If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants

Now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians, the Lake Chapala Region, nestled in a valley almost a mile high in Mexico’s Volcanic Axis,  has long been a draw for ex-pats and vacationers, lured by its almost perfect climate and beauty.

In his book If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants about Mexico‘s earliest international tourist destination (also available in Spanish), award-winning author Tony Burton shares his knowledge and interest in a region where he has spent more than two decades. Burton, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who was born and educated in the United Kingdom, first visited Mexico in 1977. That visit was obviously a big success as he returned and for almost 18 years lived and worked full-time in Mexico as a writer, educator and ecotourism specialist.

He met his wife, Gwen Chan Burton who was a teacher of the deaf and then director at the Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, one of the three main towns lining the shores of Lake Chapala. Though they now reside on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Burtons continue to revisit Mexico regularly and he is currently editor-in-chief of MexConnect, Mexico’s top English-language online magazine. The other two towns, each with its own distinctive vibe, are Ajijic and Chapala, native villages resettled by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. “This book looks at how Chapala, a small nondescript fishing village in Jalisco, suddenly shot to international prominence at the end of the nineteenth century as one of North America’s earliest tourist resorts,” writes Burton. “Within twenty years, Chapala, tucked up against the hills embracing the northern shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, was attracting the cream of Mexican and foreign society. Thus began Lake Chapala’s astonishing transformation into the vibrant international community it is now, so beloved of authors, artists and retirees.”

The book, organized as a walking tour, covers not only existing buildings but also pinpoints the spots where significant early buildings no longer stand but their histories still weave a story of the town. It’s only a partial guide, explains Burton, noting that an inventory prepared by the National Institute of Anthropology and History identified more than eighty such buildings in Chapala including many not easily visible from the road but hidden behind high walls and better viewed from the lake.

Among the famous people who lived in Chapala at some point in their careers was author D.H. Lawrence, probably best remembered for his risqué (at the time) novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In 1923, Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, rented Casa de las Cuentas (House of Rosary Beads), a house that dates back to the 1800s. At the time, a one-story abode with a half-moon entrance and heavy wooden gates, it was located at 307 Calle Zaragoza, a street formerly known as Calle de la Pesquería (“Fishing street”) so named as it was where the local fishermen repaired their nets and hung them out to dry. It was while living on Calle Zaragoza that Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, published in 1926. The novel is described asthe story of a European woman’s self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico.”

Over the decades, after the Lawrences moved out, subsequent changes were made to Casa de las Cuentas including  the addition of a swimming pool in the mid-1950s when artist Roy MacNicol and his wife, Mary, owned the home.

While Lawrence’s writings were considered by some as scandalous, MacNicol’s life had its scandals as well. Burton describes him as “colorful” in that he was married multiple times and was involved in many escapades as well as lawsuits.

Mary, embracing the local culinary traditions including the use of flowers in cooking, authored Flower Cookery: The Art of Cooking With Flowers.

It wasn’t the work of a dilettante as reviews of her book such as this one on Amazon shows.

“Flower Cookery is recipes, but far more than recipes,” writes one reviewer. “The book is organized by the popular name of the flower in question. Each section is introduced with quotations from literature, philosophy, and poetry that feature the blossom. This is followed by the recipes, interwoven with mythology, stories, and aphorisms about the flower, the plant from which it grows, its symbolism, and the culture or society in which humans discovered the value of the plant or blossom. The recipes include original favorites as well as recipes collected from historical sources and contemporary sources around the world. Here is just the tiniest sampling of the riches in the book.”

Burton shares her Christmas Cheer recipe from when she lived at Casa de las Cuentas.

Christmas Cheer

10-12 squash blossoms with stems removed

2 eggs, beaten

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Flour, enough to thicken mixture about one tablespoon

Salt and pepper

1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or safflower

Wash and dry squash blossoms on paper towels, making sure to remove all the water. Mix remaining ingredients except oil to make a smooth batter. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350-375°F. Dip blossoms in batter and fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

As for the house, it was renovated again in the early 1980s and is now Quinta Quetzalcoatl, a lovely boutique hotel.

If Walls Could Talk is one of four books that Burton has written on the Lake Chapala region. The other three are Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican Village; Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales  (2008), and the recent Lake Chapala: A Postcard history. All are available as print and ebooks on Amazon.

The above maps, both copyrighted, show Chapala 1915 [lower map] and 1951 [upper map].

In all, he’s planning on adding several more to what he currently calls the Lake Chapala Quartet, these focusing on the writers and artists associated with the area.  I asked him  to describe the region so readers who have never been there can get an idea of what it is like, but it turns out the Burton is NOT a traveler who meticulously plots every moment of a trip before he arrives. Instead, he tells me that part of the fun when traveling is to not know in advance what places are like and instead to see and experience them for yourself.

“That said,” he continues, “the various villages and towns on the shores of Lake Chapala are all quite different in character. The town of Chapala, specifically, is a pretty large and bustling town. It is growing quite rapidly and has added several small high end boutique hotels in recent years, as well as some fine dining options to complement the more traditional shoreline ‘fish’ restaurants. The many old–100 years plus–buildings in Chapala give the town a historic ‘air’ where it is relatively easy to conjure up images of what it was like decades ago. By comparison, Ajijic, now the center of the foreign community on Lake Chapala, has virtually no old buildings and more of a village and artsy feel to it, though it also has very high quality accommodations and more fine restaurants than you can count.”

Other structures still standing include the Villa Tlalocan, completed in 1896 and described by a contemporary journalist as “the largest, costliest and most complete in Chapala… a happy minglement of the Swiss chalet, the Southern verandahed house of a prosperous planter and withal having an Italian suggestion. It is tastefully planned and is set amid grounds cultivated and adorned with flowers so easily grown in this paradisiacal climate where Frost touches not with his withering finger…”

Also still part of the landscape is Villa Niza. One of many buildings designed by Guillermo de Alba, the house, according to Burton, was built in 1919 and looks more American than European in style. Located at Hidalgo 250, it takes advantage of its setting on Lake Chapala and has a mirador (look out) atop the central tower of the structure, which affords sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and lake. De Alba’s strong geometric design boasts only minimal exterior ornamentation.

Burton, who specializes in non-fiction about Mexico, related to geography, history, travel, economics, ecology and natural history, has written several fascinating books about the history of the Lake Chapala region.

In If Walls Could Talk, Burton invites you to walk with him through time as you explore the city.

If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants

Now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians, the Lake Chapala Region, nestled in a valley almost a mile high in Mexico’s Volcanic Axis,  has long been a draw for ex-pats and vacationers, lured by its almost perfect climate and beauty.

In his book If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants about Mexico‘s earliest international tourist destination (also available in Spanish), award-winning author Tony Burton shares his knowledge and interest in a region where he has spent more than two decades. Burton, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who was born and educated in the United Kingdom, first visited Mexico in 1977. That visit was obviously a big success as he returned and for almost 18 years lived and worked full-time in Mexico as a writer, educator and ecotourism specialist.

He met his wife, Gwen Chan Burton who was a teacher of the deaf and then director at the Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, one of the three main towns lining the shores of Lake Chapala. Though they now reside on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Burtons continue to revisit Mexico regularly and he is currently editor-in-chief of MexConnect, Mexico’s top English-language online magazine. The other two towns, each with its own distinctive vibe, are Ajijic and Chapala, native villages resettled by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. “This book looks at how Chapala, a small nondescript fishing village in Jalisco, suddenly shot to international prominence at the end of the nineteenth century as one of North America’s earliest tourist resorts,” writes Burton. “Within twenty years, Chapala, tucked up against the hills embracing the northern shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, was attracting the cream of Mexican and foreign society. Thus began Lake Chapala’s astonishing transformation into the vibrant international community it is now, so beloved of authors, artists and retirees.”

The book, organized as a walking tour, covers not only existing buildings but also pinpoints the spots where significant early buildings no longer stand but their histories still weave a story of the town. It’s only a partial guide, explains Burton, noting that an inventory prepared by the National Institute of Anthropology and History identified more than eighty such buildings in Chapala including many not easily visible from the road but hidden behind high walls and better viewed from the lake.

Among the famous people who lived in Chapala at some point in their careers was author D.H. Lawrence, probably best remembered for his risqué (at the time) novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In 1923, Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, rented Casa de las Cuentas (House of Rosary Beads), a house that dates back to the 1800s. At the time, a one-story abode with a half-moon entrance and heavy wooden gates, it was located at 307 Calle Zaragoza, a street formerly known as Calle de la Pesquería (“Fishing street”) so named as it was where the local fishermen repaired their nets and hung them out to dry. It was while living on Calle Zaragoza that Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, published in 1926. The novel is described asthe story of a European woman’s self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico.”

Over the decades, after the Lawrences moved out, subsequent changes were made to Casa de las Cuentas including  the addition of a swimming pool in the mid-1950s when artist Roy MacNicol and his wife, Mary, owned the home.

While Lawrence’s writings were considered by some as scandalous, MacNicol’s life had its scandals as well. Burton describes him as “colorful” in that he was married multiple times and was involved in many escapades as well as lawsuits.

Mary, embracing the local culinary traditions including the use of flowers in cooking, authored Flower Cookery: The Art of Cooking With Flowers.

It wasn’t the work of a dilettante as reviews of her book such as this one on Amazon shows.

“Flower Cookery is recipes, but far more than recipes,” writes one reviewer. “The book is organized by the popular name of the flower in question. Each section is introduced with quotations from literature, philosophy, and poetry that feature the blossom. This is followed by the recipes, interwoven with mythology, stories, and aphorisms about the flower, the plant from which it grows, its symbolism, and the culture or society in which humans discovered the value of the plant or blossom. The recipes include original favorites as well as recipes collected from historical sources and contemporary sources around the world. Here is just the tiniest sampling of the riches in the book.”

Burton shares her Christmas Cheer recipe from when she lived at Casa de las Cuentas.

Christmas Cheer

10-12 squash blossoms with stems removed

2 eggs, beaten

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Flour, enough to thicken mixture about one tablespoon

Salt and pepper

1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or safflower

Wash and dry squash blossoms on paper towels, making sure to remove all the water. Mix remaining ingredients except oil to make a smooth batter. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350-375°F. Dip blossoms in batter and fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

As for the house, it was renovated again in the early 1980s and is now Quinta Quetzalcoatl, a lovely boutique hotel.

If Walls Could Talk is one of four books that Burton has written on the Lake Chapala region. The other three are Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican Village; Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales  (2008), and the recent Lake Chapala: A Postcard history. All are available as print and ebooks on Amazon.

The above maps, both copyrighted, show Chapala 1915 [lower map] and 1951 [upper map].

In all, he’s planning on adding several more to what he currently calls the Lake Chapala Quartet, these focusing on the writers and artists associated with the area.  I asked him  to describe the region so readers who have never been there can get an idea of what it is like, but it turns out the Burton is NOT a traveler who meticulously plots every moment of a trip before he arrives. Instead, he tells me that part of the fun when traveling is to not know in advance what places are like and instead to see and experience them for yourself.

“That said,” he continues, “the various villages and towns on the shores of Lake Chapala are all quite different in character. The town of Chapala, specifically, is a pretty large and bustling town. It is growing quite rapidly and has added several small high end boutique hotels in recent years, as well as some fine dining options to complement the more traditional shoreline ‘fish’ restaurants. The many old–100 years plus–buildings in Chapala give the town a historic ‘air’ where it is relatively easy to conjure up images of what it was like decades ago. By comparison, Ajijic, now the center of the foreign community on Lake Chapala, has virtually no old buildings and more of a village and artsy feel to it, though it also has very high quality accommodations and more fine restaurants than you can count.”

Other structures still standing include the Villa Tlalocan, completed in 1896 and described by a contemporary journalist as “the largest, costliest and most complete in Chapala… a happy minglement of the Swiss chalet, the Southern verandahed house of a prosperous planter and withal having an Italian suggestion. It is tastefully planned and is set amid grounds cultivated and adorned with flowers so easily grown in this paradisiacal climate where Frost touches not with his withering finger…”

Also still part of the landscape is Villa Niza. One of many buildings designed by Guillermo de Alba, the house, according to Burton, was built in 1919 and looks more American than European in style. Located at Hidalgo 250, it takes advantage of its setting on Lake Chapala and has a mirador (look out) atop the central tower of the structure, which affords sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and lake. De Alba’s strong geometric design boasts only minimal exterior ornamentation.

Burton, who specializes in non-fiction about Mexico, related to geography, history, travel, economics, ecology and natural history, has written several fascinating books about the history of the Lake Chapala region.

In If Walls Could Talk, Burton invites you to walk with him through time as you explore the city.

Three Charming Villages on the shores of Lake Chapala

Born in the United Kingdom, Tony Burton, a Cambridge University-educated geographer with a teaching certificate from University of London, first traveled to Mexico after spending three years as a VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas] volunteer teaching geography, and writing a local geography text, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. From there his travels took him to Mérida in summer 1977, where he spent several weeks backpacking around southern and central Mexico, returning two years later to teach at Greengates School in Mexico City.

Over the next seven years, Tony traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting every state at least once, and organizing numerous four-day earth science fieldwork courses for his students. He co-led the school’s extensive aid efforts following the massive 1985 earthquake.

From Mexico City, he moved to Guadalajara, where he continued to organize short, residential fieldwork courses for a number of different schools and colleges and began organizing and leading specialist eco-tours for adult groups to destinations such as Paricutín Volcano, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, and Copper Canyon.

An award winning author, he’s written numerous books about Mexico including his latest Lake Chapala: A Postcard History (Sombrero Publishing). It’s part of a series he’s written on this region which is located about an hour south of Guadalajara. The 417-square-mile lake, Mexico’s largest, located in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán is situated at an elevation of  5,000ft in the middle of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico and is known for its wonderful climate, laid-back ambience, and is a popular destination for both travelers and ex-pats looking for a charming, low-key place to relocate. The three main towns along the lake are Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec. In an intriguing aside, Tony met his wife Gwen Chan Burton when she was working as at the director of the pioneering Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec. Gwen writes about the school and all that it has accomplished in her book, New Worlds for the Deaf, also published by Sombrero Books.

Tony’s other books about this region include Western Mexico A Traveler’s Treasury, illustrated by Mark Eager, now in its fourth edition; Mexican Kaleidoscope: Myths, Mysteries and Mystique, illustrated by Enrique Veláquez, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village. I’ll be covering them in upcoming posts.

Because I’m always interested in foodways, Tony was kind enough to share a copy of an undated Spanish language project put together by students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional School of Tourism titled “Gastronomy of Jalisco.”  It includes numerous recipes from the region including one for the famous Caldo Michi of Chapala (the recipe is below).

I had the chance to ask Tony, who currently is the editor of MexConnect, Mexico’s leading independent on-line magazine, about Lake Chapala: A Postcard History as well as the time he spent in this beautiful region of Mexico.


How did you first become familiar with Lake Chapala?

I first visited Lake Chapala in early 1980, on my way back to Mexico City from the Copper Canyon and Baja California Sur. Little did I imagine then that it would be where I would later fall in love, get married, and have two children!

What inspired you to write Lake Chapala: A Postcard History?

There is no single overwhelming inspiration. I realized, while living at Lake Chapala and writing my first books about Mexico, that a lot of what had been previously written was superficial and left many unanswered questions. In the hopes of finding answers, I decided to trawl through all the published works (any language) I could find, which resulted in Lake Chapala Through the Ages (2008), my attempt to document and provide context to the accounts of the area written between 1530 and 1910.

My next two books about Lake Chapala—If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of a Change in a Mexican Village—focused on the twentieth century history of the two main centers for the very numerous foreign community now living on ‘Lakeside.’ Part of my motivation was to dispel some of the myths that endlessly recirculate about the local history, as well as to bring back to life some of the many extraordinary pioneering individuals indirectly responsible for the area becoming such an important destination for visitors.

Lake Chapala: APostcard History is my attempt to widen the discussion and summarize the twentieth century history of the entire lake area. Its reliance on vintage postcards makes this a very visual story, one which I hope will appeal to a wide readership, including armchair travelers.



What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing this book? Was it difficulty finding the numerous postcards you included? And doing the extensive research that went into the book? Are there any intriguing stories about hunting down certain postcards and any “aha” moments of discovery when writing your book?

The main challenge was in deciding how best to structure the material. Because of the originality of what I’m doing, it is impractical to follow the advice that writers should start with a detailed plan and then write to that plan! In my case, after collecting the information and ideas that exist, the challenge is to select what can be teased and massaged into a coherent and interesting narrative.

Because the postcard book is the product of decades of research, I had ample time to build my personal collection of vintage postcards, through gifts, auctions and online purchases.

There were many significant “aha” moments in the process: some concerned the photographers and publishers responsible for the postcards and some the precise buildings or events depicted. While I’m saving some of these “aha” moments–because they are central to a future book–one was when it suddenly dawned on me that wealthy businessman Dwight Furness was the photographer of an entire series of cards (Figs 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, etc.) that relate to my next response.



If you could go back in time to visit one of the resorts that is no longer there that you featured in your book, is there one that stands out and why is that?

Ooohhh; I’d love to go back to about 1908 and stay at the Ribera Castellanos resort (Chapter 6) during its heyday. While staying there, perhaps I could interview owner Dwight Furness, his wife and a few guests? Apart from a few ruined walls, Furness’ postcards of the resort are pretty much the only remaining evidence of the hotel. And perhaps one night I could invite local resident and prolific professional photographer Winfield Scott and his wife to dinner to hear their stories?

How long did it take to write Lake Chapala?

The writing took less than a year; but only because of the many prior years of research.

Since I often talk about food and travel, are there any culinary specialties in the Lake Chapala region?

Long standing culinary specialties of the area include (a) Lake Chapala whitefish (b) charales (c) caldo michi. And, when it comes to drinks, there is a very specific link to postcards. The wife of photographer José Edmundo Sánchez, who sold postcards ( Figs 7.5, 7.6 and 7.7) in the 1920s from his lakefront bar in Chapala, is credited with inventing sangrita, still marketed today as a very popular chaser or co-sip for tequila. (Chapter 7, page 74).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about your book?

I hope readers find the book as fun and interesting to read as it was to write!

MICHI BROTH

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • ¾ kg of tomato seeded and in pieces
  • ¼ onion in pieces
  • ½ kg carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
  • ½ kg of sliced ​​zucchini
  • 4 or 6 chiles güeros
  • 100 gr. chopped coriander
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ½ liters of water
  • 1kg well washed catfish, yellow carp or red snapper

PREPARATION: Heat the oil and stew the vegetables in it, add water and salt to taste, let it simmer over low heat until the vegetables are well cooked, then add the fish and leave it for a few minutes more until it is soft.

Sangrita

I had the opportunity to stay at Tres Rios Nature Park, a 326-acre eco-resort north of Playa del Carmen and was first introduced to sangrita during my stay. I took several cooking lessons and learned to make a dish with crickets, but that is a different story. Chef Oscar also talked to us about the history of sangrita. The Spanish name is the less-than-appetizing “little blood” but hey, when you’re learning to grill crickets, you can deal with a name like that. The drink, as Tony writes in his postcards book, originated in Chapala in the 1920s.

Here is the excerpt:

”In the same year the Railroad Station opened, Guillermo de Alba had become a partner in Pavilion Monterrey, a lakefront bar in a prime location, only meters from the beach, between the Hotel Arzapalo and Casa Braniff,” he writes. “The co-owner of the bar was José Edmundo Sánchez. Regulars at the bar included American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in 1923 in the company of D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Bynner subsequently bought a house near the church. When de Alba left Chapala for Mexico City in 1926, Sánchez and his wife—María Guadalupe Nuño, credited with inventing sangrita as a chaser for tequila—ran the bar on their own. After her husband died in 1933, María continued to manage the bar, which then became known as the Cantina de la Viuda Sánchez (Widow Sánchez’s bar).”

Sangrita is typically used as accompaniment to tequila, highlighting its crisp acidity and helping to cleanse the palate between each peppery sip. According to Chef Oscar, the red-colored drink serves to compliment the flavor of 100% agave tequila. The two drinks, each poured into separate shot glasses, are alternately sipped, never chased and never mixed together.

Here is Chef Oscar’s recipe and below is one from Cholula hot sauce which originated in Chapala. Tony has a great story about that as well. More in my next post on his books.

For one liter of Sangrita:

  • 400 ml. orange juice
  • 400 ml. tomato juice
  • 50 ml. lemon juice
  • 30 ml. Grenadine syrup
  • 20 ml. Worcestershire sauce
  • Maggi and Tabasco hot sauce (mixed up) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all the ingredients and serve cold. Suggested duration of chilling : 3 to 4 days.

Cholula’s Sangrita

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 20 pomegranate seeds
  • 3 fresh sprigs of cilantro or to taste
  • 1/2 stalk celery
  • 3 teaspoons smoked coarse sea salt or sal de gusano, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula® Original Hot Sauce

Place all ingredients except salt in blender container, with about 1 cup ice cubes. Puree until smooth.Strain twice though a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.

Rim shot glasses with sea salt. Serve sangrita cold in rimmed shot glasses alongside your favorite tequila.

2021 Travel Trends: The Most of Up-to-Date Stats Show the Top Travel Destinations, Trip Costs, and More

Younger generations more likely to take micro-cations while older generations spend more per trip.

My friend Paige, who works for Seven Corners, a leading travel insurance and specialty benefits company, always has the latest. This time she shared the most up to date data available about travel trends in 2021. For those who want to know, it’s fascinating to delve into what last year revealed in terms of travelers’ purchasing habits, how their age influences behavior, average trip cost, and top travel destinations. Recently Seven Corners gathered all the relevant information needed to show the following key trends for 2021.

Buying patterns for travel insurance vary according to the age of the purchaser. Travelers who buy direct from the website, as opposed to using a licensed travel insurance agent, tend to skew almost eight years older, with the average age of a website purchaser at 42 and the average age of consumers who use an insurance agent at 50. This preference for older consumers to seek assistance for a travel insurance purchase is the highest for 66 and older, with this age group representing almost 20% of plans sold by insurance agents. 

Additionally, older consumers typically spend more for trips, with the average trip cost increasing for each generation starting with millennials. Younger baby boomers spend an average of 45% more than millennials. The over 66 age group spends even more, averaging 76% more on trip expenses than millennials. The average trip cost for millennials is $1,843, and the average trip cost for those 66 and older is $3,243.

Micro-cations have increased in popularity

Based on policies sold by Seven Corners, micro-cations grew in popularity in 2021, with a 74% increase compared to 2019 and a 66% increase compared to 2020. A micro-cation is defined as a vacation of less than five nights. These short trips are especially popular with millennials, with 30% of their insured trips being five days or less in length. Generation X and Generation Z follow next with micro-cations representing 20% and 19% of their vacations, respectively. This trend with baby boomers is drastically different, with micro-cations representing only 12% of their insured vacations.

Destinations for micro-cations have changed, mainly due to the influence of COVID-19 and resulting travel restrictions. In 2021, Turks and Caicos was the No. 1 micro-cation destination, and it was the most popular option for all generations except travelers 66 and older, who favored Mexico as their first choice for travel. Millennials preferred Turks and Caicos, choosing it for 61% of their international micro-cations. Turks and Caicos was not in the top 30 most popular destinations pre-pandemic; this change represents a significant shift for travelers.

Mexico was the second most popular travel destination in 2021, falling from No. 1 in 2019. Costa Rica was the third most popular location in 2021, jumping from 15th place in 2019. Micro-destinations that lost favoritism include Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland and the United Kingdom, which all fell from the top 10 spots, most likely due to the restrictions resulting from COVID-19.

 Introduction to Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR)

From 2019 to 2020, the travel insurance industry saw a large increase in consumer preference for Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR), as travelers learned it is the only option to cancel a trip due to fear of travel. While this helps travelers before they depart on a trip, it does not address a similar need that could arise while traveling.

 To provide a similar option to consumers for unexpected events that can occur during a trip, Seven Corners added a new benefit, Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR), to their trip protection product line in early 2021. To date, the adoption rate is strong, with a little more than 17% of direct consumers choosing to add it to their purchase.

 Generationally, Seven Corners sees that IFAR is most popular with millennials and Generation X, each having adoption rates of 26% and 28%, respectively. The addition is least popular with baby boomers, who have an adoption rate of only 12%.

For more detailed information on purchasing travel insurance to cover COVID-19, Seven Corners has information on the coverage provided by their RoundTrip products related to potential quarantine considerations. To learn more about how Seven Corners’ travel medical and trip protection products address the continuing impacts of the pandemic, visit their specific Coronavirus page.

About Seven Corners

Founded in 1993, Seven Corners, Inc. is an innovative and service-focused travel insurance and specialty benefit management company that serves a global market. Based in Carmel, Ind., the company offers a variety of customized travel insurance solutions to domestic and international travelers. Seven Corners also administers benefits for U.S. government programs.

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.

Blue Diamond Resorts Is Hosting The First Annual Food + Drink Experience This September in Cancun

As if you didn’t need another excuse to head to Cancun, Blue Diamond Resorts will be hosting the first Food + Drink Experience featuring more than a dozen well-known, international chefs. And it all takes place at the luxurious Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun, September 19-26, 2021.

Curated by Blue Diamond Resorts, sixteen renowned chefs, such as Aarón Sánchez and Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, will lead the week-long culinary festival showcasing mouthwatering cuisine and mixology demonstrations.

All week long there will be interactive experiences and entertainment including cooking exhibitions from Chef Cesar Castañeda and Chef Jorge Valencia, a beach barbecue with Freddy Chi, a signature barbecue pairing hosted by Chefs Ted Reader and Ray Lampe, Chocolate and Mezcal pairings with Chef Benjamin Nava, the first ever Mexican Caribbean Tiki Mixology Competition, and much more.

Food + Drink Experience Schedule Highlights 

Sunday, September 19

  • Inaugural party 
  • First round of the Mixology Competition 

Monday, September 20

Tuesday, September 21 

  • Culinary Demonstration of Cauliflower with Chef Cesar Castaneda
  • Baja California Wood Fire BBQ with Chef Alfredo Romero
  • Foam Party
  • Tequila Tasting
  • Mixology Session with David Araya 
  • Culinary Demonstration of duck tamales and roasted peach coulis with Chef Jorge Valencia
  • Signature Paring Dinner with Chefs Rick Moonen and Bernard Guillas

Wednesday, September 22

  • Culinary Demonstration of Octopus with Longaniza Powder with Chef Federico Lopez
  • Beach BBQ Taco Party with Chef Tim Grandinetti
  • Chocolate and Mezcal Paring with Mezcalero Benamin Nava
  • Mixology Session with Eliu Salazar
  • Culinary Demonstration of Fish Tea with Chef Dean Max
  • Signature Pairing Dinner with Chefs Reyna Garcia and Cindy Hutson

Thursday, September 23

  • Culinary Demonstration of plant-based meatballs with Chef Zaraida Fernandez
  • Riviera Mayan BBQ with Chef Freddy Chi
  • Wine tasting and seminar 
  • Culinary Demonstration of lobster tacos with Chef Aaron Sanchez
  • Signature BBQ Paring Dinner with Chefs Ted Reader and Ray Lampe
  • Heineken and XX after party 

Friday, September 24 

  • Culinary Demonstration of Tikin Xic with Chef Reyna Garcia
  • Classic American BBQ with Celebrity Pit Master Dr. BBQ
  • Tequila tasting 
  • Chillout Jazz Lounge
  • Mixology session with Federico Moreno
  • Culinary Demonstration of lobster gazpacho with Chef Rick Moonen
  • Signature pairing dinner with Chefs Federico Lopez and Tim Grandinetti

Saturday, September 

  • South American BBQ with Chef Carlo Magno
  • Foam Party
  • Wine tasting and seminar 
  • Mixology Session with Alejandro Perez
  • Culinary Demonstration with Chef Cindy Hutson
  • Signature paring dinner with Chefs Aaron Sanchez and Jorge Valencia

Sunday, September 26 

  • Farewell Brunch

With Safety Always in Mind

As the second largest travel market in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun is the most recognized Mexican tourist destination in the world and currently the most connected. Its picturesque surroundings, authentic Mexican culture, and approach to safe travel is the reason why Cancun was selected as the inaugural destination for a festival of this size. Since reopening to international guests June of 2020, proper health and safety protocols continue to be in place to ensure a safe travel experience. That includes COVID-19 and antigen testing for guests returning to North American locales, advanced procedures at the resort level, and more.

Gorditas el Comal de Doña Meche in San Miguel de Allende

Dona Meche in the window of her restaurant in San Miguel de Allende. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.


On Calle Margarita Ledezma, not far from El Jardin Principal, the town square of San Miguel de Allende where jacaranda trees bloom, vendors come to sell their wares and even the occasional burro makes its way down the cobblestone street, Dona Meche stands at the open window of her restaurant. In front of her are colorful ceramic bowls brimming with a rich array of fillings she makes every day. What’s in each bowl varies depending upon what’s in season and available at the large open-air market not far away. Today it’s chicken with cactus and potatoes, grilled poblano peppers with mushrooms and cheese, shredded beef in a rich red adobe sauce and picadillo mixed with green beans, carrots and pureed tomatoes.

For ten pesos (approximately a dollar), Meche takes a ball of masa harina and, patting it into a thick circle, drops it into a comal of bubbling hot oil. When it’s just a little golden, she removes it from the oil and cuts a hole in the middle and adds the filling. If you want another, the process starts all over again. Order a glass of agua de Jamaica (hibiscus flower water), horchata (rice water) or guava juice for another seven pesos.


There’s your meal, simple and pleasurable–the flavors of the fillings are intense, the softness of the gordita melding the taste into a one of a kind treat.

To make gorditas at home, follow this recipe from “One Plate at Time” by Rick Bayless, cookbook author, restaurateur and TV host.

Gorditas con Carne Deshebrada
1 1/4 pounds boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces
3 small white onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2-inch for frying
1 (28-ounce) can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped or 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and very finely chopped
Salt
1 pound (2 cups) fresh, premixed masa
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon baking power
About 1/3 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other dry grating cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan
About 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

San Miguel Cathedral. Photo Jane Simon Ammeson.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions, and half of the garlic and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your
fingers or 2 forks–don’t worry that there are bits of onion and garlic mixed with
the meat.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set it over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of
the oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the remaining onions and cook until
golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another
minute. Add the tomatoes and chiles and cook until most of the juice has
evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shredded meat and simmer for a few
more minutes, then taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove
from the heat and set aside.

Heat a well-seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat.
Divide the masa dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to
keep from drying out. Line a tortilla press with 2 pieces of plastic cut to fit the
plates. Gently press out a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4
inches in diameter (it’ll be about 1/4 inch thick).

Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the
fingers of 1 hand, and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. Place onto
the heated griddle or skillet. Bake for about 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for
another 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and
crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove to
a plate. Continue pressing and griddle-baking the remaining gorditas in the
same manner.

When you’re ready to serve, warm the shredded beef. Rinse the remaining
onions in a small strainer under cold water and shake to remove the excess
moisture. Have the cheese and cilantro at the ready.

In a deep heavy medium skillet or saucepan, heat 1/2-inch of oil over medium
to medium-high until the oil is hot enough to make the edge of a gordita sizzle
sharply, about 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. One by one, fry the
gorditas, turning them after they’ve been in the oil for about 15 seconds, until
they’re nicely crisp but not hard, about 45 seconds total. When they’re ready,
most will have puffed up a little, like pita bread. Drain on paper towels.

Use a small knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around
its circumference, opening a pocket. As you cut them, fill each gordita with
about 1/4-cup shredded meat and a sprinkling of the onions, grated cheese,
and cilantro.

Line up the filled gorditas on a serving platter and pass them around (with plenty
of napkins) for your guest to enjoy.

Photo Jane Simon Ammeson.

Isla Mujeres: Ixchel’s Island

Isla Mujeres or Island of the Women earned its name in 1517 when Spanish explorers discovered statues of Ixchel, the Mayan Moon Goddess on this island just 25 minutes by ferry from Cancun.  Ixchel’s temple is still here, perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea in Garrafon Reef Park – it’s where Mayan women once traveled to pray for a fertile marriage. Isla_Mujeres,_Garrafon_(24032614729)

Today, visitors come for snorkeling in the fish filled coral reefs, zipling above Mayan ruins, frolicking with dolphins and taking the short jitney ride to the bustling shopping plaza on Avenue Rueda Medina in the island’s only town.  Here artisans display their wares – elaborately embroidered Mayan dresses, Talavera pottery and an assortment of pretty trinkets. Isla_Mujeres,_Pelicanos_(24374202586)

Wander the town, past brightly colored stucco homes, stopping at the stalls of local vendors for fresh fruit sprinkled with fiery red pepper and spicy hot meat stuffed into freshly made tortillas.Azules_de_Isla_mujeres_-_panoramio_(1)

The following recipe, typical of Isla de Mujeres, is courtesy of Pati Jinich, host of the popular Emmy and James Beard nominated PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table and author of Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking and Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens.

Brocoli y Coloflor Rostizadas con Aderezo de Cotija

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower with Queso Cotija Dressing

5 to 6 servings

For the vegetables:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 chopped chiles de arbol or 1 generous teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup olive oil plus more for brushing

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds broccoli cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem

2 pounds cauliflower cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem

For the dressing:

1/2 cup crumbled queso cotija

2/3 cup Mexican crema

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, chile de arbol, 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil. Place the broccoli and cauliflower on each baking sheet, making sure that it is well spread out and not crowded. Evenly pour the orange juice mixture all over the vegetables.

Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once in between, until well roasted and considerably charred. Remove from the oven.

In the jar of the blender, combine the queso cotija, Mexican crema, vegetable oil, sherry vinegar, water, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.

Serve the broccoli and cauliflower in an extended platter and ladle the queso cotija right on top, or let your guests spoon sauce onto their plates and dip their vegetables in the sauce to their liking.

Isla_Mujeres,_Garrafon_(24032614729)
All photos courtesy of Wikimedia 

Website: http://www.garrafon.com/

Hours: The park is open every day from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm in winter and from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm in summer.

Departures from Cancun: 9:30am and 11:00am
Returns from Garrafon: 4:15 pm and 5:30 pm (subject to change)

 

Queretaro: Colonial Charm in the Highlands of Mexico

My first morning in Queretaro, about a 90 minute drive north of Mexico City, I walked along the cobblestone streets in the city’s historic center to the fairy tale castle-like La Casa de la Marquesa, once a private home built in the 1756, now a restaurant and hotel. The menu reflects the vast citrus groves, ranches, cactus and cornfields that are part of the highland landscape here. Periodistas USA y dueno Casa de la Marquesa (1)

Plump figs, recently picked, sit on platters in the ornate dining room. Fresh oranges squeezed with cactus or beet juice are served on silver platters by waitresses dressed in garb that I at first thought was from another era of Mexico history but which I am told were designed to look like what Mary Poppins might have worn if there had been a Mary Poppins.

My host recommends Encarcelados – layers of fried eggs, beans, and ham topped with green sauce and crispy pork skins (a very popular food here and though not at all healthy, much more tasty than the pork rinds sold in the U.S.).Q 1

Accompanying breakfast and served in delicate cups are endless servings of hot coffee and crema caliente or hot cream. I decide not to worry about calories as I will be exploring the historic district, known for its fountains, city gardens and brightly painted buildings with wrought iron balconies, oversized carved wooden doors and, of course, this being Mexico, the most wonderfully ornate churches, many in a Spanish style characterized by elaborate engravings and known as Churrigueresque.

There’s an over the top creativity in this ultra clean city (there always seem to be uniformed groups hosing down the streets) and I peak into a restaurant and bar that was once an old apothecary shop whose interior walls are still stacked with the small drawers that once held pills and another one made of stone where water cascades down the length of a wall. The city is made of public squares, each with a fountain and often a statue or two as well. Food vendors sell candies, cook tacos on hot griddles and slice fruit that is then rolled in spices. A gaggle of school girls in uniforms ask if they can take my photo and want to pose with me. Most restaurants, if there is space, have outside seating since the weather is almost always fair.Periodistas USA y Enlace

Queretaro, though it has sophisticated cuisine, is also famed for its enchiladas, which are stuffed with beans, Oaxaca cheese, potatoes and topped with a red chile sauce or a cream sauce and often served with horachata, a sweet rice water drink common in Mexico. Guacamole with pork rinds for scooping are served with almost every meal, including the oyster and octopus tacos (much better than they sound) we taste later that night at Harry’s Bar, which features a blend of New Orleans and central Mexican cookery. Q 3

Evenings, after exploring the cathedrals with their 24 carat gold interiors, end with a stop at one of the many hot chocolate and churros (fried pastries) shops that dot the walkways. And each night I promise myself that I will walk an extra mile or so tomorrow not only to see more sights but to hopefully leave a few calories behind before I go home.

Enchiladas Suizas
(Creamy Enchiladas with Chicken, Tomatoes and Green Chile)

Ingredients:

2 28-ounce cans good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 serranos or 2 jalapeños), stemmed
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little oil for brushing or spraying the tortillas
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth, plus a little extra if needed
Salt
1/2 cup homemade crema, crème fraiche or heavy (whipping) cream
About 2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken
2/3 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
12 corn tortillas
A few sliced rounds of white onion, separated into rings, for garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

In a small dry skillet, roast the chiles over medium heat, turning regularly, until they’re soft and splotchy-black, about 5 minutes. Place in a blender or food processor along with the drained canned tomatoes. Blend to a smooth puree.

In a medium-size (4- or 5-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat the oil or lard over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and, when noticeably hotter, stir in the tomato puree. Cook, stirring, until darker in color and thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. The sauce should be a slightly soupy consistency—not as thick as spaghetti sauce. If it is too thick, stir in a little additional broth. Keep warm over low heat.

Other preliminaries. Stir the crema into the sauce. Put the chicken in a bowl and stir 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture into it. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it needs it. Have the cheese at the ready.

Heat the oven to 350°. Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of 4 to 6 nine-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.

Lay the tortillas out on a baking sheet (2 sheets if you have them, for more even heating), and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Working quickly so the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken into each tortilla, and then line them all up in the baking dishes.

Douse evenly with the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 15 minutes. Garnish with onion rings and cilantro sprigs. These are best served piping hot from the oven.

 

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.

For more information click here

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.