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Polanco

New Trendy Wine Store in Polanco: Bacus

A cute little wine store recently opened up about a block from our apartment in Polanco. It’s called Bacus, and this is their 3rd site so far in Mexico City (other two in Del Valle and Satelite). Knowing that having a wine source so close could cause problems for both our budget + my level of alcohol intake, I was initially resistant to visit. My resolve to avoid Bacus lasted all of about 5 days, and then John & I stopped in last week to check it out. :)

From the outside, the decor looked promising:

I do love a trendy font & logo, and the crazy purply-greeny vine motif is a nice touch.

We entered the store, and were promptly greeted by a cheery woman behind the counter. I think she may be the sommelier of the Polanco store. She was very friendly & quickly offered us an overview of Bacus’s offerings– shelves of wine with descriptions & food pairing recommendations, a membership program that gives you discounts on wine + access to tastings held at the store (almost always free to members + a guest), a wine-tasting dispenser area that members can use, and a few sneaky bottles of mezcal lurking around. She offered us a taste of the options in the dispenser (a contraption like this), chatted with us a bit about the two wines we sampled, and left us to assess our options.

John & I have been slightly challenged on the wine front here in Mexico, given that we had a fairly strict “Nothing Over $10” policy when shopping for wine back in the US. I wouldn’t call either of us wine “experts’, but we are fans. Over time we determined that there are a lot of great wine options out there for <$10 USD for those of us in the “fan” category, which also enables you to pop open a bottle with greater regularity (vs. saving expensive wines for a special occasion).

Our experience in Mexico, however, has been that it’s a lot harder to find something good in the <$120-$130 peso range. My impression is that taxes/import duties/distribution system challenges/bribes keep prices on the higher side. While there are plenty of Mexican wines available (and many quite nice!), my experience has been that cheap wines from Mexico are…well, cheap. And crappy. (I welcome evidence to the contrary.)  :)

So back to Bacus– I was pleased to see that despite having a store about the size of my bedroom, they stock a variety of price points. We saw at least a handful priced at around $100 pesos, plenty in the $200-300 ballpark, and then on up from there (but nothing too over the top).  John & I departed the store with 3 whites in the $100-something peso range + my very own Club Bacus card. I think the Club membership cost around $200 pesos (need to double-check), which we felt was worth it to support an amusing new local business, if nothing else.

To solidify my Club Bacus bonds, I began e-stalking them on Facebook & Twitter; this alerted me to our first tasting opportunity last nite. Although I should have been studying for finals, the midwesterner in me felt that we should work on getting some ROI from our membership investment. Also, I was curious where they were going to put 16 people for a wine tasting inside this wee store.

Bacus's flyer on Facebook alerting us to a wine tasting last nite.

Upon arrival, we discovered that Bacus has a secret courtyard behind the store, where they had folding chairs set up on a bed of small white rocks, accented by a makeshift fountain (read as: PVC pipe pouring into a shallow pool of water) and mood lighting. It was cute. :)  The tasting leader was a guy who imports Italian wines, & he talked us through the 3 wines we tried. You always run the risk with wine people that they will be overly snobby/condescending when you are unable to taste the grass/persimmon/soybean/elephant-breath flavors that they claim are in the wine you’re drinking. But this Wine Dude was actually normal, friendly, and used words that I had at least a chance of identifying (i.e. durazno– peach). Our favorite turned out to be a type called Vernaccia, which I’d never heard of. It was nice & sharp/acidic. Between each wine, we were offered a different type of homemade bread to cleanse our palates. You know how this girl likes bread, so that further endeared Bacus to me.

I was also amused by the Wine Dude’s discussion about how no one in Mexico drinks white wine– almost everything is vino tinto (red wine) here.  It’s true– you’ll see restaurant menus that have 60 bottles of red wine and 3 whites; it is rather odd. Anyway, he made a valiant effort to sex up the idea of drinking cold white wines during the hot summer, and talked about how Mexicans need to try a variety of white wines to get used to the acidity that should be inherent in a white wine. He made the analogy that drinking a white wine without any acidity is like eating a chile without any spice (“Es como un chile sin pica”). I think Mexico is the only place you will hear that parallel drawn during wine education. :)

We ended up purchasing a couple bottles of this mysterious Vernaccia wine, despite it slightly exceeding our $10 USD target price. :) The same woman was behind the counter, and she remembered my name & inquired as to how we liked the wine we purchased last week. While her actions may seem minor, let me assure you that normal customer service here in Mexico is usually so awkward/anonymous/stalking-esque that both John & I walked away from Bacus discussing how nice she was, pleasant to interact with, and does her job well.

So long story long, I am excited to see a new local shop that seems to have its sh*t together & is successful enough to open its 3rd location. If you live in Polanco/Satelite/Del Valle, it’s worth stopping by Bacus to suss it out & consider joining the club. Support your local winos, people, and help Mexico discover a world beyond Corona/Sol/Pacifico!  😉

Flores de Calabaza (aka Squash Blossoms)

On almost every trip to the mercados or grocery stores here in Mexico, I find myself admiring the flores de calabaza, a.k.a. squash blossoms. Not being a fan of actual squash, I consider these guys by far the best thing to emerge from the squash family:

These flowers are begging to be purchased.

These flowers are begging to be purchased.

I never got around to actually buying them due to a lack of brilliant recipe ideas. The flores de calabaza are beautiful, but I’ve tried them in a couple soups at restaurants where they didn’t do much for me… But then, somehow I caught wind of the phrase Flores de Calabaza Rellenas de Queso (stuffed w/cheese). This sounded much more promising. I bought a bunch of flowers 6 months ago with hot plans to research this, but learned the hard way that the flowers should really be used within a few days after purchase. (i.e. when stored in a plastic bag in the crisper for a week, they turn into arse.)

Then a few months back, while trying to find something I liked on the menu at Villa Maria (traditional Mexican restaurant in Polanco that is popular with locals & tourists alike; great atmosphere but the food often leaves you wanting), I spotted “Crujiente flor de calabaza alegría tropical” which was described as being filled with a cheese mousse. Sold. This dish was quickly added to my list of “The Only Thing I Like to Eat When We Take Tourists to villa Maria”, as well as to my “Must Learn to Make” notes-to-self.

The cheese-stuffed flores de calabaza appetize at Villa Maria in Polanco. Be forewarned-- when we visited most recently, we only got 3 on a plate vs. 4 a few months ago. Weak, Villa Maria. Weak.

The cheese-stuffed flores de calabaza appetize at Villa Maria in Polanco. Be forewarned-- when we visited most recently, we only got 3 on a plate vs. 4 a few months ago. Weak, Villa Maria. Weak.

Finally last nite, I was inspired to give the cheese-stuffed squash blossoms a shot. To get in the Mexico cooking spirit, I decided to use a recipe off a video from some kind of morning show on Mexican TV. (If you don’t want to watch the slightly-annoying male host dance in place, you can find the ingredients listed here sans-video, but they got a couple of the Tablespoon/teaspoon labels wrong.)

First I rinsed the blossoms & clipped off their stems & stamens. After mixing up the cheese filling, I stuffed all the flowers with it.

First I rinsed the blossoms & clipped off their stems & stamens. After mixing up the cheese filling, I stuffed all the flowers with it.

Here are the flowers waiting to be breaded with flour, egg whites & bread crumbs. The one in the upper right is ready to be fried!

Here are the flowers waiting to be breaded with flour, egg whites & bread crumbs. The one in the upper right is ready to be fried!

Here are the final results, after about 6-7 seconds in the hot oil. Don't be fooled by their fried-chicken-foot-esque appearance! They are quite tasty, and nice served with a little salsa verde.

Here are the final results, after about 6-7 seconds in the hot oil. Don't be fooled by their fried-chicken-foot-esque appearance! They are quite tasty, and nice served with a little salsa verde.

Our first flores de calabaza endeavor was quite a success, as verified by a few neighbors we called over to avoid eating 12 cheese nuggets by ourselves… :) I would definitely make them again as an app for a dinner party… though they are perhaps a little too futzy for your average Monday night.

Below you can find the recipe I used in English. In the future I might try a recipe like this that has more of a batter coating vs. breadcrumbs, but I like keeping the breading pretty light/minimal. I may also have to test out this tasty-looking quesadilla recipe with my new squash blossom friends!

Flores de Calabaza Rellenas de Queso (Cheese-Stuffed Squash Blossoms)

  • 12 squash blossoms, rinsed & dried (can remove stamen if you want, but not critical)
  • 100 grams (~1/2 cup) goat cheese (recipe calls for queso fresco, but I like the stronger flavor of goat cheese)
  • 80 grams (~1/2 cup) cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon green onion, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon epazote, minced (if you can’t find epazote, substitute some oregano or coriander or leave it out entirely)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 egg whites
  • 100 grams (~1/2 cup) bread crumbs
  • ~2 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • I ignored the 150 grams of chopped mushrooms ingredient, but add it if you wish!
  1. Mix the two cheeses together along with the green onion
  2. Sauté the garlic & epazote together in the butter for a few minutes; let cool briefly & mix into cheeses.
  3. Put the cheese filling into a small plastic sandwich bag, and cut off one of the corners to use it as a pastry bag.
  4. Fill the blossom with the cheese mixture, and wrap the petals around the cheese on the open end.
  5. Roll the filled blossom in flour, then in egg whites, then in bread crumbs.
  6. Fry briefly in the hot oil, turning it, just until golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately while still hot!

Notes– a candy thermometer would be nice to maintain a hot oil temp of ~375F, so it doesn’t burn the breading.  Also, I think a process of: egg -> flour -> egg -> bread crumbs might be more effective than the recipe’s directions of flour -> egg -> bread crumbs.

Anyone out there have any other flor de calabaza recipes worth a try??

Newsflash: free water at restaurant in Polanco!

Living in the fancy-pants neighborhood of Polanco in Mexico City, we see loads of overpriced, trendy restaurants where the food tends to be sub-par. There are a few diamonds in the rough, but it is rare you can escape lunch (much less dinner) with a bill of <$200 pesos at any of the see-and-be-seen joints. These are the sorts of places where when I ask for bottled water to drink, they ask you what brand you would prefer (could anyone tell the difference??), and then bring out about 300ml of water for ~$3. *hate* Therefore, when a new chi-chi restaurant opens up in ‘Polancito’ (the area I call ‘downtown Polanco’, south of Masaryk between Anatole France & Alejandro Dumas), I am predisposed to just ignore it.

That said, when friend Heidi & I decided to have a girls’ dinner out last nite, we couldn’t be bothered to wander much farther than that very area. Heidi suggested a new restaurant called Brassi, and although I was slightly skeptical, the lure of its fun bistro decor was enough to lure us in.

We chose a table in the middle of the black-and-white checkerboard floor and sat down. After a waiter deposited our coats & purses onto one of the purse-trees that are de rigueur in Mexico City restaurants (bad luck -and foolish- to put your purse on the floor), I was shocked at what happened next. Another waiter arrived at our table holding what appeared to be an open, clear glass wine bottle filled with WATER & inquired if we would like some. He filled our glasses & left the big bottle of water on the table.

Now for any US folk reading this, this is not *remotely* novel. America is the land of free-flowing water, where any restaurant worth its salt will keep tasty tap water filling your glass as long as you keep slurping it down. Since drinking from the tap is not an option in Mexico, neither is chugging down as much water at dinner as your little dehydrated body might like– unless you want to pay more for bottles of water than for your entree.

Because of this, upon our water waiter’s departure from the table, I stared at Heidi with wide eyes & asked her, “Do you think this is free?? Do you think they will refill this if we drink it all???”  We were both hopeful, but uncertain. I informed her that if the food was anything above ground squirrel meat, I would definitely be coming back SOLELY because of the option to drink as much water as I wanted.

As it turned out, the food was pretty good. She had tomato soup; I had the Brassi salad speckled with carmelized pecans & pears soaked in port in a honey mustard dressing. We shared an order of mac & cheese, which was slightly under-salted but well-presented in its own wee cast-iron skillet that had spent a few minutes under a broiler to crisp & brown the cheese on top. For dessert, we split the largest order of profiteroles I’ve seen for $58 pesos– 5 puffballs filled with vanilla ice cream & doused in melted chocolate. While I wouldn’t say the cuisine is breaking any new boundaries, I thought everything was tasty & well done; (we also saw sandwiches being whisked by accompanied by thin french fries that may merit a future try). Along with 3 glasses of pinot grigio & 3 rum/cokes, ourbill came to about $880 pesos– not exactly a fire sale, but quite reasonable for a tasty 3-course dinner for 2 plus that many drinks. Knock off the alcohol & you’re probably down to more like $400 pesos.

Anyway, the bill’s arrival most excited me because of what it lacked: a charge for WATER. We handily polished off 2 large bottles of the stuff and it was free! free! free!

John likes to refer to me as “the waterhorse” because of how much water I tend to drink when we go out to eat, so learning how to ration 330ml during a 2 hour meal as been a struggle for me here. But now, I am excited to report that there is at least ONE restaurant in Mexico City who seems to have figured out how to treat the water in order to dispense it liberally from a tap in the dining area. Rest assured that I will be back to visit Brassi, perhaps on a day where I have ingested no liquids whatsoever just so I can take full advantage of this perk. :)

Brassi: Virgilio 8 at the corner of Oscar Wilde in Polanco. http://brassi.com.mx/

Unique shopping & snacking in DF

I’ve never been a big fan of cookie-cutter, chain restaurants/shops (except in a pinch), so I am always excited to find a unique, locally-owned spot to spend my pennies (or pesos in this case). God knows there are zillions of non-chain options in Mexico City, but here are a few of the more amusing selections I’ve come across recently.

Shopping:

1) Itten Deco, Galileo 41B in Polanco, between Masaryk & Emilio Castelar

Here are a few of their acrylic coasters; some are opaque, some translucent.

Here are a few of their acrylic coasters; some are opaque, some translucent.

Their website is a bit sketch (i.e. half of the links appear to be decorative/ nonfunctional) so I couldn’t get too much background info from there, but the salesgirl told me the owner is a architect who does her own designs in acryllic + a variety of other materials. The main floor is primarily accessories & jewelry– placemats, coasters, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. Upstairs, there are a some furniture pieces, pillows, other house decor, & some neat photos-on-canvas of Mexico scenes.

Acrylic bracelets in various colors; necklaces & earrings are available in similar, smaller designs

Acrylic bracelets in various colors; necklaces & earrings are available in similar, smaller designs

Don’t get so distracted by the wall hangings upstairs that you nail your shin on a near-invisible clear coffee table, as my mom will attest. 😉 Great spot for a unique, reasonably-priced gift; I loved the colored acrylic coasters that are a jumble of letters or numbers. You can find a pic of the exterior here.

A variety of other table decor available at Itten!

A variety of other table decor available at Itten!

2) Artefacto, Amatlan 94 in Condesa between Michoacan & Campeche, OR Luis G Urbina 74 in Polanco just west of Julio Verne.

Their website is also a bit worthless, but at least it has wee maps. :) Artefacto has primarily housewares & accessories, their website claims “ethnic-contemporary”. Prices are a bit spendier at this spot (i.e. $38k-$41k pesos for a very pretty couch), but there are smaller accessories (i.e pillows, stuffed animals, lots of stuff made of a beige-y onyx or marble stone that I love) that aren’t *too* crazy. If nothing else, it is fun to look/covet.

My mom got us an early Crimmas present of this bedspread & 3 matching pillows from Artefacto. Very fun!

My mom got us an early Crimmas present of this bedspread & 3 matching pillows from Artefacto. Very fun!

Eating:

3) Maison Belen, Galileo 31 in Polanco at the corner of Emilio Castelar.

How tasty does this lime meringue tart look, with its little edible flowers on the side? Highly recommended...

How tasty does this lime meringue tart look, with its little edible flowers on the side? Highly recommended...

This cute little brekkie/lunch spot was opened just a couple months ago by a Cordon Bleu culinary school grad. The decor is the cutest ever, and they have gorgeous desserts (as well as tasty lunch entrees & sammies). I think this would be the perfect spot for a small baby or bridal shower– there is only 1 table inside, but it is surrounded by a sweet pink couch & crazily-upholstered chairs that seem to scream “girly celebration”. (The other tables are outside but under an awning & protected by plastic-y walls if it’s windy.) Stop by for a tasty capuccino or a light lunch (or what you think will be a light lunch until you realize you HAVE to eat dessert too).

The main table inside Maison Belen... I must have those chairs...

The main table inside Maison Belen... I must have those chairs...

Here's the standard menu; during lunch it's also accompanied by 3-4 specials that are usually quite tasty.

Here's the standard menu; during lunch it's also accompanied by 3-4 specials that are usually quite tasty.

4) El Encrucijada, Atlixco 168 in Condesa, between Alfonso Reyes & Campeche

A great locale to solve the world's problems over what ends up being ~1 bottle of wine per person.... ;)

A great locale to solve the world's problems over what ends up being ~1 bottle of wine per person.... ;)

This tiny wine bar is hidden on a residential-y street in Condesa. There about 5 seats at the bar, 5 seats looking out onto the street via an open-window bar built into the wall, and a handful of small bar-height tables. I’m a fan because they have a good selection of a variety of wines at a variety of price points, impressively starting at $120 pesos for an Argentine red (though suspiciously that wasn’t in stock last time we visited…conspiracy??). 😉 There is some kind of regulation in DF regarding certain places that serve booze require you to order food w/your drink, so your group has to order *something* small to eat along with your wine. Ok, twist my arm. :) They have tapas-esque piles of meats, cheese & olives, as well as bread slices with a variety of tasting toppings (i.e. olive tapenade- my fav).

Here's the bar + some of the wine storage @ El Encrucijada

Here's the bar + some of the wine storage @ El Encrucijada

This is definitely not a see-and-be-seen kinda place, but more of a great hole-in-the-wall to go with a small group or for a drink before dinner (and not drop $100 pesos on a fancy cocktail elsewhere in Condesa!) El Encrucijada is open from 6PM everyday but Sunday, until midnight M-W, 1AM on Thurs, and 2AM on the weekend. Website is again fairly worthless (a theme here), but see a few blurry pics below that I tried to snap all subtle-like w/o a flash.

Tasty snacky bits ala tapas in Spain, overlooking the open window seating area. The bottle of water is a rarity...

Tasty snacky bits ala tapas in Spain, overlooking the open window seating area. The bottle of water is a rarity...

And a blurry view of the wine menu scribbled on the wall...

And a blurry view of the wine menu scribbled on the wall...

These are just a few of the more niche-y, small fun (and fresa-ish) spots I’ve tracked down so far. Any chilangos have other amusing insider tips they’d be willing to share??

Internet is probably more important than basic utilities anyway

As spotted in Parque Lincoln in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City:
This sign translates as "Miguel Hidalgo (the district where Polanco is located) offers you free internet here." We've totally got our priorities straight, people.

This sign translates as "Miguel Hidalgo (the district where Polanco is located) offers you free internet here." We've totally got our priorities straight, people.

This is part of DF’s new marketing campaign:

Mexico City:
We can’t promise you potable, running water, but we can promise that you’ll be able to download a video of a hot chick drinking a glass of water online.”

¡Obámanos!!!

So we saw him!! Eeeee! Know that I sacrificed the chance for a handshake in favor of “The President is only 4 feet away!!!” photo attempts, realizing that the memory of a handshake would be less effectively conveyed via a blog. 😉  John almost managed to get a hand in, but was foiled at the last minute by a secret service agent who was pushing his way through the crowd paralleling Obama as he walked along the perimeter shaking hands.

The entrance to the hotel + intimidating warrior.

The entrance to the hotel + intimidating warrior.

The festivities were held at the Presidente InterContinental Mexico Hotel in Polanco, conveniently located within walking distance of our apartment, where Obama spent the night. The area around the hotel had been on near-lock-down for the two prior days, so the walk to the hotel was intriguing as we passed hundreds of armed local police/army (which for whatever reason, doesn’t make me feel particularly “secure” here in Mexico…). One stat we heard was over 3,000 local police were on the scene, but total security was probably well over that between police + army + Secret Service + whatever other organizations were out and about.

Here’s a photo overview of our experience with ¡Obamanos! ’09, followed by some additional commentary regarding his visit.

We passed dozens of parked buses/trucks/jeeps that had brought in the hundreds of police/army members to secure the area around the hotel. Once you got within a few blocks, all streets were barricaded & heavily armed dudes were hanging out everywhere.

We passed dozens of parked buses/trucks/jeeps that had brought in the hundreds of police/army members to secure the area around the hotel. Many buses were still filled with snoozing police. Once you got within a few blocks, all streets were barricaded & heavily armed dudes were hanging out everywhere.

The barricades directly around the hotel were lined with hopeful Obama-watchers & photographers, all of whom I believe were disappointed by his arrival through the hotel underground parking garage.

The barricades directly around the hotel were lined with hopeful Obama-watchers & photographers, all of whom I believe were disappointed by his arrival through the hotel underground parking garage.

Entering the hotel entailed passing through metal detectors, I'm sure to the delight of any hotel guests who were unfortunate enough to have chosen the Intercontinental for their Thursday night stay.

Entering the hotel entailed passing through metal detectors, I'm sure to the delight of any hotel guests who were unfortunate enough to have chosen the Intercontinental for their Thursday night stay. We also had to turn on all phones & cameras to verify they were real & not secret bombs.

 

Unsurprisingly, we were not the first folks from the Embassy to arrive at the hotel to get in line. Apparently over 800 workers + family members had tickets for the event.

Unsurprisingly, we were not the first folks from the Embassy to arrive at the hotel to get in line. Apparently over 800 workers + family members had tickets for the event.

Our initial point in the *lengthy* line was conveniently next to one of the hotel restaurants, so we were able to have a brief sit.

Our initial point in the *lengthy* line was conveniently next to one of the hotel restaurants, so we were able to have a brief sit.

I was pleased to see one of the Presidential Bomb-Sniffing Dogs on the alert in the hotel lobby.

I was pleased to see one of the Presidential Bomb-Sniffing Dogs on the alert in the hotel lobby.

During our walk to the hotel, a bird made a "deposit" on Mark's arm, which is supposed to signify good luck. This theory was proven tru, as he managed to get a handshake with El Presidente himself.

During our walk to the hotel, a bird made a "deposit" on Mark's arm, which is supposed to signify good luck. This theory was proven true, as Mark managed to get a handshake with El Presidente himself.

As we wound through the hotel in line, we passed this storefront with a security guard MANNEQUIN in the window. I was intrigued as to both a) how many robberies this fake cop deters, and b) why a store selling *property* (arguably something that can not be stolen from your storefront) would feel the need to add this extra layer of highly effective security...

As we wound through the hotel in line, we passed this storefront with a security guard MANNEQUIN in the window. I was intrigued as to both a) how many robberies this fake cop deters, and b) why a store selling *property* (arguably something that can not be stolen from your storefront) would feel the need to add this extra layer of highly effective security...

Finally! We have reached the 2nd set of metal detectors right before entering the official ballroom.

Finally! We have reached the 2nd set of metal detectors right before entering the official ballroom.

Inside the ballroom, we noted two more interesting tidbits. 1) Somebody must have spent *a lot* of hours/dollars on that super-special "Welcome to Mexico" sign in the back... 2) What is the deal with the FIVE American flags vs. ONE shorter Mexican flag on the stage? Are we trying to remind the Mexicans of US dominance (+ height)? This seemed a bit misplaced to me, but perhaps there is a deeper meaning of which I am unaware...

Inside the ballroom, we noted two more interesting tidbits. 1) Somebody must have spent *a lot* of hours/dollars on that super-special "Welcome to Mexico" sign in the back... 2) What is the deal with the FIVE American flags vs. ONE shorter Mexican flag on the stage? Are we trying to remind the Mexicans of US dominance (+ height)? This seemed a bit misplaced to me, but perhaps there is a deeper meaning of which I am unaware...

So we basically stood in that room for 1.5 hours, pressed against all the other embassy employees to get as close to the podium as we could. Rough estimate of number times John & I received comments about how we were lucky to be tall: 27. Number of bitter comments heard about our height from people behind us: 13.

So we basically stood in that room for 1.5 hours, pressed against all the other embassy employees to get as close to the podium as we could. Rough estimate of number times John & I received comments about how we were lucky to be tall: 27. Number of bitter comments heard about our height from people behind us: 13.

Yes!!! Finally Obama arrived!! Here he is waiting while the Chargé de Affairs Leslie Basset gave him a 10-second introduction.

Yes!!! Finally Obama arrived!! Here he is waiting while the Chargé de Affairs Leslie Basset gave him a 10-second introduction (the brevity of which he appreciated).

Obama spoke for about 90 seconds, basically thanking everyone for their service to America. He commented that the use of diplomatic power is just as important as the use of military & economic power. It was perhaps a bit shorter of a speech than we had hoped, but I guess his impending dinner date with Mexican President Calderon *may* have been more important than chatting with us at length...

Obama spoke for about 90 seconds, basically thanking everyone for their service to America. He commented that the use of diplomatic power is just as important as the use of military & economic power. It was perhaps a bit shorter of a speech than we had hoped, but I guess his impending dinner date with Mexican President Calderon *may* have been more important than chatting with us at length...

Then he was ushed over to the left for a photo with all the kids over 6 years old, (who a few Embassy employees had managed to keep entertaining/still for at least an hour-- well done). I trust the official photos are less blurry...

Then he was ushed over to the left for a photo with all the kids over 6 years old, (who a few Embassy employees had managed to keep entertaining/still for at least an hour-- well done). I trust the official photos are less blurry...

Obama was merely feet away from us at this juncture, all the while carefully monitored by Señor Secret Service behind him.

Obama was merely feet away from us at this juncture, all the while carefully monitored by Señor Secret Service behind him.

Another close-up as he made his way along the crowd of raving fans.

Another close-up as he made his way along the crowd of raving fans.

The furor of cameras was intense! This was just before he held two lucky babies (who I guess now will never have leprosy).

The furor of cameras was intense! This was just before he held two lucky babies (who I guess now will never have leprosy).

And like that, our brush with fame was over. Here's John & Sergio on the walk home, flanked by one of the many readily-armed security forces... Definitely doesn't make you nervous in the least... ;)

And like that, our brush with fame was over. Here's John & Sergio on the walk home, flanked by one of the many readily-armed security forces... Definitely doesn't make you nervous in the least... 😉

And so ended ¡Obamanos! 2009. It was a lot of standing & waiting, but it was definitely cool to see our new President in person, who seems like such a normal, down-to-earth, smart guy. Although his talk was very brief, his ease and comfort as a public speaker, ability to think on his feet and to get a quick laugh from the crowd were plainly evident.

For additional photos from the day, check out these photo galleries from El Universal newspaper here in Mexico City: security pics, Obama pics. In general, Mexicans seemed excited about his visit, though most of the press skewed more towards “Thanks for coming but we’re not holding our breath that you’re actually going to do anything for us since you Americans have so many problems back home these days.” One El Universal headline read “Obama abre los brazos pero comprete poco“, or “Obama opens his arms but commits little.”

One of the many current US/Mexico hot topics is the assault weapons ban. Obama essentially told Calderon that he supports it, but lacks the political capital to get it through Congress right now & will instead focus on enforcing existing laws. I am not remotely an expert on gun laws nor am I naive enough to think that the drug cartels wouldn’t get their weapons elsewhere if we made it harder to get them in the US, but reading the spate of recent articles on this topics certainly makes you wonder, “Could it be any EASIER for the narcos to buy assault weapons from US gun shows?” (at gun shows, unlicensed sellers can sell from their “personal collections” to any buyers without a background check).

Anyway, some other random facts from Obama’s visit!

  • When Obama stays overnight on his travels, he is accompanied by over 800 people (Secret Service, White House staff, members of the press, Congressional delegation, etc. etc.)
  • The White House flew down the 2 armored limos, armored SUVs, and multiple (~5) helicopters that Obama was transported in while in Mexico City.
  • Terminal 2 of the Mexico City airport was shutdown for the arrival of Air Force One around 1:30 on Thursday, affecting the departures/arrivals of about 40 flights.
  • El Universal highlighted that “Obama did not walk on any street of Mexico City during his visit.”  As though this is a great surprise…  If Mexicans thought security in Polanco was crazy for this visit, can you imagine if they tried to coordinate him going for a stroll down Reforma???
  • Alas, no opp for a height-comparison photo, but hopes are high for a return Obama visit during our time here in Mexico City!!!

The many, the not-so-proud: the Kickdogs of Polanco

My husband long ago added the term “kickdog” to our daily vocabulary to refer to any dog who might be more efficiently moved across a room by kicking it rather than waiting for its 400 mincing steps to get it there on its own. (For the record, I have never seen John kick a dog. A pigeon? Yes. But a dog? No.)
 
In our fancy-pants neighborhood of Polanco, there is an interesting mix of kickdogs and dogs that could probably bite off your arm in 3 seconds flat. For every overdressed chihuahua, there is its antithesis. Someone like the guard dog a few doors down from us that we have named “Cujo“, whose vicious barking often leads us to believe he may well penetrate the house wall + the iron fence in one fell swoop.
 
I believe that in neighborhoods like this, heavily armed with watchdog weaponery, the kickdogs have a better sense of their own weakness…their daintiness…their inability to escape the wearing of doggie booties. To that end, I was struck by this image of Mexico’s favorite kickdog, the chihuahua, being embarrassed by its owner outside Eno restaurant in Polanco.
 
"You don't even understand *my* needs"

"You don't even consider *my* needs"

Why is this dog hanging his head in shame?
  1. He is small enough to be set atop a carry-on suitcase…with room to spare.
  2. He doesn’t even have a collar/tags, because he is too much of a wuss to remotely be considered a flight risk.
  3. Although he sees the sidewalk with its easy path to freedom, the thought of jumping from a 2-foot-high perch has him frozen in terror.
  4. He has a secret longing to be carried inside his owner’s oversized purse, where he spent most of his formative years.
Perhaps somewhere in the middle of the kickdog<–>guard dog spectrum are the Fountain Dwellers.
Shortly after this photo was taken, we saw a young boy drinking from this fountain. They take the old "hair of the dog" sentiment to heart at a young age around here.

Shortly after this photo was taken, we saw a young boy drinking from this fountain. They take the old "hair of the dog" sentiment to heart at a young age around here.

Avoid a Reverse Mullet in Mexico City

Reading my friend Lesley’s post today that mentioned a recent crap haircut reminded me to share a secret gem with any local ladies in my blog audience. After 2 years in DC, I finally found a hairstylist I was happy with who charged reasonable prices (~$40) AND understood the fine balance between cutting-vs.-talking (visit Bubbles Salon at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, VA and ask for Tsigie–703.415.2040). 

You can imagine the tension, then, when I was forced to start anew here in Mexico after my hair reached a shaggy, straw-like consistency. I carefully (ha) selected the first hair salon I saw within walking distance, and prepped my piece of scrap paper with key Spanish hair-cutting vocabulary. The salon owner spoke English (¡Que suerte! I thought at the time), so we confirmed that yes, I was asking for what I thought (a simple haircut).

I started to get nervous when he broke out the razor on the back of my *shoulder-length* hair… My suspicions were confirmed upon returning to our apartment building, where another prior salon visitor saw my new do and piped up, “Oh! You got the reverse mullet from La Luna too!”   Yes indeedy: party in the front, an awkward 2 inches missing in the back.

Due to apparent lack of creativity, I returned to the same salon for my 2nd haircut, but had the wherewithal to request a different stylist. This time, my haircut took a concerning ~10 minutes and was executed in much the way I might have trimmed a Barbie doll’s hair as a child. The stylist also had not quite mastered the art of flattery, asking both if I was interested in getting highlights (I’ve never dyed my hair) and if I was interested in threading (a method of eyebrow hair removal). Erm, no, thanks; I’ll just go home and self-consciously spend 10 minutes in front of the mirror with a tweezers.

When my friend Joy passed along a business card to me for “An American Hairdresser in Mexico”, I was initially skeptical. “I don’t need a special American hairdresser,” I briefly thought to myself. Then I looked in the mirror at my Barbie/mullet mix. Oh, wait. Yes, yes I do.

It is with the hope of preventing another sketchy haircut that I pass along to you the name of Ronit, a lovely woman based in Polanco who is originally from the DC/Maryland area. She works out of her apartment on Lamartine and can be reached at 55.5250.2021 or ronitsabban [at] yahoo.com. It’s been a few weeks so I don’t precisely recall the price, but I know she offers a discount for your first visit & it was definitely <$600 pesos. She even has a monthly e-newsletter with hot discounts! Tell her Julie sent you & maybe she will offer you some magical pirouette chocolatey-wafery snacks. It was all I could do not to impolitely scarf down the whole can.

Best of luck, and may the reverse mullet not be with you.

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