Manzanillo Letter

By Manzanillo Sun Writer from the November 2014 Edition

Friends,

October is fast running out of days and snow is forecast for Alberta. Not unusual as in the last two falls we have seen snow that fell in October last for most of the winter. In fact on Oct. 20th, 2 yrs. ago , there was a significant snow fall that was still in drifts around fence lines in late April. Having been in agriculture for most of our lives, we recognize these colder temperatures as nearing ‘freeze up’ that time when land can no longer be worked because it simply has conducted too much frost.

It’s strange how the years pass so quickly. Feb. 2015 will be 12 years for us in Manzanillo, and there aren’t many 12’s left, if any. Is Manzanillo the apex of choices? Of course not, but it is the place that we and many others have chosen to escape northern winters and where we found something that attracted us. Manzanillo’s winter climate permits one to enjoy the outdoors every day, even more so than is possible in Canada’s summers. Certainly a logical choice after a life’s work.

Weather Underground right now indicates a high of 29 C for Manzanillo, but the humidex says it feels like 34 C. Yes, there is this period of time each fall where northern climates are becoming uncomfortably cool while Manzanillo is still uncomfortably warm. The choice is clear then if one has to make such a decision go to Manzanillo!

People ask, “What do you do in Manzanillo all winter?” A fair response for those who answer questions with questions might be, “What do you do all winter where you live, dealing with winter?” But the question needs a better response:

Mornings are simply perfect for coffee on the deck in cotton housecoats. From our vantage point, turtle tracks on the sand indicate that eggs were laid near Perla’s seawall during the night. Ships that have anchored in Manzanillo Bay take the place of others that have recently departed. We watch fishermen pull nets, sea birds checking for an easy catch, whales spouting in bay, and beach walkers making their way down the beach on the soft coral sand. In the background are TV traffic reports via Global Calgaryas thousands of commuters deal with the elements and crowded roadways to reach their daily destination. A local call on the Vonage phone puts us in touch with family, while incoming calls remind us that we are lucky, and request to know the current temperature at 22 degrees N latitude.

On a Tuesday or Friday, Betty, our maid, arrives to totally clean the place oh the hardship. She will work around us but it’s courtesy to stay out of her way. So, how about a short walk over to El Costeño and have a designer coffee? No, maybe better to go for a walk before it gets any warmer and have the coffee later.

Every two weeks or so, a massage is booked at Vicky’s. This middle aged lady is a master at pampering your body, and the price is simply well, inexpensive about 1/3 of what we pay at home. After a few of her marvellous treatments you’ll find yourself slipping into an altered state of consciousness while she performs her magic.

Or maybe we drive off to the north to Melaque and Rooster’s Restaurant for breakfast with Gary & Joyce. This amazing couple, who never seem to age and are transplants from Prince George BC, own a fabulous little restaurant where they serve breakfasts just like home, ie. Canada. They are great ambassadors and contributors to/for their community via their Rotary backgrounds, and make guests feel appreciated with every visit. Next door to Melaque is Cuastecomate, a favourite beachfront location to hang out for a few hours, walk the beach, watch sea-birds dive for fish, and enjoy freshly harvested oysters.

Each week we encourage attendance at a Casa Hogar Los Angelitos, Saturday dance practice. Here children from the orphanage and surrounding community go through a strenuous routine, honing their skills. Ultimately the best of the best are selected to do a tour somewhere in the USA or Canada each year. Imagine the opportunity – orphans or very poor children, responding to standing ovations in a theatre setting in a foreign country? Makes donors to this operation proud for sure. Please enjoy this new video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ1_o_dB9bI

But what do we do that is even more unique? Well, if you visit Manzanillo, or if you are already there but have not done so, you may decide to have Freddy cook for you in your Perla Del Mar home. Now Freddy is no average cook. He’s become a fixture in Las Brisas and absolutely loves entertaining guests. Although this is possibly the most expensive meal-deal in Manzanillo, by our standards Freddy’s day with you is a steal-deal.

Freddy knows where to find exactly what he needs and who to deal with. These purveyors arrive in the dark and disappear almost magically before the daily routine of locals begins.

But what do we do that is even more unique? Well, if you visit Manzanillo, or if you are already there but have not done so, you may decide to have Freddy cook for you in your Perla Del Mar home. Now Freddy is no average cook. He’s become a fixture in Las Brisas and absolutely loves entertaining guests. Although this is possibly the most expensive meal-deal in Manzanillo, by our standards Freddy’s day with you is a steal-deal.

Freddy and staff will prepare a wonderful meal in your Manzanillo residence, while he acts as a teacher, explaining each detail of preparation. The day begins (your choice to attend at this early hour) at about 6 am with a trip to Manzanillo Centro. On the usually crowded but, at this time of day, vacant streets, are vendors who arrive before daylight to trade with business owners and wholesalers. Almost any type of food or produce that one can imagine is available.

Freddy knows where to find exactly what he needs and who to deal with. These purveyors arrive in the dark and disappear almost magically before the daily routine of locals begins.

Freddy, in green, buys many items from this store owner (on the right) while an early rising local comes to review the daily paper. Freddy says this store in particular carries items that he cannot find anywhere else in the city.

We tell Freddy that we’d like to try freshly caught Pargo, a very delicate and tender fish. These mid size and very red fish yielded beautiful fillets, later becoming our main course.

Next Dorado (Mahi Mahi) is needed for Freddy’s absolutely delicious ceviche. He is advised that fishing has been poor and Dorado is in very short supply.

Never mind though, “Chef” as Freddy is very respectfully called by everyone, will get Dorado. So out comes a whole and beautiful Dorado to be filleted while Freddy, and friend Al look on.

Freddy and staff work in our kitchen to prepare a fabulous meal while guests and our daughter Lisa look on. He stresses cleanliness, using for example a different knife and cutting surface for every ingredient. Makes for lots of dishes – as can be seen in this photo, the gal on the left washes dishes for much of the afternoon.

And this is the ceviche, much different from the ground fish that is found in many restaurants and employed in most ceviche recipes. The Dorado (white squares) are cooked in lime juice about 60 Key Limes, hand squeezed, covering the cubed fish for an hour.

Manzanillo and area is considered the lime capital in Mexico. At one time large plants dotted this coast, processing limes. We met a plant owner some years ago who had spent a good part of his agricultural career processing limes – about 8,000 tonnes a year.

Trust us; it is difficult to save room for a main course when this tantalizing dish is begging to be eaten. Descriptive words have not yet been invented that relate how good this ceviche tastes.

Apologies to Freddy here as there appears to be a certain lack of enthusiasm for the beautiful main course that he and staff have meticulously prepared. By this time the seven of us have been eating for about an hour and a half; ceviche, coconut shrimp and morsels that Freddy casually suggests we need to taste.

Freddy owns a little sidewalk restaurant called Chef Para LlevArt. After training in San Francisco, CA, Freddy taught culinary arts at the University in Manzanillo. No doubt it has been a struggle for him to educate the palates of locals, but he has triumphed. For sure he appreciates November when Northerners arrive and his business flourishes. Spending a day with ‘Chef’, buying food, watching his preparatory skills, and then enjoying the bounty, is a true pleasure. We will do it again soon and certainly recommend such a day as a potential highlight of your trip.

Where is Freddy located? Well, he’s only a very few steps from Perla Del Mar, and about 4 blocks past the crucero into LasBrisas. His little sidewalk cafe won’t wow you, but his food is exceptional. But don’t take just our word, please check out what others think: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g150791-d2532267Reviews-Chef_Para_LlevArt_bistro_cafe_bar-Manzanillo_Pacific_Coast.html

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Manzanillo Sun’s eMagazine written by local authors about living in Manzanillo and Mexico, since 2009

Manzanillo Sun Writer

Manzanillo Sun's eMagazine written by local authors about living in Manzanillo and Mexico, since 2009

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