BEST MEXICAN BAKERY (1999)
There's a hole-in-the-wall bakery on a winding back street just off the beach and across from the posole stand in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where the owner rises before dawn every morning to mix and knead and set to rise rows of the palm-size split loaves known as bolillos. By 8:00 a.m., the street outside is awash in the aroma of fresh, warm, simple bread--a sensation that makes even the most sophisticated culinary snob froth at the mouth. Octavio Paz once penned a line of praise for this humble daily bread that locals buy up by the bagful and tote home with a trail of crumbs behind them. We figured you'd have to jump a plane and head south to get this delicacy, until we stumbled one morning into Marissa's Bakery. There they were, at 30 cents a pop, steaming up one of the many cases that ring the front room; and next to them were trays of empanadas (de manzana, de piña, de crema), corn cakes, pan de queso, twists and doughnuts, cookies of every stripe and flavor, besos (little jelly sandwiches with coconut topping), conchas, elotes, and pound cake. Just grab a tray and a pair of tongs and make the rounds, amassing a pile of confections and buns that won't set you back more than a few bucks and spare change, even for a week's worth. You can also order birthday and wedding cakes here, decorated with traditional designs or more contemporary adornments (Mickey Mouse, say)--and, of course, load up on fresh tortillas, a steal at merely one dollar for two (!) dozen. Bring cash: They don't take checks, and the credit-card machine has been on the blink every time we've stopped in.