Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Forum of the Three Squeezers

The title of this post has nothing to do with the former New York restaurant, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars. It's just a play on words that amuses me. Instead, this is a loose, product  comparative review of three citrus juicers, one ancient manual and two shiny electric models.

We'll begin with the manual, lever action squeezer; Old Faithful. Fuel: muscle power. I bought this cheaply at a moving sale some years ago.


The lever-action, manual juicer is reasonably fast and effective, although larger orange half shells frequently lodge in the upper cup and must be dislodged with a knife blade. It isn't difficult, but it slows down the production flow. The lever/handle becomes slippery and I try, fruitlessly, to keep it wiped dry with a paper towel. When squeezing large quantities, the strainer and cone need to be emptied of excess pulp and seeds, or it may clog, then overflow.

I must have been in an enchanted spell when I sought an electric juicer, one that I hoped would be faster and require less energy input than the manual juicer.

I fell into the clutches of amazon.com.mx and in a moment of heedless impulse, purchased the cute little Oster citrus juicer. (below)

 
Oster does make juice! While it lives.

This I regard as more of a toy than a serious kitchen appliance. Oh, stoopid me.

These are its good features:
  1. It's cute and looks good on the counter top.
  2. It's easy to assemble, disassemble and to clean.
  3. There are two ways of capturing the juice output; a retaining receptacle or a continuous flow spout. I think it's foolish to use the retaining receptacle.
  4. The receptacle has graduated markings, for those who want to know how much juice was made. Why?!?

Here's the bad things about it:
  1. It's slow. Very slow
  2. Almost as much or more muscle power, compared to Old Faithful, is required to press the orange half against the juicing cone.
  3. If you carelessly use the retaining receptacle, it can overflow.
  4. My machine died in less than two weeks after I received it. I was juicing 3 kilos of oranges, and the machine was doing fine until the last half orange, when it suddenly and silently died. Now, maybe I'm to blame, for tasking such a toy juicer with a commercial quantity of oranges. But the instruction sheet had not given any advisory as to limits.
Moving ahead now into deeper realms of impulse shopping. I'd read positive reviews of this Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer made by the respected company that made my food processors, and other quality kitchen tools. I saw it at Bed Bath & Beyond in Morelia. I was enthralled, and swept it off the shelf into my shopping cart, heedless of its high price. At least it wasn't an online purchase that had delivery challenges.
It looks much more serious than the Oster. It looks positively ecclesiastical.

I've juiced with the Cuisinart several times, and it seems superior to the Oster. It hasn't yet died under the loads with which I task it.

Here are some advantages:
  1. No retaining receptacle. It's simpler without that less than useful feature.
  2. The motor reverses the direction of the juicing cone when you lift the fruit for a moment. This action aids complete juicing. See #3.
  3. It really, really gets every drop of juice out of the fruit, if used properly. This is its best feature.
  4. There is a supposedly adjustable pulp strainer, but I've not yet learned how to use it. See YouTube video, below.
  5. Easy assembly, disassembly and cleaning.
  6. Looks good, not cute, but more distinguished and stately than the Oster.
  7. Juice output is good, but almost creamy with pulp. Unless you dislike pulp, it's unnecessary to strain the juice.
These are the negatives:
  1. Considerable force must be applied to the fruit half to start the juicing.
  2. Slow output. Slow motor, I suppose for consumer safety. At least half the output speed of the manual juicer.
  3. Sometimes makes loud, rattling noises.
  4. Sometimes the juicing cone spins without any fruit on it, spraying pulp bits about.
  5. It's a good idea to clean out the strainer at intervals if juicing. Easy enough as there are no nuts, screws, bolts or latches in its construction. (A negative reference to my Turmix Juice Extractor, a very different machine for a different purpose.) 
I can optimize my use of the Cuisinart Juicer by, ah, reading the effing manual, and even better, watching the highly instructive video below.
Note the rocking motion of her hand while holding the citrus half. That action yields the most juice.
Also note the use of the clear plastic dome to extract any juice remaining in the pulp.
Another nuance is the electric cord storage receptacle. (I know, not a biggie.)


I am delighted to have found this video. It gives me hope that I can progress in getting the most from my Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dining in Malinalco: Las Palomas


Las Palomas was the second restaurant recommended by our hostesses at Casa Navacoyan. The service was acceptable and the food decent, but with a tendency to heaviness.

The menu is extensive, with cheese a common element in very many dishes.



The entrance is on a street currently closed to vehicular traffic but easily traversed on foot. Just inside, up a gentle slope, is a covered dining area. To the rear there's a partially covered patio area. We chose to sit in the front due to flies in the open patio.

Our waiter brought us some dips and chips to munch on while we decided what to order. The nearer salsa was interesting for the fruit in the blend. The frijoles were a heavy paste.



I started with a Crema Fría de Aguacate. It was very smooth, soothing and mild.



Sra. Cuevas had an Ensalada de Espinacas y Peras con Queso de Cabra vinaigreta balsámica. That was very nice, although I was surprised to see that the pears were cooked and seasoned.


I was intrigued by a Tamal Envuelto de Acelgas Relleno de Champiñones con Mole.

But when I tasted it, it was too heavy and the dominant brown color did not add to its appeal. I wouldn't order it again.


This next photo is an unidentified mystery, and appears to be pechuga de pollo con mole, but strangely, I don't have any notes on it and can't definitively identify it. Could it be a Chile Jaral of some sort? It must have been eaten by my wife.


For dessert, I ordered a Crema Catalana, but the waiter returned to say that "se terminó". Not available. That was moments after guests at another table received one, with a glorious topping of golden spun sugar. I suspect that making two in close succession was onerous to the kitchen staff.

So, instead, I had a deconstructed Tarta de Manzana, which despite its somewhat disheveled look, was all buttery goodness.



RATINGS
Food: 7

Service: 7

Ambiance: Tranquilo

Cost: Sorry, I didn't photograph the check, but I do recall my surprise that the total was more than that at Los Placeres. I'd had a half bottle of a semi-dulce white Rioja wine which increased the total check.

Web: http://www.malinalco.mx/place/restaurante-bar-las-palomas/

Contact:
Dirección Restaurante- Bar Las Palomas :
Guerrero 104, Barrio de Santa Mónica Malinalco, México

Sitio web Visita el Restaurante- Bar Las Palomas (No se encontró)

Horario : Martes -Jueves 11:00 a. m.a 6:00 p. m. Viernes y Sábado 11:00 a. m. a 10:00 p. m. Domingo: 9:00 a. m. a 8:00 p. m.

Telefono: 01.714.147.0122

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dining in Malinalco I: Los Placeres

During our stay at Casa Navacoyan, both Margarita and her daughter, Lucrecia recommended two restaurants to us: Los Placeres and Las Palomas.

These were generally good recommendations, and soon after our arrival at la Casa, we took a taxi to Malinalco Centro. It's a small but charming town with a lengthy plaza, set on a hill slope. The bread vendors offered bounteous bags of bread at very low prices, although the pan dulce was not to my taste. I liked the cut bolillos very much.


We wandered around the Plaza, tempted by street food stands that lined one side of the park. But we resisted their alluring aromas and instead went to Los Placeres on the opposite side of the plaza.

Los Placeres has several dining rooms and a patio dining area. Some of these rooms seem unfinished. We were led to a small table at an outside corner, right on the main route from kitchen to diners. This could be defined as "a bad table". My seat was uncomfortable,  but I was able to exchange it for a better one from a neighboring table.

Arbor of hoja santa next to neighboring table

The annoyances began when we'd scarcely sat down. The waiter was overeager to get our drink order. In fact, I had scarcely started to look at the drink list when he asked to take our order. I dismissed him so I could look over the beverage menu at leisure. Meanwhile, Sra. Cuevas had ordered a glass of agua de sabor, chía limón, which arrived quickly, and a glass for me, which I hadn't wanted. I gave mine to Sra. Cuevas.

When I did decide on a drink, I then flagged down a passing waiter. My order must have become lost, because much time passed. I hailed our waiter again, and in a few more minutes, he brought what I'd requested.

Mezcal Amor. Very good!

A better start: We were brought very good bread, butter and both red and green salsas.

                         

When we ordered our food, the hurry-up-and-order nonsense turned on again. I really dislike such behavior, as it deprives me of the necessary time to intelligently peruse the menu. But worst of all, it puts me in a bad mood, and tends to spoil my dining experience. Bad service can overshadow the good aspects of a restaurant. Fortunately, the food was quite good.

For an entrada, Sra. Cuevas had Sopes de Conejo, small corn cakes holding spiced, shredded tinga de conejo. The portion was generous and the presentation interesting. I tried a bite. I thought that they were pretty good. My wife liked them more than I did.


I ordered Dobladitas, a local variant on a quesadilla, served in wedges. The filling was good, of frijoles, quesillo (Oaxacan style string cheese) and hoja santa. Plain looking, but savory, especially enhanced with the accompanying guacamole and salsas.


We moved on to our platos fuertes.

Sra. Cuevas had Caldo Malinquense, a vegetable soup with cheese. She told me that it lacked seasoning.


I was drawn to Trucha en Clemole Verde. What's a clemole?  Google tends to define it as a prehispanic soup. At Los Placeres, it was a light, herbal sauce. Nothing soupy about it.
I liked it, but wished for more of the herbal sauce. The abundant vegetables cooked pre-al dente, were a plus.


I don't recall having dessert, but I did have an excellent, toasty and aromatic Café Americano. It was one of the best ever in my experience.


RATINGS

Food: 7

Service: 6 Sometimes confused and disorganized; waiters in too much of a hurry to take our order. It was a bad beginning but service improved with the course of the meal.

Ambience: Casual, rustic, nice garden patio. Some tables are uncomfortably close to the waitstaff delivery route.

Cost: I didn't get a photo of the check, but I'm guessing that it was around $800 pesos for two.

Rest rooms: nice

Keywords: be nice, but be firm.

Contact info:
https://losplaceresmalinalco.com/

losplaceresrestaurant@gmail.com

Phone: 01 (714) 1470855

http://www.facebook.com/LosPlaceresMalinalco

Location:

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