The pressure is on for Toluca's chorizo.
All photos by the author.
"Hopefully next time I stop by, I'm gonna be able to have some of that," Obama said as he thanked his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto for his "extraordinary hospitality".
Relations between both countries have since deteriorated, but Mexico's government may have come up with a cunning plan to win Donald Trump over.
We know Trump loves a taco bowl, but could a taste of more traditional Mexican cuisine change his mind about his southern neighbors?
Mexico's Secretary of the Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, thinks so. "We mustn't lose hope," he joked ahead of the NAFTA renegotiations that are due to begin next month. "President Obama never tried chorizo from Toluca, but we can offer it to President Trump."
With Mexico's future prosperity seemingly hanging in the balance, I decided to visit Toluca to find out why its chorizo is the source of such great national pride.
A sprawling industrial city just west of Mexico City, Toluca has been famed for its chorizo for centuries. It was first introduced to Mexico by the Spanish during the colonial era, but the locals quickly developed their own distinctive version.
WATCH: MUNCHIES Guide to Toluca
While Spanish chorizo is a dry, smoked ready-to-eat sausage made with paprika-seasoned pork, most Mexican varieties are made with raw minced pork, dried chiles, vinegar and a broader mix of herbs and spice, and Toluca itself is known for its green chorizo, which takes its color from the chopped tomatillo and cilantro used to season the meat.
The best place to try chorizo in Toluca is La Vaquita Negra del Portal, a much loved family-run deli founded 74 years ago. When I arrived one Saturday morning, there was a long line of locals queuing to buy tortas. Inside, long strings of red and green chorizo hang above the counter alongside hardened balls of smoked provoleta cheese.
I ordered the torta toluqueña, a local specialty filled with red chorizo, queso blanco, tomato, sour cream and salsa verde. "We make our chorizo using artisanal methods. We try to use as much meat and as little fat as possible," the manager Luis Vázquez told me. "We have different types of chorizo made with almonds or raisins: We have the house chorizo, which is a little spicier, and there's green chorizo, which is made with a lot of the same herbs and ingredients used in mole verde."
"We source all the ingredients locally and make sure it's all natural," Vázquez added. "None of the cheese is processed in any way. It's all from nearby ranches, as is the cream. If you churn it, it'll turn into butter. You don't get that in Walmart."
The oldest of La Vaquita Negra's three branches is located in the heart of Toluca's historic center and was founded by Vázquez's great-grandfather, Miguel Parella Casals. A politician from the city of Girona in Catalonia, Parella came to Mexico as a refugee to escape persecution during the Spanish Civil War.
Upon settling in Toluca, he noticed the popularity of Spanish cuisine and decided to adapt certain dishes to suit Mexican palates. In 1943 he and his daughter Nieves Parella opened La Vaquita Negra, named after a black cow that belonged to his family when he was a boy.
MAKE THIS: Green Chorizo Torta
Passed down from generation to generation, La Vaquita Negra has become a local institution. Vázquez remains proud of his family's Catalan heritage and says the torta catalana, made with jamón serrano and queso manchego, is still one of their most popular offerings.
"We always have a lot of people because of our location," Vázquez added, pointing to the line out front. "We're right next to the cathedral and that's been key for us. Everyone knows us and we even get a lot of people coming from other places like Mexico City or Cuernavaca to eat here."
Would it be worth flying in Trump ahead of the next round of bilateral talks? "It's a good idea!" Vázquez laughs. After all, what better place to blow Trump's mind than a Mexican establishment founded by a refugee?
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in August 2017.
Follow Duncan Tucker on Twitter: @DuncanTucker