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CEN AUS Q1 2018

in the 17th century nuns

in the 17th century nuns at the Convent of Santa Rosa were preparing a banquet when a gust of wind swept up ingredients lying about the kitchen and tossed them in a pot. The result: mole poblano, that famously velvety sauce that’s savoury but sweet and now made differently by every chef (and definitely made better by someone’s abuela). Puebla has been called the Lyon of Mexico, the apex of the country’s culinary pyramid. (Anthony Bourdain once said that most of his cooks came from the state of Puebla.) One morning I went to the new Rosewood Puebla, one of the latest additions to the luxury resort group, for a molemaking lesson with chef de cuisine Jonathan Alvarado, who cooked under Enrique Olvera at Pujol in Mexico City, one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants. As he dry-roasted chillis in a pan, Alvarado (whose mole recipe includes traditional ingredients, such as plantain and cinnamon, as well as brioche, which may have to do with his training in Paris) emphasised that Puebla, while a city of high tradition, also has a way with subtle experimentation. For instance, rather than serving his meltingly tender suckling pig as is, he prefers to debone the meat, press it French-style, freeze it and cut it into small blocks. “You serve the pork with a quenelle of aubergine purée; a little salad of orange, lime, and rocket on top; and jus,” made from roasting the bones into a thick sauce, he said. “It’s the same as carnitas, but not. It’s traditional, but not really.” Alvarado served us his mole on Talavera plates, of course. Wandering Puebla, your eyes adjust as if to new light, and you see Talavera all over the city. It embellishes venerable buildings such as the Casa de Alfeñique, believed to be Puebla’s oldest museum. (Unfortunately, the large earthquake that shook Mexico last September, and which was centred not far from Puebla, left the intricate façade in danger of falling off, and the museum remains closed.) At Puebla’s other world-class hotel, the recently opened, 78-room Cartesiano, decades-old Talavera from a disused tile shop form part of the sleekly modern design, yet another instance of the commitment to honour the old and nurture the new in this city of abundant scaffolding and cobblestone. The most striking examples of Talavera I saw were at Herencia 811, a mansion that has been transformed into a collection of galleries and shops, where the lavatory floor is made of the most varied collection of tiles I saw anywhere. Puebla is one of Mexico’s most prosperous cities and its monuments have long testified to its wealth. Today they include the stunning International Museum of the Baroque, which opened last year to honour that era of ornate Clockwise from above: a view of the Popocatépetl volcano from Rosewood Puebla; exacting artistry at Uriarte Talavera; Puebla Cathedral, Mexico’s second largest; chilaquiles at Casa Nueve restaurant art and music. Cleverly, the museum’s austere home, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Toyo Ito, is anything but ornate. Like Puebla itself, the unexpectedly minimalist structure refuses to look only backward, pairing contemporary art with colonial masterpieces. Another museum showing off Puebla’s extraordinary cultural riches is the Amparo Museum, the classic front of which opens up to a luminous construction of glass, steel and marble that brings to mind an Apple store stripped of gadgetry. The Amparo holds one of Mexico’s best pre- Hispanic art collections, but many of the works on display, such as stone carvings of dogs and jaguars, have cool, modern lines – unwitting indicators of how creativity can transcend the centuries. Recently, the museum has ramped up its cultural offerings in other media, venturing into music performances and film screenings, with the goal of embracing Puebla’s heritage holistically, rather than preserving a time capsule. This mission takes physical form when you ascend to the museum’s spacious rooftop, where wooden decking surrounds a glass-walled café/bar and blue square-tiled planters abound with blossoming iris, snapdragons and lavender. The cityscape, with all those domes, almost embraces you, and I sat there for a while, nursing a Tecate and marvelling at Puebla’s remarkable energy. 60 CENTURION-MAGAZINE.COM

SAMPLING THE CITY The best places to experience Puebla STAY After years of having none, Puebla now has two five-star hotels, the first of which to open was the 78-room Rosewood Puebla ( rosewoodhotels. com), occupying a complex of lovingly restored buildings in the old city. World-class amenities and colonial ambience are also available at the Cartesiano (hotel​cartesiano.com), a boutique hotel in a pair of 300-year-old mansions just minutes from the Unesco-protected town square. EAT Both the Rosewood and Cartesiano offer venues for sampling Puebla’s renowned cuisine. At the Rosewood’s Pasquinel Bistrot, executive chef Jorge González, an alum of Spain’s famed elBulli, applies highconcept interpretations to classic recipes. Contemporary Mexican is also the theme at Cartesiano’s Centena Cuatro. For snappy fare in a boho setting, head outside the city centre to Casa Nueve (casanueve.org) in Cholula. SHOP If Puebla’s visual splendour leaves you wishing you could bring it back, check out Uriarte Talavera (uriartetalavera.com.​ mx), which has been firing ceramics since 1824. “We stick to the traditions,” says co-owner Michael Paulhus, which means all products are handmade (no plastic moulds) by local craftspeople. In addition to its showroom and kilns, Uriarte includes a small museum featuring work by contemporary artists. CONTACT CENTURION SERVICE FOR BOOKINGS CENTURION-MAGAZINE.COM 61