Category Archives: Food

Ceviche in Lima

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, we had lunch at La Mar Cebicheria in Lima, Peru. Oh my. We sat at the bar and had a view of two pastry chefs creating desserts — apple pie, chocolate cake, and these fried dough things called (I think) Picarones. Served with a honeyed syrup. Yes, we had to order them.

Ceviche combinado– catch of the day (see above) with friend calamari. Followed by scallops tiradito con leche de tigre. No, it’s not really tiger’s milk, but some kind of sauce.

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15: Lucky and pampered

15: lucky and pampered

We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Casa Domenech, to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the day we met. We met by chance at the Emily Morgan Hotel bar in San Antonio, Texas. Life has never been the same, and it’s never been better.

My husband talked to Ray Domenech, the owner, and let him know we were celebrating our anniversary and asked if we could bring one of our prized bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir. (Folks as what we miss, living in Mexico, and I always say: “Our friends and Oregon Pinot Noir.”)

When we arrived, Ray asked if we wanted the regular menu or whether we wanted something “special.” He knows I don’t eat meat or mushrooms and said he would make us something. We said, “Great!” Ray rolled out four courses of colorful food wth unexpected combinations, rich sauces, and regional Mexican specialty ingredients. Oh, and there were two after-dinner drinks.

Rafa Torres, one of our favorite local musicians, sang us some special songs, supplementing the excellent jazz duo that plays there regularly on Mondays. How fortunate are we?? Our hearts are so full! (And our bellies were, too.)

I wanted to get this post up so you could see how well we were pampered for our anniversary evening. Alas, I don’t have the names of some of the unfamiliar ingredients, but here goes:

1: Fish topped with a reduction of strawberries, tomatoes, and onion. Grilled nopal topped with cooked veggies, kiwi, and a magical chile sauce. Center: chipotle chutney/sauce/marmalade.

2: Pasta with veggies, cheese, grated mango, and a savory nut mixture from Cuetzalan, Puebla.

3: Shrimp served over toasted bread and guacamole. More delish chipotle chutney.

4: Bean and potato tostada. (My sweetheart had a meat tostada.). Rafa playing in the background.

And: margarita and herbally liqueur from Cuetzalan.

And these two? Lucky, happy, and extremely pampered and well-fed.

Art and cheese

Random observations: art, cheese, etc.

We went to a big three-day art fair held at the Chapala Yacht Club. Artisans come from all over Mexico, mostly from rural places where arts and crafts traditions are still hanging on. The fair pays for their transportation and doesn’t charge them any booth fees etc. The variety of art was overwhelming to look at — weavers (some of them weaving right there), yarn work, wood carving, bone carving, paintings, ceramics, yarn art, beadwork, masks, leather goods, and more.

We walked and looked for a long time and finally bought a few small things. We bought lunch at the food booths and enjoyed sitting on the lawn at the Yacht Club, watching birds and boats. After lunch an all-woman mariachi band played and they were fabulous!

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When high altitude gives you flat cookies, make ice cream sandwiches

When high altitude gives you flat cookies, make ice cream sandwiches

Lots of posting about our travels here in Mexico lately but not much about cooking. Yes, I’ve been cooking. Not as much as usual, but some. I will learn new things while cooking here: unfamiliar ingredients, converting Fahrenheit to Celsius, high-altitude baking, different dishes.

The other night, I made a cabbage/potato/white bean dish that I made often in Oregon. I decided to make this when my husband spotted some good-looking cabbage at the Soriana store in Chapala. An aside, Soriana is my new favorite store here. It’s not very close to the house, but I really liked it. They had nice produce, good selection of grocery staples, a bakery with fresh french bread, and (the target of our trip there) FANS. I guess it’s kind of like a WalMart or Fred Meyer (for Pacific NW readers): food plus housewares plus electronics etc. Soriana also had a bag of textured soy protein which I will try once the weather turns welcoming for chili and sloppy joes.

Back to the cabbage dish, I didn’t see any great northern or navy beans at Soriana, but did find these. Yum, were they good, and they kept nicely intact.

I picked up some nopales at the Wednesday market. Don’t know what they are? Cactus pads. The vendor was taking the spines off, so how could I resist? I boiled them up with a little onion and garlic and then my husband scrambled them into eggs. Nopales perhaps have the texture of a green bean but are much more tart, kind of citrusy. I will make a salad with the cooked ones that didn’t make it into the eggs, with some olive oil and maybe crumbled cheese.

I did some Googling about high-altitude baking and adjusted my chocolate chip cookie recipe by decreasing leavening and sugar and adding a little water and some extra flour. They seemed to take forever to bake (I turned up the oven on the second tray-ful) and came out tasting good but being flat. I deciced to made them into ice cream sandwiches and they were perfect for that.

I definitely need more cookie testing, and I am on the lookout for an oven thermometer to help in my experimentation.

Limited Menu Travel

Vege-Pesca-Tarian Travel

I miss a lot of local culinary delights by not eating meat. I miss tiny storefronts with great deals on tacos. I miss the cool hamburger places. I miss the grills roasting chickens on the street. I miss the gyros stands. The authentic BBQ joints. Often, I (and my patient husband) have to walk further and look harder to find a place that has some kind of non-meat option. When tired and hungry, this isn’t always the best thing. And sometimes it leads to really limited food options. In Mexico, maybe that’s quesadillas. They are yummy but not the most healthy choice if you are travelling multiple days. Other places, it might mean a salad. No offense to salads, but to me, they are not a meal — unless they have a bunch of beans, cheese and/or nuts on them, which is not often the case when travelling.

Dang, sometimes I wish I liked meat so I could experience the small limited-menu restaurants and local specialties. Like Chiles Nogadas, for example. They originated in Puebla, Mexico, I understand. The owner of Tio Domingo, a restaurant near our house, was telling us about them. Poblano chiles, which he says they marinate in some kind of herb mixture. They are then stuffed with a combination of minced pork shoulder, some other meat I don’t remember, nuts, raisins, apples, bananas, and other things. They are cooked and covered with a creamy sauce made from almonds and walnuts. And topped with pomegranate seeds. Oh, how I wish someone would make me a vegetarian version of this. Or again, that I could stomach meat and could enjoy it!

On the other hand, sometimes I am delighted to find fun non-meat offerings. At the Clever Koi in Phoenix, for example, I had a fried chicken sandwich where the chicken was replaced with a fried (purple) cauliflower “steak.” It was topped with some kind of slaw and a wasabi dressing. Messy and delicious and …. fried cauliflower. Or, pictured in this post, beet risotto at La Mision in Ajijic.

My relatives said my vegetarian/occasional fish thing was a “fad” or “phase.” But almost 40 years later, it’s still going strong. And occasionally, that means I am tired and hungry, craving vegetables, eating quesadillas, but still feeling grateful to be fed.

Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Yesterday we made our first visit to “Super Lake,” a grocery store catering to ex-pats. I found the American-style brown sugar I hadn’t seen at the other stores we visited. And I was overwhelmed by the narrow aisles crammed with expensive imported goods. Need Bob’s Red Mill products? They’ve got you covered. Tillamook cheese, vegan mayonnaise, Irish steel cut oats, Pop Tarts, Red Rose tea, Gold Medal flour, Prego spaghetti sauce, every kind of cracker you could want. Anything you are craving from NOB (North of Border), they’ve got it if you’re willing to pay. The prices shocked me. I think the steel-cut oats were the equivalent of about $15 and the Red Rose tea (my usual go-to), about $8 a box. I won’t be buying any of that stuff, I can tell you that! I am happy with the Mexican brands of flour, oatmeal and tea sold at regular stores.

My husband completed his first home improvement project with the assitance of the landlord’s handyman and a very very very tall ladder. He installed a pulley (which he had brought with from Oregon) on the rooftop deck so we can raise and lower our laundry to be hung on the line, a bottle of wine, binoculars, snacks etc. Seeing him climb that ladder made me scared, but the basket system sure is nice.

Last night, we woke to a big lightening storm. It went on for quite some time. Maybe the next time, I will get up to the roof to watch it!

As we settle in and interact with other ex-pats, I observe that some move here with very little (or no) experience of Mexico — what it’s like, customs, legal rules, the language. Seemingly, they see a price tag for their lifestyle that is less than what they are paying, and decide to move. I believe this leads to an expectation (and then disappointment) that things, people, places will be the same as they are used to in the U.S., only for less money.

This country has so much to offer. I want to learn more of the history (hoping to find a child-level Mexican history book), more of the language, more the customs, more of the food, the religions, holidays, beliefs. I want to be respectful. I don’t expect locals to speak English and I greatly appreciate their patience with my Spanish. I don’t expect stores, restaurants, systems, foods to be the same as they are in the U.S. If I wanted things the same as in the U.S., I wouldn’t be here.

That said, who’s perfect? I will probably duck into Super Lake for brown sugar when I want to bake some cookies.