Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 28, 2018 Fly to NYC Lunch – Campesi Salads Dinner – Mirabelle

February 28, 2018 Fly to NYC  Lunch – Campesi Salads  Dinner – Mirabelle

We rose at 4:30 for our 6:30 flight to Dallas connecting to New York

We arrived in Dallas at around 9:00 and on our way. To our NYC flight bought salads at Campesi’s airport kiosk.  I took a chopped salad with chopped green and black olives, artichokes, tomato, provolone cheese, and salami with iceberg lettuce and a vinegar dressing.

Suzette got a chicken salad with lots of organic greens which she did not eat, which I added to my salad.

When we arrived at New York La Guardia we cabbed to Melissa’s 107 86th street.  We talked and drank a couple of bottles of rose and looked at her newly remodeled apartment, that is going to be lovely with lots of gray tile and white birch cabinetry.

We walked to Amsterdam Ave and went into a liquor store and bought a bottle of Bordeaux rose for 11.99 and a bottle of By Ott, which is a new rose wine from Cotes Du Provence for $21.99.  On the way back to Melissa’s I saw a restaurant across the street named Mirabelle.  I looked at the menu and although the prices were in the $30+ range, the menu looked classically French.  We drank the Bordeaux rose at then walked across the street to Mirabelle at 102 W. 86th St.  We were seated in the middle of the restaurant since we were the second  customers.  Soon others arrived.  The menu was sensible French standards.  Suzette ordered a monkfish in lobster sauce and Melissa ordered a daily special of braised lamb shank.  I was torn between lamb sweetbreads and roasted duck in a Mirabelle (white plum) sauce.  The waitress said, take the duck.  “Okay,” I said.

We each ordered a glass of wine.  I took a Cotes Du Rhone red, Suzette took a Sancerre for her Monkfish, and Melissa took a rose’.

I tasted each dish.  I loved the Monkfish with a lobster sauce.  Melissa’s lamb shank was good also, rather firm, but tender.  My duck was roasted to perfection but the skin was not crisp.  Each dish was served with polenta and sautéed vegetables.  Mine were red bell peppers, onion,  and broccoli.  A good meal but not a great meal.

I was unable to eat my entire ½ duck, so asked the waitress to wrap up the ½ duck breast, polenta and mashed potatoes.  The mashed potatoes were wonderful, creamy and smooth without any lumps.

We the taxied to Rebecca’s to spend the night.  She was gracious enough to stay with Mickey so we could stay in her apartment.

We went to bed at 9:00 after our long da6 of travel.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 27, 2018 Lunch – Super Salad. Dinner – Reconstituted PPI French Onion Soup

February 27, 2018 Lunch – Super Salad. Dinner – Reconstituted PPI French Onion Soup

I didn’t go to Souper Salad for lunch. I made a super salad with the last head of romaine, a handful of grape tomatoes, 1/3 of a cucumber sliced, two green onions, about 3 oz. of Gravad Lax diced, an avocado, and four anchovies and dressed the salad with a Cesar salad dressing.  I toasted a slice of whole wheat bread and melted slices of Manchego cheese on it and drank a glass of Clamato juice with the salad.

I rode today into the wind a couple of miles south and then breezed back home blown along by what was now a gusty tail wind from 3:15 to 4:00.

I had no plan for dinner.  Instead I meditated with Todd a bit after 5:00.

Suzette arrived just as we were finishing around 5:45.

Suzette took control of the menu and quickly decided to heat the remaining French Onion Soup.  I suggested some additions to the soup to freshen it up and expand it so there would be enough soup for Willy to have some.  I started by adding about ½ T. of beef broth concentrate and 12 oz. of water.  I then added about 3 or 4 oz. of dry white vermouth.  Suzette added asparagus stalks chopped into bite sized pieces and four large Napa cabbage leaves cut in half vertically and then sliced into thin slices.  I sliced three mushrooms into thin slices and Suzette added the last of the Crème fraiche and some salt.

I made another melted cheese crouton with a toasted slice of whole wheat bread covered with slices of Jarlsberg cheese and Suzette added slices of cheese to her bowl of soup.  We enjoyed this simple dinner because it had lots of flavor and an interesting array of ingredients.

Amazingly, the soup’s earlier flour flavor and heaviness had dissipated.

We did not drink wine tonight.  I drank a cup of chai made with Earl ?Grey tea and a chai masala seasoning bag with milk and 1/2 tsp. of honey after dinner.

Bon Appetit

Monday, February 26, 2018

February 26, 2018 Dinner – Beef Stroganoff served on cauliflower and Broccoli Couscous with steamed Green Beans

February 26, 2018 Dinner – Beef Stroganoff served on cauliflower and Broccoli Couscous with steamed Green Beans

A strange non-food day.  I worked from 3:30 to 5:30 and then went back to sleep until 8:11 at which time I ate a bowl with two handfuls of granola, a diced ½ mango, an oz. of blue berries, milk and yogurt while I watched Squawk on the Street.  I was intrigued when the President of Allegion spoke about a new program to secure schools with high tech locks and other safety systems called Safe Schools initiative.  I immediately checked out Allegion and found that it owned Schlage lock Company and bought 100 shares.  By the end of the day the stock rose by a dollar, which is a good start.

The market roared today rising almost 400 points, but I was largely unaware of it because I took my vitamins and worked from 10:00 until 3:45.

 Suzette came home around 3:45 and I asked if she could make beef Stroganoff with the Crème fraiche we received at the fermentation workshop yesterday and the PPI rib steak if I went to get some mushrooms.  She agreed so I went to Lowe’s and found a pound container of beautifully fresh white mushrooms on sale for $2.99.  I went home and diced a poblano chili pepper, a medium onion, the PPI rib steak and sliced ½ lb. of the mushrooms.  Suzette has a new way of sautéing mushrooms we really like. I slice the mushroom into ¼ inch thick slices and then she sautés them until they brown and develop a crust that gives them a toothsomeness we find pleasant.

While Suzette was sautéing the mushrooms she also cut flowerets of cauliflower and broccoli off their stem and pulsed them into Couscous sized pieces in the Cuisinart and then sautéed the Couscous in a separate skillet in olive oil.

I snapped the ends off about 1/3 lb. of green beans/haricot vert into bite sized pieces.  I put the string beans into the steamer with some water and after the mushrooms were sautéed and removed from the pan Suzette sautéed the onion and chili in olive oil and butter and then added the meat and finally about 2 or 3 T. of sweet Marsala and started the steamer.

The addition of the Creme fraiche

                                                         The finished mixture

                                           The sautéed Cauliflower and Broccoli Couscous

She then returned the mushrooms to the skillet with the other ingredients and stirred the entire all the ingredients  together.  When the green beans were cooked she added them to the mixture and added the approximately ½ cup of Crème fraiche to the mixture.

We discussed wines and Suzette suggested a Riesling.  I suggested the wine we bought on our trip to the Finger Lakes wine growing area of NY several years ago.  I fetched it and it turned out to be a
2007 Red Newt Gewertztraiminer, but with only 1% residual sugar.  It was a wine we chose after tasting hundreds and still retained its intense fruit and dryness, a good complement to the creamy and
slightly piquant Stroganoff.  Actually the Crème fraiche has a slightly less tangy, creamier flavor than sour cream.

The finished dish 

This was a fabulous dinner created with a new ingredient, Crème fraiche, and delicious char grilled steak and fresh mushrooms browned to perfection and served with a really delicious wine that was pretty low calorie due to the combination with the cauliflower and broccoli Couscous and steamed green beans.

I ate a Persian walnut cookie covered with Nutella for dessert with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Later Willy came over and Suzette steamed some broccoli and plated him the rest of the Stroganoff with the steamed broccoli for his dinner.

We talked until 9:30 when Willy left and we went to bed.

Bon Appetit

February 25, 2018 Brunch – Eggs, Steak, potatoes and onion Dinner – French onion soup

February 25, 2018 Brunch – Eggs, Steak, potatoes and onion  Dinner – French onion soup

At 9:00 we became hungry and decided to make brunch.  I diced 1 ½ baked potatoes, some of the PPI steak from the other night, and the sautéed onions.  Suzette then scrambled those ingredients with eggs.  I heated a flour tortilla and made an open faced burrito. Suzette ate her eggs without a tortilla.  Suzette made a Bloody Mary and I drank a glass of Clamato juice with the juice of ½ lime added.

  •    Scrambled eggs with steak, onions, and potatoes on a heated flour tortilla drizzled with Cholula red                                          chili sauce 

After the news shows ended I went back to bed and slept until 12:30.

I got dressed and went to the kitchen and started making Onion Soup using Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I sliced five onions into thin 1/3 slices vertically and then cut them in half horizontally, so they would fit in a soup spoon.

Meanwhile Suzette made the PPI steak bones and meat from one of the streaks into beef broth by simmering them in water, and chopped celery, carrots, salt and onion.

I had more than five cups of onion, so increased the recipe slightly.  I then sweated the slices in a covered enamel casserole for twenty minutes with 3 -4 T. of butter and 1+ T. of olive oil.

Then I added ½ tsp. of sugar.i did not add salt because Suzette salted the beef broth rather heavily, she said.

After another fifteen or twenty minutes  the onions had begun to brown, so I added 3 T. of flour instead of 3, which was a mistake because it produced a doughy flavor in the soup, which caused me to need to add additional wine and white vermouth and finally a bit of water to adjust the flavor and thickness.

Finally we added the four cups of broth and 1 cup of French Sauvignon Blanc white wine before any other adjustments. I then stripped all the meat left on the bones and diced the pieces of meat and added them to the soup so it was dotted with pieces of beef.

The moral to this cooking experience is, when cooking a Julia Child recipe, follow the recipe when in doubt or properly measure your ingredients.

                                                       The white wine I added
I  ate a quick bowl of soup with a drizzle of cognac and we left for the fermentation workshop at a new shop I had never been to before on 20th St. near the Natural History Museum and the new Chaco Hotel in a new building.

We watched two presentations, the basics for making cheese with milk and vinegar and making a shrub with sugared fruit which is then stabilized with an acid such as vinegar or lime or lemon.

                                               Milk curdling into cheese and whey after vinegar was added

We were given drinks of whey and a berry, lavender, lime shrub that were delicious.

The workshop was from 3:00 to 5:00 and afterward we went home and napped a bit more..

Willy came by for dinner at around 7:00 and I heated up the onion soup and opened a bottle of 2015  Red Valreas Cuvée Prestige Cotes Du Rhone Villages Appellation ($5.99 at Trader Joe’s) which was wonderful with the soup.  Rather than heating bowls of soup in the oven with cheese covered toasted bread croutons, I simply toasted slices of the lovely Bosque Bakery whole wheat bread and lay slices
of Jarlsberg cheese on them and melted the cheese in the microwave for 20 seconds and then lay the croutons on top of the heated soup after Willy ladled it into his soup bowl and did the same for myself.

We drizzled cognac into our individual bowls, so each person served themselves the perfect amount of soup and cognac.

The addition of cognac to flavor the soup at the end covers up any residual flour flavor with cognac flavor.  Those smart French.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February 24, 2018 An Eventful Afternoon and Evening. Lunch – PPI Bouillabaisse. Dinner – Joseph’s Culinary Pub

February 24, 2018 An Eventful Afternoon and Evening. Lunch – PPI Bouillabaisse. Dinner – Joseph’s Culinary Pub

I had a cup of coffee hot chocolate for breakfast while Suzette drank her coffee and we made an 8:15 reservation at Joseph’s Culinary Pub for its Santa Fe Restaurant week prices fixe dinner for $45.00.

Then she left to take a group of her clients on the Slow Food tour of the Valencia Flour Mill that has been in operation since 1914 and I worked.

When Suzette returned around 1:00 we heated the PPI Bouillabaisse and I added shrimp and mussels and we had a bowl of soup for our late lunch.

I noticed that the Men’s Curling final was being re-broadcast so I watched a bit of it and made Suzette watch the brilliant 8th end when the U.S. men scored five points to win the game.  Then at around 2:30 we drove to Santa Fe.  We first went to Stephen’s Consignment.  Then at around 4:00we drove to Owing’s Gallery and admired the ridiculous prices on the art work, hoping ours might sell for such a high price some day. We then drove to Gerald Peters Gallery and enjoyed the contemporary shows he has hung.  I talked to the attendant about several Chuck Close prints (a large “Phil” for $60,000 and a larger “Sienna” for $70,000) I saw and found out that Tiffany Editions was the publisher and that they also published the print of Obama I bought in 2012 for $5,000.  Interesting.

We then drove up Canyon Road and stopped at Ernesto Mayans’ Gallery to check his prices on Arthur Haddock works and talk to him about selling one of mine I no longer want, but he was busy, so we just said hello.

We drove by Zaplin Lambert Gallery a couple of minutes before 5:00 but it was closed (Richard must be on Winter hours and closed early).

So I steered the mini toward the St. Francis Hotel on Don Gaspar at Waters Street.  We parked and walked into The Gruet Tasting room, which used to be the board room meeting room off the lobby, but it was full so we waited a few minutes by the fire in the lobby of the hotel.

When we returned to Gruet and sat at a table, it was a few minutes after 5:00.  The assistant manager recognized us and asked us if we were picking up our allotment and I said “Yes.  She then asked us if we wanted to taste some wine and I said, “Yes”.  Then she said “Shall we start with a glass of Sauvage?” And I said, “Yes.” Affirmation can be a strongly beneficial thing.

We tried the NV Sauvage (which is ,100% Chardonnay), then the Savage Rose (which is 100% Pinot Noir), then she poured the recently released 2014 Vintage Blanc de Noir that had a very perky zesty aspect, not unlike Gruet’s Brut but with much more Pinot fruitiness, then we tasted the 2012 Vintage Blanc de Blanc that has been my favorite because it has such a mellow vanilla flavor but it tasted flat and a bit old compared to the fresh 2014.  We finished up a few minutes after 6:00 with a taste of Gruet’s new sweet champagne named Doux, which has a very peachy flavor. As we tasted we kept changing our minds about what to take as our five bottle allotment, but finally settled on 3 bottles of Sauvage Rose and one bottle each of the 2012 Blanc de Blanc and the 2014 Blanc de Noir.

We then drove to Site Santa Fe for the Friedrich Heinrich Kern Evolution of Silence Tour concert.  We were directed through the museum to the Marlene Nathan Meyerson Auditorium.  We talked to a lady who knew Marty and Marlene and said Marlene died in August.

The music was wonderful, a combination of acoustic piano, electric synthesizer, drum machine, and a glass harmonica.  Kern lightly ran his fingers around the open top edges of vertically stacked open glass tubes nested in a wooden stand of different lengths to initiate sounds.

The vibration of the glass tubes being activated by the tension of the fingers set off vibrations in the neighboring glass tubes that created a harmonic effect; thus a glass harmonica.

The music was very peaceful with silences of a few microseconds between many notes that had a settling effect.

At 8:00 the concert ended and we drove the few blocks to Joseph’s Culinary Pub for our 8:15 dinner reservation.  This year he was offering a three course fixe price meal for $45.00.

There was a rather extensive menu of starters and entrées with a pretty long list of desserts including the famous Cloud Cake.

Here are photos of the menus.

We both selected a salad of arugula, Frisée, and lettuce with food slices of smoked trout and a dill vinaigrette.  It appeared to me that there was also a swirl of basil infused oil on the side of the rectangular plate on which the salad was served.  We liked the salad and I loved the fresh warm dinner rolls served with an herbed whipped butter.

Many of the entrees contained chili.  For example there was a ½ duck confit with a Thai slaw that the waiter waived me off of.  I selected the lasagna with rabbit Bolognese sauce.  Suzette chose the grilled Mahi Mahi served on a bed of creamed turnips and braised Brussels Sprouts and other vegetables.

My lasagna was a mound made by filling and then inverting a 2 inch deep ramekin filled with pasta and clumps of cheese into a bowl and then covering it with a rabbit bolognese sauce (tomato and herbs and rabbit cooked into a thick sauce).

 I ordered an English Aspall Apple cider for $7.00 and Suzette ordered a glass of Albariño white wine for $14.00.

Suzette said her vegetables were rather tough and an odd assortment.  I had the feeling that Joseph’s restaurant menu and presentation were geared to serving a volume of people and that the quality and care spent with each dish I had experienced in prior years had gone down a bit due to the effort to serve a higher volume of people.  That is not to say that the creativity is not there.  My lasagna was among the best I have ever eaten.  Delicious and a wonderful rabbit bologna sauce.
But he no longer needs to introduce his food skills.  Joseph’s skills are so well recognized that the number of people seeking a good meal at a good price has driven him to generate a menu that makes money by serving that greater number of people a reasonable dinner for the money rather than an exceptional meal.

Dessert still shown.  Suzette ordered a chocolate cake in chocolate sauce and I ordered a chocolate Marquis with Crème anglais sauce and berries.

We both ordered decaf coffees that were served in a French press.

The total bill for the meal was $150.00, so not cheap.  I think it did not live up to either of our expectations, perhaps due to all of the restaurant food we ate in Mexico, which made us tired of eating out so much.

Then we drove home and fell into bed.

Bon Appetit

February 23, 2018 Lunch – PPI Bouillabaisse. Dinner – Grilled Rib Steak and Asparagus with a baked potato

February 23, 2018 Lunch – PPI Bouillabaisse. Dinner – Grilled Rib Steak and Asparagus with a baked potato

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

Etienne and Peter came for lunch and I heated up the PPI Bouillabaisse and ran to the Bosque Bakery with Etienne to get a loaf of whole wheat bread.  I brought the aged wheel of Brie into the house and put it on the round wooden cutting board and sliced whole wheat bread and toasted slices and poured glasses of Carayon French rose and we had a simple but elegant meal of Provençal soup, bread, cheese, and wine.

                                              The Bosque Bakery whole wheat bread

                               The aged wheel of Brie from Isigney Ste Mere in Normandy via Costco

   The Bouillabasse

                                                   Peter and Ettiene

  Ettiene’s bowl of soup
                                                    The bottle of Carayon Rose is on the left

We enjoyed our very French lunch a lot.

I baked five russet potatoes at 4:00.  Suzette arrived from her dental appointment a little before 5:00 and finished cooking the potatoes and started prepping the two bone in rib steaks I had thawed.  I snapped the ends off about 16 stalks of asparagus and put them in a plastic produce bag for Suzette to season and douse with olive oil because she wanted to grill asparagus with the steaks.

While Suzette grilled the steaks and asparagus I sliced 1 ½ yellow onions into ½ inch slices and sautéed them in about 1 T. each of olive oil and butter and selected a bottle of Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir from the Santa Margarita Valley and opened it and poured glasses of it.

I squeezed a little liquid beef consommé concentrate onto the onions to see if it would develop a sauce.  It did not.  Instead it stuck to the skillet but it did it flavored the onions.  I chose not to deglaze
the pan with wine or some liquid because I wanted to enjoy the flavor of the first char broiled steak
and asparagus of the year unaltered by a sauce.  Perhaps next time.

Instead I thinly sliced three green onions.

Soon Suzette brought the asparagus in from the grill and wrapped them in aluminum foil to sweat them a bit and then a few minutes later did the same for the two steaks.  We let them continue to cook until we deemed the onions cooked.

Suzette sliced one of the steaks and plated our plates with slices of steak and 8 stalks each of grilled asparagus and a baked potato and put a sautéed slice of onion on the steak slices as a garnish.  I also sliced several radishes to have a fresh vegetable to crunch on.  We put butter, crema sin sal and sliced green onions on the baked potatoes for a delicious accompaniment to the steak and asparagus.  I fetched several more slices of sautéed onion so I could combine bits of beef flavored sautéed onion with each bite of steak or asparagus.  I am not sure if potatoes are on the Paleo diet, but if seemed like a rather Paleo meal, except for the wine.

                                        My baked potato, steak, asparagus and radish dinner

I did not like the wine because it lacked the clean Pinot flavor.  It seemed heavy and laden with a jammyness I associate with Syrah or a young Tempranillo.  I will not buy it again.  Instead I will buy Cherry Blossom at Trader Joe’s which costs less and is a clean tasting Pinot.

I ate a piece of chocolate for dessert with a couple of cups of chai and stayed up to watch the US team win the gold in curling.

Bon Appetit

Thursday, February 22, 2018

February 21, 2018 Lunch - Range Café. Dinner – Seared Salmon Filet with Cream Sauce and Steamed Broccoli

February 21, 2018 Lunch - Range Café. Dinner – Seared Salmon Filet with Cream Sauce and Steamed Broccoli

We had oatmeal with Elaine and then Billy took us to the airport.  Our plane left at 11:00 and arrived in Albuquerque at 1:00.  We decided to go the The Range. Suzette ordered her favorite, Meatloaf with vegetables and mashed potatoes with brown gravy on the meatloaf and white gravy on the mashed potatoes.  The Range serves my favorite chicken fried steak in New Mexico, so I ordered it with white gravy on the fried steak and brown gravy on the mashed potatoes.  The vegetables were a disappointment, fried to over crispy and un-chewable.  Suzette drank a beer and I drank water.

Since it was discount day at El Super, after lunch I went grocery shopping to fill the larder.  I started by going to Sprouts and bought 2 lb. of 13 to 15 count Texas shrimp to the lb., a ½ lb. mahi mahi filet and a 2 lb. filet of fresh Atlantic Salmon for $7.99/lb., a bunch of asparagus for $.98/lb., and granola for $2.99/lb.  I also bought and interesting new item, 1 lb. of frozen mussels in a butter and garlic sauce for $2.99.

I then drove to El Super for its Wednesday fruits and vegetables specials.  I bought avocados and Ataulfo mangoes for 3 for $.99, celery $.50 per head, broccoli, apples, and cauliflower for $.50/lb., red onions for 3 lb. for $.99 and yellow onions and green cabbages for 5lb. for $.99, limes for $.99/lb..  I also bought yogurt for $2.69 for 32oz. and crema sin sal for $2.19/lb. and 20 medium eggs for $2.49.

Suzette was not hungry because of the large lunch, but when Willy arrived at 7:30 we asked him what he wanted and he chose salmon and steamed broccoli.  We suggested poaching the salmon and making a cream sauce with the poaching liquid.  Suzette made a poaching medium with water, white wine, garlic and butter.  She then poached three salmon filets and then reserved the liquid and melted a T. each of butter and flour in the skillet to make a roux to which she added white pepper and salt and then the poaching liquid.  I added a couple T.s of dry vermouth.  I then went to the garage fridge and fetched a bottle of Kirtland Petit Chablis from Costco.

The Petit Chablis was a lovely balance between fruit and tannins.  Chablis is the only wine made with Chardonnay grapes that we drink.  It was great with salmon with cream sauce.

Bon Appetit

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 20, 2018. Airport Food

February 20, 2018. Airport Food

I never thought I would write this type of article, but we found some airplane food we really liked today.

We woke at 4:00 for our 6:30 flight and after a drive that can only be described as a miracle of intuitive navigation through back roads we arrived at the Europcar rental lot in Mérida.  We took the 6:30 flight to Mexico City.

When we arrived in Mexico City, we found a small restaurant in the airport for breakfast.  This shows you how accommodating Mexicans are.  We ordered the cheapest item on the menu, scrambled eggs,
Mexican style, which means with fresh, chopped tomatoes, onions, and chili (in this case slices of fresh Serrano).  Then we handed the waitress the styrofoam container containing the PPI duck in Tamarind Sauce and Spanish rice from our meal at Recova several nights ago and asked her to ask the cook to cook the duck and rice into the eggs like Machaca.

The result was fabulous, Huevos con Pato.  The restaurant made their own soda bread, but we asked for warm corn tortillas, which were soon brought and we ate warm duck and egg tacos dabbed with the refried beans served with the eggs.

                                          Suzette texting in the Mexico City Airport

Few people as a culture express the cooperation and desire to help that I see everywhere in Mexico.  For example, the most common response I hear uttered in Mexico is “Mande”, which I
think means “what is your command?”  As if
 the culture is pre-disposed  to follow your command.  My response today was, “Necisitamos tortillas de Maiz, por favor.”  “It is necessary that we have corn tortillas, please.”

Suzette drank a cup of great Mexican coffee and I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate made with wonderful Mexican chocolate, one of the most famous foods in the world originating from Meso-America.

We left Mexico City at 1:00 and arrived in Dallas in a storm at about 3:30.  Our flight to Albuquerque was not scheduled to depart until 7:02, so we decided to go to a wine bar in DFW Airport named Cru.  It had an extensive wine list with flights of all types of wines.  We also looked at the food menu and were attracted to a dish called lollipop lamb.  When I asked we were told there were four to an order and when I asked if they could be cooked to medium rare, the waitress confirmed that also, so we selected flight number nine, which was 2 oz. pours of three red Pinot Noirs, a Chilean Reserva named Max.  Here are the wine-notes on it.

Winemaker Notes
An intense ruby red color, the Max Reserva Pinot Noir offers sweet aromas that recall rosehip, cherries and pomegranate, along with notes of wet earth and tobacco. A smooth Pinot Noir with refreshing acidity, underpinned by subtle spicy, smoky flavors.
Critical Acclaim
JS90James Suckling
A bright and fruity red with dried berry, cherry and hints of balsamic character. Full body, pretty and savory finish. Delicious.
WS90Wine Spectator
A suave red, with a silky mouthfeel and medium-grained tannins behind the flavors of cherry, plum and hazelnut. The spicy finish is long and rich, revealing accents of sandalwood. Drink now through 2019.

The other two pinots were from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a Van Duzer and a Siduri.

Here are the notes on them.
Winemaker Notes on Van Duzer

On the nose, the wine emanates fireworks of dark red fruits including dark cherries, blueberries, and wild strawberries. Sensual rose petal scents are laced around spicy notes of licorice, ground pepper, and eucalyptus. A viscous attack leads to a bright mid-palate where silky tannins are wrapped around a creamy, velvety structure. The wine finishes with a juicy cherry cola flavor, draped with licorice and barrel-driven spices, leaving an exciting, mouthwatering sensation on the back palate.
Critical Acclaim
WW90Wilfred Wong of
Beautiful and delicate, the 2014 Van Duzer Pinot Noir offers excellent balance and style. The wine's bright red strawberry and light spicy notes pair it supremely with rosemary and black peppercorn accented roast leg of lamb. (Tasted: December 1, 2017, San Francisco, CA)

And Siduri

The most complete and complex Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that Siduri has ever produced. This is a wine that shows the character of the full Willamette Valley. Darker berry and currant flavors, along with hints of cherry joined by earth, dried brush, and even tobacco flavors.

We liked the Max and Siduri better than the Van Duzer with the lamb riblets.

The lamb riblets were cooked to medium rare to rare and were sauced with a red wine demiglace sauce with a few pieces of crisp bacon thrown in, a deeply dark and delicious sauce.

The flights were $14.00 each and the lamb riblets were $18.00, which I thought were fair prices for airport food, especially of this quality.

After finishing our wine tasting and app at Cru, we Airlinked to Terminal A for our Albuquerque flight.

When we arrived at the gate for our flight, we saw that it was delayed so we decided to eat some oysters at Pappadeaux’s Restaurant, which was located about ten gates from our gate.  When we arrived at Pappadeaux’s we took an escalator down one level into a full restaurant.  We sat at the bar so I could watch the USA men’s hockey team beat Slovenia or Slovakia.  We ordered 5 oz. pours of a Grüner Veltliner, which was drier than the Albariño I initially ordered and a dozen Gulf Coast oysters.

The oysters were served in a tray of ice on a wire rack fitted to the tray filled with a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell along with small metal cups filled with horseradish, mignonette sauce, and cocktail sauce plus several slices of lemon.  I immediately dumped a fork full of horseradish into the spicy catsup and squeezed lemon juice into the sauce to create the type of cocktail sauce Suzette and I like, sort of my standard Texas cocktail sauce.

After asking for several more slices of lemon from the bar man, I got the balance of flavors right and we enjoyed some of the best Gulf Coast oysters I have had in years.

This confirmed my need to reassess airport food.  I will never dismiss it again as bland and nutritionally lacking.  It appears we have entered a new era of airport dining supported by vendors of fresh ingredients that equal the quality of any good restaurant.

The rest of the evening proved interesting.  After several more delays, by 7:45 our flight was cancelled, so we took a cab to Billy’s house with a talkative Kurdish driver named Dlawar.

Elaine and Billy welcomed us and served us glasses of Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir and we watched the Winter Olympics with them until 10:00, when they lent us t shirts for pajamas and we went to bed.  Billy offered me a small bowl of lamb stew with strips of onion and red and yellow bell peppers, which was very delicious with the red wine.

We were thankful to be with family instead of relying on the mercy of American Airlines’ Flight Assistance, which when we boarded the taxi appeared to have over 200 stranded travelers waiting in line.

We tried to secure our luggage, but were told it would be a three hour wait, so we took a taxi to Billy and Elaine’s house and our usual guest room accommodations and excellent hospitality, food, wine, and spirits.  I finished with a German pear brandy after my light meal of lamb stew.

Bon Appetit

Monday, February 19, 2018

February 19, 2018 Trip to Progreso

February 19, 2018 Trip to Progreso

We got up and drank some mango juice and put on our bathing suits and drove the 20 miles to Progresso.  We went to two restaurants that were closed and finally drove to the Malacon and parked a block from The Crabmaster.  We walked to the restaurant at 11:30 and were told the kitchen would open at 12:00.  We asked to sit at a table on the beach across the malacon from the restaurant.  We put our toes in the Caribbean and looked for shells for a few minutes, but did not go swimming.  Instead we ordered beers and looked at the menu.  There were lots of things we liked.  We finally settled on stone crab claws, a shrimp cocktel, and a strange dish of grilled octopus and pork belly with tomatoes and cilantro.  I ordered ½ kilo of stone crab which is the same quantity we ordered the other day but there were four of us then, so I over ordered a bit.  The shrimp cocktel was a tall parfait glass filled with the good shrimp from Celestun in a sweet catsup sauce to which we added lime.  The grilled pork was really more like chichorones but the octopus was delicious, if a little salty and dry, but served with a ramekin each of guacamole and a green Chile guacamole that was not very hot.  We finally decided to put everything into the cocktel glass, which produced a salutary result.  The pork and octopus softened, the crab was benefited by the cocktel sauce and the shrimp cocktel had more body and flavor.

A big seafood feast for our last meal in Mexico.

We loved the stone crabs.  Their claw meat is the consistency and flavor of king crab claws, lots of lumps of long grained Snow White lump meat.

The oddest thing of the trip occurred as we ate lunch.  A man walked to the table with commemorative 5 peso coins in his hand that appeared to be brilliant uncirculated.  They looked too good to be true,  but I believed his story that his father worked in the army and was paid with them, so I bought a 1945 1 peso coin and a 1958 5 peso commemorative of Medrano, I think, for 700 pesos, which is $40.00 or $20.00 each.  My first numismatic transaction on  a Mexican beach.

At 2:00 the off shore breeze increased into a light gale and we drove back to Mérida.

After a nap we packed up and took our grips to the car and drove to Premier garage, which is a 24 hour garage.  We then went to the Banamex atm on the plaza and I got 1500 pesos to make sure we had enough for parking and tips for the room attendants.

For dinner I snacked on cheese, bread, a tangerine, chips, an apple and a beer.  Not very exciting but all food we had in our fridge that would be left if not eaten and perhaps penance for an excessive lunch.e

Bon Appetit

February 18, 2018 Breakfast – Sunday Food Market at Zocalo, Lunch – Roses and Chocolate, Dinner – La Negrita

February 18, 2018 Breakfast – Sunday Food Market at Zocalo,  Lunch – Roses and Chocolate,  Dinner – La Negrita

We started by going to the food stalls that surround the Zocalo on Sundays.  We picked one where were a number of persons eating near the Cathedral.  We wanted to try regional dishes we had not had before.  I ordered Caldo de Lima and Suzette ordered two Kibbah.

My soup was clear with lime, cilantro, and roasted turkey in it served with a small pile of fried tortillas.  Suzette’s Kibbah were long shells of bulgur wheat twisted into two tails at their ends and filled with cabbage and served with a light tomato sauce.  I also ordered a coke.  Suzette bought a Starbuck’s coffee at the Starbuck’s connected to our hotel.

Suzette did not like her Kibbah because it was dry grain and left to shop the merchandise vendors around the plaza while I finished breakfast.  I put the uneaten Kibbah into the bowl of caldo and both were better for it.  The soup softened the Kibbah and the Kibbah gave the soup needed body.

After breakfast we walked across the square to Casa Montejo and enjoyed the furnishings in the Banamex collection and a temporary show of the couture by Beatriz Russek, a Mexican fashion designer, that adapts traditional clothing techniques to modern clothing.

We then decided to see the Regional Museum of Anthropology on 60th street at 41st.  We parked and walked to the Museum which is housed in one of the great mansions built during the henequen boom at the beginning of the 20th century.

The exhibit was pieces of Mexia culture, which is what we call the Aztecs, who settled in the Central Valley of Mexico in the 14th century and built Tenouchtitlan that became Mexico City.
After viewing the exhibit while walking back To the car we stopped at an exhibit on chocolate sponsored by a cacao plantation in the State of Tabasco.  They make chocolate without any fat with honey in many different flavors.  We were impressed with the quality and bought an oregano flavored bar for $10.00.

Suzette wanted a drink and so we stopped at the Roses and chocolate Restaurant at the corner of 41st where we had parked our car.

We asked for the drink menu and Suzette ordered a sangria.  I saw a large jug filled with a green drink served to the next table and asked for a food menu.  When I was handed the food menu It became clear that this was a really good restaurant attracted to a boutique hotel.  It was selected the best boutique hotel restaurant in World in 2015 according to the menu  and when we checked its ranking among Mérida restaurants, found it ranked number 21 out of 747 restaurants in Mérida.  We ordered a jug of Hoya Santa and kiwi water, which was delicious; very clean tasting with a hint of sweetness from the kiwi fruit.  Suzette wanted to experiment and ordered a shot of tequila and a few slices of lime and made herself a marguerita, which tasted wonderful.

I noticed a duck breast dish with corn and sausage with a raisin sauce, so we ordered that.

The dish was a complete revelation.  It was beautifully executed to Mexican-French fusion perfection.  The duck at Recova was poached.  On one side of the plate was a duck breast seared to medium rare, laid on a bed of corn kernels that had been sautéed with small squares of onion or shallot.  Beside the duck breast was a long pile of an  oz. of deconstructed sausage that was essentially a dry sauce and on the other side of the plate was a smear of dark Demi-glacé raisin sauce.

This was a totally successful dish.
It made me feel like Mexican food had finally reached the world standard for excellence. I loved the restaurant.

After lunch we decided to go to the big Mayan Museum located near the edge of town next to Costco.  Literally, you drive to Costco, make a u turn (because the museum was too cheap to make their own turn signal probably) and enter the museum’s underground parking lot from the frontage road.  The Mayan Museum is a large modern museum with contemporary exhibits.  I enjoyed it when we found something of interest like where the large meteorite struck that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The display and the attendant described that the test for meteorites is to find if there is any iridium in the stone.  Because Iridium is the scarcest element in the earth’s crust at .001 part per million (ppm), but in meteorites it occurs at 5 ppm.  Testing for presence of iridium is how a rock can be determined to be of extra-terrestrial origin.

The Alvarez hypothesis is based on the dark iridium rich layer of clay dated at 66 million years and hypothesizing that the impact of the large Chicxulub crater on and off the Yucatan Peninsula created the extinction event for the terrestrial dinosaurs. See Chicxulub crater.

There were five or six pieces of core in the museum.  Mérida is located within the impact zone of the crater although the core which is approximately 100 miles across is now 3000 feet below Mérida.  The Publication of the evidence of this event is recent, dating back to only 1980.  So the exhibit was pretty exciting.

I must admit that in found the historic exhibits of ancestral Mayan cultures less exciting.  The ceramics and painted plaster murals were interesting but most of the carved limestone Stella were so badly worn as to be indecipherable.

Although there were many labels in English, we were not particularly interested in the Mayans cosmogony.   Of course the Jaina ceramics were lovely, as were the utilitarian objects made of jade and obsidium.

We left the museum at 4:30 and returned to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours.

Then at 7:30 we decided to walk to the best rated bar in Merida, which had an Afro-Cuban band on Sundays, La Negrita.  When we arrived the bar and dance floor was packed, but there were tables open in the side room.  We ordered a liter of sangria for 65 pesos, but it was very sweet and not particularly alcoholic.  So, Suzette ordered a Bohemia and we decided to split the Sunday special of six tacos, 2 each of cochinita pibil, egg emollata, and one other type for 60 pesos. I also ordered a Bohemia beer.  The crowd was mostly 20 to 30 year olds; more affluent, educated and younger than the hard core drinkers at Las Vigas.  After an hour we left and as we walked home stopped at a shop that had quality designed shoes and cotton blouses.  Suzette bought a pair of shoes made from jute and a lovely cotton blouse for $50.00.

I passed on the guayaberas shirts made from 100% cotton and Italian linen for $30 to $40 each, because I am happy with the wonderful rayon and cotton shirts I have bought at Goodwill for $5.00 each.

We returned to the hotel and were in bed by 9:30 after another full day of activity and interesting food in Mérida.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 17, 2018. Brunch – Chava Maya. Uxmal Dinner – Tacos al Pastor and Recova at Santa Lucia Plaza

February 17, 2018. Brunch – Chava Maya. Uxmal
Dinner – Tacos al Pastor and Recova at Santa Lucia Plaza

We slept in a bit getting out at about 10:00 to eat breakfast.  We decided to try Chava Maya.  I ordered Chillequilles with black mole and turkey. Although I would have enjoyed some eggs, I found the chillequilles surprisingly satisfying.  I have decided that my system seems to be benefited by consuming chocolate and black mole is a good source of chocolate.

At 11:30 we finally left town after cashing $100.00.

We drove to Uxmal, stopping first across the highway at the chocolate museum, where we bought chocolate slurries, chocolate mixed with ice and sugar.

We then entered Uxmal, which seems to be larger and more developed than Chichen Itza.  We walked around the site which has several different platforms from different epochs. We loved the Puuc architecture from around 800 a.d. with its sharp angles at the edges of temples and highly articulated masks in part due to the builders’ mastery of the use of mortar and stucco.

Uxmal is a really beautiful site.  Perhaps the reason I liked it better was because there were no vendors inside the archeological site’s perimeter, which gave it a more undisturbed tranquil atmosphere for me. I felt I was in more direct communion with the
Mayan spirits that inhabited these buildings a 1000 years ago.

After visiting Uxmal for several hours we drove back toward Merida but turned off the road at Cacao to swim in a cenote.  There were actually three cenotes on the commun property of San Antonio.  The one  we chose was very natural without any of the commercialization of Ik Kill.  The natural vegetation was wonderful, although in one area the guppies nipped at my dead skin, which I did not like, so we swam to the other side of the cenote there were fewer large guppies.

The water temperature was warmer than Ik Kill.  Today’s cenote’s water temperature seemed to be around 80, compared to 80 or 81 at Celestun and 76 degrees at Ik Kill (which made it too cold for us to enjoy swimming).

Let my emphasize how completely different our experience was today than yesterday due to the absence of commercialization.  Yesterday I experienced everything I dislike about Mexico, mainly the crass commercialization of vendors plying their wares at every turn and the total commercialization of a beautiful cenote to accommodate masses of people, where we spent 200 pesos before you ever got to the water and then discovered it was too cold to swim in..

We lingered for a half hour in the San Jacinto cenote with four to six others until 5:00, the designated closing time, and then drove back to Mérida convinced there were lots of things to see and do around Mérida that were relatively untouched by the hand of total commercialization

We changed clothes and walked down to the north end of the Zocalo and turned left and walked to the Tacos al Pastor restaurant, where we ordered two tacos and a coke each.  Suzette thought the tacos were dry and wanted some real food since she had not eaten much during the day, just a bit of my breakfast and a tangerine and a few bites of apple.

I suggested La Recova at Santa Lucia Plaza and Suzette googled it and saw that it featured crispy duck in tamarind chili sauce, which was enough to convince us to walk the three or four blocks to La Recova.

When we arrived we were offered and took a table under the portal next to the park.  When we sat down and were given menusSuzette immediately saw two interesting appetizers, Shrimp Papazulle, which is several shrimp stuffed with scrambled egg served on four enchiladas filled with egg and chopped shrimp and drizzled with a white pipian sauce.  I chose an appetizer of grilled breaded sweetbreads served on a sizzling platter with grilled onions with a wooden box of hand made tortillas.  I loved both appetizers although the sweetbreads were too stringy and doughy for Suzette, not the elegant deveined, thinly sliced, lightly floured, and sautéed that my mother made and most French restaurants make.  Suzette ordered the crispy duck which was served with an inverted ramekin of Mexican rice seasoned with tomatoes, peas, and carrots.  The dish included ½ duck, which was not crispy, but more stewed like the turkey used in many dishes.  We ate bot without objection, being firm believers of “when in Mexico, eat like the locals eat”.

 After the filling appetizers, we could not come close to eating all of the duck, so we had our waiter pack the remaining duck and tortillas, wine and the artesian water that cost 100 pesos per 750 ml. into plastic bags to take home.

When I drank the artesian water I had a Déjà vu experience of drinking the water in the building where my father’s office when I was growing up. It was built over an artisan spring and all the fountains spouted artisan water just like the water we were served tonight.  How cool is that!

We walked back to the Gran aHotel and sat down on a bench in the park facing 60th St.m which was alive with people and activity.  The block between the Zocalo and the end of the Park in front of our hotel was closed to traffic.  The restaurants beside the park were allowed to place tables and chairs out to the middle of the street for dining while the rest of the street on the park side of the street was a pedestrian walking street.  The half block between our hotel entrance and the Zocalo, where there were no restaurants, was open across the entire street and street entertainers gathered in that area to entertain the crowds of people. We enjoyed the festive Saturday night’s activity for several minutes and then went to our room around 10:30.  We ate José Cuervo tequila filled chocolates and the two macaroons made by Kuuk as Suzette read and I blogged while listening to a street performer play jazz on a tenor sax until we dozed off.

Bon Appetit

Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 16, 2018 Day trip to Celestun to see the flamingos. Breakfast – Pita Lunch – Los Pompanos in Celestun Dinner – La Casa de mi Tia

February 16, 2018 Day trip to Celestun to see the flamingos. Breakfast – Pita  Lunch – Los Pompanos in Celestun Dinner – La Casa de mi Tia

We got up, showered and dressed and left the hotel around 8:30.  The place we were looking for was closed so we stumbled onto Pita near Santa Lucia church.  I ordered the Omelet Del Mar breakfast for 146 pesos.  I first received a plate with four ramekins , one of cream cheese, one of guacamole, one of feta cheese and the fourth one filled with natural yogurt and granola plus a glass of orange juice and a plate filled with slices of cantaloupe and papaya.  Suzette ordered Muselaneas??  A plate with two fried eggs on top of a corn tortilla smeared with refried black beans covered with a mild red sauce and garnished with diced ham, Gouda cheese, and green peas for about 86 pesos with coffee.

Then I was served a large 14 inch platter with a large omelet filled with shrimp and squid on one side and a salad of iceburg klettuce and tomato wedges dressed with a sweet mustard dressing.

After breakfast we met Amiday and Elksie a their hotel and walked the  block to our car and drove to Celestun.  When we arrived at the beach at Celestun a vendor rep for a cooperative of boats that take tourists on tours of the flamingoes for 250 pesos each.  We took the two hour tour.

The tour went from the beach front a couple of miles to the point where the estuary meets the Caribbean and then turned into the estuary and retraced our route in the estuary.  The town of Celestun sits on the barrier island that lies between the estuary of a river and the ocean.

There were many small fishing boats and the bottom was rather shallow, perfect for flamingoes to stand and forage on the small brackish water shrimp that live in the estuary.  There is a large mangrove swamp along the estuary that is a protected eco zone.

Wikipedia states:
Celestún is a town in Yucatán, Mexico. It is located in the northwest corner of the state, just north of the border with the state of Campeche, on the Gulf of Mexico coast at 20°51.5′N 90°24′W. In 2000, it had a population of just under 6,000 people; however, the population swells to 10,000 during the octopus hunting season. It is mostly a fishing town, with a 19th-century lighthouse (as well as a more modern one) and an abandoned historic Hacienda[citation needed]. Besides fishing, Celestún also produces salt, as it has done from pre-Columbian times[citation needed]. Tourism is also making up an increasing portion of the town's economy, as the community has many kilometers of sand beaches and abundant wildlife.

Coordinates: 20°51′30″N 90°24′0″W

Surrounding the town is the 147,500-acre (600 km²) Parque Natural del Flamenco Mexicano (also known as the "Celestun Biosphere Reserve"), a wetland reserve that is the winter home to vast flocks of flamingos, as well as many herons and other bird species. This location is set within the Petenes mangroves ecoregion.[4] In addition, more than 200 species of birds pass through on migration, or live there.[5] Celestun's ecosystem is unique because of a combination of fresh water from the estuary and salt water from Gulf of Mexico. The reserve also has two types of pelicans - large white Canadian and smaller gray Mexican ones. Celestun is also known as a hatching ground for endangered sea turtles. Wildlife conservationists have an ongoing project to protect the sea turtles from encroaching modernization.”

The boat driver took us to within feet of a flock of flamingoes for pictures and cut the engine.  Then he went up river past the bridge into Celestún to see another flock of flamingoes.  Then he turned into the mangrove swamp and took us through a channel cut through a section of mangroves to see the mangrove forest. Finally he stopped the boat at a dock in the river next the ojo de aqua de Balestora, a spring rising within the mangrove swamp, where a wharf had been constructed and cat walks to the spring.  There was a swimming area between the estuary and the Spring.  There were folks swimming, so I went in and Suzette, Amiday, and Etskie followed.  The water was much warmer than Ik Kill cenote yesterday, I guess around 82 degrees, so very refreshing.

I had not swam in a mangrove swamp spring since the one in San Blas in 1967.  Both experiences were wonderful.

We then returned to the beach front at high speed that pounded us against the waves of an incoming tide that made one realize why this type of narrow thirty foot long boat is called a pongo.

When we reached the beach we walked to the nearest large restaurant “Las Pompanos” and took a table facing the beach.

Amiday ordered calamari a la plancha (grilled squid) and a guacamole salad.  Suzette and I researched the menu in detail and saw the sign in front of the restaurant that featured stone crab claws.  Suzette immediately ordered a lb. of stone crab claws.  She also ordered a cocktail of the local shrimp.  I guess she was thinking if the shrimp were good enough to attract the flamingos to winter here, they must be good.  The imagined hearing one flamingo say to another, “Where are you going this Winter?” and the other answering “I’m going to Celestun, the shrimp are wonderful.”

I ordered a grilled hog fish, which I have never eaten before.  It had an ugly toothy snot, but its flavor was like almost any other fish grilled and flavored with garlic butter sauce.  We asked for drawn garlic butter for the stone crabs and another guacamole and corn tortillas.  We drank beers and the whole meal was 1013 pesos, which Amitday and Esktie graciously paid.

Estkie is a psychotherapist with international credentials and Amitday owns a consulting engineering firm specializing in large ecological projects in Israel, such as how to get rid of the build up of salt solids in the south end of the Dead Sea.  The solution was to ship them north by conveyor belt and liquify them in the inflows of water from the river in the north.

Amazingly, the shrimp were wonderful.  The only comparable I have ever had were in Denmark and Oslo, which were also small plump brackish water shrimp.

After a leisurely lunch we drove back to Mérida from the west and said Shalom to Amiday and Estkie.

After a shower at our hotel we dressed and walked to the plaza and went upstairs to La Casa de mi Tia, a restaurant overlooking the Zocalo.

We were not hungry, so we ordered two large mojitos and a crepes Suzette, which were made table side as we sat on a small balcony overlooking the Zocalo in easy view of the Cathedral where there was another wonderful light and sound presentation celebrating the Cathedral.

After we enjoyed our Crepes Suzette and mojitos, we walked back the one block to our hotel and bed

Bon Appetit

Friday, February 16, 2018

February 15, 2018 Chichen Itza. Dinner – Las Vigas

February 15, 2018 Chichen Itza. Dinner – Las Vigas

Today we started by taking the bus to the Fiesta Americana hotel shopping complex to pick up our car at Europcar.  It was Chevrolet Spark, a bit larger than the mini without the horsepower.

We drove to a supermercado where we bought Bolillas, ham, sliced cheese, water, beer, mayonnaise, tangerines, apples, sun tan lotion, bug repellant, and an interesting 7 oz.  tube of Jose Cuervo tequila filled chocolates totaling just over 500 pesos.

We made ham and cheese sandwiches in the parking lot when we returned to the car at around 11:00 for a quick brunch and then drove the 1 hour and 45 minute drive to Chichen Itza in the direction of Cancun on a good 4 lane highway.  We spent two hours circumnavigating the large archeological site.  There were three areas I wanted to see, the sacred cenote, the main pyramid (el Castillo), and the Observatory.  We saw them all by a path circling the main pyramid.  What is different from when I first visited 40 years ago, is the organization for thousands more tourists and the profusion of vendors.  Every pathway to each of the three areas we visited was lined with stalls of souvenirs and vendors hawking their wares, which mostly looked identical to me, as if bought from souvenir Central.  Suzette loved it because it made her feel that she was in a living commercial zone, perhaps as it was during the Classical Mayan times.

I was experiencing a fair amount of pain in my right leg, so my feelings were not a generous.

Suzette bought a silver arm bracket of a serpent that was quite nice.

We returned to the car a bit after 3:00 and shared a cold Negra and then drove to Ik Kill Cenote, which is a well developed commercial swimming area in a cenote. centered in a privately owned historic unexcavated Mayan ruin about 2 ½ miles from Chichen Itza. We put on our bathing suits and walked down the stairs to the water level about 50 feet below ground level, but found the water too cold to swim, so we enjoyed the view inside the cenote with its hanging vines and then walked back out and drove back to Mérida, arriving at a little after 5:00.  We parked the car in a garage two blocks from our hotel for 150 pesos per day and paid for four days.

When we returned to our room we were really hungry.  We checked several guides and chose Las Vigas because it was recommended to have cheap drinks and tasty food.  We walked the four or five blocks to it.  When we arrived it was packed with folks drinking buckets of 25 peso beers.  It looked liked a working class bar and restaurant.  Suzette ordered a 20 peso margarita and I ordered a 25 peso Bohemia.  Suzette then ordered BBQ Pork ribs (“Costillas”) and I ordered a chicken breast covered with mole sauce.  Suzette’s ribs were delicious but the accompanying French fries were cold.  My chicken breast was pounded flat, which was nice, but the sauce was not exceptional.

We were happy to eat but will not go back because of the average food and noisy atmosphere.

Bon Appetit

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 13, 2018 Fly to Merida. Dinner – Chava Maya

February 13, 2018 Fly to Merida. Dinner – Chava Maya

Going to Mexico in some respects is traveling from a known culture into an unknown culture.  That is the charm and wonder that keeps drawing us back to Mexico, but I can see how it can be a little frustrating if one is irrefutably connected to U.S. culture. I will give two or three examples from today’s events to illustrate the cultural differences.

We awakened for our 6:05 a.m. flight on American Airlines at 4:00.  I showered and dressed and we left the house at 4:35.

We flew to Phoenix we ate breakfast at an airport restaurant named Bravo located across from our departure gate for our American Airlines flight toMexico City.  We each ordered a Machaca Burrito without the tortilla and with tomatoes and fewer jalapeño peppers, which resulted in our receiving a a 2 ½ by 6 or 7 inch long styrofoam container filled with a mixture of eggs scrambled with strands of roast beef, jalapeño peppers, onions, sprinkled with fresh chopped tomatoes. After a minute I asked Suzette, “can you eat a corn tortilla,” When she answered, “Yes.”  I asked the attendant if we could if we could have a corn tortilla and she immediately shouted through the open window into the kitchen  tortillas that had been heated in oil appeared at the window.  I thought we could only eat one Machaca filled tortilla, but there was so much Machaca that we filled two tortillas with lots of Machaca left over.  Here is a picture of one tortilla being filled with Machaca.

We boarded the flight to Mexico City at about 9:30 a.m..  It was a four hour flight across most of Mexico.  We decided that customs would not allow us to bring food into Mexico, so I ate the bagel I had made the night before smeared with cream cheese and garnished with slices of Lax and onion and Suzette ate a brownie and a piece of coffee cake Jerry made for the Sunday night BBQ dinner to honor Sandy’s passing that Billy and Elaine had packed for us.

We arrived in Mexico City and made our way to the Internet ticket counter for our internal flight to Merida around 2:00.  We were now on Mexican time.  The flight was scheduled for 3:55.

We were told to “Check back at 3:00.”

Then at 3:15 the departure board showed “delayed 20 minutes.”

When were sent to gate 10 to wait to board at around 4:00 only to find the crew waiting for the arrival of the in bound flight.  Finally it arrived around 4:30 and we boarded at around 5:00.  None of the Mexicans seem to be upset about the delay so we waited patiently along with them accepting our fate as the normal course of events on Mexican time.

The three hour flight meant that we arrived in Merida after 8:00.  We went to the rental counter and told the employee that we had decided to wait two days to pick up our rental car.  He smiled and wrote down the address for the in town rental bureau where we could pick up a car on Thursday and we bade him farewell.

We took a taxi to the Gran Hotel, the oldest hotel in Merida, dating from 1907, and were shown to our room.

We then walked three blocks up 60 th St. on which our hotel was located, which is one of the main streets in Merida to Sta. Lucia Plaza to a recommended restaurant featuring Typical Yucatan Cuisine.  We tried to order venison but were told that it was served only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Of course, who would consider ordering venison on Tuesday, just because it was the suggested house specialty on the menu?

We ordered a dish called the Three Musketeers that was three crepes, each covered by a different sauce, pipian sauce (a sauce made by roasting and then grinding squash seeds into a paste) on one with without tomato and annatto (achiote in Spanish) and one without tomato and annatto (achiote in Spanish) and the third with a very interesting black mole that was a little less sweet and a little more picante than the variety we tasted in Oaxaca last year.  The most interesting aspect of the dish were the three lines of creamed banana extruded from a pastry sack that formed the separations between each section of the dish with their separate sauces.  We had never had creamed bananas, so we asked how it was made and our waiter said the bananas are grilled until soft and then combined with heavy cream.

The banana sauce was thick, sweet, and creamy.  Our first introduction to the virtuosity of Yucatecans’ utilizing indigenous fruits into their dishes.

We drank beers with dinner and walked back to the hotel happy around 10:30.

Bon Appetit

February 11, 2018 Lunch – Nate’s Dinner – Hutchins’ BBQ, zucchini salad, fennel and celery salad, roasted sweet potatoes, baked beans

February 11, 2018 Lunch – Nate’s   Dinner – Hutchins’ BBQ, zucchini salad, fennel and celery salad, roasted sweet potatoes, baked beans

I woke up at 8:15 just in time to see Meet the Press and eat another NY bagel with garlic and herb cream cheese, Lax, red onion, and red tomato slices with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Then a little before 11:00 we drove up Dallas North Parkway to pick up
the 10 lb. of ribs and three lb. of pulled pork at Hutchins’,  I was amazed when we arrived to see Hutchins’ parking lot nearly full and lots of folks eating in the restaurant.  We put the 13 lb. of BBQ into the trunk and dove back south to IKEA.

I went to the cafeteria and ate a marzipan covered round of white cake covered with a thin smear of raspberry preserves and a mound of whipped cream with a cup of tea with half and half.

 When Suzette finished shopping upstairs she came to fetch me and we went downstairs.  She bought a lamp, bug netting, and napkins.  Then down stairs we bought tea towels and I bought a jar of herring, a pack of knaekebrod, two chocolate bars and four boxes of my favorite dessert, a marzipan covered rum ganache.

We drove back to Billy’s and dropped off the BBQ.  Suzette had a hankering for oysters and Billy recommended Nate’s on Midway at Pipeline Rd. North of LBJ, so we drove there.  Nate’s was packed.  We ordered a dozen fried oysters with a blood6 Mary for Suzette and a Marti Gras beer for me.  Everyone was eating large platters of crawfish so we ordered 1 lb. with regular seasoning.  The other two choices were turbo and rinsed.  Next time we will get rinsed.  Regular has grains of chili on each crawfish, which I found too spicy.  We then ordered a dozen shucked oysters on the half shell, which were delicious with a cocktail sauce Suzette made with catsup, lemon juice, and grated horseradish.

By 4:00 we had eaten and were on our way back.

We took showers and dressed for dinner and travel and Suzette repacked the grips so we could carry all our IKEA purchases back to Albuquerque.

At 5:00 family started arriving; Susan and Charlie and their son , Phillip, and Daughter, Rachel, with her husband James and Elaine’s mom, Rita, and her brother, Jerry, and his wife, Mariam, plus Rebecca and Mickey.

Besides the BBQ, Rebecca had made a zucchini salad with capers.  Elaine made roasted sweet potatoes and a shaved fennel and celery salad. Billy heated some beans with bell peppers.

We ate to excess.

Then after dinner we ate some desserts.
Jerry brought a dish of brownies made with Sandy’s recipe  and we sliced a cinnamon cream cake Elaine’s friend Shawna brought us.

I poured small glasses of Eden ice cider from Vermont tha5 I had bought in Taos last weekend and Billy. Poured Bartlett’s Apple Brandy we had bought him in Massachusetts this last summer.

Everyone started leaving at 8:00 and we said goodbye and Billy drove us to Love Field at 8:40 for our 10:00 flight back to Albuquerque.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, February 11, 2018

February 10, 2018 Grocery shopping in Dallas. Dinner – Mercury Restaurant

February 10, 2018  Grocery shopping in Dallas. Dinner – Mercury Restaurant

Billy went to the gym and Elaine made us steel cut oatmeal, which we ate with slices of banana and milk.  I added a pinch of brown sugar to mine and Suzette added a pinch of salt to hers.

Then we went shopping for groceries to cook and serve all the family members on a Sunday at the big BBQ dinner at Billy and Elaine’s house.

Sarah, Elaine’s sister, and her husband, Charlie, and their grown children Rachel and Phillip were flying in for Sandy’s funeral so,  I wanted to buy some cheese and baguettes to serve as snacks for folks who would visit and sit with the family.

After ordering 10 lb.s of pork ribs and three lb.s of pulled pork for pick up on Sunday Elaine drove us to three stores.  The first was Eatzi’s, a specialty grocery specializing in prepared dishes for take out.  On one side of the store is a cold line that makes salads.  On the other side of the store is a hotline that puts together to go containers of cooked dishes.  In the middle is an island surrounded by cold prepared dishes.  I went to the island first and asked the attendant to pack me a lb. of chicken salad with grapes, which she put in a 2 inch deep clear plastic tub ($10.99/lb.),  Elaine fetched a whole wheat and a white flour baguette.  Then I started looking at cheeses.  There was a display with a cream cheese smear seasoned with garlic and herbs and slices of baguette, so I tried it and liked it, so the attendant showed me where the smears were and I selected a container with two large balls of garlic and herb cream cheese for $5.49.

We then went to Sprouts where Elaine bought more sweet potatoes and Zucchini for the side dishes for Sunday’s BBQ dinner.

Elaine then drove us to the Central Market at Preston and Royal, which is high rent commercial area.  The store was huge but not quite as large as the big CM Billy drove us to on Greenville yesterday for fish.  This store seemed to have a larger cheese section with a more experienced cheese staff.  I bought a wedge of Spanish Cabrales blue cheese.  Suzette a French goat cheese dusted with wood ash.  I was looking for a semi hard cheese and asked an attendant if they had Leyden, since there were no wedges of it and he said yes and lifted a whole approximately 20 lb. wheel of it that was leaning on the wall behind the cheese cases and asked me how much did I want.  I asked the price and when he sad $11.99/lb., I said “1 lb.”.

He then cut the wheel into two halves vertically on the table of his large wire cheese cutter and then cut one of the half wheels vertically to create a quarter wheel.  Then he cut one of the quarters  into
halves horizontally to create two two inch thick quarter rounds.  I indicated I wanted my wedge from the thicker side.  He weighed the quarter wedge, which was just a bit under three lb., and then cut me a wedge with the wire cutter that was just over 1 lb.  I was dazzled by the cheese cutting spectacle and thanked him for cutting me a fresh wedge.  He cut a small chunk off the other wedge and gave tastes to the lady standing next to me and Suzette and Elaine.  A very lovely cheese experience.
There was a special on Delice, the French triple cream Brie style cheese made with a more acidic rennet  for $9.99 for a small wheel that looked to be a bit over ½ lb.  We bought one of those also.

We then drove home.  Billy and Elaine went to Plano to arrange funeral arrangements for Sandy and I took a nap until 2:30 when we drove to Love Field to pick up Rebecca and Micky. Rebecca brought us jars of  tomato jam and peach and vanilla jam she had made at Micky’s family’s house on Martha’s Vineyard last summering fresh bagels from a famous bakery near her apartment in NYC.

I cut one bagel in half and spread some cream cheese on both halves and then slices of fresh Leyden and ate them with real relish.  The bagel was soft and chewy and the Leyden was so creamy it practically melted in my mouth.  The best food experience of the day, after the elaborate cheese cutting demo at CM.

At 6:15 we drove to Mercury Restaurant, casual fine dining restaurant located in a strip center at Preston and Forest.  The menu was all about meat, a few appetizers, a few fish and poultry dishes, and lots of chops of beef.  Suzette and I both chose the lamb shank served with polenta and roasted vegetables.  Billy, Elaine, Rebecca, and Micky had a bit of trouble navigating all the steak choices, because the menu described something that was not available, a double porterhouse, so Micky, Elaine and Rebecca decided to split a 30 oz. porterhouse and a 9 oz. filet mignon.  This was Micky’s first visit to Dallas and he seemed thrilled to be eating a real Texas steak dinner.  Billy ordered a 16 oz. ribeye steak. The pre were three side dishes ordered also, French fries, sautéed mushrooms in a very pleasant a jus sauce, and Brussels sprouts.

I also ordered an appetizer of a seared slice of foie gras served on a foie gras flavored flan garnished with sautéed mushrooms in a sweet sauce.  A rather elegant presentation.  Our waiter was kind enough to bring six small plates and I cut the piece of foie gras and the flan into six sections and served each person a small plate with a taste of foie gras, flan and several mushrooms.

The wines were all expensive, so I picked one of the least expensive ones, a Frogs Leap Zinfandel /Petit Syrah blend from Napa for $62.00.  With all the meat we needed two bottles.

The two steak combo was impressively served on a large wooden serving tray with the porterhouse t-bone standing up in the middle.

Here is a picture of the dishes.

Suzette was the first to notice that there were thin slivers of preserved lemon in the roasted vegetables.  What a surprise.  The polenta was also creamy and deliciously flavored with cheese and the shank was cooked to perfection so that at the touch of a fork the meat fell off the shank bone.  I was totally impressed that there was a really creative, proficient chef in the kitchen.

I had seen the name of the chef/owner as we entered the restaurant but it was not until I wrote this blog that I checked the Mercury website and saw that there really was a creative, proficient chef in the kitchen.  Here is the Mercury’s website description of Chris Ward.

(Executive Chef and Partner Chris Ward, the recipient of many accolades including “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard House Foundation and “Best Chef in Dallas” by D Magazine, invites you to experience imaginative, award-winning cuisine in a sophisticated setting with a casual
neighborhood atmosphere at The Mercury, one of Dallas’ treasured fine dining experiences since

So Billy picked a really good restaurant with both imaginative dishes and the best quality steaks, the perfect menu for upscale North Dallas diners. The restaurant is probably within two miles of George Bush’s home.  Think George Bush as the restaurant’s model diner, a rich well travelled Texas oil man.  God bless them for keeping this gem of a restaurant going.

The restaurant was filled on one of the nastiest nights of the year. A freezing drizzle awaited us when we left the restaurant.

When we returned home Billy and Elaine made a special dessert for us.  They opened a bottle of German cherries preserved in kirschwasser they bought thirty years ago on one of their first trips to Germany or Switzerland and Billy heated the PPI chocolate ganache from last night’s dinner and we made parfaits of vanilla ice cream, brandied cherries and chocolate sauce.

As I took a bite of the re-hardened chocolate sauce that I had poured over the ice cream and kirschwasser and cherries I had a déjà vu moment of eating my first Dilly bar at DQ in my youth.

Bon Appetit