Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Smoked n Low is the Way to Go!

Today is a blustery, chilly, cloudy and windy day.  Just like the weather was last Wednesday when I made a beeline out the Delores Hwy to check out the new BBQ  joint.

Don Day had written about it the previous week but by the time I read the article on his blog (which is the string of blogs down the right side of Babsblog), the place was not open.  It IS open Wednesday through Saturday however.  I was taking no chances and headed out the first day that I could get there
to taste brisket, ribs and good sides.

When I say it was blustery and chilly, I am understating it.  By the time I left, it was raining! That's okay as I had requested an order of ribs to take home for my family.  Therefore there was a chance later to savor one or two with sides made at home.

Luckily in the comments on Don Day's blog, a reader had said that it was hard to turn immediately in front of the food truck as there was a deep lip to the road and to go down to La Burger, the next door neighbor to Smoked n Low BBQ, and turn left there and then drive on the shoulder to Smoked n Low.

I did.
 As you enter the lot surrounded by a stone wall and lots of flags, one is greeted not only by the sight
of many picnic tables just waiting for customers but the gosh darnedest big smoker that I've seen in a long time.  Woo hoo, this was going to be good. 
 It had been waaaaay too long since I had had good barbeque - four months to be exact - when I was last in Houston!  BBQ is king there and I love having not only the BBQ but the sides.

The last time I had had good BBQ in San Miguel was when Longhorn on Ancha de San Antonio was open.  It was a great place to hang out, have a great brisket sandwich with potato salad and beans and chat with friends.  There was always someone there that I knew.

For one, it was Keith Thompson, who I had met when he first landed in SMA and had a hotel and restaurant.  We had/have mutual friends in Houston where he came from, me too.  He ended his hotel and restaurant days and started over with a little place in a parking lot that eventually morphed into a brick and mortar place called Longhorn.  All of us Texans and others were happy to have a casual place to drop into for every day good food. 

It has been a loss that many talk about to this day, when Longhorn no longer was serving the BBQ
of Keith's touch.

Well, guess what?  Diego Bautista is the owner and entrepreneur of Smoked n Low BBQ but Keith was sitting at one of the tables.  He told me he counsels and suggests things to Diego about what expats want in their BBQ.  It's a match made in heaven.

The tricked out Food Truck is quite a piece of work as you can see in the photo above of Diego.  What a nice young man who seems to love what he is doing.  He has grand plans.  He also is offering catering and special event catering.   We chatted for quite a while.
Finally, I could wait no longer and ordered the plate of brisket and ribs with two sides.  Nope they did not have beans or potato salad, so I selected mac and cheese and coleslaw.  The short ribs were meaty and good.  The brisket was not enough, but that will be remedied next time with a request for more then one small slice!  Good flavor and very tender.  There was no sauce on either the ribs or brisket so I could determine that they were tender and flavorful.

Sorry, but the sides left a lot to be desired.  Hopefully, hopefully, they will add potato salad and beans to their sides.  Others have agreed.  Not enough choice in the sides.

But, it is a relatively new operation and there is always a learning curve.  Having designed and built restaurants (well over 100 of them) in the twenty years that I had my firm, I know that you can never judge a food service operation by one visit, especially when they have not been opened for long.

I'm looking forward to going back out in a few weeks when the weatherman says it will be a warm, sunny day to eat outside, and I'll check it all out again............

In the meantime, here is some info you might want to have.  Telephone 442 247-2489.  They are on Facebook at smokednlow and they even have a website.  www.smokednlow.com.  They are at KM 7.4 on the way to Delores.

See ya'll out there SOON!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

IF you want to know the REAL TRUTH, Listen to a Seven Year Old!

 If you ever want a straight answer and a reality check, have a grandchild spend the night!  It is always astonishing to me the insight that little kids have into life and everyday incidents.

On the earthquakes - "That's why I'm going to be a scientist, so I can understand when those things
are going to happen before they do.
On the hurricanes - "Ditto"
On the massacre in Las Vegas - "That man was really angry, really sad and really lonely"
On the bulldozer outside the dining room window, desecrating the hillside, and the old cactus that
must be at least fifty years old, "That should be against the law".
We discussed a lot of things in the time Sebastian was here.  He ate and ate and ate.  I cooked and cooked and cooked.  WHERE in the world does a little guy like him put that much food?  Although
I must admit, while he was watching cartoons on Saturday morning, I took this photo and realized his
legs ARE getting much longer.
 The weekend was a triumph for him.  He beat me twice at the card game "Go Fish".  He demonstrated to me that he can hit a ball just as good left handed as right handed. At the same time he told me that that means he is a switch hitter.   We played an awkward game of tennis with a shuttlecock in the garden until we lost the shuttlecock.  He said he was using geometry, so help me, to find it.  He did.

One of the other fun things for both of us was looking at family photos that he had never seen.

Photos of his dad saving dolphins when he worked with US Parks and Wildlife; photos of many family Christmases in Houston before he was born; photos of cousins as babies and photos of he
and Matilda as babies.  His exclamations and questions were a delight.  The most excited he got
was when I showed him a photo of a family reunion at my brother's 70th birthday in 2003 when lots of cousins came from all over.  Seb was thrilled to know he has LOTS of cousins even though he has not met many of them. 

It is a treat to see things through the eyes of children.  There is no filter.  Like when Seb exclaimed that his Uncle Rich had hair and dark hair at that!  Or a photo of me probably thirty years ago and he exclaimed about how young I was............I chuckle now just thinking about it.

As we went to sleep on Friday night, he was talking about all the family and about the fact that he is going to grow up to be a scientist............then there was no more talking.  I knew he was asleep and I also knew that he was still holding my hand.  Ahhh, the joys of being a Grammy.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Agua Hotel - Flood Recovery Update

The lack of construction activity, during the flooding of the grounds of the hotel that is being restored at the bottom of the hill, did not last but two days.  Then the workers were back on the roof to add
what would be called an overhang at the front of the rooms on the second floor.  Most work is going on on the second floor exterior...........

Others were trying to dry out the engines of the large flooded trucks who sat in the floodwaters for days. And then, the trusty jackhammer guy and the bulldozer showed up to attempt to create a mountain of dirt on the side where the arroyo is located. You can see the high berm that they are creating.  You can also see that there is still standing water!
The problem with where they are building the berm is that that is not where the water came from to flood the grounds.  The wall of the presa that shows in this photo is what was breached and  caused a white water river  to pour through the grounds and the street in front of the property to the arroyo. 
 If you look closely, that wall is buttressed to prevent it from collapsing.  The problem is is that that wall is probably 20 ft in the air from the ground or more.  It seems to me that it would be easier to dredge the presa in the dry season when people can walk across it and then lower the dirt level INSIDE the presa by about 8-10 ft...........I'm not an engineer but common sense tells me they don't want to build a berm twenty feet in the air near that wall to prevent the flooding. 
With the amount of workers over there, it appears to me they are trying to get it completed for high season which goes from November til the end of March.  IMHO, that is doubtful.

When I was designing and building restaurants, resorts and retail in the USA and Mexico, everyone wanted their project finished by the 15th of December, no matter when it started.  It often did NOT happen.  From my viewpoint, it might be open by February or March but surely not in two months.
I wonder if they will be granted an occupancy permit.

Hopefully, whoever is in charge has been informed where the flooding actually came from and some radical, knowledgeable architectural/engineering firm is working on a solution.

In the meantime, I'll continue to stand on my roof terrace and shake my head in disbelief as they continue to move dirt first here and then there and then everywhere.  All the while as the other guy
jack hammers from 8 am til dark.  It does reassure one that San Miguel is definitely built on rock!

(By the way, you can click on the photos to enlarge them to see the details.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Escaping from World Reality.........just down the hill!

Whenever I "need" to run away to "be" in Mexico, I go to the jardin in San Miguel during the week.

Although one never knows what to expect, it is a great place to sit on the wrought iron benches and take in every day life in Mexico.

I finally got there yesterday.  It was refreshing and as calming as a two hour massage session.  I could feel my blood pressure calming, the longer I sat there and observed.

Not many people.  Just enough.  Then, two horsemen rode in and stopped adjacent to the statue of Allende, in front of his house.  They just sat there for quite a while taking in the scene of the clipped ficus trees, the green plants and the very few people.

Other men were removing the barricades that had been used over the weekend for all the various parades and festivities that occurred.  The pole that was used by the Voladores from Papantla is still up, but will be taken down one of these days. 

As I sat there a few friends that I have not seen in quite a while stopped by the bench and we caught up on news with each other.  Then another dear friend sat down and we talked for quite a while......but not about weighty issues, just every day life things such as her cat has cataracts and the construction going on around both of our houses.  Just kibitzing about this and that.

The ubiquitous balloon seller was there when I looked up from talking.  It is amazing how many balloons and pull toys the children who are visiting buy from this man.  Fun to observe.

My friend and I continued to talk.  Then the church bells began to ring and ring and ring.  The boys who make them ring were hanging on for dear life as they made them swing to ring!  Simultaneously
 we saw men walking with huge floral arrangments heading for the Parroquia and then a hearse turned the corner with a quiet procession of solemn friends and family walking behind the hearse. Never have I
 seen such a new, shiny, modern hearse in San Miguel!  It pulled up in front of the Parroquia.  All
the people stood reverently until about ten men pulled the casket out and took it up the stairs and into
the church.  The bells were still ringing but stopped once they entered the church.

As I always say, one can never sit in the jardin without something happening.  Today was no exception.

I left after about an hour and a half.  Totally content to know that whatever chaos is going on in the rest of the world, some things remain the same.  And, that is life in San Miguel.  Halleluia.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hotel Agua - The Hotel down the Hill!

Many times over the years I have written about the abandoned hotel down the hill.  The one that
Club Med started in 1982 and abandoned in 1983 due to flooding.  It has sat there until it was
purchased almost a year ago by a hotel group in Mexico City called, of all things, Agua Hotels.

Honestly, I laughed out loud when someone told me their name and that they were going to open that hotel beneath the presa (reservoir) and name it Agua Hotel.  I knew then that they had not done their
"due diligence" or they thought they could outwit Mother Nature. 

I have the photos to prove the flooding.  Here is one from 2010 which I'm told is not as bad as the flood in 1998 that killed many people who lived along the arroyo that goes through town.
In this photo, eventually the water was going through that window at second floor level!

There have been workers putting impermeable paint on the roof along with jackhammers to make deep holes (for what I have no idea) and it appears that they are trying to add rooms outside the main structure.  But, until they dealt with the presa above them, none of that matters.

Here are a few photos from this morning showing the rushing water and the flooded areas of the hotel.  If you look closely, you can see the big white truck that is submerged.  It has been for two days.  You'll also notice that there are no workers at all.  Yesterday there were lots and they looked over the side of the roof and worked on the roof.  Today, nada.  

In the original article that I have saved from the Houston Chronicle in 1982, it was announced that the property for Club Med would be a place to search archaeological sites in the area.  I have a feeling  that some day, thousands of years from now, that will be the purpose of this mass amount of concrete.

We'll see.  Well, I won't see, but someone will........maybe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Git Along Little "Dogie"

A saying that I subscribe to is "Everyone enters your life for a reason""  Sometimes it is for a good reason, other times, not so much.

An unexpected encounter with a woman on the bench in the jardin in 2003 changed my life for the better.  Totally.  Her name was Dogie.  Yup, truly.  When she was born in Punkin Corner near Quannah in West Texas, her Dad held her in one hand and said, "Look at that little dogie" and the rest is history.  Her real name is irrelevant.  No one ever called her that, ever.  Dogie fit her perfectly!

Sitting on that bench that day, I was trying to gather the strength to drive to Houston and was not sure how long I would be there or when or if I would get back to San Miguel.  My daughter was in MD Anderson battling leukemia and I was headed to be with her.

This stranger saw me sitting alone, facing the Parroquia.  She came over sat down and took my hand and just sat there.  I can hardly write this without wanting to cry.  It was such a pure, kind, loving
gesture from a complete stranger.  We sat that way for a while and then she introduced her gorgeous
self to me.  She asked if I needed anything and I told her why I was sitting there.  Eventually I left,
feeling better for the connection.

Fast forward several months when I saw Dogie again.  We talked.  And, she invited me to meet her somewhere for coffee.  One thing led to another and a slow but sure friendship began.  Little did Dogie know how much I needed a little nudge from someone.  She was good at nudging.........believe me.

Then the coffee group was born with Dogie as the leader, the rest of us the followers. I think it was about 2006.If I remember correctly, there were three of us originally.  Others stopped by and others were invited.  Today it is usually ten or twelve or fourteen people who descend on Don Tomas on Monday mornings for coffee.  The core of us are FAMILY - helping each other when there is a need.

It has been a lifeline for many of us from time to time.  A true support system.  Something that would not have happened if Mz. Dogie had not nudged us along.

There are so many crazy stories and we shared some of those yesterday with her daughters who are here since Dogie went to the Great Place in the Sky last Friday.  We had tears and laughter and many hugs.  I know she was grimacing and smiling from up there as we told these stories.  All of which were true!

To say that she was a character would be an understatement.  She was "one of a kind"and a True Texas Woman who did it all HER way in an absolute manner. I've never known anyone who liked "Bling" as much as Dogie.  Well, maybe Gorgeous George, the wrestler.

Here are photos that show her effervescence, her  love of life and her love of her family and her friends. 
 Dogie and her beloved husband Frank........smiling and in the next photo, blushing at Dogie's balloon trick of putting them under her shirt on her 87th birthday!
 Francisco, the waiter at Don Tomas loved Dogie and she loved him, as she did all men.  She could flirt outrageously much to the joy of her husband, Frank. 
Acting silly at coffee one Monday morning.
                         My son, John, reveled and loved Dogie's shenanigans.  She loved him back!
                              And, at that 87th birthday, a birthday gift became a prop for silliness.
                               Never have I known a woman who was more photogenic then
                                Dogie.  Of the many, many photos, not a bad one in the bunch.
A photo of Dogie and two of her daughters, Betty and Becki.
And, two more daughters Buffy and Carrie along with husband Frank.
             To me, this photo says it all.  Ms Dogie on a Monday morning, all dressed
          up at 11AM in all the bling she could find to wear.  Outrageous and wonderful!

I could not possibly post all the photos that I took over the years.  All I can say is "Thanks for the memories Dogie and all your love. The world is a better place, in so many ways,  for having had you here.  Hope to see you again one of these days."  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Millions of Monarchs in Migration

 The news is GOOD!  About 160 MILLION monarchs are expected at the sanctuaries about 2 1/2 hours south of San Miguel the end of October and into November!  That is three times as many as last year.  Could it be that people in Canada and the USA are planting lots of milkweed and other plants that monarchs feed on?  I hope so.
In the first two photos is a butterfly who greeted me right outside my kitchen door two days ago.  Then yesterday there were literally hundreds swooping and landing in the garden.  The sun was warm and there was no wind.  Two things that butterflies seem to thrive in.  As those of you who read my blog know, I keep little saucers of water hidden all over in the flower beds and the butterflies often can be seen dipping into the water!  The other thing I notice is that they love the bourganvilla which is now blooming in profusion.
 In Houston, my daughter Jennifer was a "butterfly" gardener.  It even said so on her business card.  She and her son Christopher delighted each time they saw a chrysalis and watched the process until a monarch emerged.  Here she is with one that landed on her face!  I treasure this photo.
 Having traveled to Chinqua, which is the nearest sanctuary to San Miguel is awesome.  No words can describe the wonder of seeing the trees covered with monarchs.  When it warms up a bit and the sun comes out, they flutter their wings and take flight.  The sound, yes, you can hear them, is a whoosh.........of wonderment.
These three photos are at Chinqua, the least visited sanctuary, as there are not accommodations to  stay there and so it is a "go down and come back""in the same day trip.  Well worth it.  The last time I was there, I don't think there were ten other people there. 
You must ride horses up to where the butterflies are, which is at 10,000 feet.  Again, awesome.

The monarchs are at the sanctuaries from November til around the first of March.  They usually come
back through San Miguel as they head north and feast on the lavender colored jacaranda trees.

The indigenous people believe that when the monarchs arrive that it is the returning souls of their departed.  It is around Dia de los Muertos.  Day of the Dead. 

What a gift of Nature this is.............thrilling to put it mildly.