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.

Freelancing Equals Freedom: How to Become a Writer as a Digital Nomad

Freelance opportunities have always been attractive to people who crave freedom and flexibility in their professional lives. Thanks to technology, it’s now easier than ever to work remotely from the location of your choosing as a writer. You may even have such success that you end up morphing your freelance gigs into a bona fide small business opportunity. Guest blogger Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout shares some tips on how to make it happen.

Assess Your Skill Sets

There are a number of different occupations that can be done in a freelance or independent contracting capacity. Before exploring the potential for your industry, make a self-assessment that includes an honest appraisal of your ability to work and write in a sometimes challenging environment. Being knowledgeable in your field, having enough industry contacts, and being well prepared can all help boost your odds for success. Good time management skills and a self-starter personality are essential to being a freelance writer.

Where Will You Work?

As a freelancer, you won’t be working a 9-to-5 office schedule, but you will need to have the appropriate workspace and equipment to be able to do your job effectively. This typically means a quality laptop with reliable internet connectivity as well as access to private and quiet work spaces you can use as necessary. You may also need a noise-blocking headset or private workspace that allows you to conduct Zoom or phone conversations with potential clients. You may even be able to work on-site for some of your clients, reducing the need for your own office space.

When first starting out, choose a handful of job boards where you can detail your work skills and experience as well as share your portfolio. For example, you can offer blog writing services through a site like Upwork. Here, potential clients can read reviews from other clients and learn more about what you have to offer.

Traveling as a Freelancer

According to Influence Digest, many freelancers decide to work in this capacity so they have the ability to travel and to build flexibility into their lives. Others travel because it’s related to their particular line of work. For example, if you’re a freelancer who reviews vacation destinations or different points of interest across the globe, you may be traveling on a regular basis. If costs are not covered as part of your assignment, look for low-cost rentals and off-season travel times, and make sure tech capabilities are adequate so you can efficiently do your job. Travel via public transportation or fly standby. According to CNET, having a credit card that gives you rewards points toward travel can also be beneficial.

Building a Business

You may find that demand for your writing is expanding to a point where you’d like to establish yourself as a small business. In this case, taking the steps to register a business name and establish a formal business entity is a good idea. A DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” is the way to name your company without necessarily having to attach your own name to it from a public perspective. A DBA makes it easier to branch out into ancillary services if you decide you would like to do work for different industries under the same business umbrella. You can also use the DBA to establish banking and online accounts, as well as use it in billing statements and in cashing checks.

Working as a freelance writer provides numerous opportunities for flexibility and choosing work you find personally and professionally rewarding. As a small business, you may also have a greater degree of control over your earnings. Careful budgeting will be essential to ensuring success. Also keep in mind that as a freelancer, you’ll have to pay your own share of taxes as well as that of your “employer” (you) in making contributions to your Social Security account. Keep these matters in mind for long-term planning, budgeting, and expense tracking.

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.

CHURROS AND CHOCOLATE: THE PERFECT END TO AN EVENING IN MADRID

In Madrid, we take a cobblestone street down a narrow street between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to El Pasadizo San Gines and happen upon Chocolatería San Gines, the oldest churro shop in the city, having opened in 1894. There are two shops, just across the way from each other and both have long lines. But it’s our last night in Madrid and we are willing to wait. Ordering our churros and chocolate along with cups of coffee we find a outdoor table and sit down to wait–impatiently–for our treats. The churros when they are arrive are thick ropes of sugar coated dough fried to a golden brown and hot to the touch. We tear off chunks and dip them in deep bowls of thick rich chocolate and then taste. Sublime.

I think of churros as originating in Spain where they may have first been by shepherds, their name coming from the horns of the Churra sheep they tended. In turn the Spaniards, when they invaded Mexico, brought along their foods including churros and  buñuelos–a similar dish. Churro and chocolate shops are now common throughout Mexico. But their history may be more complicated as Portuguese sailors returning from China may have carried the recipe for youtiaos, another fried bread snack.

It’s close to midnight when we finally finished but this being Madrid the streets were just a lively and people still stood in line for their churros and chocolate.

Back in the U.S., I was desperate for my churro fix. Fortunately, there’s Take & Bake Churro Kit from San Diablo Artisan which beats making these treats from scratch. The company says they’re the only churro kit maker in the country making it a one-of-a-kind gift. There’s no messing with dough, making your own filling or frying them up. Instead, the kit contains 13 pre-made and chilled mini churros already fried to a golden brown and dusted with sugar and cinnamon as well as a selection of fillings such as Nutella, dulce de leche or sweet cream already packaged in squeeze bottles. Just fill the churros and pop in the oven or air fryer to reheat.

For the real foodie who wants to do a deep dive into churro making, San Diablo Artisan, a Utah based company, also sells churro dough so you can roll your own. And if you want to go all out when it comes to making churros, you can buy their recently introduced kit with a churro maker and nine different shapes of interchangeable nozzles.

San Diablo Artisan Churros specializes in creating artisan-filled churros for special events and celebrations. The proprietary, award-winning churro dough recipe is made from scratch and fried on-demand. The fried golden brown, hollow-centered churros are filled with “happiness”—gourmet fillings of choice. In a relentless search for churro perfection, the menu has expanded to include seasonal flavors, savory churro offerings, and nationwide at-home delivery. San Diablo members enjoy outstanding quality artisanal food that is undeniably fresh, delicious, and delivered with a unique style of fun. Like their Artisan Churros, San Diablo is filled with social good: supporting local, national, and international non-profit causes. 

FOR THOSE LIKE ME WHO THOUGHT SIRACHA WAS HOT

My friend Sophie Clinton, Sophie Clinton, Senior Digital PR Executive at The JBH: The Digital PR Agency sent me a fascinating research study from money.co.uk titled Searching for the Sauce

For those of us who like hot sauce, it a scientific study of the hottest chillis, their Scoville Hotness Units (SHUs), what foods go well with the heat and the peppers and other interesting facts. So before you add sprinkle any of the following on your food, read up.

1. Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9 – 9,000,000 SHU
 

  • Plutonium Pepper Extract
  • 5,300
  • Do not consume directly, strictly a food additive only. 

The world’s hottest sauce is Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9 and comes in at 9 million Scoville Hotness Units (SHUs).

To put that in perspective, pepper spray, the substance used to stop criminals, clocks in at around 5.3 million SHUs – 3,700,000 SHUs less than Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9. 

Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9 is also 60% pure capsicum, and comes in a solid form. In order to consume the fiery substance, you have to heat the sauce to 140 degrees Fahrenheit just to get it out of the bottle. 

2. El Yucateco Green Chile Habanero – 8,910 SHU

  • 8,910
  • Green habanero peppers
  • 11,000
  • Chicken, fries, eggs, pizza

El Yucateco is made with fresh habanero peppers, garlic, select spices and seasonings. This special mix of ingredients adds a homely and fresh flavor to dishes.

It is ideal to accompany any kind of food, but especially meat and cold dishes. You can even mix up your own spicy Guacamole with a few drops of this popular hot sauce.

The study revealed that hot sauce fans in the US were searching for the brand more than any other country, with 8,300 searches made each month by American foodies. Texas preferred El Yucateco over any other, and the sauce scored a respectable 8,910 SHUs.

3. Crystal Hot Sauce – 4,000 SHU


  • 4,000
  • cayenne peppers
  • 11,000
  • Sandwiches, eggs, chicken

The cayenne peppers in Crystal Hot Sauce have a Scoville rating of between 30,000 and 50,000, which makes them four to twenty times hotter than a jalapeño pepper. However, the sauce itself offers a comparatively mild heat of 2,000 to 4,000 SHUs. 

Aside from the peppers, Crystal Hot Sauce also contains distilled white vinegar that serves as a complement to the heat of the peppers. The last ingredient that makes up Crystal Hot Sauce is salt.

Hot sauce lovers in the US search for the brand around 10,000 times each month, with Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi all searching for the hot sauce the most. Louisiana topped the list with 646 monthly searches. 

4. Tapatío Hot Sauce – 3,000 SHU

    

  • red peppers
  • 1,200
  • Tacos, breakfast dishes, eggs

Tacos, breakfast dishes, eggs

Tapatio Hot Sauce entered the business world in 1971, and the condiment has come a long way since. A robust habanero sauce with great flavour that’s good for all round use.

Tapatío can be found in sizes ranging from individual packets to gallon-sized bottles and provides hot sauce fans with a kick at 3,000 SHUs. 

5. Sriracha Sauce – 2,200 SHU

Base Chilli: red jalapeño chili peppers

Pairs well with: Eggs, pizza, burgers, fries, hot dogs, sushi, chicken

Sriracha is arguably one of the most common varieties of hot sauces found in pantries the world over. The condiment is tasty, garlicky, and ultra versatile. 

Sriracha emerged as the most popular hot sauce in the world, according to the study by money.co.uk, with 77% of the countries included in the report searching for the spicy condiment more than any other. 

The US is searching for Sriracha the most, with 151,000 monthly searches being made for the condiment. That’s 5,033 London bus passengers worth each month.

This is followed by spice lovers in both the UK and Australia, searching for Sriracha 55,000 and 23,000 times per month, respectively.

6. Cholula Hot Sauce – 1,000 SHU

Arbol and piquin peppers

Pizza, sandwiches, tacos, burgers

The product is packaged in a glass bottle with a distinctive round wooden cap. Six varieties of Cholula are widely marketed in North America and the brand can be found in almost every Mexican restaurant. The sauce is satisfyingly hot with ingredients such as pequins (which are seven times hotter than a jalapeño) and arbol peppers, which lends its unique flavour to the brand, setting it apart from Louisiana hot sauces.

The study found that Cholula Hot Sauce was the most popular sauce in the US, with 32,000 searches for the condiment being made each month by spice loving foodies. 

In fact, the condiment took the top spot in 40 states, with 15,248 searches each month, including New York, Florida and Illinois. Cholula is widely available in the US and scores between 1,000 and 2,000 on the Scoville heat scale.

7. Texas Pete

  • red cayenne peppers
  • 10,000
  • Breakfast dishes, burgers, fries

Everyone’s got some Texas Pete sitting around in their pantry. The condiment is a great option for when you want something a little hotter than normal but you also don’t want to burn your mouth out. 

Texas Pete was founded in 1929 in North Carolina by the TW Garner Food Company. The sauce first originated after customers at the Dixie Pig BBQ stand in Winston-Salem asked for a spicier sauce to accompany their food, leading to the creation of the popular brand.

When first developing the brand name, a marketing adviser suggested “Mexican Joe” to connote the spicy cuisine of Mexico. However, this was opposed due to the creators wanting the name to be American. Therefore, as Texas is known for its spicy food; this was combined with Pete. 

8. Tabasco – 700 SHU

  • Tabasco pepper
  • 190,000
  • Sandwiches, salads, burgers, pasta, French fries, cheese fries, pizza, and even mashed potatoes

Tabasco is an American brand of hot sauce made from vinegar, tabasco peppers, and salt. It is produced by the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, southern Louisiana. 

Although the regular Tabasco sauce only ranks at 400 SHU, Tabasco Green Sauce hits the scale at 1,000 SHU, Tabasco Pepper Sauce reaches 3,500, and the Tabasco brand ‘Habanero Sauce’ gets up to a tingling 8,000 SHU. Meaning that the brand knows how to cater for all spice levels. 

9. ‘Louisiana’ Hot Sauce – 450 SHU

  • Cayenne peppers
  • 13,000
  • Chicken wings

Louisiana hot sauce is also a very popular and common condiment that will most likely feature in many kitchen cupboards around the world. 

With over a 90-year history of great taste and quality, the brand of hot sauces continues to use the time-honored techniques of Louisiana style cooking. The sauces are produced using simple ingredients, including carefully selected and hand-picked, authentic sun-ripened peppers.

The low Scoville units demonstrates why this condiment is such a crowd pleaser, with the sauce adding a slight kick to any dish without burning your tongue. 

10. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

  • Cayenne
  • 1,100
  • buffalo wings 

Frank’s RedHot was actually the main ingredient used in the first buffalo wing sauce created in 1964 at the Anchor Bar and Grill in Buffalo. 

Frank’s RedHot sauce might not be the spiciest- with a Scoville score of just 450 – but it’s certainly popular in America. Californian foodies are the biggest fans of the hot sauce with 3,033 monthly searches being made for the hot sauce. 

Frank’s RedHot is made from a variety of cayenne peppers, and was first launched in 1920 by McCormick.

Hot Sauce Popularity Around the World

Hot sauce lovers, we know you’re a dedicated bunch when it comes to those fiery condiments. After all, what would Moroccan food be without a dash of Harissa? Or Thai food without the added Sriracha heat?

Many home cooks are utilising the expansion of their local supermarkets world cuisine aisles and discovering new and exotic condiments along the way. 

By experimenting and adding previously undiscovered sauces to dishes, added depths of flavour are instantly released that help bring food to life. The global hot sauce market reached a value of $4.5bn in 2020, highlighting just how addictively popular hot sauce has become. 

But why do so many of us have such a deep love of chili, spice and all things nice?

Well, when you consume foods containing chili peppers, certain receptors in your mouth react extremely powerfully, and that tricks your brain into thinking that your mouth is on fire. 

As part of the body’s response to this stress, you will produce endorphins to help stem the pain. These endorphins subsequently make you feel joyful. 

Gorditas el Comal de Doña Meche

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 aqua 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.

San Miguel Street Scene by Jane Simon Ammeson.

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

San Miguel de Allende. Photo Jane Simon Ammeson.

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.

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.


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.