Siesta-time Visitors

Dianne Hofner Saphiere:

emptynestersThey’ve flown the coop!

We so enjoyed our rosy finches this year. They have come back to nest and expand their family every year that we’ve lived here in Mazatlán, and they are so very welcome.

The babies hatched a while ago, and Greg and I have been enjoying watching the parents bring them food. Over the weekend, there was a whole lot of chirping and commotion. I knew they were about to “fly the coop,” so to speak.

I got a photo of a couple of the babies flying out to our terrace. We’re on the 11th floor, so it was sort of scary, watching them fly for the first time…

Today, silence as we awoke. We have enjoyed their birdsong and beauty for nearly two months, but we are empty nesters yet again! :(

Be well, finch family!

Originally posted on ¡VidaMaz!:

Thank you, birders, for helping us! Click above to hear the birdsong as heard on our deck.

Every year this pair of petirrojos—rosy finches—or another very similar looking couple, makes a nest in one of the spider plants on our terrace. They lay their eggs and spend weeks frequenting our space, to our enormous pleasure. We are so blessed that they choose our balcony on which to grow their family! They wake us up with their singing in the morning, which is not a frequent occurrence when you live on the 11th floor. They serenade us through our mid-day meal, which we always eat outside, and they check us out as we take our siesta in the sunshine. Aren’t they purrdy? Click on a photo to see it larger or view a slideshow.

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Virginal Zarandeado

P1280223You most probably love zarandeado—the barbecue fish that is so iconic here in Mazatlán—as much as we do. We’ve ordered it from our friends at Pili on Stone Island for at least l5 years, and in Costa Marinera and other restaurants here for about 30. It is generally cooked over an open wood fire, and it ROCKS!

We also love Pescadería del Mar in Playa Norte. We’ve visited the fishmongers there three times a week every week that we’ve lived here. In addition to fresh fish brought in from the fishermen across the street, they make fresh paté of marlin and tuna that’s the best in town, and only 50 pesos a pack. They also have some of the best fresh-smoked marlin and tuna around. They are so helpful to tell us what’s in season, what’s fresh, and even how to best prepare our different local fish. Of course, I also teach them a bit about how to prepare more international dishes, but that’s beside the point. NOTE: the photos below were not taken today, but on an earlier visit. Click on any photo to enlarge it or see a slideshow.

The point is that this morning we got to the fishmonger rather late. The only thing that looked good to us was fresh pargo, and it was huge for two people—over two kilograms. Perfect for a zarandeado! But what’s the catch? In all these years, we have never before prepared a large zarandeado at home, and we were, honestly, a bit intimidated.

You perhaps prepare this lovely dish at home all the time. With the low price of it in restaurants, there’s no real need to do so. But, our fishmongers gutted and split the pargo, all ready for us to take home and barbecue.

I washed it and sprinkled spices on top. Greg then put it in the fish-griller-thing-a-ma-jiggy that our friend gave us years ago, and put it on the grill.

It turned out perfect—juicy and succulent and oh-so-savory—and it couldn’t have been easier!

If you have by chance not yet tried to do zarandeado on your own, please, don’t worry. Greg tells me to be sure to heat the grill and the fish holder well before cooking, and remember to oil the fish holder. He warmed the grill on high heat and turned it down to medium to cook the fish. After about 20 minutes—oilá! It was magnificent. And we now have terrific fish for the next couple of days.

I made the rice like Spanish rice, with diced tomatoes, but today I added a few chipotles to the mix. The rice was incredible! Really, really good. Ashamedly, we haven’t gotten to go grocery shopping since our return from Las Vegas over the Easter break, so we didn’t have fresh veggies to put on top of the zarandeado. That’s why the raw carrots. ;)

Thank you, griller extraordinaire. It’s wonderful to have a “virginal” experience with you today. I know we will be barbecuing many more fish over the summer, thanks to this success!

Conselva’s “Nuestro Patrimonio Natural” Dinner

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I sadly missed Mazatlán’s first Holi festival due to my travels, but fortunately returned just in time to attend the Conselva “Nuestro Patrimonio Natural” dinner on Tuesday night. Over 300 people enjoyed the event in Casa Garcia, at which chefs from Cocina!—the community outreach program of local Mazatleco chefs—collaborated on a fundraiser dinner for Conselva: Coasts and Communities. Mayor Felton and First Lady Sylvia, along with many municipal government and business leaders, attended. I was very happy to see that we also had a good expat representation—WTG for supporting environmental sustainability in our region!

Those cooking included Mariana Gomez Rubio from Pedro y Lola; Julián Portugal, from El Parador; Luis and Ignacio Osuna, from Grupo Panamá; Héctor Peniche, from Hector’s Bistro; Diego Becerra, from El Presidio; and Marino Maganda, from Pueblo Bonito. Proceeds from the event were earmarked to purchase highly efficient Patsari wood stoves/comales for families of the Monte Mojino ecological zone. “Patsari” means “the one who takes care of” in the Purhe’pecha language. In addition to conserving wood, the stoves preserve the quality of indoor air.

The Monte Mojino ecological reserve is located in the mountains of southern Sinaloa between Concordia and El Rosario. Its 200,000 hectares of dry tropical and pine forest contain 66% of the fauna found in the state of Sinaloa and 56% of the plant families found here, including 160 species that are endemic to Mexico. According to Conselva, the reserve has a biodiversity richer than that of Costa Rica. Conselva has worked hard to teach the 12,000 residents of the region conservation and eco-tourism, so they can thrive while protecting their natural environment.

The seven chefs welcomed all of us through the doors of the Compañía Minera bar and restaurant portion of Casa Garcia with a selection of terrific fish and seafood ceviches and drinks at the first food station of the evening. Wine and beer were included, but strangely non-alcoholic drinks had an up-charge.

Once inside the large outdoor patio we were entertained during the cocktail hour by a jungle-clad drum and dance troupe, while three dancers made up as jaguars pranced among us. It was delightful.

We were able to see a Patsari stove in action as throughout the evening two ladies from Monte Mojino used one to make tortillas.

Funds raised from the dinner go to buy wood stoves like this one for Monte Mojino residents.

Funds raised from the dinner go to buy wood stoves like this one for Monte Mojino residents.

Seating was throughout the central patio, both downstairs and upstairs. As usual the venue was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. For dinner we were able to enjoy three different food stations. The station downstairs served fish, soup and tamales made from regional products, while another upstairs served delicious meats from the Monte Mojino region. The fourth and final station was inside the cleared El Presidio restaurant, and consisted of about seven different desserts!

Click on any photo to enlarge, or to view a slideshow.

Puzzling to me about the event was that food was served on plastic dinnerware. While more ecologically sound than styrofoam, Greg and I found it very strange that a conservation organization would use plasticware, and particularly for an event that cost 1000 pesos per person. Hopefully the materials were recycled or recyclable. The other unfortunate reality was that seating was extremely awkward, with many people unsure where to sit or having to move after they’d already been seated. With an event of this size, a few hiccups are perhaps to be expected. All in all, the night was quite magical, and very savory!

At the conclusion of the evening everyone attending was given a gift bag of Monte Mojino honey to take home.

I’m very happy we have several organizations in Mazatlán that are dedicated to preserving our natural environment and to educating people about conservation and eco-tourism. It is my most sincere hope that southern Sinaloa can become a champion of environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism before it is too late. We’ve already lost so much. Southern Sinaloa is blessed with an incredibly vibrant biodiversity, and we will be wise to work together to create sustainable ways of making the most of its beauty and riches, for both ourselves and the generations to come.

Cimaco Gourmet Restaurant: Something Different, with A/C

Greg and I have wanted to go to the restaurant in Cimaco, the department store in the Gran Plaza, ever since it opened. We figure that up there on the second floor, with all those windows and that terrace, it must be a pretty good view. And as we are quickly approaching the heat of summer, the air conditioning didn’t sound bad, either.

The interior is modern and fresh—they call it European style—and the views are spacious. We were delighted to find a menu offering a selection of foods we don’t regularly find in Mazatlán, including loads of great salads and international main dishes. Cimaco Gourmet has a pizza oven, and on Tuesdays if you buy a large pizza you get a small one free. They also offer a variety of custom, non-alcoholic drinks, served in cool Mason jars, and have a respectable wine selection and full bar.

Cimaco Gourmet is open from breakfast (I believe they said 8 am) through 11 pm, and the terrace will be especially inviting on a summer evening. The restaurant has a full bakery on site. While we didn’t try any bread, pie, cake or pastries, I will say they looked really good! Again, quite international, not just the traditional Mexican baked goods. By the way, the department store sells its bread half price after 8 pm, and it has quite a few bread options with Splenda instead of sugar.

Click on any photo below to view it larger or see a slideshow.

The store has a children’s play area right next to the restaurant, with supervision. You can pay to leave kids or grandkids there while you shop anywhere in the mall, and your first hour is free if shopping at Cimaco.

Greg and I found Cimaco Gourmet a welcome addition to the restaurant scene here in town. When you’re looking for something different, for a bit of space so you don’t have to sit on top of someone else, or when you’re looking for some good air conditioning and a view, check it out and let us know what you think.

Seven Local Chefs Collaborate on a Dinner

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Conselva: Coasts and Communities is a local non-profit, founded in 2008, dedicated to preserving the natural heritage of Sinaloa. You won’t want to miss the fundraising dinner they are hosting on Tuesday April 14th, at El Presidio (1511 Niños Héroes), that will bring together seven of the best chefs in Mazatlán—Mariana Gomez Rubio from Pedro y Lola; Julián Portugal, from El Parador; Luis and Ignacio Osuna, from Grupo Panamá; Héctor Peniche, from Hector´s Bistro; Diego Becerra, from El Presidio; and Marino Miranda, from Pueblo Bonito. The chefs will delight us with a once-in-a-lifetime gastronomic adventure that will also help us protect Sinaloa’s biodiversity, ancestral cultures, and sources of water.

The state of Sinaloa is blessed with natural riches in its dry tropical jungles that are quite possibly even better than those of Costa Rica. In addition to their beauty, the western Sierra Madres bring us fresh water, and we have species of flora and fauna that are not found anywhere else in the world—the result of millions of years of evolution.

Conselva is dedicated to conserving the jungles and coasts of northwestern Mexico, and to the sustainable development of its rural communities. It is comprised of academics from the Center for Research on Food and Development, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, and the Secretary of Agriculture, Cattle, and Fisheries. Conselva has worked in the communities of Guásima and Concordia, Sinaloa for over six years, and together with those local communities was able to obtain Protected Area status for the region from CONANP (National Commission of Protected Natural Areas).

The dinner on April 14th will support Conselva projects that have successfully implemented models of conservation and rural sustainable tourism in four agricultural areas. Everyone is invited to attend this event, to enjoy the culinary delights, support this initiative to sustainably support our jungles, and to learn a bit about the biodiversity of our region.

Tickets are 1000 pesos/person and are available at Restaurant El Presidio, ask for Beatriz, tel 910-2615. You can call Conselva for more information, in English or Spanish, at 669 668 0911, or via cell phone, 669 146 4315.