Celebrate Autumn with These Wonderful Libations

Now that we’ve finally come to terms that summer is definitely over, my friend Victoria Cohen advises to embrace fall with these amazing cocktails from some of the coolest restaurants around.

Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown – New York, NY   

Cocktail Name: The Applejack Sazerac 

It’s time to say goodbye to the days of rosé and warm up with the seasonal fall cocktails at Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown. Now available are the Cider-Car, Apple Cider Mimosa, Chai-Town, Hopscotch, Bourbon Smash and the gorgeous Applejack Sazerac (pictured below). The Applejack Sazerac is the ultimate autumnal cocktail, including Laird’s Applejack, Woodford Reserve, Honey, Peychaud Bitters and finished with Absinthe and a rinse of Allspice. 

Zuma Miami – Miami, FL 

Cocktail nameJapanese Old Fashioned 

A drink crafted to the warm the soul, Zuma’s Japanese Old Fashioned is garnished with a freshly cut orange slice and two berries and takes a new twist on a timely classic. Made with Toki Japanese Whisky, Hokuto sugar and bitters this rich, smooth and silky cocktail will leave you begging for another.  

 
Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village  


Cocktail name: Pumpkin Spice Martini 
Westin Cape Coral Resort’s restaurant, Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, is serving up the delicious Pumpkin Spice Martini, made with Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Pumpkin Liquor. This festive drink is then topped with Whipped Cream, a dash of Cinnamon and Nutmeg. For those traveling to Cape Coral for Thanksgiving this fall, Marker 92 will be celebrating with a dedicated holiday dinner menu, as well as additional festive cocktails like their Apple Cider Mimosa, Cranberry Apple Sangria and Thanksgiving Punch. Price: $14 

The Irvington – New York, NY  

Cocktail Name: The Cider Car  

If you’re looking to shake off the chilly fall weather, look no further than The Irvington. Located in Union Square, the bartenders are now offering chic fall cocktails including the Bourbon Smash and our personal favorite, the Cider-Car (pictured center, below). Served in a coupe and topped with a dry apple chip, this Insta-worthy cocktail features Cognac, apple cider, lemon juice, apricot liquor and a hard cider float.  

The Bar at Deer Path Inn Lake Forest, Illinois   

Cocktail name: The Birds Poison Punch  

The English-inspired boutique hotel is renowned for its innovative (and oftentimes whimsical) cocktails, and someone who plays a large role in that recognition is its chief spirits officer, Jorge Centeno, who spearheads the property’s beverage program and mixes up some of the inn’s most popular, Instagram-worthy creations. Now, visitors to the inn can embrace spooky season all autumn long with Jorge’s fun play on Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy fall classic, The Birds, with The Birds Poison Punch cocktail – infused with mezcal and tequila, tepache, blue curaçao, lemon juice, mineral water and lavender smoke.  

Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club – Honolulu, Hawaii  
Cocktail name: Cacao Muerte  
Name of bartender: Ian McKinney, Bartender at Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel  
Recipe:

1/2 oz SelvaRey Chocolate Rum  

1/2 oz Casamigos Anejo Tequila   

1/2 oz St George Nola Coffee Liqueur   

1/2 oz Campari  

3/4 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth   

Combine ingredients over ice & stir for 30 revolutions. Can be served up or on a large format Ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

What makes it unique: “For those chocolate lovers. A savory balance of incredible spirits that accentuate the beautiful dark chocolate flavor you crave. The orange & vanilla notes from the Anejo tequila pair deliciously with the bitter notes made famous by Campari. A wonderfully warm and cozy libation for the fall” – Ian McKinney 

MDRD atop the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton – Grand Rapids 

Cocktail Name: Spanish Coffee 

With temperatures dropping as fall arrives, the newly opened, Spanish-inspired restaurant MDRD atop the historic Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI boasts flavorful twists on classic warm Spanish cocktails, including its cozy Spanish Coffee, which is crafted with rich overproof demerara rum and orange curacao flamed to perfection, both mixed into European roast coffee. The drink is then topped with whipped cream and a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg and gold leaf, satisfying imbibers’ taste, smell and sight on chilly autumn evenings.  

LIQS 

Our favorite fall vegetable is tequila. LIQS, the world’s first premixed cocktail shot, is bringing you all the fall flavors with their Tequila Cinnamon Orange shot. In European countries, it’s common to take a shot of tequila with a cinnamon-sprinkled orange slice instead of salt and lime; thus, LIQS’ version was born. This mind-blowing flavor combination will change the way you look at tequila for a sweeter, smoother shot. Portable, pre-packaged, and premixed, LIQS’ lightweight four-packs are perfect for taking on-the-go. The shots are low carb, low sugar, low cal and gluten free and available across the U.S. for $9.99 – find the Tequila Cinnamon Orange here on Total Wine

MILA Restaurant – Miami, FL  

Cocktail: Spice Market  

Price: $21  

Akin to a premium rum punch, the Spice Market is made from Plantation three-star rum and Plantation original dark rum, mixed with complimentary sweet, spicy and sour flavors: charred banana, Orgeat (a nutty floral syrup), aromatic fall spices, and lime. This autumn orange-colored cocktail is topped with smoked banana foam and garnished with a peony.  

Estiatorio Ornos – Miami, FL 

Cocktail: Smoke of Hephaestus  

Price: $16 

This deep orange cocktail is a more riveting spin on a classic margarita, using fresh ingredients from tropical environments and mezcal, giving it a smokier flavor. Garnished with a mint leaf and a tajin-crusted glass, this one puts a fall twist on a summer staple. 

The Bar at The Spectator Hotel – Charleston, SC 

An Apple a Day 

Channeling the refreshingly crisp autumn air that engulfs the Holy City, the “An Apple a Day” cocktail utilizes organic apple cider, apple brandy and vanilla liqueur to provide immediate refreshment and invoke memories of fall days spent at the orchard. Combined with bourbon, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and house-made fall spice syrup, it’s the ideal drink to sip on after a beautiful fall day exploring Charleston. 

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar – Nassau, Bahamas 

Pumpkin Mojito 

This cocktail from T2, a sophisticated rum and cigar lounge at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, an expansive oceanfront luxury resort in the Bahamas, gives a kick to the classic Caribbean mojito combining rum and fresh mint leaves with house-made pumpkin syrup and pumpkin whipped cream, topped with a dash of soda. Guests can sip and savor as they take in the surrounding tunes of live Bahamian music and indulge in cigar pairing suggestions from in-house mixologists to create an all-encompassed experience. 

Fargo Bar & Grill at the Inns of Aurora – Aurora, NY 

Cocktail Name: Lost Moose 

The Inns of Aurora, a luxury lakeside boutique resort in the Finger Lakes, serves up the warming “Lost Moose” cocktail at their Fargo Bar & Grill, a tavern serving elevated eats and late-night drinks. Cozy up with hazelnut liqueur, Jack Daniels honey and apple juice, with a splash of ginger ale, in a mug – served hot. 

 
DenimatThe Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville 
Cocktail name:Life Is But a Dram 
Comfortable luxury, seasonally-inspired craft cocktails and an all-day menu of American and Italian favorites by Chef Tony Mantuano and team await at The Joseph Nashville’s rooftop bar, Denim. One of Denim’s signature cocktails perfect for Fall, Life Is But a Dram, is a spirited take on a Manhattan made with Heaven’s Door whiskey and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters and orange bitters.  

 Recipe

Life Is But a Dram // Heaven’s Door and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters, orange bitters Denim at The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville

1.5 oz Heaven’s Door Highway 61 The Joseph Blend whiskey 
1.5 oz espresso-infused Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
2 dashes of Angostura bitters 
Orange twist or orange oil 
Dehydrated orange slice (optional) 
 
Add ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 45 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. Spray with orange oil or express oils from a fresh orange peel. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice. 

Espresso-Infused Carpano Antica 
1L Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
1/4 Cup whole espresso beans 

Add espresso beans to vermouth and allow to soak for 12 hours in the refrigerator. Strain out the espresso beans, and store infused vermouth in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

InterContinental New York Barclay – New York, NY 

Cocktail Name: Chili Mule  

Find the perfect fall respite within Manhattan at The Parlour Restaurant and Bar, where the Chili Mule is the perfect blend of classic fall spices. Made with premium Scottish Vodka, Arbikie infused with Chili, Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime Juice, and Rosemary Simple Syrup, it’s the perfect drink to enjoy on fall nights along with The Parlour’s Jazzy Wednesdays, featuring the Café Society.  

Brugal 1888  

Cocktail name: “East to West” Cocktail  

Cocktail enthusiasts looking for a drink to sip during the crisp fall months should try Brugal 1888’s “East to West” cocktail. This unique fall-themed recipe fuses the premium rum – produced in the Dominican Republic by the 5th generation Brugal family – with maple syrup and apricot liqueur, adding a sweet flavor with hints of fruity and citrus notes.   

 
Merriman’s Hawaii – Hawaiian Islands 

Cocktail name: Merriman’s Coconog  
Sip on Merriman’s Coconog this holiday season for a tropical twist on the classic eggnog cocktail. Highlighting tastes of coconut and cinnamon, Merriman’s Coconog uses an Old Forester Bourbon and Licor 43 base mixed with coconut milk and freshly ground nutmeg. Top it off with whipped cream and enjoy in paradise!   

Recipe:  

13.5 oz Coconut Milk  

6 oz Whole Milk  

3 whole eggs  

1/2 cup granulated sugar  

3/4 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg  

1/4 tsp Cinnamon  
 

Blend on high speed for a full minute.  

Whisk over double boiler until mixture reaches 160 F.  

Chill overnight.  
 

Shake 6 oz of chilled Eggnog Mix with:  

1/2 oz Licor 43  

1/2 oz Old Forester Bourbon  
 

Pour in carved Coconut  
Top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.  

MR CHOW – Miami Beach 

Cocktail name: Lychee Martini

The Lychee Martini is one of MR CHOW’s most popular cocktails, featuring Absolut Elyx Vodka, lychee and a touch of ginger for a delicious twist. 

Texas Winter Lights at Marriott Marquis Houston 

Cocktail name: Spiced Apple Pie  

Marriott Marquis Houston’s completely reimagined holiday lights event, Texas Winter Lights, will be serving innovative, boozy fall cocktails for any crisp autumn day. High Dive (the rooftop restaurant & bar) curated an all-new hot “Spiced Apple Pie” drink inspired by the aroma and taste of a delicious homemade apple pie. With the smell of cinnamon and spiced apples, this cocktail is sure to put anyone in the fall mood.   Other fall cocktails will include a “Spiced Pear Martini,” a fruity seasonal punch with a crisp cranberry and orange finish, and a glow-in-the-dark “Starry Night” ginger mule (that even chan

Celebrate The Solento Surf Festival in Encinitas, CA September 22-24

For those who love a great tequila at the Solento Surf Festival taking place in the company’s hometown of Encinitas, CA on September 22nd – 24th.  The upcoming Solento Surf Festival is not only fun and a chance to sample the much lauded organic spirit made from the agave plants grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco but also is a giveback event hosted by Solento founder and award-winning surf filmmaker, producer, and director Taylor Steele. Proceeds from all ticket and drink sales will be donated to the following charitable organizations: Changing Tides Foundation, Rob Machado Foundation, and SurfAid

Attendees can partake of exclusive film premieres as well as never before seen edits from the classics. There will also be giveaways, and conversations with special guests such as Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Steph Gilmore, Mick Fanning, Kalani Robb, Pat O’Connell, Pat Stacey, Dane Gudauskas, Benji Weatherley, Gigi Lucas, and more.

Solento Tequila

Like his films, Steele says that Solento “is about creating something that I wholeheartedly stood for, whether that be the taste, the design, the give back or simply how people interact with it. That’s when I started looking at the elements of my life I really valued. One part was sipping tequila with friends after a good day. As I researched turning that into a brand  I fell in love with everything about the idea of a tequila company. The history, farming process and how the end product affects others.”

An award winning USDA-certified, organic tequila, Solento is meant to be enjoyed slowly. It’s smooth taste making it ideal for kicking back and enjoying life at a leisurely pace. The concept is a slow sipping spirit, one that creates a space for conversations that are both elevating and inspiring. elevate. Each of Solento’s tequilas represent the mindset behind their creation–the belief that their tequila is more than just a drink. They are, instead about carving out time and appreciating the real experiences that are already here.

Solento offers three unique expressions, all harvested in small batches of agave that have slowly ripened in the Mexican sun for seven years on a single estate located in Amatitán, Jalisco. Tequila is made from the hearts or pinon of the agave.

After harvesting, the agave hearts are cooked for two days in stone ovens and then pressed in order to release their juices. Fermented and distilled naturally, the tequila comes out pure in flavor, and—in its aged versions—gains complexity from the time spent American oak barrels.

“Solento Reposado is aged for nine months and Solento Añejo for 18 months,” said Steele in an interview in Whitewall Presents, a website that goes behind the scenes and inside the ateliers of historic homes and today’s luxury brands. “Our American oak barrels were previously used for whisky, so by leaving our organic tequila to rest in these barrels we are caramelizing and slightly sweetening the flavor profile leaving us with a smooth, buttery sip.”

Solento is sold in sleekly designed bottles that reflect a Streamline Modern-style, an international style of Art Deco that was popular in the 1930s.

·       Blanco– Flawlessly clear with a smooth and silky mouthfeel subtle notes of Meyer lemon and Tahitian vanilla.

·       Reposado – Aged in American oak barrels for nine months, slightly sweet notes of homemade caramel and cooked agave exude a soft amber warmth.

·       Añejo – Aged in American oak barrels for eighteen months, smooth notes of buttery maple, toasted hazelnuts and hints of oak form a bold flavor profile.

With its glowing popularity,  Solento Organic Tequila continues to expand and now will be available in Arizona with partner Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), a world-class distributor of fine wines and spirits in North America.

A Double gold winner at 2019 SIP Awards, Solento’s expanasion to the Grand Canyon State follows its successful debut in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Colorado, and Hawaii earlier this year. By partnering with RNDC, Solento Organic Tequila is significantly expanding the brand’s national footprint to the highly engaged Arizona market.

“We have partnered with RNDC because of their extensive market expertise not only in Arizona, but across the United States. This partnership allows us to grow long lasting relationships with their existing connections to ensure Arizona locals will be able to find Solento in their favorite bars, restaurants and retailers,” says Steele.

Solento is available in stores across the country and online. For more information visit www.solentotequila.com and @solento_tequila.

Taylor Steele

About Solento

Made for those who appreciate the ritual of slowing down and being present, Solento is an award-winning, USDA certified organic tequila range made in small batches from a single estate in Jalisco. Founded in 2019 by filmmaker and surfer, Taylor Steele, Solento (or “slow sun” in Spanish) is a sippable mindset that invites space for conversations that elevate and inspire. Three expressions – Blanco, Reposado and Añejo – are crafted from certified organic agave grown leisurely under the Mexican sun for seven years. 

COCKTAILS

CALM WATERS

Create chamomile honey syrup by combining 1 part honey with 1 part chamomile tea.

Combine 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz lemon juice, and ¾ oz chamomile honey syrup. Shake with ice. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon wheel and chamomile flowers.

Calm Waters

SLOW CIDER

Place a large sphere of frozen apple cider into a rocks glass and pour 3 oz of Solento Reposado Tequila on top. 

Garnish with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of fuji apple. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon on top. 

Slow Cider

AGED AUTUMN

Muddle 8 organic blackberries, 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, ½ oz of lemon juice, ¼ oz honey in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 oz of Solento Añejo and orange bitters.

Strain into a martini glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

Aged Autumn

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

Gently muddle 4 mint leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, and ½ oz agave syrup

Add 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz organic lime juice + ice

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint + cucumber

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

PALOMA TO THE PEOPLE

Rim a rocks glass with Himalayan salt

Combine 2 oz Solento Reposado, 1.5 oz organic grapefruit juice, 1 oz organic lime juice, ½ oz simple syrup + ice. Shake and then strain into the salt-rimmed glass

Garnish with grapefruit slice

For more information, please visit solentotequila.com and follow @solento_tequila.

Hummingbird Lounge: Appalachia cooking Meets New American Cuisine on Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

         Raised in Southern Appalachia in Stagg Creek, a slip of a town tucked in a corner of North Carolina hills and hollows near the Tennessee state line, Shane Graybeal describes the region as “food heaven” and the beginning of his fascination with food.

         “Both my grandparents had farms,” says Graybeal, who after graduating from culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina worked in France, Italy, Washington D.C. and spent seven years in Chicago working at such well known restaurants as  Bin 36 and Sable Kitchen & Bar. Along the way he was inducted into Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious food and wine society.

         But he missed small town living and being close to the farms where he sourced his foods.

          “I’ve been a fan of Southwest Michigan for many years,” says Graybeal who now is executive chef at the recently opened Hummingbird Lounge in New Buffalo. “When I was living and working in Chicago, I  sourced a lot from Southwest Michigan.”

         Among the local food producers they use are the Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph and Kaminski Farms Meats in Three Oaks.

         Another plus for Graybeal was being back in a small town.

         “Though compared to Stagg’s Creek, which has a population of about 300, New Buffalo seems like a big city,” Graybeal adds with a laugh.

         Graybeal describes his food as a “cheffy take on American classics, comfortable food all dressed up.” I loved the description but was surprised to learn that “cheffy” is an actual word meaning relating to or characteristic of a chef.

         His take on food matches the overall philosophy of Hummingbird’s owner and operator Ben Smock who wanted to create a cocktail bar and restaurant that was comfortable and “served food you want to eat.” The lounge opened in April and is located in what had been a grand home built in 1901 that once housed a creperie in  New Buffalo.

         Smock has an extensive background in the food industry starting when he worked at his grandfather’s bowling alley in Davison, Michigan where he grew up. He graduated from Michigan State University’s hospitality program, worked at McCormick Place, Levy Restaurant group and the Ravinia Music Festival and started his own consulting business where he provided food service planning and events. He’s also opened a number of venues.

         The menu changes frequently, depending on what’s in season. Graybeal was excited because the first peaches were hitting the market along with blueberries and raspberries.

         “I’m thinking fruit cobblers,” he says.

         He also brings a bit of Appalachia to the menu.

         “Food is very important there,” he says, making one want to jump in a car and head south to see what he’s talking about. “And I think in the right context—pickling, charcuterie, foraging–it comes across very well.”

Earlier in the season, he took ramps, cut them into a tiny matchstick size and flash fried the garlicky wild greens to add to an asparagus dish. We’re guessing that the round super thin pickled with cherry Kool-Aid hails from the mountains as well—and they’re delicious.

Graybeal also made ramp vinegar which he now uses in some of his dishes. Now with fresh Michigan peaches available, he makes a jam to pair with pork, but kicks it up a notch with the addition of jalapeno peppers.

But, he notes, the food is a side note to the cocktails and what’s on the menu are more like a tapas bar—nibbles that are share,able. The Lounge’s cocktail team takes what Graybeal is preparing in the kitchen and concocts drinks to accent his flavors.

The cocktails—which also change frequently—have in the past included a Smoked Pineapple Margarita, a tequila based drink with seasoned and smoked pineapple and salted foam, The HRG Manhattan using Traverse City Whisky Company blend along with sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters and a fancy cherry and A Real Dandy Old Fashioned with rum, demerara syrup, bitters and expressed orange. For those who don’t drink, there are spirit-free cocktails. There’s also a small wine list offering by the glass or bottle and local brews.

         Why did they name the place Hummingbird? Smock says they chose it because hummingbirds drink all day and it just fit because they are open throughout the season. For warm weather dining, there’s a large back porch and garden area. The garage has been redone and is now an inviting event space. The interior of the restaurant itself is very cozy with a curated antiquated feel to go with the history of the home including a fireplace flanked by columns, its mantel topped with a large mirror and coach lanterns, cozy rooms, polished wood floors, and the deep gray walls are accented with lots of white woodwork. The bar is sleek—less Victorian and more urban trendy which makes for a nice contrast.

Chef Graybeal’ s Pork and Peaches

Rub pork belly with salt, sugar, and vanilla powder. Place in pot. Cover and marinate overnight. The next day cover with lard and cook on low heat for three to four hours. Cool and then crisp up in a hot pan until golden brown and tender.

Peach Jam

Cook together for two hours, them finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Puree in blend until smooth and cool.

To serve—crisp the pork belly, put two ounces of jam on a warmed plate, top with the pork belly, slice a peach and toss with aged sherry vinegar, basil, parsley and mint and a little olive oil. Place on top of the pork.

Beef Skewers with Whipped Feta

For the Beef Skewers:

Grind the brisket, combine with the other ingredients and whip with the paddle attachment. Form into balls and then into long rolls, place each roll on a skewer.  Grill for six minutes on both sides.

For the Whipped Feta:

Combine in the mixer, whip using the the whip attachment until light and fluffy-like similar to icing.

Just for fun, I thought I’d include a recipe for Kook-Aid brined veggies.

Trish Yearwood’s Fruit Drink Pickles

Drain the brine from the pickles into a bowl. Add the fruit drink packet and sugar into the brine and stir until dissolved. Pour the brine back to the jar, discarding any that’s leftover. Refrigerate at least 2 days and up to 1 month.     

What would Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Eat: Food and Art in Tubac, Arizona

          Past Tucson on the road heading south towards Mexico, we took a detour to look for the home where my brother-in-law’s parents had lived up until 1989.

          “Does this look familiar?” one of the passengers kept asking as we drove through Green Valley.

           “Nothing in Arizona looks the same as it did even last week,” I said, checking Google which informed me that the population in Green Valley had doubled in the last 32 years.

          We didn’t, as you might have guessed, find the home or even the street. But when we arrived in Tubac, located in a broad valley ridged by the Tumacacori Mountains with their reddish cast to the west and the larger more rugged Santa Rita range to the east, I discovered that I was wrong. Founded in 1752 as a presidio or fortified military settlement on the Spanish Colonial Frontier, Tubac provided protection for the Mission San José de Tumacácori, the remains of which can be seen in nearby Tubac Presidio State Historic Park—Arizona’s first state park. Also on site is the 1885 Old Schoolhouse, the oldest is the schoolhouse in Strawberry, Arizona.

Abandoned and resettled several times, Tubac’s days as an artist colony stretches back to the late 1940s and much of the adobe and dusty roads allure remains in this small village two dozen miles from the Mexico border. Tubac recently was the winner of the Best Small Art Town National Contest.

          It was off-season on a day when temperatures climbed beyond one hundred. Even though the mantra in Arizona is “dry heat,” I can attest that 105 degrees with the hot sun beating down is—well—hot.

The 100 or so shops, art galleries, and museums, many of them made of dried earth, clay, and straw bricks called adobe, were painted in a variety of colors ranging from soft blues, greens, and pinks, to more bold pistachio and red. If it became too toasty perusing the displays of art ranging from  tin javalinas and coyotes to intricately wrought metals, mosaics,  tiles, pottery, and  jewelry on the front patios and side yards of the art galleries and stores—which comprise, along with restaurants, the major businesses in Tubac—the interiors were cool.  

          A little history is called for and Tubac almost 250 years old, certainly has that. It’s current laid back charm as an artist colony belies a bloody wild west history including Apache attacks, Civil War troops, and desperados eager for quick cash litter its history. All to be expected on an outpost along the Spanish Colonial Frontier. Besides being the first European settlement in Arizona with the first newspaper and the first white women, Tubac was also where in 1789 the first school in the state first opened. Of course, it wasn’t a state back then but part of Mexico as it would remain—along with Tucson—until 1853.

        Early times were tough for  Tubaca (or as the friendly O’odham Indians would have pronounced it “s-cuk ba’a” “cu wa”)  meaning place of the dark water or low place. Or at least that’s one story. Marshall Trimble,  Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the  Wild West History Association, writes its name came about based on a clash between bands of Indian. The resulting dead and the searing sun led the Pima to choose the name that translates to  “Where something smelled rotten.”

          Whatever. Since this is ultimately a food and travel story, we’re going to skip any more details like that except to say that it wasn’t quite as dreamy as it is now.

          While Arizona booms—Phoenix is the fastest growing city in the U.S.—there’s a laid back charm to Tubac as if time stopped half-a-century ago.

          The population in 2019 was just under 1400. Though the landscape is far from the verdant greens of the Midwest, the Santa Cruz River runs through here and feeds the stands of mesquite, willows, and the chartreuse-colored cottonwoods that make such a startling contrast against the desert palate of  beiges, browns, and subdued yellows.   

          Creativity at all levels defines Tubac and the restaurants and overnight accommodations showcases great food and luxurious places to summon your inner—and slightly pampered—cowgirl. With no chains, the village’s restaurants are independent and often family-owned.

          The 500-acre Tubac Golf Resort & Spa was once part of the Otero Ranch, settled in 1789 features several levels of dining options including The Stables Ranch Grille and La Cantina.  Shelby’s Bistro serves Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. Both are almost always rated among the village’s top ten but the one that really intrigued me was Elvira’s because of its history having first opened in Nogales, Mexico in 1927 as a take-out joint. Now the place to go for sophisticated Mexican cuisine, owner/chef Ruben Monroy, grandson of the original founder, takes traditional dishes such as moles (they have a large variety), quesadillas, chiles rellenos including one named after Frida Kahlo the Mexican artist known for her use of bold colors, and other Mexican fare and kicks them up several notches.  The drink list features tequila and mezcal, Mexican wines and beers as well as Margaritas made with a variety of fruits such mango, tamarind, and agave honey along with other cocktails such as mojitos and guanabanatinis—a martini made with guanabana, a fruit that grows in Mexico.

From the outside, Elvira’s is attractive with ochre-colored exterior walls, tile and wood accents, pots filled with flowers, and hanging lights made of large metal spheres with cut out stars.

Inside, it’s something else. Monroy earned degrees in graphic arts and interior design before going to culinary school and his training is evident. Blue walls are the backdrop for large-framed mirrors, colorful cascading lights suspended in various heights from the ceiling, a sleek wooden bar, vases and pots, red curtains, candle holders in an array of shapes and sizes, Mexican crafts and art, and so much more that everywhere you look there’s something fascinating to behold. In case you like what you see, there’s a home décor store adjacent to the restaurant’s entrance.

One of the streets in Tubac (and there aren’t many) is named Calle Frida Kahlo (calle is Spanish for street) but I couldn’t find any reference to her having visited the town during her short life. But I know that she was an enthusiastic cook and so I looked up her recipe for  Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Picadillo that was adapted from “Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo” (Clarkson Potter). The book, written by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle, says this dish was served at her wedding to Diego Rivera.

Mexican cuisine can be complicated and if you’re feeling somewhat lazy, you can turn this dish into a casserole using the recipe I included below the one served at Frida and Diego’s wedding. I should note that the marriage didn’t last but their on and off again affair did until she passed away.

Poblano Chiles stuffed with Picadillo

Serves 8

  • 16 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and deveined
  • All-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs separated
  • Corn oil or lard
  • 3 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 large white onion, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons lard or oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Tomato broth ( see recipe below)

Prepare chiles:  Char chiles over an open flame or under the broiler, then place in a plastic bag, seal and let steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from bag and using the back of a spoon peel off skin. 

Make a lengthwise slit in the chile, remove the seed cluster, seeds, and membrane with a knife but leave the stem intact and place on a cookie sheet. Place the poblanos in the freezer as they will easier to fill and batter when cold.  

Prepare the Filling: Cook the pork with the onion halves, garlic and salt and pepper  for about twenty minutes. Drain the liquid and remove onion. Heat the oil or lard in a sauté pan, adding the onion, carrots, and zucchini, cooking until onion is translucent. Add the tomato, cabbage, almonds, raisins and pork and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer mixture for about twenty minutes until it has thickened, and the tomato is cooked through.

Stuff Chiles: Stuff the chiles with filling, then dust with flour. Beat the 5 egg whites until stiff. Beat the yolks lightly with a pinch of salt and gently fold into the whites to make a batter. Dip the chiles into the batter and fry in very hot oil until golden. Drain on paper. Serve with tomato broth.

Tomato Broth for Stuffed Chiles

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10 Roma tomatoes, charred, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup queso cotija or ranchero cheese, crumbled

Char the tomatoes using the same method as above for the peppers. Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and carrots until softened. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano and continue to cook until the broth is rich and flavorful, and the tomatoes cooked through. Ladle broth onto a plate and place the chile on top.  Garnish with queso cotija or ranchero cheese.

Chile Rellenos Casserole

  • 2 large fresh poblano chile peppers or fresh Anaheim chile peppers
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend  or make the Picadillo recipe above
  • ½ cup crumbled Cotija or Ranchero cheese
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large can of enchilada sauce or use the Tomato Broth recipe above

Serves 4

1 large can of enchilada sauce or use the Tomato Broth recipe above.

The basic difference here is that instead of stuffing the peppers, then coating them in batter, and frying, roast the peppers according to the first recipe,  slice them lengthwise so the entire pepper can be laid flat.

Grease a casserole dish, add a layer of the sauce, lay the peppers on top and the cover with the desired filling—either the cheese or the picadillo sauce that Frida made.

Top with more sauce, another layer of roasted peppers, filling and sauce. Repeat until all the ingredients are used.  a medium bowl combine eggs and milk. Add flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.

Beat egg mixture until smooth. Or if using a food processor or blender,  place in a food processor, cover and process or blend until smooth. Pour mixture over peppers  and filling.

Bake for 15 minutes in a 400°F. or until golden brown.

Mushroom Quesadillas

Makes 6

  • 12 flour tortillas
  • ½ pound mushrooms
  • Butter
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese mixture
  • 1 Poblano pepper, roasted, seeded and finely chopped
  • Your favorite salsa

Thinly slice mushrooms and place in a skillet with one tablespoon melted butter. Cook until done. Drain any juices left.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron works well) on high. Butter one side of each tortilla. Place as many as the skillet will hold but no more than six. Top each tortilla evenly with mushrooms, diced roasted pepper, cheese, and salsa. Top with the other tortilla, butter side up. Cook until cheese starts to melt, adjusting the heat to make sure the tortillas don’t burn. Flip over and cook until the tortilla is golden brown.

Transfer the quesadillas to a cookie sheet and place in oven. Cook the remaining quesadillas.

Serve with sour cream or Mexican crema and salsa. Can be served whole or cut in half or quarters.

Mango Margarita

From “Love & Lemons Cookbook” by Jeanine Donofrio.

  • 3 cups cubed frozen mango, from about 4 small mangos
  • ¼ cup lime juice, plus lime slices for garnish
  • 3 ounces silver tequila
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 3 handfuls ice cubes
  • Sea salt for the glass rims, optional

Place the mango, lime juice, tequila, and Cointreau in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the ice and blend to the desired consistency. If the mixture is too thick to blend, let it sit and melt for a few minutes.

If desired, use a lime wedge to moisten the rims of the glasses and then dip the rims in a small plate of salt.

Pour the mango mixture into the glasses and garnish with a lime slice.

Silver & Tequila in the Sierra Madres: The Tale of San Sebastian de Oeste

High in the Sierra Madres, we follow the twisting road from Puerto Vallarta and the seaside on our way to San Sebastian del Oeste, once a  booming mining town in the Sierra Madres northeast of the city and one of the wonderful Pueblos Magicos or magic towns on Mexico. Our journey took us through green jungles and blue plantations. The latter are agave farms, owned for generations by jimadores or farmers who specialize in growing, harvesting and distilling the pinon or heart of the agave into gold and silver tequila and reposado, a type of tequila aged in oak.

Crossing the long spanned bridge over Rio Ameca, the road curves around a ridge and into the tiny village of La Estancia near Hacienda San Sebastián, a family owned raicilla and tequila distillery (for raicilla think tequila only much stronger and likely of inducing hallucinations in anyone who drinks too much).

San Sebastian, now on the way to nowhere, was for years a major stop between the Bay of Banderas on the Pacific Ocean to Guadalajara when its mines produced riches of silver.

When San Sebastian was at its glory, the residents of Puerto Vallarta, then a tiny port and fishing hamlet called Las Penas, were harvesting salt–a necessary ingredients for smelting the ores taken from the mines– loading it onto mules and trekking 4500-feet up to San Sebastian.  The bridge we cross into San Sebastian takes us from the paved highway main street made of dirt and pitted with rocks. It probably hasn’t change that much since the mules came through carrying salt centuries ago.

Founded in 1605, San Sebastian’s boom lasted until the early 1900s. Because it was so remote, modernization never came again to sweep away the historic buildings dating back centuries.

The families of many who live here now can trace their lineage back to the early Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain period and the town was wealthy, with some 25 mines producing lead, silver and gold.

Walking along the cobblestone streets, past walls covered with red, purple and orange bougainvillea, we take a turn past the town’s zocolo centered around an ornate gazebo. Nearby is the Colonial Spanish Baroque Iglesia de San Sebastian, notable for such architectural flourishes as Corinthian columns, ornate bell tower, and vaulted ceilings painted with frescos. Dedicated to San Sebastian, the church was built in the 1600s and then, after an earthquake, rebuilt in 1868. As we continue on, we pass the Hotel Los Arcos de Sol with its white washed exterior. It too is old, built more than 200 years with a restaurant that gets good reviews. Along the way there ae small stores, housed in historic buildings, offering a variety of goods but we don’t stop to shop.

Casa Museo de Dona Conchita Encarnacion

Instead we’re on a mission to visit Casa Museo de Doña Conchita Encarnación the small museum run by Lupita Bermudez Encarnacion, the great times four granddaughter of a Spaniard who came here to run Santa Gertrudis, one of the mines here, in the 1770s. There is a hiking path to the old mine.

The museum,  once the home and office of  Santa Gertrudis and built in 1774, is packed with an array of family momentos, furniture, silver studded trunks, books, photos, clothing such as lace and satin christening gowns more than 150 years old and odd artifacts including 3D pornography with its own special reader dating back to 1904 and a 19th century photo of the family holding a cadaver. It seems that, according to Lupita, it was a family tradition that when a family member died, before they were buried (and remember it’s very hot here), a photographer was summoned to take a photo of the deceased. It could take days, but that’s how it was done.

Over all the story of San Sebastian del Oeste is one of glory and loss. At one time the town had a population of 20,000; now there are about 1000. San Sebastian was founded by three families who immigrated from Spain and to keep their blood lines pure, they only intermarried with each other. So through the centuries uncles married nieces and aunts married nephews.  Thus Lupita says that her mother, Dona Conchita, married a man who was  her cousin and nephew and so Lupita’s father was also her nephew, cousin and uncle.

.

As our guide Victor Avila continues to translate Lupita’s many tales, we learn her great great uncle Jose Rogello Alvarez (and who knows how else they were related) and other men, carrying rifles and riding on horseback, guarded 40 mules loaded with silver and gold as they made the five day trip through the mountains to Guadalajara to deposit their money. Then it was five days back on the narrow mountain passage. Of the many runs they made–at least five a year– bandits only managed to rob them twice. Even then the weight of the metal made it impossible for the bandits to carry only much away.

Pancho Villa Ruins It All

In 1910, as the Mexican Revolution raged, Lupita’s family’s wealth disappeared. She blames Pancho Villa and his men who kept raiding the town demanding ransom and money until it was all gone.

Those that probably never got rich were the laborers in the mine who were paid by money printed in the office here by Lupita’s family which made spending it anywhere else except San Sebastian almost impossible. Talk about owing your soul to the company store. As an aside, I’ve visited other mines in Mexico and was told that on the average, because of the dangers of mining (no OSHA here), the life span of a miner was ten years.

Plantacion de Cafe

Organic Coffee Farm

Owners Rafael Sanchez, his wife Rosa and Lola, Rafael’s sister are the fifth generation family members to grow coffee hereLa Quinta Café de Altura, an organic coffee farm.

The family’s home and business is located in a building dating back more than 140 years. Out back they tend 11 acres of coffee trees, some as old as the house. The family handpicks 30 tons of beans each year. They’re then dried, roasted, and gound. Sometimes sold just like that, the family also makes blends such as a mixture of ground beans with cinnamon and sugar for the making traditional Mexican coffee–now hard to find, Hot coffee samples are provided and Rosa’s sells her homemade candies such as guava rolls and sweets made from goat’s milk. In an interesting aside, we learn that the Sanchez’s parents married early (the Don was 15), a union lasting 68 years and producing 21 children. Their grandfather did even better, having 28 children, though that took both a wife and several mistresses. 

Comedor Lupita

Walking along the cobblestone road, past a massive 300 year plus ash tree and cascading white frizzes of el manto de la virgin, we enter Comedor Lupita. Here terra cotta platters loaded with chicken mole, fresh handmade tortillas (in America they’d be called artisan tortillas), refried beans and something I’ve never tasted before – machaca, a dish of dried beef mixed with spices and eggs, are placed in front of us. As we eat, we watch the family busy behind the tiled counter, making even more food.  One woman’s sole job seems to be quickly patting masa into paper thin tortillas. Victor Avila, who lives in Puerto Vallarta, is entranced with that.

“It’s so hard to find handmade tortillas anymore,” he says.

Through the windows we see splashes of bright purple from the masses of bougainvillea that drape the stone exterior walls and here the sounds of caballeros, their horses’ hooves striking the centuries old street. We sip our sweet agua de Jamaica water, eat tortillas fresh from the griddle and help ourselves from heaping platters, we all feel time slipping backwards into the past.  

Machaca Marinade:

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 4 limes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Machaca:

2 lbs. skirt steak, cut into strips
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or a Mexican brand, such a Valencia)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil 

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together, and then add the skirt steak. Marinate at least 6 hours or overnight tablespoon Remove meat from marinade, drain, and pat dry. Bring to room temperature. Discard marinade.
In a large heavy pot, heat oil. Sear the meat well on both sides, in batches so as not to crowd them. Remove the meat as it is browned and set aside.

Drain fat. Add in the onion, peppers, and garlic, cook until tender, then add tomatoes, broth, pepper sauce and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Return beef and simmer, covered, for two hours, stirring from time to time until tender. Cool and shred.

Lay meat on a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 250º for 20 minutes or until meat is dry. 

Machaca con Huevos

2 chopped scallions (white part only)
1 hot green chili
2 tomatoes
1 cup dried machaca
2 eggs
Chopped cilantro

Sauté scallions and peppers in oil until tender, add tomatoes and beef until heated. Remove from pan, add eggs and cumin. Scramble, then stir machata mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with hot tortillas.


Silver & Tequila in the Sierra Madres: The Tale of San Sebastian de Oeste

High in the Sierra Madres, we follow the twisting road from Puerto Vallarta and the seaside on our way to San Sebastian de Oeste. Crossing the long spanned bridge over Rio Ameca, the road curves around a ridge and into the tiny village of La Estancia and Hacienda San Sebastián, a family owned raicilla and tequila distillery (for raicilla think tequila only much stronger and likely of inducing hallucinations in anyone who drinks too much).San Sebastian street

Founded in the 1930s and still family owned, their vast agave fields – called green plantations — can be seen on the surrounding hillsides. Besides making organic and flavored tequilas such as Licore de Café with its hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla as well as almond tequila made from nuts grown in Durango and roasted here, the family also makes agave sugar and syrup, all without electricity. The peñas or agave hearts roast over an open fire as they were centuries ago and what power there is comes from solar panels.San Sebastian Comedor Lupita exterior

Sampling and then stocking up on organic tequila we continue on, taking a turn on a dirt road where cows, unconfined by fencing, have to be shooed out of the way, to San Sebastian. Here we stop at La Quinta Café de Altura, an organic coffee farm owned by Rafael Sanchez, his wife Rosa and Lola, Rafael’s sister. Five generations of the family have grown coffee here.

The family, in a building dating back more than 120 years, tend 11 acres of coffee trees, some as old as the house, handpick 30 tons of beans each year, dry, roast and grind them, making blends such as a mixture of ground beans with cinnamon and sugar for the traditional, and now often hard to find, Mexican coffee. Tastings are available and so are Rosa’s homemade candies such as guava rolls and sweets made from sweet goat’s milk. In an interesting aside, we learn that the Sanchez’s parents married early (the Don was 15), a 68-year union that produced 21 children. Their grandfather did even better, having 28 children, though that took both a wife and several mistresses.jalisco_destinos-principales_san-sebastian-del-oeste_int

Settled in 1605, San Sebastian was nominated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Lovely in its vintage charm, the surrounding pine covered mountains were bonanzas of silver and gold. Aristocratic families from Spain made the perilous travel across the sea and then land to oversee the mining of these treasures. Once here, deigning not to marry locals, they married each other. It made for interesting relationships, uncles were also cousins, sisters also grandchildren or whatever.

We hear the tales when we stop at the museum, housed in the 200-year-old Hotel Jalisco. It’s a very crowded museum–more like a fascinating  attic full of family heirloom items and the curator is a direct descendent of the founding families.In the museum, we see trunks inlaid with silver, 19th century lace gowns and jewelry boxes, china and silver that came from Spain.SS raicilla

It’s a story of glory and loss–at one time San Sebastian des Oeste had a population of 40,000; now there are about 600 and the occasional tourists. Silver was transported by horses and mules through treacherous mountain passes, robbers waited in wait. Pancho Villa and his men showed up regularly stripping away the wealth.

There were interesting family traditions. When a family member died, before they were buried (and remember it’s very hot here), a photographer had to be sent for from Puerto Vallarta to take a photo of the deceased. It could take days, but that’s how it was done.San Sebastian Cafe La Quinta Mary

Walking along the cobblestone road, past a massive 300 year plus ash tree and cascading white frizzes of el manto de la virgin, we enter Comedor Lupita. Here terra cotta platters loaded with chicken mole, fresh handmade tortillas (in America they’d be called artisan tortillas), refried beans and something I’ve never tasted before – machaca, a dish of dried beef mixed with spices and eggs, are heaped in front of us. As we eat, we watch the family busy behind the tiled counter, making even more food.

Through the windows we see splashes of bright purple from the masses of bougainvillea that drape the stone exterior walls and here the sounds of caballeros, their horses’ hooves striking the centuries old street. We sip our sweet agua de Jamaica water and feel time passing in reverse.

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Machaca Marinade:

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 4 limes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Machaca:

2 lbs. skirt steak, cut into strips
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or a Mexican brand, such a Valencia)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together, and then add the skirt steak. Marinate at least 6 hours or overnight tablespoon Remove meat from marinade, drain, and pat dry. Bring to room temperature. Discard marinade.
In a large heavy pot, heat oil. Sear the meat well on both sides, in batches so as not to crowd them. Remove the meat as it is browned and set aside.

Drain fat. Add in the onion, peppers, and garlic, cook until tender, then add tomatoes, broth, pepper sauce and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Return beef and simmer, covered, for two hours, stirring from time to time until tender. Cool and shred.

Lay meat on a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 250º for 20 minutes or until meat is dry.

Machaca con Huevos

2 chopped scallions (white part only)
1 hot green chili
2 tomatoes
1 cup dried machaca
2 eggs
Chopped cilantro

Sauté scallions and peppers in oil until tender, add tomatoes and beef until heated. Remove from pan, add eggs and cumin. Scramble, then stir machata mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with hot tortillas.

Search: San Sebastian de Oeste, Hacienda San Sebastián, agave fields
Keywords: San Sebastian de Oeste, Hacienda San Sebastian, agave fields, organic and flavored tequilas

Description: In San Sebastian de Oeste, near Puerto Vallarta is Hacienda San Sebastian where you can taste the organic and flavored tequilas such as Licore de Café with its hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla as well as almond tequila.