Friday, February 29, 2008

The Perfect Margarita


I have been an aficionado of tequila and margaritas for years. I have certainly enjoyed my quota of both.El tequila is a powerful drink and must be used with caution, so I have a couple of suggestions:

Drink only the best tequila. Any tequila that is 100% agave will do. The white tequilas are the most pure and are less likely to give a hangover.However, for flavor, I like the reposados, the darker tequilas that have been aged in oak barrels usually for 18 months. My favorite tequila is Don Julio Reposado and it has been very generous to me over the years.

Treat tequila like a fine cognac. It is made for sipping not for shooting (unless you are 20 years old and are in Carlos and Charlies. Been there, done that. YUK…glad I survived.) Now a days, I enjoy sipping and enjoying my tequila poco a poco. I don't use limes or sangrita, just a nice sip every few minutes. Just enough to enjoy the flavor. Sometimes I like to drink my tequila with a beer and that is refreshing. Also, they mix well in the belly.

Now, how do I make my margarita? I usually start my margarita mixing the tequila- one portion, the controy- one portion, and the lime juice- one portion. Then I taste for flavor. This can vary depending on how tart the limes are. If the margarita is too tart, add some more controy, but be careful. Poco a poco.

Warren Hardy's Perfect Margarita: ONE, ONE, ONE
1 part good tequila, white tequila is preferable.1 part lime juice, fresh squeezed limes only.1 part Cointreau or "Controy,"

If you like Salt, run the edge of a cut lime around the rim of the glass, then dip the rim in a plate of salt.

The glass is very important. I like a stemmed glass that has a cone shape. The larger the better. Here in San Miguel they blow the large thick coned shaped glasses and they work best. The reason is that the ice melts slowly and as the ice melts and the margarita goes down, it maintains a perfect consistency of cold margarita without getting watery. That is important. Nobody likes a watery margarita. Good to the last drop is my motto.

Now, you probably wonder why we started of with UN MARGARITA. This is because tequila is a masculine word, and so is margarita.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

San Miguel Newsbulletin - February 2008 - DAVID TURNS 26 IN MEXICO

By now, you’ve read all about El Machin chicken, motorcycling, hiking in a natural hot spring area, and a myriad of other experiences in and around San Miguel. Carlos has entertained all of us with his tales of adventure, writing with great enthusiasm, humor and personality, plus lots of great photographs to illustrate his stories. He has become “super-blogger” (aka SUPERMAN) and even strangers are reading our blog with interest!

Since I had not written in a while, I decided to take the plunge again.

As many of you know, my mother has not been well, and has been in and out of the hospital over the past months. She is currently in a rehab center, recovering from yet another bout of pneumonia, high blood pressure, and more. We are hopeful that with therapy and the wonderful caregiving of my Dad and sister Julie, she will regain her strength and be able to return home soon. Also, after extensive tests, my recent incident of passing out on the airplane proved to be nothing serious. Thank goodness!

We are constantly amazed at the quality of cultural events available to us in San Miguel . Besides all the art openings, we have attended concerts of classical string quartets, gypsy jazz with Doc Severson, Gil y Cartes, Sephardic music, lectures at the San Miguel Writers' Conference (Rebecca Walker and Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab’s Wife) to name a few. Cooking still plays a big role with us, as witnessed by our New Year’s blog and the other cooking classes we have hosted at our home. I will post more recipes soon. In two weeks the First International Food and Wine Festival will be held here, with guest chefs Rick Bayliss, Diana Kennedy and others. It is sure to be a memorable event. All of this eating and cooking does little for waistline, but lots for the food enthusiast!

My life here is intertwined with art and art-making. The picture to the left shows a few of our new art acquisitions. The pots are from Michoacan, a nearby state. The figures are "santos" - saints - that came from churches or private chapels, and were dressed with handmade clothes for holidays. I like them as they are - undressed and damaged.

My big news is that my dream of building a studio is coming true. Work has started this week on a rooftop studio! Everything is lifted up and down scaffolding built in our courtyard. This will be our life for the next 6 weeks, but finally I will have my very own studio.

I am continuing to make jewelry with old bakelite buttons and sterling silver, working with two charming and talented Mexican brothers. I am selling the necklaces and rings here and back in Michigan. I will have my new website soon, which will feature all the jewelry as well as my mixed-media photography. Another exciting project is that I have just produced my first set of handpainted dinner and salad plates (see picture below). In March, along with fellow printmakers who accompanied me to China, I will be exhibiting our “Zouba” (“Let’s Go” in Chinese) portfolio in Richmond, Virginia at the Southern Graphic Council Printmaking Conference. I feel very fortunate to have all of these opportunities and am constantly inspired by living in this magical, richly colorful city.

We have had anumber of visitors recently. Our Huntington Woods friend Jane Steinger and our son David and his special girlfriend Jen Seader, were just visiting in the past few weeks. Our times with them were busy and wonderful, experiencing all that San Miguel has to offer - the markets, botanical garden, walking the town, eating and more eating, visiting friends, shopping, art galleries, and more. As you can see from the first picture on this blog, David turned 26 while he was here, and we had a little party for him!

In February, I hosted a six day workshop in photography, drawing and mixed-media for a group of 12 from Savannah. I acted as tour guide, cook, host, and teacher. I worked with Susan Weiss (Fran Linden’s sister) and Bill Durrance (a Nikon School photographer). The experience was fantastic, and to my great pleasure, they have already made reservations to return next year!

My Spanish is still at the third grade level. I try but the words escape me. Carlos continues to amaze us all with his mastery of the language! Just call us on our Vonage phone (248-341-3532) and hear his message in Spanish - you’ll see what I mean.

We have developed a wonderful community of friends here, but we always remember the adage, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”

Come visit; write at the very least….
Thinking of all of you often.

Love, Linda y Carlos

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Roughing it Easy in Tolantongo

While Linda was teaching a group of 12 artists from the USA, I decided to join an Audubon Society outing to Tolantongo, in the state of Hidalgo. I had never heard of the place, but a two day trip with hiking and hot springs with a congenial group seemed just the ticket for me.

No driving trip in Mexico begins or ends simply. One does not merely drive in to a gas station, fill up, check the tires and oil and go on one's way. Something always happens, or something always strikes one (at least me) as interesting and unique. This trip - about 150 miles and 4 hours - began when we met at Bruce and Mary's Carruther's home to begin the three car caravan. After driving for an hour or two, we stopped at a gas station (all gas stations in Mexico are Pemex, are owned by the government, and have identical prices) for a pit stop.

This gas station included a movie theater, video games, a pizza parlor, various food options and a chapel. Considering the way people drive in Mexico, the chapel is probably a great idea.

The "exquisite" hot dogs did not appeal to me; nor did the Chula Chups, one of the popular Mexican candies.

I noticed a station worker cleaning the windshield of a car (not one of ours). I've never seen anything quite like this.

Our first view of Tolantongo was from a dirt road, as we descended a series of steep switchbacks. I learned that Tolantongo was on private "Ejido" land, which is land that was deeded to peasants after the Mexican revolution in 1912 (?). Probably only a few hundred people live on this beautiful high desert land, and until they figured out that tourists would actually pay to visit, they probably eked out a bare living.

Our arrival at the small inn was uneventful. The rooms were simple and spartan, but the views from the deck were stupendous. Room prices were modest (see sign) - about $60 per double room.

We could see the blue, blue river and the pools that led down to the river. What I didn't realize at the time was that all the water - the river and the pools - were the result of thermal springs. The river flowed hot!

After dropping our bags in the room, we prepared for the first day's hike. We were told we would be walking through water, and should wear running shoes or something that could get wet. I wore my new Keene's, as yet unproven! The path was more or less paved most of the ways. There were lots of steps. In the near distance, we saw water cascading down cliff faces. The place was deserted, except for a few workers and half a dozen other tourists. None appeared to be looking for an outdoor experience - rather a water park.

Somewhat bizarre, there was a pile of sandals on the ground near the entrace to the grottos. There were certainly not enough people around to claim the shoes. Presumably they were artifacts of some ancient civilization who had used the hot springs!

We spent several hours climbing (mostly on stone stairways) from hot pool to hot pool Some had waterfalls cascading down. Some were just simple hot water pools. A large grotto had a tunnel to another cave where a man with a flashlight provided illumination (cheaper than using electricity?). We endulged ourselves until most of us looked like prunes. Sorry that there aren't too many photos - either I was enjoying myself too much or I didn't want to risk taking the camera in the water.

After a divine experience in the pools, we regrouped for a cocktail party. Participants had brought wine and various treats. After an hour of appetizers, few of us had an appetite for dinner. However, staunch explorers that we were, most of us went down to the restaurant to stimulate the local economy. This was comparatively difficult, as the most expensive dish was 40 pesos, about $3.75. I took a look into the kitchen and stole some photos...let's just say it looked as if electricity had just been discovered.

I hope that everyone else slept as well as I did that night. The drive, the hike, the hot springs, the wine and the dinner conspired to put me into a deep sleep. The bed and pillow were the hardest I had ever experienced (I may never ask for a firm mattress again).

In the morning, I realized that the room had no hot water. Perhaps they thought "Why provide hot water to the guests? They have hot springs all over. Let's just put in a shower and make them think there is hot water!" Fooled me!

In any case, we awoke and shared a wonderful breakfast, courtesy of the Audubon Society. Our hosts had even brought toasters and smoked salmon! Time for a siesta again? No, time for a hike downstream today. So we took off, backpacks in hand (well, on backs, actually). At the beginning of our hike, we walked along a path parallel to the river. At one point, I looked down at the river, and saw this interesting sight - a junk car! How unique to this otherwise pristine, lovely nature preserve. There are some things that the Mexicans haven't gotten yet!

We continued on the walk and saw some interesting and beautiful sights, including these banana tree flowers. I have never seen anything quite like this. The colors are from nature - not Kodachrome or Photoshop.

Later (see other photos), we crossed the river on a small footbridge. It was pretty dicey, but everyone made it, except for one person (unnamed) who thought discretion was the better part of valor and did not attempt the crossing.