Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beverage graphics in Mexico are some of the best!

Mexico has some of the best graphics when it comes to their beverages.
Walking around the market in Oaxaca and I came upon such a nice lady that was more than happy to pose for me.  I could not have choreographed this any better if I had tried.  The colors in her outfit with the turquoise enamel pot were just so colorful against the Coca-Cola graphic behind her.  When I returned the next year with one of my groups, I brought her a copy of this photo and she was so excited to receive it.
Driving back into San Cristobal de Las Casa from visiting the small villages of Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula up in the highlands, I shot this as I was at the wheel passing by.  

 These are tiles making up the Coca-Cola sign in the Guadalupe area in San Miguel de Allende.
When traveling around Chiapas with my friend Esther in 2016, we were driving from San Cristobal de Las Casas to Palenque.  We stopped at a comedor for a bite to eat and there were 4 big Corona trucks in the parking lot.  I am sure these drivers thought, what are these gringas doing in the middle of no where eating at this roadside comedor.  They were very polite and we all wished each other, "buen provecho".
After leaving San Cristobal de Las Casas on our way to Palanque, we stopped to take some photos of the countryside and a gorgeous waterfall.  This Coca-Cola graphic was painted on the side of a little road side stall.  Has a bit of Andy Warhol to it.
Indio cerveza, a crisp amber lager that I had at a restaurant on the main plaza in Guanajuato.  Made by Bohemia, it's a very refreshing beer on a hot day.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

A few changes over time in San Miguel de Allende

Remember when.....  I shot this photo of Plaza Civica with the Salud Church and the Oratorio Church in the background in San Miguel in the mid 1990's.  A lot of changes can be seen around town but you really don't realize it until you look at some old photos. 
The landscaping around Allende's sculpture has been enhanced along with new stone pavers on the plaza.  The trees have matured and are beautifully trimmed.  The lights have become more elaborate.  And the white facades of the buildings have taken on some color.  Even the bell tower of the Oratorio Church has been painted in some colorful tones.
It's subtle changes though.  Ole San Miguel will never lose its colonial charm.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My special birthday lunch at Gombos in San Miguel de Allende

We had left the house in Denver around 3:30 in the morning and really had not eaten much of anything all day.  We arrived into San Miguel de Allende around 4:00 in the afternoon and we immediately headed down to Gombos on Calle Hidalgo No. 34 (formerly known as Casa Blanca) for a margarita and some nachos.  I asked Louis if there were squash blossoms in the market and he said SI!   They are my all time favorite seasonal food in Mexico.  I asked if Maricela (his sister and chef) and I could make them one day.   Lucky for me, we scheduled it for noon on my birthday, July 4th, at the other Gombos in Colonial Guadalupe (Calle Tata nacho No. 2).
With my Gombos apron on, Maricella and her other brother, Pablo started to get to work.  We had over thirty squash blossoms which were rinsed off, the pistil taken out of the center and then stuffed with goat cheese.
In the mean time, I had Pablo roast some tomatoes, a serrano pepper and a few cloves of garlic.  He then pureed all of the vegetables in a blender along with some cilantro and salt to taste.
Next step was to mix up the beer batter (beer, salt, flour and a pinch of cayenne).
Once the vegetable oil had come up to boil, around 350', we dredged each squash blossom into the beer batter and carefully set them in the hot oil.  Then fried them until golden brown and drained them on some paper towels.
In the mean time, Len was in the restaurant reading his book, enjoying a Negro Modelo and eagerly waiting for the squash blossoms to be ready.
With Maricela's other brother, Miguel, we sat down to a wonderful meal of squash blossoms with a roasted salsa and a cold beer.  Life is good and what a treat on my birthday.  And I now have my own Gombos t-shirt.  Does that mean I am part of the team?
 The day before I left San Miguel, I went to Gombos on Calle Hidalgo 34, for my last comida (lunch) and Maricela surprised me with a huge plate of squash blossoms.  I was in heaven.
This was taken at Christmas time in 2003, 14 1/2 years ago!  What a great family, great friends, not to mention a great restaurant.

For more on my dining experiences at Gombos, go to my post dated July 14, 2010.  The menu and great food is the same, just the name changed from Casa Blance to Gombos.

For more on my Squash Blossoms, go to my post dated August 2, 2010.

Buen Provecho!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Restorante Italiano D' Yoalli outside of San Miguel de Allende

One of my all time favorite places to dine when I am in San Miguel de Allende is at the Restorante Itlaiano D' Yoalli just outside of town.  Len and I were celebrating my birthday, well actually I had been celebrating all week.  The margaritas are some of the best in town.
The setting is beautiful and the landscaping has really matured.
This particular day, we had the whole patio to ourselves with the view of the campo (countryside).  Every time I am here, I spot one bird that has the brightest red chest.  No, it is not a Robin.
Today we started with freshly made spinach ravioli in a butter Gorgonzola sauce.  Delicious as always.  Other days we opt for the squash blossom raviolis.  And the pastas are all hand made and so good.  The week before I could not decide what to have as our starter.  The calamari salad is one of my favorites but this time we had the beef carpaccio that was also excellent.
For our entree we had the veal served with a little butter and sage sauce that just melted in your mouth it was so tender.   Other entrees that I also like to order is the fresh fish, quail and lamb. 
We finished off the meal with a glass of black sambuca.  Another great birthday meal!
Another component that makes dining here so special are the two waiters, Jorge and Juan Manuel.  As we were leaving,  I had them all sing La Cucaracha.  The Three Tenors!  Len was doing a great job belting out the song but I love the way Jorge is looking at Len and Juan Manuel was just laughing at the whole ordeal.   When ever I call for a reservation, their voice always light up when they hear it is me calling.  They certainly treat me like royalty.  It's also one of my favorite places to bring my groups when I do my San Miguel de Allende tour.

Buen Provecho!

Ristorante Italiano D'Yoalli
Open Thursday - Sunday
Carr. San Miguel de Allende - Atotonilco Km. 7.4
(415) 185-2317

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Join me next February for an adventure to Chiapas, The Magic of the Maya World

This last February I lead a tour to a glorious old, old part of Mexico in the southern state of Chiapas.  We experienced its ancient Maya monuments and temples, visited with its warm and friendly people and saw firsthand the incredible work these artisans create.  It was such a memorable trip.  One lady friend, who has been on all of my Mexico tours, sent me the nicest note in which she wrote, "I can't thank you enough for planning the 'Grande Adventure' trip to Chiapas.  I can't think of anything I would have changed.  It was one of the best so far!"  I had hired a wonderful driver with a spacious Sprinter van and a very knowledgeable historian who was our guide the entire trip.  Not only was our guide extremely knowledgeable, she was such a pleasure to be with.  I could not have had a better crew.

It was such a great trip and so different than my other Mexican tours, that I have decided to lead another tour to Chiapas.  The Magic of the Maya World journey is set for February 8 - 16, 2018.  This time, I have added another day in San Cristobal de Las Casa.  You'll be gone 9 days which includes travel.  Below are just some of the highlights of the upcoming trip!
 The first night will be spent at a quaint hotel right in Chiapa de Corzo.  (See my post dated April 20, 2017 to read about the town's square and history)
The next morning will will visit the pristine plaza before heading down to the river
where we will visit one of Chiapa's most impressive natural wonders when we  take a boat trip up the Grijalva River.  The river winds through the Canon de Sumidero whose limestone walls reach a kilometer high in some places.  A haven for all kinds of birds and Spider monkeys.  (See my post dated June 28, 2016 on more photos of the Canon)
We'll spend three nights in San Cristobal de Las Casa which was founded in 1528 and is full of historic churches, museums and old architecture.  There is a large artisan market right next to the Santo Domingo church.
Chiapas is known for its textiles; huipiles, rebozas, blankets, purses, table runners...  You will find the creative pottery from Amantenanga del Valle.  The area is famous for its amber and we will visit one of the best amber jewelry stores in town.
A visit to the beautiful Ex-convento de Santo Domingo which is home to the Museo de los Altos.  There is a phenomenal Maya textile collection located on the second floor.  The main floor showcases Pre-Colombian textiles and carvings, paintings and religious artifacts from the Spanish conquistadors along with displays giving an overview of the diverse indigenous groups in the region. 
An example of the colorful architecture in San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Calle de Guadalupe in the historic center of San Cristobal de Las Casas is one of the pedestrian streets, lined with quaint restaurants, galleries and shops.
A side trip from San Cristobal de Las Casas will take us north to San Juan Chamula in the Highlands.  One of the most interesting churches with an interior that is like no other in Mexico.  (see my post dated April 28,2016).
I have specifically planned the itinerary on these dates so we will be in San Juan Chamula during Carnival.  Carnival is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration  before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnival is celebrated exuberantly with parades, costumes, music and dancing in the streets.

It is an exciting time during Carnival and something one should not miss.
A visit to the colorful Sunday market in the Highland's village of Zinacantan.
The church in Zinacantan was beautifully decorated with flowers grown nearby (a big industry in this area). 
Each Chiapas highland village has their own unique attire, hand-woven that is embellished with a cross-stitch or embroidery.  The embroidered shawls worn by the women of Zinacantan were just exquisite.  (See my post dated February 26, 2016 for more photos and information about Zinacantan).
As we leave San Cristobal de las Casas, we will travel through gorgeous countryside on the way to the jungle setting of Palenque.
We will spend the morning in Tonina, one of the best Maya archaeological sites that sees very little visitors.  This ball court is one of the Maya's largest, almost 200 feet long and unique with it's sunken construction.
Tonina (Tzetltal Mayan for House of Stone) is believed to be the last major city to succumb to the abrupt collapse that hit the Maya in the 9th century.
The view from the top with the spectacular view of the valley.  After all the climbing, we relaxed over a picnic lunch and an ice cold beer at the site.
Two nights will be spent at the Chan-Kah Resort.  Set in a manicured jungle setting, you will have your own casita while enjoying the huge main pool and the open-air restaurant with a wonderful view.
The Palenque ruins are the crown jewel of the archaeological sites not only in Chiapas but in the entire Maya empire.   
There is a sense of sophistication about Palenque. (For more information on Palenque, check my posts out on my Blog:  August 28, 2016, March 21, 2017 and March 31, 2017.)
After touring the ruins, we will visit the fabulous museum where you will see many pieces that are almost perfectly preserved.
Part of the fun getting to the ruins of Yaxchilan is the smooth, the 45-minute boat ride down the Usumacinta River which divides Mexico and Guatemala.  The scenery is magnificent and you may spot a Howler monkey up in a riverside tree.
Yaxchilan, an ancient city overlooking the Osumacinta River, has a magical feel to it.  The setting was just enchanting, as were the ruins.
Bonampak is a modest archaeological sight in comparison to the others, but it has some of the best Maya murals ever discovered.   The brightly colored frescoes are amazing.  One shows a fierce jungle battle scene where another shows the crowning of a boy king.

I could go on and on about the wonderful adventures in this unique part of Mexico.  
If you are interested in joining me, please send me an email with your address and 
I will send you the detailed itinerary along with pricing. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Dad turned 95 over the weekend

Friday my Dad, Bob or RAM, had his 95th birthday.  My brother, Carter, called him RAM.  He said he could not go around the office calling him "Dad", so RAM came from his initials.  And it stuck and many to this day still call him RAM.
I had to come up with something special for his big birthday so I went thru a lot of my photos to make a two-sided photo "Birthday Mobile".   The photo above was taken of him at the age of six with his lunch basket.
32 photos hung from ribbons that were attached to a thin bamboo stick that rested on the top of the dining room light fixture.
There was a gap of a few years since many of the photos I shot were slides.
"RAM" in Alaska on a salmon fishing trip with Carter.
In 1948, he put the radio station KBUN on the air in Bemidji, Minnesota and that is where my parents met.  My mom had here first teaching job there, fresh out of school from Miss Woods Teaching College in Minneapolis. They would have breakfast at the same diner and that is when Bob spotted Lorraine.  The rest is history.   They will celebrating their 69th anniversary this June!
His 68th birthday at our first house in San Miguel de Allende.
I found THE perfect cocktail napkin for the occasion, Happy Birthday Handsome!   I had planned a dinner party for Friday and Saturday night.
The first night we had Mushroom Croustades and mixed nuts for appetizers.  Followed by a Caesar salad and a roasted poblano stuffed with shrimp, zucchini, onion and cheese that sat on a roasted tomato, roasted red pepper, cilantro and garlic sauce.
One thing I especially enjoy when entertaining is setting an unusual table.  I  bought these talavera shallow bowls (all with a different scene) in Seville, Spain and I found the vintage linens at an outdoor antique market in Aix de Provence, France.
One of my favorite desserts, Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte, that serves 14 to 16.  You can find this recipe on by post dated August 18, 2016.  The best part of this recipe, besides being sinfully delicious, is that you can make it a week in advance!
My Dad and George have known each other for around 40 years.  Back then, my Dad had the agency, Mullen Advertising and Public Relations in Scottsdale.  George was one of his clients and he created a very successful logo for George's commercial real estate company, Illif Thorn and Co.  Now my parents are living in Denver and George and his wife are here too.  Great stories were told that evening.
Saturday's dinner party, we started with shrimp cakes and a Shiracha mayo sauce and these zucchini rolls filled with a herbed goat cheese. 

A different venue for Saturday's table setting...  Mexican plates from Dolores Hidalgo, Mexican wine glasses from San Miguel de Allende, bobble-head horses and cowboys from the Friday market in Patzcuaro, ceramic black and white chickens from Ametenango del Valle in the state of Chiapas and hand-carved wood donkeys from San Miguel.  Pretty festive.
The menu that night was a salad, creamy cornbread cooked in my dad's mother's cast iron skillet right out of the oven and grilled chicken sitting on a bed of julienned, sauteed jicama with a jalapeno vinegar cream sauce.  And of course, the Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte.
Fred and Suzy composed a tremendous two page poem commemorating my dad's life.  Very cleverly written. 
And to top it off , they even made a large poster for him with stickers and such nice praise, "Radio, out doors man, equestrian, Taurus, Adman, writer, dove hunter, excellence, wit, Mexico, Lorraine, nifty, exceptional, responsible, old school, bone fide, educated, reliable, teddy bear, accomplished, elegant writing, magnificent, unsurpassed, effervescent, nice guy."  Suzy said, that 100 years old will even be better.
It was a great birthday weekend and thank you all for the birthday cards and Facebook greeting!  He loved every minute of it.