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.

A Chance to Visit a Mazatlán Organic Farm

v1Just over four years ago, we had the opportunity to go to the community of Guillermo Prieto on the outskirts of San Ignacio and visit the totally organic and innovative farm of Sacramento, one of the regular vendors at Mazatlán’s Organic Market (or MOM for short).

Now, you all have a chance to do the same thing, coming up on Sunday, March 13. This event is coordinated by Verónica Rico, one of the founders and motivating forces behind MOM. At 8:30 a.m., guests will be taken by bus from Plaza Zaragoza to Guillermo Prieto, where you will be shown up close and personal how Sacramento and her team work, teach, learn and live. Highlights include: the water collection system, creation of compost, worms, and the gardens where they grow their beautiful produce.

Later, you will enjoy lunch / brunch in the fields with organic produce, prepared by Sacramento and her team. The cost is only 380 pesos, including the transportation, tour and lunch. You should be back in Mazatlán around 3:00 p.m. or so. This is a great way to understand the origin of organic produce in a small local farm and the people who grow them!

Here is a link to our tour in 2012. I can only imagine how much they have grown since then. Here are a few shots from a similar tour in 2013:

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You can write to Verónica Rico at mazmercadoorganico@hotmail.com or give her a call at 6691-48-4010 for any questions. Verónica speaks English fluently. Tickets will be available at the Organic Market in the Plazuela Zaragoza this coming Saturday from 8:00 to noon.

This is an opportunity that does not come along very often and we encourage you to go if you are able.

More information and updates are available on the MOM Facebook page.

Farm to Table 2016—Unbelievably Better than the First!

©08.DSC_0308The Farm to Table is absolutely the best food event of the year, IMHO. Ok, Delfos’ Cuerpo Gourmet is really cool, too, and it involves performance art as well as good food in a great setting. But nothing beats great food and awesome friends in the fresh air and sunshine on a nice cool day! FTT took place on Sunday, 20 minutes north of Mazatlán, at Chuy Lizárraga’s organic farm in El Recreo. The farm is just off the highway, at kilometer 21 heading north on the toll road towards Culiacán. All 150 or so of us absolutely had a MARVELOUS time!

The day didn’t start out so great. I was so excited to have our son, Danny, home from school for Farm to Table this year. We planned to go together—along with a large group of friends with kids his age—and it was to be a wonderful way to celebrate one last hurrah as a family before he left today. Alas, Danny got sick, and had to cancel out on Sunday morning. So, we all went and had a good time, while he stayed home alone on his last day, suffering. 😦

The day fortunately ended up wonderfully. Danny felt better this morning, and I yet again realized how very blessed we are with wonderful, talented, interesting friends. What an absolutely spectacular day we had! Thank you all for joining us! And for bringing your heartfelt smiles and laughter!

The event featured seven food courses prepared on site by seven chefs—two from Culiacán and the rest from our own beloved port. In addition to the excellent cuisine, we had all-we-could-drink cucumber-mint margaritas, red and white wine, and Mazatlán’s own micro-brew, Tres Islas . So, what was on the menu, and who prepared it?

  1. Welcome cocktail—those cucumber-mint margaritas made with Mazatlán’s own Los Osuna—prepared by Chef Alistair Porteous, Water’s Edge
  2. Green ceviche—shrimp, mahi, avocado, cilantro, parsley, garlic, chilaca and anaheim chile pesto—by Chefs Gabriel Ocampo and Luis Vargas, FISH
  3. Tres Islas micro-brew—Belgian-style, amber color, light body, dry finish, notes of fruits and spices—by Brewmaster Edvin Jonsson
  4. Dual temperature salad—grilled eggplant and portobello, squash that had been roasted in the ground, tomato trilogy and sweet baby bell peppers with a cranberry, raspbery and balsamic vinaigrette—by Chef Daniel Soto, El Caprichito Mio
  5. Traditional risotto—on a bed of huitlachoche/corn truffles, with radish garnish, parmesan crust, and tempura zucchini blossoms—by Enrique Freyre, Raggio Cucina Casual
  6. My favorite: grilled sea bass—in a smoked tomatillo sauce topped with seafood gratin—by Chef Luis Osuna of Cayenna
  7. Greg’s favorite: chamorro/pork shoulder rib—braised with red wine, star anise, garlic, cumin and thyme—by Chef Alistair Porteous, Water’s Edge
  8. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from Chucaro, along with hibiscus tea
  9. Fresh fruit and cheese petit fours, plus incredible breads—by Susan Reynolds, Miel Fresh Baked Goods
  10. Dessert coffee—organic Chiapas espresso with a spiced date pure over vanilla ice cream, topped with toasted almonds and coconut—by Marianne Bisotti of Rico’s Café

This was the second Farm to Table that’s been held, and I’m told it will now be an annual event. Thank goodness! We sat at long tables covered with white linen and decorated with sunflowers, in the middle of a green pepper field. We were entertained with saxophone music and a raffle, and were able to purchase the centerpieces to take home. The proceeds from a silent auction at the end, with LOADS of wonderful gift baskets, all went to Floreser.

Are you wondering who organized this event? Our thanks go to geniuses Alastair Porteous, Sarah Emerson and Chuy Lizárraga for the vision. Though, of course, execution is thanks to a huge team of talented and passionate people!

If you want to get one of the limited number of tickets for this event next year, get your name on a list with any of the participating chefs/restaurants now. BLESS YOU ALL who made this event happen!

PS: is your mouth watering? Want more? Read about the first FTT here.

Farm to Table 2014—O•M•G!!!!!

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THE best meal we’ve had in six years in Mazatlán. Really. Good food involves the quality of the raw ingredients, the talent and creativity with which it’s prepared, the setting and ambience in which you eat it, and the magnificence of the people with whom you enjoy the meal. Today was cien por ciento, 100%!

Farm to Table 2014—the very first event of its kind in Mazatlán and, we believe, in Mexico. As with the first time for anything, we didn’t expect much. We hoped, but we didn’t expect. Well intentioned but poorly executed is the norm for first-time events. But no! This team pulled it off incredibly! An absolutely beautiful setting, a gorgeously perfect day, a multicultural, integrated group of very interesting, and fun-loving, intelligent people, amidst healthy, organic and delicious food, were all ours for leisurely enjoyment this afternoon. Every course, every single drink (from tequila to two wines to coffee), and the outdoor setting were beautiful! Kudos, kudos and more kudos to the organizers, chefs and servers!!!

About 100 people, including the mayor and his beautiful first lady, were seated in a field on Chuy Lizárraga’s farm at kilometer 21, just north of town. It was an absolutely perfect day—sunny, clear, yet cool enough to be enjoyable. No bugs, nothing uncomfortable, just pure unadulterated enjoyment!

Chefs from seven restaurants dedicated seven days of menus this past week to the “Farm to Table” event: Diego Becerra from El Presidio; Marianne Biascotti from Rico’s; Sarah Emerson & Gabriel Ocampo from First International Seafood House (F.I.S.H.); Enrique Espinoza of Rosso Nero; Enrique Freyre from Raggio; Hector Peniche of Molika & Krema; and Alastair Porteous of Water’s Edge. The culmination took place today at dinner in a farm field.

We were seated at long tables in the middle of a corn field, Italian style, decked out with fresh sunflowers, white linens, and all the wine and excellently prepared organic food the discriminating palate might desire. To top it all off, it was all in benefit of Avicultores Pérez Vidaña, an award-winning non-profit organization in Sinaloa that assists low-income families with severely handicapped children by teaching them to raise chickens and eggs for food. Proceeds from the event also support the Mercado Orgánico de Mazatlán’s educational programs.

Below is video of Sarah Emerson opening the meal.

Dinner (or lunch, if you prefer) consisted of eight different dishes, all prepared with organic ingredients and served family style: green salad, tabouleh, grilled veggies, chicken, quail, risotto, a dessert selection, and coffee with organic, artesanal ice cream. It was soooo wonderful to have so many vegetables, to eat one’s fill, and still feel healthy rather than weighted down! The sun was shining yet it wasn’t hot, the conversation flowed in several languages fluidly, and an excellent time was had by all.

Janet Blaser, the gorgeous, humble, hardworking, altruistic expat here in Mazatlán, has done sooooo much for our community. First she started M! Magazine, a bilingual publication we all love, which supplements other offerings and fills a much-needed gap here in town. Then she teamed with Verónica Rico, another absolutely beautiful, talented and intelligent woman, to establish the Mercado Orgánico, the MZT Farmers’ Market. None of us can imagine how we survived without the market all those years. And now, the two of them, plus a whole team of talented others, have given us the first Farm to Table Event! Below is video of her talk, just prior to dessert.

Jorge Luis Sanchez attended, a professor at UAS who also owns and operates his own organic farm. I learned soooo much by talking to him! Definitely want to take one of his classes! I suggested to Vero that they invite Jorge Luis to speak at one of the Saturday markets, so maybe that will happen. He knows so much about our environment, ecosystem, the human body, the origins of insecticides and herbicides and their impact on the world around us and our health, as well as having extensive knowledge about GMOs. With people like him in Sinaloa, our future is indeed bright!

May this be the first of many, many such excellent events. CONGRATULATIONS and thank you to all the organizers, chefs, wait staff and attendees!