Despite my formal training in the Sciences, Engineering and Business, I have always been fascinated by Anthropology, and its socio-cultural, ethnographic, religious and culinary aspects. Reading between the lines of cross-cultural relativism uncovers intriguing nuances and questions that truly boggle the intrepid mind and the imagination.
For instance, today's esoteric but once ubiquitous traditions of Hindu Tantra (having originated over 6,000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization – the Indian sub-continent of the present day) including nature and idol worship and the Divine Feminine, have unequivocal similarities with the Greek and Egyptian pagan rites, as well as native Indian traditions of the Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations of pre-Columbian South and Central America. It is unfortunate that politico-religious invasions and conquests have virtually wiped out all of these traditions, with Hinduism being the sole survivor today, of these rich, ancient, mystical/occult socio-religio-cultural heritage.
Incidentally, the word "pagan" literally implies “of the earth”, hence native traditions of worship, that unfortunately, was conveniently deprecated, and pejoratively positioned and abused, to justify the desecration of these religious traditions and practices and the near-total annhilation of their practitioners with impunity, around the globe!
What has survived however, are crossovers of socio-cultural and culinary practices in corners of the globe far removed from each other. For instance, flat breads made of wheat or corn flour are ubiquitous across South and Central America (Tortilla, Chalupa), the Indian sub-continent (Naan, Roti/Chapati, Paratha) and the Middle-East (Pita, Lafa), as is the use of hot peppers. My research reveals a high correlation between hot tropical climates and consumption of hot peppers that has an associated scientific explanation. Poor peasants who worked out in the fields in excruciating heat, without any semblance of air conditioning, consumed hot peppers with their staples to induce profuse perspiration, that evaporated and cooled the body and provided much needed relief from the scorching heat -the closest thing to air conditioning possible in those times!
Cuisine from South and Central America, especially Mexican cuisine, have retained most of these flavors and attributes (including the use of hot peppers like Jalapeno, Poblano and the even more fiery Habanero) to the present day, and have become incredibly popular across North-America.
An establishment that has raised Mexican cuisine to an art form is Rosario’s Mexican Cafe Y Cantina in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio, is a delightful little town on the Texas-Mexico border, characterized by its inimitable Riverwalk that draws thousands of visitors from all over the world.
What brings me back for more:
While the San Antonio Riverwalk features some of the very best restaurants and nightlife in San Antonio, Rosario’s is arguably, the finest Mexican establishment in this inimitable town, featuring live music on the weekends, and run by Lisa Wong, an avid restaurateur born to Chinese-Mexican parents, who founded her very first restaurant at 17!
Before heading out to Rosario's, I highly recommend a trip to the Mexican Bazaar in San Antonio, called El Mercado, for authentic Mexican artifacts, trinkets and objet d'art, sterling silver jewelry at unbeatable prices as well as toys and apparel for kids - you can please the men, the women and the kids all at once!:-) As well, you may enjoy the scintillating experience of a live Mariachi band playing in the courtyard, complemented by the tantalizing aroma of mouth watering delights from across the border, offered by local streetside vendors.
Since every memorable shopping excursion needs to be rounded off with an incredible culinary experience, in my humble opinion :-), we headed out from the Mercado to Rosario’s, for the fitting finale to an otherwise perfect day.
Rosario’s offers a very warm and inviting ambiance that is complemented well with its friendly servers, as well as its well stocked bar offering some of the best margaritas and cocktails your money can buy in San Antonio! The elegant ambiance is well accentuated by the paintings of local artists who virtually use this establishment as a gallery to exhibit their works of art. The home made pico de gallo and their secret Salsa picante is the finest I have had, in the state of Texas, that I could not get enough of!
Besides the enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, and burritos, which are exceptionally good, but can be found at most Mexican establishments across the USA, Rosario’s boasts of these house specialties:
- Angelica’s Ceviche Fino – delicate white fish, thinly sliced onions and jalapenos, marinated in fresh lime juice with oregano vinaigrette, and served with avocado, cilantro and homemade tostadas – simply sublime!
- Tlalpeno Sopa de Pollo - Chipotle chicken soup with shredded chicken, tomatoes, carrots and onions…mmm..marvellous!
- Sopa de Tortilla - hot and sour chicken broth with shredded chicken and a hint of lime – an implosion of flavors and the very best I have ever had, anywhere!
- Mexican Caesar Salad – spinach, pepitas, corn chips, red peppers in a creamy chipotle dressing – Vive la Difference!
- Pescado Vera Cruz – pan seared tilapia topped with their secret Vera Cruz sauce, with capers, green olives, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos, garnished with fresh cilantros and served with poblano rice. I have yet to experience finer seafood at any Mexican establishment – serious euphoria inducing fare!:-)
- Anita’s Steak Ranchera – rib-eye grilled and topped with Rosario’s delicious poblano pepper ranchero sauce, and served with a choice of enchilada, charro beans, rice and guacamole. Highly recommended for steak afficionados.
- Grilled Fish Tacos – pan grilled tilapia, chipotle mayo, topped with cabbage lime slaw, pickled red onions and avocado – sheer delight indeed, for a light dinner if you are not totally famished.
- Chalupas de Pescado/Chalupas Compuestas – chalupas (very reminiscent of Indian Naan/Bhaturas) with a choice of seared tilapia, chicken or beef, and served with refried beans, queso fresco and diced avocado - you can't go wrong with 'em Chalupas.
- Fiesta Special – a combo of grilled shrimp and charbroiled beef or chicken fajitas, served on a sizzling skillet, with onions and bell peppers, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo – the very best we have had in the last five years!
This adventure in San Antonio, Texas begins at: Rosario's Mexican Cafe Y Cantina, 910 South Alamo Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205-3419. Tel # (210) 223-1806. Reservations recommended, especially on weekends.Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
Comments: Anonymous said (in Spanglish:-))...
Bravo! Loved this blogpost that so nicely connects the dots between our civilization, the conquest, effect on our culture and cuisine, as well as the insights on Induisme which is really interesting...Magnifico, Maestro!
Call me por favor, when you come to San Diego and I promise you equally exciting Fiesta Mexicana, for sure!:-)
Hasta La Vista, Amigo, Jesus Gutierrez, San Diego, California July 27, 2007 7:55 AM