Interview with David Camhi, Socio Director
When our party arrived at La Lupita restaurant on a Wednesday evening in July, it was lively and festive. We ordered a variety of different tacos and starters and we were impressed with the presentation, quality and price. La Lupita is located in the heart of the historic San Jose’ Art District with charming rustic brick walls, wooden furniture and mismatched chairs. It has indoor seating and outdoor seating in a lovely courtyard where the bar and music are set up.
I met with the energetic and passionate David Camhi, one of the partners in the restaurant. He explained to me that La Lupita got its name because their lease was signed December 12, the day of the celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe and they wanted to pay homage to her. This day is particularly special in Mexico as it honors the belief that Jesus’ mother Mary, who is Mexico’s patron saint, appeared to a native peasant, Juan Diego, in Mexico City twice in the year 1531. On December 12, Mexicans join together for the festivities and thousands of the faithful from all over the country make the most important pilgrimage to the Basílica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, where the miraculous image of la Virgen Morena is kept. On the day before the great celebration, thousands and thousands of people start to arrive. Some of the pilgrims arrive on their knees as a sign of their enormous devotion and gratitude for a favor received.
La Lupita is fortunate to employ the talented chef Pia Quintana. She has written a book “Mexico Sano” (Healthy Mexico) which has been awarded the Gourmand Best in the World Health and Nutrition book for Mexico. I took a cooking class with her a few years ago at the Pacific Design Center’s cooking school, Aroma. At that time, David was responsible for the culinary center at Aroma where the cooking classes and wine tastings were held. Before coming to La Lupita, Pia was a chef at Las Ventanas al Paraiso and David supervised their various restaurants. Their pasts have been intertwined for a number of years and it is evident that they make a great team.
La Lupita sources its local produce and herbs from Los Tamarindos organic farm and it supports our local fisherman and farmers. An interesting tidbit – their pita bread is handmade from another amazing local chef, Casiano. Lamb was something that David grew up with in Mexico City and he is excited to offer it to his Baja customers. We tried both lamb tacos – El Gyro (wrapped in pita bread with tzatziki) and Drunken Barbacoa (with a Borracha sauce and aged cheese) – they were divine. The menu is diverse with pork, scallops, octopus, short ribs, chorizo, cactus, soups, salads and dessert. David told me they plan to add a few new items to the menu – duck with mole’ and hibiscus marmalade, chicken with green pipian sauce (made from pumpkin seeds), shrimp with creamy chipotle.
Mezcal tasting at La Lupita is a fine art. Every order is served with a bowl of cut oranges and a bowl of worm salt. Worm salt – sounds disgusting right? Gusano de Maguey (agave worm) is a food that dates back to the pre-Hispanic era. At birth, the gusanos feed on the leaves and juicy hearts of the agave until they reach maturity. After reaching adulthood, the gusano is carefully selected and extracted, dried, toasted and carefully ground with hand harvested Oaxacan sea salt and dried Oaxacan chilies – delicious!
La Lupita carries 24 brands of Mezcal, 93% from Oaxaca and 7% from other parts of Mexico. You can choose from a single serving of Mezcal, a flight of 3 different Mezcals or a bottle for the table. The Mezcal is served in a delicate hand carved jicara which is a hollow seed pod from a tree that grows in Oaxaca. These seed pods are sent to artisans who carve them into beautiful designs. The use of the jicara dates back thousands of years and is an important part of the Mezcal tradition as it allows the aromas of the Mezcal to flow freely and not concentrate the alcohol on the nose because it is evaporated into the porous pod. Mezcal should always be consumed joven (young), never aged in barrels and no chemicals applied in any stage of the process. All of their bottles are controlled product which means the label bears information on the location of the distillery, the master distiller and an individual bottle number. As David described Mezcal to me, it is the flag of Mexico.
La Lupita is a place where local people can eat good food, enjoy custom Mexican beers, fine Mexican wines and master the art of drinking Mezcal while listening to live music and relaxing with friends and family.
Located next door to the Baja Brewing Company in San Jose’ – open for lunch and dinner with plans to be open all season.
To add to the comfort of their customers, they are bringing in “cool fog” to help with the hot summer temps.
News Flash: A new fresh outdoor market in front of Santa Carmela in the Cerro Colorado shopping center has opened from 9 am to 12 pm on Saturdays.