Where the Desert Meets the Sea – Cabo Part 1
“Don’t put the salt on your hand and lick it. Put it on the lime. In Mexico we never lick body parts…until AFTER we drink the tequila.” And with that simple instruction we began our sex-innuendo-laced tequila tasting in the shade of an outdoor pavilion on the beach. The sun was brilliant and glimmered off the Pacific Ocean only steps away. “This is the reposado, which is aged much longer than the blanco you just tasted. This gives it more of a wood flavor. An interesting fact about wood…” I will spare you the lumber references that followed.
It was not our first tequila of the trip and would most certainly not be our last. We had been planning this trip for quite some time and unwinding was to be the theme. For our inaugural trip to Cabo we were happy to be going with our close friends Mike and Sunshine. All of us were ready to leave the low winter temps of Arkansas and get somewhere with some sun and sand. As Sunshine said not long after we arrived, “this is healing for the soul.” As it turned out we could not have picked a better location or time of year to travel to Los Cabos. The weather was perfect, food excellent, and the daily watching of whales from our condo could not be beat. Our souls were indeed happy.
So a brief review of history shows that the Spanish were equally fascinated with this area of the world. After invading mainland Mexico the Spanish set out to find the magical/mythical area they called “California”. Due to mapping limitations, and no Google Earth, the Spanish believed for centuries that Baja California was an island. It was not until the 1600s that it was confirmed to be a peninsula.
12 to 15 million years ago Baja California began to split away from mainland Mexico, a process which continues to this day. In fact, the tectonic plate rift that is responsible extends to the Salton Sea basin, which is just adjacent to Palm Springs, California. When you look at a map you can easily see where Baja California previously fit like a glove with the rest of Mexico. Now the peninsula, the largest in the world, is bordered on the east by the Gulf of California and Sea of Cortes and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
The Sea of Cortes is named after the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes, who had notions of proving that island theory discussed above. So in 1532 he dispatched three ships up the coast of Mexico to locate the island of California. They disappeared without a trace. Undaunted, Cortes the very next year sent another ship up the coast with the same orders, and the additional task of finding the yahoos and the three ships he had sent previously. The pilot of that ship promptly led a mutiny and founded a settlement in what is now the area known as La Paz. He was killed not long after. It is presumed that Cortes at this point grew weary of sending ships and men into the ether never to be heard from again.
When you talk about Cabo you are not necessarily talking about one town. There is Cabo San Lucas where the main marina is located and where Sammy Hagar made his song Cabo Wabo famous. Just to the northeast is the town San Jose del Cabo. The area together is known as Los Cabos. We stayed at the Westin Los Cabos in an area known as “the corridor” which is between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Think of Cabo San Lucas as Spring Break and San Jose del Cabo as the calmer more laid-back sister city. We spent almost all of our time in or near San Jose del Cabo.
Uber is the best for transportation if you are not renting a car. There is an interesting little battle going on between Uber drivers and taxi drivers. Taxi drivers gain seniority through the years, some have been doing it their whole life and have decades of seniority built up. This is kind of the whole point because not everyone is allowed to be a taxi driver, so seniority makes it more of an exclusive occupation as well as higher paying. Enter Uber. Their drivers can be pretty much anyone. And their rates are generally cheaper, which as you can quickly determine undercuts the taxi drivers. So you have this constant friction between taxi drivers and Uber drivers. The government has also gotten involved, with the Municipale Transporte monitoring Uber drivers and not letting them pick up and drop off passengers in certain areas, most notably the airport. And handing out $1,000 fines when warranted.
We had one minor brush with this while taking an Uber from the Westin. We were told on that day that “inspectors” were out on the main road not letting Uber drivers come up to the resort, so we would need to make the walk out to the main road. However, to our surprise our Uber driver came up to the resort and picked us up. We quickly surmised two things: 1) he did not speak English; and 2) he did not have authority to pick us up at the resort but he did it anyway. As he drove us down the winding driveway to the main road we came upon two policemen, out of their vehicle, and motioning for our driver to stop. He did not. He drove right past them, with one continuing to make hand gestures that clearly meant stop and the other with his iPhone out videoing the entire incident as we passed by. We snickered and looked at our driver questioningly. Without any facial expression whatsoever all he said was “No problemo”.
A final note about Uber in Cabo. There was apparently a memo sent out that all Americans love ‘80s music so put that on in your car when transporting gringos. Although a little kitschy, we still had fun with it. One night after mezcal, vodkas with “toro rojo!”, and Mexican karaoke, we may or may not have made our own riff on that timeless Def Leppard classic “pour some churro on me”. Somewhere Montezuma was smiling at the early morning revenge he would have on these particular gringos.
Anyone that knows me knows I love a good fire. And wood fire cooking is one of my passions. So when I was researching places for this trip Carbon Cabron kept catching my eye. Wood is stacked throughout the restaurant on shelves in between rows of tables. An Argentinean style wood fire grill and horno are easily visible as the kitchen is open to viewing. We started with old fashioned cocktails made with Woodford Reserve and each served on it’s own flint tray and covered with a larger glass to contain the smoke within. The server would remove the glass and wave it front of your face to reveal the mesquite smokiness within. The cocktail was outstanding.
Our meal of sweetbreads, fresh shrimp, and perfectly cooked ribeye-for-the-table (carved tableside) was off the charts. Each sauce and marinade better than the last. As Mike and I were finishing the ribeye the waiter asked if we would like the trimmings from our steak to be put back in the cast iron and seared to make a type of chicharrones. Um, well hell yes we would like that. And so they were, and they were excellent. As we left, bellies sated and minds perfectly cocktailed, I marked down Carbon Cabron as a must-do-again on our next visit here. (to be continued)