Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cinco de Mayo

I decided to go out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by heading to La Palapa Rockola’s sister restaurant and bar on St. Mark’s place. This is actually the original with the one on the west side opening up later in the game.

480) La Palapa Cocina

A fairly small white and gray marble topped wooden bar with a brass rail and wooden bar stools. As I mentioned, this is the original La Palapa, located at 77 St. Mark’s Place and somewhat older looking and not quite as large or as fancy as La Palapa Rockola. Gaily decorated with brightly colored doily-like things hanging from the ceiling. It is starting to crowd up and the bartender assured me that the place will get crazy later as people come in to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It is kind of funny because this isn’t really that big a deal in Mexico where it is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla. It is not, as many people think, Mexican Independence Day, that falls on September 16th. It actually commemorates a bit of a delaying action. For a number of reasons France invaded at the gulf coast of Mexico along the state of Veracruz and began to march toward Mexico City. On the way they encountered strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a small, poorly armed militia estimated at 4,500 men were able to stop and defeat a well outfitted French army of 6,500 soldiers, which stopped the invasion of the country. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical date's celebration. Of course a year later France invaded again with a much larger force and they were able to take over Mexico City and install Maximilian as the ruler of Mexico. And that, dear readers, is your history lesson for the day.

Just coolers with black doors behind the bar topped by tiered shelves holding glasses and liquors. Above that, mounted on a small expanse of brick wall is a small wooden shelf holding nine bottles of more exotic tequilas. Behind those bottles are three pictures of…palapas. To the right of the bar is another narrow expanse of brick wall with a circular arrangement of dried corn. The remainder of the walls are yellow with orange on the bottom and a thin, dark blue stripe. A large overhead picture of old Mexico City dominates one wall. On the opposite wall are another couple of framed pictures. There are three mirrors with wide ornamental metal frames, each flanked by lights, on the wall behind the bar. The back wall separating the bar area from the serving area, bathrooms, and hallway to an outdoor eating area has several lit niches containing Mexican statues and bowls. The lights above the bar have long metal cone shades. Lot’s of candles on the bar, tables, and on the shelves in the back room.

My wife and I decided to grab a bit to eat here after having a drink at the bar. The place seemed a bit disorganized. It was 5:00 P.M., just when people are getting off work and yet this was when they decided to hold their staff meeting. As a result, after we were seated and had cleared our tab at the bar nobody came around to see if I wanted another drink. When I finally did flag someone down they didn’t know what I had just had because the bartender that made that drink was in the meeting. I said I wanted a margarita, straight-up, with chili-salt. I was brought a margarita on the rocks. When I said that wasn’t what I ordered the person left with the drink before I could explain what I did want and then someone else brought it back with a slice of lime stuck on the rim. It took awhile, but I finally got it straightened out. On the plus side, the manager was very friendly and when my wife said she had never had tamales that weren’t wrapped in corn-meal dough the manager explained how this was a regional recipe and then took the price off the bill because it wasn’t what was expected. Basically it was tamale ingredients served in a corn husk, but minus the corn meal dough. I will have to check out the recipe book that the manager said she used for them because even the website for the Tamale Museum describes tamales thusly:

“Tamales are treasures. These fragrant, wrapped packages filled with warm corn dough and flavorful fillings are treats for all the senses. Tamales are a timeless food. They have existed in culinary repertoire of Mexico, the Southwest, Central and South America for centuries”

The food was very good though and not your usual run of the mill Mexican fare. I had a mushroom and dried pepper dish. I would certainly go back and give the place another try. No complaints about my margaritas but my wife didn’t like hers. She said it didn’t have any flavor and, considering that it cost $12.00, it should have. We may have been a bit spoiled by the attention and delicious margaritas that we got at their other location. Oh yes, the tamales at that place were wrapped in corn meal.

I had a margarita.

481) The Thirsty Scholar

I was going to try to hit this place a few days ago when I was doing on of my Second Avenue jaunts. It is right next door to Ame Russe at 155 Second Avenue, almost at 9th Street. You go down a few steps to get into this narrow, brick-walled bar. A copper-topped wooden bar with a brass rail. A wooden floor and some bar stools but not much seating elsewhere. The ceiling is fairly low and there are small, orange-glass shaded lights over the bar. A few mirrors and lots of shelving for liquor behind the bar. The bricks behind the lower shelves are painted black. A partial suit of armor greets you from above as you walk down the steps into the place. A narrow ledge runs around the wall behind the bar stools and there are some stools sitting in front of it. They do have a dart board, but it is one of those plastic affairs. Pictures of Irish authors adorn the wall. A ledge in the front, the one that held the suit of armor, holds a bunch of Irish antiques and a wide area holds a mock-up of a library complete with a desk and someone sitting at it. I am not sure who the person is supposed to be, however. There are lots of lantern like lights with orange glass panels mounted on the walls.

I had a draft Widmer Hefeweizen and it hit the spot.

A slow day. Got off to a late start and then had a couple of margaritas and eats at La Palapa Cocina. I will probably take tomorrow off, step up the pace a bit on Saturday, and then celebrate Mother's Day with my mother-in-law and family in Chinatown. That means I may not hit any bars on Sunday either. Not to worry though, will still make 499 before May 14th. My two today brings me to 481 for the year with 519 left to go.


Bill Adams said...

Veteran's Day is November 11th and I hope that EVERY American will be flying the flag in honor of our troops fighting in Iraq and around the world to preserve our freedoms!

I can even tell you where to get one for free! Visit right now and they'll send you a FREE American Flag. These flags were $19.99, but now they are FREE. You pay just for shipping/handling and they'll ship one to your door. (Actually - I've ordered more than 20 from them to give to my neighbors, as gifts, etc!)

Get your free flag now: **FREE AMERICAN FLAG**

Semper Fi!

Bill Adams

Roberto Iza Valdés said...
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Dan said...

Just came across this blog entry - I am tracking references to "Tamale Museum" with Goolge Alerts. Two comments:

1) I aagree that real tamales always have masa (corn meal dough). My wife is Mexican-American, and her parents made the best tamales ever. I am sure her entire family of 15 aunts and uncles, and 46 first cousins, would agree. Now, some chefs are using the tamale style to create very different foods - I saw one that was wrapped in plastic wrap instead of corn husks - but I would say "tamale" should be in quotes, in that case.

2) $12 for margarita?? I assume it was supersized? A REAL margarita is a shot of tequila with fresh lime juice and triple sec. Shaken and strained, or on the rocks. Never blended or "frozen". No sweet-and-sour mix, bottled lime juice. Made correctly, it is delicious!!

fish said...

I enjoyed your blog. Here's a great place to visit bartending.

fish said...

We all know the effects (and after-effects) of beer. But lifting a glass of cool liquid to your mouth on a scorching hot day, have you ever stopped to consider the processes and ingredients involved in making it? Well maybe not but here is the answer anyway!

Simply, beer is a fermented combination of water, barley, yeast and hops. The major variation in any beer is the type of yeast used in the fermentation process.

Let's look at the properties of this beverage.
Water is the main ingredient of beer. In the past, the purity of the water influenced the final result and was specific to the region of the earth from which it came. Today, water is filtered of these impurities, although pure water supplies are still ideally preferred by elite brewers.

Barley malt is an extremely important ingredient in beer as it is the main source of fermentable sugar. Many new breweries use barley malt extract, in either syrup or powder form, as this form ferments much quicker. It also contains many minerals and vitamins that help the yeast to grow.

Without yeast, beer would not exist. Yeast is a unique single cell organism that eats sugar and expels alcohol and carbon dioxide, two of the more recognizable ingredients of beer. Yeast comes in several variations, of which there are two major categories that determine the type of beer produced; Ale yeast and Lager yeast. If yeast alone were used the beer would be extremely sweet and therefore another ingredient needs to be added to reach the final product.

Hops are the flowers of the hop plant, a climbing vine plant that grows well in many differing climates. Hops contain acids which add bitterness to beer. Adding bitterness to beer helps to balance the sweetness, as well as acting as a natural preservative. Add more hops to the mixture and you will get a more bitter taste. This kind of beer is extremely popular in Britian and is simply referred to as "Bitter" (the original names are always the best!).

Variations of these ingredients create different tasting beers as well as having an affect on the alcoholic content.
When making your own beer many good resources are available which provide home brewing kits. It is important to read the ingredients of the packets in order to ascertain which has the best mixture according to your needs. One quick tip which many home brewers fail to adhere to is this: "Use fresh still water"!

Many have often sought information on how to make beer and the basic homebrewing equipment is not very expensive you can get what you need, for as little as $100.
In order to start making beer, you will need the following: A brewpot, Primary fermenter, Airlock and stopper, Bottling bucket, Bottles, Bottle brush, Bottle capper, and a thermometer.
In addition you can even use items from your kitchen to aid in the beer making. A breakdown of all the equipment is as follows: Brewpot A brewpot is made of stainless steel or enamel-coated metal which has at least 15 litre capacity, but it's no good if it's made of aluminum or if it's a chipped enamelized pot, (these will make the beer taste funny). The brew pot is used to boil the ingredients thus begins the first stage of beer making.

Primary fermenter

The primary fermenter is where the beer begins to ferment and become that fabulous stuff that makes you so funny and charming. The primary fermenter must have a minimum capacity of 26 litres and an air tight seal it must also accommodate the airlock and rubber stopper. Make sure the one you buy is made of food-grade plastic, as it wont allow the bad stuff in or let the good stuff out.

Airlock and stopper

The airlock is a handy gadget which allows carbon dioxide to escape from your primary fermenter during fermentation, it is this process that keeps it from exploding, but it doesn't allow any of the bad air from outside to enter. It fits into a rubber stopper, and is placed into the top of your primary fermenter. The stoppers are numbered according to size, so make sure you use the correct stopper for the correct hole

Plastic hose

This is a food grade plastic hose which measures approximately 5 feet in length. It is needed to transfer the beer from system to system, and it is imperitive that it is kept clean and free from damage or clogs

Bottling bucket

This is a large, food-grade plastic bucket with a tap for drawing water at the bottom, it needs to be as big as your primary fermenter, because you need the capacity to pour all the liquid from your primary fermenter into a bottling bucket prior to bottling up.


After fermentation, you place the beer in bottles for secondary fermentation and storage. You need enough bottles to hold all the beer you're going to make, the best kind of bottles are solid glass ones with smooth tops (not the twist-off kind) that will accept a cap from a bottle capper. You can use plastic ones with screw-on lids, but they arent as good for fermentation and dont look as well.

Whether you use glass or plastic bottles, make sure they are dark-colored. Light damages beer, i would recommend green or brown bottles.

Bottle brush

This is a thin, curvy brush which is used to clean bottles because of the the shape of the brush it makes it very affective at getting the bottle spotless. We haven't even gotten into how clean everything has to be, but we will, and the bottle brush is a specialized bit of cleaning equipment that you will require in order to maintain your bottle kit.

Bottle capper

If you take buy glass bottles, you will need some sort of bottle capper and caps, of course, and you can buy them from any brewing supplies store. The best sort of bottle capper is one which can be affixed to a surface and worked with one hand while you hold the bottle with the other.


This is a thermometer which can be stuck to the side of your fermenter, they are just thin strips of plastic which are self adhesive, and can be found in any brewing supplies store, or from a pet shop or aquarium. Not everything costs money though even some household equipment can be used.

Household items

In addition to the above specialized equipment, you will need the following household items:
* Small bowl
* Saucepan
* Rubber spatula
* Oven mitts/pot handlers
* Big mixing spoon (stainless steel or plastic)
So there you have the ingredients and the method to make your home brew, all you need now is to get yourself a beer making kit and your on the way to beer heaven.
bar stool

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