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!

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.

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.