Friday, February 18, 2011

A Spicy Dinner Party

In an earlier post I had mentioned that I had people over for dinner and had trouble with herniated eggs.  Well, despite all that I was able to get enough hard-boiled egg halves to make a plate of them.  They must have been good because by the time I got my camera to take a picture they were already over half gone.

Obviously A Crowd Pleaser

I just used a simple recipe this time, about an equal part of mayonaise and yellow mustard, a few dashes of soy sauce, and a few generous dollops of Martha's Old Fashion Original Recipe Chipotle Salsa.  I like this Chipotle Salsa (actually more of a sauce, like a hot sauce) so much I always bring back several bottles.  You can get it in the United States, but it is less than 1/3 the price here in Mexico.

For the main dish I prepared a nice loin of lamb.  I bought it at a little butcher shop and the next time I visit I will take a few pictures to post.  Really a nice piece of meat.

I don't have my full contingent of spices down here so I couldn't make one of my own spice rubs.  Instead I relied on Martha again and used her 100% Natural Chipotle Salsa Mix.  Instead of following her recipe to actually make salsa I just rubbed it into the pork loin.

A Rubbed Down Loin

Now the creative part was figuring out how to roast it.  Again, none of my usual stuff, roasting pan, meat rack, things like that, so I had to improvise.

I bought an pot large enough for the loin, but couldn't find any suitable meat rack.  Instead I took apart a wire clothes-hanger and cut it in two.  Then I wrapped aluminum foil around the pieces and constructed kind of a hanger thing for the pot.

Quite Ingenious, I Thought

I put a bunch of small potatoes in the bottom of the pan to catch the drippings for flavor and then postioned the pork loin on the hanger thing.

Ready For The Oven

Doing a bit of math I calculated the Celsius equivalent of the appropriate cooking temperatures, 500 and 250 degrees Farenheit (260 and about 120)  I heated up the oven to the 260 and then stuck in the loin for about five minutes to give it a nice brown crust.  Then I lowered the temperature to 120 and roasted the pork loin until it hit an internal temperature of 140 degrees Farenheit.  I did bring my Williams-Sonoma Remote Thermometer, one of my most useful kitchen and barbecueing gadgets) from home to get a precise reading.  When it hit 140 degrees Farenheit I took it out of the oven, tented it with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes so the juices could all seep back in.  The result, a perfectly done and deliciously juicy roasted pork loin.

And Delicious It Was

Nothing Left But To Dig In

You should know most of this crowd by now, Bella, the Mysterious Chinese Woman, Peter and his wife Marie.  Unfortunately Bella's husband Tom was a bit under the weather so he couldn't join us.  I did send a nice piece of the pork loin home with Bella so he wouldn't miss out entirely.

Bella brought a cheesecake for dessert, Marie brought a salad, and the Mysterious Chinese Woman sauteed some mushrooms that she either found growing on a log somewhere or simply conjured into existence.  She was a bit cagey about it.  All and all it was a wonderful dinner. And the visions we had, attributable to the mushrooms, were fantastic as well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Willie And Lobo

If you have never heard Willie and Lobo you really should try to buy or download one of their albums.  They have a sound like no other.  Willie on violin and Lobo on guitar.  My first exposure to them was quite serendipitous.  I was in Puerto Vallarta reading the book Puerto Vallarta Squeeze by Robert James Waller, a fan of theirs.  They are mentioned in the book as kind of a background to a scene that takes place in a restaurant with an outdoor garden, Mama Mia's.  The protagonist of the novel, Danny Pastor, is listening to Willie and Lobo when he witnesses a shooting and that sets into motion the chain of events that drives the novel.

Anyway, I decided to head to Mama Mia's, a real place on Basilo Badillo, sadly long gone, and there they were, Willie and Lobo.  I have been a fan of theirs ever since but haven't seen them in ages.  Well, they are touring again and one of their stops is right here in Puerto Vallarta's River Cafe.  Last night was their first night and I was their.

Willie And Lobo

River Cafe is a lovely restaurant on the Cuale Island, and they have excellent food.  I had made my reservations via the internet while I was still in Brooklyn and we ended up with a great table for two.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman Was Radiant

And I Was, Well, I Was There

I will say that Willie and Lobo have quite a following down here.  The place was packed with a most enthusiastic crowd of fans.  And nobody went away disappointed because Willie and Lobo rocked, as usual.

Rockin' Away And Pleasin' The Crowd

Willie is a hoot when he plays, looking almost as though he is going into some kind of an ecstatic trance.  Lobo, whose real name is Wolfgang Fink and was born in Germany but looks Mexican, is a bit more sedate, but sure rocks out with his guitar.

Toasting Willie, Or Lobo, Or Maybe Both

In addition to the great music, the food and service here is excellent as well.  I would come here to eat even if there wasn't any entertainment.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the Tuna Carpaccio for an appetizer and got a portion that could easily have been a meal.

This Is An Appetizer?

I ordered the Wild Mushroom Soup and it was excellent.

Looks Like Mud, Tastes Heavenly

For my main course I ordered the Braised Short-Ribs and they were done to perfection.  The menu said they had a chocolate coating and I assumed that meant something like a mole sauce.  But, no, it was more of a chocolate chocolate.  It wasn't overpowering, but I don't care for sweet sauces on my meat except, maybe, for some chutneys.  Still, although not quite to my taste it was very good and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Braised Short Ribs With A Chocolate Swirl

The Mysterious Chinese Woman's main course, Lamb Sambuca, was a real hit.  There is no doubt what I will order the next time I come here.

Simply Fantastic

It was, without a doubt, the best Lamb Sambuca I have ever had and River Cafe is just another one of the truely great restaurants here in Puerto Vallarta.  And that is what makes this place so great.  You can have a fish on a stick from the lady on the beach or got to a top-notch restaurant, all within walking distance and each great in their own way.

Finishing Up With An Irish Coffee

I gave the cherry to the Mysterious Chinese Woman.  She eats the ones I get in my Manhattans too.

Okay, now here is a question that I have.  You know those adds that say you can download or get a CD that will clean up your PC.  There is one ad that says it can improve your PC's speed by up to 100% or more.  Now what does that mean?  Say I run the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds. Now I improve my speed by 10%.  Wouldn't that mean I could now run it in 9 seconds?  How fast could I run 100 yards if I improved my speed by over 100%.  Wouldn't I kind of have to cross the finish line before the starter's gun was fired?  Just wondering.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day? No Way

Last night the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I went to No Way Jose for our Valentine's Day dinner.  The place was packed, but we only had a short wait for our upstairs table.  As we walked into the place this lady gave me a kiss on the cheek and said "So nice to see you again."  I was searching my atrophied brain trying to figure out where I knew her from.  A friend of Bella's, perhaps.  Nothing clicked.  I just mumbled something like "Nice to see you again too, it has been awhile."  Only later did I realize she was the greeter, Mrs. Jose, perhaps, and treated all of the customers like long lost friends.

We were escorted to our little table right next to the band.  Maybe a bit too close, but no complaints.  The place was packed, mostly with larger groups, so we were happy to get our table for two.

Easy Listening

We had just ordered our wine when this guy in a bright pink flowered shirt came over and wanted to take our picture.  After he took it he showed it to us (aren't digital cameras wonderful) and then said if we didn't like it we didn't have to pay.  I kind of taken back for a moment and then he laughed and introduced himself. It was, of course, Jose himself.  And then he was off, spreading his infectious good cheer to the rest of the packed house.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman, My Valentine

The place was decorated for Valentines day with flowers and hearts and candles and red balloons and, for some reason a stuffed Teddy Bear, or a monkey, or something.

Not The Monkey

The romantic setting must have set the Mysterious Chinese Woman's heart aflutter because she just couldn't keep her hands off me.  Or maybe she was just afraid I would run off and stick her with the bill.

I Prefer To Think It Was A Romantic Gesture

They had a special Valentine's Day menu but we opted to just order off their everyday menu.  Sometimes you don't have a choice on special occasions so when there is a large crowd the kitchen staff can concentrate on just a few dishes.  Being able to select from the full menu is always an option I like to see.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman had the red snapper, Vera Cruz Style.  She said it was delicious and, her biggest concern, the fish was not over-cooked.  In New York I never order salmon in a restaurant and seldom order tuna because it is invariably cooked to the point where it is dry.

I ordered the flank steak, advertised as thick and juicy.  And they didn't disappoint.  This was one of the nicest flank steaks I have ever had, and prepared just the way I asked, medium to medium rare.  Quite a large piece as well, really filled me up.

And then the multi-talented Jose surprised us by hopping up on stage and joining the band to seranade the full house.

All The Way Jose

We had a great time.  The food was excellent and the service was very good, even though the place was packed and everyone was busy.  The waiter apologized because he thought he was a bit slow bringing us our wine but I didn't think he was slow at all.  I am certainly planning on coming back again.  Although we had a very nice Valentine's Day dinner, I suspect I will enjoy myself even more when it is less crowded.

Okay, now for a complaint. But nothing to do with No Way Jose.  I love deviled eggs, or huevos diablo as my friend Bella calls them.  We had people over for dinner the other night (more on that latter) and I decided to make a batch.  I also make them for our deck parties here where I stay, and have been making them here for years.  And I always have the same problem.  I love the eggs here, beautiful golden yolks and much more flavorful then the factory produced ones you get in the United States.

But, no matter where I buy them here, no matter how I roll them, lovingly repostion them for days, do everything but hatch them, I always have the same problem.  I can never get the yolks centered.  In fact there are usually three or four eggs in every dozen where the yolk actually protrudes through the white and I can only use half of the egg.

A Herniated Egg

Does anyone have a solution for this, or is it just the price one must pay for trying to make huevos diablo down here?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Bingo, But...

It was my own fault.  I spent so much time uploading and doctoring the pictures of our night at the Botanical Garden Party that I got to No Way Jose! too late to join the Mexican Bingo crowd.  And I wasn't even that late.

No Way Jose! is a fairly new restaurant that is on a short, two block long, street right next to the river.  In fact the street basically runs just between the two main bridges that cross over the island in the Cuale River.  A nice big island too, with vendors, restaurants, art galleries, a museum that is never open.  All kinds of stuff.  But, as usual, I digress.

No Way Jose!

And, like I say, the place was packed with Mexican Bingo junkies.  Kind of reminded me of that song by Warren Zevon, "Seminole Bingo."  Not sure if there were any junk bond kings from Liechtenstein here because I didn't see any double-wide Tamiami Trail parked outside.

But The Place Was Packed

And They Looked Serious

Actually, I am kind of glad I didn't get a place at the tables because, really, does this guy calling the numbers, er, I mean pictures, look like someone you would trust?

Step Right Up, A Winner Every Time

Actually, that is my friend Gary who is very involved in a number of charitable events down here in Mexico and was a guest caller this evening.  He also put together the evening's dinner get-together latter in the evening.

Not being able to play bingo kind of worked to my advantage.  I had some time to kill before our dinner so the Mysterious Chinese Woman went to the outside deck upstairs for a drink and a bit of a nosh.

Me And My Margarita

The Mysterious Chinese Woman prefers to do her drinking standing at the bar.

Drinking With The Bar Boys

It was really nice up here, cloth tablecloths and everything.  A lot of places just have those plastic ones so that if you spill your drink (not that I ever do) it runs into your lap. I prefer the more absorbant ones.  Insert the obligatory Depends joke here.

Class All The Way

We decided to sample an appetizer and ordered the Snapper Carpaccio.  Something a bit different and quite good.

Kind Of A Snapper Spread (No Off-Color Jokes, Please)

The place was so nice and the service so friendly that the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I decided we would have our Valentine's Day dinner here.  Good thing we didn't wait to book our reservations because they were almost filled up already.  But we got one of the two tables still available up on the deck.

We finished up our appetizer and drinks and then headed to Bistro Balsamar for our dinner.

Bistro Balsamar

This is an upstairs restaurant and I ate here once last year.  You can't really see that it is upstairs from the picture I took, but this gives you a little bit more of a feel for it.

Kind Of A View

Gary puts together group outings a few times a month and they are a good way to meet people and have a fun time.

Gary's Groupies

Kind of suspicious that when I went to take their pictures everyone turned away.  Well, they often say that Mexico is where you go when there is nowhere else to run.

The food here was interesting.  I had some kind of a soup appetizer that was really spicy, and by spicy I mean hot.  Hot enough for me to break a sweat eating it  The Mysterious Chinese Woman had a shrimp curry dish that also had cilantro in it. Kind of an interesting fusion style.

A Shrimp Curry Fusion Dish

I had the porkchops and I wasn't really enthralled.  It kind of looked like a nice thick one but was really two thin ones on top of each other.  And when you have thin porkchops you can't really cook them anyway but, in my opinon, way too well-done.  Que?Pasa, formerly Sweeny's, next-door has a much better and really thick porkchop.  At least in my opinion.

But the desert, a homemade coffee ice-cream, was very good as was the coffee that they served.  They roast their own beans.  And the service was very good and the owner was friendly.  All and all we had a very nice time.