We had lunch in the Phoenix airport at Chili's, where I tried the new chicken Caesar salad. Others had the chicken tenders, the quesadilla, the Southwestern egg rolls. Since most of us traveling to Mexico were food writers, we naturally passed everything around, and a general consensus emerged in favor of the Southwestern egg rolls.
Then we sauntered through security check and on to the plane bound for Hermosillo, Sonora, where we were to change planes for Culiacán in Sinaloa. During the layover, most of my fellow travelers had time for a Margarita. Others had time for a smoke — indoors, to their delight.
I had time for two Margaritas on the rocks.
We arrived in Culiacán without incident, decompressed and then handed ourselves over to the wisdom of Jorge Ibarra, a representative of the local growers' association, CAADES, who determined where we were to dine.
We went to a family-owned chain restaurant called Los Arcos, which has units in Mazatlán, Tijuana, Mexicali, Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.
Over the course of dinner conversation we learned that a bunch of people were in town as Culiacán's tomato harvest reached its peak. Representatives from DuPont were in town to audit water purification systems they had set up. Darden Restaurants was in town to audit the sanitation standards of its suppliers.
I drank two frozen Margaritas as we ate chips with mild salsa; shrimp ceviche tostadas -- basically shrimp, lime juice, tomatoes and cilantro on a round, flat tortilla; and two (soft-shelled) tacos: one of marlin, which tastes surprisingly like tuna, flavored with grilled onions and jalapenos; and one with shrimp, vegetables, jalapenos and a mild cheese made by the local Mennenites. The next day we were to see the pale, blond-haired Mennenite youths walking among the traffic, their big blocks of cheese for sale for about 100 pesos.
Next we had shrimp in mango sauce and a big skin-on fillet of broiled red snapper.
A type of bass called mero was served in culichi sauce — culichi is also slang for someone from Culiacan — which is a green colored sauce made from the local cheese and poblano chiles. That was the table's favorite, so we also had shrimp in culichi sauce.
Dessert was tres leches cake and guava pie.
Other things I learned in Spanish:
comida callejera = street food
bimbo = a small toy, which seems appropriate enough, and the name of a major packaged-food company.