One of the most joyful and popular holidays in Mexico is ‘Dia de Muertos’ (Day of the Dead). The fiesta, which traces its roots back to the indigenous Aztec and Maya cultures, was originally celebrated in August. After the Spanish conquest, the Catholic Church moved it to the present date of November 2nd in an attempt to assimilate the ‘pagan’ celebration into the Christian holy days of All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day (Oct.31 and Nov.1). However, Los Muertos caught on with all strata of Mexican society and it grew into the wildly popular holiday it is today where friends and family gather to honour the dead with special meals and family shrines.
It’s a meeting place where friends and family gather to share a meal, indulge in gossip, check out everyone else and be entertained. In other words, it is the heart of every Mexican community. In celebration of Los Muertos, Vancouver’s Zocalo will be offering a very special three-course menu for the value price of $25 per person. It has been created in commemoration of ‘El Santo,’ Rodolfo guzman Huerta, Mexico’s most famous ‘luchador’ (masked wrestler – think Jack Black in Lucha Libre). El Santo came from the state of Hidalgo and Zocalo’s Los Muertos menu reflects dishes that he is known to have loved.
Main Street’s Zocalo is planning their 3rd Annual Los Muertos festival with a special menu created for the occasion. The delicious food is created by Chef/Owner Tanya Shklanka and her talented group of Mexican cooks and is guaranteed to put you in a festive mood and enliven your palate. For starters diners have a choice of Pozole Verde, a traditional soup served at weddings, family gatherings and fiestas, or Chile Relleno de Hongos which is a roasted poblano chile filled with portobello mushroom, onion and tequila ragout dressed with a pasilla chile sauce.
For mains there is a choice between Barbacoa de Borrego or Pollo con Mole Negro. Barbacoa de Borrego is melt-in-your mouth slow-cooked lamb accompanied by salsa verde, guacamole and homemade corn tortillas. Pollo con Mole Negro is Mexico’s answer to France’s Coq au Vin. Chicken stewed in a traditional sauce of black chiles, nuts, spices and tomatoes resulting in a flavourful dish served with rice and the ubiquitous warm corn tortillas.
Life is sweet and so is the end of this meal. The Mexicans invented chocolate and named it ‘food of the gods.’ What could be more heavenly than Hot Coochie y Pan de Muertos? Homemade Mexican hot chocolate with a bit of kick and accompanied by traditional Pan Muertos, a traditional sweet bread flavoured with orange and anise. The other choice is Capirotada – a Mexican style bread pudding chock-a-block full of goodies such as dried cranberries, blueberries roasted hazelnuts and panela cheese suffused with spiced piloncillo (raw brown sugar) syrup. Yum.
El Santo’s favourite libation was a cold Negra Modelo and that is the recommended pairing with the Los Muertos menu. If cerveza is not your drink of choice, Zocalo Los Muertos Menu also offers a special tequila pairing to accompany each course for an additional $20. The restaurant stocks Vancouver’s largest selection of tequilas; or you may prefer sangria, a Latino-inspired cocktail or a selection from their Carta de Vinos available by the glass, half litre and bottle.
When you have a holiday as fun and flavourful as Los Muertos, it’s a pity it lasts a day or two. The good news is that at Zocalo Restaurant, the Los Muertos menu will be available for 15 days starting November 1st straight through to November 15th. In addition to the special menu, Zocalo Restaurant will feature a traditional Shrine and to get things off to a festive start on November 1st, there will be a Mariachi band to entertain. Bring a little Mexican warmth to dreary November and live it up at Zocalo Restaurant with Los Muertos, November 1st through 15th. Reservations recommended 604-677-3521.
2515 Main Street, Vancouver
I enjoyed tasting this fine menu and look forward to returning to Zocalo during this festival. More info on this wonderful festival can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead
By: Richard Wolak