Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Huatulco Cruise Ship Schedule Fall 2011

In 2011, Huatulco will receive over 86,000 cruise ship passengers. The winter and spring season brought about 2/3 of them, and starting on September 16th, the rest will begin arriving. The first ship of this fall season is the 684 passenger Oceania Regatta, one of the smaller ships at 594 ft.
Regatta was one of the last ships here, last May 6th, enroute to Alaska where she spent the summer.

Click here for the Fall Cruise Ship Schedule Huatulco 2011

If you are ready to visit Huatulco by ship, here is a fabulous link describing the ships, the routes, and how you can book.

Here is an example:

Oceania Cruises, Oceania Regatta

21 Days - Starting in San Francisco with stops in Cruising the Pacific Ocean, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Puerto Chiapas, Puntarenas, Panama Canal Transit, Cartagena, Cruising the Caribbean Sea, George Town, Cruising The Straits Of Florid, Cruising the Atlantic Ocean, Savannah, Charleston, New York
2011 Sails: Sep 9


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Insider's Guide to a Week in Huatulco

The nice folks at My Huatulco Vacation invited me to write a guest blog post for them, An Insider's Guide to a Week in Huatulco. Problem is, you really need at least TWO WEEKS to see and do everything!  Enjoy!

So you’ve arrived Paradise, aka Huatulco, and let’s face it, it is like no other place you have ever visited!

Whether your stay is in a condo, hotel or villa, the first thing to do is just stop for a moment and breathe in the wonderful tropical atmosphere. Lush palms, gardens cascading with bright flowers, flocks of parrots, the warm salty breeze, the rhythm of the ocean on the shore … this will be the magical backdrop for everything you do while you are in Huatulco.
Here is an insider’s guide to a week in Paradise. Many vacations run Saturday to Saturday, so that is when we begin. Here is the most important advice that I can offer: WEAR SUNSCREEN!
Saturday Evening:  Sunset cocktails are a ritual in paradises all over the world, and Huatulco is no exception. The lofty elegant SkyBar at the Quinta Real on Tangolunda Bay or Xitric on the breakwater in Santa Cruz are definitely recommended.  Saturday night is a fun night to visit La Crucecita where the zocalo, or central park, with its soaring huayacan trees, is the centre of all the action. Courting couples, strolling musicians, art displays, craft sellers and indigenous artisans provide lots of local color. Want to try some Oaxacan cuisine? Sabor de Oaxaca is just a block off the zocalo, a bit upscale and well known for its traditional black mole and Oaxacan specialties.
Sunday is a great time to hit the beach, and this is when the choice gets tough. If you like to snorkel, I recommend Maguey or Entrega; if surfing is your thing, then La Bocana is your best and closest choice, and is also the home of Bocana Surf School where you can rent a board and take a few lessons. Sunday afternoon, however, should be reserved for Finca de Vaqueros in La Bocana. Mexico’s great ranch expanses have spawned a whole caballero or “cowboy” culture and Los Vaqueros is a cowboy bar/restaurant of the finest order. Our standard fare is charros (delicious beans in a tomato sauce), and a “mixta”  platter that includes arrachera (marinated steak), chorizo, ribs, and quail. All of these savory treats are accompanied by tender tortillas and an array of delicious salsas. A chunky onion condiment is my favourite. This is a great place try your first shot of legendary mescal. The beer is cold and the singing is smooth. Oh, didn’t I mention the singing? The owners have great crooning voices and are wonderful crowd pleasers. Wind up the evening with a beach stroll or amble around the zocalo in Crucecita.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Holy Pozole!

September 16th marks the 201st year of Mexico’s Independence, and throughout the country there will be parades and fireworks and feasts. Surely Mexico got it right when they picked their flag colors - red, green and white! Who couldn’t make a great meal based on foods of those colors? Chiles en nogada (see recipe in August Huatulco Eye), red, white and green rice, moles in a rainbow of colors and flavours, tamales with a variety of fillings….all of these are celebratory foods, the ones that are family favorites and cultural classics. When I asked Alfredo Patino (Eye publisher) what he would be eating on September 16th, there was no hesitation, “pozole!”

Pozole, a fragrant, thick soup/stew, has many variations, mostly regional…but whether you are eating green (Guerrero) or red (Jalisco or Michoacan) or white (Guadalajara) pozole, or pozole made with chicken or seafood (Veracruz), or most often, pork, it is almost always advertised as RICO POZOLE. Eating pozole is so celebratory, and so popular, that in many places throughout Mexico, certain days are designated pozole days. In Zihuatenejo, Guerrero, Thursdays are celebrated pozole day, with a whole street of restaurants called Pozole Alley featuring steaming cauldrons of the stuff. Here in Huatulco Saturday seems to be pozole day, with lots of local holes-in-the wall hanging out their Rico Pozole sign; a few restaurants have it on the menu all the time (Casa de Naranja, Los Gallos).

So what is the deal with pozole anyhow? Well, in the beginning there was corn. “Since corn was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozole Pozole, a Nahuatl word that means “foamy” is the name for dried kernels of corn which have been treated with cal, an alkaline solution, which denatures the germ and so makes for long storage periods without fear of sprouting. The cal also slightly changes the taste of the corn, which is the distinctive taste of pozole.

Pozole is available to the cook in a few different ways. Dried is the very conventional way, and in many villages is found at the local tortilleria. Pozole cooked with the dry corn, often nixtamalized (the cal process) by the home cook, will definitely be an all day affair. But pozole is also available processed, peeled and pre-cooked as a convenience ingredient. It is found in the refrigerated dairy case of Mexican supermarkets in a plastic pillow pack. I had a package of just this convenience pozole in my hand the other day in the grocery store when a friend passed by and said, “If you are going to make pozole, you have to go the whole way. You have to get the head of a pig.” I know, I know. But although I have eaten pozole with the head of a pig in the pot, and although I love the cheeks, and it is definitely the authentic way to do it, it is quite a different thing to start from scratch myself. The trotters are quite another thing, however, and I don’t find them so difficult, having grown up in a half Ukrainian household. We used them, pig’s feet and hocks, to make headcheese (minus the head). In my gringa opinion, for a rich tasting pozole, pork shoulder, augmented with a few trotters, is sufficient.

Besides its tradition as a celebratory meal, pozole really just makes sense for a big fiesta. A huge vat of the stew can be cooked on an outdoor fire, stoked and stirred lovingly, often through the night, to feed a big family or a village. It is relatively inexpensive, and can be held indefinitely, served hot or room temperature, and is just plain delicious.

One of the marvellous things about pozole is that it is the ultimate “custom” foods. There is a joke that goes,”!Ah, que Mexicanos estos, le ponen la ensalada a la sopa!” “Ah, those Mexicans! They put salad in the soup.” This is quite literally how you eat pozole. A tray of toppings accompanies the steaming bowl of pozole, and you dress your stew according to your individual taste. Shredded cabbage or crispy iceberg lettuce add a little sweetness, crisp red radishes sliced thinly add a peppery bite, chopped onions give an aromatic edge, wedges of lime squeezed into the broth brighten the taste and balance the sweetness of the pork and the corn, toasted dried Mexican oregano imparts a great earthy depth, and of course toasted chiles stirred into the caldo heat it up.

One of my favourite Jalisco pozole joints also offers platters of pickled pig’s feet and onions (patitas escabeche) with crisp tostadas and jalapeno rajas alongside its pozole. Rico, muy rico. By the way, pozole and all the accoutrements are known as fantastic hangover cures. Pozole is also delicious when accompanied with sipping tequila or mescal. (Tequila before, during, after…)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Huitlacoche: The Mexican Truffle

There is nothing like an earthy fungus to elevate a dish from ordinary to heavenly. Mushrooms – wild, cultivated, rare, expensive, are used in most international cuisines for their texture and depth of flavour. One of the most unusual of the mushroom family is corn smut, or Huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on ripening ears of corn, overtaking the natural growth; if left to mature, the result is misshapen and delicious spore-laden kernels.

Huitlacoche (pronounced wit-la-kō-chay), a wonderful error of nature, is basically corn smut. The term “Mexican Truffle” is attributed to a Huitlacoche-themed dinner presented at James Beard House in New York, celebrating Mexico’s nouvelle cuisine – old and new, the fusion of ancient Aztec and alto cuisines. Eradicated from crops in most of the world by fungicides, Huitlacoche is generally by necessity, organic. Its rarity and rise on the international culinary scene has meant premium prices for fresh Huitlacoche and experimental infections of otherwise healthy crops in selected areas of the United States.

Fresh, the truffle niblets are firm and smooth, whitish-silver in appearance, with some ashy discolorations. When they are cooked, the Huitlacoche turn black, deeply inky black. Canned Huitlacoche is always black, and is a good substitute when fresh is not available.

I first ate Huitlacoche at Chef Luis Fitch’s Los Xitomates Alta Cocina Mexicana in Puerto Vallarta – he stuffed mushrooms with the fragrant smut, a double fungus whammy, and poured a luxurious Huitlacoche sauce over a perfectly grilled filet of beef. Not far down the street from this 5 star restaurant, I discovered a taco stand where Huitlacoche was fried with onion and garlic, scattered on an oblong huarache, laced with stringy cheese and chiles. A tenth of the price, but 5 star flavour! Those were the days, my friend.

Here in Huatulco, Huitlacoche is rare on menus, even though the wonderful corn fields of Oaxaca are not so far away. One local restaurant, Los Gallos on Carrizal, makes delicious Huitlacoche sopes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Casa Volare Featured in International Living Magazine

Casa Volare is a California style beach house with a Huatulco price tag!

The folks at International Living were impressed - check out Page 30.

Download Your July 2011 Issue