Sunday, February 12, 2012

Herzon comes to Hoyo 19

We now have several restaurant choices here in Loreto Bay, but one of the first to open over a year ago was Hoyo 19, or the 19th Hole, located in the Golf Course Clubhouse.  Naturally enough in the beginning, they catered to the Golfers, serving breakfasts and lunches in a small snack bar off the courtyard of the Clubhouse, with patio seating overlooking the putting range and central lake dividing the 10th and 18th fairways.

The restaurant was opened by Juan Carlos, who owns and operates Mita Gourmet, one of the most popular dining places in the town of Loreto, located on the edge of the town square, but, from the beginning, Hoyo 19 was managed by his daughter Mita, (who his restaurant was named after) and her husband, Carlos (same name as her father – are you getting confused yet?).

After a successful start-up last year, the restaurant survived a quiet summer season, when the heat and the resulting small numbers of golfers was a challenge.  But this Fall renovations were completed to reclaim and decorate the Clubhouse Dining Room that was located several steps above the courtyard area.  There is a central room which contains most of the tables, with a smaller annex on one side offering more intimate seating, and a wide patio for dining “al fresco” with beautiful views through archways to the back nine and the Sierra de la Gigante mountains beyond.

The opening of this tastefully decorated room, with its white tablecloths and comfortable furniture, created a new option for fine dining right here in Loreto Bay.  For those of us who live here, this takes on even more significance because it gives us an alternative to driving the 30 km round trip into town when we feel like enjoying a nice evening meal in a restaurant.  Not to mention avoiding the potential hazard of an unexpected nocturnal encounter with stray livestock on the highway.

Recently, Mita and Carlos have added a new feature that has proved to be a very popular attraction to their evening clientele – Herzon, a local guitar virtuoso, now plays his blend of Jazz and Blues styling´s in the Dining Room on Thursday evenings.  Herzon has been a popular fixture at the downtown restaurant for several years, entertaining on the open air patio of Mita Gourmet, and now, here in Loreto Bay, we can also enjoy the pleasure of being entertained by one of the best local musicians while we taste fresh local seafood in a convenient neighborhood setting.

This past week I suggested having dinner there to a couple of friends who were making a return visit to Loreto Bay after over a year´s absence.  Jackie and Cliff had been involved in the sales department with the original Developer, and had lived in Loreto during the early years of the project, so they were very interested in seeing the many improvements and new services that have been developed since their last visit. 

I had invited them for a pre-dinner drink at my home, and so we arrived at Hoyo 19 a bit later than our 7:00 o´clock reservation, which I was very glad I had made, since all the tables in the restaurant were taken, except the one they were holding for us closest to the corner where Herzon was set up.  As we waited to be seated and I looked around the dining room I was struck by one of those “only in Loreto” moments – I knew most of the people there!  How many other places can you walk into a restaurant filled with over 50 people and know, or at least have a nodding acquaintance with almost all of them – only in Loreto!

When we were seated, we immediately relaxed and started to enjoy Herzon´s music and then ordered a bottle of wine.  Simplicity of life here extends even to the wine selection, no list, just the first obvious choice – red or white, and then several varietals; we chose one of two Argentine Merlots and toasted the evening. 

I gathered that most of the other patrons must have arrived just before we had, as the staff were kept very busy taking orders, serving drinks, and first courses, so, since we were thoroughly enjoying the company, the music and the wine, we were in no rush to place our dinner order – for a while – but at the point that I thought that we might have been overlooked, I caught Mita´s eye and soon we had our menus.

The selection here is straightforward, but more than adequate, with several salads and soups to start with, a few chicken and meat dishes along with a good variety of pasta preparations and a choice of noodles, but not surprisingly the specialty of the house is seafood.  Grilled filets of the catch of the day (often sea bass at this time of year) are served with half a dozen sauces including ingredients like; chipotle, garlic, lemon and cilantro with butter cream and olive oil.  Many of the same preparations are offered with shrimp and both are served on vegetable rice with a medley steamed veggies.

We started with a Caesar salad for three which was served on a large platter, full leaf style with one of the best house-made creamy dressings I have had in a long time, generously garnished with freshly grated parmesan and studded with large toasted croutons – delicious!  After our salad plates were cleared we settled back to continue to enjoy Herzon and await our mains. Due to a late lunch, Cliff and Jackie had opted to split a serving of fish with the cilantro sauce and I also ordered fish with butter and garlic.

Herzon plays an amplified acoustic guitar with a synthesizer providing rhythm & percussion and he has a strong repertoire of classic Jazz and Blues that he performs with flair and panache.  He had apparently started playing a couple of hours before we arrived and when we left about 10:00 he had not stopped or taken a break throughout our dinner – truly the hardest working musician in town!

Mita returned to our table shortly after we had ordered and informed us that due to the large crowd they had served that evening she was sorry to tell us that they had run out of fish filets.  What can I tell you – you know it has been a busy evening when a seafood restaurant runs out of fish! But she suggested substituting their shrimp for the filets and keep our choice of sauce and preparations the same.  We agreed and a few minutes later our main courses appeared – we were not disappointed!

After a delicious meal with fantastic music, we made the short trip back to casa mia, where we continued the evening by playing the Herzon CD that Cliff had purchased from him as we were leaving the restaurant. Eventually, when it was time for my Guests to leave I made sure to loan them a flashlight to help them find their way back to where they were staying – an essential piece of equipment for safe navigation of the odd dark spots when walking through the neighborhood at night.

As I tidied up after an evening of good friends, good food and good music, I couldn´t help remembering how far we had come over the past few years in making life in this community a rich and rewarding experience.  Thinking about how recently the idea of having an evening like this, here in Loreto Bay, was beyond what many of us expected in the foreseeable future, made me really appreciate how far we have come, Living Loreto!