14 Great Bites from the Morelia en Boca Food and Wine Festival in Michoacán, Mexico

Morelia en Boca's description of itself as a food and wine festival over-simplifies things a bit. This three-day celebration in the capital of Michoacán covers all things ingestible, including dozens of kinds of mescals (differing in age, type of plant, and flavoring), whose display setups occupied a good quarter of the festival floor. Products and cooking on display reached beyond the featured city of Morelia and its state, Michoacán, to cover the entire country: micro-greens from Morelos, pez diablo (devil fish, an endangered fish on the receiving end of an eat-to-save marketing push) from the coast, chocolate chilies from the Yucatán (named for the color, not their flavor—it's a type of habanero), and wine from Ensenada in the north.
Pez Diablo Påté on Tostadita with Dusting of Chile Negro

Chef Rubi Silva of Los Mirasoles in Morelia contributes to the eat-to-save effort of Pez Diablo (devil fish) with this pate on tostadita. [All photographs: Naomi Bishop]

At one booth, the full spectrum of the history of Mexican cooking was on display: indigenous women in traditional costumes patted out tortillas for tacos, stuffed with everything from goat cheese cakes to pork in green sauce, prepared the local uchepos, or sweet corn tamales, pressed together gorditas, and handed over lovely little zucchini blossom quesadillas in blue corn tortillas.
Squash Flower Blue Corn Quesadillas

Fresh tortillas make all the difference in the world, especially in simple dishes like this squash blossom quesadilla.

Nearby, the evening sessions showed the modern interpretations of those same foods from Mexico's best cooks, who partnered up with wineries to put out meals celebrating the culinary heritage and ingredients native to Morelia, as well as to the home states of the chefs. For Federico López and his protégé, Pablo Salas, this meant a dish of frog legs with a sauce made from orange pith in one course, an ice cream made of cotija cheese and drizzled with avocado flower honey in another. The next night, three renowned female chefs from Michoacán—Rubi Silva of Los Mirasoles in Morelia, Antonina González of Tarerio, and Blanca Vidales of Zircuaretiro—teamed up with Mexico City's famous Marta Silva of Dulce Patria to feature some of the ingredients that were the stars of the show: the pez diablo with a sauce of Mexican macadamia nuts, avocados from nearby Uruapan, and wines from Mi Sueño, a California winery founded and run by a Michoacán native.
Taco of Fresh Cheese and Greens Cake with Mole Rojo

Hidden under a blanket of thick, red, chile-based sauce, is a cake of cheese wrapped in greens.

Both in and out of the festival, many of the finest bites came from the star of Morelia's food scene, native daughter Lucero Soto. Having learned the traditional cooking of the indigenous people of the area (the Purapécha) from her grandmother, and the way of the restaurant kitchen from growing up in the kitchen of her family's hotel, she later took over the kitchen and transformed it into a temple of the traditional and modernized cuisine of Morelia, a microcosm of the festival as a whole. Click through to the slideshow for a sampling of some of the best bites covering the history and geography of Mexico from Morelia en Boca 2013.