Monthly Archives: June 2007

Pirate Cigarrettes in the Yucatan!

In case any of my readers are still smoking, I have this curious bit of info for you.

On the way back to Merida from my recent excursion to the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, I stopped in the charming hamlet of Molas to buy some smokes at a roadside store.
When I lit the first one, I noticed that it was awfully harsh. Harsher than usual, anyway. So I had another look at the label and it was not in Spanish as usual, but in English. Intrigued, I looked at the side of the box and saw that they were made in… the Philippines!

How in the world did these nasty – and I don’t mean nasty ‘cuz they’re from there, but because they were truly nasty, throat scratching, cigarrettes that I ended up throwing away – Filipino cigarrettes get to Molas?

Restaurant at Sotuta de Peon Hacienda

Hi. This is your friendly Casual Restaurant Critic reporting on the recent visit to the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, where the Critic stayed on, along with his out-of-town guests, to sample the on-site restaurant, after the dip in the cenote and end of tour. The horse-drawn ‘truck’ conveniently stops directly in front of the restaurant, so it’s hard not to get the hint!

Under the shade of a giant palapa roof, with the breeze from an approaching storm to break the June heat, the Critic and Co sat down for a cool beer and something to eat.

As appetizers, empanadas de queso, which arrived promptly, the golden corn masa crispy on the outside with melted cheese inside and a little tomato sauce on top. Papadzules were very good as well. Before that, the cold beer arrived with two botanas: sikil pak, which is a traditional pumpkin seed and tomato paste that the Critic is extremely fond of, and a spicy mayonnaise-y cream.

For a main course, the queso relleno, another absolute Critic favorite. The cheese was abundant, the k’ol was not too thick and overwhelming, and the amount of raisins, capers and ground meat (pork and beef is called for in this recipe) was just perfect. Tortillas were hot, corn and reasonably fresh, although not as fabulous as the thick, handmade works of art served in Mani.

After polishing off at least 8 mouthwatering tacos from this one serving of queso, the Critic had had enough food to last him the remainder of the day, thereby precluding a previously planned nocturnal excursion to Kanasin to show off those panuchos and salbutes to his visiting guests.

Service was fine and overall, it was a perfect end to the Sotuta Hacienda tour. Rating? The Critic gives it a 5 on this occasion.

Second Visit to the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon

In case any of my readers didn’t get to read it the first time, I commented back in ’06 on the privately run tourist attraction, the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. The link is in case you want to have a look.

I mention this because I went again yesterday with friends visiting from Wisconsin. The family absolutely loved the tour and swimming in the cenote at the end blew their minds. For both adults and kids, the bi-lingual tour was entertaining, informative and fun. It is a true glimpse into Yucatan’s past.

Since you all want to know some chisme, the hacienda is owned by the Lübcke family who bought the building basically in ruins about 25 years ago. The first thing Mr. Lübcke did was to replant the henequen plants on about 300 acres to get the plants growing. Then, he proceeded to restore both the hacienda buildings and rebuild the turn-of-the-century henequen processing machinery, gathering bits and pieces and parts from anywhere possible to get it operational.

This is the kind of initiative that Yucatan needs (not more people waiting for government handouts or suckling the official teat); everyone should make the effort to visit the hacienda and support Mr. Lübcke’s project. You will be pleasantly surprised!

La Susana Internacional – Colonia Aleman Version

The Critic had heard that the famous and too-often mentioned (at least by this Critic) Susana Internacional panucheria in Kanasin had opened a branch in Mérida. Last night, in a fit of Yucatecan food poch*-ness, the Critic and his much better half zipped over to one of Mérida’s older colonias (neighborhoods), the colonia Alemán to see if this Susana was as good as the original.

There is no comparing the quirky atmosphere, the decorations; the ambience, that permeates the original Susana. At this sucursal (branch), admittedly easier to get to than the original and located in the afore-mentioned colonia, directly across from where the Cine Maya once stood, there are much fewer decorations, the waiters aren’t as funny, the furniture is plastic Coca Cola red, and the street is right beside your table. Last night, there was also the added bonus of live entertainment in the shape of a wach (tenia aspecto fuereño) scratching a battered guitar and attempting something resembling music. The Critic and Co hate live music while eating and tried not make eye contact.

The food is very good, as in the original. The obligatory menu was had consisting of salbutes and panuchos, caldo especial and a taco each of chicharra. Portions are huge, again as in the original. Drinks were aguas de pitaya and chaya, two local flavors that you, dear visitor, must try at some point while in the Yucatan.

Service was good and the Critic was impressed with the speed in which the ordered food appeared at the table. Too speedy, since everything arrived at once. But that way, you can work your way through the panucho and the salbut, dropping bits and pieces into your caldo, which is cooling off while you eat.

Prices are ridiculously cheap; perhaps a little over those of Kanasin. The total bill for two fruit waters, 2 salbutes, 1 panucho, 2 small caldos and 2 tacos de chicharra, came to $145.00 (pesos!) At today’s exchange rate, this works out to around $13 USD for a very filling, belt-popping, cholesterol-level-boosting dinner.

On a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best) the Critic subjectively awards the Susana Internacional’s second location a hearty 3.

*poch – A Mayan word meaning to be in the mood for something. Also when you are feeling in need of a hug, your mood can be described as ‘poch’.

HBO Sopranos Finale

Since the internet is abuzz with all kinds of whining and moaning about David Chase’s choice of ending for the much-lauded Sopranos HBO series, I thought I would get my two centavos worth in too.

I was shocked – as was my better half – when at the climactic moment in the final episode the screen went to black! Scrambling off the sofa to check if I had sat on the remote and checking the ‘on’ light of the satelite receiver, the amp and everything else, I then assumed it was the satellite dish readjusting itself (it does that around midnite every 24 hours) and thought what terrible timing!!!

And then the credits came on. No music. Interesting, since all the shows have ended with some sort of different and original musical background.

There was really no better way to end this since any ending would have had its detractors and there was no way to satisfy every or anyone. This way, everyone will be talking about the show for some time to come.

Mexico Home to Pac Man Champ of the World

For those international readers who think that all news about Mexicans regards illegal immigration or refried beans here is a news flash:

Carlos Romero, a 27 year old from Pachuca, Hidalgo attended the Pac Man Championship held recently in New York City, where the 10 best players in the world played Pac Man on the new Xbox 360.

The first Xbox 360 Pac-Man World Champion, Carlos Romero, has been playing Pac-Man since 1986, and achieved a final score of 222,160.

This is the champion OF THE WORLD! And he’s a Mexican! See what can be done if you try hard enough? This should be an example to follow for Mexico’s troubled youth. Truly inspirational.

This is not the photo taken when he won, apparently. It is probably his school photo; they’re always deadly serious photos, those official ID shots, no smiles allowed.

Congratulations to Carlos Romero – a modern day Mexican hero!

La Susana Internacional Revisited – Again

The Critic is pleased to report that what is arguably the the best panucheria in the Yucatan, La Susana Internacional, continues to maintain that which makes it so good in the Critic’s humble opinion:

  • friendly service from quirky waiters;
  • overflowing and oversized panuchos and salbutes;
  • caldos loaded to the rim with actual shredded roasted pavo aka turkey;
  • delcious, crunchy and chewy chicharra (pork rinds);
  • refreshing natural fruit (and nutritious chaya) drinks
  • amazingly accessible prices;
  • that friendly parking lot guy.

In addition, La Susana Internacional, located just across from the El Chisme II store in beautiful (ok maybe a little less than beautiful) downtown Kanasin, had, on this most recent visit at 11 om on a Saturday night, an hipil-clad hostess to welcome patrons and there was a shiny, brand-new menu complete with package combo suggestions for 2 to 8 people.

Still haven’t been there? What on Chaac’s good earth are you waiting for?