The Carnicería Connoisseur in Monterrey, the Paris of Mexican Meat Markets
A woman who is offering free samples of bottled salsa from a card table near the door encourages me to slather some of her hot sauce on the sizzling pork. As I savor the combination of hot greasy bacon and tart spicy chile sauce, I am thinking I have died and gone to heaven.
I ask for a half a pound of chicharonnes and half a pound of carnitas. The butcher says I better try the costillas--baby back ribs that are fried in lard like carnitas until they are falling apart tender. I end up buying some of those too.
My fingers and my chin are covered in grease as I eat the steaming meats out of paper bags in the back seat of the car as we drive to the next carniceria. To kick off this series of mini-reviews called The Carnicería Connoisseur, I thought it might be a good idea to first set some standards. And to do that, I took a trip to the Paris of Mexican meat markets, Monterrey, Mexico. There I visited carniceras great and small.
At the Mercado Campesino, a weekend farmer’s market on Venustiano Carranza Avenue, there are only a few farmers selling fresh vegetables. Most of the stalls are occupied by ranchers who drive in from the country to sell whole pigs, baby goats and sides of beef to discerning consumers.
Opening a carnicería isn’t much of an undertaking in Monterrrey. Driving through the working class Topo Chico neighborhood, I see amateur butchers cutting up pigs and cooking carnitas and chicharonnes for the neighbors on the sidewalks in front of their homes.
I am tempted to jump out of the car and try them all, but I am getting a little full. Anyway, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to look for in a carnicería by now. And I am eager to get home and start my tour of Mexican meat markets in Houston. – Robb Walsh