Rico’s Mezcal Dinner

70903830_1322574954572374_1691694833715904512_oMany of us were heartbroken when La Copa de Leche left Olas Altas, mourning the death of a longtime favorite place reminiscent of Hemingway’s time in Mazatlán. We were then overjoyed to learn that Rico’s was taking over that spot. But what was taking so long? They worked on it for over a year.

As you’ve no doubt seen by now, the wait was worth it. Rico’s Olas Altas‘ space is gorgeous. You can sit outside on the terrace facing the street, inside in air-conditioned comfort, or on the interior patio, which even in this hot season is very pleasant. That interior patio would be a terrific private party spot. And the best is that they have a terrific chef—Rafael Gonzalez Medellín —serving a full menu alongside a complete bar tended by Edgar Sanchez, making Rico’s Olas Altas a truly European-style café.

Marianne Biasotti Fontes is the founder of Rico’s. One of our favorite local US Americans, she is fully bilingual, has raised three wonderful bicultural children here in Mazatlán in addition to her entrepreneurial prowess, and is married to popular local athlete and civil engineer, Rogelio Fontes Rosas.

On Valentine’s Day 2020, Rico’s will celebrate 20 years in business! Marianne tells me that they have put a “tunnel” on the north side of their new Olas Altas café and bar so that visitors will be able to see the kitchen in action along with the roasting of the coffee beans and the baking of the pastries. How cool will that be? She plans to open the tunnel for their upcoming anniversary.

The other good news? Rogelio has been heading up to the Sierras every weekend because they are planting coffee! He tells me it’ll take three years for the plants to sufficiently mature, but we will soon have locally-grown coffee! We asked about safety concerns up there in the mountains, and he told us that so far the local farmers have been happy to give up growing pot in exchange for coffee, as the bottom has evidently dropped out of that former market. Terrific news on all counts! I only had my cell phone with me, and I thank my friend Paco who has a Samsung phone with better quality camera, but you’ll get the idea. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

So, why was I down in Olas Altas learning all this great news? Because Rico’s put together a mezcal tasting dinner event that we attended with some friends. Oh my! The food was in-cred-ible! Honestly. The pancetta was to die for, appetizers out of this world… every course was really, really good. The first mezcal cocktail was also amazing—eucalyptus mint and smokey mezcal En El Campo garnished with a daisy. Kudos to the bartender as well!

Norma Bañuelos from AylluClub, a Sinaloan living and working in Guadalajara, chose the mezcales and provided her commentary, including the differences between agaves and magueyes, tequilas and mezcales, mezcal history, varieties and regional peculiarities. We were also treated to some storytelling by Angela Camacho, who captivated us with legends from the Aztecs and our Sinaloan Yoreme.

Rico’s is planning a complete series of events for their anniversary year, including wine pairing dinners with Mexican wine experts, coffee cupping, guest roasters, and a mock barista competition so people can see how it’s done. They plan music at these events and will hold them in the various cafes. The dinners will be in Olas. Marianne tells me, “we opened as the only café in town: ‘qué es un cappuccino?’, mostly to tourists in El Cid, and I’m most proud of the fact that locals were introduced to gourmet coffee through us. Locals are now our main staple.” Don’t miss out; be ready to help celebrate! For 600 pesos this cena maridaje was an unbelievable value—outstanding food, drink, venue, service and company!

Mamut!

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The archeological museum in Mazatlan (located on Sixto Osuno, across from the Art Museum) has a very large visitor on display until August 25. I encourage all of you to take some time to go check out: Mamut: The Prehistoric Giant.

What is Mamut? Mamut is mammoth in English. So, yes, there is a huge frigging mammoth skeleton sitting inside our little, often unnoticed and sorely under-appreciated, museum. This particular mammoth is on loan from Mexico City. If any science nerds are wondering, it is a Columbian mammoth. It was brought here in crates from Mexico City and took a team of five archeologists 12 complete days to reassemble. It is a sight to behold.

The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. The cost is only 45 pesitos and you get to see much more than a mammoth. The museum is chock full of pieces of history from Sinaloa and beyond with many placards in English if your sciencey Spanish is a little rusty. Pro Tip: get in free any day with your INAPAM card, and Permanent Residents get in free on Sundays. Gilbran, Director of INAH for Sinaloa, is generally there and speaks great English.

As recently as 10,000-15,000 years ago, mammoths roamed Sinaloa and other parts of Mexico. If you think banda is loud, can you imagine the sound and feeling of a pack of fifty 4-ton beasts coming towards you? This mammoth was not discovered locally, but rather in Ecatepec in 1995. The bones displayed are 80% original to this animal with missing parts replaced with bones from other mammoths or modeled. This is the reason one leg appears shorter than the others, as it was missing and another mammoth had to supply the replacement.

Cause of death is not known, but it’s pretty certain that some of our early ancestors ate well off the missing leg—whether hunted or scavenged. This mammoth died early at around age 25. Mammoths are known to have lived easily to be 80 years old. I could bore you with facts and figures, but suffice it to say, it’s big, it was heavy, and it’s here. Go check it out!

Oh, and here are some pictures (thanks Dianne):

Just click any photo to see it larger.

 

Pajaritos: A Mazatlecan Tradition

DSC_5515-PanoMazatlán has a decades-long tradition of fishing for and enjoying pajaritos; it is a highly anticipated and valued part of our local culture. We are not lucky enough to get them every year, but this May they are running! And big time!! Deliciousness AND a bonus income for the fishermen and resellers—who cannot love this? They’ve arrived with absolutely great timing, as well—just as UNESCO staff are in town to discuss Mazatlán becoming a Creative Gastronomic City.

During the very short season Playa Norte and the embarcadero for Stone Island turn into a madhouse of activity after dark, with hundreds of people showing up to comparison-shop this warm-water delicacy that’s also popular in Japan and Hawaii. People arrive with every kind of container imaginable: wash basins, buckets, bags, Tupperware… and the fishermen are more than happy to fill them up! People purchase bucket-loads of the savory little creatures to prepare for family and friends or to clean and resell. They are usually served pan fried with beans. You can buy some and take them to any palapa, or some restaurants, and they’ll fry them up for you and provide the fixings. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Like most anything in Mazatlán, this is a family affair: grandparents, kids… Smiles and  joking abound; everyone is happy. Entire extended families camp out on the malecón and the beach, watching the activity and enjoying the scene. It reminds me of festival season in Japan, and I love it! It’s a wee bit dangerous getting a nice camera and flash setup in amongst the boats, what with the tide coming in fast at our feet, causing the pangas to move every which way, the huge crowds of people pushing for the best catch and the fishermen grabbing at the bills flying their way.

Pajaritos are ballyhoos, also called flying halfbeaks or spipefish (heporhamphus in the hemiramphidae family), closely related to the needlefish. In Mazatlecan dialect they are called pajaritos because they “fly” at up to 37 mph/60 kph, gliding over the surface of the water for quite a distance! As nearby as Teacapán they are called differently: guaris. They skim the surface of the water, jumping up and out frequently in shallower surf. They have large scales that end up completely covering the fishermen: hair, face, appendages, clothing. Their eyes and nostrils are at the top of the head and their upper jaw is mobile—well adapted to surface dwelling. Sadly, loads of their eggs seem to be scooped up as they are caught, as you can see in the photos.

Pajaritos lay their eggs all over the waters around Cerro de Chivos and other islands in our bay: that pungent smell really carries! They have an elongated, narrow jaw filled with sharp teeth. When young the pajaritos feed on plankton and algae, and as they grow eat smaller fish. They are a migratory fish that run along the Pacific coast from Santa Ana, California to Costa Rica.

The season usually lasts a few days or, if we’re lucky, weeks, so be sure not to miss out. Between 2012 and 2016 there were no pajaritos, attributed to over-fishing and contamination. This year, fortunately, there seems to be a bumper harvest, with between 500 kg and two tons sold each evening here in town! They are caught near the islands in our bay as well as near the coastline—in calm waters, primarily at night. Pajaritos are attracted by light, so it’s easy for us landlubbers to spot the pajarito fishermen out in our bay with their bright lights and hand nets. Some nights I’ve seen as many as 50 pangas surrounding the islands! During the day I’ve seen the fish out in the bay; their jumping makes it look like the ocean is boiling. It’s great work for our local fishermen, as they can fill their boats in just a couple of hours, and last night, as most nights, their haul sells out in a matter of minutes.


Monday night the fish were selling for 40 pesos per kilogram (60-80 fish), though that varies according to the number of boats at the dock with fish and the number of buyers (basic supply and demand). The fishermen charged 200-250 pesos per cubeta, depending on the size of the bucket. Cleaned pajaritos were being sold on the malecón, ready to fry up, for 100 pesos/kg (weight is prior to cleaning), though that also varies depending on the night and the vendor.

This valued local tradition will hopefully continue for many more decades. It will require, however, fishing limits to preserve the species, as well as adequate water treatment. Let’s all work towards that and, in the meantime, be sure to enjoy the spectacle and a great meal!

Paris, Milan, New York… Mazatlán

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Thursday evening, 16 May, Olas Altas was transformed into a unique urban art scene, with laser lights, hip-hop dancers, flame jugglers and hula hoopers gyrating to the pulsating rhythms of techno music. The main event was an open-air fashion show with a runway that ran the entire length of Olas Altas from Puerto Viejo to the Shrimp Bucket! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.


The “Street Art Fashion Show” was a sight unlike anything Mazatlán has ever seen! Our traditional, iconic Hotel Belmar and La Fonda de Chalio glowed hip and happening as clients rejoiced at their free view of the 450 peso fundraising event. The aim of the evening was to raise money for DIF Mazatlán’s “Corazón Eterno,” an assistance home for elderly adults who have been abandoned by their families. Fashion designer Edgar Ponce originated the idea and brought it to fruition with the help of the municipality, local celebrities, fashionistas, chefs and altruists.


The event opened with a two-hour cocktail during sunset, with ceviches and other canapés provided by Agatha and Vittore restaurants. Golden hour glowed as waiters served both drinks and eats to those attending, who were seated on couches, easy chairs, bar-style tables and picnic-style tables along the malecón. The paparazzi had a field day following Mayor Luis Guillermo Benítez Torres; the President of DIF Mazatlán, Gabriela Peña Chico; Roberto Rodríguez Lizárraga, director general of DIF Mazatlán; and Marsol Quiñonez, new director of Cultura Mazatlán.


Promptly at 9:00 pm access was opened to the chair-lined runway area in the street—nearly everyone was able to have a front row seat! María Daniela and her Laser Sound—electronic dance music by DJ Emilio Acevedo and singer María Daniela Azpiazu—made a special appearance. Daniela appeared high up on the stage in front of Puerto Viejo, while Emilio worked his magic just beneath her. The models entered the runway from street level beneath both of them. Each model seemed to take to the runway several times, modeling at least two different outfits and showing them to us a couple of times each.


Over seventy of Ponce’s designs were showcased; runway models included Perla Beltrán—Nuestra Belleza México and Miss Mundo Top Model, and Aranza Molina, Reina Hispanoamericana 2018. The Queens of Carnaval and the Floral Games 2019, Karla Rivas y Yamileth Zataráin, were also present. The models first came out wearing sunglasses and huge smiles in bright red lipstick. As they changed the hip-hop dancers performed on the runway, before a second round of clothing was modeled.

Highlights of the show were a joyous young lady in a wheelchair and a beautiful young woman with Downs’ Syndrome, girlfriend of the young man sitting next to me. Amidst the evening’s thin and fair-skinned models, the public was overjoyed to welcome a bit of reality to the catwalk. While I don’t know Edgar, my guess is this may be his first major fashion event, though I was told he’s designed Carnaval gowns. We enjoyed his designs, and it was a terrific event; this guy has a future!


The Street Fashion Show generated 200,000 pesos for the aged care facility, and concluded with a fireworks show after Edgar walked the runway. I would estimate that about 500 people attended the event. There was room for many, many more; nearly a third of the seats remained empty, as the event sadly seemed quite poorly publicized.

 

Under the Big Top

I do love a good circus. And I especially love the aerialists: trapeze, tight rope, spinners, acrobats. Click on any image to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is here in Mazatlán for a couple of weeks. Their performance schedule is below. A girlfriend and I went recently and enjoyed it very much—we paid 200 pesos for very good seats. It’s a simple, classic circus, with clowns, jugglers, balancing acts, a guy who’s shot out of a cannon, motorcyclists riding inside a globe, and my beloved aerialists. The show is animal-free, as animals have been outlawed in circuses in Mexico since 2014.

What I really loved about this is that those kids selling popcorn, candy apples and toys are the performers themselves! So engage them in conversation and learn a bit about what they love about their lives and their job. Itzel, the girl with the loop on her head, told me she loves the traveling. She’s been all over Mexico and the US, and has hopes to get to Europe. She told me quite a few performers get trips to Europe for special performances. She studies with a teacher that the circus provides for the kids in the troupe.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is 130 years old this year. I have been told that it was actually founded in Mazatlán back in 1888, after the two Atayde brothers, who hailed from Zacatecas, fell in love with two sisters from El Rosario, and that Francisco Madera delivered his campaign speech under their tent here.

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Photo from the Atayde HMOs Facebook event page

The internet tells me (third-hand, as their own site doesn’t have a history) that the circus was founded in Zacatecas. Desiring to figure out the real story and get some behind-the-scenes photos and interviews, I arranged an appointment with them. Their local promotions director, however, is quite a piece of work and that interview very distastefully never happened. In its absence, enjoy the pics I did get!