Fresh Bread From the Bread Guy

Fresh Bread From the Bread Guy
Find us at our new location on Madero at Constitucion, one block north of the Parque VelascoOpen daily 8-230 except Sunday

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Its a joke, see?

First, some background information. I was raised in the Los Angeles valley area and all I knew of Mexico as a kid was Tijuana. We would take a weekend and go to the San Diego Zoo and then go to "Mexico"

We certainly never ate there (sugar cane was an exception since my parents knew I wouldn't like it much and it was only a dime) and would browse the stalls looking at all the cheap, brightly colored junk. Sometimes we would buy something just to say, hey we were here. I remember a plaster of paris piggy bank, three piggies on top of each other with a grinning painted face and big painted eyelashes. The top pig had "we" on it, the second pig said "love" and the third pig said "money!" There were also some tin masks vaguely aztec in design that actually hung on the wall of the living room for several years.

So, back to present day. On Revolucion, between Legaspy and Marquez de Leon across the street from Gorillas grill and next to where Katty's was, is a new place called Rincon Chilango. I always pass by thinking, how vulgar, cheap and garish. What a stereotyped insult to Mexicans this place is! I will never go there...

From the driveway to the very depth of the property bright splashes of color assault you. The entrance, including a standpipe sort of arrangement is painted pink, orange, green magenta, yellow. Even the cement walkway out front is painted. Two tables loiter under the arch, covered in screamingly bright checks, in case you missed the idea that this is a place that serves food.

Primitive murals adorn the walls. Painted hibiscus, lizards, bougainvillea in pots in impossible colors. A low palapa roof shades the dining area. Bright paper lanterns are hung from the beams. A giant stuffed red pepper doll wearing a moustache, holding a beer and wearing a sombrereo proclaims along the brim, "viva Mexico!" Next to the restrooms is a crooked mirror, its frame brightly painted and across the face of the mirror in spanish says, what'cha looking at.

A clothesline strung from some tree branches outside the kitchen has clothes drying in the breeze. Some tattered and saggy bottomed jeans. Paisley knickers. A white bustier with black trim. A collection of brooms, mops and rakes lean against the wall and an altar to the virgin. One of the dingier undergarments hanging on the line has words written on it Este rincon es parte de la decoracion...this corner is part of the decoration.

Suddenly I get the joke. Everything is just over the top exaggerated and the Chilangos who run the place are just having fun.

Chilangos, by the way, is what folks from Mexico City are called. To those not from Mexico City, it is meant as an insult, derogatory. Chilangos embrace the name and use it with pride.

What about the food and such? Pambazos, tlacoyos, tlayudas, quesadillas made with blue corn, all the popular foods from the mainland. Reasonably priced and served hot, well seasoned. Refrescos and aguas but no cervesa. Can't explain how they got so many Pacifico tables and chairs.

Open from 8 in the morning until 11 at night. Go. Have a laugh. You can even try some huitlacoche. With or without cheese.

Rincon Chilango. Between Legaspy and Marquez de Leon on Revolucion.
Click on the title to link up to a list of Mexican taqueria food definitions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to flush out a pheasant

Already thirty-eight years old and so well camouflaged that unless you knew what to look for you never noticed.

This has all changed with the expansion of the dining area and a new facade for restaurant cafe El Faisán on 16 de Septiembre just past Isabel la Catolica.

The son, Jorge runs the place now and has plans to introduce an expanded graphics intense color menu, breakfasts and table service in January.

At the moment, the restaurant is an interesting mix of homemade and fast food. Coffee drinks are available as well as malts and other ice cream drinks. A pastry case displayed generous cuts of german chocolate cake and flan.

Hamburgers come single or double with cheese or no. Burritos are stuffed with a guiso of carne deshebrada (shredded meat seasoned with vegetables and herbs) or pulled pork and there are quesadillas, stuffed quesadillas and breaded chicken nuggets seasoned with oregano. French fries. Ranch dressing. There are Bimbo bread sandwiches and tortas as well.

Order at the counter and grab a table or booth. In a few minutes a tray with your orders is brought to the table. Dishes are white foam trays. An array of condiments are offered, including ketchup in red squeeze bottles that used to hold barbeque sauce, crema in a bottle conveniently labeled crema and hot sauce in an unlabeled former mustard squeeze.

Coffee drinks, bottles of iced teas, Penafiel soft drinks and waters are available.

Can't wait to go back in January. El Faisán restaurant cafe since 1971. 16 de Septiembre between Isable la Catolica and Meliton Albañez. Open from 8am until 10 pm.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Family restaurant Paisa

Two restaurants I've been watching and not going to for a while now. Both of them on Aquiles Serdan between Bravo and Allende.

The first one called itself jarrock cafe, a Spanish spelling of Hard Rock Cafe. We called it the paintbrush restaurant because the entrance was decorated with kitch including used brushes strung on a line with bright paint still coating the bristles. Never did get around to exploring the pace and now it is too late. It has become a still kitchy art and gift gallery.

The other restaurant in the block between Rosales and Allende is the restaurante familiar Paisa. They must be doing something right, because the restaurant does not look like it did when I first noticed it over a year ago.

The sign announcing the fact that one can eat here is now professionally painted instead of the hand lettered whiteboard. Vines now completely cover the mesh delineating the property, making for a lush looking and cozy dining space. The low palapa roof has been braced in places where it used to sag and the beer distributor has favored them with their best silkscreened white resin tables.

When I walked in, a woman in jeans and a denim shirt embroidered with the restaurant logo greeted me. Told her "just one today" and she asked me if the one was to be a pacifico or corona.

The dining area is raked sand, twelve tables under the palapa roof, two televisions and an ice machine. Autographed soccer jerseys on hangars adorned the poles supporting the roof. The kitchen was semi out of sight. Another person dressed similarly to my server slouched at the table closest to the telly.

The menu, laminated trifold, started with breakfasts and lunches. Eggs, french toast, molletes (beans and cheese plus guacamole sometimes on a split hard roll) and tenderloin tips prepared a number of ways.

There were also steaks, fish, seafood including aguachiles and campechana. Oh, and of course, beer. Plus limonada and refrescos, malteados and coffee. The tabletop setting included five different bottles of salsa--two hot, one for fish, one worsestershire sauce and one more but can't remember.

After I ordered my filete de res en salsa albañil and a limonada I settled back to watch the movie on tv. While waiting, I munched on some totopos and roasted tomato salsa. Salsa good, totopos straight out of the bag. The beef was relatively tender and bathed in a sauce that included bacon and strips of serrano chiles. Some limes to squeeze over the plate would have been nice.

Speaking of plates, these were high fired china plates. Not fancy but not the dreaded melamine. The tortilla basket had flour and corn/flour tortillas.

Decent meal, probably more fun with a group rather than a single diner, glad I finally stopped in.

Paisa, on Serdan between Rosales and Allende. Breakfast and lunch.

I invite you to click on the title for someone's definition of the word paisa. I had nothing to do with it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ode to a flower

When arriving in or leaving La Paz via local bus the common point for all routes is at the bus station on Ocampo at G Prieto. If you are still hungry after your trip or want to fortify yourself before you travel and want other than street vendor offerings, one casts about for the bus stop restaurant.

In this case, restaurant Girasol fit the bill, being directly across the street from the bus station. I am not implying that the place has anything to do with the transportation hub, but nothing else can logically explain its reason for existence.

I've passed by many times but never had the luck of finding it open until last week. The painted hours of operation and the propaganda painted on the entrance wall indicate breakfast and lunch, open from 8 until 2. I arrived about 115 to find the door open.

The place itself is small with room for two tables plus a soda cooler(empty and warm), tv on the wall and the efficiency kitchen area. There was one person dining alone when I arrived who got up and carried her unfinished plate to the kitchen and greeted my by informing me mole or enchiladas were my only choices that day, daring me to stay and eat.

"Enchiladas please" in my best spanish to the cookserver. Looking around, I appreciated the loving care someone had taken to decorate the interior with the bright and welcoming sunflower.

Garlands of sunflowers lined the 3/4 wall creating a bathroom out of the tiny interior space, plus a sunflower calendar and a spray of flowere painted on the wall. A plastic sunflower placemat was brought over from a rack over the sink and placed in front of me along with sopa de fideos and a plastic pitcher of pink agua, a glass and knife and fork rolled in a napkin. Next came the roasted tomato salsa plus a lime wedge and a spoon for my soup.

Three warm tortillas delicately scented with detergent from the dishtowel tortilla cozy completed the first course.

The chicken enchiladas (three pulled chicken tacos covered with an enchilada sauce and rayed with crema) and rice with peas came on a brown melmac platter. I declined the dessert, paid the 40 pesos for the comida corrida, thanked the lady and allowed her to finish her interrupted meal in peace.

Girasol on Ocampo at Prieto across from the downtown bus terminal. Hours vary.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cafe Kika

Don't you just love old hardware stores? wandering down aisles that time forgot and coming across some treasure and saying to your partner, "gee, I didn't think they even made those anymore"

We just had a delightful lunch at Cafe kika on Isabel la Catolica between Degollado and Reforma. It's on the right hand side of the street. So you can find it easier, because believe me, you really have to be looking to see it even if it has been there for twenty-eight years.

The owner operator cook chef doesn't bother with a menu anymore. Breakfast of eggs any style or tortas, quesadillas, hamburgers or whatever, and the comida corrida. The breakfast is 25 pesos and the comida is 40.

The food is prepared on a gaffers and satler 36 inch range (I didn't know the even made those anymore) and the dishes were mismatched white glass plates. The silverware had bakelite handles. There was of course a tv playing but wonderfully, the back patio was full of trees and bushes. Songbirds provided background music for our dining pleasure.

If the place ever regains its former popularity there might be trouble, but we had prompt tasty service cooked to order. The soup was tomato broth with elbow macaroni--a comida standard by the way--and the postre was lime jello.

What made the meal stand out was the old fashioned look of the place, almost seedy but it tilted towards the nostalgic side. That and the flourescent green salsa. Okay, I am serious about the salsa being really green, but I am also serious when I say I was impressed with my pescado veracruzeño. Yellow rice, very nicely sauteed (probably mojarra) fish with a touch of oregano and a tomato and peppers or was it nopal sauce over the fish. Tasty!

And the jello came in a chilled bowl.

For all you folks who think they know how a magician does his tricks, wrongo! It was not jello preportioned and kept in the refrigerator. Yes, the jello was kept in the refrigerator, but the bowls were too, and he filled the bowl with the jello in our sight. That, and the jamaica wasn't too sweet. I'd go back.

Cafe kika is on Isabel la Catolica between Degollado and Reforma.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Enchiladas a la leña

No, we've not discovered enchiladas cooked over mesquite wood fires as the title implies. What we do have are two restaurants sharing the same space, Enchiladas and a la Leña/pollos & pitas.

Enchiladas has been around for a couple of years while a la leña has been smoking for around eight months. Both restaurants share tables salvaged from a contract furniture auction or if you prefer watching the thick of the action, you can pull up a swivel stool and hug the counter that separates the wood burning oven, rotisserie and grill from you and the chickens.

Service begins at 10 for Enchiladas; not until 1 pm for a la leña. The patio dining area is shaded by tented green shade cloth and two portable fans stir the air around, making the outdoor dining experience possible. Once night falls, food is served until 11 at night for ALA and til midnight for Enchiladas.

By pooling their resources, the two places cover nearly every food combination. Enchiladas offers 3 enchiladas with refried beans for 50 pesos. Cheese plus the enchilada sauce of red, green, adobado, mole or with chicken and no chile, plus chilaquiles, fried tacos, huaraches and posole and a slew of tacos.

A la leña adds roasted or barbequed chicken, side dish (sopa fria) beans, hamburgers, stuffed baked potatoes and salads, french fries (very good, by the way) and something called "pita".

Expecting Arabic pocket bread stuffed with chicken, I was surprised to get a cracker-thin crust as would be found on the finest pizza generously topped with smokey minced chicken meat. After adding the chopped tomato and onion plus some salsa, it was ready to eat.

Diane loved it and her mushroom and chicken-stuffed baked potato, pronouncing the place worthy of a second trip.

Las Enchiladas and a la Leña/pollos & pita can be found way uptown on Boulevard Padre Kino at Allende street. Monday through Saturday, 10 to midnight, Sundays noon to 7.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another very good reason to visit Allende Books

The english language bookstore Allende Books is finally open in its new location at the corner of Independencia at Guillermo Prieto, just two blocks up from the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de La Paz and Jardin Velasco.

And across the street from the bookstore, Tacos El Estadio await you with what many say are the best shrimp tacos in town. The taco stand does a thriving business, often running out of food well before its two pm closing time.

Your choice is pretty much tacos here. Shrimp or fish generously fill the tortillas and the fixins are very fresh. Prices range from 12 to 15 pesos. Aguas frescas and cans of soda are available. Mostly prepared to go, but you can hunch over a little table and eat right there.

Tacos El Estadio, open 8 until 2, on Guillermo Prieto at Independencia, across the street from the historical building that houses Allende Books.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

La Playita Paceña

Across the street from Pan D' Les is a car wash/parking area where one can drop off a vehicle for a sparkling wash or for two pesos, leave the car for up to 15 minutes while you shop for bread.

Adjacent to the carwash is the restaurant La Playita Paceña.

La Playita opens mid-morning for breakfast of eggs al gusto (meaning any way you want) plus coffee or Coke and it'll set you back 35 pesos.

Not up for eggs for breakfast? The house specialty is a torta de camarones and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the shrimp sandwich or for that matter, any of the other tortas offered are two for 40 pesos, regularly 30 pesos each. In addition to sandwiches, comida corrida plus a hamburguesa with fries for 25 pesos, the year- and-a-half-old restaurant has television and a pool table for your use and enjoyment.

The dining room boasts matching entirely non-resin tables and painted earthenware crocks filled with aguas frescas. Playita Paceña is open 10 to 5

Ocampo between revolucion and madero, be sure to stop by the bakery for dessert after your meal. ¡provecho!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pan D' Les

Hi, everyone, this is me, the bread guy. I'd like to use a little of the space here to tell you about my new bakery, its mission statement and how I want to see it develop.

First, though, let me thank everyone who has already found me and my breads. Your encouragement and enthusiastic reception feed my soul just as I hope to feed yours with my chiabattas, puglieses, rusticos and baguettes.

In the flyleaf of a book my beautiful wife got me, she wrote the following dedication' "...I wanted you to have this book as a small thank you for this last year--and also as a symbolic wink and a big grin towards the coming ones. Perhaps our watchwords should be Simplicity, Passion and, of course, Love."

Pan D' Les is my answer to her thoughts and wishes and I dedicate and contribute my success to her.

My logo, designed for me by the talented Luis Carlos Rodriguez Ojeda, incorporates my mission statement along the top edge of the image which reads "sencillez, pasion, y amor"

Creating and baking pastries and breads is my passion. I do it with love, and appreciate the simplicity and elegance of a well-crafted baked good.

Yet to come, there are some professional mementos and art from our personal collection that still need to be displayed.

Later, but as soon as possible, I will be offering hot coffee and a place to sit outside under the covered patio where you will be able to have a toasted bagel or slice of bread with homemade jam or marmelade.

Small celebration cakes will be available with various cake flavors and Italian buttercream frostings plus flavored mousse fillings.

Lastly, I will be offering small classes on ingredients 101 (pre requisite for any other classes) plus a selection of techniques and procedures on how to make bread, cakes, cookies and sauces.

Stay tuned...

Do you ever miss that backyard barbeque flavor?

Absolutely completely disguised as someone else's food stand, Brochetes Don Lucas only stands out in food quality. You must know it is there or you will miss this place.

Attached to the very eclectically and partially hidden La Brecha taqeria on Jalisco between Prieto and Serdan, wooden skewers of either pork, beef or shrimp are charred up for you while you wait.

In fact, the wait is quite publicly stated to be 12 to 15 minutes and for good reason: It takes a while for the propane barbeque grille to get hot, let alone cook a skewer of meat,veggies and fruit.

Is it worth the wait? Hey, the food is hot, the mashed potatoes that accompany the brochette are real, and the price of only 15 pesos per brochette can't be beat anywhere in the city.

Open from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, Brochetes Don Lucas have earned a spot on this blogspot. Please do yourself a favor and give this place a try.

Jalisco between Guillermo Prieto and Aquiles Serdan, right hand side of the street. Look for the banners advertising everything but brochettes. (biggrin)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A restaurant that changed Mexico history

There is some earth moving happening near the whale tail monument this summer.

Yes, La Paz is to be a host city for WalMart, Sam's Club and VIPS restaurant. Scheduled to be 100% operational by December 2008, the retail complex will include a movie theater and small retail stores, generating over 800 direct jobs in the form of mall employees. Some of those 800 strong will bring you your breakfast, lunch or dinner at the famous VIPS restaurant.

From the VIPS website, paraphrased into English the best I could, a brief history of VIPS

1964 changed forever the history of Mexico.

That was the year a shining orange star lit up the northern skies above the Distrito Federal and since then its reddish glow of warmth and color has spread throughout Mexico.

Gradually the star multiplied to form what is now an entire firmament: the universe of VIPS restaurants.

From that day, many things have changed but the quality and philosophy of the largest restaurant chain in the country has remained the same. VIPS is a Mexican tradition.

Everyone has been to a VIPS, or frequents one regularly.

At their desks, a classic and delicious coffee in front of them, treaties have been signed, hearts won, deals closed, advertising campaigns created...

Who hasn't done their jobs in a VIPS, together with good friends and a typical University breakfast? If the walls of VIPS could speak... as they say.

We have all formed part of this history and we can all say: "There once was and always will be a VIPS-- the place “spice up your meeting”

VIPS guarantee
If your dish doesn't arrive within 12 minutes (only in express zone)
If you order a menu item and we don't have it
If your dish is not as in the photo ...
If the server does not smile at least once ...
If the seller doesn't help the kids first ...
VIPS pay for your order!
Applies only in individual consumption.
Not combinable with other promotions, coupons or discounts.
To make your warranty valid, tell the shift manager .

Monday, August 4, 2008

An Oasis of food in the midst of sorrow

If you or a loved one need medical attention in La Paz, there is no place like the Hospital Salvatierra for ordered chaos.

Only two short blocks away from the random human element is
Antojitos El Oasis. To be encountered on Cuahetmoc between Altimirano and Gomez Farias, the Oasis serves snacks, breakfasts and comida corrida Mondays through Fridays from 730 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.

Its a cozy place, three wall-mounted fans helping to circulate the air inside the modest dining room. The menu is ambitious with over 50 combinations. The claim made on the menu and on the sign outside is that you will experience the authentic taste of homemade. The restaurant is clean, the taste is unmarred by off flavors and if you leave hungry it is your own fault.

The food in fact was on par with Cafe Canela but without the packaged cookie option and parking is a little easier.

Antojitos Oasis, on Cuahetmoc between Altimirano and Farias. Monday through Friday, 730-5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our favorite place for breakfast three years running

It's mentioned in the travelers reference books-Moon handbooks, triple A, the Let's Go guides, Diver magazine and Lonely Planet and its time you discover it for yourself.

Located at the corner of Revolucion and Bravo, La Fonda remains difficult to find because of the configuration of the two entrances. On Bravo, the entrance, masked by virginia creeper, a fast-growing easy to maintain vine,leads directly to the patio.

The entrance on Revolucion is a bit better marked with an awning above the door. What disguises the doorway is the fact that an herbal remedy store sits on the corner and it is easy to walk past the doorway without realizing it.

Once inside, choose between patio or inside dining. Hint: during the summer or when it is slow, choose the patio. Witertime head straight inside. You may have to do some musical chairs after you decide which table to sit at. The chairs are very heavy wooden chairs with stretched leather seat bottoms. Some of them are tall and others are low to the ground. They don't mind you exchanging one seat for another. It's part of the charm, actually.

The restaurant is open from 730 in the morning until 1030 at night. Comida corrida starts at 1. Five or 6 plates go for 45 pesos, another five are 10 pesos more, and the executive comidas include a glass of whiskey for 65 pesos. Breakfasts are delicious and ample. Scrambled eggs, beans and tortillas go for an astounding 18 pesos. Bacon, or chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions "a la mexicana", ham or salsicha added to the breakfast is only 24 pesos. Diane has either the chilaquiles 'La Fonda" with chicken and salsa roja or a shrimp and cheese omelet with rajas, strips of peppers in a tomato salsa. I've been known to order molletes, an open-faced sandwich filled with beans, cheese and avocado.

The menu is diverse, well prepared and economically priced. Coffee, la negrita brand is 10 pesos, with free refills. Sylvia is the full time server and is quite professional. It usually takes two or three servers to cover the same number of tables on her day off.

Restaurant La Fonda, since 1999. Bravo at Revolucion. Hours, 730 to 1030, Daily

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Olympia Diner

Cafe Olympia is just up the street from the hidden bakery (post May 1, 2008)
and going there takes you through a time portal and lancs you into a classic diner, circa 1948.

Okay, no I am not old enough to remember what diners looked or felt like in 1948 and there is a bit of exaggeration involved in saying it's just like an old diner, but except for the chrome and neon, this is the closest I've found yet to that kind of experience.

One does find a tabletop juke selector mounted to a wall post, a few beer signs and a charcoal of Marilyn plus a couple of waterfall scenes painted on framed mirrors. The coffee was served in milk glass cups and saucers, the plates were also milkglass. Some of the chairs were fiberglass and all the tables are real-as opposed to the omnipresent white resin tables.

Open from 730 until 5 Monday through Saturday, the menu has machaca de res, hotcakes omelet with ham and cheese plus eggs served a variety of ways. The egg dishes are accompanied with chilaquiles and frijol and come with coffee and SunnyD. For $35.

Lunch is comida corrida for $45 and the blue plate specials are varied and well put together.

The Cafe Olympia looks as if it has been there forever, but has only been around for a bit more than a year. The present owners sister had a restaurant before with the same name over by 16 de Septiembre and when they opened, decided to keep the name.

Café Olympia, Marques de León at Revolución, Monday to Saturday 7:30 to 5, Mexico time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cafe Canela

I had a lot of fun doing research for this particular hole in the wall. It started while trying to choose a catchy title that would make you want to read more about the little place on Revolucion street that deserves to be discovered.

Why canela for the name? I think of cinnamon skinned women of South Asia and somewhat exotic sexy music when I think of Canela. Today I found out Canela Cox is an American R & B singer and songwriter whose appearance epitomizes the look that the name Canela conjurs for me.
I also discovered that the cinnamon found in Mexico is of the Ceylon variety as opposed to the Saigon kind. Ceylon cinnamonbark is soft with the "redhot" taste and Saigon cinnamonbark is the flavor in cinnamon rolls.

Perhaps canela means something other than the name of the spice in Spanish. Did you know there is a tribe of indians in Brazil called Canela who paint their bodies and the men pierce their earlobes? Click on the word Canela in the title to visit the tribe and witness a young man having his ears pierced with a sharpened wooden stick.

The interior decor for the eatery is white with orange accents, the tables are clothed in a watermelon color scheme and the menu is painted directly on the wall.
The restaurant itself is clean and simple. The menu is not complicated nor surprising. Eggs al gusto, chilaquiles, burritos, the usual antojitos. The prices are quite reasonable. The have some creative and quite tasty comida corrida. Dessert if you must have it is a package of cookies. Drinks come in 12 oz cans or 20 oz plastic.

Speaking of drinks, another link I found gave the explanation and a recipe for Tepache, a drink sold from a three wheel cart person. To see the list of recipes and links for tepache, biznaga, acitrona and esquites plus more than 100 others, follow the link to, here

See the place for yourself. Cafe Canela on Revolucion between Reforma and 16 de Septiembre near the Cathedral de nuestra Señora de La Paz. Open 8 to 8 Monday through Saturday

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The turtle comes out of its shell

Hiding in plain sight on Revolucion at Allende street is a delightful little restaurant called La Tortuga.

Open Monday through Saturday from noon until 8, or 9 if there are customers, La Tortuga offers a very small menu consisting of 4 soups,(shrimp, fish, mixed or crab), four seafood coctails served in goblets, and 5 platos fuerte, or main dishes. In case you prefer to skip seafood, there is a plate of bistek de res.

Beverage choices are easy, dos equis, tecate or soda. Easy on the pocketbook, cool and comfortable inside even on a very hot day, friedly service

La Tortuga Restaurant. Revolucion and Allende. Noon to 8. Or 9

Monday, July 14, 2008

it's like no cheese I've ever tasted, Gromit!

To honor the upcoming release of a new Wallace and Gromit movie, a matter of loaf and death and to help the hapless cheese connoisseur in La Paz, I've compiled a list of Mexican cheeses one will readily find at the grocery store.

For those who can not go without cheddar, bleu, parmesan or wenslydale, the major supermarkets plus tienda gourmet Sapore (on Abasolo between Encinas and Marquez de Leon) all carry a selection of imported cheeses.

In no particular order, Mexican Cheeses

Queso Blanco-creamy white cheese from cows milk with rennet. Softens when heated but does not melt. Best use: stuffing enchiladas

Queso fresco-spongy grainy white cheese, crumbles well. Usually a blend of cow and goat milk, it is similar to a mild feta. Best use: sprinkle over snacks like taquitos or enchiladas, cube and toss into a salad

Panela-also called queso de canasta because it is made in a plastic basket mould and whole cheeses still bear the imprint of the basket. Soft white cheese that absorbs other flavors easily. It also does not melt when heated and makes a wonderful base for a vegetarian sandwich with onion, avocado, tomato and peppers. You will often see a bit of whey in the package. This is normal. Try to buy panela as fresh as possible.

Requesón-A loose, ricotta like cheese that does well in making a cheese spread. Often seen mixed with green onions and herbs.

Queso añejo is an aged version of queso fresco. Becomes firm and salty as it ages. It is primarily used as a garnishment, crumbled or grated over a variety of dishes. Can also be found enchilado, or covered with chili powder

Oaxaca-also called quesillo is the Mexican string cheese. As a whole cheese, it looks like a ball of yarn and is often sold pre-pulled apart. It melts very well and is most popular for quesadillas.

Queso asadero is Oaxacan cheese made into a loaf form for slicing. This is the best cheese for melting and is the base for queso fundido.

Chihuahua or queso menonita is pale yellow instead of white and can vary in taste from mild to nearly cheddar-like sharp. It is especially good in making queso frito or fried cheese sticks. Tipo chester is menonite cheese that has been aged a minimum of 15 days(!)instead of the 7 days given chihuahua cheese.

Edam and Gouda cheeses- although certainly not considered Mexican cheeses, they have gained such popularity in Mexican regional dishes that they are worth mentioning and are widely available.

Manchego is a buttery pale yellow cheese wonderful for melting, for serving with fruit or with crackers. This is the go-to cheese for making cheeseburgers.

Queso Amarillo-processed American style cheese in slices, this cheese should be avoided if there are any other cheeses to be had. Best served between a couple of slices of bimbo bread.

Cotija-the parmesan cheese of mexico is a sharp crumbly goat cheese usually served over beans or salads.

Crema- similar to crème fraiche, only Lyncott brand in La Paz is pure 30% butterfat content cows milk cream that has been allowed to thicken. Other brands are 25% butterfat and have salt added, sometimes gums, thickeners and stabilizers. Read the labels carefully. Even if you don’t know a lot of Spanish, the fewer ingredients listed, the better.

Crema Agria- sour cream. Thicker than crema and with a tangy finish.

Doble crema- Mexican style cream cheese. The creaminess varies from cheesemaker to cheesemaker, so inspect the cheese carefully. Cream cheese usually has gums or thickeners added, so rejoice in finding doble crema and use it wherever you would normally use Philly. By the way, if you do want cream cheese and don’t see it, it is called filadelfia in Mexico.

Click on the word cheese in the title of this post for some fun with Wallace and Gromit

El Zaguán restaurant and bar

This charming eponymously named restaurant on Madero street between Marquez de Leon and Benito Juarez opens its patio door at 8 in the morning, beckoning one inside.

A zaguán is a covered patio or hallway adjacent to a house that leads directly to the street, hence the name...

Once inside the patio area, framed artwork by local photographers and painters are on display, giving a colorful counterpoint to the cloth tablecoverings and the blooming plants.

Absorbing more of the detail lovingly selected one sees a woven living fence that helps screen the kitchen from the tables.

Absorbing the menu takes a touch more time. One may choose from a small selection of filling for tacos, or opt for eggs with, omelets, hotcakes, chilaquiles and other light breakfasts. Coffee of course, or you can opt for beers or say, a bloody mary if you need something more substantial to greet the day.

El Zaguán restaurant and bar, recently opened, on Madero next to Dr. Tomas the vet. 8 am until 3pm

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Soriana goes up in flames! Part four of cooking with fire

Soriana joins the other supermarkets who will cook your meat for you while you wait. Click on the word flames in the title of this posting to read my May 2008 post about getting your food cooked for you.

The Soriana supermarket at Colosio and Forjadores, part of the Soriana empire of stores that include City Club, Hipermart, Soriana, Gigante and the franchised mini-super, Super City sets up a little spot in the parking lot across from the entrance to the store where three mesquite grills turn your selection into dinner, ready to eat.

The service is available Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from noon until 7. A sign warns that if you want more than 2.5 kilos of meat cooked (a tad under 5 1/2 pounds)you will have to give them an hour.

Just purchase your Soriana meat and present it, along with your proof of purchase, and grab a stool. Oh, remember to tip the cook

Not from around here, AND PROUD OF IT!

Offering a complete blue plate special Mondays through Fridays, Antojitos Chilangos is proud to be in two places at once. Open in both locations from 9 in the morning until 11 at night, on Colosio near Aquiles Serdán or on Colima at the corner of Héroes de Independencia.

Click on the title of this post for an explanation of the word "Chilango" then come back here for the menu and locations.

Food from "Chilangolandia" is better tasting, hotter, spicier, and more filling than food found anywhere else in Mexico should you ask someone from Mexico city. You will need to decide for yourself whether or not you agree.

It is also said of Chilango food that sooner or later every vegetable becomes the base for a sauce. Be brave, be bold, try the sauces...but don't ask

The menu is certainly different from the fish taco. Sit down to a meal of Tlacoyos, Huraches, Pambazos or wonderful Pozole

OOPs, we're out of that

It is said that the tlacoyo was invented when, while making tamales, the cook ran out of corn husks. Tlacoyos are oval shaped fried or toasted cakes made of masa. Tlacoyos are stuffed with refried beans, cheese, chicharron or other ingredients. Most traditional tlacoyos do not have lard or salt in the masa, and if not eaten immediately after they are cooked, they become very tough and dry, even if reheated.

The pambazo is what happens when you take a torta ahogado and forget to drown it first in the tomato/beef broth and go directly into the chile sauce bath. Pambazo is made from special bread dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with a guiso (filling) like papas con chorizo (potatoes with chorizo), frijoles refritos (refried beans) or longaniza (similar to the portugese linguiça). It is then garnished with shredded lettuce, salsa (sauce), cream and queso fresco (fresh cheese).

Antojitos Chilangos, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Colosio near Serdán and Colima at Independencia.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Light beverage of choice

What to drink to keep hydrated? The simple and best answer is water, of course, but water just doesn't do it all the time.

Used to drink coffee all day long when working in kitchens but the side effects made me cut back to one or two coffees a day.

Can't drink milk except what comes in those brick cartons because of the intolerance factor (I can eat what passes for ice cream here, too, because if you read the labels, you will see that they use powdered milk and mix it with non dairy butterfat substitute.)

Carbonated beverages must be served icy cold. They go flat unless you drink the whole thing at once and have way too much sugar for my body to process safely.

Of course the obvious answer is beer, but being alcohol intolerant as well, I am happily driven to the powdered drink aisle for an envelope of B or C light.

C light is made by Kraft Mexico. Kraft Foods up north makes Crystal Light and markets the product for dieters. Here, there is no marketing and the flavor options are quite impressive. Limeade, rosehips, mandarin breeze, grapefruit, orange, cinnamon rice beverage, tamarind, watermelon, pineapple, piña colada, strawberry, green apple and my absolute favorite, guyabana.

Guyabana is a tropical fruit that is about the size and shape of a medium potato, with a green spiky skin, pale white flesh inside and limabean sized black seeds inside. It is related to more widely known soursop, custard apple or cherimoya fruit. Best of all, it tastes, to me, exactly like a white nectarine.

Just tear open the envelope and add the powder to 2 liters of water. The package says to add 1 1/2 liters but the result seems a bit too powerful. Anyway, stir or shake and enjoy.

To learn more about Guyabana, click on the word "beverage" in the title of this post.

C light or B light, available at all the supermarkets, 2.9 to 4.5 pesos per 2 liter envelope.

Have you had a shrimp burger lately?

Down the street from the Patio,between Dominguez and Madero, one comes to a fish restaurant called Mc Fisher.

One of the unique offerings is a shrimp burger. Simply delicious!

Mc Fisher opens early and serves breakfast: Omelets, eggs and chilaquiles as well as unusual combinations of ceviches, seafood burritos, tostadas and cocktails.

There is full bar service and takeout too

Open daily from 8 to 3, Mc Fisher pronounced mac fisher is on Hidalgo between Dominguez and Madero.

I invite you to leave a comment about your experience at Mc Fisher


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Albatross: Dar la espalda

Albatross is a fish taco stand on Jalisco that turns its back on you.

Situated on the north side of Jalisco between Dominguez and Madero, taqueria Albatross is very easy to overlook unless you are trying to find it and even then it is hard to spot.

Albatross spans the sidewalk, with the dining area and cashier on the property side and the kitchen area in a laminated metal enclosure on the parkway side, so from the street all one sees is a white structure. Painted on the side eaves is the name, Albatross.

Once you find it, tell the counterman what you want and how many. Then dress em up the way you want. Plop down your plate on one of the counters and enjoy. Help yourself to complementary jalapeño poppers. Just when you have your mouth fully involved in food, someone will demand to know what to bring you to drink.

Albatross is one of Diane's favorite places for fish tacos. She says its the seasoning in the batter. I know its the poppers.

Open from 8 until 2. Jalisco near the contractors entrance to El Arco Hardware, between Dominguez and Madero

Eat out on the patio

Flung over on the far side of town between Guillermo Prieto and Ramirez on Morelos (the same street as the state music school) is a restaurant called el Patio. It has been there since 1971 or nigh on 40 years. Its age does not show as the Patio is clean and modern looking with appropriate lighting levels.

Part of the Patio is enclosed to accommodate the air conditioner. Facing the street, the windows fold open or closed. The tables are formica laminate. The chairs, well the chairs are the plastic kind, but they are forest green and very sturdy. No beer company sponsors the furniture here, although they do offer cold beer in iced glasses.

Service is crisp, efficient and quick. We had our hamburger with fries and chicken milanesa burger with fries in under 6 minutes. Wait a mo, that's what the patio reminds me of. The Patio is a WendysArbysBurgerking clone. Only they give you a printed laminated menu instead of a huge fluorescent readerboard. And the prices are sit down. (Take that any way you wish)

Burgers of beef,pork or chicken, tortas, snacks, dessert, soft drinks and beers. El Patio is open 6 days a week from 2 in the afternoon until 11.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tacos de Canasta: Urban eats in La Paz

TACOS DE CANASTA or “basket” tacos, sold in the morning, are the only tacos not prepared on the spot. They are made at home, wrapped in layers of cloth and paper to keep warm, and tucked into baskets. Sold from doorways, small stalls and even bicycles, they are sometimes called tacos sudados – “sweated” tacos - because of the steam created by wrapping the warm tacos.

Small corn tortillas are commonly stuffed with either papas con queso (potatoes with cheese), chicharron prensado (pressed pork rind, a bacon-y sort of treat), frijoles (beans), picadillo (spiced ground meat) or a specialty of the housewife who made them. They are popular in cities, where they are often delivered to offices and other places of business, much like the donut carts that cater to workers north of the border.

Formerly an open air stall on Jalisco, Tacos de Canasta has moved to Aquiles Serdan between Nayarit and Sinaloa. This a a clean, bright storefront location offering tacos, quesadillas or the special, chilaquiles verdes plain or with chicken. First select which fillings you want, then if you decided tacos is the way to go, choose between having them deep fried or served as-is.

If you opt for the quesadillas, specify your fillings and sit back with a cold beverage while they are prepared. The corn tortilla is hand formed, rather large, about 10 inches across, and grilled to a crispy tender perfection. The flavor and texture was much like a gordita from Doña Tota (a future topic) and with the addition of salsa, crema and cotija cheese, makes a substantial meal as Diane found out after insisting on ordering two for herself.

You can dress up your tacos with a selection of toppings from the picnic cooler near the counter. Grab a bottle or can of soda, go healthy with orange juice or enjoy an agua fresca and you're good to go. Open from 8 in the morning until 2 every day except Wednesdays. Aquiles Serdan between Nayarit and Sinaloa.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Why two Fs

At the corner of Madero and Ocampo is a very interesting little restaurant called FFYY Choy Restaurant chinese cantonese. It has been there under the present ownership for the past seven years and chooses to open from noon until 7pm, daily.

The dining room is pleasantly air conditioned, not too cold or hot and the color of the interior is predominantly pink with red accents. Not pepto pink but bakery box pink. All in all a very nice presentation. In chinese color symbolism, pink is the color for marriage and red is the color of good luck, happiness, joy, life's energy, and for brides. Click on the title to see a list of other chinese symbols and their meanings.

Food's not bad, either. Take it to go or enjoy the dining room service. There's plenty of help and a brisk business so no worries about questionable age on the pollo. The water is filtered thanks to a series of Culligan in-line water filters. Speaking of food, my almond chicken had the real Marcona almonds in it, the fat stubby almonds that are so tasty.

FFYY Choy, open 12-7 every day at the corner of Madero and Ocampo

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Debunking the fake scallops story

A few months back, a fish peddler called on us at the bookstore and asked if we wanted to buy scallops. I'm generally leery of the barrage of offerings presented to us every few hours that we are subjected to as shopkeepers open to the public, and I was annoyed when Diane said yes to a kilo of scallops media luna.

First of all, I had no idea where they came from or how fresh they were, etc. According to the guy lugging the cooler, they were still scooting around the briny depths of the sea of cortez just moments ago. Of course they were from clean waters and not from the harbors, how dare I even think so! And second of all, they were the most pricey scallops I had ever bought in Mexico. And third, they were not the plump, rosy diver/dayboat scallops I was used to finding up in the north bay area of San Francisco, either. These were somewhat hard and shaped like a kidney bean or half moon.
You bought some pretty expensive pseudo scallops, chump! Yet they didn't look like they were cut with a cookie cutter...hmmn

When we got them home, I was skeptical to say the least but agreed to cook them. I used to be a pretty fair cook in my day and scallops need a hot fast sear or they will turn rubbery. To prepare them, I lightly sprinkled coarse salt and some freshly ground pepper. I got the saute pan nearly smoking hot and added some oil and shallots. Less than 20 seconds per side and I slid them out onto a serving platter.

They had a nice flavor, yes, but they were tough, rubbery and nowhere near what I was expecting. Live and learn. Diane, please don't ever buy from someone like that again.

I mentioned our scallop fiasco to the chef at Las Tres Vírgenes, the restaurant where I bake my breads and pastries. She got very excited and proceeded to tell me all about the scallops I had bought, how wonderful they were and how expensive. She then proceeded to tell me that the best way to prepare them is in ceviche, since they are so firm, they don't like to have conventional cooking techniques applied to them. Just a squeeze of lime juice, some salt and diced green chilis. Live and learn.

Didn't think much of it after that until, in a casual conversation, a fellow buying bread mentioned the fake scallops that abound in La Paz. That's when I decided to get to the bottom of the fake scallops story.

Follow the links to two sites I found while researching scallops and particularly local scallops from the sea of cortez. I found that there are indeed, small round scallops, lions paw, half moon scallops and kidney bean shaped scallops. If someone was trying to pawn off skate wing as scallops, the hapless foreigner that bought them deserves what he gets.

Mariscos Los Laureles

It was a Sunday morning and we were headed out to the beach. Y'all know what a chore it is to find breakfast in La Paz. Diane and I do have our favorites for morning meals and I will write about them in the next few days, no worries.

Perhaps the thought of the big ocean influenced us a bit. Whatever the reason, we chose to break our fast over some aguachilis and campechanas at one of the four seafood stands called Los Laureles.

As we drank our beverages of choice and spooned up chilled seafood and spicy broth, we watched others drive or walk up to the takeout area and order various sized foam cups of ceviche. All the various ingredients, stored in giant coolers, were pre-chopped and just needed combining and dousing to be ready to serve. We realized we missed an important step by not adding our own touches to the marinades our shrimps and snails, clams, mussels, scallops and octopus were cooking in. Strangely enough (to us, anyway), the most popular add-in was catsup.

The seafood stands are open 10 to 6 daily including Sundays. They are popular enough that the mariscos are replenished frequently and consequently, very fresh. Prieto at Reforma, Colosio at Mujica the Malecon and Jalisco at Altimirano

Just for fun, I did a google search for aguachiles and came up with this recipe from

copied and pasted without permission, here is their recipe for aguachiles...

Essentially, aquachile is a very spicy version of ceviche. A mouthful of lime and burning chilies is as my friend from Jalisco says "Damn good!". If you exclaim similarly, you can proudly call yourself an adoptive Mexican. If not, tone down your aguachile by adding less serrano chilies or by serving it with guacamole as this will help to cool the mouth as you are eating. Even if you like it hot, the guacamole is still a good option.
Serves 6 as a starter

* 500 g (1lb) scallops or shrimp
* 4 serrano chilies, without stem
* Juice of 5 limes
* 2 passion fruit or juice from one orange
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 small white or red onion, finely cut into slices
* 1/4 cup cilantro
* 1 tomato, seeded and diced
* Sour cream and tostadas as desired

If using large scallops, chop them in half or quarters. If using shrimp, de-vein them by cutting them open along the back to remove the digestive track. Don't completely cut them in half, but rather just open them up from the top, leaving them whole near the bottom.

Add the seafood to a bowl. In a blender, add the chilies, salt and lime juice. Blend until the chilies are broken up. It is not essential to make a smooth paste. Cover the seafood with the blended sauce. Sit for 20 minutes.

To serve Pour the seafood and sauce into a large flat serving dish. Top with the passion fruit or orange juice. Season the onions and sprinkle them over the scallops. Top with chopped cilantro and tomatoes. Serve with tostadas and sour cream maybe.

Fresh shellfish served raw in a blend of limes and hot green chilies. Authentic Mexican flavors not for the faint of tongue.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

If one is good, two is better: Almuerzos Omar

Just two months old and already known for specializing in EVERYTHING, Almuerzos Omar does have a focus: Hot food ready in a jiffy. The open air dining area will accomodate your group or you can ask for your choices to take away. They will even deliver your selections, but most of the fun is having them lift the lid off of each pot and tell you what waits inside.

Reminds me of Dim Sum. You just don't know what it will be, but it looks, smells and tastes good.

You can order tacos or plates of whatever you want, being able to choose from lengua in green sauce or red sauce, cochinita pibil,chilis rellenos, bacalao, Picadillo, Tinga, Costillas and plenty more. There is one item featured daily that you can order up as two for one tacos.

Three locations plus a cellular number for deliveries. Ramirez between Colima and Jalisco, Padre Kino between Bravo and Ocampo, Colima at Gomez Farias and 044 612 149 2076 for home delivery. Open 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, closed Sundays

Bandidos Grill, On Fire, part III

As Diane and I were driving back home from an afternoon at Tecolote Beach, we spotted an unfortunates truck, on fire, on the side of the road in front of Abaroas´Marine Hardware. Poor guy, wonder what happened...
Instead of anyone else reacting to the blaze, we realized that besides the oddness of the truck parked halfway on the sidewalk, there were also plastic tables and chairs as if this was a planned event. Thus was our introduction to Chembys, now known as Bandidos´Grill.

Bandidos is now one block closer to the water and contained by a fence, no longer open to the casual view. Lessens the impact of seeing the truck, which was has a custom built mesquite grill in the engine compartment and a propane powered deep fat fryer in the bed of the truck, flames merrily turning the raw patties into juicy, messy burgers.

Speaking of burgers, the ones here are quarter or half pounders and have grilled onions, barbeque sauce, lettuce, tomatoes , bacon and mayo. And cheese. Of course yo can get them a couple of different ways and get a chicken breast burger instead. The menu has greatly expanded since moving off Abasolo, but we like to stick to the basics. Did I mention french fries?

Open for breakfast as well, serves beer and drinks. corner of Topete and Legaspy near marina de la paz.

On Fire, part two: Supermarket Beef

Now that the temperature outside is beginning to become meaningful, it is time to share with you another benefit of living in La Paz.

for the price of the meat alone, there are three supermarkets here in town that will barbeque your purchase while you wait.

The supermercado Aramburo at the corner of Madero and Hidalgo and both Centro Comercial de California have enormous barbeque grills hot and ready for you. Yes, we all know about the hunt and the kill and the primordial urge to roast flesh over glowing embers, but the convenience of it all makes for an irresistable pause. And what you are buying from the supermarket carnecerias is usually Sonora beef.

Sonora beef comes in several grades, but the ones we usually see are "clasificado" and "de campo." Carne de campo is apparently range fed beef. I suppose it is equivalent to grass fed but you do not see much grass for pasture in the desert. It costs about 25% less than "carne clasificada" and usually has a very distinctive flavor that I find acceptable, but many locals detest. Even if Diane ate meat, she would not eat it. The same grassy flavor that is in the local cheeses comes through in the meat.

Sonoran cuts have local names. The most popular cuts are those that need to be cooked for a long time and that are typically used in carne asada. Carne asada usually means diesmillo sin hueso which is boneless chuck ... the fattier the better. Ribs or costillas are also preferred for carne asadas. The fats drip onto the mesquite charcoal causing it to flare and smoke giving the meat a distinctive flavor that can be very delicious. Since Sonorans typically like their meat extremely well done the flavors of more delicately cooked cuts of meat as T-bone, sirloin, rib and filet mignon are not considered. I have brought these to carne asadas and the treatment is always the same ... cook them to the point where it does not matter. In fact, at that point, only fatty sirloin and rib approach the flavor of the diesmillo. New York cuts become too tough to eat.

In the same tradition, carniceros usually cut the meat very thin often less than a centimeter. If buying "finer cuts," you will need to insist on a greater thickness if the idea is a juicy inch thick charcoal broiled steak. If you are going to eat it with others, it is best to tend your cut yourself. Most Sonorans will not eat beef that is even slightly pink on the inside. The curious result is that us carnivores who love thick juicy cuts like T-bone (porterhouse is included here in Mexico), sirloin. New York, rib and filet mignon are in heaven. These cuts are less preferred here and often cost very little more than chuck and what I would call the stew meat cuts. On the other hand if you are accustomed to buying chuck and ribs because they are cheap in the U.S., you will probably not be happy with their prices here. I believe safeway still often puts beef ribs on special for less than a dollar a pound. That would be about 18 pesos per kilogram ... not a chance here.

Beef roasts are not popular here so do not expect to find pre cut rib, round, sirloin, or chuck roasts in the supermarket. If you want a cut for roasting, you will have to make it clear that you want a sizable chunk of meat. Ground beef or "carne molida" can be requested at the carneceria. Just choose your beef and ask for it to be ground (moler). The best choice is pulpa (round) if you want it fat free and believe me that is what you will get ... pure red meat. If you need some fat, ask for it to be added or choose sirloin or diesmillo.

Meat Terms

blanda - tender
carne - beef
carne classificada - classified or selected beef.
carne de campo - unclassified beef.
carne molida - ground beef (specify quality)
carne para cocer - stew beef
costillas - ribs
delgado - thin
diesmillo - chuck
diesmillo sin hueso - boneless chuck
filete - filet mignon
grasa - fat
grueso - thick
higado - liver
hueso (way-soh) - chuck
kilo - kilogram
nueva york - new york cut
palomillo - sirloin
pulgada - an inch (3 centimeters)
pulpa - round
riñón - kidney
rib - rib
t-bone - t bone or porterhouse
tripas - intestines (tripe)

In La Paz, the H is silent

Here in La Paz, the secretary of tourism in conjunction with the secretary of health issues an special certificate to restaurants and establishments who maintain a certain standard of hygene. Presently, as of April 2008 only two foodservice establishments carry the "H" distinction.

Translated from SECTUR,the ministry of tourism

Hygiene, Confidence and Security in the Management of Food
What is the "H"? With the fundamental purpose of reducing the incidence of foodborne disease in domestic and foreign tourists and improve Mexico's image worldwide regarding food security, in 1990 a National Hygienic Food Management program, "Distinction H" was implemented in our country for all fixed (permanent) food and beverages establishments. The "Distinction H" is a recognition given by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health, to restaurants, hotels, cafeterias. fondas, etc.

To meet standards of hygiene which marks the Mexican Standard NMX F-605 NORMEX 2004, the "H" is 100% preventive, which ensures the warning of contamination that could cause any disease transmitted by food, this program provides a training program to 80% of operational staff and 100% of middle managers and upper management. This training is guided by a registered consultant with a background in the areas of medico-biological-chemical, and knowledge that is taught is structured under guidelines issued by a panel of experts. The consultant's advice is offered to staff working in fixed food and beverage establishments that so request, a series of recommendations and techniques for washing, disinfection, cleaning, storing, freezing, refrigeration, thawing, personal hygiene, etc. This information is governed by a checklist to be met by 90% satisfaction and that includes the following points:
· Receiving food · Storage · Management of Chemicals · Refrigeration and freezing · Kitchen area · Preparation of food · Service area · Water and Ice · Health services for employees · Bulk Handling · Pest control · Staff · Bar

When the establishment subject to these standards satisfies the guidelines, the Ministry of Tourism bestows recognition in the form of the "Distinction H", which is valid for one year.

Click on the title "in La Paz, the H is silent" to open a PDF file listing those locations in Baja Sur that have earned their distintivo H.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Estancia Uruguayana Part 1 of cooking with fire

Right at the corner of Jalisco and Abasolo, across the street from the "this bar allows ladies" bar is a quiet restaurant that offers meals one would find when traveling to Uruguay. This is a meat restaurant, from the enormous mesquite cooking area to the leather covered tables and chairs and of course the televisions playing sports.

It is also an Italian restaurant, in that Uruguayan food culture is heavily influenced not only by proximity to Argentina but for an influx of Italian immigrants between 1880 and 1900. In addition to the deep assortment of juicy meats, the menu has a complete selection of salads, pastas pizzas and desserts. The inside menu flap covers Uruguyan demographics and a brief history of the hosts of todays´meal.

The very polite and attentive waiter greets us with a complimentary glass of a delicious and refreshing sparkling red wine cooler called clericó, and because
Diane prefers poultry and seafood to meat when she goes with me she selects either pizza or the chicken skewers. I like to order one of the steaks with chimichurri sauce. When dining in a group, there is a giant assorted meat platter for two or four people

Once the order is placed along comes a plate of empanadas, also courtesy of the house. There is a full bar and occacionally music. Open Tuesday through Sunday one in the afternoon until midnight. Sundays they close earlier at 10.

click on the title to help you explore Uruguay

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Would you like a cooke?

One challenge that has remained unanswered until very recently has been to find wonderful, magical baked goods here in La Paz."Its the flour...its the water...its the heat..." All these are factors to be considered during production but talented bakers can easily develop workarounds. One example is the bread guy´s baguette at Pan D´Les. Made with domestic flour, filtered water and during the cool nighttime hours. Voila!

Diane and I were at the vets with our newest puppy, a xolosquintle (pronounced cholo ix quintle) and afterwards took a short pottywalk up Marquez de Leon. Someone told us about a bakery that used to be around here that was excellent, the best in La Paz. The ovens were still in place, giant brick ovens. I wanted to take a look but we could not find it. We asked a lady sweeping her sidewalk if she knew of a bakery that used to be nearby. She said, "Used to be? I bought bread there yesterday. Let me show you where it is. The stuff is soo good, and cheap, too." On the north side of Marquez de Leon, between Madero and Revolucion, next to the green building where the white pickup truck is parked, there is the bakery.

We walked inside. It was after 5pm so there was very little left but what they had was pretty darned good. They make birotes of all things (see ON BREAD part II)and the most wonderful cookie I have tasted in my three years in La Paz. It is about three inches round, lightly iced with a hard sugar shell and incredible delicate and crumbly. Very worthy. I challenge you, dear readers, seek out this bakery and buy this cookie for yourself. Buy one for your friends, too. Cheap

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dining alfresco amongst the cars

It is beginning to heat up in La Paz so on a Saturday night, Diane and I were out buying another fan and ordering an air conditioner. Then we would grab a bite to eat somewhere.

I had spotted an intriguing sign painted on the side of a building leading to a parking lot in the downtown area and knew I had to check it out. Tamarindo restaurant it said, and pointed us to a parking lot bound by numerous small stores.

It did not look very promising as we walked amongst the cars but a guy lounging against a building looked like he would accept a question from us. ¿Hay restaurante?
Si, por allá. Is there a restaurant? Yea, over there.

A very welcoming sign leading to a promising courtyard convinced us to give the place a try. As we approached, our anticipation increased, and when we got to the entrance, we were captivated by the ambiance created by the mature tamarind and date palm trees and ramadas that created a light canopy overhead. Woven shaded lanterns hung in the trees, and some as yet unfinished cave paintings lined a walkway to the second entrance to the place.

After choosing a table, we asked the waiter for some details. The chef/owner is from Sonora, they have been open only about two months, the locals have accepted them but usually come to eat around opening time, 3:00.
It was just getting dark as we were presented the menu. I don´t want to go into details about the menu except to say that we felt confident that anything we ordered would be well-prepared and nicely presented. After all, a beef rib tamale with vegetables, raisins and mango would not dare be presented on melamine plates.

The restaurant´s publicity offers Fresh Lobster, Seafoood, Steaks, Poultry and authentic Mexican dishes in English and in Spanish paints a truer picture of the menu, Especialidades de Mariscos, Carnes, Aves y Platillos Mexicanos. Look for Huachinango, Cabrito and Cordonez (Snapper, Kid and Quail) Reads better than Poultry and Steaks, no?

Since it was a Saturday night, Tamarindos offered entertainment in the form of a pair of folk dancers, many costume changes and to the delight of one large table, an improptu dance lesson. I must say, not bad dancing for a gringo. And if you are celebrating a special occasion or have a large party and want to break the piñata, they will clear the dance platform and let you have a swing at it.

Look for some unexpected small surprises as your dinner progresses, you can find fault in some things they do, but we chose to just enjoy ourselves. Closed Tuesday, open beginning 3 p.m. Full bar. Free parking, entrance located next to the ISSSTE supermarket, on Revolucion between Bravo and Ocampo.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On Bread part two

Bolillos, Birotes, and Teleras are three types of rolls to be found in Mexico. Of the three, only the Bolillos and Teleras are common in La Paz.

The bolillo is the oval shaped sandwich roll with a light crust and soft interior, similar to french or italian bread. Birotes, similarly shaped, usually are found on the mainland. I am told that the birotes one finds here are brought over on the morning ferry. The Telera roll is rounder and flatter with two creases running lengthwise across the bread.

The birote is made with a sourdough starter, giving a thicker crust than bolillos and a light sourdough tang. Sourdough style breads are known as pan salado.

Telera rolls have the softest crust and one might see them streaked with a bit of flour, due to their higher water content requiring the baker to flour the table before forming rolls to keep them from sticking.

Click on the title¨On Bread part two¨to be taken to a new site with more on bolillos, then use your browser´s back button for more from the bread guy´s Eating through La Paz

Tortas Los Aguayos

One of the longest lasting sources for delicious food is Los Aguayos. Still within the downtown area but not as bustling, the shop has counter seating for maybe 8 people plus a few along the wall.

Choose either pierna (shredded pork) or jamon con queso (sliced turkey ham lunch meat with american cheese) or mixto (mixed o)Grab a bottle or can of soda from the fruteria next door, dont worry they own that too, and be sure to tell them to put everything on your hot sandwich.

First comes the meat, pre cooked that they place on the griddle to warm up.Then they split open a telera roll and scoop out the insides, leaving mostly crust. Trust me, this is the good part. They then brush on the secret sauce and grill the bread. It is an orangy colored liquid that adds a wonderful dimension to the torta. Once the griddle operator is satisfied that everthing is ready she begins assembly. The meat goes on, then tomato, shredded lettuce and avocado slices. If you want the sandwich cut in half, now is the time to let her know. Don´t worry, the flavor will not escape if the bread is cut. On the counter are chilis en escabeche and rajas. You must absolutely must choose one or the other and put some in the sandwich. Provecho!

Tortas Aguayos is open Monday to Saturday 9ish to 6 and open Sundays from 9ish to 4. ´ On guillemo prieto between ocampo and degollado

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Bread: The Story of Lox and Bagels

The story of Loxs and Bagels

Most people associate lox and bagels with Jewish folk, and they are absolutely right. The part they get wrong is what the Jewish delicacy is called. It’s really called lots and bagels, after the story of Lot and his flight from Sodom and Gomorrah.
You see, Lot, a good and pious Jew, was forewarned by the angels to leave with his wife and family because fire and brimstone was about to be rained down upon the twin towns dedicated to wicked ways of life.
They were warned, “when you leave, be sure that you never look back, or you will be turned into a pillar of salt” We all know what happened to Lot’s wife=she looked back and instantly turned into a high sodium testament to opulence.
Once Lot and the remaining family arrived safely at their new home on the Sea of Galilee, they told the story of their narrow escape. A local chef, hearing of their plight, created on the spot a dish consisting of rich salted salmon, onions for their high sulphur content (sulphur was known as brimstone in biblical times) and the round bagel signifying the backwards glance Lot’s wife took at her old home. He named the delicacy Lot’s and bagels.
Just kidding

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Olachea Municipal Market

In my first post, La Michoacan, I spoke of the Bravo Market. There are actually three mercados in La Paz, the Bravo, the Madero and the Olachea.
Off the tourist path, way way off, you will find a delightful clean central market in a neighborhood that evokes images of a more peaceful La Paz.

Taking any major street to Boulevard Padre Kino, find your way to Allende Street and continue in the same direction, towards the mountains until you come to a block long building on Allende between Carranza and Cota. Park in the parking lot for free and wander through the store. In the very center of the building, pull up to the juice bar and enjoy freshly cut ripe fruits either blended or mixed together with yogurt or fruit juices. There is a fresh tortilla stall, several fish vendors, red meat in glass cases, chicken, sausages, nuts seeds, legumes and greengrocers.

This is food direct from the pangas and ranchos. Those chicken were alive just a few hours ago.
If you prefer someone else to do the cooking, there are eleven food stalls serving breakfast and lunch. The food stalls begin serving about 9 am. If you wish, take your food to go and enjoy it in the municipal park, across the street.

Know your meat

courtesy of the Iowa beef council, this poster shows the names in spanish of meat cuts you may find or want to ask for at your local butcher or grocery store.
Click on the title "Know your meat" to view a printable copy of the poster, then use the back button on your browser to return for more Eating through La Paz

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tacos? El Muu!

Right around the downtown shopping area, I like to walk up to tacos El Muu. That, by the way, is the sound a cow makes in español. To order you need to tell the person manning the post-it notes how many five peso tacos you would like, they scribble down the number you selected and you then give the note to the taquero. Decide on either corn or flour tortillas, filled with either chopped muu or battered and fried fish. Before you can blink, hot tacos are handed to you. Dress them up with cream, chopped onions and tomatoes with cilantro, various salsas, guacamole spread, salt, shredded cabbage and or lime juice. They have drinks too, or drop 7 pesos in the coke machine on the corner. They have plastic chairs lining the sidewalk or eat standing up.

Revolucion at Ocampo, daylight hours.

Post Data: They are looking for a cooks helper to chop veggies for them. You need to be a man, woman or gay, according to their sign. Some people will take anybody.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

La Michoacan

Diane sent me to find fish heads so she can make gefilte fish for this weekend. I did the matzoh already and a chocolate fallen souffle cake that will be topped with fresh strawberries sprinkled with some orange liqeur. The Bravo open air market at Guillermo Prieto and Nicholas Bravo has three fish stalls plus excellent butchers and greengrocers. While there, I stopped by for a quart of fruit salad topped with yogurt, honey and granola and for myself, a hot Torta at la Micoacan. Too bad it's Thursday, because on Wednesdays its 2 x 1. You can have roasted pork by the kilo, or in a taco, burrito or torta.

About Me

My photo
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Before gaining control of my life, I created pastries for some cool places in California: San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Brix Restaurant in Napa and The Lodge in Sonoma. Now I am the chef/owner of Pan D' Les bakery in La Paz. My personal favorite is the Multigrano loaf, full of crunchy seeds and a nice chewy crust.