Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Visit To Tacámbaro and Mansíon del Molino

We took a drive yesterday for the first time to Tacámbaro, Michoacán. We first heard of it from the Pátzcuaro Birders Group. It's on the edge of La Tierra Caliente, or Hot Lands. About 50 miles of winding, mountainous roads lead up from Opopeo, through darkly fragrant pine forests and then down through sunny avocado groves. As we started up, we got behind a fully loaded manure truck, carrying a load to the groves. It smelled so bad (Worse than any cacá de vaca) that we pulled off to the side in order to let it get ahead. When we resumed our movement (ugh!) we quickly caught up because the poop truck, in turn, was slowed by a big logging truck. But soon, the natural Pine Fresh dissipated the odor.
Once over the crest of the thickly forested mountains, we curved down through small, sun-drenched pueblitos, several of which have the surname "Viña". ("Vineyard")
They were worth a photo or two, but we didn't stop until we reached Tacámbaro. Before the final descent is a fancy pollos asados and carnes asadas restaurant; two stories with a glassed in front overlooking the valley. I didn't catch its name, but it is in the area of many aguacate packing sheds and some palatial homes, attesting to relative affluence. There are other, humbler dwellings, whose style is characterized by a simple square block structure roofed with steeply sloping, corrugated metal roofs. Those reminded me somewhat of buildings in some Southern U.S. states. A local abarrotes looked like an old-time general store in rural Mississippi.

The road makes a long, looping descent to Tacámbaro. We parked in a paid lot entered through a greasy, narrow, cobble floored passageway.  To our surprise, interesting street food was scarce to non-existent around the Plaza; just a few ice cream stands, nanches (yellow stone fruits sold in a plastic cup) and one little streetside taco place. We didn't look for the mercado, as we were wanting to eat at the Mansón del Molino, Tacámbaro's premier hotel.
I will also note the Motel de la Cima, a gaudy new, Jetson's style structure up in the heights along the highway in from the north. We didn't check that one out. It does feature "Baños de Burbujas".
We walked several blocks uphill to to the attractive arches that mark the entrance of the hotel.

Beyond the reception area is an elongated restaurant with machinery from the 1800s when it was a flour mill.

We were the only customers in the restaurant at 1:30 p.m., but that was fine. We had a table with a view of the rooftops of the town below. The Menú del Día was a deal at $50 Mexican pesos, drinks extra. Doña Cuevas had a half pitcher of Naranjada (fresh orange drink), and I a Vodka Tonic, which in this case is vodka in sparklng mineral water, with a slice of lime.

We were brought complimentary sopitos, or little masa cakes topped with frijoles and cheese. Those were pretty tasty, although the dough was not browned. There was an o.k. salsa verde and a brick red salsa macha to dab on. I didn't get any photos of those, as we gobbled them too quickly.

In an amazing departure from habit, apart from the drinks, we both ordered the same things; first, Sopa Tarasca.

The Sopa Tarasca was nicely presented and made the way I prefer: with a substantial bean puree thickening; not the watery, roux-full, Knorr-Suiza (stock cubes or powder) flavored stuff. passed off as Sopa Tarasca in too many other restaurants.

Then,  Chile Relleno "El Molino", a chile pasilla, stuffed with queso ranchero and bathed in a creamy onion sauce. Normally, I don't do much "white food", but this was good. The nicely made creamy sauce offset the sharp, mineral tang of the chiles. (These are not fresh chiles, but rehydrated dried ones.)

Our chiles rellenos came with some fair rice with peas in it, and some avocado sliced fan-wise.
Dessert was included, a few cubes of brown gelatin that I think were sherry flavored. I couldn't finish the gelatin.

Food: ***1/2
Service: ****
Price: $-$$
Restrooms: very clean
Ambience/decor: down by the old mill stream, with a view

Our amiable hosts then offered to show us a couple of attractive rooms of the hotel. The rooms are very modern, but I think that the hotel has missed an opportunity to add a bit of romantic atmosphere, considering the quaint ambience of the grounds, the view, and the restaurant and its antiques. But we are unlikely to be guests, since our home is only an hour and 20 minutes away.
Rates seem to be around $570 a double, although "descuentos" were hinted at. The rates on the hotel's website are a little less. The separate reservations page seems partially disfunctional, as it only comes up with Standard Rooms and no other options. I suggest calling the hotel directly:

Mansión del Molino Hotel, Morelos No. 450 Tacámbaro, Michoacán, México.Tel-Fax:+52 01 (459) 596 0007
 Afterwards, we descended to the plaza, then entered the Hotel Posada del Carmen, a cute hotel with 5 rooms along a small, sunny patio. The room decor seemed much like your Aunt Minerva's. We sat at folding card tables while the muchacha in charge prepared a café Americano for me. It was obviously made from scratch and took 12 or so minutes. The coffee was good and strong, but all the grounds were in the cup.

The hotel Posada del Carmen rates range from $400 a sencilla to $500 a doble. One room has a cama king and adjoins the only room looking onto the plaza. The room with a view has two matrimonial beds.All other rooms face inward toward the patio.

Without having stayed at either, the Molino seems much nicer, for about $70 pesos more.

My interest in the Tacámbaro area has been piqued by this first visit. I have found this somewhat idyllic video on YouTube. Very nice, if you are patient enough to get past the unedited leader.


Tancho said...

We seem to enjoy to visit Tacambaro a lot for out "Sunday" drive. I am sorry that you missed a neat restaurant that use to be located about 3 km outside of town called El Tajaban.
It was a open air dining room overlooking the pine valley. We went there many times with friends for long afternoon meals. There is another restaurant a little further up the road towards Opopeo called El Mirador. It is ok, but not as good as El Molino. We also found El Molino because there was no place to eat at the plaza on one of our trips....kind of strange. The molino has some pretty awesome history of being the first mill in that part of the country. Glad you found it! Interesting maneuvering the car to their inside parking lot.....

Bob Mrotek said...

Great post Don Cuevas. I am sorry though that you ran up against Bob's Law. It states that you might as well take your old sweet time about getting anywhere because wherever you go in Mexico you are going to end up behind an old smelly truck that won't pull over. Nothing you can do about it :)

Unknown said...

Saludos y buen provecho fearless Don Cuevos (y Do~a): I am in total agreement having had lunch here twice and viewed the rooms I concur this is the place to stay in Tocambaro. There were some very upscale folks dining the first time Cheri and I visited. Always good to read of new outings! BTW did you make it to the balinaria down the road some 10k or so run by sisters Rosie y Reina? Cheers, Mike

Don Cuevas said...

Tancho, we'll go again, si Dios nos permite, and we'll try El Tejaban.

Bob, why is it called Bob's Law?

Wilderae; we didn't get around much on this, our first visit, but a balneario run by two ladies named Rosie y Reina has got to have appeal!

I now return to comida preparations. Hasta luego.

Tancho said...

Sorry I may not have been clear, El Tajaban is no more, however it looks like someone is remodeling the old place perhaps a new restaurant will be there once again. El Mirador isn't too bad.

Don Cuevas said...

Tancho, in that case, I'll have to go to El Tejaban in Tzurumutaro for pollo asado al carbón. (It's a lot closer than Tacámbaro.)

Don Cuevas

Bob Mrotek said...

Don Cuevas,
Because my name is Bob and I postulated it first. Another favorite of mine is: In Mexico, the last person in the left turn lane is always the first person to see the arrow turn green and it is their job to toot their horn frantically and let everyone else know. Are their any Don Cuevas laws?

Don Cuevas said...

Yes, I understand, Bob.

One of mine is Don Cuevas' Law of Necessary Documentation: no matter what documents you thought you'd need in official matters, there will always be one missing or flawed.

Don Cuevas

Bob Mrotek said...

I am expecting to hear about some Tancho laws. I can't believe he doesn't have any. Perhaps we should gather them together in some sort of unofficial document :)

Don Cuevas said...

Sounds o.k. Bob
Why don't you start a new blog post on your blog?

(But anyway, that document will also be flawed or something vital will be missing. :-)

Don Cuevas

Tancho said...

Tancho's law would take a veritable volume of chapters.
One of the meaningful ones is.
"After you have all the details ironed out and agreed on a outcome, it will change...."
So, don't get me going on this.

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks Tancho.

Tancho said...
"So, don't get me going on this."

O.k., please don't. Maybe Bob will open a new post on his blog and we can compile our Laws there.

Saludos muy cordiales a todos,
Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

I´ve heard Tacámbaro compared to Pátzcuaro. I don´t quite see that, but it is a good place to visit, something I´ve done only once. Gotta go back.

It´s a beautiful drive from Pátz to Tacámbaro.

Anonymous said...

Here's a good video that describes Tacámbaro in depth. History, geography, economics...

My response was, "Darn, still another interesting, attractive, bustling small city I missed!"

Jack McGarvey
Rio Rico, AZ

PS: Signed off as "Anonymous," because I can't find my Google Account username.

gusmorelos said...

Nice to see another good wild and tasty adventure Don Cuevas , Ive never been in Tacambaro so far but some day , some day !si dios quiere ! Saludos to mrs Don Cuevas maybe we·ll meet soon .