Gail and Jon discover all things desert and conduct research for the culinary tour to Mexico along the way

May 1, 2011

We arrived in Indio, CA (just east of Palm Springs) in time to watch the Royal Wedding at Sun City Shadow Hills the home of Edmonton friend Dennis Goddard. Jon and I have to get used to the space – what luxury compared to the room in our VW. It’s a treat! Thank you Dennis!

It’s hot (80 F) and I’m in love with the landscape: desert becomes mountains right before your eyes, most vegetation looks indigenous and whether it’s trees, shrubs or plants (lots of cactus) they are blooming with every colour imaginable.

We explore the street fair at the College of the Desert. It’s a re-sale market with vendors selling clothes, home décor and prepared food. It’s run by the college alumni and proceeds furnish a foundation at the college. It’s busy.

For the next four hours, we decide to tour the Living Desert, a botanic and animal exhibit of the desert that gives me a much better understanding of the area we are visiting. I must admit that I’m a wimp when it comes to seeing animals in cages, so I’m a bit leery of this experience. I’m proven wrong, with the exception of birds animals roam in lots of open space. Walks through desert landscape and only desert wildlife are here.

The walking has made us hungry and we opt for an early dinner at The Soul of Mexico, a family restaurant less than four years old and an authentic eating experience from the Michoacán region of Mexico. It’s called the Soul of Mexico because the region is in the heart of the Mexico, an area renowned for its food production. I make a mental note of this as I’m currently researching a culinary tour to Mexico in the spring of 2013. Many of the dishes of the restaurant have been handed down through the generations. So, without question we ask the owner what we should have. Starters: their Cadillac Margarita – a real thirst quencher with Hornitos Tequila, Patron Citronage and Grand Marnier and yes, we want salt around the rim. Americans are definitely paranoid about their salt intake, when they now ask if you want salt around the rim of a Margarita! I’m thinking, “Just drink the Margarita and don’t eat any processed fast food!” Orders automatically come with housemade salsa and tortilla chips which are warm, thin and crispy.

We share two entrees: the Trio Enchiladas and the Chile Relleno en Ahogada, both family recipes. The enchilada plate is huge: chicken enchilada covered with a green sauce, cheese enchilada with a white sauce and beef enchilada with a mole tomato sauce, including a delicate brown rice, housemade re-fried beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. All three are delicious, but points for the white sauce (smooth as silk) and the beef with mole and tomato sauce – the flavours are deep and sweet with just a hint of mole. The chile relleno is an open fired roasted poblano chile pepper stuffed with shrimp (plump and at least six of them) and grilled vegetables, served with this gorgeous smooth white sauce, grilled vegetables and a hefty mound of delicate brown rice. How do they do this white sauce?!? It’s nothing like what I’ve grown up with. Culinary tour to Mexico for sure, if just to learn this technique!

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