By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
It’s August, already, and it seems that the last easy-breezy days of summer are quickly slipping away.
Soon, vacations will be over and schools will reopen (which means much worse traffic), and all those lazy afternoons of sitting around the pool or sipping coffee with friends at your favorite café will come to an end, and you will have to change out those sloppy jeans and t-shirts for more conservative (and less comfortable) office wear.
But while the days will soon begin to get shorter and far more hectic, there is one big consolation about the end of summer in Mexico: chiles en nogada.
Yes, this traditional Mexican dish is most associated with the month of September, Mexico’s official “mes de la patria,” but true chiles en nogada aficionados know that they don’t have to wait another month to savor the sumptuous flavors of a freshly battered green Poblano chilie stuffed with a harmonious symphony of diced meat and fruits and crowned with a glorious creamy white walnut sauce topped with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds to showcase the colors of the country’s flag: green, white and red.
And the absolute best chile en nogada in all Mexico is at La 3ra Ronda, that hip little contemporary cantina chain that traditionally offers the best of modern haute cuisine mexicaine along with a triple shot of any alcoholic beverage you order (designated driver not included).
Ever since it opened its first restaurant here in Mexico City back in 2014, the Puebla-based Entre Fuegos group, which owns La 3ra Ronda, has been dedicated to bringing the true tastes of Puebla, one of Mexico’s most culturally rich and historic states, to capital consumers.
From that most classic of Pueblan dishes, mole poblano, to deep-fried pelonas stuffed with black beans, lettuce, cream, shredded beef and fiery salsas, to tangy rajas poblanas (sliced strips of poblano chilie peppers grilled to perfection with corn and cream and topped with melt-in-your-mouth quesillo cheese), to deliciously crunchy cemita sandwiches packed with avocado, soft cheese, pork, onions and chipotle, if you want to savor the taste of Angelópolis without making the two-hour trek along Highway 150D, Mexican cuisine foodies will tell you that your best bet is to head out to one of the Entre Fuego eateries.
But the undisputed star of La 3ra Ronda’s always-enticing menu is its chile en nogada.
To ensure authenticity, every single ingredient that is uses to make this iconic recipe (and there are 16 of them, in case you were wondering) is brought in directly from Puebla, in compliance with the chain’s exclusive recipe, honed from a combination of Puebla recipes passed down from generation-to-generation.
The end product is sheer culinary ecstasy.
The La 3ra Ronda recipe is fruitier and more aromatic than most commercial interpretations of this classic Mexican treat.
A succulent orchestration of contrasting sweet, spicy, salty and tart flavors come together for a crescendo of gastronomic rapture in this extraordinary interpretation of what many consider to be Mexico’s national dish.
Allegedly created by nuns in Puebla in 1821, the dish was supposedly presented to the general of the Mexican Army, Agustín de Iturbide, after he signed the treaty that recognized Mexico’s independence from Spain.
Unprepared to receive such a noble guest and with the cupboards bare, the story goes that the nuns used the best of the late-season harvest in the dish, including poblano chilies, peaches, pears, apples and walnuts grown in farms near Puebla.
Over the years, recipes for this dish have been adapted to modern dietary practices and personal tastes, but come August and September, you can pretty much bet that in every Mexican household people are beginning to dream about chiles en nogada season.
And chiles en nogada are not just appreciated by Mexicans.
The gastronomic tradition of this regional masterpiece has been trumpeted worldwide by discerning connoisseurs for its extraordinary blend of subtle tastes and historic tradition.
In fact, the chile en nogada was included as one of the country’s most important culinary treasures when Mexican food made it to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
But don’t take my word for it.
Head out to one of the Mexican capital’s three La 3ra Ronda restaurants — in Avenida Presidente Masaryk 393 and Avenida Ejército Nacional Mexicano 769 inside the Miyana shopping mall in Colonia Pölanco, and at Juan Salvador Agraz 130 in Santa Fe — and try it for yourself.
As for me, I’m keeping my La 3ra Ronda chile en nogada all to myself, and I’m not sharing.