The Price of Menudo

A bowl of menudo from Rico Mac Taco in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

On my last day in Mexico, Angel, the head concierge at Casa Velas, took me downtown Puerto Vallarta to a local place for menudo. It is, hands-down, my favorite thing to eat in Mexico. In the twelve-plus years that I've lived in New York City, I haven't been able to find it here, so when I'm in Mexico, I feel like I have to have it as frequently as possible.

Restaurants usually prepare one large stockpot of it in the morning on a first-come first-serve basis. It's known across the country as a quintessential hangover cure, thereby making it a popular breakfast dish. Even though he didn't have to be at work until three in the afternoon, Angel drove to the hotel in the morning and picked me up at nine a.m. We took a drive downtown and sat down at at Rico Mac Taco, an open-air, 24-hour corner spot that Benny the bartender had recommended. Angel had never been there nor heard of it, but I could tell by its slight rinky-dink look that we were in store for a good meal.

The waiter carried out two piping hot bowls of menudo, along with its traditional accoutrements: chopped white onions, minced jalapeños, dried chiles de arbo in oregano, and fresh limes. (In Mexico, they add torn fresh mint leaves instead of cilantro, but they didn't have mint when we were there.) There was also a basket of fresh, warm corn tortillas.

Angel held a tortilla in one hand, and, with a swift, graceful movement with the other...Ta-da! It was as tightly rolled as a cigarette and ready for dipping. The broth was rich with flavor, soothing yet lively, and the tripe was soft and tender. If you need to wake up after a night out, this is better than coffee. To Angel's delight, it was served with a complimentary sope, a small, thick cake of fried masa, topped with green salsa, chopped onions, and a flurry of pungent crumbled queso fresco.

"You can tell that it's freshly made by hand," he said, pointing out the hand-pinched edges. The exterior was nice and crisp while the interior remained dense and mealy. He later said that it was his favorite part.

I had heard that it was he had worked on his 30th birthday, which was the day before and was supposed to be his day off, so I told him that it was my treat.

After breakfast, we strolled along The Malecon and went to a large flea market at the end, which I don't think I would've found on my own, where he bought me a friendship bracelet. He then dropped me back to the hotel and went home to get his uniform ready for work. I went onto the plane later that afternoon, touched by Angel's graciousness. That bowl of menudo ended up being worth so much more than fifty pesos.

Living In the Moment

Grilled shrimp Caesar salad for lunch in my hotel suite at Casa Velas, with the Twitter feed going nearby and CNN on the TV

This afternoon, when the hotel manager saw me perched on a sofa in the lobby, glued to the news and my Twitter feed for the second day in a row, he said to me, with a twinge of concern, "Señorita, you should go enjoy the pool or the beach while you're here." And, so, I present to you my 1% problem: On the one hand, I'm "stranded" at a beautiful Mexican resort. On the other, I'm hooked on CNN and Twitter for the hurricane updates back in New York. I feel like I'm being suspended in a netherworld--at least until Sunday.

At his suggestion, I headed down to the pool, fluffed out a fresh towel on a Bali bed, and set my things down. Una piña colada, por favor.  Birds were chirping. The pool water was as warm as a bath. I swam on my back and looked up at the sunlight slicing through the palm fronds. Sigh. I was relaxing. When I got back to my suite, I took a long hot shower and ordered room service for dinner.

Okay. I'm here now. 

Luck Be A Lady... Named Sandy

Casa Velas Beach Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I was supposed to return to New York yesterday, but, due to the anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, my flight was canceled and re-booked for this coming Thursday. (However, that's starting to look like a shot in the dark now, too.) The publicist for Velas Resorts arranged accommodations for me at their other property: Casa Velas. It's a quieter and more intimate hotel, much like a traditional Mexican hacienda.

Everyone back in New York is dealing with the crazy madness that comes with natural disasters, and, here I am, spending the day on a Bali bed with a frozen margarita, wondering how the hell I got so lucky. It's a strange feeling, though, to feel lucky, lonely, worried, and guilty all at once. Here's sending good thoughts to my friends back home. Hoping everyone is safe and sound.

Drink Me

#singlegirllunch

Green juice is like an eraser. It makes you forget that, just the night before, you partook in an elaborate multi-course dinner. Now, I do realize that the photo above displays green juice next to a glass of wine, but, in my own demented world, they both cancel each other out; therefore, it's a neutralized situation.

On Traveling Light

It was my second day in Puerto Vallarta. I came down to the pool in the afternoon and saw one of the travel writers from my group stepping out of the water--an older woman who also lives in New York. She waved me over to a lounge chair next to hers. 

"Is your name 'Barbie' or 'Bobbi'?" I asked, unfolding my towel, "I've heard people call you both."

She shook her head, "It's neither. It's 'Babbie.' B-A-B-B-I-E. And it's not a nickname–it's my actual name."

We ordered Sauvignon Blanc and shared a bowl of ceviche with tortilla chips. At one point, Babbie asked me what I was wearing to dinner later that evening. I told her that I hadn't thought about it yet, and that I might just wear the same polo dress that I had worn the night before. "I didn't pack much. I'm the kind of girl who doesn't mind wearing the same dress over and over again," I said, "I think it's the sign of a good dress."

She nodded her head in approval, "You may have packed lighter than I did! I have a story about that. I met Bianca Jagger in Acapulco ages ago. This was before she met Mick. She was being kept by a man who owned a very famous hotel there. She had this black dress. You could tell it was $3,000 and from Paris, like Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent. Someone must've bought it for her. Anyway, she would wear this dress every single night, and she looked so chic. I couldn't tell you the words we exchanged to each other...But I've always remembered what she wore."