Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 30, 2016 Breakfast. Toast with cheese and jam. Lunch. Pho with beef and meatballs. Dinner. Grilled Rib Steak, Pasta with fresh Pesto, Sautéed Fresh Fava Beans, and Sautéed Mushrooms

July 30, 2016 Breakfast. Toast with cheese and jam. Lunch. Pho with beef and meatballs. Dinner. Grilled Rib Steak, Pasta with fresh Pesto, Sautéed Fresh Fava Beans, and Sautéed Mushrooms

Today was a slow return to normalcy for my body.  I was still weak from loss of all the food I ate on Thursday and did not want to trigger another disastrous loss of food, so I tried to eat carefully.  

I did not go with Suzette to the farmer’s market, but read the New Yorker and rested.  When Suzette returned I helped her weed the garden.  Then we made breakfast.  She made a BLT with a beautiful tomato she bought at the Farmers’ Market. 

I decided upon simpler fare.  I toasted two pieces of bread, spread them with strawberry jam and laid slices of Comte cheese on the jam and ate them with a cup of Constant Comment tea.  Tea and jam and cheese sandwiches is one of the most common snacks of college students I knew in Sweden in 1970 from breakfast to dinner during the day.  At night we usually drank beer or wine and cooked real food.

When my body gets weak I usually gravitate to protein to recharge my energy, so this morning,  after the successful lunch of Pho yesterday, I thawed out a steak.  When Suzette returned from her shopping with Chef Kelly for the Bistro, we decided to grill the steak for dinner with pasta and fresh pesto and the fresh Fava beans Suzette shucked this morning.  We decided to  go to Ta Lin to buy some pho broth for my lunch and a fancy Italian pasta for dinner.  Suzette is also harvesting fennel seeds and celery seeds and needed a coffee grinder.

We went to Big Lots, but it had sold out of coffee grinders, so on we went to Ta Lin.  

At Ta Lin after we selected a 1 lb. bag of Orrechiette #91 made by Anna in Italy, I picked up a small bag of soba noodles in the Japanese aisle.  Suzette the pen suggested we look at the fish.  We considered several fish but Suzette was attracted to the tank of live Alaskan Dungeness crabs that were so fresh they were jumping up the sides of the tank trying to get out.  We said, “we should buy one and compare it to the frozen one I bought yesterday at Costco.”  So we did even though the price was $11.99/lb.  Sunday brunch will be one of the best crab, avocado, and tomato salads of the year. 

I then looked for the pho broth and when I could not find asked for assistance.  The young lady Who helped me was know ledge able and recommended a bouillon cube of vegetarian pho for $.49.  She said, I prefer the vegetarian pho because then you can add anything to it.”  Brilliant.  We stopped in the fresh produce section, where we bought flat shallots, a bag of sweet yam leaves, and fresh ginger.

We then drove to Walmart, where Suzette soon found a Hamilton Beach coffee grinder for $15.00.

When we got home Suzette cooked the crab in boiling water for 16 minutes; 8 minutes per pound.

We took a nap, but I awoke to a call from Greg at the bike shop telling me that my bike tire was ready.  So at 4:40 I picked up my bike and then drove to Quarter’s on Yale to see what discounted wines they had.  I did not find much, except for a bottle of Chianti for $3.99.

When I returned home and started cooking around 5:30, Suzette had already started making herb flavored salts. 

Suzette wants to make seasoned salts to sell at the restaurant, similar to the lovely seasoned salts that Penny and Armand Remby gave us for my 70th birthday that probably inspired Suzette to want to make seasoned salts, so she harvested fennel seeds and celery seeds and ground them with some of the Yucatan sea salt we bought in San Miguel de Allende.  I thought the strong sea flavor of the salt clashed with the delicate flavor of the fennel, so more research will be required.

I  made more mint syrup by bringing almost to a boil 3 cups of sugar and 3 ½ cups of water and then adding a handful of mint from our garden.  It seems our favorite drink during this hot weather is mint lifts, which are simply mint syrup with soda water and a squeeze of lime juice.  I have been drinking them a lot in the last day to return to equilibrium. 

I  then went to the garden and picked a basket full of basil leaves.  We have seven plants flourishing this year.  We then found the pine nuts, I peeled fresh cloves of garlic from the garden, and Suzette made pesto in the food processor, while the pasta was cooking.

She also sautéed the Fava beans with some of the fennel flavored sea salt she had just made.

Belatedly, while the steak was grilling, we decided to sauté mushrooms, so I sliced four large white mushrooms, a shallot, and a clove of garlic.  Suzette placed 2 T. of butter in a medium skillet and I added 1 T. of olive oil and the garlic and shallot.  Then in a minute I added the mushrooms and tossed them with the oil to coat them.  While they were cooking I ran to the garden and grabbed five or six sprigs of thyme.

When I returned I added about 1 T. of Amontillado Sherry and then approximately 1 tsp. of thyme leaves.  Soon the mushrooms were thoroughly cooked.  

Suzette had drained the pasta and tossed it with two scoops of fresh pesto.  Suzette then pulled the steak off the grill and I sliced it.  It was a rather thin steak and had cooked to mostly medium.  I gave Suzette the medium medium rare middle part from near the bone and I took the more charred medium edge portion.

We plated our dishes and poured the wine and soon were enjoying our meal as we watched a  “Death in Paradise” BBC series episode, set on a  Caribbean island. 

I did not particularly like the Chianti, because it had a strong syrupy flavor that I associated with wines that have been blended with lots of grapes from different vineyards and made with cheap fruit with a view of producing a cheap wine.  The wine has a bitterness and heaviness and the flavor is muddied either by use of bad grapes or poor production.  Suzette and I both thought the wine was fine with the strong flavors of this meal, which masked its bitterness. 

I prefer the Chianti Reserva sold by Trader Joe’s for $5.99 for its clarity and clean taste. 

We also ate a few chocolates and Suzette sipped cognac and I sipped Calvados.

We tried to stay up for Saturday Night Live, but then I saw it was a rerun from 2014, I fell asleep.

Bon Appetit 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 29, 2016 Lunch Bistro. Dinner Spaghetti with sautéed New Zealand Cockles, Asparagus, and shrimp

July 29, 2016 Lunch  Bistro. Dinner Spaghetti with sautéed New Zealand Cockles, Asparagus, and shrimp

Yesterday was a disastrous food day.  I worked diligently on a purchase agreement that had to be completed, so I other than a bowl of blueberries and yogurt at 11:00, I had no food until 2:30.  I made ham and cheese sandwiches with the slices of ham I bought at El Super and Comte from Costco plus mayonnaise, sliced Roma tomato and a bit of mustard.  Then I ran errands and took a shower and got ready for book club. 

By the time Charlie picked me up, I was feeling rather queasy.  To make a long story short, I threw up everything I had eaten back to and including the ham sandwich at 2:30 in the morning.  I suspect the culprit was the ham slices, which I tossed today.  

Most of the day I have suffered diarrhea, but managed to go to lunch with Peter Eller at a new Vietnamese restaurant, Bistro, at 1313 San Pedro.  I ordered a bowl of pho with raw beef and meatballs, except the waitress messed up the order and had to bring me the meatballs in a separate bowl after the dish was served.  The waitress also had difficulty with Peter’s order.  He wanted to order a dish he had eaten at the Bistro on Tuesday.  He asked for grilled chicken in curry sauce with lemon grass and the waitress said that the restaurant did not have that dish.  We finally found in the hot and spicy section of the menu, Spicy Chicken in curry sauce with lemon grass.  I enjoyed my light beef consommé and left most of the noodles.  Peter loved his dish and probably will become a regular.  

    My Pho

   Some of Peter's Grilled chicken in curry sauce with lemon grass

After lunch Suzette brought a 5 lb. bag of New Zealand cockles home from Costco, which I iced.  I worked until 4:00.  

Suzette came home around 5:00 and we watched the business news, BBC and PBS News Hour.  I had thawed out a lb. of heads of shrimp yesterday.  Suzette suggested making her wonderful steamed clams and shrimp in a white wine cream sauce.  She melts ¼ lb. of butter in a large enameled casserole with three or four cloves of minced fresh garlic and either a diced shallot or some onion and then adds water and white wine to a depth of about 1 inch.  Then she steams open the clams.  Then she cooks the shrimp and four five diced stalks of asparagus in the sauce, adjusts the seasoning, and adds some half and half or cream.  

We boiled spaghetti in a separate pot.

I chilled my favorite wine for this dish, Gavi Princessa.  Suzette loved the dish with the addition of shrimp.  This was the first real meal we have cooked since we returned from our trip.  We both welcomed the return to our normal cooking.  

Here is our cockle shell mitten.

For example, on Wednesday I  ate PPI Hong Kong BBQ Pork for both lunch and dinner, which was dish Willy wanted to make.  

The Gavi Princessa is dry and slightly acidic so it goes really well with seafood and cream sauces.  

From 9:00 until 11:00 we enjoyed watching the British Baking Show and Suzette had a cognac.

As I write this at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night, I am feeling like my stomach has stopped cramping.   I am hoping that the offending food was either expelled or passed the gauntlet of watchful bacteria in  my gut and I am on my way back to homeostatic equilibrium.  

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26, 2016 a two salad day

July 26, 2016 a two salad day

I ate my usual bowl of granola with yogurt, blueberries, and milk for breakfast.

Then at noon I made myself a real Cesar Salad with anchovies, Cesar salad dressing, a diced tomato, about 2 oz. of cucumber diced, some shaved Pecorino Reggiani cheese, and a handful of warm croutons.  It was delicious.  Here is a photo of it.

When Suzette came home she suggested making a salad for dinner since I had no thawed anything.  I agreed because we had lovely PPI teriyaki salmon and fresh goat cheese, plus wonderful fresh Bibb lettuce we bought at Costco on Sunday, cucumber, tomato, and onion.  Suzette made the salad and I made the dressing with lemon, Herb de Provence herbed salt, Spanish olive oil, 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, a dash of white balsa in vinegar, two small cloves of garlic, about 2 oz. of finely minced white onion, and the juice of 1/3 of a lemon.

Suzette opened a bottle of St. Michelle Washington Riesling.

We watched the Democratic Convention, the highlight of which for me was Bill Clinton’s personal history of Hillary. 

We both ate a little chocolate ice cream.

Bon Appetit

July 25, 2016 Lunch Seasons. Dinner. Glazed Gingery Spareribs with Stir Fried Chard, onion, and mushrooms and Rice

I ate granola with yogurt, fresh blueberries, and milk for breakfast.

Suzette worked in the garden and I helped her by pulling the garlic.  Some garlic looks good, while some has dried up a bit.  We will have to see how it lasts for cooking.

I worked until 1:30 when I received a call from Aaron, who was having a working lunch on a project at Seasons and invited me to join him and Roland for lunch, which I did.  Roland ordered steak salad, I ordered mussels and linguine flavored with red pepper flakes in a white wine cream sauce, and Aaron ordered crab cakes.  All dishes were attractively served.  I did not think my dish was any better than what we make at home when we make fresh linguine.  The bill was $58.00 before the tip, which was a shock after the great meal we have eaten in Mexico for under $10.00 each and the great brunch we ate at Central Grill yesterday for $31.00. Welcome back to the USA.

For dinner we decided to make the dish Suzette had planned to use the pork spareribs she bought yesterday at Costco for; a Hong Kong recipe for Glazed Gingery Spareribs, page 114 of Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. 

The recipe is relatively easy.  We put the sugar, soy sauce, Chinese Cooking wine, diced scallion, and fresh ginger into a large Le Crueset casserole with two pounds of boneless pork spare ribs that I had butchered rather carefully to remove any skin and large areas of tendon and fat and cooked it until the liquid reduced to a thick sauce.

I went to the garden and picked a basket full of chard, which had prospered in our absence and de-stemmed it and cut it into bite sized pieces and washed them.  I then minced a small clove of garlic we picked before we went on vacation and enough giver to make about 1 T. each of garlic and ginger. I then diced 1 small onion and sliced three large white mushrooms while watching the Democratic Convention. I also minced about 1 T. of fresh basil I had picked yesterday in the garden when I topped the basil.

We started the Spareribs about 6:00 and by the time Willy arrived at 7:30 they were well on their way to being cooked,  with the sauce reduced. 

At around 8:15 I started the chard dish by heating 1 ½ T. of peanut oil and stir frying the onion, garlic, and ginger in the wok.  I added a dash of sesame oil and the mushrooms and stir fried that.  When Suzette announced that the spareribs were ready, which was during Michelle Obama’s speech I think, Suzette heated the PPI rice with seaweed and I added the chard to the other ingredients in the wok and tossed them to mix them and cook the chard.  In a minute or two the dish was ready when the chard had wilted but was still green.  Suzette had declared this to be a beer dinner about twenty minutes before and had fetched three red stripes from the garage fridge and chilled them in the freezer.

We enjoyed this new recipe and the fresh chard from our garden and I even thought the seaweed in the rice tasted better because it was softened to a new more edible tenderness.

We enjoyed watching the Democratic Convention.  I can not help thinking the third time is the charm.  It seems to me that I as a liberal Democrat have been here two times before during my lifetime: in 1960 when the hopes for a progressive agenda rose with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, then in 1968 with the battle for control of the Democratic Party over the Vietnam War and race wars erupted into open hostility after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and finally, this year when it seems like there is a chance that finally the control of politics by racism and wealth may be passing as America becomes more racially, culturally, and religiously diverse and the politics of fear and demagoguery seem so painfully obvious.

I hope a majority of people will vote for Hillary and we can finally see if America is ready for a progressive agenda for the first time since the 30’s.  It could be a wonderful period for American democracy.

Suzette said that if we make the dish again she would add more sugar.  I put in a little extra ginger.  I think the dish had enough sugar because it relieved me of any craving for dessert.

After the convention coverage ended at 10:00 we talked to Willy about his new research project and said goodnight to him around 10:30.

Bon Appetit 

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 24, 2016 Brunch – Central Grill and Coffee Shop, Dinner – Teriyaki Grilled Salmon, Dashi Seaweed Rice, and Grilled Asparagus

July 24, 2016 Brunch – Central Grill and Coffee Shop, Dinner – Teriyaki Grilled Salmon, Dashi Seaweed Rice, and Grilled Asparagus

spent a leisurely morning watching the news and working in the garden.  Willy came at around 10:00 and helped us in the garden.

Then at around 11:30 we decided to go to brunch.  We have begun to use the Internet to identify good restaurants, thanks to Willy.  For example, this morning he informed us that the 
Old Town Grill and Coffee Shop at  
2056 Central Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Phone number (505) 554-1424
was the highest rated restaurant in Albuquerque.

We decided to go there for brunch and arrived around 11:45.  The parking lot was full so I jumped out and got into the long line waiting to order.  The system on Sunday is as efficient as possible.  You wait in line until you reach the counter where the cash register is located, where you order and pay for your meal, take a number for your order and as soon as the order is ready it is served to you.  There is both inside and patio dining.  Willy reminded us several times that this used to be Liu’s restaurant that served Chinese fast food for many years.  From the number of people eating today, I would say this incarnation will last a very long time also.

The menu is extensive.  It took about twenty minutes to reach the front of the line, because the owner gives each customer careful attention and repeats the order to make sure it is correct.  Willy knew what he wanted immediately, Chilequiles.  Suzette changed a couple of times and finally settled on an in and out burger.  I vacillated but ended up ordering a Southwestern Cobb Salad to see how they did salads.  We all liked our meals, which were well prepared even though the kitchen was under constant pressure from the constant flow of customers.  It seems like a well organized service crew and kitchen, the core of which is a father, wife, and son and perhaps daughter.  The service staff adjusts orders on the fly as they serve them.  For example, a few minutes after we had been served the waitress/daughter returned to our table with a plate with two delicious pancakes and gave them to us, so we could try their pancakes.  It has been years sixpence this has happened and the first time at a diner.

My salad was Mage with fresh organic greens, chopped ham, turkey, blue cheese, avocado, a hard boiled egg, halved baby grape tomatoes, and piñon nuts.  It was the best Cobb salad I have had in Albuquerque for $7.35, a real value.  Willy liked his chilequiles.  Suzette liked her hamburger and the pancakes tasted like sugar and vanilla had been added to the batter to give the pancakes more flavor.

I was impressed with every aspect of the Central Grill and Coffee Shop from the organization of the ordering, the kitchen, the freshness of ingredients, the creativity of the menu items, to the service.

After lunch we drove to Costco.  We looked at TVs for Willy but passed because there was no sale on the ones he liked.  We then bought French Sourdough bread, a package of boneless pork ribs for Korean BBQ, fresh Atlantic Farm raised salmon, asparagus, corn chips, eggs, half and half, Naked Juice and Olive oil for Willy, and a few other items.

The temperature had hit 100 degrees, so we decided to not go to El Super and took our groceries home instead.  I must have been a bit overcome by the heat, because I practically ran to bed and slept for several hours until 4:45.  When I awoke, I made teriyaki marinade for the salmon by heat to almost a boil 7 T. each of tamari soy sauce, Aji Mirin, and sake and 1 tsp. of sugar.  I let the teriyaki sauce cool and then poured it into the freezer bag in which Suzette had placed the salmon to cover the salmon and marinate it and returned the salmon to the meat drawer for the two hours before we cooked to marinate.

Suzette then fetched the 1x6 cedar plank we bought at Home Depot and we cut length suitable to hold the salmon and then she weighted it down under water in the sink to absorb some moisture.

It started to rain at around 6:30 and Suzette and I felt that we had timed our trip perfectly to return at the beginning of the rainy season in Albuquerque after having enjoyed it so much in Patzcuaro.

I made a cup of rice at 6:00 with just a bit over 2 cups of water, ½ tsp. of dehydrated Dashi, and 1 T. of wakame seaweed strips chopped into small pieces.  Once the water boils I add 1 cup of Basmati rice, reduce the heat to low, and cook the rice mixture for thirty minutes.

At 7:00 I went to pick up Willy and Suzette started grilling the salmon and asparagus.  She started the grill to heat it.  Then she placed the salmon on the plank and placed the plank on the grill.  She also tossed a handful of asparagus in a freezer bag in which she had placed olive oil, sea salt from the Sea of Cortez that we bought in Mexico, and a bit of pepper and the shook the bag to coat the asparagus with the olive oil and spice mixture.

After a few minutes of grilling the salmon Suzette placed the asparagus on the grill and in a few more minutes Suzette plated up lovely plates with a pile of rice in the middle of the plate garnished by a piece of grilled salmon and then on top of the salmon, several grilled asparagus.

A very California style meal.

We decided to drink wine with dinner, so we first tasted the open bottle of Murphy Goode Fume Blanc and found that it had oxidized in the two weeks we had been gone.  We decided to open a bottle of this year’s Gruet Rose, which is 100% pinot noir and delicious.  It has a dark color and a pronounced Pinot Noir flavor and is still quite fruity, a good value at $13.00 at Gruet Winery and an even better value at around $10.00 per bottle, if you are a member of Gruet’s Wine Club and can buy it at a 25% discount.

I can honestly say that this year’s Gruet’s Rose’ has satisfied my passion for Anderson Valley, California Rose’ of Pinot Noir.  It is that good.

After dinner we watched a bit of the July 11 interview of Bill Maher by Chris Matthews on MSNBC and then the Masterpiece Theatre offerings on PBS. 

Suzette ate some PPI apricot ice cream from her Summer Solstice Party and I ate three Trader Joe’s chocolate truffles and Calvados.

We are happy to be back at home and back on our fresh food diet of mainly grilled meat and vegetables with a starch. 

Bon Appetit 

July 23, 2016. Patzcuaro to Albuquerque. Ham and cheese sandwiches

July 23, 2016. Patzcuaro to Albuquerque. Ham and cheese sandwiches 

I earned my advanced degree in Mexican driving today.  I drove through the heart of Mexico City from the west side near Toluca to the airport on the east side.

We woke up around 7:30, and I made six ham, sliced tomato, Oaxacan cheese sandwiches on two tortes and four Kaiser rolls with butter and mayo.

I also sliced a cucumber into spears. We ate sandwiches on the road as we drove.

Then ate the final sandwich on the flight from Mexico City to Houston.

We drove from Patzcuaro on mostly cuota roads to Mexico City.  The last 20 km. took us over1 ½ hours in heavy traffic through Mexico City, ever thought it is a Saturday.

We made it to the airport on time for our flight and then waited an hour because the flight was delayed.

We had a three hour lay over in Houston, so we made our connecting flight.  We  arrived in Albuquerque on time at around 10:10 in the evening.

Bon Appetit

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 21, 2016. A restful day in Patzcuaro

July 21, 2016. A restful day in Patzcuaro 

After our long dry last night we slept in.  In the morning I walked around the Villa Maria garden admiring Michael's booming orchids.  From what I have seen the cool rainy humid weather is in Patzcuaro is ideal for growing orchids.  Here are pictures of some of the blooms and the garden.

   The south side of the rear garden

  A bromeliad

   The passage from the front garden to the rear garden

    The rear garden seen from the walkway from the front garden

  An odd fern like plant in the back garden

I need to mention that Michael, the owner is an architect in Canada and a collector of regional folk art.

Around noon we went out sightseeing and visited mostly fabric stores, looking for a bedspread for our next project, the remodeling of our bedroom and bathroom.

We stopped at a store across the street from the museum of Technical Arts? And talked to the owner, Rick, who is a partner with Michael in the store.  He told us that the Museum was one of the oldest Colonial buildings in the Americas, dating back to the 1540’s.  It was built under the direction of Father De Vasco de Quiroga and it and the art museum next to it sit on the pyramids and platform that pre-dated the Spanish conquest.  We immediately walked across the street, paid our 50 pesos each and went in.  The museum is devoted to the history of the crafts that De Vasco encouraged the indigenous people to make, whose traditions last to this day.  Rick said, “De Vasco was a utopian idealist, who wanted to create a utopian community in the highlands of New Spain.”

The museum had many old and new craft items, including a portrait of De Vasco.  We then walked to the back of the museum and were confronted by a partial pyramid, partially reconstructed and partially in reconstructed.  We realized that the museum was constructed on and using the stones of the pyramids.  We were standing on sacred ground in all kinds of ways. 

We then walked to the big plaza, where we bought brownies and Kaiser rolls at one of the nicest bakeries in town.

It was starting to rain, so we scurried back to Villa Maria just before a torrential downpour began.  We decided to cook the pork chops we had bought with the candied fruits we had bought in San Miguel de Allende.  We peeled and diced the last two carrots and blanched them and then combined them into the sautéed fruit.

We also heated the PPI sautéed potato slices.

After lunch we rested and read in the cool rainy afternoon.

We were not very hungry for dinner.  Although Suzette made a lovely cream of mushroom soup with the last of the white mushrooms and cepes and ¼ of a red onion in the beef stock from our first meal, plus cream and a bit of 2015 Marques Del Valle Mexican white wine.

 I ate the unfinished portion of of lunch by making an open faced sandwich of pork chop and potatoes on a buttered toasted slice of integral bread.  The Danish smorgasbord tradition I established in the summer of 1968 in Denmark persists.

The rain continued into the evening, so we read and packed.  I ate a brownie with tea later in the evening.

Bon Appetit

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 20, 2016 trip to Ochumicho and Zamora and back alive

July 20, 2016 trip to Ochumicho and Zamora and back alive

We watched the end of the stage of the Tour de France.  A Russian Katushka rider named Salkin? Won the stage but the thrilling element of the race was the attempt by Richie Porte to whittle down Chris Froome’s lead.  Porte jumped out into a lead on the last ascent of the day and Froome followed and made up the gap.  No one else followed so every one of the other leaders like Quintana lost about 20 seconds.

Chris tailed Porte to the finish not helping at all and added a kick at the end to finish with the same time.  After the race Froome said Porte was the better rider,but Froome had the better team support; a generous gesture to the man that carried Froome up the mountains in years past.

We then ate breakfast.  Suzette made an omelet with the PPI beef and vegetables from our dinner several night ago.  As we were leaving to drive to Ocumicho, I stopped across the street for a fresh orange and carrot juice on our way out of town for 14 pesos.  

We drove to Ocumicho in about two and 1/2 hours. The GPS sort of got us lost and we ended up making detours on less than ideal roads.

Rural Mexico is still a third world country. Rudimentary facilities we take for granted like, water, sewer, and an interstate highway system, are luxuries that rarely exist.  Except for the newest and most important roads connecting the largest towns by cults (toll roads) there are few maintained roads, which means traveling miles on pot hole strewn roads or worse, where they have given out and by passes on rutted older dirt roads are used while maintenance is done to renew the more modern failed roads.

We were going cross country by GPS, which favors directness over quality of road, so we soon realized that the shortest distance between two points was by the best road, which,due to our lack of knowledge, became a guessing game.  We finally chugged into Ochomicho, a hillside the bvillage with a labyrinth of streets.  

Soon we discovered that we did not have to find the artisans, they found us and soon we were on a guided tour of four or five of the local artisans for a couple of hours.  Suzette bought several painted wooden masks and six small painted clay masks.  I bought an interesting bowl with Saint Miquel/George holding the scales of justice weighing good and evil and slaying a dragon that represented evil.

We the drove to Zamora for dinner at the Pink Panther Restaurant, recommended by Ann.  The Pink Panther specializes in one dish, carne asado en su jugo (grilled thinly sliced beef, chopped and cooked in a beef broth, served with cooked beans in their broth and garnished with chopped cilantro and onion.  It sounds awful but it is a delicious soupy stew.  We requested no chili.  We also ordered queso fundido (baked melted cheese), which we ordered with grilled small onions and is one of our favorites, especially when served with the fresh warmed tortillas being made in the entrance to the restaurant by a crew of three or four young ladies. We tried the chongas for dessert, but they were terrible.

After dinner we walked around  Zamora a bit to see its tallest church steeple in the Americas.  Here is a photo.

We finished dinner and left Zamora at 6:30 after being warned by our waiter to not drive at night.  We are foreigners in a land we do not know and a culture we barely understand, as we soon found out.  The road system in Mexico links small towns and villages.  Soon after we left Zamora we drove through a small village celebrating some festival which caused the closure of the National highway.  Although there were a mass of people, it  soon seemed to me to be a rouse to extract money because taxi drivers moved their cars from one of the blocked two lanes and readily picked up revelers seeking transportation and we were told that for $10.00 they would help us get through.  Suzette, who was driving, would have none of it.  Said, “This is a national highway. You can not block a national highway.”  But block it they did, so she backed a quarter mile in the only open lane and turned around and re-routed us around the blocked route.  Soon we saw a Federal Police car  driving at high speed toward the blockages it hits lights flashing, but we had already decided to divert our route, which our GPS said would take us 2 ½ hours to return to Patzcuaro..

Unfortunately, the new route turned out to be across a network of smaller unmaintained roads and dirt diversions.  Every small town one passes through has topes (speed humps in the road) to slow traffic to protect pedestrians while they cross the highway. The more urban the town the more topes; think each school and bus stop plus every urbanized neighborhood.  At night you must be particularly vigilant.  Perhaps that is why Mexicans say to not drive at night, besides due to the fact that horses and cows are often open ranging on highways and dogs are every where. So our 2 ½ hour return turned into  a 5 ½ hour trip.  We arrived back at the casita at 11:30.  One good thing is that the Mexicans take their own advice and rarely drive at night, so we had the freedom to use the entire narrow two lanes roads without much traffic, which was helpful as we were forced to swerve around pot holes.  I drove us back after dark because my night vision is better than Suzette’s. Luckily I kept the car on the road (there are no aprons that would allow one to pull off the road) and slowed for most of the topes.  The 71 mile return to Patzcuaro was an exhilarating driving experience  that I shall not soon forget and hope not to repeat.  I actually felt quite courageous and brave and lucky to have made it back with the car in one piece.  In the entire 71 miles, we probably only met about ten cars.

Bon Appetit


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 19, 2016 Breakfast fruit with granola and yogurt. Lunch hotel real de Cobre in Santa Clara dinner. Mac and cheese with greens and a mushroom medley

July 19, 2016 Breakfast  fruit with granola and yogurt. Lunch  hotel real de Cobre in Santa Clara  dinner. Mac and cheese with greens and a mushroom medley 

We both had slightly upset stomachs so we decided to eat granola, yogurt, fruit with a bit of milk for breakfast.

   Figs and papaya 

We then drove to Santa Clara de Cobre to shop for copper sinks for my new bathroom.  When we arrived there was a film production in progress so we decided to eat lunch under the portal facing the plaza in the outdoor seating area in front of the Hotel Real de Cobre.  Suzette ordered squash blossom soup and I ordered filets Mignon.  Both our dishes were pretty mediocre.  My steak was thin cut with sautéed mushrooms and hotdogs in a brown sauce, sort of a Salisbury steak with a real piece of meat.  Suzette’s soup was really bland with no sign of a squash blossom.

  Filets Mignon with a mushroom hotdog brown sauce

  Squash Blossom soup without the Blossums

    The napkin arrangement and square at Santa Clara

After about one hour the filming stopped and we were able to walk the square and shop.

We soon found a great shop, El Viejo Almancen where we had told to look behind a coffee shop under the portal, where we found sinks, wine buckets, and glasses.  We spent 4000 pesos (about $230).

We then went back to the Museum of Copper, where Suzette bought key rings and then we drove around a bit to see if there were any shops we may have missed.  Finding none we returned to Patzcuaro.

When we r returned to Patzcuaro we decided to walk around down town to better get our bearings.  We walked to the main rod where the Pemex station is and walked that street to the market.  After walking one street to the left we decided there was more activity on the two plazas that lie within a block of each other.  We walked back to the market and at the corner of it we found a lady with tables full of fresh wild crepe and chanterelle mushrooms.  She was asking 60 pesos for a kilo and after a little discussion as to the wisdom of buying wild mushrooms from a street vendor we took her suggestion and bought a ½ kilo (1 lb.) after she showed us the beautiful fluted undersides of the cepes.  She had a metal holder that is the type used on a scale and Suzette and I picked about six or seven large nice mushrooms and then the lady reached into the pile of cepes and with two hands took a huge bundle of mushrooms to fill the holder.  I guess the filled holder was the measure of ½ kilo.  It looked and felt like more than a pound, but thanked her and walked toward the adjoining square.  

 Under the portal adjoining the portal we saw many fancy restaurants and soon came to the Tourist information office, which was opened and staffed by a knowledgeable attendant who spoke excellent English.  We forget often that language skills do matter.

He provided us maps of Patzcuaro and the state of Michoacan and identified villages that specialized in crafts we were interested in, such as the lovely green glazed jars in the shape and decorated as pineapples and famous restaurants in Patzcuaro and the surrounding countryside.

We thanked him and resumed our circumnavigation of the two squares.  We decided that we needed to make mushroom soup and needed Crema, so we stopped at a convenience type store on the square and were directed to another store under the other portal on the square where we bought a 200 gram container of LaLa crema for 9.50 pesos or about $.60.

We then walked the short block to the other larger square where the Balloon Festival stage had been located during the weekend and saw other restaurants and more touristy shops.  After walking the half of the second square that ended nearest to our villa, we turned toward the villa and after a three block walked arrived at the villa and our small casita.

We rested for a few minutes during which we discussed dinner.  Suzette suggested pasta with the mushrooms and the rest of the spinach and chard, which sounded fabulous to me.  After Suzette cleaned the mushrooms, I sliced them into bite sized pieces.  We now had a medley of three types of mushrooms, the white we bought at the supermarket yesterday and the cepes and chanterelles bought today.

Then I diced 1/3 white onion and two cloves of garlic.  I then de-stemmed and tore the spinach and chard leaves from their stalks into bite sized pieces.  Finally I chopped up about three oz. of Oaxacan string cheese and about three T. fresh beautiful Italian parsley.  

While I was chopping Suzette had brought a pot of water to a boil and cooked and drained a package of lovely semi-circular large rounds of pasta. Here is a picture of one.

She then Sautéed the onion, mushrooms and garlic and added that hot mixture to the drained pasta in it's still warm pot and added the cleaned greens, cheese and two T. of crema and garnished the dish with chopped parsley.

We drank a bottle of award winning 2015 Las Moras Malbec from Argentina that we bought yesterday for 96 pesos.  It was a solid bottle of wine with lots of character and very clean tasting.  We liked it a lot with dinner even though it was a red.

We watched the PBS coverage of the Republican Convention for a few minutes, but soon tired of it and returned to the Netflix series called “Top Chefs”.  The episode we watched tonight featured Dan Barber the chef associated with Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  There were many interesting elements of his story and the restaurant’s story.  One I liked was that he was that his mother died a when he was 4 years old of cancer and he was raised by his grand parents on their family farm in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts named Blue Hill where actively participated in farm activities.  Blue Hill was mainly a dairy cow and hay operation, but it taught Dan that you are withdrawing nutrients from the soil through cows’ grazing and you need to replenish those nutrients if you want to gain the maximum potential from the land, which related directly to flavor and even the composition of the food you harvest.  Dan thus gained a mission.  He almost single-handedly, with help from his brother and wife, created what we now refer to as the Farm to Table movement in American Cuisine.  I recall the first time I ate at Blue Hill in NYC, near NYU, just off Washington Square.  We ate the four course dinner and one of the items was bean salad.  I asked the waiter if I could substitute a different item for the salad and the waiter suggested I try the bean salad.  So I did and was amazed at how delicious it was.  The beans were the freshest, most flavorful beans I had ever tasted, lightly blanched and served with a light vinaigrette.  

The film included a segment to demonstrate how experimental and deep diving into food production Dan gets, by showing him interacting with the staff of Cornell’s experimental farm, where the staff and Dan decided to feed chickens red chile to see if the yolks of the chickens’ eggs would be colored red and they were.  The red egg yolks were served at Blue Hill.  The point Dan was making in a very visual way, is that it matters what the animal that is producing the food you eat is eating.

We loved the dinner and felt we had created a bond with Dan and his Farm to Table movement by making the best Mac and cheese we had ever made with a fresh wild mushroom medley, elegant pasta, crema, and fresh cheese with garlic and onion garnished with fresh parsley and a bit of Mexican sea salt; the freshest, highest quality ingredients cooked sparingly to produce their maximum flavor.

This dish is actually an adaptation of a dish we like and cook a lot that I call stroganoff Paprikesh, a combination of mushrooms, sour cream and cheese, except for this dish we substituted more mushrooms for the meat and paprika or peppers and tomatoes.  So it converts it into something simpler and closer to Mac and cheese.

After dinner we ate the last of our desserts, Tres Leches cake and a slice of flan on chocolate cake, that we had bought at the market in Quiroga on Sunday.

We then grabbed the bottle if Don Simon red wine we had bought yesterday and went upstairs to talk to Bruce and Ann.  Bruce had brought a chocolate whipped cream cake garnished with chocolate swirls and chocolate syrup he had bought at the same supermarket we went to yesterday for 25 pesos, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious in a Trifle sort of way that went well with the red wine.  The Don Simon did not have the depth of character of the Las Moras Malbec, but it had been only about half the cost.

Ann also served a fresh panels cheese studded with flecks of fresh red and green chili that was delicious, especially with the red wine.  What I noticed about our conversation was how well informed Americans of our age are on current affairs.  Bruce was able to quote elements of the New Yorker interview with Schwartz, who had ghost written the "Art of the Deal" with and for Donald Trump, citing direct references to the article as Schwartz’s opinion that Donald Trump is a “sociopath”.

After a pleasant discussion and examining some terrific masks Ann had recently bought and a second dessert and bottle of wine, we said goodnight and walked downstairs to our casita after another long fun day.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 18, 2016 Lunch Janitzeo Island. Dinner Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with sautéed Spinach and Chard

July 18, 2016 Lunch  Janitzeo Island. Dinner  Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with sautéed Spinach and Chard

We had no specific plan for today other than to exchange money and to buy additional groceries.  We drove through town and ended at the supermarket that is located at the main crossroads where the national Hwy. 14 enters Patzcuaro.  We bought spinach, chard, a red and a white Mexican wine, Superior beer, potato chips, a large Coca Cola, sliced ham, Oaxacan string cheese, and a palmier and a hotdog roll.  I ate the hotdog roll in the car cold for breakfast.  

It was noon.  Suzette said, “Let’s go to the lake and eat lunch.  So we drove out to the lake.  There are two boat docks where boats leave foe various villages and islands in the lake.  We arrived at one of them that ferried people to the largest island in the lake named Janitzeo.  Here is some information on Janitzeo from Wilepedia.

“The town of Janitzio, which means "where it rains", is located atop the hill. Janitzio can only be reached by boats which run regularly back and forth from about 7:30 am to 6 pm, accessible from Pátzcuaro's pier (embarcadero). These boats can be hired to take visitors around other parts of the lake. The town is famous for the butterfly fishermen who are skilled at lowering their butterfly-shaped nets to catch the local famous cuisine "pescado blanco". The butterfly fisherman were also located on the back of the 50 peso Mexican banknote.

A 40-meter statue of José María Morelos, a great hero of Mexico's independence, started in 1933, is found on the island's highest point. Visitors can climb to the top of the statue by way of a staircase that spirals up the inside. Along the interior walls, the life of Morelos is depicted in murals painted by Ramón Alba de la Canal and other great Mexican muralists. Although the steep stairway can become congested and distract one's attention, it is a good Mexican history lesson. At the top, one can peer through peepholes in the giant raised fist of Morelos, giving a spectacular view of the island, lake and surroundings.

Its main festivity is "El Día de los Muertos" or Day of the Dead. As part of this festivity, candle-lit boat processions make their way to the island and then to Janitzio's Church and graveyard, remaining there for the night for a large festive vigil with much imbibing involved.”

Suzette had travelled to Janitzeo on the Day of the Dead when she lived in Mexico 25 years ago.  She said she probably would not do it again because of the crowds.
We asked our boatman where to eat and he directed us to a restaurant on the main street just up the hill from the docks.  We saw that the restaurant had many local favorites.  We decided on squash blossom quesadillas and fried pescado blanco from the lake with a garlic sauce.

The restaurant faced the street with no view of the lake, so we asked if there was an area with a great view of the lake.  The proprietress took us up two flights of stairs to a roof patio with a fabulous view of the lake and the fishermen fishing with their butterfly nets.  There was only one table and it was a sunny day, so the lady and daughter lashed an umbrella to the table to provide us shade.

Soon our quesadillas arrived and then large platters of Sauteed fish in garlic sauce with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, rice, beans and warm freshly made blue corn tortillas.  We drank Negra Modelos and enjoyed both the food and the view.

After lunch we walked up the hill toward the big Statue of Morelos, but I became exhausted about ½ way and we decided the better part of valor this day was to return to the boat.  The lake is over 7000 feet in elevation and I became winded.

We returned to Patzcuaro around 4:30 and soon found an ATM machine and withdrew money from our accounts. Living in Mexico these days has gotten a lot easier with cell phones with international coverage and bank debit cards and ATMs. 

We then went looking for wine and found a wine shop with a limited selection.  We bought a Mexican champagne, and two reds. 

While looking for a bakery, Suzette found a chicken store that sold whole rotisserie roasted chickens with potatoes soaked in the cooking juices and salsa.  This is one of our favorite foods in Mexico, because we can make several meals from one chicken.  We drove back to the villa and deposited our goods and made rum and cokes and sat in a rocker in the garden to enjoy the garden and cool weather.  Soon Ann arrived and joined us.  She had had a late lunch with one of the doyens of Patzcuaro.  

I am amazed how quickly Ann has settled in to a comfortable relationship with the locals and especially the art community.

We talked for a while and then we decided to make dinner with our newly acquired ingredients.  I de-stemmed about ½ of each of the spinach and chard plants and finely diced 1/3 red onion and 1 clove of garlic.  Suzette then washed the greens and Sautéed the onion and garlic and spun the greens to rid them of sand.  She then added the greens to the onion and garlic and heated chicken and potatoes in the microwave.  To finish the dish Suzette added some Oaxacan string cheese to the vegetable dish.  I opened the champagne, that Suzette had chilled in the freezer and we had a lovely dinner.

After dinner we watched an episode of Top Chef about an Italian chef in Modena and his American born wife who at the time if the series was named the third best restaurant in the world and held three Michelin stars who modernized the local Italian cuisine of Modena and ate the desserts we bought in Quiroga yesterday with the last of the champagne.

Bon Appetit