FEED THE SENSES, FEED THE SOUL- YOGA, CULTURAL + CULINARY RETREAT | MEXICO CITY, 2017
The moment Mexico City comes into view from the window of the plane, you know there’s something magical about the place. Even from high above, the bright colors that dot the landscape hint at the vibrancy of this buzzing metropolis. Once on the ground, the predominant feeling is one that gathers you up in a big warm embrace and welcomes you into the fold, lovingly and unconditionally. Not a bad way to start.
The intention of this retreat was to feed the senses and the soul. As such, we set out on a journey that was created as much for nourishment of mind, body and spirit, as it was for experiencing the sensual pleasures the city had to offer in the form of incredible cuisine and awe-inspiring culture.
When on retreat in a city of 21.2 million people, to awaken the senses is not a problem.
However, to quiet the mind amidst the noise and to find calm in the middle of chaos, can be challenging. Thus, the primary teaching was to learn how to achieve a sense of peace within, despite the distractions of our external environment. It was an opportunity designed to strengthen and make supple the meditative muscle, inspiring each of us to find moments of stillness in a place that never stops moving. Our daily yoga and meditation sessions, relaxing spa time, pampering bodywork and purification with a traditional temazcal ritual, provided time to decompress and drop in, while an insightful integrative health workshop led by Kelly Johnston of Vida Equilibrada, paved the way for deep introspection.
Each day was an invitation to explore, and explore we did!
Gliding through the ancient Aztec canals and floating gardens at Xochimilco on a brightly painted boat, we were serenaded by mariachis while grabbing lunch from neighboring trajineras that were essentially, floating restaurants. We climbed to the top of the Temple of the Sun at the Mesoamerican archaeological site of Teotihuacan, and got up close and personal with Frida Kahlo while touring her home and studio, Casa Azul. Beyond the monuments and museums, it was a true joy to simply walk the tree-lined, cobbled streets of old colonias, soaking in the colorful architecture, sweet street vibes and unique flavor of each neighborhood.
Speaking of flavors, the culinary portion of the retreat was positively epic.
Mexico City is one of the great gastronomic destinations on the planet and did not disappoint. We sampled an immense variety of cuisine originating from many different regions throughout the country and dined in the most spectacular settings- from an ancient underground cave to a stunning 16th century colonial mansion overlooking the Zócalo and Plaza del Templo Mayor.
One of the true highlights of the retreat was our market tour and cooking class.
Chef’s extraordinaire, Jorge and Beto of Casa Jacaranda, were our guides. We began the day by meeting up with Jorge, also a mezcal expert, who first took us to a local tortilleria where we had the chance to see how this ubiquitous staple of everyday Mexican cuisine is crafted. Handed to us hot-off-the-press, we were instructed to sprinkle salt on our warm tortillas, then roll them up (kind of like a taquito) before eating. So simple, so delicious.
Next, we headed off to Mercado Medellin, one of the oldest and most beloved open air markets in Mexico City. Jorge expertly guided us through the aisles as we shopped for ingredients to use in our cooking class. Along the way, he introduced us to his favorite vendors who offered samples of their specialities (salsa, coffee, ice cream, mole, cheese and honey to name a few). Afterwards, we made our way to an artisanal cacao shop where we had a tasting and picked up more ingredients for lunch.
Jorge and Beto lovingly restored and reside in Casa Jacaranda- their home located in the heart of Colonia Roma.
Held within, are all the things that represent their passions; art, music and food. An utterly enchanting place, where upon arrival, we were greeted with the mouthwatering aroma of spices being roasted (Beto was hard at work while we were at the market with Jorge). The music playing upstairs invited us to come on in and get comfortable. We entered the common space, which is also used as a cooking school, and were blown away by the beauty of our surroundings.
Immaculately designed and decorated, Casa Jacaranda is a light-filled sanctuary featuring an outstanding art collection as well as a state of the art kitchen hub. The boys set us straight to work and we were all given tasks; blacken peppers, mix tamale masa, grind spices, mold sopas cakes, mash avocados and fry plantains. It wasn’t long before Jorge and Beto had us all cooking, dancing, singing and laughing. The day culminated in sharing a meal that was prepared with so much joy. On the veranda beneath the shade of the blooming jacaranda trees, at an elegantly set table, we savored our culinary creations and celebrated the birthday of one of our beloved guests. We departed, sad to leave Jorge and Beto, but with happy bellies and uplifted spirits.
Retreat weeks always go by too quickly and one never leaves the experience unchanged.
The bonds we build, the community we create and the friendships formed are long lasting and one of the most precious takeaways of our time together. It’s always bittersweet to bid farewell, but we did so after an adventure filled week- our hearts full and souls content.
Read on for a refreshing summer recipe from Casa Jacaranda as well as my shortlist of things to do, see and experience in magical Mexico City.
CRAFTED PALOMA RECIPE
We all loved this bright, celebratory cocktail which preceded our delectable lunch. It’s just as delicious sans tequila and is the perfect sip to serve on a hot summer day.
1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 part agave syrup
3ish parts white tequila
4 parts freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Flakey salt (or sea salt if flakey is unavailable)
2-4 sprigs fresh basil (blooming, if possible)
2 grapefruit slices
Grind the pink peppercorns using a pepper grinder or molcajete. Mix well with the flakey salt. Rim the glasses with lime juice, then dip the rims in the pink peppercorn/salt mixture and set aside. In a mixing glass, add the lime juice and agave syrup and stir until the syrup is fully dissolved. Add ice and tequila then stir to blend. Add the grapefruit juice. Strain the mixture into the salt and pepper rimmed glasses, taking care to leave some space at the top. Add soda water to taste. Garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit and a sprig or two of fresh basil to finish and enjoy!
Kim’s Top 5 Things To Do, See & Experience In Mexico City
Stay: Chaya B&B– A hip and homey oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle
See: Museo Frida Kahlo– The home in which Frida was born, gives an intimate glimpse into her life, loves and expansive body of work
Eat: La Casa de las Sirenas– Housed in a 16th century colonial mansion, dine on the terrace for panoramic views overlooking the Zócalo, Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace
Play: Glide along the Prehispanic canals of Xochimilco for a fun and fantastical journey through colorful floating gardens
Relax: The Away Spa at The W Hotel is the ultimate place to decompress. Soak in the hot tub while taking in sweeping views of the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows