A Guide to Puebla, Mexico, Where Gilded Churches Meet a Thriving Cultural Scene

A Guide to Puebla, Mexico, Where Gilded Churches Meet a Thriving Cultural Scene
The New York Times Style Magazine

A Guide to Puebla, Mexico, Where Gilded Churches Meet a Thriving Cultural Scene

The colonial city — and the country’s fourth-largest — is a world away from its bustling capital.

Over the past couple of years, it seems, Americans have discovered the joys of Mexico City en masse. What they might not know — and what stylish locals long have — is that the city of Puebla, another design-and-food-rich destination, is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive southeast. With a population of 1.5 million, it too lies beneath misty mountains (including the still-puffing Popocatépetl volcano) and possesses a rich history.

The Aztecs ruled the region until the Spanish arrived in 1519. The latter’s architectural contributions are the city’s blocks of candy-colored mansions and many churches, including the especially ornate Capilla del Rosario, with intricate carvings covered in 23-karat gold leaf. No doubt it helped make the town attractive to Napoleon III and his forces, whose defeat in the 1862 Battle of Puebla is commemorated by Cinco de Mayo.

The largest point of commonality, though, is that like the capital, Puebla is in the midst of a cultural renaissance. A new generation has taken up traditional crafts, offering fresh takes on tiled table sets and hand-embroidered clothing in a much less expensive setting. Since 2016, Puebla has seen the opening of the International Museum of the Baroque, set in a curvilinear concrete building designed by Toyo Ito, and a dozen or so hotels and restaurants, almost all of which serve Puebla’s culinary claim to fame — mole poblano, a thick, earthy-sweet sauce of chiles, herbs and chocolate thought to have been invented by a group of 17th-century nuns. Some batches simmer for nearly three days, and the ingredients vary greatly from kitchen to kitchen. It’s the particular mix that lends each one its complexity, and really, the same could be said for Puebla itself, where multicolored tiled facades sit alongside gilded spires.

Following stints in Barcelona and Paris, where he worked at the Michelin-starred Ze Kitchen Galerie, Angel Vázquez returned home to Mexico in 2003 to open his first restaurant, Intro, which fuses the flavors of various international cuisines (Swedish, Thai) with those he knew as a child. His new spot, Augurio — two blocks off the zócalo (main square) in the Quinta Esencia hotel — is more rustic but continues in the same culinary vein: Its mole poblano, with just 14 ingredients — and no chocolate — is based on Vázquez’s great-grandmother’s recipe. He’s also perfected various elevated riffs on chanclas — baked bread stuffed with chorizo, longanzia and ground pork and topped with a chile guajillo sauce.®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=sectionfront


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