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March 2008

Almost to the Border and LA Mexican Food


The closer I got the the USA border, the more I panicked.  No more ceviche tostadas for me.  Over the past few months of cruising thru Mexico, I'd developed a wicked addiction to not only ceviche, but to very fresh, very crunchy tostadas. All with big, juicy squirts of lime and dots of super spicy homemade salsa.

This one above was a $2 bit--from a roadstand just outside of Mazatlan.  They were shucking oysters out front (which is why I pulled over) and mixing fresh shrimp ceviche to order.  Full depression on the state of Mexican food in LA...but then....oh, but then.....

I got a rageful email the other day from a reader about Mexican food in LA.  See below:

"Obviously you have not left the coast.  The Mexican restaurants are east of the ocean:  La Cabanita in Glendale, Tortas Mexico in Glendale, Lilliana's Tamales in East LA, El Gallo Mexican Bakery in East LA.  The Gradn Central Market in Downtown LA. It sounds like  you have not explored LA.  There is little food of any worth on the coastline itself.  You have to get in your car and drive!  Rogers Park is a neighborhood of the city.  What if I only went as far as Michigan & Wacker and declared there is no ethnic food in Chicago.   Come on!"

Looks like I will have to venture over the the East side.  More soon on tostada trampings from LA.  Thanks reader.




PURE Pilates Retreat Heads to Yelapa, Mexico in March 2009


PURE is hosting another Pilates retreat in 2009. This time though, it will be held in my favorite little village on the Pacific Coast of Mexico---a tiny gem called Yelapa.  This you-can-only-get-there-by-boat hideaway is where I filmed my first TV show (that went on to become Craving Adventure on The Travel Channel) and is literally one of my favorite places in the WORLD. 

We're gonna be kickin' it at Hotel Lagunita and have lined up all sorts of fun things:  jungle trekking to remote waterfalls, medicinal herb workshops, volunteering with children at the local art center, snorkeling with blue-footed boobies on Marietas Island (you can only see them here and the Galapagos), paragliding on the beach, and loads more.  Of course, there's also great food and two Pilates classes per day!

Email me for more details and everything will be spelled out soon on the PURE website.  I can't wait to get back to Yelapa...those stars...that tortilla soup...that just-speared octopus...that limpet scraped off a salty boulder and doused with lime...oh, the joy of it all!

March 23-29, 2009

San Carlos, Mexico & More Cops to the Rescue


San Carlos, Mexico has been on my go-to list for eons.  Ever since I started looking for a place to shelter away a sailboat on the crazy-blue Sea of Cortez.  I had read about it, researched it, followed blogs on it, talked to sailboat owners about it, google mapped it...pretty much everything but visited it.  As I rocketed up the coast towards the border, I was finally headed straight for it--a quick lunch pit stop.

Let's just say another one off the list.

It was just like being in America.  Just like being in any coastal town, full of bright signs, a slightly garish strip...with houses clinging to hills.  Thank the good Lord I actually make it to these towns before I plunk down dough into them.  I gotta stop being the sight-unseen girl. 

On the way out of town, I pulled into the sand to take a photo of the bay (it really is lovely) and managed to get stuck in the sand within 30 seconds.  Awesome.  No food yet.  Starving.  Itching to beat it.  And, then...out of nowhere...three guys (2 being cops) rolled out like a mirage to help me dig my truck out.  Barely a word was spoken--one got behind the wheel and two helped me push.  We were all clear in about a minute and then they just sorta faded away across the sand dune. 

I now have a soft spot in my heart for San Carlos.  But, still..I couldn't wait to scram. 


Rosamorada = Top Westcoast Colonial Village in Mexico


's one of my personal Top 5 favorite villages I blew through on the Western side of Mexico.  Colonial, small, friendly locals, crazy clean, beautiful church, and not a single white face to be seen.  I loved it.  I was on the hunt for lunch--something good--and after cruising through the entire town in less than three minutes, I stopped at a restaurant just before you exit out onto the main road (a busy place on the left, under the giant structure welcoming you to the village).

The pretty much toothless sweetie running the joint totally got my vibe when I requested just beans, tortillas, and rice with lime.  She brought me a big plate of the just made food...all doled out from big clay pots and patted me on the back each time I inhaled a mouthful.  Every few seconds her daughter would run over with a piping hot tortilla and stuff it in the basket that I was sharing with two truckers. 

Coulda been one of the best meals to date in Mexico.





Roadside Shrimp Tamales


Mexico is a patchwork criss-cross of tiny villages, each touting their own specialty.  They sling up stands along the side of the road and every single vendor sells the exact same thing.  Pretty much identical to the core.  How the heck do you even know where to stop?  Sometimes it's oysters.  Could be truck campers.  Might be  elote.  Maybe dried shrimp packs.  Anytime you stumble across a little town that is obviously very proud of their goods, you might as well stop. 

Sometimes you even run across something you've never had.  Like shrimp tamales

Never have I seen shrimp tamales, so when I left San Blas and almost immediately hit up a slew of shrimp tamale coolers along a strip of arid desert, I had to have one. was interesting.  Not quite what I was expecting--the shell was still on--and then as I dove into it a bit further, I noticed a couple of black beads. HELLO SHRIMP EYES BIG AS BLUEBERRIES. 

Good Christ, that was a hunger drainer.  I quietly wrapped my tamale back in its husk and slammed a Nescafe. 

Turns out these tamales are famous in the state of Nayarit...but it's just a wee bit too much sea for me.





How To Get Off Grid in a Vintage Travel Trailer


In case any of you were wondering how the heck to buy your own little vintage travel trailer, pimp it out and hit the is a simple little How-To Guide I just wrote for The Traveler's Notebook, one of the best travel websites out there.  Check out the full story here.

Here's a quick sample bite from the story...
It’s so simple to buy a cheap vintage travel trailer and experience a whole new way of living that I’m stunned more folks haven’t figured it out. Is it a big secret? Too intimidating? It is considered kooky? Well, if you’ve ever dreamed of ditching it all and heading south of the border, here’s a handy guide to get you started on the road to freedom.

1. Acknowledge the Beast Within

Oh, you know what I’m talking about. That little sing-song voice inside calling out when you least expect it. It’s saying, “Are you kidding me, this is my life? Is this all there is? And, I pay how much rent for this dumpy apartment?” If you can just answer with “It’s time to change things” the next time the monster kicks in, you might find yourself calling a tin can box home. And, trust me, you will be the envy of everyone you come into contact with.

2. Research Galore

There are a bundle of websites out there with vintage trailers for sale. You can buy one already restored or you can buy a way old-school one and put your own flair into it. I opted for my own flair. Going this do-it-yourself route allowed me the opportunity to explore options I might not have run across. Things to think about: Do you really need a bathroom? How important is a fridge vs. icebox? Is a shower imperative? For me, none of these things mattered and by not giving a hoot about luxuries, I managed to save loads of money.

**You can read the rest of the story on via the above link and seriously, I cannot wait to get back to CAmer to resume my journey. Just a few more months now....mst

Kiko's Meat Market: Meat Lovers Paradise {From The Raving Dish}


Today I stood at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Nothing but huge thrashing waves and a dark, moody blue attitude. Its unruly ferociousness matched the puddle of emotions welling up inside of me—little nuggets that have been building up since I left the easy-come-easy-go interior of Mexico and landed in L.A. a scant few weeks ago for a short, three-month gig. At first, I wasn't sure why I was so melancholy. The weather has been fantastic, the job has been great and the little apartment I am calling home is two blocks from the beach. What could possibly be wrong with this scenario? After inhaling some chicken noodle soup loaded with saltines and a big bowl of chocolate pudding, I realized what was brewing around in my confused mind. I'm homesick for Chicago. Simple as that.

It wasn't until I spied a full pantry yesterday at a friend's house that I even remembered that I have a home in Chicago. A cute home, right on Lake Michigan, dotted with my global treasures and really, my entire life. I've spent the past few months traveling around Mexico in my 14-foot solar travel trailer and before that, I was volunteering in Indonesia. It's been such a busy few months I've not had time to stop and remember and think and reminisce. Blame it on another perfectly sunny day in L.A. because this afternoon, when I thought about my heavily ethnic neighborhood, Rogers Park, and all of the 'round-the-world food that is within a few miles of my front door, I almost broke down in tears. I just want some good food. Some dirt-cheap, standout grub from an unsuspecting hole-in-the-wall, much like the kind that Kiko's Market and Restaurant on North Lincoln Avenue slings out.

Continue reading "Kiko's Meat Market: Meat Lovers Paradise {From The Raving Dish}" »

Finally, the Pacific Coast and a San Blas Pitstop


I'm the kind of girl who reads about a place and just wants to pick up and move there.  Immediately.  Like one of those sell everything, start over and live on the beach type of mindsets is what I am blessed/cursed with.  I almost did it last year (a hundred times) when I found an adorable casa in San Blas, Mexico for sale.  Never mind that I'd never been there.  Never mind that I was ensconced in a half-year-long, huge television production.  I was just ready to go....sight unseen.  But, then I started to research the San Blas area a bit more and I found out that the seaside village gets huge infestations of flies every summer that nearly drives people mad and I was like, oh...well...thank god I read that before committing my life savings to a shack on the beach.  Next location!

But,  I still wanted to see the place.  It was still in the back of my mind as a tiny, off-radar travel spot, so when I left Isla Mujeres, I knew that I was headed toward the Pac coast and the San Blas area.  I rolled into the Western section of Mexico about 10 PM (from Mexico City)--headed toward SB--and was weaving through mighty dense jungle that smelled EXACTLY like the rice fields in Bali.  I mean to the T.  I almost had to pull over because I was so overwhelmed by its intensely familiar, and breathtaking, scent.  Instead, though, I just rolled down my windows and gazed at the full moon drooping over--and lighting up--the deserted hills. 

The small town square was all abuzz with bustling cafes, smiling expats and grills charring up fresh fish.  At close to midnight.  It was kinda kooky to see all that activity in such a tiny village, but I just made my way straight to a nice hotel (time to treat myself), checked in, and then headed out for a few beers.  A restaurant just down the street from my hotel had a mariachi band bellowing out old Mexican love songs and I sat and drank and poured over my map, plotting my journey the next day (I was longing to see San Carlos as well).  Somehow the singer made his way to my table (again, I must have APPROACH ME, POR FAVOR on my forehead), but we had a nice chat and a few laughs.  I was just praying he wasn't going to serenade me in the middle of the dining room.  Instead he asked me out and gave me a rose.  Very sweet.  I will say this---NEVER go to Mexico if you want to be alone.  Friends in the making are all across this lovely country.

The next AM, I tore out of bed at the crack of dawn and made my way to the beach.  Instantly I spotted a lone sailboat heading North.  To where, I wondered?  I wanted to transplant myself from the sandy beach onto the bow of that boat so bad, but instead I loaded back into my truck and hit the road.  Next stop San Carlos---via bumpy, no-traffic backroads, thank you very much~~





Tamales & Backroads


Remind me to never eat chicken again. Poor things, just crammed in a cage on the back of a dusty truck, getting ready to die.  It just makes me sad.  But, as I was staring into this truck of doom...I glanced over and spotted a tamale sign.  Yeah!

After my Mexico City fiasco, I'd decided to take smaller back roads the rest of the way to the Pacific Coast (I was headed to the San Blas area) and not 20 minutes outside of the city, I stumbled upon what turned out to the THE BEST TAMALE EVER.  (except for La Unica in Chicago).  This little lady was hawking them for 50 cents each and I had to grab a few to go--they were that good.  Of course, I shoved them down within seconds of getting back in my truck.  Nescafe, cheese and chile tamales and backroads are the way to go.  Also, I saw some guy get his tamale tucked into the bread that you make tortas with--like a tamale sandwich.  Brilliant!

I also wolfed a bag of cukes in salt and lime.  Literally the most refreshing thing ever.





Mexico City & Nice Policemen


There was a great article in this weeks New York Times about Puebla, Mexico.  All colonial and charming.  Well, the Puebla I saw one late night driving thru mainland Mexico was nothing but MAD bustling and out-of-control.  I'm certain because it was pitch black, loaded with crazy traffic and loud as hell...but then again, I'd just come from Isla Mujeres, a totally serene island.  It was my first time back in real traffic in months and  I was in a rage/dead panic immediately.  I had to get out.  So where did I end up the same night? 


I was trying to skirt around the BIGGEST CITY IN THE WORLD and I ended up dead in the middle of it.  For real.  The whole megawatt city spread out like a neon spill and I could not find my way out.  So, I ended up at at a $28 dollar hotel somewhere in the middle of the madness.  It was actually a great little spot--though there was porn on most every channel.  Whatever.  They had wi-fi and cold beer.

The next AM, it took me THREE solid hours to get out of the city--I was so lost, caught in traffic and frustrated.  'Til I was pulled over by a really nice police officer that literally hand drew me a map--in the middle of a butt load of grid-locked traffic.  Who even knows why I got pulled over...he was like this little angel sent from above to help me get out of the city.  He def. DID NOT want his photo taken though (see photo). And, once I got my map, I flew out of there like a whip.  I could have disappeared in that city in about 2 seconds flat...that is what I was thinking once I went in...but of course, Mexico to the rescue.  I was saved by a man in black.

Now that I have navigated the biggest city in the world, ALONE, at 2, there ain't much I can't conquer!