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, 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

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.