Now this was a fun day!
So, The Quinta Loreto is our favorite go-to for over night stays in San Miguel. Now we’ve stayed at some places here that are a bit more refined and a bit more polished around the edges some even had traits that we sought to duplicate when we built Casita Cielo Azul, our home in San Pancho. But here The Quinta is right in downtown San Miguel so close and convenient to anything and everything. It offers a number of different accommodations all the way up to 3 bedroom long-term stay houses. We opt for the little units that are more motel style with sitting areas out in front of the rooms facing the garden area. This aspect is VERY important to especially me. I tend to wake up a few hours before Linc, put on a pot of coffee (remember we travel with a coffee pot) then retreat out and read or catch up on emails. Now San Miguel tends to be quite a bit cooler in the mornings than at Casita Cielo Azul so I always pack a pair of socks and a jacket but despite the cool morning air I love sitting outdoors.
To get to The Quinta you actually have to drive through part of the Artisan Market which snakes it’s way in a narrow corridor many blocks long. Unlike the market in Tonala which is only there 2 days a week, this one is open 7 days a week but also offers all of the offerings ranging from crafts to fresh produce and food stuffs.
Up a narrow staircase then up another narrow stairway you get to the rooftop restaurant, to La Posadita where the view is a killer. Most of the food served here is from local organic ranches. Let me say, this restaurant has vaulted to the top of our “Restaurants to eat at in San Miguel de Allende”. Now on to the important stuff. I consider myself to be somewhat of a Chile Rellenos snob. I may have mentioned before that together Linc and I are searching for the best roasted chicken in Mexico but separately he for milanesa and chilaquiles while I for huevos rancheros and chile rellenos. I have to say that this was THE BEST chile rellenos that I have ever eaten in a restaurant. Now if my word isn’t good enough let me underscore this statement by saying that my mother makes THE BEST chile rellenos and even she agreed with me. Linc had an awesome mole that had a rich flavor that was complimented really well by them adding toasted sesame seeds to the top of the dish just before serving. There were 6 of us and everyone besides my mother and I had something different and everyone loved their meals.
So, it takes us 3 1/2 hours to get from San Pancho to Guadalajara. Well, more specifically to the east side of Guadalajara to an area called Tonala.
Every Thursday and Sunday there is a huge street market covering many of the main streets. Vendors selling hand blown glass, ceramics, pottery and paper mache crafts. Nuts, candies, baked goods, tequila and loads of taquerias that prove Pavlov’s Theory block after block with the wafting scent of grilled onions and meats, quesadillas, empanadas, excuse me while I wipe my chin. Handmade furniture of wood, leather & iron.
Then let’s not forget Linc’s favorite thing to buy here in Tonala, cd’s. Now I apologize here and now to all musicians who are fighting the pirating of music but we only buy from this one vendor of boot-leg music, I swear!!!!!! It’s just that not even I can argue with my husband about paying barley more than $4 for the 3 cd’s he bought this time that contain, 100, 140 & 176 tracks each of a specific genre of music, no lie! A couple of years ago it was a female jazz that I am not exaggerating when I say we fire it up in the morning and turn it off to go to sleep. The quality and selection is fabulous. The only down-side is that they have the songs grouped alphabetically so you might have to listen to 5 different renditions of a certain song but as it’s world music it’s in a variety of languages soooooo each sounds a little like an entirely different song (well kinda). This year we hit pay-dirt with 2 classical and a Cuban collection.
The word “Tonala” comes from the Nahuatl and means “place from which the sun emerges”. The area was originally known as “The Queens Hill”. Now this may have something to do with the fact that when the Spanish arrived in the year 1530 Tonallán (as it was referred to) was ruled by a woman named Cihualpilli Tzapotzinco.
Next stop, San Miguel de Allende and picking Linc’s suegra (mother in-law) up at the Leon airport.
Itanoni Antojeria y Tortilleria is a little restaurant that we love in the Colonia Reforma neighborhood of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. At Itanoni they believe that corn, is the basis of Mexican culture. They are committed to the preservation of the various traditional varieties of corn as well as to the cooking methods used in making dishes that range from tacos, tostadas, tlayuda (see *) tamales, and many more traditional foods. At Itanoni traditional food preparation includes the corn being ground by hand, then being made into (see*), and in turn, cooked on traditional clay comals.
My all-time favorite Mexican breakfast is Huevos Rancheros. At Itanoni they make it in what I have been told is the Veracruzana style with a slightly fried tortilla instead of the warmed corn tortilla. Fried eggs are then set on top of the tortillas/tostadas then topped with salsa. The salsa can be either green, red or in some cases is more of a fresh salsa often referred to as Pico de Gallo.
At Itanoni they use four different types of organic corn flour that the cooks stone-grind.
The Mexican drink Champurrado is a delicious hot chocolate thickened with masa and flavored with piloncillo and aniseed. It is then frothed with a tool called a molinillo which is a beautiful wooden whisk type kitchen tool.
Tlayuda. sometimes spelled Clayuda isa dinner-plate-sized tortilla that is baked either on a comal a barbecue grill, or directly over hot coals.
Masa. Masa is made from corn, which has been dried, treated with a lime water solution, then ground. The masa can then be used for corn tortillas or for tamales.
Another great little restaurant in Oaxaca is Zandunga. The recipes here come from the istmo, the southeastern part of the state of Oaxaca around the town of Tehuantepec.
We tried to come here with our friends John and Donita who live on the coast of Oaxaca but they were closed for a private party that night. So our last day in Oaxaca before heading home to San Pancho Linc and I went there for a late lunch.
Quite a charming little corner restaurant where the tables are covered in bright oilcloth. We were brought a compimentery dish of Minilla a kind of dry fish hash served with chips. This rendition was very different from the one I love to make. The ecipe posted below is from the Mexican cookbook author Zarela Martinez. We then also had the garnachos as an appetizer and a tamale both of which were very good and on our ‘gotta have again” list. The chicken and potato enchiladas with mole on the other hand didn’t do much for us, though the mole itself was yummy!
The mornings were filled with workshops that covered a various aspects of not just coffee but tea, blended drinks as well as many “business” aspects of the coffee business. Lincoln took Barista training while I took a class on roasting the green coffee (which we will be doing). One workshop taught us the difference between espresso and coffee and reveled that what most of think is espresso is not but just very a strong coffee. We were steeped in the world of tea where the guys from Maya Tea out of Arizona opened a whole other avenue for us to get creative in.
Story time….. So during the tea seminar we heard about how though catnip is a stimulant for cats it reacts as a sedative for humans. Manesh talked about how he was asked to focus on catnip tea while giving a talk once. As part of it he steeped a cup and proceeded to talk. After a brief period he began to get very sleepy. It was the first time he had tried the catnip tea. So that night after having dinner Lincoln and I went back to the hotel. We got into the elevator which filled up to full capacity with us at the back. The last person to get in I recognized as Bill from Maya Tea. He pressed his floor which ended up being the first stop. The doors opened and no one got out. Someone asked ” is this someone’s floor? “. Bill kinda jumped and mumbled something about spacing. From the back of the elevator I could help but make a smart comment about him having too much catnip tea. A little joke that of course no one else got but made BIll roar with laughter as the doors closed and he caught a glimpse of me, despite my being shorter than most everyone else in front of me. Well the next day we ran into him and he laughed again. We talked a bit about our new coffee adventure and began communicating about integrating tea into the shop as well. We now call him “Catnip” and that’s how he signs his emails. With his help and guidance we plan on offering a wide selection of fabulous tea from Maya Tea Company.
We”re collecting little sayings that have to do with coffee such as, “wake up and smell the coffee”. Sayings that would be allay on coffee terms such as, roast/roasting,, grind (daily grind), brew, beans, java, cup o’ joe, grounds….
So send your suggestions our way, por favor …………………………………………………
The Zocalo (Zoh-kah-low) is the central park/plaza in Oaxaca. Most every city, town, pueblo in Mexico has what they call a Zocalo, a plaza or el jardin (the garden). It’s a central gathering spot where families, individuals, couples or friends go to mix mingle, enjoy music, socialize…. Oaxaca’s Zocalo is for me a magical place that causes my type A energy to slow down and I can just sit. I can people watch here all day long. And unlike in the United States, when you’re done with your coffee no one is giving you, as my hubby likes to say “the stink eye” to pay your bill and vacate. No you can sit as long as you like, in turn it may take the waiter an equally long time to bring your bill when you do want it, sorry it’s a trade off, that’s just how it goes.
So there used to be this guy who would sing on the Zocalo in Oaxaca. He dressed as a beat up, outta luck cowboy. He wore a black hat whose brim had most likely been sat on, slept on and just plain old had seen better days. An old black leather vest worn over one of these cowboy shirts that too me looks like a fusion of a psychedelic disco print and a hokey western scene printed on polyester. Black jeans and leather boots that had experienced the same abuse as the hat. If he sang country tunes I’m sure we would have heard how he lost his dog, his pickup truck and his woman and that he at least wanted the first 2 out of the 3 back again. One of his favorite songs started like this, “Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Cafe Caliente, Cafe Caliente, Cafe Caliente”. Translation = Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Hot Coffee, Hot Coffee, Hot Coffee”.
This is the first year we haven’t seen him and given our present mission I was looking for him. Thought maybe I could put him on YouTube. But alas he musta gotten his woman back and she wouldn’t let him out to play. I’ll try to dig up a photo that must be buried in the pile of old computers that won’t fire up but I can’t get rid off ’cause of the pics I have safely stored where I can not get at them.
So we arrived in Oaxaca via the new super highway called The Archo Norte. Three words that bring a dreamy silly glazed over look to the face of anyone who used to drive to Oaxaca prior to last year. Mexico City is a place that most Americans and many Mexicans would do almost anything to avoid driving in even if it meant taking and ENTIRE extra day to drive around. Now they have this toll-road that takes you from north of Mexico City to south of Mexico City with no stops (except to pay a toll at each end, hefty but oh so worth it). It’s so easy if we could get the damn auto-pilot feature to work on the van Charger could do it all on her own.
Again this year our friends John and Donita who live on the Oaxaca coast come up to join us for a few days in the city. This time we drive them crazy with Coffee Shop chatter and buzzingggggggggg around on java errands but as they used to have a coffee shop themselves in Wisconsin they can offer some sage advice. In fact it was last year after listening to them talk about having attended a Coffee Fest Convention that inspired us to do the same. So last June Linc and I flew to San Diego for this event. (More in another posting).
One day while walking around, after stopping for a cup of…. you guessed it, coffee, we see a different staircase design that we all stop to examine. Linc & I are going to need to use some imagination in order to incorporate a staircase in our garden to lead up to the second story of the coffee shop/gallery. We don’t want the staircase to block too much of the garden and yet we don’t want to make it so small that it’s awkward to navigate while caring your cup of java.
Linc is loving the lower level of shopping that we’re doing as a result of the store being closed. We’ll still be taking part in the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (the day before Thanksgiving thru Christmas Eve) and most likely do some kind of show/sale back in Evanston this summer. And then of course we will have a gallery aspect of the coffee shop but we’re planning this to be more on the Gallery side than the gift shop side.
We still will always head out to Ocotlan to visit Concepcion and Josephina Aguilar. Concepcion’s sculptures of the Virgin of Guadalupe as well the Virgin of Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) are huge hits at the Christmas Market and we really love the fact that we’ll be able to continue to give her business.
Crossing the border is always interesting and we always are prepared mentally for some glitch or complication. We have to not only get our own papers dealt with but the car itself needs to get a permit to enter the country. These processes always seem to change a little bit, just enough so you can not be confident that you know exactly what to do. The drive from the Mexican border town of Nuevo Loredo to San Miguel de Allende where we stop over takes us at least 8 hours. South of Saltillo the terrain is so dry that it always makes us realize how lucky we were to be born where we were. Not even tumbled weed will grow here. The people that live there are so poor and it seems their only source of income is selling the skins of snakes they kill.
The terrain changes as you head south with bits of green grass starting to appear just above the surface. Campesinos bring their herds of goats to the swath of grass that grows between the northbound and southbound highway traffic. The mix of speeding traffic and grazing farm animals always gives Linc a good chuckle. He’s so sure that one of the four legged beasts is going to without warning bolt from the pack and charge right into our path.
The cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende are quite charming. The colors of the house go from burnt orange to cinnamon to mustard seed yellow.
Once the car is safely tucked away at the Hotel Quinta Loreto where we stay we make a beeline for a rotisserie chicken to bring back to be mauled in private. This place gets a 3 chicken foot rating from us. She uses great spices and cooks the chicken just right, finger lickin’ good!
The lines waiting for the carryout chicken tend to stretch quite a ways down the street and a few times we’ve wondered if by the time we get to the head of the line there will be any left for us.
But yes, we score once more and head back to our room so the carnage can begin.
After a couple of days visiting with friends in San Miguel and picking up some needed items for both The Christkindlmarket 2012 in Chicago as well as for Cafe Manana & Gallery we climb back into charger and head off to Oaxaca. This trip used to take us 2 days as we always avoid driving in Mexico City and it takes quite a while to get around it. Recently a new super highway called the Archo Norte was finished and now the trip takes us about 7 1/2 hours, a walk in the park!
One of our missions in Oaxaca is to pick up the first of our green coffee beans as we’ll be roasting our own coffee beans at Cafe Mañana. Ahhhhh, the scent of roasting coffee wafting out the doors and windows of the cafe. It was a natural decision that we buy the green coffee beans from our friend Gilio who grows coffee on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. Gilio’s coffee is organic and is grown on volcanic land. Mexico produces some really great coffee but most travelers to the country in the past never were aware of that but instead thought of it as the “land of Nescafé”. Ewwwwwwwwwwww, yuck!
Then of course in order to roast we needed a roaster. We had been researching them and decided we wanted one that was relatively small but big enough so we wouldn’t have to be roasting nonstop should we have really busy day. Our friend John Goodyear, who happens to be Gilio’s brother in-law, suggested we look into the one his son Juan had just bought after himself doing a lot of research. Juan was thrilled with the roaster and we figured as it was the right size who better to listen to than a coffee lover whose family actually grows coffee. So the roaster as well has been packed into Charge. Along with loads of other coffee goodies the miles increase between us and Evanston.
Oaxaca, here we come!
So one of our brainstorming sessions today was about the smoothies we are planning on serving at Cafe Mañana? We were discussing the interesting flavor combinations that we had played with as well as recipes that we’ve come across. Various categories have begun to create themselves We’ve been testing flavor combinations and gathering recipes. Various categories have been emerging such as yogurt smoothies, Those that combine herbs that grow in our garden with seasonal fruit as well as those made out of regional produce and foodstuffs. There are combinations of favors that compliment each other in some of these recipes that on their own you would never think to be put in a smoothie. Chili powder, a mango basil smoothie, the list goes on and on but we love things out of the norm so it intrigues us.
Share your thoughts with us! If you have a favorite smoothie recipe you would like to share with us we would love to check it out.
BACK TO THE ROAD JACK!
Well the second day on the road found us driving south heading toward Laredo, TX from Texarkana where we spent the first night. Making good time we were looking forward to arriving early in the border town where we would spend the night then cross over into Mexico in the morning. Having left the snow and cold behind us it was getting warmer and warmer the further south we drove. Sweatshirts off, the heat being turned down, then down gain, then off. Now turning the AC on and waiting for the cool air, waiting, waiting, waiting and nothing but a tepid breeze. Can we deal with no AC till we get to San Miguel and have it charged?????????????????????? Hmmmmmmm?????????????
NOT!!! So we pull over at a Firestone dealer and they go to pull it into a bay, and, Charger won’t start. What, trusty Charger will not start? The fuel pump needed to be replaced, aghhhhh at least 2 hours to wait. So I take a walk to get us some lunch. The young guy that waited on me was so chipper and polite, quite a contrast to his street linguistics and tattooed knuckles, most likely gang tats. He greeted with me with a cheery “Afternoon ma’m, how’s your day going?”. I replied that it wasn’t so great and explained that our car had broken down. He came back with, “I hear you. My car was stolen this morning but luckily we have another car so at least I could get to work.” I told him that all of a sudden I wasn’t feeling quite so bad about my day. 4 hours and a switch in the days city destination, complete with a hotel change and we were back on the road. Now we have to admit we’re not big fans of the state of Texas but the mechanic at the DeSoto Firestone and the food service guy with the tats definitely rate pretty high in our book! San Antonio here we come.
Linc & Jill
It’s bogging time again with LInc and Jill. So check out the Blogita and follow us south from Evanston, into Mexico, stopping in San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca before heading to San Pancho where we’ll continue working on opening “Cafe Mañana”.
While on the road we’ll continue our search for the best rotisserie chicken in Mexico, cool Folk Art, weekly markets and all degrees of cool and quirky aspects of Mexico, it’s people, culture, art and food.
the Bogita well also be asking for your help and input into our search for food and drink recipes as well as a bit of creative thinking. So please, follow along!
Lincoln & Jill
Now I used to do a lot more of the driving than I do now. It makes no difference to me if I drive or ride. I always bring a bunch of projects to keep my type A personality occupied while in the role of the navigator/passenger. Now my dear sweet hubby is another story. As a former State Trooper he is very at ease behind the wheel but as a passenger, well here’s how that goes….. He sits and looks out the window for about, ohhh, 10 minutes. Then sometimes he’ll take a brief catnap. After that, boredom sets in and…… First he cleans out the glovebox, then the enter console/cooler, then he directs his attention to the drawer under the passenger seat. After these little projects have been completed he returns to gazing out the window for about 3 minutes before he starts drumming his finger and looking around for something else to organize. I liken him to a hyper child when this phase sets in. He becomes so distracting that I pull over and hand the steering wheel back over to him, happily resuming the role of navigator. So now 1/2 way through our first 13 hour driving day he’s still at the wheel. At some point he’ll turn and say, “Do you want to drive?” As always I’ll respond with “I don’t care, do you want me to drive?”. He says “it doesn’t matter, do you want to? And that’s how it begins. (20 minutes after I wrote that the question was asked.)
Anyhow, presently Charger is packed to the gills or should I say grills, with chairs, table bases, a coffee roaster, espresso machine…… books and more for our new coffee shop, “Cafe Mañana”