Saturday, May 29, 2010

Molcajete: Best. Ever.

While at Los Osuna blue agave distillery, we asked for a recommendation for lunch. We were sent to "El Sazon de la Abuela Tina" - jut past the archway into La Noria. This truly felt like a locals' place - spoken English was limited but they did have menus printed in English. Problem: Molcajete was translated as "Molcajete". LOL! Some quick look-ups on the cell phone said it meant "mortar" as in mortar and pestle. Hmm. When I asked our server for details, she really didn't have the English (and I didn't have the Spanish) to figure it out. She finally said "it's very good". What the hell - I ordered the shrimp molcajete.

What came out was this:

Tomato sauce with maybe some cream, shrimp, whole jalapenos and some subtle spices I could not place. It was served with fresh blue corn tortillas and was so amazing! There were wood-burning ovens in the back where the molcajete was cooked, then it was placed on a wood platter and brought out. It bubbled and and boiled a good 20 minutes after it came out and the heat coming off it was stunning.

Without a doubt, this was THE BEST dish I had in Mazatlan.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Oh my gosh! I can't complain: US Airways

Please, please don't allow US Airways to merge with an airline as crappy as United or American. I flew USAir for the first time in ages and was HAPPY. That wasn't a sarcastic happy, that was happy HAPPY.

After Mexicana Airlines totally failed on our flights to Mazatlan, I booked tickeds with USAir out of Oakland International (OAK). Last minute tickets = same price as the early booking I had with Mexicana. OK, off to a good start USAir!

Checking in online: This was a bit slow, but I am willing to accept it might have been my Internet connection since I was having trouble with other sites. I switched to Safari (vs. Mozilla) and it was better but still not great. Their luggage fees pretty much suck ($23 for the first bag online or $25 at the airport) but that is comparable to most other airlines. They do hold back seats at the front of the plane so for a few extra bucks you can grab an aisle or window at check-in time.

At the airport: Oakland is so low-key compared to SFO, which is a good thing. We dropped off our luggage in no time and were able to get through security pretty fast. Of course, it was 5:00am, but you know...

The staff: In general, everyone was friendly! Shocking. I mean, how dare they like their jobs?? ;-)

On the plane: Leather(ette) seats which seemed to have a tad bit more legroom than most airlines. Food and drink are available for purchase with a credit / debit card. They had Stirrings brand drinks - yummy - which was a point in their favor. Our flights were all under two hours, so there was no entertainment but I was OK with this. I never plan on there being good (or working) entertainment on board. 

After landing: Smooth, no issues. No one was locked in the plane afterwards for hours (that we know of) and our luggage appeared in one piece with the obligatory TSA notice that it had been riffled through.

Thumbs up US Airways! My expectations may be pretty low these days, but you did well!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spotlight on San Francisco: Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers - always the third Sunday in May! If you are thinking of a trip to SF around that time, you need to know all about B2B.

Touted as the "oldest footrace in America", B2B has become more than just a 12K run. Sure, the elite runners start off the race, but they are finished long before the rest of the folks starting pulling their beer carts up Howard Street. Yes, beer carts, often pulled by about 10 Elvis's and / or naked people. B2B is an excuse for a city-wide costume party and unfortunately, some of those costumes are birthday suits - usually by folks who should be covering themselves up and NOT running around naked. And then there are the salmon spawn - they run the whole race dressed as salmon and run "upstream". I so want to be a salmon one year!

Technically, nudity and alcohol are prohibited. But really, how do you control thousands of people all hell-bent on breaking the rules? Folks who love to sleep in late actually set their alarms so they can start getting drunk at 7:30am on a Sunday - this is serious business!

If you are a tourist, you'd better know the route of the Breakers because it will effect your sightseeing. Starting at the Embarcadero and heading up Howard Street, the course makes it way to the dreaded Hayes Street Hill. Once it reaches Alamo Square, there is a big party with DJ's and everything (forget about seeing the famous Painted Ladies on this day). The course is all downhill from there and continues along Fell Street and the Panhandle, through Golden Gate Park and out to the Beach where it ends. Well, the "race" ends there. There is a huge party at that end of GG Park and you will see drunk people wearing tiaras and wings stumbling around all over the city till late Sunday evening.

If all this isn't your aesthetic, I'd suggest getting out of the city early and heading up to Wine Country. Road closures start around 7am downtown (or earlier by the start line) and continue most of the morning.

B2B is an experience - if you are a runner or even an active walker - it is a blast to participate in. The people watching alone is worth it. If you just want to dress up like a ballerina bunny rabbit with wings and party, it is your type of event. 

In case you need further proof of just how crazy this is, we created a video from Alamo Square today. Notice the landmark Painted Ladies - I felt bad for the tourists trying to take pictures there today!

(For the record, I'm annoyed with the quality YouTube is doing on uploads these days. This is an HD video. Looks waaaaaaaay better on Facebook).

-- Happy Bay to Breaking!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mexicana Airlines: #Fail

I'm sitting here enjoying the smooth jazz sounds of Orbitz's on hold music. In all my years of using their online service, I've only had a problem with Orbitz once - and today is not that day.

No, my trouble is with Mexicana Air. I should have learned my lesson last year, but when I see cheap, efficient flights, I get all googly-eyed and buy them. Last year we had a trip to Cabo planned and a week before we left - all hell broke loose. "Swine flu" wrecked havoc on flights in and out of Mexico City and I spent hours and hours on the phone with Mexicana and Orbitz trying to find a solution. We ended up flying a red-eye out of SFO and enjoying an 8 hour layover in Guadalajara. The word "refund" was not in the vocabulary for Mexicana.

Once again, a week before our flight, I receive a lovely flight update: two layovers now, one with a six hour stop. Insane and wholly and completely unacceptable. Orbitz is working to get a refund for me. I'm sitting here thinking it will be a cold day in hell, but who knows? I might get lucky (for once) with this crappy airline.

So yes, I should have learned my lesson last year, but I assumed the swine flu was a once-in-a-lifetime weird timing thing and it would be OK this year. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

UPDATE: After over 100 minutes on the phone, Orbitz came through for me! The airline is processing the refund after Orbitz got a supervisor involved. Yeah Orbitz!