Three Dishes With Poppy Powell & Federico Patino of Cafe Trucha
Images by Ana Laframboise
This week on the IN BED Journal we meet Poppy Powell and Federico Patino the co-founders of newly opened Cafe Trucha. Located in Colonia Roma, Mexico City the cafe is the duo's second venue and was created with the vision of showcasing the best local produce in a warm and welcoming environment. We spoke with Poppy and Federico about bringing the space and menu to life and asked the couple to share a selection of recipes for a meal that’s meaningful to them in many ways.
“Cafe Trucha is our second restaurant project together. We opened our first restaurant Marmota together two years ago, a mere few weeks before lockdown started in Mexico City. After what seemed like a lifetime of pivoting, we had earned our stripes and enough momentum in our community to open a second spot. We wanted something less refined, more casual, a space for community to really gather and connect. Cafe Trucha was birthed as a cafe-bistro-wine bar-pub hybrid, and as a true showcase to our favorite purveyors, a sort of curated museum of wines and cheeses and tinned fish and all other delicious things we love to share.”
“We have two menus at Cafe Trucha, both very different, but equally inspired by seasonality and community. We source our ingredients from a few farms outside of the city, and our daily menu changes reflect what they have on offer. One day they may have a bounty of zucchini, so our breakfast menu will feature a savory zucchini tart and our evening menu will have a plate of ratatouille on it. We really want to help educate people about the broader food system, so our ingredients play a part in telling those stories. The desire to build community is also what drives our menus. Our plates are designed for sharing, for tables to order a bit of everything and pass plates to one another and try little bites of lots of things, a style of eating we find more dynamic and engaging than just sitting down to a big plate.”
Poppy: “I grew up in rural England, in a big family in a small village. A big family meant lots of mouths to feed, so any time we were all together the days revolved around the meals. Breakfast clean up bled into lunch prep which was filled by conversation of what we would be having for dinner. I remember so fondly my grandparents sprawling garden, where we’d spend the afternoon picking fava beans from the towering poles, then lugging the plastic bags full of them into the living room where my grandpa would sit with us as we peeled them. My grandma would simmer them for a while, and we’d eat them piping hot with butter.”
Federico: “I also come from a large family where every occasion was marked by a feast. My father is an asado master, and every time we gather, we spend the day cooking huge pieces of meat slowly over a pit. While it's hard to pinpoint the first time that happened, it is absolutely my strongest childhood memory, helping my dad with those feasts and tending the fire.”
Poppy: “I love how food and cooking connects you to essentially every part of the human experience. From the culture and history of dishes, to the geographic significance of recipes and ingredients, to the people and their stories that grow and make the food we’re eating, it is endlessly fascinating.”
Federico: “The whole process of curating the experience. Choosing the ingredients, the constant improvisation around the dish and sharing that moment. Seeing how the power that food has to unite people, create conversations and enjoy the pleasure of informality.”
The dishes we are sharing are really quite close to our heart. We lived in Seattle for a while, and it was very formative for us as cooks. A classic preservation technique of the region is hot smoking, and it's a technique we are both really fond of, for flavor, for preservation, and for the history it ties us to.
The braised white bean recipe is a favorite of ours. Beans are such a humble dish, tragically underrated and underrecognized! Not only are they delicious, they are one of the most culturally important ingredients in the world.
The olive oil cake is an absolute classic around here. It was one of the first desserts Poppy made for dinner service in our restaurant Marmota, and its subtle spiced notes and cloudlike texture won us many fans.
1. WHOLE SMOKED SIERRA
1k fatty white fish (sierra, mackerel, sardine) clean and gutted, but kept whole
For the brine:
1 tablespoon lightly toasted juniper berries
2 tablespoons of honey
2 rosemary sprigs
2l hot water
1l wood chips (apple, cedar, or cherry)
In a blender, combine all the brine ingredients. Blend on high until fully dissolved, then let cool.
Place the fish in a large, wide container. Immerse it entirely in the brining solution, adding more water if necessary to cover. Let brine for 1 hour.
Remove the fish from the brine and pat dry. Put it on a roasting rack on a sheet tray in the fridge, as close to the fan as possible. Let the fish dry overnight, or for 12 hours.
While the fish is drying, soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
When the fish is dry, prepare your smoking set up (you’ll want to open all your windows for this). Place the wood chips in the bottom of a large roasting dish or wok, anything that is safe to use on your stove top. Place a metal rack or perforated tray above this. Place your fish on the rack, then tightly seal the entire thing with tin foil. Place this over a high flame to ignite the wood chips, then turn it down to medium low and let it smoke for 20-30 minutes. You want the skin to be copper, and the meat to be firm.
2. BRAISED WHITE BEANS WITH GREEN GARLIC AND BAY
500g large dried white beans (alubias, gigante)
vegetable stock to cover (approx. 2L)
2 stalks of young green garlic
6 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
good, spicy olive oil
Soak the dried white beans in plenty of water overnight for at least 12 hours.
The next morning, drain the white beans from the soaking water and give them a good rinse. Put them in a large pot, and add the vegetable stock to cover the beans by about two inches. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for two hours. Add the green garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Simmer for about 2 more hours until the beans are very tender, but not mushy. Stir in a healthy pour of olive oil, and season with salt to taste.
3. OLIVE OIL CAKE
175g refined sugar
5g baking soda
5g baking powder
140ml nice olive oil
170ml whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 180* celsius. Line an 8 inch cake mold with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat the eggs well, and add them to the liquids. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and gently stir in the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the center springs back and the top of the cake is slightly caramelized.
We serve ours as a take on a victoria sponge, filling it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and seasonal jam. The world is your oyster though, feel free to eat it with fresh fruit or chocolate ganache or as is, piping hot straight from the oven.
Poppy & Federico’s table is dressed in an IN BED 100% linen tablecloth in French Blue, placemats in Stone and napkins in Marigold. Poppy wears an IN BED apron in Navy Stripe throughout the feature.