Saturday, February 07, 2009

Breakfast Of Champions

I went out for my morning walk before breakfast today and I hadn't wandered too far before I came upon a couple of guys and a woman shucking their morning haul of oysters. Now you know these have to be fresh.

From The Sea To You

Well, how could I resist. At 80 pesos a dozen it was a deal as well. At today's exchange rate that was $5.63 or under fifty cents each. And these are good sized oysters, too.

Such A Deal

They were delicioso, sweet and succulent with a bit of the sea-saltiness to them. They give you a couple of limes and some hotsauce and more salt, if you wanted it. Me, just a spritz of the lime and a dollop of the hotsauce and down the hatch they go.

Perfectly Fresh And A View Of The Bay

Of course when I told the Mysterious Chinese Woman about my breakfast her first comment was "Aren't you afraid of getting heppatitus, or something?" I have eaten everything from food from street vendors in Vietnam to mystery meat in the marketplace of Spain and never had a problem so I wasn't too worried. On the other hand, The Mysterious Chinese Woman boils the water in New York City.

Plus, I stopped by Sweeny's afterwards for a beer and a shot of tequila, just to be on the safe side. Man, I love that morning happy hour they have.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Joe Jack's Fish Shack

Joe Jack's Fish Shack is an absolute must if you are looking to satisfy your craving for fish and chips here in Puerto Vallarta. They are some of the best I have had anywhere, and certainly one of the best here in Puerto Vallarta. I would say the best, but I know I would hear if from some of the other places that serve them. Sweeny's comes to mind.

Joe Jack's Fish Shack

While we waited for our drinks to be served we were given a refreshing little veggie platter.

A Healthy Appetizer

Cucumbers, jicama, and a radish or two really hits the spot.

And here is the Fish and Chips, served with a lot of excellent tartar sauce and a nice big mound of coleslaw.

Just Like Jolly Old England

They also had a whole red snapper on the menu. The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for that. They, like most places, only serve it when they get it fresh that day and they said they have it delivered twice a day if it is available.

Fresh Snapper

This really was delicious. Even better than El Dorado. They blacken it here so it is nice and spicy. As you can see, nothing went to waste.

The After Picture

The have a bar downstairs and a small eating area but the upstairs deck always seems more inviting. Not a great view, but you do get to look out over the street at the nearby restaurants.

The View From The Terrace

I am more interested in the old Mexican movie posters, one of which you saw in my last post.

Ah, If Only They Were Still Playing

Actually, when Commander U.S.A. had his television program in New York he showed a bunch of the Santo movies. A real trip to watch, particularly if you were a bit, shall we say, removed from the real world. Santo is a professional Mexican wrestler who never, even when he is not wrestling, removes his silver mask. Improbably, he is always getting involved with spys or futuristic beings bent on taking over the earth. Of course there is always the obligatory wrestling match or two thrown in just for good measure.

My Hero, Santo

I started out with a regular Mojito but for my second drink the waitress, Ivette, suggested the ginger Mojito. A great suggestion.

Bar Man Sipping His Ginger Mojito

Bar Man And Ivette

Even though it is a fish shack, they do have the obligatory head of bull mounted on the wall.

Maybe They Serve Bullheads

Joe Jack's is a relative new-comer to Puerto Vallarta, only been here a few years now, but it was a hit almost from the day it oppened. If you ever eat there you will know why. I am sure I will be back again this visit.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

My Morning Walk

I got up early this morning and took a nice walk along the malecon, all the way to the end where there is a place that you can buy really fresh fish and have them clean them for you to your specification; gutted and scaled, fileted, you name it. On the way I passed the pier where a crowd was already lining up for the water taxis and party boats.

The Local Taxi Stand

A bit further along I was able to get this nice shot of the river. It looks like it is really high, but this part is influenced by the tide and this is actually water flowing into the river from the bay.

River View

As I headed on home I made the mistake of passing by Sweeny's.


Like a fly to, well, to honey, I was compelled to climb the inviting stairs.

C'mon Up And See Me Sometime

Just my luck, Sweeny's has a morning happy hour. It actually is just an hour too, because they don't open until 11:00 P.M. Still, it is a nice tip of the hat to those of us who really need, er, I mean, would like a morning libation.

Beer For Breakfast

I got there about ten minutes before noon but the bartender was nice enough to let me buy a back-up at about two minutes before noon after she announced that happy hour was ending.

The Thoughtful Bartender

I think she said her name is Brenda, but I might be mistaken. I told her she looked familiar but that I didn't remember her working at Sweeny's. She said she used to work next door at Andale's, the bar with the burro, so that is where I had seen her. We had a pleasant conversation about the burro. The usual, Is he well regarded by other burros? does he roll around in the barn to get the smell of the perfume off at the end of his day? Typical bar conversation. Brenda did say that the burro's best friend was a dog. I will need to get more information about that relationship the next time I go to Sweeny's.

Here is a teaser for my next post, but don't get too excited. I did not go to a wrestling match.

By the way, I have been having intermittent problems linking to my website when I use as the address.

On the other hand, seem to work consistently.

Let me know if anyone else is having problems.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Heeere's Johnny

I popped into Canto del Mar the other morning to see if my friend Johnny was still there. He was there alright, shucking oysters to sell on the beach, his day job. I asked him if he was still singing and he said he would be singing that night at 5:00 P.M. so I said we would be sure to show up.

Canto de Mar

It is easy to miss this place. Just a little white building with a narrow walkway leading back to the tables.

A Hidden Paradise

It is right next to the much larger Burro Bar so if you are coming from the south it is right before and if you are coming from the north it is right after. If you are walking along the beach it is much easier to spot.

We got a whole group together for the fun.

The Women Folk

The Hombres

Of course Johnny came over and gave all the girls a hug.

Johnny With Kathy And Marcie

Being as how it was just the day after The Mysterious Chinese Woman's birthday she got a special song and a special hug.

It Is Good To Be Special

We sat around listening to Johhny sing and slurping down our frozen margritas until sunset.

Another Beautiful Puerto Vallarta Sunset

The frozen margaritas really helped with the blistering heat of the salsa dip for the chips. The waiter just laughed at us when we commented about how hot the salsa was and proceded to load up a chip and eat it just to show us it wasn't that bad. Well, maybe not to him, but believe me, this was much hotter than your average salsa.

Afterwards everyone wandered off and I decided to stop into El Dorado for an early nightcap at the barren bar.

Bar Man And The Barren Bar

It really is a nice bar and Hector and Mariana were still singing Amy Winehouse tunes so I was happy.

Hector And Mariana

I am not sure how late I stayed, but by the time I toddled home I was ready for bed. It probably didn't help that I had started out the day with a pre-noon happy hour at Sweeny's. But more on that later.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bar Man Eats Crow

The Mysterious Chinese Woman has been vindicated. Debbi from the Banana Cantina here in Puerto Vallarta sent me an email explaining this sculpture:

It is a Mexican woman washing her clothes in the river. I guess that explains why it is located right by the river. I will have to say, in my defense, that I have seen many a Mexican woman washing their clothes in the river and none of them looked anything like this sculpture.

On the other hand, I have never seen a Chinese laundry in Puerto Vallarta either.

La La La Lorraine

Tonight was the first of the two birthday's the Mysterious Chinese Woman celebrates each year. Her real one, because she was born in China, is based upon the lunar year and so fluctuates on our Julian calendar. To avoid confusing the somewhat linear American mind she simply chose February 1 as her birthday when she came to the United States. Of course, later in the year I always get a reminder from the Mysterious Mother-In-Law that the real birthday is coming up and I should do something appropriate. Whenever I bring up the unfairness of this the Mysterious Chinese Woman reminds me that the Queen of England celebrates two birthdays a year and she, the Mysterious Chinese Woman, is my queen. Now you try to argue with logic like that.

My Queen, By Decree Of Her Majesty

Anyway, I read a letter to the editor about La Lorraine in the local weekly here, the Puerto Vallarta Mirror. I also read the identical letter in the rival weekly, the Puerto Vallarta Tribune. Kind of suspicious, if you ask me. However, in both papers the response by the editor was also favorable. One said that their food critic also liked the place and the other said they had received letters from others who also praised the place. On top of that, it is only about three blocks from our place.

La Lorraine

La Lorraine only opened about four months ago and the last time I was here this was Wayne's, a kind of seedy late-night bar. Well, to be fair, I only went in there late at night so it might have been a perfectly respectable place during the light of day.

They did a nice job of remodeling and installed a fairly large kitchen that took up a lot of what was once the bar. I think they also put in new bathrooms, but maybe they just cleaned them. They definitely painted though, giving it a nice bright look.

Much Cheerier

To celebrate we ordered a bottle of bubbly. This was a nice dry Prosecco that went well both as an aperitif and with the meal.

A Bottle Of Bubbly

We were served a little appetizer, on the house, but I am not sure what it was. I thought it was a pate of some kind but the Mysterious Chinese Woman said it tasted like fish to her. Maybe a fish pate.

Mysterious Appetizer

Coincidentally, La Lorraine had two dishes that were very similar to the ones we had at Braeburn the other day, so we decided to order them and do a taste test.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman loves duck so she ordered the Margot de cannard et sa sauce gingembre et vodka au miel. The English translation of this was Roasted Duck with His Sauce. Go figure.

Roasted Duck With His Sauce

It wasn't bad, but considerably tougher that the duck at Braeburn. The sauce wasn't anything special either, kind of like a duck gravy. 1 - 0 Braeburn.

I ordered the La cuisse de canard et sa sauce au cassis which had a bit more descriptive English translation, Confitted duck leg and his black current licor sauce.

Confitted Duck Leg

Again, this wasn't nearly as good as what we had at Braeburn. It was considerably tougher and, because I have made this dish myself as an ingredient to my cassoulet, I knew why. It was cooked at too high a temperature and for a shorter time then is required. And, again, His Sauce, whatever it is, was more like a gravy. Way to heavy for a dish such as this,

Braeburn won the unanimous decision. Now, to be fair, I am sure they didn't have a chef of the caliber of Braeburn's working here and the prices were probably about a third of what they were at Braeburn. All and all it wasn't a bad attempt at a French restaurant here in Puerto Vallarta, but certainly didn't deserve rave reviews. I might go back to try something else, but I wouldn't rush back.

The service was very good and friendly. We ordered a second bottle of bubbly to share with a friendly couple we shared a table with, They were out of what we originally had, guess they only had one bottle, but they gave us a more expensive bottle at the same price. That was nice of them.

I would recommend La Lorraine if you are looking for an alternative to the usual fare and have a hankering for something French. Not bad, but not great. I think it suffered primarily because we were comparing it to a truly top-notch French restaurant. I suspect we would have rated it more highly if we hadn't ordered the same things that we had at Braeburn.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Beachside Breakfast

Everyone has their favorite little deli or diner in New York. The place where they stop in for breakfast every morning on their way to work. Me, I am retired so I eat at home. Here in Puerto Vallarta, though, I have my favorite beach side breakfast place just a short stroll down the beach from where I stay.


Nothing fancy about this place, but decent food at more than decent prices. I had their special, eggs scrambled with chorizo, refried beans, and a tortilla folded over melted cheese and a basket of toast for 50 pesos, or a bit under four dollars. I forgot to check to see if the coffee was included. The coffee was very good too. Coffee in Puerto Vallarta has really improved over the years. I didn't take pictures of the food, or many pictures at all. Too early in the morning to be thinking clearly. I will be back here again, many times in fact, so will try to do a better job next time.

Just A Funky Kind Of Place

The service here is very friendly, although typically slow. I have to get out of my New York rush, rush, rush frame of mind. That usually only takes a few days or a few tequilas, whichever comes first. Just have to remember I really don't have anyplace to go and I am sitting in a lovely beach side restaurant.

Oh, and if you would like, you can have your breakfast right on the beach. The Mysterious Chinese Woman isn't really a sun person and preferred the cooler inside area.

Breakfast On The Beach

Langostino's is open all day and is a nice place for dinner as well. Low-key and inexpensive with decent, if not overly fancy, food. Some nights they also have live music. I highly recommend this place and am always happy to see it is still around. One is always concerned that someone will decide to turn this into another La Palapa or Daiquiri Dick's. Not that there is anything wrong with those places, not at all. In fact will probably visit them both. I usually do. But I like to have alternatives. I think this place might be too small to ever be big.

After breakfast we walked down the malecon and we spotted a new statue.

Hmm, Now What Does This Represent?

It is a male washing clothes on a rock. I know this because there is a bar of soap. Otherwise he could be making dough or something. He is unusually dressed and has a long ponytail. I said it must be a tribute to early Chinese settlers who opened laundries n Puerto Vallarta. The Mysterious Chinese Woman vehemently disagreed. If anyone has more information about this statue I certainly would appreciate hearing from you.

As we approached the old Light House we noticed a huge deconstruction/construction project that was taking up about half a block.

Soon To Be Something

As is typical, we played the "What used to be there?" game. Of course neither of us could remember. I will have to do further research on this.

We then headed back to Rizo's, the old supermarket. We took the route past the flea market so I could take the swinging bridges over the river.

The Traditional First Crossing

I spent about half an hour in the supermarket and was getting ready to leave when the Mysterious Chinese Woman said she was just getting started. We bumped into a couple of friends from where we stay so I suggested she share a cab with them to take here groceries back and ran off. Needless to say I got a severe scolding when she finally returned.

I made it up to her, though, by taking her to a lovely birthday dinner at La Lorraine and will post about that next. I took pictures of the food.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Puerto Vallarta and El Dorado

Long day yesterday. Up at 3:30 A.M. to finish packing. It didn't take me too long though and we were ready in plenty of time for our 6:30 A.M. pickup to take us to the Newark Airport. I don't know if the Continental International Teminal is indicative of the whole airport, but it was a loud, confusing mess. We got into what looked to be the check-in line because, contrary to Continental's website, there are no self-service kiosks. Then someone hollers that if you are going to Puerto Vallarta you should be in a different line. So we get into that line. Then, after standing in that line for awhile, we are told it was only for those on the 8:30 A.M. flight to Puerto Vallarta, not the 10:00 A.M. flight that we were on. Luckily we were jumped to the front of the line we were originally in.

But then we were told that if we are on the 10:00 A.M. flight we should stand against the wall. They then proceeded to check in people who were on an earlier flight to Peru or somewhere. Finally they opened up two check-in counters for our flight. It was kind of pointless to get to the airport early, because they seem to give priority to checking in people with earlier flights than yours. And these aren't flights that are leaving in the next few minutes or anything.

Oh well, live and learn.

After a five and a half hour flight we did land in sunny Mexico. Ironically, the airport in Puerto Vallarta is a model of efficiency compared to New York and Newark airports (with the exception of the Jet Blue terminal at JFK). The airport is new, your bags are ready for you by the time you go through immigration, which is a breeze, and unless you push the button and get the red light you just walk through customs.

After walking through a gauntlet of timeshare people offering you "free" cab rides you go to the actual cab station, tell them where you are going, pay the person, someone helps you with your bags and gets you your cab. No muss, no fuss.

We checked into our place and it was like being home again. I got my internet hooked up in short order, met friends from years past, and settled right in.

Traditionally the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I go to El Dorado for dinner our first night in Puerto Vallarta, and this was no exception. Right after sunset drinks by our pool (the sunset now largely obscured by an ugly expansion to the once cute pirate ship restaurant, but more on that later) we headed out.

Ah, Settling In At Last

Although it is warm here, 83 and sunny when we arrived, it is still winter so it gets dark early. Sunset is around 7:00 P.M. so it was dark by the time we got to El Dorado. It made the live music, contemporary songs like Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" sung with a latin styling, appropriate.

Soothing Dinner Music

They have a nice bar here, but it was empty.

Nice Bar, But A Lonely Bar

I understand tourism is down by about 20% from last year. Where there were usually three rows of tables out on the beach in front of the restaurant there was only one row last night. And it was Saturday night.

Everyone Gets A Front Row Table

We opted to sit inside though, but even we got a front row table. Not much of a dinner crowd inside, although the outdoor tables were all filled up.

We got started with the complimentary tortilla chips and a very good, and quite hot, salsa dip plus a tasty bean dip.

A Piquant Starter Kit

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the whole red snapper. If they have them, and they generally do, you know they will be fresh. They only serve them if they are, literally, caught that day.

Crispy Whole Red Snapper

It was, as always, delicious. Grilled and succulent. When it was over only the gruesome remains.

The Remnants

I opted for the Kahlua Shrimp, nice big shrimp wrapped in bacon and stuffed with a bit of cheese. This is served with rice and mixed vegetables and was very good indeed.

My Kahlua Shrimp

A great way to start what is always a great time in Puerto Vallarta. The exchange rate is very favorable this year, a bit over 13 pesos to the dollar now. The meal with two frozen margaritas for me and one for the Mysterious Chinese woman came to 550 pesos including my usual generous tip. That is bit less than $43. Given the live music, great food, excellent and friendly service, and beachfront dining, how can you beat it. And this is one of the more expensive places that we go to while we are down here.

After we got home we were treated to our own little fireworks display that we could see from our window. This was a pretty big one too, not like the small one they shoot off from the pirate ship every night. I am not sure what the occasion was, but it was a nice welcome to Puerto Vallarta treat.

Our Own Personal Fireworks Display

Today will be a busy day. We need to haul everything out of storage and set up our place for our eight week stay. Then we need to hit the supermarket and load up on provisions. We did manage to get a few staples yesterday, beer, rum, gin, tequila, tonic, coffee, milk, and honey (I like the honey in my morning coffee). I kind of like to go to the supermarkets here. It is always a challenge to find stuff. The local one is the most fun and that is where we will go. Right behind it is the swinging bridge that takes you to the island in the middle of the river. There is another swinging bridge on the other side of the island that then takes you to the north side of town. There are other bridges, but these are the most fun. For me, at least. The Mysterious Chinese Woman has a somewhat different view.

Until I post again, adios (see, my Spanish is improving).