A blog about movies and the Sturbridge area, including The Brookfields, Brimfield, Charlton, Holland, Wales, and Spencer as well as adjacent towns.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Playa del Carmen, RIP-Mexican dies in Sturbridge

Playa del Carmen, RIP

De gustibus non disputandum est is a Latin phrase that means there is no disputing taste. My alternative translation used when discussing what I disagree with is there is no accounting for taste.

I had heard that Playa del Carmen had closed and thought that they just couldn't make a go of it in the current business environment. After all, Romauldo's is gone and 420 Main as well. On Thinking out loud in Sturbridge, there is a post about the demise of Playa del Carmen. It appears there is a tenant-landlord disagreement. One hopes that it is a resolvable misunderstanding, but that usually is not the case in my experience.

I was there at the birth of PdC. Bob Datz arranged a press luncheon. The owners were hospitable. The food was good enough for the shakedown cruise. I did not find it exciting, but the staff was just getting going and one had no reason to quibble as they did more right than wrong.

So after some time, I went back with my family. It was a disappointment. Be assured, no one wants to see Mexican food succeed in our region more than moi. Unfortunately, the verdict of the fam was bland. Also, the service was poor that night. I can overlook that as not all systems run smoothly all the time. I just never went back because of the food.

After that, when the subject of PdC came up, the sentiment was near unanimous, bland. One person called it the Rom's of Mexican food. I liked Rom's, as did a lot of people. We were under no illusions that we were in La Toscania, but value for the money, it was okay. PdC was not going to get that pass. Everyone always expects more of the new guy in town. More so as everyone had been waiting so long for Mexican to arrive.

Now, I did hear from some locals who liked Playa, so it was not without its fans. Nevertheless, I just finished processing the habaneros I grew, so you know what I'm voting for.

Mexican food and I go back a long time. In the early 70s, enjoying an all expenses paid government vacation down south, I discovered the cuisine at the Cafe Puerto Rico. I know what you're thinking, but it served only Mexican food made by a Mexican American family. I never thought to ask about the origin of the name.

Upon separation from the service and returning to Nova Anglia, I sought out Mexican food in Massachusetts. Chain Mexican may be abundant in urban areas now, but there was almost nothing back then. There was a joint in the Brighton area of Boston. Actually, it was a kind of Tale of Two Joints. On one side was Concannon & Sennet's, a working class Irish bar. Not that it had a bad rep, but I'd heard that the bars on the windows were not to stop break-ins. Rather, they were to prevent patrons being thrown out the window due to the occasional altercation. El Phoenix Room, Boston’s only Mexican Restaurant at the time, occupied the other side.

The style of the food was probably not the Mexican you find south of the Rio Grande. It would be called Tex Mex. Still, it was pretty good. In the new millennium, Concannon & Sennet's and El Phoenix have given way to yuppification and the location is now Harry's Upscale Whatever.

Despite the drought of Mexican here, Southbridge had The Flatiron Cafe, located, oddly enough, in the Flatiron Building. It was a great place, a cut above my beloved Brighton dive. Alas, even in the relatively halcyon late 80s, early 90s, it could not make a go of it. The hinterlands were not ready.

The original Playa del Carmen is still open in Holden. With a successful operation up there, they had every right to think the formula would work here. Hey, Holden is a suburb. We here in the exurbs are a little more discerning than our more domesticated brethren.

It was with no little pleasure that I heard that Playa del Carmen would be taking up the space that was Rom's. True, in the end the fare did not excite me. That does not mean it gladdened my heart to see it close. I wish no one who will take a risk and open a restaurant to fail. I do want something with a bit more bite. So Carmen, if you resolve your landlord problemos and make it back, I have only one suggestion, turn up the heat.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Great Time at the Red Barn Market-Pictures and Video

So we had the market, thanks to Carol Joyce and Sarah Berquist for all your work. I know it's not Sturbridge and I wish something like it went on here, but until it does, I have to make do.

Thanks to Susan Guzik of Honey and Salt for providing high octane coffee.

Amongst the vendors was Roy Mansur, a man of beautiful pictures an portraits renowned in the Valley.
Portia is a regular at this market and has quite a following for her jewelry creations. Hasn't got me to wear any yet. Ah Cheshire Garden's mustards and preserves. Worth coming for by itself. Hope's brought her lovely wooden ware to the right. John Spineti's greenery is good to eat. It's good to grow. Heck, it's good to eat and grow. Jim Pitts has been around forever, but his farm has always been changing and growing in different directions, though his pesto has always been there. His pancakes kept people fed. Carol has herbs for every purpose. She has herbs you need even if you don't know you need 'em.

Video time. Carol talks about the herbs and John gives a recipe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

If you're going to be in Amherst on Saturday, come to the Holiday Farmers' Market and Craft Fair

On Saturday, December 11th at Hampshire College's Red Barn there will be an array of farmers and crafters who will be there to make your Christmas or any other holiday you celebrate more festive. Heck, even if you don't celebrate, we've got useful stuff.

What's on tap?

~We will welcome back Roy Mansur, our fabulous photographer who creates glorious cards & matted photographs for sale.
~Also delighted to have Sangha Farm coming - they willl bring their creamy goat cheese and unusual, tasty goat cheese truffles (chocolate covered!)
~Don't forget to come by and stock up on potatoes, lettuce, & other veggies from John's Twin Oak Farm. He'll have his beautiful house plants and new this year: lettuce started in pots to grow (& clip for salad) in your kitchen!
~Richard will have his incredible beeswax hand cream that stops that winter dryness & honey from his hives.
~Hope (The Framstead) will have greenery to decorate your home & hand-crafted wooden items (like coasters & cutting boards) to grace your kitchen. She will have local Maple Syrup too!
~Keep an eye ut for Portia who will be hand-crafting her beautiful and affordable jewlery all day long.
~Cheshire Garden will have loads of salsa, jams and mustards...and don't forget her syrups, too! Yum!
~Jim of Delta organic Farm will be whipping up his hot whole grain pancakes for breakfast & selling slcies and whole pies.
~Don't forget that Susan wull have luscious sweets, cakes, organic coffee, and yummy goods at our Farmers' Cafe all day.
~Carl Family Farm will bring lots of crunchy apples for your holiday feast and his local honey.
~White Buffalo Herbs will have herbals, aromatherapy, and love potions! Also she has her annual gift of a FREE ceramic tea cup with every tea order, gift wrapped and ready to go.
So drop by and round out your holiday shopping. We can't wait to see you all!

For the facebook page, go here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sturbridge Times Magazine is out, Shameless self promotion-December edition

The Sturbridge Times Magazine is out, both print and online. This is the monthly notice wherein I, with no shame, tout my unworthy offerings.

George Diaz in one person combines history and artisanship. When I was talking with him at his shop in Southbridge I got a couple of clips of him at work. You can read about him on Page 10.

Below is George planning a chandelier.
Next is George working at the forge. In principle, not much different from the one at OSV. Of course no propane then.
On Page 7 is the story of some serious money made out of the financial debacle we've been going through.

My column on Page 22 is an attempt to be counterintuitive.

I am not the only one writing. There are many entertaining and useful articles that I had nothing to do with. You can read the magazine online by clicking here and downloading a pdf, or you can click on the graphic below to find out where to pick one up.