Mourning Beloved People (and a Restaurant), Over Refried Beans With Chorizo

A portrait from Brooklyn and Tulum

The story of how one dish evolved from a favorite restaurant meal to a comfort food, to mourn not only family, but the restaurant itself.


Dia de Muertos

Determined to perfect the home recipe of La Slowteriaa’s El Soldado in advance of Dia de Muertos 2017. I didn’t quite make it, and just 2 weeks later, we learned that our beloved neighborhood restaurant was closing.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Here I was perfecting a recipe in advance of a holiday that celebrates our beloved that have passed, and the inspiration for the portrait has died.

But it only deepenened the importance of that dish to our family. And when we eat it, it’s almost a mini- Dia de Muertos, prompting us to reminisce about loved ones (including a certain restaurant) who are no longer on the earth with us.

16-nov-21, in the window of La Slowteria


La Slowteria

2020 re-publishing note: the original version of this portrait was published November 2017 after learning of the closing of our beloved La Slowteria. It did re-open for a time, but it again closed.

La Slowteria was a favorite, neighborhood restaurant featuring slow food of founder and Chef Hugo’s native Tulum. Just a block away from our Brooklyn apartment, this restaurant was so beloved that our kids chose it for their birthday dinners, year upon year. It also holds the distinction of being our son’s first public appearance for his barasala at 21 days.

The kids loved bellying up to the bar for one of their agua frescas or juices that were so refreshing and fresh. We enjoyed trying new dishes each time, but there was one favorite that we never skipped: El Soldado. Oh! that chorizo and refried bean topped with roasted onion and jalapeno, and gooey melted cheese…. and those fresh, warm, homemade tortillas. Wow.

refried beans el soldado with roasted jalapenos, melted cheese, nacho chips
one of the many attempts to recreate el soldado at home

We loved it so much that I kept trying to repeat it at home. After many attempts, and a chance sidewalk chat with chef Hugo, we have captured a home recipe that just about reaches the magic of his. He told me that day that the most important ingredient is the particular kind of chorizo: fresh Mexican chorizo – not the more readily available cured kind.  It was house-made at La Slowteria, and so I tried the version we found at Paisano’s in Brooklyn.  It was good, and we enjoyed it, but still not exactly the taste I’m hoping for.  Seeking out other purveyors of Mexican chorizo…

You need to get the fresh Mexican Chorizo!

Chef Hugo, letting me in on a key to his El Soldado dish.
soldado with roasted jalapenos, roasted onions, cheese, hotsauce nachos and toasted tortillas
another attempt at a home version of La slowteria’s El Soldado

Apparently circa 2013 I was not yet in the habit of snapping photos of restaurant meals, so you will have to take my word for it.


Shazams at La Slowteria

One of the reasons I loved La Slowteria so much is that there was always cool music on.  There’s no other place I’ve Shazammed more! This playlist is a compilation of some of the songs I’ve shazammed there!  Love that I can go back through years of Shazam history.  But there was one time Shazam couldn’t catch the song, and to this day I wish I had asked.  In my memory it sounded like a fusion of Bollywood and some sort of Mexican music…  numerous Googles since then have come up empty and I’ll be forever indebted to whomever helps me find that elusive music!


Our Tribute to La Slowteria’s El Soldado

soldado with roasted jalapeno, tortilla and hotsauce
refried beans el soldado with roasted jalapenos, melted cheese, nacho chips


Fun Facts

If you’ve made it this far here is your reward! Most English speakers refer to the November first holiday as the “day of the dead,” and then attempt to reverse translate it as Dia de los Muertos, which is not correct.  The correct name in Spanish is Dia de Muertos.

Though celebrated increasingly around the globe, American Halloween is now a character of itself, with gorging of candy, cheap costumes and yard decorations that rival Christmas. This is not to say that it’s not a lot of fun, but do you know it’s origins? Its name hold s a clue: Halloween is the word that evolved from ‘”All Hallows’ Eve.” In other words, it’s a precursor to All Saints’ Day on November 1st (and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd), and a parallel to Dia de Muertos celebrated across the first two days of November. It’s traditions evolved from preparing for those days of celebrating the dead.

And now, of course, you could pair this dinner with the movies Coco, or Book of Life, but for a complete Dia de Muertos experience, it’s on you to pause, remember and celebrate friends and family who have died.