Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mexico or bust, Part I

I don't even know where to begin. Though we had to cut our "weddingmoon" short, the trip was amazing for the days we were there.

The day after our civil ceremony at City Hall, we had to wake us up at 2:45 in the morning and head to the airport. We only had one night in Puerto Vallarta before heading to our final *destination* and wanted to get there as early as possible. I say *destination* because to call where we stayed, Verana, a resort is an insult. It's more like "an experience."

After a 3-hour layover in Houston (where we drank mimosas and ate cheeseburgers at 8:30 in the morning) and an overpriced cab ride, we arrived at the apartment in Puerto Vallarta where we planned to stay the one night.

Nestled in between stucco houses with worn shudders, along a cobblestone street at the top of a hill, was Casa Sin Tiempo. Literally, a "home without time". The apartment is owned and run by Verana. Casa Sin Tiempo was amazingly beautiful, with old wooden doors with creaky latches, wrought iron windows that opened outward to let in the fresh air, and a bathroom that was filled with century-old hand-painted tiles and a Roman-like tub that you had to walk down into. Upstairs from our room was a large, open-air living space with a balcony that overlooked the city, and an old kitchen covered with the same butter-colored tiles. The chairs on the balcony made you feel as if you could sit there all day and listen to the dogs bark, the construction workers drill and the cars honk. Yet it was peaceful in its own way.

{Braja will love this shot of ghostly curtains in the morning sun against battered shutters, with her shutter fetish and all}

{The deck chairs just outside the main living area and kitchen were calling me to have a glass of wine and watch the sun go down. But a cooking lesson awaited.}

{The rustic kitchen, and it's out-of-commission traditional oven half shown on the right.}

{A view of the living area and deck from behind a hand-carved wooden panel.}

{A view of the neighboring roofs. The terracotta tiling was endless.}

We had scheduled a cooking class ahead of time for the one night we had in Puerto Vallarta. Sonia, the manager of Casa Sin Tiempo, would take us to a local market to shop and then would walk us through 4 traditional Mexican dishes. We had no idea that we were about to embark on a 5-hour food fest that left us writhing with full bellies and dreaming of ancho chiles.

At the market:

{Spices, legumes, and grains filled bins to the brim.}

{Baskets of citrus looked more like decorative arrangements than a shopper's paradise.}

{Mr. T drooled over these habaneros and couldn't wait to eat them.}

Despite Mr. T's and my affection for cooking, we opted to observe this class rather than participate so we could take notes and not miss a thing. Throughout the class, Sonia told us stories from her childhood in central Mexico, and about the recipes she was teaching us. For example, the Gorditas recipe is a 500-year old recipe that remains unchanged. Something about the tradition and her willingness to share family secrets passed down from generation to generation made everything taste even better.

The dishes we cooked were:

{Tuna ceviche: freshly sliced tuna, scallions, serrano chiles, cilantro, and a lime vineagrette.}

{Classic Gorditas: Pan-fried pork cooked until crispy and simmered with tomatillos, garlic, and ancho chiles; served in homemade gordita pockets made from fresh masa and Manchego cheese; a spoonful of cooked beans topped each little pocket of goodness off, making it just perfect.}

{Chile relleno: A poblano pepper roasted on the stove top and stuffed with mozzarella cheese; cooked with an egg white coating and topped with leftover Gordita sauce.}

We were so stuffed by dessert that we failed to take a picture. Dessert was homemade chocolate caliente (hot chocolate made with Mexican chocolate), served with churros (crispy cinnamon covered sticks of fried dough).

Are you hungry yet? I am.

More to report tomorrow.


  1. Sushene! These pictures are so beautiful! I'm sure in a year you'll look back at your blog and be so happy you kept it and can see all of those memories in one place. This stuff looks a lot like what I eat down here all the time--I'll have to try to replicate that ceviche. It's my favorite dish EVER.

    On the Tex Mex front: http://isabelcowles.com/2008/05/13/quickies-guacamole-pico-de-gallo-black-bean-and-mango-salsa/

    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Even as a vegetarian, for some reason, Mimosas and cheeseburgers at 8:30am sound like incredibly romantic and magical way to start an adventurous life together, full of more true experiences like your weddingmoon. Congratulations!

  3. I've never heard of Verana - I briefly clicked on the link, but I'll head back to explore more.

    You are so fortunate to have this type of "weddingmoon" experience (even though it was cut short). This is a place you and Mr. T will be able to return to again and again.

    Wonderful pics!

  4. Oh my god, my stomach is SCREAMING right now. The photos are beautiful, I nearly climaxed from the one of the spices. Setting as desktop now!

  5. Wow. And I had a lousy pot pie for dinner.

  6. ok, so, thanks, I'm having mexican food tonight now. ;)