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!

Aviation Themed Restaurant

DSC_1747©We have all watched it for nearly a year, it seems—the restaurant on the ground floor of Torre M on the malecón. Why was it taking so long to be built? Why the name “altitude” when it’s on the ground floor?

The good news is Altitud Restaurant and Bar will open for business tomorrow, Saturday 31 August. We toured the inside today with manager Ariel Campos as part of the press conference for a local run.

I absolutely love the interior. There are not many themed restaurants in Mazatlán, and this one has kept with theirs to the letter. The kitchen is housed in an airplane, the stairs to the second floor are through an airplane door, the upstairs seating area looks like the waiting area in an airport, the bar includes the tail section of a plane, the tables all have aviation themes as do the photos on the walls, the wait staff are dressed like flight attendants, there are even airline seats and storage cubbies in the reception area! Needless to say, I was charmed and impressed with the attention to detail. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I can not vouch for the food, as this morning’s press conference included sandwiches, fruit and coffee—not Altitud’s normal menu items. The menu seems creative and keeps with the theme. The pictures of chef Alex Gutierrez’ food on the television screens looked very delectable.

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The wait staff this morning were very friendly and highly attentive; let’s hope that continues. Let’s cross our fingers, as a delicious and fun addition to Mazatlán’s restaurant scene, and one with an ocean view, is highly welcome!

When I asked about operating hours, I got ambiguous answers, so I’d keep checking back with their Facebook page or give them a call. Fingers crossed!

 

Nitro Coffee in MZT

 

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The beautiful Hailey Fontes with a glass of Rico’s Nitro Coffee

You are more hipster than me if you have heard about Nitro Coffee, invented in 2012 and evidently taking the world by storm. I’d never even heard about it until this morning at the Mercado Orgánico, where Rico’s Café had an icy cold keg of the nitrogen-infused, cold-brew coffee that’s creamy, frothy, and a beer lookalike. In fact, when Marianne (owner of Rico’s) offered me a glass, I told her I couldn’t drink alcohol so early in the morning!

Nitro Coffee debuted in Austin in 2012, when it was served by Cuvée Coffee on tap at the Slow Foods Quiz Bowl. Draft beverages are all the rage these days—wine, kombucha, sparkling tea—and it’s great to see that Marianne and her brewmeister husband Rogelio are keeping Mazatlán up with the times. When you fill a glass with Nitro Coffee, it’s beautiful: foamy, with waves of color filling the glass. Check out the video below to see:

A keg of Nitro Coffee

 

I normally drink coffee with cream, but Nitro Coffee is so smooth that I thoroughly enjoyed it served black. It was almost like drinking a glass of Guinness, but with a caffeine kick! Rico’s is not yet offering Nitro Coffee at their cafés, but it will be at the Mercado Orgánico, and I suggested they make it available by the keg for private parties (I was sad not to be able to get a keg of Tres Islas Beer for the holidays, but fortunately for them demand outstripped supply).

By the way, Rico’s is planning to get their expresso machine to the Plaza Zaragoza so we can enjoy their organic, local-roasted coffees any way we want them. They just need to figure out the electricity and water situation, which is taking a bit of time with the turnover in municipal government.

 

A REAL Sushi Place!

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About 90 pesos worth of great fresh food!

Yes, really. If you read this blog, you know of my ten-year quest to find authentic sushi in our beloved land of fresh seafood. Sushiko does, to my chagrin, serve a few rolls with cream cheese (“gotta give clients what they want”). But Ko, the owner from Morioka who worked for years in the US and speaks English and Spanish in addition to his native Japanese, also serves real nigiri (traditional palm-made sushi, served in pairs) made with good quality rice, wasabi (it’s powdered, but just try to get it on sushi most places here in town), and served with shohga (pickled ginger root). 

Ko has been a sushi chef in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Switzerland before coming here to Mazatlán. OMG, I have died and gone to heaven! My prayers have been answered!

Sushiko has been open just one week, though Ko has been living in Mazatlán since September. Ko’s wife, Martina, is from Chihuahua. They have a 22 year old son who lives in Japan, and she has two older daughters and grandchildren also living here. Welcome! 

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

The nigiri offerings are few though outstanding, as you can see by the whiteboard, below. But, as time goes by, I’m sure Sushiko will serve a greater variety of fresh seafood. And it’s incredibly affordable, as you can see! Ko’s offerings vary by the day according to what’s been caught. I can’t wait till scallop season! Ko has already gotten Toyo Foods to stock a few things I’ve long been wanting, so all is, indeed, good. I may even get shime-saba, eventually!

In addition to nigiri and a few Mazatlecan-type rolls, Sushiko serves a few traditional Japanese rolls: tekka maki with tuna, umekyu with plum and cucumber, and nattoh maki with fermented soy bean. There is also cooked fare, including tempura and kushiage (Japanese kabobs).

And more good news: Ko actually has purchased and installed a professional refrigeration unit for the fish, so we can see what’s fresh and how fresh it is, and so that it can stay fresh! Not exactly common here in Mazatlán, and a wonderful sight! You other sushi shops want one? Call Alberto, the technician at Maz Refrigeration, 6691-11-5880.

Sushiko is located on Paseo Claussen in Playa Norte, in front of the fishermen, just south of Pescadería del Mar and Chikkowi—three of my favorite places all in one short strip! Sushiko is a small place with only four or so tables, but if my dream comes true, it’ll soon be popular and have much better digs.

It’s closed on Mondays, but open the other six days per week from 1-11pm. Telephone is 6691-42-5501. They are not doing delivery or take out, so be sure to come in or order to-go to enjoy this wonderful food. And tell them I sent you!

New Eats to Check Out!

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Chef Jaime Llanos at his new food truck stand, Casita María

My mouth’s been watering since May of this year, when I discovered the incredibly appetizing photos that Jaime Llanos has been posting on Facebook. He is a Mazatleco-born, Los Angeles-trained chef who was working out of his grandmother María’s home in La Juarez. Trouble was I was traveling so much, I couldn’t check him out. But, oh! The food! It looked soooooooo good! So completely different than anything we normally see here in Mazatlán and yet, at the same time, so typically Mazatleco. (Photos in the set below are all Jaime’s. Click on any pic to view larger or watch a slideshow.)

Then, in late August, he started titillating us. “Coming soon!” “Próximamente!” “Cada día estamos más cerca!” What? What was coming soon? What was I waiting for?

I could tell from the pictures that he was making wine—his own label, artisanal wine. As if great food weren’t enough?

Despite the fact that he never said, “We’re open!”/”Ya abrimos,” I got Greg to head up towards Marina El Cid with me today to check out Jaime’s Casita María in the new food truck area, La Trockería. Luckily for us, Jaime was there, getting set up for his soft opening this evening.

He was embarrassed to have me take his photo, as he wasn’t dressed for work; we caught him setting things up. Even though his kitchen wasn’t ready, Jaime greeted us, explained his menu, and gave us a tasting of his white and red wines. They are both sweet but so refreshing; the red is a mix of Cabernet and Tempranillo, the white a blend of Chenin Blanc and uva de mango. There is nothing “mango” about the white wine, so I assume that is just the name of a grape variety. The wines are made for Jaime by a friend who owns a vineyard in the Guadalupe Valley.

Despite not yet being open, Jaime proceeded to cook us up a cazuela of mushrooms. OMG! They were awesome!

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His food truck menu is obviously simpler than the full Casa María menu. He’s aiming for that homemade Mexican taste, with two different cazuelitas or casserole dishes, one with octopus and the other the mushroom dish we ate; and a tuna tostada with Moroccan spices. Jaime gave us a taste of the spiced tuna that goes on the tostada, which he explained was not yet fully marinated. Even half-marinated, it was GOOD! He will change up the menu regularly, and he’s planning to add more of his artisanal wines, as well.

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Casita María officially opens at 6:00 this evening, and will be open evenings Wednesday through Sunday (Monday and Tuesday off). We had the honor of being his first customers! It is located in the new food truck area just south of the bowling alley, across from Marina El Cid. The official address is 1802 Marina Mazatlán (Camarón Sábalo).

Also in the Trockería food truck area are 4to Burguer from the Machado, the hot dog van that used to be in front of Gavias on the malecón, a shrimp place, hot wings, and a taco truck. Provecho! And mucho éxito to Jaime and Casita María!