Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Phenominal Door Knocker

Yesterday I wrote about some of the wonderful door knockers in San Miguel de Allende.  I just had to share with you this magnificent door knocker that I encountered when I was in Rome recently.  About 18" in diameter, it sat beautifully on the burled doors.  I just wonder if the interior of the home was as impressive.
Pretty impressive!!!!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Door Knockers in San Miguel de Allende

Walking around San Miguel de Allende is treat, no matter how you look at it.  One of the many things I love are the beautifully crafted door knockers.  A while ago I posted (September 8, 2010) about some of them, and I thought I would post a few more of the great door knockers around town.
A graceful, female hand.
No matter what color the door is, this door knocker is wonderful.  It is probable the most popular design around town.
 This door knocker looks like it just came out of a Mayan ruin.
Such a graceful poise of an angel.
Nice looking dog on the end of this knocker.
Angry lion, mad dog... What ever it is, I would think twice about knocking on this door.
 This lion has been around the block a few times.
I love the majestic look of this door knocker.  Very Regal.
You can not go wrong with this one.  It is just leaping off the door!  I think it would be fun to do a treasure hunt around San Miguel;   a bingo card with photos of a door knockers on it and the "player" would have to find them around town.  Would be the making of a great interactive fund raiser!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meet Me In San Miguel de Allende in October - Itinerary


Over the past few years, I have been leading guided tours of San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas.  My next, and only tour for 2012 is October 9 - 15.

The first evening, I host a welcome reception and dinner at my home right in the historic center of town and only a few blocks from Posada Carmina where my groups stay.  The second floor patio, mirador, is where we have our drinks with an incredible view of San Miguel with the Monjas church and the Parroquia church.
My home is equally inviting at night.  Aren't the stone pavers a work of art?
The second day we start with breakfast at one of my favorite spots, Cafe Parroquia, followed by a leisurely guided walking tour of San Miguel.  We tour the Parroquia, the magnificent parish church, right in the jardin (the central plaza).
We walk around the jardin and take in its grandeur.  Later we visit the Monjas church, shown in the photo above in the background.  
We stroll by some of the town's old and elegant homes, a few select galleries and folk art boutiques, just to mention some of the sights. We relax at lunch at another one of my favorite restaurants.
Many of the streets are so inviting and you later will find yourself walking everywhere!
The market is a favorite stop by all my groups!  Such vivid colors.
Especially the flower section.
One day we will visit Guanajuato, once the richest city in the world due to its silver mining. The colors are breathtaking.
Carlos is telling us about the Teatro Juarez which we will visit along with the home and museum of Diego Rivera and the studio of world-famous ceramist, Gorky Gonzales.
Guanajuato has a very old European feeling to it with its stately mansions.  After a gourmet lunch, we head up the mountain to the church in Valencia with its gold-encrusted altar. 
We'll venture on to Dolores Hidalgo, a small town where virtually everyone is employed in making beautiful ceramics.
Day four, you are in for a treat as we venture just a few miles out of town into the picturesque countryside.  We will visit the home and gallery of Mayer Shacter who has one of the best folk art collections around.  The architecture and landscaping are pretty remarkable too.
We will visit the lush gardens and wildy adorned and brightly-colored tiled studio and home of artist Anado McLauchlin.    On the way back into town, we will stop at the Sancturary of Atotonilco, often referred to as the Sistine chapel of the Americas because of its ancient and simply wonderful frescos.  We will dine at another of my favorite restaurants, La Chamonix and then to Fabrica La Aurora.  For 90 years the Aurora factory manufactured premium cotton fabrics.  Today, it is the Aurora Art & Design Center where internationally recognized artists exhibit their work and galleries display furniture, interior design treasures, antiques, jewelry, paintings, folk art, linens, accessories and much more.

On Saturday, take the day off and wander around town by yourself, just shopping or sightseeing.  It will be a festive time, the churches will be decorated in honor of St. Francis and St. Miguel the week before (the patron saint of San Miguel).  
Indulge in a lazy morning on Sunday.  At 12:30, we will enjoy a leisurely comida (lunch) of unbelievable Italian cuisine in a beautiful setting few miles outside of San Miguel.
In the evening, we all meet for music by Los Comodines (that is if I can find them in town at one of the local cantinas) up on my mirador.  
Soak up the San Miguel ambiance with a glass of sangria along with an assortment of delicious empanadas made especially for the occasion.  

Monday, October 8, I will meet you for breakfast at Posada Carmina and say my good byes.  One of the ladies on my previous trip said it perfectly, "Superlatives to express how impressed I am with your planning escape me.  Varied and interesting experiences, great food, wonderful company and generous hospitality certainly made for a super trip!"

Please join me for my next and only tour in 2012. 
I have already started to take reservations.
The dates are October 9 - 15.

You may reach me at:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnival in San Miguel de Allende

Carnival is a 5-day celebration that kicks off before the Catholic Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  Ones last fling before Lent.  Carnival was introduced to Mexico by the Spaniards.  It originated in Italy, coming from the Latin meaning "to take away" or "good-bye to meat."
San Miguel celebrations are not as elaborate as in some other towns around Mexico but it is still a festive time in the jardin (the towns main plaza).
Last weekend the jardin was full of paper mache flowers.
 And accordion legged "Payasitos" (little clowns).
 More Payasitos.
 The whole perimeter of the jardin was lined with an assortment of paper flowers, clowns and the "cascarones".
But watch out for the cascarones, confetti filled eggsChildren buy them and then run wild around the jardin trying to smash one on a friends head or an unexpected recipient!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meet Me in San Miguel de Allende in October

It is far better to be pampered with luxury of old world charm than trampled by the crush of today's worldwide tourism.

When my husband and I were in Spain, France and Italy a few months ago, we were overwhelmed by the crush of tourism.  A three-hour-long line that went around the block to see Gaudi's unfinished Basilica de La Familia Sagrada in Barcelona.  Shoulder-to-shoulder tourist at the Vatican.  Hurried service to accommodate crowded diners in restaurants.  Even in off season, Venice was jammed, canal-to-canal.  I could not help reflect on how far different life is in San Miguel de Allende.

As you stroll San Miguel's ancient streets and past it grand architecture, you will find quaint stores and boutiques that are perfect for leisurely shopping.  Waiters who know me by my first name always have the perfect table waiting for us.  If we want to catch a two-dollar taxi out to Aurora Fabrica, the outstanding design center, invariably there is a friendly driver just seconds away.  Days are cool, calm and collected.  And evenings are quiet with the exception of beautiful displays of fireworks being launched into the crystal clear night.

Worldwide, airports are most often trying to the patience of even a saint with serpentine lines and the indignity of half-disrobing for over-worked and underpaid security people.  Yet, when you arrive in Leon for your visit to San Miguel, your passport is rubber-stamped lightening-fast and a polite gentleman with a luggage dolly meets you at the single carousel and whisks you through security.   Your driver greets you at the door, scoops up your luggage and very carefully and securely tours you across the Bajio Highlands countryside to colorful, historic San Miguel de Allende and right to the elegant big doors of your hotel where your room awaits in old colonial Mexico splendor. 

Some travel today can be tiring, exasperating and challenging.  But believe me, once you cross the latitude into the quiet world I know in the land Father Hidalgo blessed many years ago, your life will be renewed and your faith restored.

Meet Me in San Miguel, October 9 - 15, 2012. 
This will be my only travel group for 2012. 
I limit the number so please reserve those dates now! 
If you are interested in joining me, please email me.

Robin Mullen


Check out my blog at www.robintalkscookstravels.blogspot.com 
(Type San Miguel de Allende in the top, left hand corner
to narrow you search on my posts on San Miguel)

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Spice Island Cook Book

 It has been a while since I have posted about any of my cooking extravaganzas.  My best friend from my childhood, Margaret, and I have known each other since we were ten.   In 1972, her parents were down sizing and they had a huge garage sale.  Both her parents were good cooks and I knew there would be some kitchen treasures to acquire. I picked up the Spice Island Cook Book and I still have a few other things that are in my kitchen to this day.

Published in 1961, some of the recipes are a little dated, but I adore the graphics and the type that was used.  The chapter, A guide to your Spice Shelf, is very interesting for each spice is described, there is a bit of history, its origin, its appearance, its culture and then the many uses.  The word spice is an all-inclusive word that has four distinct categories.    

Spices are from the bark, root, fruit or berry;  (Cinnamon from the bark, Pepper from the berry).  Herbs are leaves of annual and perennial low growing plants;  (basil, thyme, rosemary...)  Aromatic seeds are the seeds of annual plants; (anise, coriander, fennel).  Seasonings are a blend of spices and/or herbs and/or seeds.

One of the recipes that I love is Chicken Liver Pate Tarragon.  I have tweaked it some.  One change I made is that I substituted fresh garlic for powdered garlic. I detest powdered garlic. I can always tell when restaurants have used powdered garlic in their sauces, the taste stays with you for ever.
** Made in the blender, this pate has a smooth, creamy texture and a nice light liver flavor.

8 chicken livers (one  16 oz. container / 
        found in the freezer department of some stores)
2 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube ( I prefer Maggi)
1 generous tablespoon sherry
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tarragon (ground in the palm of your hand)
1/2 teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning

Wash chicken livers and cut into small pieces.  Melt butter in a frying pan.  Stir in garlic, chicken livers and chicken bouillon cube (smash with a back of a large spoon).  Saute until livers are no longer pink.  Add liver mixture to the blender.  Add sherry to the frying pan and deglaze.  Add to livers along with cream cheese, Tarragon and Beau Monde.  Puree in blender.  Put into a serving dish and chill.

Serve with Pepperage Farm Thin sliced bread.  Cut the crust off each piece and cut in half.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 7 minutes at 300' or until hard but not brown.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pinotxo's, the best in the Boqueria!

The Boqueria, right of La Rambla, is one of the best food markets I have ever been to.  This would definitely be one reason to live in Barcelona.  And the next would be able to come to the legendary Pinotxo Bar for breakfast!  Pinotxo means Pinocchio as you can see from the wonderful logo on the place mat.
Near the entrance of the Boqueria, Juanito Bayen, sporting his signature bow tie, greets you with a big smile and thumbs up that this is THE place.
It is a tiny bar with a "L" shaped counter to sit at.  Juanito and a few other family members are there to help you...  cooking, pouring and serving all in this narrow space behind the bar.  Many times you have to wait for someone to vacate one of the 14 or so bar stools to get a place at the counter. 
The first order of business is to order a Chucho, Xuixo in Catalan, along with a  cafe con leche.  The Chucho is an irresistible deep fried pastry filled with a creamy farmers cheese.  They get only so many in, so first come, first served.  "Hands off, get your own!"
All the ingredients are fresh, right from the vendors around the corner.  The spinach and pine nut omelet is a breakfast staple served with the pa amb tomaquet (dense country bread, toasted and rubbed with a vine-ripped tomato and a garlic clove, then drizzled with an excellent olive oil).  And of course, order a glass or two of Cava, just like the locals.
I have had the Garbanos con Chipirones (chickpeas with baby squid) at quite a few places around Barcelona and Pinotxo's hands down makes the best!  Once plated, it is drizzled with a Balsamic vinegar that had been reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Unbelievable flavors and so fresh.

Other dishes worth noting is the fried cod with its crispy crust drizzled with olive oil laced with slices of sauteed garlic.  Or the chickpeas with the white Catalan pork sausage (garbanzos con butifarra).
There is a book store out on La Rambla that sells his cookbook that has numerous recipes in it along with his family history, Pinocho: La Vida y La Cocina en la Boqueria de Barcelona.  Juanita was very nice to write a note in mine for me.

Pinotxo Bar is a must!  You can not go to Barcelona, more less the Boqueria, without eating here.  With the ambiance of the market, the friendly service and the unbelievable food, it is an incredible experience and worth the wait.  Buon Provecho.

Mercat de La Boqueria
Pinotxo Bar
Rambla 91

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yesterday in Arizona

My Dad had used these vintage photos in an advertising campaign for Heritage Graphics back in 1990.  Being that Arizona celebrated its 100 year anniversary, I thought you would enjoy seeing what Phoenix looked like back then.

This farmer and his team of horses were cutting hay in the vicinity of 64th Street, just south of Camelback Road when there were few homes in the area and a wagon trail was the main arterial at the west end of the mountain.
The year was 1929 and Mae West, branded "America's Most Startling Woman," was in town for the opening of her latest movie, "I'm no Angel."  Balcony seats at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix were going for 30 cents which included the feature movie, plus "Tarzan the Fearless" and the latest edition of Paramount Sound News!
Hamburgers and hot dogs were 15-cents in 1928 at the Coffee Pot Drive-In at 7th Street and McDowell in Phoenix.  Long before fast food and McDonald's, the Coffee Pot was a popular spot for local high school students and was referred to as an "Auto Teria."
On November 5, 1887 (almost 125 years ago), Phoenix's first streetcar arrived at the end of its first run for this historic photograph.  The horse-drawn conveyance ran from Seventh Street to Seventh Avenue on Washington Street.
Things certainly have changed since then!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Arizona Turns 100 with a little help from Ed Mell

Fifty years ago my parents pulled up roots, left family and friends, closed a successful business in Minneapolis and moved me and my brother to Scottsdale, Arizona!  That was fifty years ago and yesterday Arizona turned a hundred.
Ed Mell was the perfect choice to design the commemorative centennial stamp for Arizona.  A Phoenix native, he is famous for his cubist, dramatic southwestern landscapes.  A stamp collector as a child, I am sure he was thrilled by this commission.  The above landscape is Mell's artistic interpretation of Sedona's Cathedral Rock. 
I love it!  I will have to make a visit to the post office and pick up a sheet or two of stamps.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day !

Happy Valentines Day 

to my family, 
all my friends


I took this photo at my casa in San Miguel de Allende. 
It was my parents 60th anniversary and the house and fountains were full of flowers.
This June will be their 64th anniversary!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Going Green in San Miguel de Allende

Green is not my favorite color but when I see it here, one can not help but love it.
Delicious cream of artichoke soup at La Chamonix in San Miguel at Calle Sollano 17.  Ana makes the best soups.
Lush artichokes in the market in San Miguel.
Green on green at the Botanic Gardens, El Charco del Ingenio, just outside of San Miguel.  There are over 500 different cacti and 250 acres with an abundance of hiking trails. 
The cactus almost looked fake, especially with the fuzzy ribs on each arm.  Believe me, it was real. 
I found this little green door against the white stucco facade to be so refreshing and pristine.
Nopales, the fleshy oval pads or leaves of the prickly pear cactus.
Chayote squash, native to Mexico, was once a principle food to the Aztecs and Mayans.
And of course, it would not be a market without its chilies.  Viva la Verde!