Miss Universo Carnavál 2017

16729547_1868731800012115_2132236453093537905_n.jpgPlease block this Wednesday evening, February 22, for a wonderful show filled with joy and excitement that will benefit two children in desperate need of surgery. Belleza con Causa—Beauty with a Purpose, holds this annual event, a beauty pageant for the Drag Queen of Carnavál. I am very pleased to be judging for the second year in a row, along with other expat representatives Susie Morgan Lellero, Luis Ramírez, Ginger Borman and Shilo Downie.

The pageant will take place at Castillo de LuLu, Aquiles Serdán 60 (the same street Immigration is on, the salón is just farther down the street, off Carnavál) in Playa Sur, starting after 8pm. The event is BYOB, bring your own drink, though a lady there will be selling soft drinks. Entrance usually costs about 50 pesos, and all proceeds go to support the two children.

There will be loads of singing and dancing, flirting, whooting and hollering. The event usually includes a couple of star performances, and the pageant includes the queen aspirants modeling both cocktail and evening dresses, and answering a question. Three queens will be crowned: Miss Universo, Señorita, and Rostro Carnavál/Face of Carnaval.

Get your party on and come on out! Below are a few pics from last year; click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

 

Organic Gluttony Report

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Farm to Table events are a worldwide trend, often related to the slow food movement, and the desire for organic, local-grown, farm-fresh and free-range ingredients. Mazatlán is blessed to have had three major Farm to Table events, with the latest one being held this past Sunday, February 12, 2017, on Chuy Lizárraga’s organic farm (Chuy’s Organics) just north of town.

What makes our Mazatlán event so unique? First, it’s held out in the middle of a pepper field, next to the green houses; we are surrounded by bird song, green crops, fresh air and sunshine. The chefs have to plan and prepare ahead, as in the middle of a farm field they have limited access to what a professional kitchen might have. They work out of tents, on a propane stove and open fires. Second, rather than having just one main chef, as is usually the case at such events, our FTT is a collaboration of some of the best chefs in Sinaloa. Greg and I have been fortunate to have attended all three Mazatlán FTT, and I have the double chin to prove it.

Let me get right to the food and drink, which is our main reason for traveling north of town about 20 minutes. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow. This year’s menu included:

  1. Welcome Cocktail: Cucumber margarita with fresh mint, Chef Alistair Porteous, Water’s Edge Bistro
  2. Ceviche FISH: Shrimp and pocked mahi, pineapple and red onion marinated in chipotle and garnished with avocado. VERY tasty with a nice smoky flavor complemented by the freshness of the pineapple. Gabriel Ocampo and Luis Vargas, Fresh International Seafood House
  3. Mazatlán Pilsner: Specially brewed for this event and not available at the brewery, this beer is infused with German hops, giving it an aroma of white wine, herbs and citrus. We loved it! A bit champagne-like, especially with the glass. Brewmaster Edvin Jonsson, Cervecería Tres Islas
  4. Organic Salad: Green beans, trio of tomatoes, ricotta and mussels with a red mustard and honey dressing. Chef Elmo Ruffo, Fiera
    This dish completely rocked! OMG! That ricotta sauce brought everything together and made it to die for. And, of course, I’m a sucker for mussels. Having met the charming owner of Fiera, Yamil González, and now knowing Elmo, you can bet we’ll be visiting Fiera again soon and regularly!
  5. Grilled Seafood Salad: Grilled shrimp with chimichurri, octopus with heirloom tomato marmalade, roasted sweet peppers with cranberry vinaigrette, and ash-roasted sweet potatoes and greens, goat cheese, and an apple and honey dressing. Chef Daniel Soto, El Caprichito Mio
    Another dish that was unbelievably delicious! Danny Soto is two for two; his cold salad last year was such a standout that we drove all the way to Culiacán to dine in his restaurant. His hot salad this year hit it out of the park as well. He loves gorgeous fresh vegetables just like we do! First a video with Daniel, followed by pics of his dish and the preparation.

  6. Jicama Tagliatelle: The menu said turnips, but they were past their prime in the fields. The chefs then used grated jicama as the pasta, in a sauce of shrimp bisque, mustard greens and green garlic vinaigrette. Chefs Francis Regio and Karl Gregg, guests from Vancouver BC

  7. Asian Duck Confit Tamales: What a wonderful twist on a traditional Mexican dish. Star anise, a mix of spices, orange, carrot and green onions with a garnish of crispy duck, accompanied by caramelized vegetables. Chef Alistair Porteous, Water’s Edge Bistro
    Alistair and his wife Tracey of course organized this whole event, though it is a collaboration, with everyone involved taking on major roles. Thank goodness they tell me we will have another FTT next year!
  8. Braised Pork Breast Ribs: In a miltomate sauce with barbecued duck and mushroom risotto. Chef Luis Osuna, Cayenna
    Another UNBELIEVABLY incredible taste combination! Two dishes in this course, and they were, indeed, heavenly. Another trip to Culiacán is definitely in order. We should be getting a Cayenna here in Mazatlán soon, thank goodness.
  9. Pumpkin Flan: with a crispy crumble topping. Hector Peniche, Hector’s Bistro
  10. Dessert Coffee: Organic expresso over vanilla ice cream, puré of coconut and spices, with a sweet expresso-coffee reduction. Marianne Biasotti and Enrique Ochoa, Rico’s Cafe
  11. Wines: All we could possibly drink of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to Javier Ramírez of Vinoteca and Oscar Gámez of Cava del Duero. There was iced hibiscus tea for those who didn’t want alcohol.
  12. Trio of fresh breads

As always, we were seated at long tables, which enabled us to make new friends as dining is family-style. There were nearly 300 people attending this year, including two reporters from Gourmet Magazine. This time we were lucky enough to sit with a gentleman who brought wine from his own cellar, just in case they didn’t serve enough. As if! His was great, though—thank you!

The chefs looked nearly as happy as we did when the day was finished. Glasses in hand, they happily accepted our accolades.

Our dear Gail Blackburn, from La Rosa de las Barras Farm, provided garlic snaps and other wholesome, flavorful goodies. As always, there was a raffle at the end, this year in benefit of Refugio San Pablo, a new home downtown for teenage boys—for which we raised $24,000 pesos! Our table was very fortunate, with several winners including Greg!

Music was provided by a strings duo, and they provided wonderful accompaniment to the birdsong and the buzzing of the fields.

The 25 wait staff were led by Andrés, as in prior years, and they did an outstanding job.

Thanks to my friend Martha Parra for a few of the photos! I will admit that sometimes I was too busy eating to get a good shot of a dish, so I appreciate her helping me. We were blessed with a most incredible day, capped off with a gorgeous sunset.

Border / Zone… between us

16112882_459015117820393_2403868806841955938_oClaudia Lavista from Mazatlán’s Escuela Municipal de Danza tells me she’s heartbroken she won’t be in town for our Mazatlán Women’s March on Saturday evening. We do hope you will join us, and bring your whole family, all your friends and colleagues. If you are coming with a group from the same workplace, school or club, please wear your uniforms to show your group pride. Otherwise, there is no clothing recommendation. Do, however, bring the sign you would like to carry. “Defending Dignity,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “Diversity and Inclusion,” etc. Get out a piece of cardboard and a marker, and exercise your voice. The march is NOT political, please, and is peaceful and respectful. We will meet at 4 pm on the malecón where Alemán intersects it, in front of the Hotel Freeman, and walk to the Cliff Divers/Glorieta Sanchez Taboada.

This post, however, is about an event AFTER our march, at 8 pm. Claudia tells me, “It’s our first cultural action against the Trump wall idea!” And does it look beautiful! (BTW, Colin, kudos on the pics!) The performance is a collaboration between Vermont’s Middlebury College and our own EPMD (professional dance school). Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Here is the full event description:

EPDM and Dance Company of Midleburry Present Border | Zone… entre nosotros

Please join us for this evening of new contemporary dance performance, Border | Zones… entre nosotros on Saturday 21st of January at the Angela Peralta Theatre, 8:00 pm. Tickets are 200 pesos and can be purchased at the box office 9am-3pm and 5-7pm or Saturday 9am-2pm.

Centering on themes of the boundaries and borders between nations, people, and ideas, this performance was produced as part of an international collaboration between Middlebury College (Vermont, USA) and the Mazatlán Professional School of Contemporary Dance (EPDM). The project features an exchange between the students of the Dance Company of Middlebury (directed by Scotty Hardwig) and choreographers Omar Carrum and Claudia Lavista, who have created choreography with the company.

During the last two weeks, the Dance Company of Middlebury has had the opportunity to study in Mazatlán and integrate with the classes, teachers and students of the EPDM — this provides them both with a new cultural lens and introduction into the training methods and high-level of artistic creation at the school, as well as an opportunity to work with internationally renowned choreographers like Carrum and Lavista. This exchange also allows for the students of both schools to experience different processes of studying and training in dance, the different approaches of the two schools, as well as connect to other international student dancers and perform together.

For this performance, Hardwig has created a new work, “Sun Breaks Down,” in collaboration with the student company, and the evening will also feature a repertory work by Carrum and Lavista entitled, “Dulce, Disonante, Entorno,” alongside works from the students of the EPDM. This performance will be followed by a tour of these works in the United States by DCM, as well as by EPDM student dancer Paola Reyes Guzman who will be performing a new original work by Xitlali Piña Poujol.

Formed in 1980, the Dance Company of Middlebury includes student dancers, selected by audition, who create new work annually under the direction of professional faculty choreographers and designers at the Middlebury Dance Program. This model creates a pre-professional environment for students to engage in intensive dance training, experiencing the inner workings of the choreographic process from varied perspectives. Each year, DCM premieres a new piece in Vermont in conjunction with a national or international tour.  This year’s company, directed by Scotty Hardwig, includes dancers Miguel A. Castillo, Mandy Kimm, Deborah Leedy, Amanda Lorena Neira, Andrew Pester, Otto Pierce, Liv Reuss, and Emily Schreffler.

Border Zone | EPDM | MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE from DELFOS DANZA CONTEMPORÁNEA on Vimeo.

AC/DC in Mazatlán!?

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AC/DC is easily one of the most recognized names in Rock & Roll. Their music can be heard all over the world, all over the radio and all over Mazatlán, streaming out of bars, nightclubs, pulmonías, aurígas and cars. To many they are Rock & Roll, with an appeal from today’s youth (like my 21-year-old son) to those who rocked to the band’s first album in 1975. After the original lead singer, Bon Scott, died in 1980, Brian Johnson stepped in and became the “voice” and “sound” of the band until his sudden retirement last year. Axl Rose stepped up to finish the tour, but the future of the band is now in doubt. One thing seems to be for sure: the days of hearing Brian Johnson belt out You Shook Me All Night Long are gone. But wait….

What if I told you that you could see a group called Highway to Hell, with a lead singer who can hit high notes like a young Brian Johnson? What if I told you that group will be playing in Mazatlán at the International Convention Center on Saturday, January 28? Would it help to know that this group not only sounds like AC/DC, but looks like them, right down to Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit and Brian’s hair? They have performed all over the world and are respected enough by the real AC/DC to have shared a stage with Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams (bass player, soon to be retired). They rocked Hermosillo in November (https://youtu.be/2fcxqdQeLNg) and recently played to over 10,000 in Mexico City. This is the closest you can get to seeing AC/DC and it is coming to you real soon.

How does something like this come to happen? The commitment and energy of a local expat and longtime music fan, Ray Wright of El Sol La Vida, is making this happen. He has partnered with Tecate, the Mazatlán International Center and TV Azteca. If it’s a success, and I’m sure it will be, he promises to bring more acts to Mazatlán. I had a chance to catch up with Ray recently, and here’s what he had to say. Pay special attention towards the middle for a special promise from the band if the event is a success:

To see AC/DC on their last tour was price prohibitive. Even back in the 80’s, I’m sure I paid over $20 US (plus parking) to see a concert. Call it flashback pricing or whatever you like, but Ray is able to bring us this amazing outdoor open-air event with multiple bands and a DJ, encompassing six hours of music, for only 200 pesos. If you are a VIP rocker these days, 600 pesos gets you a seat at a table. The tables are for eight people, so why not invite some friends to come along as well? Either way you can’t go wrong with affordable food and beverages easily available. Here are the quick facts:

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Saturday, January 28, 7:00 pm
Mazatlán International Center
Tickets 200 pesos (VIP 600) – available all over Mazatlán:

Gran Plaza (beginning Friday, January 13) – look for a special kiosk
Mazatlán International Center
Bikinis Bar in the Golden Zone (Thursday – Sunday 6 pm – 4 am)
Athina Spa – Calla Bellisario Dominguez 1600 in El Centro
Reason’s Hair Salon in the Marina
Surf’s Up Cafe
TBM Offices in Marina next to Dock 7
or by calling Ray Wright 669-146-1626

Schedule is more or less as follows:

Doors open at 6:00 with DJ Nhas starting at 6:30
Opening Act: Local band, Beggars Banquet 7:30 – 9:00
Highway to Hell takes the stage around 9:30 and plays until around 11:30 or midnight
DJ Nhas returns and will play music as long as people are buying beer!

Let’s face it, living in Mazatlán rocks (pun intended). But it means that to see an international performer or band, you have to travel to Monterrey, D.F., or even the United States. Tribute bands are a way to fill the void without traveling. And if you’re going to see a tribute band, you should see the best of breed, which Highway to Hell certainly is.

Fireworks Extraordinaire!

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FIREWORKS
By now if you read these pages you know I love fireworks. In Mazatlán we are blessed with displays most every weekend, sometimes almost every night. People launch fireworks at weddings, quinceaños, birthday and anniversary parties, restaurant grand openings… you name it. During Christmas and New Year’s we’ll see even more. I’m living in the right place! On Thanksgiving last week we enjoyed two wonderful, unexpected shows, and last Friday I counted five different fireworks shows that I could see just from our house. Since many of them take place over the ocean, it’s a site to behold.

Annually our two best city-wide shows are, of course, the Combate Naval and the Festival de la Luz ; click on either link in the highlighted text to see photos of previous editions of those events. If you love fireworks or photography like I do, you might also want to look at some pics I took over the summer while visiting relatives in southern Wisconsin: fireworks on Lake Michigan and another set on Lake Tichigan.

FESTIVAL DE LA LUZ
This year was the tenth anniversary of the Festival de la Luz, an annual show put on by the Tres Islas Hotel Association on the Saturday night between events of the Gran Maratón del Pacífico. To me it’s my favorite fireworks display of the year, because the whole bay of Mazatlán lights up, with around 50,000 people along the four kilometers of the malecón all getting a clear and joy-filled view. Combate Naval, held in conjunction with Carnavál, is a wonderful show, but the Olas Altas area gets so very crowded that viewing it takes lots of planning and effort. It’s not an event for the elderly, the differently abled, or the faint of heart, while Festival de la Luz is accessible to everyone. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow. Yes, I think Torre M’s marketing department needs to give me a call. 😉

The hotel association built up our anticipation that the tenth anniversary show would be the best ever in Mazatlán, that there would be new sorts of fireworks that we’ve never seen, and that what might seem like an error would really be a surprise. There were 15 launch points set up around our bay, 10,000 fireworks to shoot, and the show was supposed to last 30 minutes. Needless to say, I was PSYCHED!

PHOTOGRAPHING FIREWORKS
To take good fireworks photos, I’ve learned that a key is to scout a location ahead of time. Having a good foreground (e.g., beach, boats, people, scenery or reflections in water) gives perspective. I feel you need to choose whether to shoot the fireworks close-up or far away, as doing both requires too many changes in settings, and the shows don’t allow you the luxury of time. I suppose there are those who use two cameras, with two different settings, but I’m not that multi-dexterous. I’ve also learned that you can not guarantee good shots as there are so many variables out of the photographer’s control: the wind (never know which way the smoke will blow), the clarity of the air (Mazatlán’s salty air clouds photos taken at a distance), the quality of the fireworks show itself, and, of course, luck—if you happen to catch that one incredible launch or not.

The location from which I took photos last year wouldn’t work this year: it was now right under one of the launch sites, and I decided that the light from the fireworks would be too bright, and at unpredictable distances, for my shots. There was also much more ambient light there as well this year. Greg helped me find a new location where we could get the panoramic views we wanted. It took some negotiation, but we got permission to shoot from there, and a friend and I set out early that evening to set up.

cohetes ready

Photo from 2015 set up

2016 FESTIVAL
Well, instead of the advertised 30 minutes, the show this year lasted about 18 minutes. We didn’t have the flyboarders, not that I missed them, and I sure didn’t see anything so new and different that we haven’t seen here before, so I’m not sure what the surprise was. There was quite a wind blowing out the shapes of the fireworks very quickly. Thus, the show didn’t quite meet the 10th anniversary hype; that happens. My disappointment, however, was the apparent lack of coordination between the launch locations. What’s so great about Festival de la Luz is that you’ve got so many launches around the bay choreographed into a mesmerizing overall “WOW!” factor.

While I went out to take photos, Greg stayed home to watch the fireworks from a closer venue. He said there was only one man working the display in front of our house (one of the 15 launch locations), and it seemed the wind kept blowing out his torch. You may have seen the fireworks on the beach; they are hand-positioned and hand-lit. Nothing much seems computerized. The pyrotechnicians at different spots seem to have radios to coordinate their actions.

In 2015, you might recall, we had perfect fireworks conditions: a hurricane on the weekend of the marathon had cleared the air and the night was perfectly still, making it ideal for photography.  That same hurricane took out at least one of our fireworks launch locations, but fortunately the rest were saved. This year we had very salty air, lots of humidity, and combined with the wind far from ideal conditions. Below I’ll post some photos from 2015 and from 2016, to give you a feel of the difference. Click to view them larger and see which year is which. Let me know what you think.

I contacted José Manguart at Tres Islas to ask him about my perceptions, but so far I haven’t heard back from him. If I do, I will update this post with his comments. I’m not sure, therefore, if all went as planned, or if there were snafus. Either way, it was still a spectacular show, easily accessible, and free for so many thousands of people! Any disappointment is only because we are incredibly spoiled!

We are so blessed! I thank the Tres Islas Hotel Association for doing this for us every year. The Noroeste said there was 100% hotel occupancy over marathon weekend, and I know lots of friends were able to rent out rooms as well. It’s so encouraging to see Mazatlán hosting events that promote health and fitness, and also bring economic boom. Do let me know what you thought of the show, and the photos. Thank you!