James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Drown your travel disappointments in fresh trout

Drown your travel disappointments in fresh trout

Trout in Mexico

Felipe returned from his home country Brazil to the Mexican city of Puebla, 18 years after he had lived there as an exchange student. He stayed in our house for 10 days.

Despite how much the city has changed—the restored historic center, the widened streets—he still knew how to navigate it. Still, we gladly played host. We took him to eat the best cemita and tacos al pastor, to enjoy the local music scene, and finally, to see the mighty Popocatepetl up close.

Don Goyo—the local nickname—is Mexico’s most active volcano, but its proudly smoking peak is almost always covered in snow. Until now, Felipe had only ever seen it from a distance, from Puebla. It’s forbidden to climb the volcano because of the toxic sulfur it expels, so the nearest point where one can view it is Paso de Cortes—the saddle formed between Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, two of Mexico’s three highest volcanoes. People visit the volcanoes for two reasons: unspoiled nature and fresh trout.

It took an hour to get to the dirt road and another hour of bumpy and solitary driving through the thick pine forest to get to Villa Ecoturistica La Venta, an eco-lodge with a restaurant and camping area, with rustic cabins and small pools scattered around it. There was a waterfall and a creek, guiding the water feeding into the pools where their fish lived.

The restaurant had an indoor fireplace, and the walls made of windows made us feel close to nature. The only couple in the place was finishing their meal, so eventually we were the only guests left. The menu included trout, many ways: stuffed with button mushroom and garlic; marinated in orange juice, axiote, and chili sauce; prepared with fried garlic and butter. We finally ordered the specialty—grilled trout wrapped in a corn leaf, seasoned with mint leaves, onion slices, and chili.

A man left the kitchen, so I followed him outside. He approached one of the pools, took out three big fish, and delivered to each a strong blow to the head and took them back to the kitchen. That’s about as fresh as you can get, I thought to myself.

Satisfied after our meal, we departed towards our final goal–Paso de Cortes. But when we got the entrance of the park, Don Goyo’s peak was wrapped around with thick clouds. We waited and waited and waited, until we realized it was getting dark.  We took some unsatisfying selfies and headed back home. The volcano wasn’t on our side that day, but at least the trout didn’t fail us.

Villa Ecoturistica La Venta
Calpan, Puebla
Mexico 74190

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