I willingly took no orders for Valentine’s Day this year. To most florist this is blasphemous and even unheard of, but to me it was a breath of fresh air. Valentine’s day is super stressful for florists. The planning starts months in advance. Don’t get me wrong most years I love it, the rush, the countless number of thorn injuries, the reactions, the love, but this year being on maternity leave I decided to actually enjoy the holiday with my family, since this opportunity will only ever happen once in a blue moon. So we hoped on a plane and headed south not as far south as I would have liked, but still down to the USA for a little visit with family.
By some small miracle the baby fell asleep on take off and I actually had some free time to just sit and read. I took out the inflight magazine and found a little treasure hidden inside! An article dedicated to bringing together flowers and food in a to die for location. Needless to say that Villa Dulce has been added to my must see and must taste bucket list.
So instead of some Valentine’s day creations for you to enjoy, I have uploaded the article written By Nils Bernstein, and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did. Don’t worry though there will be more floral creations on the way!
Forget garnishes; this Mexican restaurant puts flowers in everything
In Villa Guerrero, chef Rafael Martínez Acevedo cooks bougainvillea sauce; right: chrysanthemum flower rice / Carlos Hernandez
By Nils Bernstein
About 70 percent of the blooms in Mexico’s cut-flower market are grown in Villa Guerrero, which smells faintly of wet earth and is studded with greenhouses the size of factories. Japanese immigrants introduced floriculture here in the 1930s, finding the area’s rich volcanic soil especially fertile. It’s no wonder then that Villa Dulce, a booming restaurant here, just 90 minutes southwest of Mexico City, would focus on flowers. “Being surrounded by flowers, it made sense to experiment,” says Villa Dulce’s owner, Rafael Martínez Acevedo, who both procures his organic, unsprayed ingredients from nearby farms and grows his own, resulting in such inspired dishes as carnation crêpes, marigold mole, rose-petal quail and bougainvillea ribs. “Our kitchen is a laboratory. Not all flowers can be eaten and not all can be prepared the same way, but we know the native people here used them for food and medicine. It’s part of a tradition.”
Another popular dish at the restaurant is chicken in a mole sauce of cempasúchil, or Aztec marigold, also known as flor de muertos for its importance in Day of the Dead celebrations. The flower’s citrusy petals are blended with green chiles and pecans to make the golden sauce. There are also puffy, peppery chrysanthemums stuffed with fresh tuna, tempura-fried and served in a tomato broth, like a healthier version of the steakhouse classic blooming onion. Carnations, which have flavors of clove and nutmeg, are used in creamy savory crêpes; pungent wild daisies are infused in (and showered atop) a subtly herbal cake. “Flowers have all the qualities of vegetables, greens, even chiles,” says Martínez Acevedo. “They can be sweet, spicy, meaty, with all different textures.”
Martínez Avecedo says the most popular dish on Villa Dulce’s menu is quail in rose sauce, a grilled whole bird served in a pink gravy that is sweet, savory and powerfully floral, with a minty spice. The dish is especially popular on Valentine’s Day. “People come from all over for it—they’ll start with a rose salad and have rose gelatin for dessert. There are so many different roses, and each color tastes different,” he says. “The darker they are, the more intense the flavor.”
Longtime Villa Dulce regular Leticia González comes frequently from Mexico City, en route to her family’s vacation home in nearby Malinalco. “Our first visit, we were shocked to see flowers used like this, but at the same time they don’t seem out of place,” she says. “In Mexico, beautiful colors are everywhere. It makes sense to see them on the plate, too.”