Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meet me at the Feria-La Feria de Leon

cebadina, a local refreshment of barley, jamaica, and bicarbonate fizz, fermented in an oak barrel.
families and friends at the Feria de Leon

vendor of sweet gorditas de trigo

A plethora of pinatas in centro historico, Leon,Gto.

The ferias(fairs) of Mexico are a must for those seeking authentic Mexican experiences.Bullfights,concerts, cockfights,rides,eating regional foods, rodeos, gambling, dancing to roving banda groups, drinking, beauty pageants, exercizing you chivalry,partying with friends and family,and celebrating your hometown.The big three are La Feria de San Marcos(Aguascalientes), La Feria de Zacatecas(Zacatecas), and La Feria de Leon(Leon).While visiting family in Aguascalientes a few years ago I was fortunate enough to receive my first Feria encounter at the most grand of all, La Feria de San Marcos.I still recall a battle of four banda groups, each with their own crowd of partiers, competing in a decibel contest all within a small area as my cousin and I tried to squeeze through the compacted celebration on our way to the casino.In my job as musician for a prominent Mexican artist, I have been to many a feria, including Zacatecas, and La Feria de Leon last weekend.Ferias can last nearly a month and you can catch top acts such as:Vicente Fernandez, Jenni Rivera, Alejandra Guzman,Joan Sebastian,Pepe Aguilar,Ninel Conde(why not!),Marc Antonio Solis, and Los Horoscopos de Durango.Of the many concert venues, the palenque is the one I'm most familiar.Yes, that's right, that mulit-purpose arena where roosters fight 'til the death.We go on after the "peleas"(fights).

Women throw and catch tennis balls to and from the crowd full of money for gambling local guacamayas make a crunchy and satisfying lunch

Each Feria brings forth the best local foods: antojitos(little whims), tacos, junk food, and some unique local items. The beers, tequila, Buchanan's whiskey, and palomas(tequila and fresca cocktail) are flowing night and day. I walked around the Feria in Leon scoping out the eats and enjoyed a local guacamaya, a torta of chicharron with tomatoes and onions.A deliciously crunchy torta from the heart of Mexico accompanied by an agua fresca of horchata with strawberry, the epicureans "Strawberry Quick."I spoke with a taquero(taco maker)preparing his al pastor, assembling the marinated pork carefully on the trompo(spit), and was impressed by all the time he spent marinating, constructing, and cooking his taco earmark.I would give these a whirl later along with the excellent local "huaraches"(sandal like massa shape with toppings) estilo Bajio(lowlands of Central Mexico).

a taquero loads his trompo

Later in the afternoon, after our souncheck, I headed in the historic city center to sample more foods, including a taste of the fondas in the Mercado Soledad.The downtown is a beautiful Spanish colonial neighborhood, full of culture and fantastic local cooking.The loncherias(luncheonettes) and fondas were enchanting with their albondigas, soups, sauced meats, chile rellenos, and the famed carnitas and birria de borrego of El Bajio.A sweet gordita de trigo from a street vendor, the neck birria of lamb tacos, the albondigas with chiles gueros, and the chile relleno of picadillo cooked by Mexican grandmothers were exquisite.

chile relleno de picadillo just like grandmother makes
albondigas con chile guero
An outgoing taquero trims some birria de borrego for a taco
the fountain in centro historico, Leon

A walk through the mercado was an steer and pig anatomy lesson.Beef hearts with freakishly large valves protruding, and the inelegant task of carrying whole parts of a bloody steer on your back.Our beef horror show needed refreshment, so we grabbed an agua fresca of alfalfa, one of the most complex and blissful agua frecas of Mexico.

(warning:not for the faint of heart)Giant beef heart and parts in a market stall, valves still attached

After cleaning up and resting, it's time for La Feria.Some tacos al pastor from the taquero I met earlier in the day, and a Guanajuato style huarache to take backstage, a great end to a delicious day's feasting.There's so much energy at the food booths, hungry people crowding around, plating their tacos and huaraches, attractive Guanajuatense women gossiping and laughing, cool vaqueros(cowboys) sipping a beer while telling jokes.Meanwhile, roosters are fighting for their lives while the crowd gambles, shouts, and celebrates the chanticleer's victory.It's midnight, and after eating, going on rides, dancing to banda in an intimate circle of revelers, drinking whiskey and squirt,sending a bottle of Chivas over to the "chavas"(girls) across the stage,gambling on the cock fights, it's now time for your favorite artist.Tonight, it was Marisela, a Mexican legend who was joined on stage by La Diva de la Banda herself, Jenni Rivera.Jenni is a fan of Marisela's and the two sang in mutual admiration much to the delight of the crowd.After, more drinking and eating,singing along to "Enamorada y Herida" to your girlriends on your cell phone who missed the show,dancing to some post concert ranchera music until you can't stand anymore, it's 4AM and time to go home.Let's do it again tomorrow!Como no?

The happy and the hungry at Super Huarache
huarache mixto, carne and al pastor
Marisela and Jenni Rivera

When in Mexico, try to include a Feria in your itinerary, a wonderful celebration of Mexican culture that will stay in your heart forever.

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