As you may have noticed there has been a brief hiatus in posts of late. No doubt, those who know me thought that I had simply (and inevitably) got bored and that was the last they would see of my blog. But no! I was on a delightful “work-cation” in Acapulco courtesy of my lovely company. Thank you random psychologists for planning a conference in Mexico in February and thank you Psychology Press for choosing li’l ol’ me to attend.
Ever a rational and lateral thinker, I decided that the logical course of action was to fly to Mexico via Los Angeles so that I could visit some dear old friends from my UC Santa Barbara days (big up the El D massive). So, I spent the weekend in Downtown LA with my lovely friend Charlie (who actually played cupid for Sven and I) and his beautific girlfriend, Jamie. Top of my to-do list was to get some sushi in Little Tokyo as I had never been (despite many planned sushi missions on previous visits to LA). I’m afraid (new to this lark) that I did not take the names of any of the places that we went to and instead let myself be led from place to place like some grateful but stupid child! All I can say is we had some wonderful sushi in a lovely restaurant. Helpful, huh?
Sunday night was more about the drink than the food and boy, was there plenty to be had. One thing that gets me about LA every time I go is the strength of the drinks. The idea of “two drinks and she’s anyone’s…” takes on a completely different meaning when the two drinks are basically pure vodka. Whereas in the UK we take our drinks as mixer-with-a-splash-of-alcohol, in the States it’s quite the opposite. My customary vodka and cranberry is always a very pale pink rather than red and I, usually a girl who prides herself on her ability to keep up with the big boys, have to take a big gulp (holding my nose) and ask the bartender to top her up (with cranberry, not more vodka). It’s truly a humbling experience. Anyway, rather more than two pure vodkas later I had to call it a night for my 7am flight to Acapulco.
Acapulco is really rather a funny place. It’s much much bigger than I had envisioned. Well, what I had envisioned was a rather quaint but swanky Mexican seaside town. That may have been what it was back in the 60s, but now it is quite a different animal. A city of almost a million inhabitants, it is really rather vast. It stretches for miles along a huge bay that goes on and on and on, and costs £20 ($30) in a taxi to drive round (that’s quite a lot of mullah in Mexico, innit?). My hotel, the Fairmont Acapulco Princess, was some strange Aztec monstrosity. Don’t get me wrong, it was a luxurious and really rather pleasant monstrosity, but it certainly did not feel “authentic”. I had many pleasant drinks in the Aztec themed bar and whiled away more hours than I care to admit (at least to my company) in the cabanas on the private beach, so I’m not dissing the Princess, but come on… I was in constant search of the elusive “local flavour” and unfortunately the staff at the Princess, although eager to be of help, seemed utterly perplexed at this. When I asked where we should go in “Old Acapulco” the concierge looked at me quizzically and said, “Oh no, you don’t want to go there. Go to Senor Frogs instead”. Sigh. We were on our own.
I’m not going to go through every single meal with you, but I thought I would just bring a couple of restaurants to your kind attention. My absolute highlight of the week was the restaurant, El Cabrito (baby goat). “Awww, sweet” I can hear you say. What could be more pleasant than a restaurant named after baby goats? Well yes, that’s what we thought too. Until we took our seats and turned to see this.
It would seem that the speciality of the house was broiled baby goat, or “for the most discerning palate”, broiled baby goat’s head. We had ring side seats and followed many a baby goat on its journey: stuck on a stick, broil, flip, broil, flip, broil. Head: broil, flip, broil, flip, broil. Lots of people around us were tucking in and it did look rather wonderful. But we were here for one reason, and one reason only. In search of their famous Mole Oaxaqueño and it was worth the sacrifice of broiled baby goat’s head! The black sauce uses 32 ingredients, including: cacao, almonds, garlic, tomato, grapes, and a variety of different types of chilli. The depth of flavour was incredible and the chicken literally fell apart at the merest touch of a fork. Spicy, sweet, and dark, it was by far and away the best meal I had in Mexico.
The other restaurant I want to tell you about is not, I’m afraid, going to win any gastronomic awards. However, Linda Vista has other qualities to recommend it, namely a sense of drama and theatre that overcame their culinary shortcomings (not everything’s about food afterall!). The “experience” was two-fold: first for their use of trays and second for their obsession with fire. Everything in this restaurant came of a tray (and a wheeled tray if they could possibly manage it). When you wanted to order, all the fish on the menu came out on a tray. When you fancied a dessert it was wheeled out and prepared on a tray by your table. If you decided you might want a digestif and asked for a drinks menu, their vast choice of after dinner drinks was brought to you on a tray (an interactive menu, if you will). If they could combine trays with fire then they were all over it. Flambés and Mexican coffees were the order of the day. My main even came with a little pot of fire, which was actually helpful because it was the darkest restaurant in the history of the world. I could barely see to eat! But I’m not mad at Linda Vista. It was great and we absolutely loved it.
The only real culinary achievement to have come out of my trip is the perfection of the margarita. After much experimentation and serious consideration, I believe we had our order down to a fine art. By the final day, I do really believe that there wasn’t a better margarita to be had in town than the one we were ordering up: margarita, on the rocks, with salt, lots of lime and tres generaciones. Next time you’re in Mexico, try it. I did the leg work for you, and you’re totally welcome.