Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quite a trip

I got up way, way too early Monday morning and left for the Newark airport at 4:30 AM. I was headed to Mexico City for a press junket* to learn about Kahlua. We had an uneventful flight, landed in Mexico, and had an amusing experience at Customs; after you go through passport control and then make your declarations at Customs, you have to walk past a booth with two bored young women...who pointed to a red button mounted on the counter and told you "Push the button." I did, it flashed red, the two people with me did the same, and they waved us on. "Push the button"? WTF? We found out later that it was a random search generator; every now and then it flashes green...and you get searched!

We hooked up with the rest of the group in the lounge (quick Tecate and an avocado salad, quick e-mail check), and onto a turboprop to Jalapa in Veracruz. The flight was great: this hotrod pilot gunned the plane into a tight turn onto the runway and firewalled it BANG! into the sky. We were talking later, and one of the other writers said "it seemed a bit casual to me." Indeed! 
We flew over Mexico City a long time: that place sprawls something fierce, like a tide of houses. Then it was over the mountains, and they were wild, green and brown, with scattered houses and little towns, scratched-out roads on the tops of ridges. (I've been to Mexico once before, and both times it's reminded me of a bigger, rougher-edged version of California; the block of raw terrain that California was carved out of.) Then things got much, much greener, and the plane went into a sudden hard bank to the left and started dropping, not diving, but dropping fast, we were passing cows at a low altitude...and we landed. Kudos, amigo, that was a great flight!

We were in Jalapa. We boarded two SUVs and headed down the road. Things got more and more rural, battered signs, cantinas and roadside taquerias, over a waterfall, through green green trees, and the mountains everywhere. We got to Coatepec, one of the big coffee towns in Veracruz where they grow shade-grown Arabica coffee. Our hotel, the Meson de Alferez, is just outside the middle of town, and I'm loving it: simple, built around a courtyard with hibiscus plants and a fountain. We walked into town, had a lechero (served here, it was a glass of steamed milk, served with a cup of espresso; you dump the espresso in the milk...yum), walked around the square -- mayonnaise corn, balloon venders, shoeshine carts -- and back for dinner. We had a tasting menu at 45, the restaurant next door. Very good mole, the cheese and corn pie was good, the pumpkin flower taco was delish.

And we had plenty of Kahlua. I'm not going to write too much about Kahlua here in the blog: Mass Bev Biz gets first dibs on that (see below). But I will say that we got Kahlua sours, kind of as a joke...and they were excellent. Kahlua, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup, garnished with fresh lime. So simple, so good, so surprising.

Today we visited El Cafe Tal, a coffee museum and coffee 'sanctuary.' Again, I'll save this, but the picture above is our host, Cuauhtemoc Apan Rohas, driving us to the sanctuary in a 1962 Dodge Power Wagon, which was excellent. Great views of the mountains, banana trees, sugar cane fields, and coffee bushes popping up everywhere. We got out and hiked around the sanctuary; like the drive, only steeper and narrower. Just great.

Tonight we go out to a cantina, drink mezcal, and have dinner...and I suspect we'll be drinking more beers out in that courtyard. I...am so ready for that.

Back to work on PA Breweries 4!!
Because you asked: the Power Wagon!

*(the trip was offered to Mass Beverage Business, they offered it to me, I'm writing a piece on Kahlua for the magazine: full disclosure).


sam k said...

'62 Power Wagon? I was going to guess an even older Willys Jeep, based on just the windshield configuration.

Nice post on what has to be the best business trip during a brutal February ever. Looking forward to stories over chili and a snort of '72 Sam Thompson this weekend!

Lew Bryson said...

May have to post a full-on shot later; it was a striking beast, and I admit to getting excited when they told us we were riding to the sanctuary in it.

Hope I get home in time for the chili: the weather for Thursday/Friday is not looking for a guy flying into Newark late Thursday night!

Carey said...

I've driven some God awful wrecks through the jungles of Mexico. I remember one jeep that was just an engine and chassis with a crate to sit on I drove to a cenote south of Tulum. Thing's probably still running today. My Audi's check engine light is on.

Anyway, we're looking at snow Thursday Lew, so enjoy.

sam k said...

Carey, you da man! Vintage iron is tough to beat...great story. Lew, buck up! You better be there, else you ain't gonna taste some vintage PA rye!

Your Kahlua buddy

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

On the one hand, I'm jealous. Been to Mexico before?

On the other hand--how's your Spanish?

Lew Bryson said...

Apparently better than your English, Sandy; I said in the post that I'd been to Mexico before!

Anonymous said...

I believe you are required to disclose the fact you recieved a product or trip from a company at their expense if you are going then promote the product from the company on your blog. The Federal Trade Commission is looking into mommy bloggers.


Lew Bryson said...

Didn't I just do that? Pernod Ricard is paying for this trip. I am going to write a piece about Kahlua -- an assigned piece -- for Massachusetts Beverage Business, a trade publication I've been writing for over the past 11 years. What else needs to be said?

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, maybe one other thing needs to be repeated: I did not solicit this trip. Again, it was offered to MassBevBiz, and the editor offered it to me.

Is there anything else I need to disclose? As I understand it with the "mommy bloggers," they were getting free stuff and reviewing it without revealing it was free. I always tell my readers when what I'm reviewing is a sample from the manufacturer. Mostly what I'm writing about here is the trip. No conflict there.

sam k said...

Anony just has Power Wagon envy. Hey, wait a minute...so do I!