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Dr. Miguel Ortiz, General Dental Services, a Root Canal or Implants

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN MEXICO IS “FIRST WORLD”

Restaurant Fleur, Mandalay Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas

Baja realtors reporting uptick in sales to foreign buyers-mostly U.S.

Dr. Miguel Ortiz, General Dental Services, a Root Canal or Implants

Posted in: Medical Services | Comments (0)

Foreigners, seeking medical services in Mexico, are generally motivated by the cost savings for treatment.  However, they are sometimes leery about the professional training or the medical technology available to Mexican physicians.  This is not the case with dental professionals.  Mexican dentistry enjoys a worldwide reputation for having the best dental schools while utilizing state of the art equipment in their treatment of patients.  Dr. Miguel Ortiz is a prime example.

Dr. Ortiz earned his D.D.S. degree in the 1980’s at one of the world’s most prestigious dental schools The National University of Mexico, School of Dentistry in Mexico City.  He then earned an endodontic (root canal) specialty from that same institution.   In 1992 he returned to his alma mater to receive a master’s degree in the then new science of dental implants.  So new was the procedure that his professors had only a few months of implant experience in their practice.  Dr. Ortiz was determined to be “the best implant specialist he could be”.   A perfectionist, he complemented his master’s degree in Mexico by furthering his studies at the prestigious Stultz Training Center in Northern California.  And, advanced bone surgery training at the Map Institute in Florida.

I have been referring U.S. and Canadian patients to Dr. Ortiz for the past fifteen years.  A result of my personal dentist, the best I have ever had the privilege of knowing, extolling Dr. Ortiz and his work as an implant specialist.  I am pleased to say that my referrals have met with one hundred and twenty percent satisfactions.  More than complete satisfaction with his work; patients tell me that his commitment to them is unprecedented in their experience with health professionals in general.   They report that Dr. Ortiz is considerate and obliging to their special concerns,   whether economic or emotional.  He is fluent in English and patiently addresses their questions and doubts about the procedure.  A doctor’s “bedside manner” is often as important as the procedure for treatment.  Dr. Ortiz has that ability to engage with folks.  He listens to his patients and calms their fears. Demonstrating understanding of their unique concerns and needs.

For this article, I sat down with Dr. Ortiz to better understand why he is so good at what he does.  Successful professionals whether in the arts, science or business, love what they do.  Such is the case with Dr. Ortiz. He decided to be a dentist at age ten.  His older sister was the inspiration.  She had a dental practice in Mexico City where Dr. Ortiz was born and raised.  He visited her office on a regular basis, fascinated by the value and importance of her work.

Dr. Ortiz came to Baja California on a visit in October of 1985.  He remembers the date because he experienced love at first sight with his new home: the warmth of Ensenada’s people, the ocean, and most important, an opportunity to bring new skills to the dental community of this provincial city.  The most respected dentist in Ensenada, at that time, was Dr. Carlos Gallegos Quinoz.  Dr. Gallegos needed help to handle the large volume of patients he attended.  Upon meeting Dr. Ortiz, he was so impressed by his training and dedication; he offered to share his practice with the young dentist.

A successful practice, especially dental implants requires careful and precise lab work. Dr. Ortiz has a state of the art laboratory in his clinic. This enables a patient to walk out of his office in an hour – dental implant firmly in place.  Thorough sterilization is insured by two separate sterilization machines. And, Dr. Ortiz minimizes trauma by practicing minimal invasion surgery.  Accomplished by using laser assisted periodontal therapy. His use of digital X rays reduces radiation exposure by 90%.  Dr. Ortiz says the huge Investment in technical equipment is essential for the best dental care possible.  The payoff is patient confidence that nothing has been spared to achieve the best and healthiest result possible.

Dr. Ortiz’s office is conveniently located near the entrance to downtown.  His clinic is next to the immigration office on the way to the container port.  Parking is never a problem.  Plenty of reserved spaces  at the entrance to the clinic.

When I asked what was the greatest reward Dr. Ortiz receives from his practice, he responded: “The way my patients greet me when I encounter them on the streets of Ensenada.  They give me hugs and express their gratitude for a job well done whether in Spanish or English.  That is what dentistry is all about for me – satisfied patients who are enjoying new found dental health.”

Whether you require general dental services, a root canal or implants.  Dr. Ortiz, practices state of the art “minimal invasion” dental surgery.  The results are less trauma and shorter recovery time.  As we say in my hometown Oakland – Dr. Ortiz, “He da man”.

CALL DR. ORTIZ FOR A NO COST CONSULTATION FROM THE U.S.: 011 52 646 1783176

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leejose @ August 27, 2012

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN MEXICO IS “FIRST WORLD”

Posted in: Travel | Comments (1)

In comparing public transportation between the United States and Mexico, the third world-first world dichotomy is thrown on its ear.  For example, bus transportation in the U.S. is expensive and routes are ridiculously limited. Consequently, bus travel in the U.S. is time consuming and inconvenient.  Mexico’s buses, on long routes, make no stops.  Getting you there almost as fast as driving yourself. 

Mexico’s buses on long routes are luxuriously appointed with seats that allow you to lean back and comfortably sleep.  These luxury vehicles have toilets on board and en route movies.  The last bus trip I took from Autlan Jalisco to Guadalajara (4 hours), they served us soft drinks and you could hear the movie on bose like headphones.  Not those uncomfortable, in the ear, headphones.  The cost for this 150 mile trip was eighteen dollars.  Much cheaper than the gas I would consume in my automobile 

My most frequent bus trips are from my home in Ensenada, Baja California to the border crossing into San Diego County.  From my home to the bus terminal I can take a micro bus, ten to twenty passengers. The cost is less than a dollar.  And,  these micro buses come by every five minutes or so.  I have never waited more than ten minutes.  There are also “taxis de ruta”.  Cabs that pick up passengers traveling the same route and are also less than a dollar.   What an amazing concept.  Instead of passengers who don’t know each other sharing a cab-the cabbies do it for you.   I usually take a “radio cab” that picks me up at my home and delivers me to the bus station for $5.50.  The same cab ride (eight miles)  in the states would cost $15 – $20.00.

Greyhound buses are expensive and uncomfortable.  My Mexican bus ride to the border is in luxury: reclining seats, toilet and a movie during the two hour trip.  I could make it in one hour and a half hours in my automobile but would spend $60.00 for  gas and $15.00 in highway tolls.  My round trip bus ticket is $22.00, but with a senior discount card, the cost is $12.00.  Can’t beat it.  Often, I just go to Tijuana on business,  without crossing the border.  It is cheaper for me to take the bus and then cabs to whatever destinations  in Tijuana.  I don’t have to fight the traffic and have never spent more than ten dollars for a day of cab rides.  And, I avoid getting lost.  Something I’m proficient at.

If I continue my trip into downtown San Diego or the airport, I can walk across the border in half the  time it takes to cross in an automobile.  Actually, I cross without waiting in line when I show the credential I carry indicating I have bi lateral titanium hips.   Upon crossing the border, I board the very efficient San Diego trolley.  I can ride the trolley to the train station for $1.25 (senior fare) and the shuttle to the airport arrives every ten minutes.  On occasion I must travel to Los Angeles on business.  The Amtrak from San Diego and return is $55.00 for seniors.

The reasons for public transportation being so convenient and inexpensive in Mexico is because there are fewer restrictions on folks operating a micro bus or taxi, especially a “taxi de ruta”.   And, Permits, insurance, maintenance are much less expensive in Mexico when compared to the United States.   In Mexico public transportation is efficient, comfortable, convenient and inexpensive – First World.  In the U.S., public transportation is uncomfortable, expensive and inconvenient – Third World by my criteria.  So if you fear driving into Mexico.  Do what hip ex patriots do: take buses and taxis

Also, I want to put a plug in for Volaris Airlines with routes throughout Mexico.  If you book a couple months in advance you can get incredible deals.  My wife and I are flying to Puerta Vallarta and back to Tijuana for $80.00 each round trip.  Volaris has great service, free alcoholic beverages and friendly attendants.  Flights to most major Mexican cities from Tijuana and now the San Francisco bay area and Chicago.

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leejose @ November 2, 2011

Restaurant Fleur, Mandalay Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas

Posted in: Food and Music | Comments (0)

For six months, Mexicomatters’ newsletter has been dormant.  Devoting my time to finishing my book – “The U.S. and Mexico Joined At The Groin” that will be available December 2011 via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kindle.  Also, I have been devoting a lot of time to our tequila distillery in  Autlan, Jalisco, birthplace of Carlos Santana.  Yes, that is correct, your homeboy, LeRoy Jose Amate is now in the tequila business.  Casta Negra is the brand and it will be available November 10, 2011.  The following article is about one of our clients in Las Vegas – the Fleur Restaurant.  Dinner at Fleur was an extraordinary dining experience.  And, since most of my readers travel to Vegas as well as Mexico, I wanted to share this wonderful adventure in eating – provecho.  Don’t forget to order Casta Negra Tequila.


                              Dining does not get any better or surprising!

As a teenage entrepreneur, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was lucky enough to earn what my father earned while I was still in high school.  This afforded me my favorite hobby at an early age.  Eating in great restaurants.  My high school sweetheart shared my passion for eating “high cuisine”.  Her Italian family were pioneers in San Francisco’s best respected North Beach eateries.  My family immigrated from Spain.  Food and wine were celebrated every day.  Saffron was mailed to us in kilos from my aunt in Spain. How else can a Spaniard truly enjoy his rice?

Both my grandfathers were wine makers and everything we ate or drank was grown in our garden and orchard or produced from our livestock:  Milk and cheese from our goats. Meat from our rabbits, and chickens.  And,  what we did not raise we killed: pigs, venison, squab, duck and pheasant. Great food for me and my girl were a must.  Cultural heritage,  unknown to our Anglo friends . 

While our friends ate hamburgers at the local drive in, we were dining on French, Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern  and Creole inspired cuisine in San Francisco’s best restaurants. We sought flavors that were distinct  from the  Italian and Spanish foods we were privileged to enjoy at home. 

The most notable cuisine was from our favorite San Francisco restaurant in the 1950’s – Fleur de Lys.  This restaurant is a San Francisco landmark.  Still earning rave reviews as a result of Hubert Keller taking the helm of the “Frisco” institution in 1986.  Fleur de Lys has been ranked as one of the top 40 restaurants in the United States by Gayot restaurant guide, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2006. Fleur de Lys has also been ranked as one of the top 25 restaurants in the United States by Food & Wine magazine.

Keller,  who was born in Alsace, France and graduated from the Ecole Hoteliere in Strasbourg, has worked in restaurants around the world .  His knowledge of other cuisines, aside from French, inspired his latest,  highly acclaimed restaurant – Fleur, in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.  Small portions (tapas) are the rule at fleur.  Keller adds his own incredibly creative talent to classic dishes from Spain, Northern Africa, France, Brazil, Italy and Asia.  Unique “out of the box” creations that surprise even the most sophisticated of gourmets.

I was recently treated to an incredible feast at fleur, thanks to General Manager Dave Oseas,  who delighted and surprised us with wonderful menu items.  Two of my favorite ingredients from France – foie gras and shaved truffles assured me I was in for a reborn Fleur de Lys quality supper.  One of the dishes, my companions and I particularly enjoyed,  were the pork ribs glazed with maple syrup.  A high tech kitchen method literally shoots smoke into the ribs and the smoky flavor is captured and released from a custom made serving dish at tableside.  Ribs have never been prepared or presented better. Smoky, juicy and so damn flavorful, my mouth waters thinking about them

If oysters are on the menu – I cannot resist.   Never have I enjoyed, or been as surprised,  by an oyster dish.  Kushi oysters are prepared in a Margarita and orange sorbet sauce,  prepared at the table with liquid nitrogen. Other surprises included the American classic of macaroni and cheese.  But,  not your mommas mac & cheese.  She probably did not add lobster bisque with brunoise vegetable.  An  Argentine classic skirt steak called chimi chui is good enough to cause a Gaucho to move from the pampas to Las Vegas.

For desert I recommend some of the following:  crème brulée trio, cantaloupe martini,

cheesecake lollipops,   or the  chateau soufflé.

 

The  circular bar, at the entrance to the restaurant, creates  an informal and friendly ambiance that stimulates conversation.   Especially,  since the restaurant stocks the largest selection of absinthe in the Western United States.  Also, frozen cocktails with liquid nitrogen makes the spontaneous bar parties inevitable.  For privacy, cabaña tables surround the main dining room.  Intimate dining for lovers makes the Vegas’,  “what happens-stays in Vegas” a prophecy fulfilled.

 

“Knock yourself out at fleur”.   A true dining adventure.  A claim made by many restaurants. However, at fleur  it is an incredible understatement.  A gastronomical bargain at $50-65.00 per person.

 

Call for reservations: Lunch-11am to 3pm

Dinner 5pm to 11pm

Phone 702 632 9400

 

 
 
 
 

 

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leejose @ November 2, 2011

Baja realtors reporting uptick in sales to foreign buyers-mostly U.S.

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Realtors, Desert Realty in San Felipe, broker Jose Aguilar and Arturo Novelo in Ensenada are reporting improved sales to foreigners.  Until August of this year foreign buyers, like our traditional Southern California and Arizona tourists,  were hardly seen on the streets of what were once busy tourist centers pre 2007.

This is not a “new boom” by any stretch of the imagination.  But, encouraging none the less.  Arturo Novelo, Ensenada’s leading broker and president of the Realtor Association (AMPI), has been doing well selling Ensenada real estate to Mexicans and Mexican Americans.  Especially folks who live in the summer inferno called Mexicali.  The Valle de Guadalupe is a hot real estate market for the “wine and horsey set” from any country – Mexico or foreign.  Guadalajara, Mexico City, Hermosillo, and Monterey are also  good markets for Ensenada properties.  So if smart money Mexicans are buying in Ensenada, it stands to reason that foreigners should take heed.  Ensenada properties are at bargain prices because our economy and job market are at their lowest in decades.

 

Chicanos are hip to the fact that the fear that exists among Anglos is a creation of yellow journalism.  Our Chicano brothers grew up in Santa Ana, Compton and Oakland.  They know rough neighborhoods.  And,  feel very safe on the streets of Ensenada or San Felipe.  They are buying property because they feel “en casa” here.  More so,  because of the discrimination resulting from irrational fears over undocumented workers.  When the economy goes bad immigrants suffer more.  So, ya’all gringos come down.  You know we love and miss you.  We promise to protect you.

 

San Felipe is “The Safest Place In the World” (see travel category, Mexicomatters) Call Jose Aguilar 619 567 4317

 

Call:  Arturo Novelo 619 793 4732

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Mexicomatters Web Admin @ October 28, 2011

FROM HIGH END TUNA CANNERY TO HIGH CUISINE TACOS

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In 1935 Alfredo Constantin Bernaldez moved from Acapulco to an Ensenada neighborhood, appropriately named Colonia Obrero (worker), a working class neighborhood.  On a double lot, 50 yards deep, he built his home, garden and a small plant for preparing honey, olives and smoked tuna in jars. He sold his products direct to the consumer and to retail stores.  Eventually the family business became a well known and respected sea food cannery.

All five children grew up in the small house that now adjoins the family restaurant. And worked alongside mom and dad in the canning business. Alfredo Constantino was a man of few words.  But his word was his bond and he was respected by everyone who knew him.  Known to everyone as “Tino”, he was also respected for his insistence on providing the highest quality of food products.  He entered the business out of a love for prepared foods not to become wealthy.   I was lucky enough to have Tino for a neighbor before he passed away in 2006.

The seafood canning business began to decline, for small independent operators in the 1980’s, and eventually the plant closed its doors in the late nineties.  Marco Antonio, the second eldest son of “Tino”, began his fascination with food and food preparation at age twelve. Now, in middle age, his dream of having a fine restaurant has been realized.

The restaurant sprawls around the once tuna cannery and family home.  Most of the diners sit outside but there is a small enclosed dining room as well.  Hungry folks line up to be served, like in most taco stands.  But here the taco is taken to new heights: Fresh Crab, Tuna, Salmon, and a Shrimp Chile Relleno to die for. An array of sauces that include Cilantro, chile chipotle, red wine and chile quebrado.  The chipotle sauce has the consistency of a dressing and is one of my favorites.  Don’t be afraid to apply amply, it is only slightly picante. A container of red wine along with the sauces can be an added flavor choice.  It greatly enhances the taste of all tacos but especially the salmon.

The restaurant opened for business in 2005 and was an immediate success.  The restaurant’s fame, like the cannery, is a result of family working together.  And Marco Antonio is a true family man.  “My dream was completed when my son joined me in starting the restaurant”.  Marco Antonio is justifiably proud of his son, a university graduate in gastronomy.  He credits Marco Antonio Junior for advancing the simply prepared food to high cuisine.

The ambiance of the restaurant is also very family and friendly.  Because of the large number of diners, you will most likely share a table with other patrons.  Everyone seems to be smiling and laughing.  With food this good who could be depressed?  Despite the amount of business, service is never compromised.  You will encounter almost no wait.  Worse case, only a few minutes will pass before Marco Antonio, his son and their team are heaping your taco shell with the freshest of seafood; prepared to the high quality standards the Marco Antonio name has stood for since 1935.

Aside from my favorites: salmon, crab and shrimp rellenos or tacos – you can also get a white fish taco but not like most you have eaten.  First the quality and freshness of the fish is never compromised.  Then the flour and ingredients for “breading” the fish is carefully prepared.  And finally, a quick frying method to capture all the flavor without the oily taste that accompanies most fish tacos.  Once you’ve had Marco Antonio’s fish tacos nothing less will satisfy.

Señor Marco is a perfectionist and is there everyday from nine until one making sure his patrons leave happy and content with their experience at Caguatun, the formal name of the restaurant.  Caguatun is a combination of the words caguama (sea turtle) and tuna.  But most folks just know the place as Marco Antonio’s seafood tacos.  Tacos de Caguatun are made from tuna that has been prepard in the same tomato based sauce old timers used to make turtle soup – delicious without the endangered sea turtle.

I am not a big taco enthusiast but these are not typical tacos.  I go there morning and noon time.  If you get there after 1:00 pm, you are out of luck, they close promptly at one.  To guarantee the freshest of ingredients, a limited amount of each dish is prepared daily.  So most days they “run out” of certain dishes before closing.  To find the restaurant go to first street and Rayon (about 4 blocks North of where First Street and Reforma meet).  From first street travel East 3 blocks and you will find it between 3rd and 4th streets, on the North side of Rayon.  My suggestion is to get there around 10:00 am. And tell Marco, the Baja Gourmet sent you.  If you have trouble finding it, call me at (646) 176 6759.

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leejose @ October 27, 2011

EXCELLENT VETERINARY CARE IN ENSENADA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO

Posted in: Medical Services | Comments (0)

75% OR MORE SAVINGS COMPARED TO U.S. VETS

We all know that medical costs for humans in the United States are out of control. But, what about the cost of veterinary care? Living, in Mexico, with 3 dogs and 2 cats is something I could not afford in the U.S. – the vet bills would kill me. I don’t know how ya’all can afford, in these difficult times, the prices U.S. veterinarians charge.

Case in point: A client of mine, who resides in Northern California, called to ask if I knew a good veterinarian in Ensenada. His dog had a badly fractured leg that required surgery and the placement of a temporary pin while healing. The quote from his vet was $3,500.00.

I explained to my client that I, not only had a good vet; I had a past president of the College of Veterinary Medicine. A graduate of the most prestigious veterinary school in Mexico (UNNAM University in Mexico City). And, practicing medicine for 30 years. A general Veterinarian and surgeon.

My veterinarian, or I should say my pets’ veterinarian, of twenty years, is Doctora (Dr.) Maria Luz Hernandez Villela. She is “Beba” to all of her friends, colleagues and clients. Beba is, quite simply, the best animal doctor I have ever known – on either side of the border. She charged my client $480.00 for the three and one half hour surgery.

That is correct – $480.00 as opposed to $3,500. An 85% savings that included operating room charges, anesthesia and two surgeons. Dr. Roman Ramos collaborated with Beba in performing the surgery.

These two, skilled professionals, spent three and one half hours to complete the complex surgical procedure – a total of seven medical hours.. The difference in fees, of course, is based on the Mexican market as opposed to the U.S. market. But, there is another factor in this equation. These vets place their love of animals ahead of their pocket books.

In September of this year (2009), Dr. Beba and six other colleagues donated a weekend to spay 100 dogs in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur. And, plan to repeat the process on the island of Cedros, off the Baja coast, in the coming months. The pet owners are poor families that could not afford to neuter their dogs otherwise.

Beba devotes hundreds of hours each year, treating animals who would not otherwise receive treatment. She also works tirelessly to conserve endangered species like the Baja deer..

I mentioned Beba’s service as president of the college of Veterinarians. This was also unpaid volunteer work. Motivated by her zeal to provide the best continuing veterinary education possible. Throughout her career, she has organized international conferences to bring “state of the art” veterinary training to her colleagues in Baja California and the rest of Mexico.

Dedicated doctors, like Beba, Dr. Roman Ramos and Dr. Norma Fernandez, provide competent care to pets whose owners, oftentimes, can afford to pay very little or nothing at all.
For a variety of cultural and economic reasons, the demand for Veterinary care in Mexico is miniscule when compared to the United States. Therefore, it is undervalued. Proof positive are the three legged dogs you see everywhere in Mexico.

It is accepted as fact, among educated Mexicans: if you want to be a vet, in Mexico, you do not enter this profession for the money but for the love of animals.

I want to thank all the great vets in Ensenada who have provided such wonderful treatment to my pets and “foster pets” (estimates of 20 or more animals). Gracias, for keeping me out of the doggy poor house. I salute you and all my babies do too.

PAWS UP!

Doctor Beba can be contacted by calling:
Cell phone – 011 52 1 646 1941127

Doctor Roman Ramos and Norma Fernandez have their animal clinic & pet supplies (Arco de Noe) at: address- Cortez and Mexico Streets – next door to Pemex gas station. Tel. 011
52 646 1941127

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leejose @ October 27, 2011

Exploring the Tequila Corridor

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The state of Jalisco Mexico is to Tequila what France is to champagne and cognac. Wine and liquor connoisseurs, around the world, have elevated the appreciation and respect of distilled agave to that of vintage wines. And, like champagne, Tequila must be authenticated. Product testing and acceptance must meet a strict set of criteria established by the “Consejo Regulador” (Regulation Counsel/Board). This is a not for profit association of Agave distillers, united in their effort to protect product quality and the name Tequila. The “Consejo Regulador” is like the bar association for lawyers; your right to license is always subject to review.

In the past year, dozens of new tequila brands have entered the world’s market place as interest in tequila grows. They all met the strict demands of: cooking agave, distilling, testing and bottling within board standards of quality. On a recent trip to Jalisco, I met and talked with “artisan” agave distillers who have wonderful product. But, lack the forty or fifty thousand dollars to improve plant infrastructure in order to pass the “Consejos” standards. These are serious people, proud of what they produce and hoping to reach an international market. But knowing, they won’t be fully accepted, without a ticket on the bottle that says “TEQUILA”.

These artisan distillers don’t seem resentful of the “Consejo”, on the contrary. They embrace the assistance given by the “Tequila Board”: Obtaining loans (business plans), training and consulting in marketing and administration. And, running interference with bureaucrats. The government of Mexico is also keenly aware of the potential market for tequila. They are eager to help with loans and technical assistance in growing and distilling agave.

On a recent trip to Tequilaland, I accompanied a client wanting to distribute an artisan 100% distilled agave. He believes it is superior to tequilas presently selling for more than $50.00 dollars a bottle in the United States. The product is called Casta Negra and the plant is located in an agricultural village called Mentidero (Liars Village). In the state of Jalisco, two hours Northeast of Manzanillo, Colima. On the Pacific Coast, 200 km. South of Puerto Vallarta.

Casta Negra , is owned by the Cisneros family. It is a truly family run business. For five generations they have farmed this beautiful valley, rich in water and fertile soil. The setting is surrounded by pine and oak tree covered 8000 ft. mountains. It is traversed by rivers, and, an active volcano dominates the skyline, emitting a steady plume of smoke. The climate is ideal, with a year round temperature of 85 degrees.

The name “Casta Negra”, on the bottle’s label, is above the image of a black Miura fighting bull. The word “casta” in Spanish refers to being of pure blood. When using “casta” to refer to an animal, the example of a purebred bull is appropriate. When referring to a human being “casta” takes on a meaning of “strong character”, brave and confident. An appropriate logo representation of the family and its liquor.

Four brothers work diligently while their father remains the ever present patriarch at the distillery each day. These are truly noble and unassuming folks, unsophisticated in the world of international business. But, what they lack in entrepreneurial experience, they make up for in hard work, common sense and a willingness to learn and adapt. I found them to be extraordinarily flexible in their negotiations with us. They demonstrated a genuine desire to create and maintain a win- win business relationship.

My work does not get any better than it did on this trip to “Mentidero” (liar’s village). I knew a great story would emerge from the origins of the town’s name. The elder Cisneros explained: In the 18th century Mentidero was on the major travel route for agricultural commerce making it’s way to: Manzanillo, Guadalajara, Mexico City and the state of Colima. There, a Hacienda was built called “Hacienda Guadalupe”. Whose principal objective was sugarcane production.

Overnight travelers and cowboys were also welcomed at the Hacienda. This was a common practice for Haciendas throughout Mexico in those times. And, in the evening after dinner, the hired hands would regale their guests with tall tales. Therefore, it became the “Hacienda de Los Mentirosos”, the Hacienda of liars. It was also quite common that these Hacienda’s grew into villages and townships. “Hacienda de Los Mentirosos” was no exception. It grew into a township and the name Mentidero (liars village) stuck.

One of the things, I like most about my work, is traveling to unfamiliar parts of Mexico. And traveling, not as a tourist, but as a businessman. Meeting new colleagues, who love their land and their work. Eager to show you the best it has to offer: Local foods and drink, nature, history and their family’s connection to it all. Mexicans are much more attached to their land than we are as yanks.

It is rare to find two generations of Americans living in the same city, let alone, five generations. We see real estate as a commodity as opposed to a heritage. The Cisneros family told me by phone, before traveling to meet them, that I would love their village. lifestyle and rancho. Their pride is justified, I am anxious to return.

I suggest you visit tequila country, especially Mentidero and the Cisneros family distillery. They will share the best swimming locations on the river and places to eat Chacales (craw dads). Also, visit the neighboring county seat , Autlan. It is a clean, picturesque colonial city with proud and hospitable people.

Work is plentiful in these hustling – bustling agricultural communities. And I saw no apparent signs of poverty – everyone seems to have work. Not many areas of the Americas can boast full unemployment in these times of crisis, but Agave country can. Travel costs are inexpensive. The best hotels are under $500 pesos ($45.00.dlrs.). Decent hotels can be found at $25.00 per night and great meals at $10.00 dlrs., including cocktails, beer or wine. Most of the better restaurants feature sea food and a local river crustacean called Chacales. They are the biggest crawdads I have ever seen. And the locals definitely know the best ways to prepare, the almost lobster size beauties. I ate them at different locations with a variety of wonderful sauces.

I would suggest you combine a trip to the southernmost region of Tequila country with the beautiful beaches of Barra Navidad and Melaque. Less developed than Manzanillo, where Bo Derek made her famous jog on the beach in the movie “10”. Barra and Melaque are just a 30 minute drive from the Manzanillo airport. Despite a large population of Canadian snow birds, these small fishing villages have maintained their Mexican pueblo charm. Friendly natives, wonderful seafood, Chacales, beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, fishing and surfing in warm waters. Combine the best the Pacific Ocean has to offer with nearby trips into Agave country and her surrounding 8000 ft. mountain peaks. Flights on Alaska Airlines – LAX to Manzanillo at $350.00 round trip. With the peso at $13 per dollar, any Mexican holiday is a great bargain.

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leejose @ October 27, 2011

Exploring the Tequila Corridor

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The state of Jalisco Mexico is to Tequilawhat France is to champagne and cognac. Wine and liquor connoisseurs, around the world, have elevated the appreciation and respect of distilled agave to that of vintage wines. And, like champagne, Tequila must be authenticated. Product testing and acceptance must meet a strict set of criteria established by the “Consejo Regulador” (Regulation Counsel/Board). This is a not for profit association of Agave distillers, united in their effort to protect product quality and the name Tequila. The “Consejo Regulador” is like the bar association for lawyers; your right to license is always subject to review.

In the past year, dozens of new tequila brands have entered the world’s market place as interest in tequila grows. They all met the strict demands of: cooking agave, distilling, testing and bottling within board standards of quality. On a recent trip to Jalisco, I met and talked with “artisan” agave distillers who have wonderful product. But, lack the forty or fifty thousand dollars to improve plant infrastructure in order to pass the “Consejos” standards. These are serious people, proud of what they produce and hoping to reach an international market. But knowing, they won’t be fully accepted, without a ticket on the bottle that says “TEQUILA”.

These artisan distillers don’t seem resentful of the “Consejo”, on the contrary. They embrace the assistance given by the “Tequila Board”: Obtaining loans (business plans), training and consulting in marketing and administration. And, running interference with bureaucrats. The government of Mexico is also keenly aware of the potential market for tequila. They are eager to help with loans and technical assistance in growing and distilling agave.

On a recent trip to Tequilaland, I accompanied a client wanting to distribute an artisan 100% distilled agave. He believes it is superior to tequilas presently selling for more than $50.00 dollars a bottle in the United States. The product is called Casta Negra and the plant is located in an agricultural village called Mentidero (Liars Village). In the state of Jalisco, two hours Northeast of Manzanillo, Colima. On the Pacific Coast, 200 km. South of Puerto Vallarta.

Casta Negra , is owned by the Cisneros family. It is a truly family run business. For five generations they have farmed this beautiful valley, rich in water and fertile soil. The setting is surrounded by pine and oak tree covered 8000 ft. mountains. It is traversed by rivers, and, an active volcano dominates the skyline, emitting a steady plume of smoke. The climate is ideal, with a year round temperature of 85 degrees.

The name “Casta Negra”, on the bottle’s label, is above the image of a black Miura fighting bull. The word “casta” in Spanish refers to being of pure blood. When using “casta” to refer to an animal, the example of a purebred bull is appropriate. When referring to a human being “casta” takes on a meaning of “strong character”, brave and confident. An appropriate logo representation of the family and its liquor.

Four brothers work diligently while their father remains the ever present patriarch at the distillery each day. These are truly noble and unassuming folks, unsophisticated in the world of international business. But, what they lack in entrepreneurial experience, they make up for in hard work, common sense and a willingness to learn and adapt. I found them to be extraordinarily flexible in their negotiations with us. They demonstrated a genuine desire to create and maintain a win- win business relationship.

My work does not get any better than it did on this trip to “Mentidero” (liar’s village). I knew a great story would emerge from the origins of the town’s name. The elder Cisneros explained: In the 18th century Mentidero was on the major travel route for agricultural commerce making it’s way to: Manzanillo, Guadalajara, Mexico City and the state of Colima. There, a Hacienda was built called “Hacienda Guadalupe”. Whose principal objective was sugarcane production.

Overnight travelers and cowboys were also welcomed at the Hacienda. This was a common practice for Haciendas throughout Mexico in those times. And, in the evening after dinner, the hired hands would regale their guests with tall tales. Therefore, it became the “Hacienda de Los Mentirosos”, the Hacienda of liars. It was also quite common that these Hacienda’s grew into villages and townships. “Hacienda de Los Mentirosos” was no exception. It grew into a township and the name Mentidero (liars village) stuck.

One of the things, I like most about my work, is traveling to unfamiliar parts of Mexico. And traveling, not as a tourist, but as a businessman. Meeting new colleagues, who love their land and their work. Eager to show you the best it has to offer: Local foods and drink, nature, history and their family’s connection to it all. Mexicans are much more attached to their land than we are as yanks.

It is rare to find two generations of Americans living in the same city, let alone, five generations. We see real estate as a commodity as opposed to a heritage. The Cisneros family told me by phone, before traveling to meet them, that I would love their village. lifestyle and rancho. Their pride is justified, I am anxious to return.

I suggest you visit tequila country, especially Mentidero and the Cisneros family distillery. They will share the best swimming locations on the river and places to eat Chacales (craw dads). Also, visit the neighboring county seat , Autlan. It is a clean, picturesque colonial city with proud and hospitable people.

Work is plentiful in these hustling – bustling agricultural communities. And I saw no apparent signs of poverty – everyone seems to have work. Not many areas of the Americas can boast full unemployment in these times of crisis, but Agave country can. Travel costs are inexpensive. The best hotels are under $500 pesos ($45.00.dlrs.). Decent hotels can be found at $25.00 per night and great meals at $10.00 dlrs., including cocktails, beer or wine. Most of the better restaurants feature sea food and a local river crustacean called Chacales. They are the biggest crawdads I have ever seen. And the locals definitely know the best ways to prepare, the almost lobster size beauties. I ate them at different locations with a variety of wonderful sauces.

I would suggest you combine a trip to the southernmost region of Tequila country with the beautiful beaches of Barra Navidad and Melaque. Less developed than Manzanillo, where Bo Derek made her famous jog on the beach in the movie “10”. Barra and Melaque are just a 30 minute drive from the Manzanillo airport. Despite a large population of Canadian snow birds, these small fishing villages have maintained their Mexican pueblo charm. Friendly natives, wonderful seafood, Chacales, beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, fishing and surfing in warm waters. Combine the best the Pacific Ocean has to offer with nearby trips into Agave country and her surrounding 8000 ft. mountain peaks. Flights on Alaska Airlines – LAX to Manzanillo at $350.00 round trip. With the peso at $13 per dollar, any Mexican holiday is a great bargain.

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leejose @ October 25, 2011

HALIOTI’S RESTAURANT

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An Ensenada Seafood Institution since 1978

 

Hliotis Restaurant

I consider myself a connoisseur of fine wine and food. My parents immigrated to Northern California from Spain. The art of making wine, cheese, sausage and bread at home led me on the organic food path I continue to follow. Only accepting the best of food preparation and ingredients. I was blessed. Almost everything we ate we raised, shot or fished: fresh vegetables and herbs from our garden, fruits from our orchard, rabbit and chicken from our pens. Game birds and venison we hunted.

My favorite foods came from the Pacific Ocean or the San Juaquin and Sacramento rivers. The Oakland estuary provided clams, Tomales Bay (North of San Fran.) oysters, and of course Dungeness crab in abundance in the 1950’s San Francisco Bay. Cat fish and bass we caught in local rivers and lakes.

Preferring fresh seafood to red meat is one of the reasons I moved to Ensenada. Ensenada is a sea food lover’s paradise. And as “Ensenadenses”(sp.) we all cherish a seafood institution called Halioti’s restaurant, established in 1976. Halioti is the Greek word for abalone and unfortunately it has become more scarce than finding a fan of George W. Bush. If you have never eaten abalone, you are not alone. But I suggest you try it before the good lord takes you to another place. Heaven might not serve the best of what the earth’s oceans has to offer. You can still enjoy abalone at Halioti’s. It is expensive but worth it.

Rafael Colunga, the co-owner of Halioti’s with his son and wife, is truly a man of the sea. He grew up on the island of Cedros, off the Northern coast of Baja California. Rafael spent his youth as a diver for Abalone, Conch and Lobster. His mother, Maria Del Pilar Jordan, had a seafood restaurant on the island. Rafael grew up, not only harvesting the best the sea had to offer, but also learning the best way to select and prepare the ocean’s gifts.

Whether you choose Oysters or Pismo clams from San Quintin (as good as they get), white fish, shrimp, calamari or scallops, Rafael insists on the freshest and highest quality possible. His love of the sea’s treasures extends to the restaurant’s décor. I have been a customer for 26 years, but still marvel at the 20 huge stained glassed windows that depict scenes from the sea. Miguel Angel Borguez is the celebrated stained glass craftsman who created these remarkable works of art. Like an aquatic museum you will find a large collection of sea shells and ancient diving equipment that all make the ambience appropriate to the love of all the ocean has to offer.

Halioti’s has three large dining rooms and a full bar. I particularly enjoy taking clients to this restaurant. Aside from the great food and service, I can always find a large table in a secluded area of the restaurant. The ambience is serene and private. The waiters are very professional and most of them have a long history with Halioti’s. My favorite waiter, Jose Alfredo Quintero has been at the restaurant 25 years. And everyone is greeted warmly at the door by the Colunga family.

Simple and organic food preparation is the focus at Halioti’s. No fancy sauces to masquerade mediocre ingredients. Soup or salad is included with all entres and I can heartily recommend the wonderful seafood broth or clam chowder. Salad dressings and a great tartar sauce are also made in house.

At Halioti’s, full intent is on preserving the fresh taste and quality of the best our Pacific has to offer. That is the essence of why Halioti’s continues a robust restaurant business in a time of crisis. Ensenadans demand the best of seafood and that is what Halioti’s serves up.

A full bar and complete list of fine Baja California wines will complement your choice of great seafood.

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leejose @ October 25, 2011

NIGERI – SUSHI DE AUTOR

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ENSENADA’S NEWEST SUSHI RESTAURANT

In my opinion the best sushi in Ensenada

 

I have been addicted to Japanese sushi since 1977.  While living in Chicago, the capital for fine dining in the United States.  I have eaten sushi in Mexico City  and the “Little Tokyo’s” of New York, Los Angeles. San Francisco and most major cities in North America,.

When I moved to Ensenada in 1985, there was a less than mediocre sushi restaurant aboard the ferry Catalina.  A tourist attraction moored in Ensenada Bay (Bahia de Todos Santos).  The old ferry  that once transported passengers to Catalina was converted into shops and restaurants. Ensenada’s version of The Queen Mary, moored in Long Beach California’s harbor.

Since 1985, a series of other mediocre sushi restaurants have opened in Ensenada and eventually closed.  In 2006 sushi chef Cesar Dario Cruz, began working in a “decent sushi alternative” in downtown Ensenada.  Now, Cesar has opened his own restaurant.

I can truly testify that Nigeri de Autor ranks with the best sushi restaurants North of the border.  Located on Zertuche Blvd.,  in the neighborhood of Valle Dorado it opened for business in June of this year (2009).

Why is Nigeri superior to the approximate eight other sushi restaurants in Ensenada? Because Cesar combines 15years of restaurant experience and training with a passion for creating unique and delicious Japanese cuisine.

Before Cesar came to Ensenada,  I traveled to Tijuana for, the only palatable sushi restaurant in Baja California, at that time. It is   called Komasa.

Cesar loves to surprise sushi aficionados with his inventive creations.  He recently surprised me with a small crab served in it’s shell and topped with cheese that Cesar melts with a blow torch. If you are a lover of crab, this dish will definitely please your pallet.

Cesar did not learn his craft overnight,  like most of the “Johnny come lately” chefs in Ensenaada.  After his apprenticeship, of four years at Komasa, Cesar began, working as a qualified sushi chef.  Not satisfied with being “just a chef”, he created a sushi making school as well.  Over 100 students have studied under Cesar.

Aside from sushi,  the menu at Nigeri offers a wide selection of kitchen prepared dishes.  Including,  a variety of meat, seafood and vegetarian entrées.  I particularly enjoy the duck in a mandarin sauce or the swordfish marinated in a Jamaica (hibiscus flower water) and orange juice blend.  Classic Tepanyakis and Teriyakis are prepared with salmon shrimp, fillets of chicken or beef.

After 15 years as a professional,  Cesar has finally realized his  dream of  owning a successful  restaurant.  And it has been a success from the very first day it opened.  Clients, like myself, eagerly awaited the opening.

Cesar listens to his customers.  Prior to opening Nigori he saw requests for Uni (sea urchin), tobico (flying fish eggs), caviar and quail eggs ignored by his former employers.  I know, because I made the requests.  All of these traditional,  sushi favorites of mine are available at Nigeri and nowhere else in Ensenada.

Cesar solicits feedback about his food and service.  What  his customers want is what he provides. The whole team at Nigeri is to be saluted. A hardworking team doing their best to satisfy customer needs.

You can find Nigeri from the trans peninsula hwy.. Traveling from the South,  past Costco then move to right hand lane and turn right at the University- across from the Calimax. Proceed East toward the hills and at the sports stadium the road curves to the left – Zertuche Blvd. continue North to 284, Zertuche Blvd. (left hand side of Z blvd.)

Traveling South turn left after the Smart & Final – Blvd. Lago Victoria.  Proceed to Zertuche Blvd. (stop sign), turn right to #284, on the corner, right side of street (across from a gym.)

Tel. 1766107 nextel 152*15*13326

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leejose @ October 25, 2011