Tuesday, June 27, 2017

La Casa Navacoyan in the Mountains of Malinalco

Image from WikiCommons Part of fresco in ex-convent
Malinalco: a small and picturesque Pueblo Mágico in the southern pocket of Estado de México; embraced by cliffs; a town with blessed with spiritual qualities, its near neighbor, Chalma, a mecca for pilgrims.

Doña Cuevas and I chose Malinalco in which to stay and celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. It would be very different from last year's anniversary, when we went to Guadalajara and stayed at the wonderful Hotel Morales. Casa Navacoyan is wonderful in its own, different ways.

I looked over various reviews of hospedaje in Malinalco. One small hotel is always at the top of the ratings lists. That is Casa Navacoyan, located on the outskirts of Malinalco, about 1.5 kilometers east. Taxis are available to carry guests from the Casa to Malinalco Centro for about $40. Guest reviews lauded the hotelito, noting especially the attentive owner-hostess, Sra. Margarita and her daughter, Lucrecia. The lavish breakfasts, served each morning on the terrace had gained fame among the guests. (see further on.*)

I decided to make reservations for three nights via Booking.com. I also had personal communication with Sra. Margarita in regard choice of room and a deposit via credit card to guarantee our stay.

We arrived after a ride through the beautiful hill country to the north of Malinalco. As we arrived, we were enthusiastically greeted by the energetic Margarita. We were given keys, both to the gate and to our room "Teresa". We rarely used our keys while there.

Puerta, Casa Navacoyan 
Main house, Casa Navacoyan 

View of the Cerro, Casa Navacoyan 
The room was modest in size but adequately served our needs. The king bed was very comfortable, the bedding soft and supple; the bathroom airy and well illuminated by a skylight. The hot water rapidly arrived to the shower head. There was a spacious, built-in closet, and a large wooden chest, but we didn't use it except as a bench to store loose items. The only negative thing, and a minor one, was the very small desk and its uncomfortable, thatch bottom chair. We adjusted the chair by getting a cushion which solved my seat complaint.

La Casa is set close to the massive red stone cliffs that embrace Malinalco.
The grounds are beautifully and meticulously maintained by the two gardeners, Cristian and Miguel. The modest sized swimming pool, set in a manicured lawn, is surrounded by lush semi-tropical growth.

Guests' comfort is ensured by the placement of comfortable lounging furniture. There is also a spacious recreation room with tv, honor bar and table games.

Lounging area overlooking the lawn and pool
*Now, to return to the breakfasts. In past years, we'd had less than laudable breakfasts at other B&Bs. The breakfasts at Casa Navacoyan swept those dreary granola and toast memories into the dust bin.

At Casa Navacoyan, every breakfast began with two different fresh juices, a plate of perfectly ripe cut fruit. We were especially impressed when a peeled, juicy mango was brought to us.

sweet, juicy mangos!
Of course, there was a bread basket, containing a selection of good bread from Malinalco's panaderías. The Malinalco bolillos are distinctive, with elaborate cuts, then baked in a wood fired oven. The butter was home churned and distinctive, as well as two different home made preserves.


That was only the beginning. We were then offered a choice of several main courses, for example, enmoladas, huevos al gusto, sopes, shredded beef in sauce and more. Hot tortillas were supplied freely, on request. Huevos al gusto, in a wide variety of styles. One morning, after I'd expressed my love for hoja santa, we were served huevos a la hoja santa, a very distinctive dish.

Enmoladas and frijoles
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Casa Navacoyan. The grounds and surroundings were idyllic. The hospitality went beyond the ordinary; we were pampered at every moment. We would  gladly return, if access by public and private transportation were not so complicated for us. It would be advantageous to have your own car.

RATINGS: From 1 to 10 

Room: 8

Cost: Approximately $2820 MXN per night for two guests, at least for the Teresa room. The cost may vary in regard to other rooms, and number of guests.

Cleanliness: 10

Service: 10 Extraordinary customer care. The owners are multilingual.

(About restaurants in Malinalco: Both Margarita and Lucrecia recommended two restaurants in town. I'll be describing them in following posts.)

Overall rating: 10.  A wonderful place for relaxation in a beautiful setting. The staff will pamper you.

Location: About 1.4 kilometers from Malinalco Centro. Beautiful setting near the foot of the cliffs. Fine views of a cone shaped cerro.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Newbies Do Uber in México

UBER LOGO

We just returned from a week's vacation to celebrate our 49th wedding Anniversary. All enjoyable, other than when our first bus, an AutoVias from Morelia, broke down soon after departure, with a two hour delay, then arriving in Toluca in the hellish rush hour traffic. But we survived.

We stayed our first night at the Fiesta Inn Toluca Tollocan. It was our pick up location for our first Uber ride the next morning.

We were to use Uber a lot in the following days. Our first experiences were very good, although not perfect. The convenience, peace of mind and safety were the outstanding features. Plus most of the 4 or 5 drivers we had were personable and liked to converse. Our first Uber driver was Arturo, who drove us from our Toluca hotel to Casa Navacoyan near Malinalco. It’s a long, 1 hour plus drive through scenic countryside, and we had enjoyable conversations along the way.

It was so enjoyable, that I arranged with Arturo to drive us to Mexico City from Casa Navacoyan (an idyllic B&B) three days later. It was relatively expensive compared to taking buses, combis and taxis, (although I have not done the math), but it made for a smooth, seamless and enjoyable ride, door-to-door, just under two hours. That was arranged “privately”.

Our other Uber rides were shorter, all within the CDMX, and, the cars arrived almost instantly. I need to play more with the Uber app to make pickup times more precise. The app is very cool, and the feedback is notably complete and good. I won’t go into the technical details.

The cars varied in newness and cleanliness. That aspect didn't concern me greatly. Almost every driver had a smartphone mounted above the dashhbord and running Waze or Google Maps.

There was only one glitch, when I requested a ride to O-Mart, a Korean grocery on Calle Londres in the Zona Rosa, and our driver took us by mistake to an other Asian supermarket, Super Mikasa, on Calle San Luis Potosí, in Roma Norte. But he graciously corrected it and we soon arrived at the correct destination. Kind of funny, because we’d already Uber’d to Mikasa that morning.

We did have to wait over 20 minutes for an Uber pickup from O-Mart to the Hotel Stanza because the Zona Rosa and other parts of the city were in the throes of near gridlock at that hour. But it all worked out before too long.

I was getting a couple of free rides (the shorter ones) or substantial promotional discounts. Why, I have no idea, but I didn’t complain. Maybe the long trip from Toluca to Casa Navacoyan generated some bonus credits.

We always tipped our drivers. Kind of funny, as we rarely tip cab drivers. We’ll be refining this in future use. We are now big fans of Uber.

Our final Uber ride of the week was from the Stanza to Terminal Poniente Observatorio, Our driver was not allowed to drop us off any closer to the terminal building other than at some grubby looking food stands on the outer road. But it wasn’t really a big problem, though we were carrying our moderately heavy bags. We entered the upper level of Metro Observatorio station, crossed over the tracks, then descended again to street level and across the street at the traffic light crossing to the terminal building explanada, where a porter took charge of our baggage. We were soon inside, at the ETN waiting room.

(If you are looking to find this post on Surviving La Vida Buena, forget it. I have retired that blog. I admit that I can't even find the Dashboard for it. So, adios, amigo.)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Another Roadside Attraction

La Estancia Camelinas
Sometimes I get fixated on trying a certain restaurant, but it seems as though an opportunity rarely arises. So it was with the apparently popular roadside restaurant at La Estancia, Michoacán, just south of Santiago Undameo. It's close to the Corona soap factory. By sheer coincidence, it is also known as Las Camelinas, but in no way could it ever be confused with Las Camelinas in the Hotel Plaza in Uruapan. Nor can it be compared fairly with the well organized and attractively presented buffet at El Mandil, Pátzcuaro.

In fact, we had breakfasted twice the year before at the outdoor, neighboring annex, Los Equipales. The food and setting were simple and rustic, and I enjoyed it. It has unfortunately closed since then.

But what was it about  the adjoining restaurant that so often attracted so many parked vehicles? We decided to take a Sunday drive, have comida at the mystery restaurant, and after, stop at the berry store. That store was another roadside attraction which we'd often passed but never shopped.

When we drove up to La Estancia Camelinas, it was obvious that Sunday afternoon drew a big crowd. The parking lot was almost full.

Welcome sign
Once inside, we found a table to the rear of one of the several rambling dining spaces. The overall decor was "eclectic". The floor was irregular, and I became somewhat alarmed when I realized that our table, at the base of steep stairs, was the outlet for kitchen staff carrying heavy, hot clay pots from an unseen, upstairs kitchen.

 A waitress told us that the comida was served buffet style. I made a recon of the main hot table. It appeared to be a jumble of hot, cold and should have been hot dishes. A few feet away, a window ledge bore several braziers with more dishes, both hot and cold.

A ledge end in its time

I selected a few of the more appealing items. Bisteces en Salsa Negra was outstanding; tender slices of beef in a zesty sauce. The arroz was o.k. but as a self service customer, I risked wrist burns in reaching the hot cazuela. Frijoles de la olla were unusually silky and rich.

Frijoles, chorizo, arroz and a mystery taco
Doña Cuevas got an entire tender chuleta de cerdo en salsa verde. I thought it was pretty good. There were so many dishes and tidbits that I have no way of recounting all. Some were less visually appealing, so we didn't try them.

Chuleta de Cerdo, salsa verde; cebolla y nopal asados: GOOD!

Our meals came with glasses of  refreshing agua de pepino al limón.

Our cuenta was $180 pesos, plus $20 more for a couple of not bad cafés de olla.

It's a bargain, but not a place for those of delicate sensibilities. I'm glad we tried it. My curiosity is satisfied.

I'm wondering what it's like for breakfast ...

RATINGS

Food: 7

Service: 7

Ambience: informal, self-service buffet. Seating not too comfortable.

Rest rooms: clean and functional.

Cost: BARGAIN! $90 pp

Location

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Up Ramp in Uruapan at the Restaurante Las Camelinas

We’d long had glowing, enthusiastic reports from friends about the Restaurante Las Camelinas, in Uruapan’s Hotel Plaza. Last Saturday, we went in a group, headed up by Georgia, plus Mark and Nancy and Shirley.

Now, normally I would not be drawn to restaurants of this style and class. But I put my peculiar preferences aside and determined to enjoy it.

I rode with Mark and Nancy and our conversation was enjoyable and interesting. Among various topics, we discussed the road navigation app, “WAZE”, which was running on Mark’s phone. I turned mine on and we had some laughs at the two, overlapping  female Spanish WAZE voices.

We arrived at the hotel parking lot entrance after a Waze-guided tour of some of Uruapan’s older, quainter neighborhoods. The dominant feature of the internal parking  at the hotel is the imposing entrance ramp, which ascends maybe 2 stories into the interior.

Elevators or stairs descend  from the parking floor to the restaurant level. The ample foyer is enhanced by very nicely displayed Michoacán artesanías.

Thank you, TripAdvisor (They owe me a few favors)
The dining room lies at right angles to the foyer, with large windows overlooking some picturesque buildings.

This photo brought to you by the wonders of the Internet
We had a large, round table in a corner. The seats were comfortable, but conversation was somewhat difficult over the expanse of the table.

A table very much like ours. It IS ours.
Service was very attentive and professional but not intrusive. In fact, the service ranks among the best I’ve had in Mexico. Some specialties are enhanced with tableside preparation. Caesar Salad, for example. It looked good, if somewhat heavy on the oil, and Georgia made sure that they wouldn’t use any yellow “ballpark” mustard in its preparation. Also Plátanos Flambé, which may not actually be on the menu, but we saw it prepared twice while we were there. The service staff and kitchen seem very open to special and off menu requests.

Plátanos flambé table side
There were two table salsas, a green and a red, apparently made in a licuadora, O.k. but nothing special. There was also a small bowl of what looked like 1000 Islands Dressing, but I didn’t try it. We were also given a dish of Ensaladilla Rusa Cooked: cubed potatoes and carrots in mayonnaise, which was better than I expected but will never become a favorite of mine.

Sra. Cuevas and I both had a mezcal de Etúcaro for openers. Then we both ordered a warm salad of calabacitas plus a little nopal. This was a nice, subtly dressed dish and the pyramid of calabacitas slices were cooked al dente. I had chosen it in anticipation of richly sauced main dishes to follow.

It was challenging to select from the extensive menu, but both Sra. Cuevas and I decided on fish. She had a simple fillet of salmon with an attractive side of ratatouille; I chose the new-to-me “Posta de Robalo de las Hierbas Antiguas.” That was accompanied by a pair of tasty breaded fried “sandwiches” of tomato and cheese. My fish seemed odd to me. Not spoiled, but somewhat odd in taste, and parts had a cartilaginous texture. I didn't finish it. As it turned out, neither had rich sauces.

Robalo con hierbas

Shirley and Georgia both enjoyed a chicken fillet dish in a rich mushroom gravy.


 Others had dishes I couldn’t identify, due to the difficulty of talking across the table.

Unidentified dish.
  But I did get pictures. For example, Mark’s Atún en Salsa de Mango, with its frilly expanded cellophane noodle headpiece.



I had tiramisú for dessert, which was o.k. and small enough not to be excessive. The café Americano was average.

Here are a couple of desserts.

White and dark chocolate on mint sauce

Tiramisú on cappuccino sauce.

In conclusion, I would go there again, and probably would have a beef dish. But I’m in no hurry. It’s kind of far to go for a meal, no matter how good.

La cuenta for just the two of us was $980 pesos, which I thought reasonable. We had two mezcals and a glass of white wine to enhance our meal.

RATINGS

Food: 7

Service: 9

Ambience: Post-Purhépecha decor; somewhat stately style

Cost: (per person, in pesos) -$500

Web site: hotelplazauruapan.com.mx
From the website:

RESTAURANT "LAS CAMELINAS"

Al interior del Edificio en el 1er piso encontrará el Restaurante de Especialidades Las Camelinas con una alta Cocina Mexicana e Internacional, ideal para los amantes de la Comida Gourmet, además la dulce vibración que emite el piano y violín algunas noches. Rodeados de un ambiente romántico y familiar de martes a sábado de 1:00pm a 11:00pm y los domingos de 1:00pm a 5:00pm. Con los más altos estándares de calidad, Certificados con el Distintivo H (manipulación higiénica de los alimentos)
Tel: +52 452 523 3488

Location

Friday, April 07, 2017

Zoned Out


We, like numerous other expats, believe in supporting small, local businesses. For example, we love the Tienda Don Chucho, of which I've written and photographed before. But sometimes it's to our advantage to patronize large, chain businesses. For example, we've nearly stopped going to Pátzcuaro's fabulous but difficult to traverse Mercado Municipal. Instead, we shop in the more convenient and comfortable Bodega Aurrerá and less often at the Mercado Soriana supermarket. We still are loyal to roadside fruit stands often operated by a husband and wife team. In other words, we are not dogmatic.

Our car mechanic is a personable, wiry hombre who works curbside and charges very little. His curbside workspace is near the end of Calle Ibarra, where it meets Libramento. However, his capacity as a one man shop limits the workload. Sometimes we have to wait for an appointment.

(What's the food connection? His shop is about 100 feet from our favorite taquería, El Venadito.)

Pátzcuaro's Libramento is the locale of nearly countless auto service shops and parts stores. But recently we have patronized Pátzcuaro's only AutoZone store.
(There are several in our state capital city of Morelia.)

 It's like an island of American-style business management and organization, here in the heart of Mexico. The interior of the AutoZone store is clean and orderly, with products neatly and logically arranged on the shelves.

If you need a special part, a staff member can look it up on their computer system. More recently, we were pleasantly amazed to find that they had a crucial part for our van's power steering.  On top of everything, there are two clean restrooms at the back of the store.

The employees at the Pátzcuaro AutoZone are especially friendly and helpful. Recently we bought windshield wipers, which they installed for free. They also installed new bulbs in our turn signals.
They are, in fact, outstandingly helpful.

AutoZone Pátzcuaro is located at Libramiento Ignacio Zaragoza 89, Independencia, 61607 Pátzcuaro, Mich., Mexico

Web site: http://www.autozone.com.mx/

Friday, December 23, 2016

A New Year's Eve Cod PIece

I subscribe to an Italian cooking blog called Memorie di Angelina. I enjoy it for its mostly simple dishes.

Borrowed from Memorie di angelina
Today's feature was Filetti di baccalà (Fried Salt Cod Filets). This is a ingredient I have never used, and rarely eaten. My favorite dish using bacalao were the Buñuelos de Bacalao, as made and served in the Cuban restaurant of Morelia, El Bosque de la PlazuelaI have twice had one of the iconic Latin American Christmas and New Year's dishes, the rather oddly composed Bacalao a la Vizcaina.

Borrowed bacalao image
This is a dish, often served at room temperature, of shredded cooked salt cod plus tomatoes, olives, capers, and, I swear, I once had it with a prune. It does, however evoke memories of my first visit, solo, to Mexico City, in January, 1992. I can eat it to be sociable, but really, I'd rather not.

While on a slow train from Cd. Júarez to Zacatecas the year before, we met Silvia, nice lady architect, her two kids and parents. She invited us to look her up if we ever got to Mexico City.

When my plans gelled to attend a language school in Cuernavaca, I wrote to Silvia. She kindly offered to pick me up at the Mexico City Aeropuerto.

My arrival was on the afternoon of New Year's Eve day. She and her parents first drove me to the family home, not far from the airport. New Year's Eve specialty dishes were already waiting to be transported to the site of the celebration. One of those dishes was Bacalao a la Vizcaina. With prune. I was offered the choices of simply going to my hotel, or coming to the NYE celebration. You can imagine which I chose, despite my travel fatigue.

We then divided into two parties. Silvia drove me to my hotel, the Hotel de Cortés, to check in and drop off my luggage. We then drove a considerable distance to Cd. Satélite, where her sister and her husband lived.

Her sister and B.I.L greeted me warmly. I was offered various spirituous drinks.
There ensued extended conversations, me, in my then lame Español, the B.I.L. in fractured English. At one point, he inquired about a management job at my little bakery, back home in Arkansas, leaving me more than slightly nonplussed.

Silvia's parents then arrived with the platters of food. We were invited to take seats in the cozy dining room. Our meal began with tostadas de pollo, if I recall correctly. Then came the bacalao a la Vizcaina. I think it had almonds as well as olives and capers. I, as guest of honor, was given the prune. Oh, yummy!

The B.I.L. proposed a New Year's toast. He had constructed a tower of wine glasses. The trick was to pour the bottle of sparkling wine into the topmost glass, whence it would flow into the lower glasses.

Stock photo
He succeeded, splashing only slightly on the tablecloth! We then went around the table, and offered New Year's wishes as toasts. I think that when my turn came, I said something about amistad internacional y paz en todo el mundo.

As midnight approached, I was really feeling the fatigue of a very long day, so I discreetly requested a departure from Silvia. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and headed outside to the car.

Disaster! If I recall correctly, at least one or more tires had been punctured. We were left with the tedious prospect of getting a lift from another relative, I think Silvia's brother, to the nearest Metro station, which was not close.

So off we went. At the top of the steps of the far western Metro station, ominous street dogs skulked about. There were street urchins, too, who loudly exhorted us to uses a specific turnstile. Who knows? Maybe the had rigged it to allow them to collect coins. It was creepy.

The train came, and we boarded. One or two stations onward, Silvia turned to me and said she was  very sorry, but we had boarded in the wrong direction. We were at the end of the line. Time was running out, for the metro service was about to shut down for the night. We hurriedly climbed tha stairs and then descended to the other side. Gracias a Dios, the last train came and we again boarded.

My stop would be Metro station Hidalgo, at the northwest corner of the Alameda. Silvia advised me to exit, not to linger nor look around, but to head directly to my hotel. Midnight had passed. It was now 1992.

I made it safely to my room, and collapsed into bed, with bacalao memories forever embedded in my brain.

Monday, September 05, 2016

There's Been a Slight Hitch in the Posts, or, Untying the Knots

My Mexican Kitchen has been photo dependent for as long as I can remember. Although I could simply write text, I much prefer to illuminate my posts with images.

To my dismay, my normal image embedding routine/workflow has been seriously disturbed by Google's decision to eliminate Picasa Web Albums, replacing it with Google Photos. Now it has apparently become difficult, if not impossible to obtain an image URL to use in my blog editor (not to neglect to mention some favorite forums).

(Let me say here, make no mistake, I loathe Google Photos, its abstruse interface, but especially its privacy-invading apps, which I have since deleted.)

I reactivated my Flickr account, and I'm learning my way about its labyrinthine but friendlier pages. But I still cannot get an image URL from any of my uploads.

I'm learning workarounds to remedy this dilemma. I can copy a code from a photo on Flickr, and using the HTML mode of the blog editor, paste in the code.

Let's see how that works ...

Libra Mixta at Bawa Bawa
Libra Mixta at Bawa Bawa BBQ, Colonia Roma Norte, CDMX
HEY! That works pretty well. Just a couple more steps than using the built in Blogger image tool.

Another method of embedding an image is a direct upload, from my computer's drive. This uses the Blogger image tool, and a simple file dialog box.
Here's an example:
Barbacoa de Conejo at Nico's México
Gee, this is encouraging. Now I just need to learn how to organize my Flickr images so I can easily find them again.

I'll celebrate with some home baked desserts.

image
Sticky pecan buns, cinnamon rolls, chile ancho brownies

There is hope.

PS: I see, after publishing this post, that the Flickr stored images are "Flickr branded" and have social network buttons, as well as my Real Name (GASP!). I don't really like this, but I can live with it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Days in Colonia Roma: Galanga Thai Kitchen


We spent three nights last week at the Hotel Stanza in Colonia Roma, CDMX. Our dining choices were made after keen debate, mostly between our traveling companion, Ms. Jennifer Rose and me.

Our first stop was at Galanga Thai Kitchen, a new, authentic Thai restaurant owned and operated by a Thai-Mexican couple. We owe Nick Gilman, of Good Food In Mexico City for this one. His blog post of July 5, 2016 led us to an excellent meal.

The restaurant is small, casual and comfortable. We started with a few appetizers; including both Fresh Spring Rolls and Fried spring Rolls. The former were delightful, fresh, and attractively presented. The Fried rolls were not bad, but less distinguished. The accompanying plum sauce was exemplar.

Fresh
Fried
For our next course, two of us chose salads. I had Tom Yom, or green papaya salad, and Jennifer had a very good Beef Salad.

Som Tom
The Som Tom was good, and spicy, but in a moment of confusion while ordering, I neglected to ask for calamari on the salad. So what I had had less-than-thrilling dried shrimp instead. But I ate it all.

The Beef Salad, of which I was given a taste, had perfectly cooked strips of meat in a tangy dressing.

Beef Salad
Sra. Cuevas moved directly to Phad Kee, a Spicy Noodle dish, again with beef, although other proteins were offered. The dominant seasoning was black pepper. That was, in my opinion, the least attractive of our dishes, but it was delicious.

Phad Kee con res
I am ever lured by soft-shell crab, and so ordered one of the specials of the week, Pu Nim Pad Prik Thai Dum, which translates, more or less, to soft shelled crab stir fried in black pepper and garlic. It was all right, but the soft, watery texture inside the crab was less pleasing. But I really liked the crisp, fresh, stir fried vegetables.

Soft shelled crab
Service was good, the staff was friendly. We chatted at length, in English and Spanish with Sr. Eleazar Castillo, the husband of Chef Somsri.

RATINGS

Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: relaxed, tranquil
Cost: $$$ (Each $ represents $100 pesos per person.)
Our bill, $1020 pesos, was reasonable for the quality of the food.
We would definitely return. Jennifer and I agreed (¡Que milagro!) that at Galanga we had the best meal of our time in Colonia Roma.

Location: 
Calle Guanajuato 202, Roma Norte
Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 1-10 p.m., closed Monday


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

I beg to differ



WARNING: This post contains negative emotions and contrarian opinions. If you want smiley, positive, cheerful blogging, click here. (Be sure to brush your teeth very well afterwards.)

A few days ago, our friend, Ms Rose in Morelia sent me a link to an article entitled "Hotelier Carlos Couturier's Insider Guide to Mexico City." You can read it here. 

I wasn't too dumbfounded by the opinions of Sr. Couturier. As I wrote to Ms Rose,
Thank you. It’s so interesting to read others’ opinions, which are so radically different than mine. And there’s so much bullshit about restaurants that IMO don’t really deserve their reputation.

"What’s the up and coming neighborhood to watch out for? 
I really like San Miguel Chapultepec. Most of the interesting art galleries are based there. It's centrally located, near a park, bike friendly and smart.

Me: "In April, 2013, stayed three nights at an Airb&b* property in SM Chapultepec, The Best (or Great) House in SM Chapultepec". That stay was the final nail in the b&b coffin for me. (Looking at the Airb&b page, I’m reminded of another aspect that really annoys me: Host reviews of guests. What is this, a grade school report card?)"

Me: "The neighborhood is boring, boring! There’s hardly anything of interest there. At least, we didn’t find anything. There’s a dearth of good restaurants. The best known, La Poblanita de Tacubaya, was terrible. (Our hosts liked it.) The best place was the Amor Casero ice cream stand, close to our B&B. Street food was almost non existent.   
We did find a just passable pizza place. I enjoyed shopping in the huge Soriana. Another highlight was getting a haircut. It was that dull.
The best feature were the MetroBus stations, swift ways out of that dull neighborhood.

* For a similar take on Air B&B, read this.
Back to Hotelier Carlos:
"Local spots so good they make the traffic in the city worth it.
Contramar is still the best place for lunch. For contemporary mexican cuisine, Amaya, by chef Jair Tellez, is the new "it" place. Havre 77 has a great atmosphere and the food is creative. For the vibe and authenticity, Restaurant Covadonga, and for late night, the one and only M.N. Roy (Frank Lloyd Wright meets the aztecs).

We ate at Contramar in 2004, with a local amiga and her then teenage son. I wasn’t in a good mood to start with, and I had a lousy, inadequate meal. The noise level was unbearable. It was like eating in an aircraft hangar, (the room was a barely remodeled bodega) with all engines on. I never want to go back, and I can’t understand the allure of Contramar for so many people.

COVADONGA! We ate there maybe twice, because it’s right next to our old lodgings at the Hotel Embassy. The food is totally pedestrian, and somewhat overpriced. The service indifferent. We had Calamares a la Romana, perfectly ordinary; Sra. Cuevas had a soup which was o.k. I had a Solomillo (filet steak) en Salsa de Queso Cabrales, which was so pungent with cheese that I couldn’t finish it. I like strong flavors, but this sauce threatened to remove the lining of my mouth.

Next time, we just went for drinks and some snack which I don’t remember. The place does have atmosphere, it's an old Asturian expats club, old men playing dominoes. Yet little or no attraction for the serious diner. It's another Old School establishment running on undeserved reputation. (Another such is the Salon Corona, in Centro, which is Legendary, of Mythic Reputation. It’s really just an o.k. cantina, nothing special. Good place for a drink and a torta. BFD.

Those are my negative, contrarian opinions for today. In my next post, I hope to offer more positive thoughts, a guide to the best Mexico City restaurant websites.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Two For The Road

There are some interesting restaurants along the Federal Highway 14, between Pátzcuaro and Morelia. On the Pátzcuaro end, the Restaurante El Mandil has moved yet again. It has departed its shared space at Hotel Villa Gardenias, and previously, in the Posada Mesón de San Antonio. Now it is in a building all its own, within a corunda's throw of the venerable roadhouse El Camino Real. That building was most recently occupied by a barbacoa de borrego a la penca place that I never got around to trying.

The location is definitely out of town, in that nebulous frontier zone between Pátzcuaro and Tzurumutaro. Yes! There is parking!
The building is attractive. There are no more plywood partitions for the rest rooms. It's a solid show.


The food is variable in quality. Here's a repost of my review on Michoacan_Net.

"We ate there yesterday in a very pleasant, if under illuminated dining room. The kitchen's strength seems to me to be in salads and vegetables. I really enjoyed a perfectly cooked cold vegetable salad. The pickled vegetables and chiles en vinaigre were delightful, and I went back for seconds.

Salad bar. Unfortunately, only commercial bottled dressings are offered.

The pickled vegetables and chiles are crisp and tangy
Over on the hot foods table, there was considerable variation in quality. Cerdo en salsa de tamarindo was quite good, and hot, as were fair bisteces en salsa. Pescado empanizado was dull, underseasoned and boring. I didn't try the dry looking breaded chicken breasts. There was a very good hot mixed vegetable dish, with cheese, so good that I went back and had seconds. It was my favorite dish of those that I tried from the buffet. The worst dish were dreadful pechugas de pollo empanizadas en mole, served at room temperature. The texture was disagreeable and the mole was inferior.

Cerdo, arroz, frijoles, mole de pollo (ugh!)
We passed on dessert. Capirotada and arroz con leche were offered, and I think gelatin.

Note that you can get a refresco included in the $70 peso price in lieu of an agua fresca.

The employees are cheerful and very friendly and helpful. The room is attractive but the seats are marginally comfortable. The restroom was spotless.

In spite of a few defective dishes, we'd eat there again."

RATINGS
Food: 5 1/2
Service: 6 There is helpful attention to guests, even though it's a self service buffet.
Cost:  $70  all you care to eat. Don't forget to tip!
Ambience: Pleasant, some decor, under lit. Some chairs may be risky. I had one start to collapse under me.

Closed Mondays.
Open for breakfast from 9 a.m.
Comida from 1:30 p.m.

Let's move on down the road.

 El Borrego Veloz Morelia 
Una amiga Mexicana recommended to us an unnamed barbacoa place on the Morelia highway. It later turned out to be El Borreguito Veloz II. It's between Cuanajo and Huiramba, if that means anything. But we never seemed to be going the right direction at the right time to stop. Then we found what seems to be the parent restaurant, the larger El Borrego Veloz, just inside the Morelia city limits. It's across from a salon de eventos, and almost to the Pemex and the Motel Faro. The restaurant is a large yellow building, and hard to miss.

El Borrego Veloz, in the large, yellow building



We ordered the specialty, a plato grande de borrego (surtido).  It was a very good rendition of the dish. The meat was plentiful, there were plenty of garbanzos, and the caldo was rich and delicious. The salsas were above average.


Some of the best barbacoa in the region
The large dining room was curiously empty.



The superior tortillas are made by hand, not by machine.
RATINGS
Food:  7
Service: 7
Cost: under $100 pesos  per person
Ambience: pleasantly relaxed
Restrooms: Adequate
I don't know the days and hours of operation.
Spacious parking in front
We look forward to eating there again.