Sunday, March 23, 2014

Food and Wine . . .and more!

Sometimes timing and circumstances conspire to challenge my aim to deliver a regular and up to date snapshot about what has been going on here in Loreto Bay - like in the case of one of the "signature" events that has been held here for the past three years, the Loreto Food & Wine Festival which took place yesterday afternoon.  With my self-imposed schedule of posting by noon on Sundays, Blog worthy happenings on the weekend pose an obvious challenge between my wanting to make the post timely and the simple logistics of getting it done between when it took place and my publishing deadline.  So with that said, here is my offering, composed Sunday morning within about 12 hours of this event taking place.

For the second year this Festival was held on the grounds of the Loreto Bay Golf Resort and Spa, which is now under new management since it became part of Carlos Slim's empire late last year.  For the first time it was planned as an afternoon event between 1 and 6 pm, rather than the afternoon/evening timing of the previous two Festivals.  Once again, about 14 local restaurants provided samples of specialties served from tented booths set up in the patio gardens of the Hotel and four regional wineries were in attendance serving their vintages by the glass and bottle as well as offering special discounts for case and half case quantities. 

 In addition to the enjoyment of food and wine that is the obvious focus of this celebration, it also is one of the biggest charity fund raising events of the winter season for a variety of local causes that will benefit from the proceeds.  To that end there was a large Silent Auction of mainly locally produced arts and crafts, many of which were donated by members of the ex-pat community and a live auction of two premiere offerings; weekend accommodations at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort with a dinner at H Restaurant in San Jose del Cabo, and a weekend charter on a 60' Houseboat on Lake Roosevelt in Washington State.

It is also a high profile occasion for entertainment, this year featuring two local bands; Aguas Negra, a Loreto based group of musicians, and Loreto Bay's own Los Beach Dogs who have become one of the most popular attractions among the ex-pat community and beyond.  The combination of these two groups illustrated the vibrant local music scene and the high level of talent that we enjoy here between the Mexican and Foreign communities.  A fact that was underlined by the exchange of musicians between the two groups during the afternoon's performances, with members of each "sitting in" during the other's sets, to the obvious appreciation of those in attendance who kept the dance area in front of the bandstand filled during most of the afternoon.            

When I arrived about a half an hour before the 1:00 pm start time, final preparations were underway at the food booths with the fragrant smell of Mesquite smoke from several wood fired grills mixing with the careful display of previously prepared samples of a mouthwatering selection of local delicacies ranging from Mexican style chicken mole and chilles rellenos to ribs, clams, sushi and sashimi, topped off with an impressive and tempting display of deserts.  Volunteers were busily making final preparations to the various ticket booths and check in counters, while the wineries were arranging their displays of product and the bands were doing final sound checks of their equipment.

By 1:00 a lineup had formed through the lobby of the Hotel as people arrived for the afternoon's event and they filed past a table affixing their wristband passes, depositing a numbered tab for later raffle draws, receiving a souvenir glass and a sample service of sparkling wine to get the festivities underway.  Drink tickets were available for purchasing wines, beers, soft drinks and water and people soon began mingling, finding tables, and checking out the food selections soon to be available.  The Silent Auction area was a popular venue with a steady flow of potential buyers, and as more and more people arrived the large pool/patio area of the Hotel was soon mainly filled with Festival patrons who far outnumbered the regular Hotel guests who must have been curious with the transformation of their otherwise sparsely occupied resort.

Soon Aguas Negra took to the stage with gusto and played several high energy sets of classic rock and blues mixed with some more traditional Mexican style numbers.  In a small town like Loreto there are few local musicians that can make a living just from their music, most have "regular" businesses or jobs and play as a creative outlet, perhaps covering their equipment investment and expenses from occasional paying "gigs".  So in addition to enjoying the music, many in the audience know some of the musicians in their other roles, like Gustavo who played lively percussion with the band and is familiar to many of us as the owner of a popular local furniture and decor store.

After most people had arrived and found a beverage and a table, the food booths were opened and
hundreds of hungry patrons converged on the 14 participating members of the Loreto Restaurant Association, filling plates with the buffet of sample specialties they were offering.  The afternoon's enjoyment of delicious foods and drinks, music, and lively socializing was complimented by the weather which was unusually overcast with a thin layer of high clouds, filtering the otherwise strong sun which has been raising daily temperatures here into the 80's most days, as early spring weather has been warmer than usual for this time of year.       

Later Los Beach Dogs took over the stage and performed their smoothly professional repertoire of classic rock and blues, accented with several of their own compositions, which have become crowd favorites among this audience.  Some of whom have developed almost "groupie" like enthusiasm for these "local heroes" whose diverse musical backgrounds have melded together into an ensemble that provides many of us who live here with what has become a sound track for our Loreto lifestyle.    

My small contribution as a decidedly amateur
Auctioneer raised a substantial contribution to the eventual charitable fundraising totals for the day, but this event could never have taken place without the enthusiastic support of many hardworking volunteers, some of whom have spent many hours over several months organizing this day.  And so the afternoon continued, with return sets by both bands, featuring some of the members of both groups joining each other for variety which encouraged enthusiastic dance participation from many of those in attendance.  While conversation and socializing was the activity of the day for the rest.

After several raffles for gift certificates, sponsored by many of the participating restaurants, the afternoon turned into early evening and another successful Wine and Food Festival came to it's conclusion by 6:00 pm. Leaving sufficient daylight for most of us to wander through the landscaped pathways back to our Loreto Bay homes with the feeling that we had both enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of food and drink and made an important contribution to the community that we have adopted as our winter home.  Bringing together the enjoyment of good food and drink, with local music, arts and crafts, and resulting in raising significant funds being raised to make a difference for many who live in our community, is a perfect blend of what is best about "Living Loreto"!