A few weeks ago I was eating breakfast at Nicos, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It's been owned by the same family for more than 50 years, and the chef, Gerardo Vázquez Lugo
, cares deeply about using fresh ingredients and promoting traditional Mexican recipes. I had only ever eaten lunch there, but breakfast turned out to be top-notch. A friend's cecina was about as tender as I'd ever tasted. My eggs with chile pasilla Oaxaqueña left me scraping the bowl with my fork to eat the last crumbly, smoky chile bits. The concha couldn't have been better unless we'd plucked them ourselves straight from the oven. The roll was airy, lightly sweet, butter humming a little tune in the background. The Nicos concha made Bondy's version
seem like a hippopotamus. (I've never blasphemed Bondy before, so you know this is a big deal.) Chef Vázquez happened to be there that morning, so I struck up a conversation with him. Actually, I exclaimed, “Cuéntame de la concha!” Tell me about the concha! He explained that his concha derived from a French-style dough, made with butter. He talked about how Mexican conchas were originally made with lard and how there were now numerous types of conchas in the city, some heavy with butter, some fluffy, some with a crispy crust, some not. I could’ve sat there all day, listening to him and wiping sugary crumbs from my lips. Then he said something interesting: “The variety of the conchas is what makes the experience so rich." I pondered that for awhile. Later, I asked him: Are you saying there is no such thing as one specific, authentic Mexican concha? He nodded. That's when I realized -- what if my concha search has been flawed all along? What if there is no best concha in Mexico City, no authentic concha recipe that I'd been struggling to find? What if the beauty here is in the search?
I’ve been in a bit of a funk recently, as you might have noticed from my less-than-regular blogging. I don't want to go into specifics, but suffice to say that some intricately laid plans I had didn't work out. I told myself that God/the universe has a plan for me and perhaps that plan isn't exactly on my desired timetable. But when Chef Vázquez started talking about the conchas, I realized I had been looking at this experience the wrong way. The end result was crappy, but what if that wasn't the point? The beauty could've been in the búsqueda. I was so busy thinking about the bigger picture that I missed the little moments of beauty along the way. The concha taste test will continue, but it’s no longer a contest, so to speak. More of an exploration of all the different types of conchas. Think my next one will be from Damiana
in Condesa -- I heard it's stuffed with refried beans. I plan to write about Nicos again, but here's the address, in case you'd like to stop by: Av. Cuitlahuac 3102, Esq. Claveria, Col. Clavería, Azcapotzalco. They're open for breakfast until about 12:30 p.m., and for lunch until about 6 p.m. They're closed for dinner and on Sundays.