Monthly Archives: March 2011

Customer Service – iStore vs Starbucks

This morning found me in Altabrisa, doing some banking at a Canadian bank that has found a nice market with their credit cards because in Mexico they can charge whatever the hell they want (see previous post) and no one complains, like maybe they would back in Canada.

Again, I digress.

I stopped by the iStore or mini-Apple store or whatever Mixup calls their Mac store these days to ask about an Apogee device that would allow me to connect my electric guitar to my iPad and thereby enable me to jam out in GarageBand which I am currently infatuated with.

So I ask the lady cleaning some packaging and without looking up or expressing any interest whatsoever, she simply tells me that they don’t handle those kind of products (there is a $300 dollar microphone for iPads on the shelf behind her) and that I should go to Radio Shack or Steren. Um, no?

I was so disgusted with her complete lack of interest that I vowed never to buy anything at their stupid, pretentious wannabe store.

A little while later, I was in Starbucks getting an espresso from a very nice young man and after paying and walking the length of the mall, I heard him come running up behind me – I had left my debit card there.

I was just struck by the difference in service in a space of 30 minutes of mall time.

El Rincon Oaxaqueño

Last night the Casual Restaurant Critic and his ever-accomodating BetterHalf had a most amazingly delicious meal at El Rincon Oaxaqueño, which means a little corner of Oaxaca. If you are not familiar with Oaxaca, a state with great handcrafts, fantastic scenery and some Mexicos’ best cuisine, you need to get out more.

The speciality of Oaxaca, like Puebla, is its mole. Pronounced MOHL-ay, this is a rich, complicated and ingredient-packed sauce made from everything and anything, from toasted chiles and spices to rich dark Mexican chocolate. It is usually served cooked with chicken or pork and accompanied by white rice.

The Critic and his BetterHalf were the only people in the restaurant near about 5 PM when they normally close on Sundays, but the people were gracious enough to not only serve some great food, but provide plenty of information about the restaurant and Oaxacan food in general. The initial impression did not, as the word implies, impress, as a rather unkempt young man was at the door and essentially indicated that any table was fine and left some menus, but then a real waiter (from Mexico City as it turned out) came along and all was well. Great service from this young man who was friendly, gracious and seemed quite proud of the menu and the kitchen.

A platter for two was ordered, which featured grilled cecina (pork), beef, chorizo, melted quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese) and of course chapulines aka grasshoppers. Yes, grasshoppers, along with ant eggs (not sampled on this occasion) are considered delicacies and are the cutest little crunchy things that you toss into your mouth like popcorn or stuff into one of their fantastic hand made corn tortillas which in turn are much larger than the Yucatecan version and even taste a little different. The platter comes with 3 tlacoyas (?) which are like Mexico City style sopes, with beans and more quesillo on top.

Also sampled was their black mole, which in this case came with chicken and was exquisite. Before all that, two samples of mole arrived at the table; the almendrado which to the Critic seemed a little on the bland side, and the colorado (reddish brown in color) which was the Critics favorite: spicy, thick and full of all kinds of delicious flavors. These little samples are accompanied by corn tostaditas for dipping into the tiny pots.

All in all, a great dinner in a restaurant reminiscent of someones home (which evidently this is, given that there were some family members watching TV in a room, off the restaurants dining areas.

Enjoy the photos.

Bank Credit Card Interest Rates

For those of you not familiar with the exorbitant rates charged by Mexican banks for use of their credit card, and think you have it bad there in the US or Canada, here’s an interesting tidbit of information, sent to me recently in my HSBC credit card statement by the Banco de Mexico and the Condusef. The former is the central bank in Mexico and the latter is the place to go when you have a complaint or grievance against a bank or credit institution.

The rates, comparatively, for “Gold” credit cards, by bank:

Bank / Product / Annual % Rate

  • Banco Inbursa – Oro Inbursa – 25.5%
  • BBVA Bancomer – Oro Bancomer – 32.9%
  • Santander – UNISantander-K – 33.2%
  • Ixe Tarjetas – Ixe Oro – 35.3%
  • Banamex – Oro – 41.7%
  • HSBC – Oro HSBC – 42.3%
  • Banorte – Oro – 43.8%
  • Scotiabank – Scotia Travel Oro – 53.4%
  • American Express – The Gold Credit Card – 54%

Pretty shocking huh?

Merida Doors and Facades (Photos)

This afternoon I found myself in Meridas centro, known in expat circles as “Centro” ie “I live in Centro, where do you live?” about which I could go on in a humorous fashion for quite some time, as no local ever calls it just ‘centro’ but anyway, once again I digress and of course I might alienate some of my readers, whom I dearly love to death.

Gosh it’s hard to type this when the cursor disappears!

In any case, there I was, the light was perfect and I have always wanted to take photos of those colorful facades and doorways so typical of the centro scene and lo and behold: I had my camera, the afternoon sun cast a warm glow all around and I had time to spare.

Here are some of those shots.

Hennessy’s for Lunch

The Casual Restaurant Critic has said all he is going to say about Hennessy’s so here are some pictures, as they are apparently worth a thousand words. There’s at least 6 or 7 thousand words here for you to drool over. The food today was great, service a little less so, but they try.

And Sean was nice enough to send over a dessert sampler for the Better Half and Critics birthday guest. Thank you!

Merida Slow Food – Some Photos from this Morning

I have already written about the Slow Food market, but I thought I would upload some photos of the food from this mornings visit to the GringoFest that is the Mercado Slow Food in Merida. Lots and lots of familiar faces, from my international artist buddy Katherine to local celebrity Mrs Campos to my new bud Reg. Also some new ones and even the occasional Yucateco (walking around saying “pero que es ESTO?”) among the palefaces. The word needs to get out to the local foodies that this market even exists so they can come and partake of the excellent selection of organic and gourmet items on sale.

Enjoy the photos.

Finally, some good news about Mexico – The Washington Post

For those of you who read my neurotic ramblings – and I know you are out there – and haven’t seen this, here is a link to an article from my pal Edith over at the Washington Post that summarized what a lot of us who live here feel about the place. A little sugary for me, but still, better than yet another report on a narco-beheading, a hotel exploding or a tourist losing an actual arm and a leg to a real shark (as opposed to those tourists who attend the “free” breakfast and lose a virtual arm and a leg to the time share cetaceans)

The link is here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/02/AR2011030205529.html

Enjoy.

A Message From the Queen to the U.S.A

Just had this sent to me on Facebook and thought it worthy of republication here. God Save the Queen.

Subject: A Message from Queen Elizabeth To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.) Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. Tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!