Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Los Mirasoles de Morelia Restaurant

Los Mirasoles de Morelia Restaurant
By Travis M. Whitehead

Guests at Los Mirasoles de Morelia Restaurant, on Avenida Madero west of the cathedral, can dine on regional dishes surrounded by cool stone walls, soft music, and warm sunlight pouring through high wooden rafters.
White wax hangs out of niches in the walls where generations of candles have released their energy through flickering fire and then disintegrated into the illusion of frozen water. At night, when candles flicker in the dark crevices, they cast a warm glow into the dining room, conjuring a spell of mystical romance.
Restaurant owner Fernando Figueroa, 31, used to live in this building which has always been a residence since its construction in the 17th century, but four years ago after returning from Argentina, he converted it into an Argentine and Italian restaurant.
However, the menu quickly evolved into something far different; people wanted local cuisine as well as the Argentine and Italian dishes, and he now has more regional recipes on his menu than anything else
"We are beginning to meet people who are coming in and trying Michoacan dishes,” Figueroa said.
People with adventurous appetites can dine on jahuacatas (corn batter with beans cooked in a milpa leaf and served with cream and ranch cheese) served with pork meat in a tomato sauce and slices of chilaca chilis for about nine dollars. They can get baby pork ribs in a black chili sauce for about 8 dollars and quail in chili and garlic sauce for about 11 dollars.
You can choose from a variety of dining areas; you can sit in the main sunlit dining area surrounded by lush foliage and the music of water gushing from a lion’s mouth into a quiet pool, or you can choose a more private dining room where waiters will give you an electronic bell to summon them from behind closed doors.
Otherwise, you won’t be disturbed. One dim-lit room doubles as a dining room and wine cellar with 160 labels.
''We are also doing a lot for the wine culture” Figueroa said. “We have all the wines with the retail price, so if you want to drink in Michoacan, you just pay the retail price. It's really cheap to drink wine in Michoacan. Also we do wine tasting every month. We have American tourists, also from Europe - Spain and France.”
The racks in the wine cellar have labels from California, Spain, Mexico,
Australia, South Africa, Uruguay, France, Argentina and Italy. There area few conditions to dining here.
“The only thing we ask is that they drink wine and they can't smoke, because with time, the smoke damages the flavor,” he said. “If you want to keep wine for many years, it has to be a special climate, with little humidity, dark, no light, and it must be a clean environment.”
Figueroa said there are a few small wineries in Baja California that are starting to make a very sweet wine. He was waiting on a shipment any day, and he already had a place picked out for them. Across the hall from the main wine cellar, a long stone passageway connected two separate dining rooms; iron bars blocked off each end of the passageway, creating a great conversation piece for customers.
“We have this little room, we only want Mexican wines, from Baja California and Casa de Madero (in Parras, in northern Mexico),'' he said. ''We're getting some from Baja California. We have about 900 spaces. They can drink it at retail price.''
In the main sunlit dining area, there's a mural of old Morelia with the cathedral, the governor's palace and the portales, farmers and bullfighters.
The dining room at the front has a ceiling painting of cloudy blue skies, a wooden carving of Mary and the crucified Jesus and a mural of monarch butterflies. The first-class bar in an adjoining room has a fireplace, upholstered chairs next to the windows and iron stools with old wagon seats.
While during the daylight hours sunlight pours in to the bar and the main dining area creates an ambiance of energetic discovery, the candlelight from the niches in the wall invoke an entirely different effect. Mingled with the peaceful, ethereal music of flutes whirling around the room, they conjure an eerie, dreamlike quality while chandeliers cast amber accents across linen tablecloths and the stone floor.
“We want to let all the people know more about our type of food,” Figueroa said. “We also have been doing food shows, in Mexico City, in Aspen, Colorado. We just came back from Paris. We brought enchiladas Tarascas to Paris and they liked it. In Aspen, they were really surprised.”

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