 

Bruno is also from Ensenada but happens to be Japanese-Mexican, which is the general concept of Oriente's menu. It had been a long time since I met such a passionate, knowledgeable young chef. And I spend a lot of time around great chefs, but Bruno still made a lasting impression on me. 

Chef Bruno Nomuro of Bar Oriente. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Chef Bruno Nomuro of Bar Oriente. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

He's out to revolutionize the marriage of both cultures in the form of food. I joked with him that if Japan and Mexico became one nation, they could take over the world. Japan with its perfect aesthetic, its discipline, its sobriety and Mexico with its passion, its humor, its vibrant colors. 

Here's what excites me so much about Bar Oriente: they have a chef's table in the kitchen. If you know me, you know that's the key to my heart. There are only 2 restaurants in Mexico City (that I know of) that have this intimate environment where you can see all the action, ask all the questions, and take your culinary appreciation up a whole notha' level.

Canadian salmon donburi, ikura, and charred avocado puree. Photo IG @bar_oriente

Canadian salmon donburi, ikura, and charred avocado puree. Photo IG @bar_oriente

They currently offer an 8-course Omakase that's not 100% traditionally Japanese, as there are plenty of Mexican ingredients in it, but is so unique you'll never see sushi or nigiris. In fact, I'd say its a bit risqué: its not Japanese bizarre food by any means, but its certainly meant to take you out of your comfort zone at times. And I love the challenge: especially when its executed beautifully, the quality is impecable, the flavors are divine and you leave there feeling like you actually learned a thing or two.

Kushiyaki. Photo IG @bar_oriente

Kushiyaki. Photo IG @bar_oriente

Can Can
Calle Durango 175, Colonia Roma. 

The Little Bar That Could. This place is the definition of understated, yet its soon to become one of the most serious food destinations in the city. It's a bar, yes. It serves bar food, correct. But its the level of bar food you'd find in Berlin or London's greatest gastropubs. Their treatment of produce is insane: the pickled vegetables, the ferments, the homemade Tabasco and ketchup. What am I saying? The homemade prosciutto! I mean who buys an entire pig to make prosciutto from scratch? Felipe does. 

Chef Felipe Neves of Can Can. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Chef Felipe Neves of Can Can. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

I met Felipe at Bar Oriente, he came into the kitchen the first night I ate there. I asked where he was from as he spoke flawless English, he said Portugal. I lived in Brazil for some time, so we spoke Portuguese, which he kindly complimented me on. Then he told me he was part of the group as Chef de Cuisine at Can Can, just next door. 

Can Can is a casual neighborhood bar where you can come in for great European wines and spirits, beautiful bar food in plates meant for sharing, and some nights enjoy live music or a stand up comedy routine. The crowd is great: a bit punk rock, a bit techy-Godínez (Mexican term for 9-to-5'ers), very hipster and naturally-drawing of an international crowd. It's a place where anyone feels comfortable. The decor is New Orleans meets Austin, TX meets Brooklyn. 

Its no surprise some of their regular diners include famous Mexico City Chefs you and I have read about in the NYT. This place is the real deal. 

Homemade polenta, blue creole corn, shrimp and salsa macha. Photo IG @cancancdmx

Homemade polenta, blue creole corn, shrimp and salsa macha. Photo IG @cancancdmx

And then there's the guy that makes sure everything runs smoothly at all three places, the Group's general manager Bernardo. Originally from Mexico City, Berns (as I call him) is an architect who's hair might be longer than mine and who might be sporting a new tattoo every week. 

The first time I ate at Campobaja I made a reservation and didn't let anyone know I was coming. I knew him through social media but we had never met. He DM'd me on Instagram and asked: "I saw a reservation for Morenita Experience on Thursday. Are you coming in for dinner?". That simple question made a difference. Regardless of the Morenita brand, he was giving me hella customer service. Everything about the FOH at all three restaurants has been, well... perfect. And that's a very bold statement coming from me, someone whose foodie feelings get hurt when waiters or hostesses show a lack of attention to detail or customer service. 

Bernardo Galindo, GM at Campobaja, Bar Oriente and Can Can. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

Bernardo Galindo, GM at Campobaja, Bar Oriente and Can Can. Photo by Cristina Lugo.

I had to tell him, as someone who had also managed Front of The House for many restaurants, that he was doing an amazing job at training his staff and making sure every single patron felt welcome, special, and taken care of. There are famous restaurants within the 50 Best LatAm list in Mexico City that I've unfortunately never felt that way about. But that's ok, because I have these guys. 

Lunch Prix Fixe at Can Can. Photo IG @cancancdmx

Lunch Prix Fixe at Can Can. Photo IG @cancancdmx

Make sure you visit Campobaja, Bar Oriente and Can Can next time you're in Mexico City. Please tell them Morenita sent you and know you can expect world-class meals and service at these three destinations.