The Blue Agave is a place in Tri-County, it is across from the mall in a shopping center that is on the decline. It’s a place that once housed a Borders and an Old Navy and all that sort of thing and now mostly houses Halloween Express and the like. It is next to a LaRosa’s and on the inside looks suspiciously similar in layout, I do not know if this is due to LaRosa’s initially wanting that spot and then moving over one storefront of it’s just that all the things that would be restaurants here have to have the same set up due to zoning. I couldn’t really care less but it is something that grazed my mind. This is another in a line of cozy Mexican restaurants, well appointed with decanters of cacti and banners of their home country, a very fun place to eat and drink in with a humongous menu that, as Jim Gaffigan would say, is essentially the same couple of ingredients in a tortilla, but that is not a bad thing as everyone likes variety and should be allowed to have what they like!
The thing I’ve always noticed about Blue Agave is that whether it’s the afternoon lunch shift or the night time happy hour everyone there just seems like they like being there. There is a lot about a place that can be improved by a friendly and helpful staff, luckily here that kind of service is icing on a delicious cake made of meats and cheeses. As usual I get the three taco plate, this time with two beef and one chicken, everything is just about perfect, not too greasy, the shells are crunchy, the beef is flavorful, the cheese is a mix of a couple of different things and is nice and melty and salty and good and the tomatoes are delicious. The chicken is quite good, it’s chunks of chicken breast seasoned and cooked to order, not just sitting in a pan all day long. It is a simple and great meal that speaks volumes for the tradition of this type of cooking and cuisine and I couldn’t be happier to be telling you about it.
Blue Agave has been around for quite a bit now and shows no sign of going anywhere soon, even being in a dying commercial landscape like a strip mall it continues to flourish and give people a meal they are not going to get at the Taco Bell up the road. Come out to Tri-County, enjoy a taco and a huge margarita and be happy that an independent spirit can still exist in a place that is mostly TGI Fridays and broken down department stores.
I’m back! Did you miss me? Of course you did! Who are we kidding, here? As an apology for my somewhat-extended absence from your lives, I’ve brought you a very special gift. I don’t want to give it away quite yet, but I’ll give you a clue: it’s sparkly.
But first, let’s start with a drink.
Tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave plant that’s native to Jalisco, Mexico. I’m sure you remember my post about balsamic vinegar, and the rigorous legal protection that’s afforded to true TBV. Well, Mexico has claimed similar exclusive international rights to the name “tequila” – it can only be produced in and around Jalisco – and has threatened legal action against manufacturers in other countries who’ve tried to get in on some tequila action.
Blue agave is a large, spikey succulent that produces a large amount of sugar (mostly fructose) in its core, which is what makes it ideal for fermentation into alcohol. They’re pollinated not by birds, but by bats, and are reproduced for commercial production by planting 1 year old shoots.
This form of reproduction is essentially cloning, and has resulted in a huge loss of genetic diversity in blue agave crops. As a result, they’re much more susceptible to disease and have been ravaged by several lethal infections and infestations that have decimated crops and driven up the price of tequila in recent years.
If it lives long enough, the plant is harvested when it’s 12 years old and the sap is extracted from the core (which can weigh up to 198 lbs.) and is fermented into delicious tequila.
As I’m sure you’re aware, tequila can do many magical things. It can make you braver. It can make potential mates more attractive. It can make you forget what happened last night (at least until you throw it up the next morning). And it can make a mean margarita.
But here is my sparkly gift to you: Tequila can be turned into diamonds.
Scientists have found that tequila (which is 40% ethanol and 60% water, amongst other chemicals) contains the perfect proportions of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create diamonds. When tequila is heated to 280 ºC to make a vapour, and then that vapour is heated to 800 ºC to break down its molecular structure, solid diamond crystals will precipitate onto a plate of stainless steel.
The resulting diamond film is hard and heat-resistant, and completely free of impurities. Sound too good to be true? Well, it kind of is. The diamond film is only about 400 nm thick. That’s 250 times thinner than a human hair.
So, we might not be able to turn a bottle of tequila into some fierce bling, but the incredibly thin diamond film has great promise for industrial applications like cutting blades, insulators and semiconductors.
My last week has been a sine wave of overzealous drinking and comatose relaxation, so I suppose I don’t have an excuse for using some of my downtime to write an update. What can I say, I was generally reading/sleeping whenever I wasn’t up to anything in particular.
Anyway, I had a three day weekend this past weekend. This past Friday was a ‘feriado’ (municipal holiday) due to it being the day of the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro (São Sebastião). Thus, my weekend started Thursday night. After going to a kilo buffet, we hit up one of the two bars on my block (not the one where I got face-raped by the fat drunk woman; the other, nicer one that has open-mic nights every Friday and Saturday). It was a pretty nice bar with good, cheap drinks and a variety of food options. Really only two things of note occurred though:
1) I made one of the girls I was with cry. To make a long story short, one of the guys in my core group is Sven, a really chill German guy. I didn’t catch the beginning of their conversation as I was sitting a couple seats away, but I did tune in just in time to hear this girl (let’s call her…ehh…Latisha) say something along the lines of, “Yeah, whenever I think of Germany I always think, 'Oh yeah, the country with the Nazis.’” Sven at this point is helpless; as I understand it, the Germans have had it repeatedly beaten into their brain that nationalism is associated with fascism and thus through both circumstance and sociological conditioning he is rendered unable to defend his country. Cue a short rant on my part in which I say that Germans are still really sensitive about being tied to that blight on their otherwise rich history. At some point in this rant I describe Latisha as 'ignorant’, and cue the fucking waterworks. I’m still not sure if the tears were genuine or deviously conceived to make me the villain, but she fucking rocked them and everyone told me to shut the fuck up. Whatever, I could have chosen many far worse words than 'ignorant’ to describe someone with such a hurtful, tenuous grasp on history.
2) We ordered nachos and there was NO CHEESE. It was just a tray of chips with guac, sour cream, and salsa. The guac was tasty, but still, come on.
Anyway, we left the bar and ambled through the streets not knowing what to do. Eventually we went to the beach where one of the guys in our group knew of a girl with a sister who has been living in Brasil, and thus, rolled with a large group of Brasilians. We ended up getting free beer from this guy who works one of the umbrella stands in Copacabana/is apparently some kind of pimp, which is cool (the beer part, not the pimping). I got to talking to a couple of Brasilian guys (unfortunately in English…what can I say, their English was far better than my Portuguese). Our group dissolved and by the time it was around 2:30 or so it was just me, the guy who got us in touch with this group in the first place, the two Brasilian guys, and a couple others. We stopped by McDonald’s for some McFlurry’s (surprisingly overpriced) and then went back to one of the Brasilian guy’s places. We ended up watching deleted scenes from 'Alien’ (one of my all-time favorite movies), then I went home and crashed.
Oh, and some of the people at the beach had weed, so I got to smoke for the first time since leaving for Brasil. It was total schwag, as is all the weed here, but damn did it do the job after a nice 3-week sobriety break.
Friday morning I spent the day at the beach with one of my new Brasilian friends, Pedro. We met up with some of his coworkers and it was an all-around chill afternoon. Friday evening featured another capoeira party. Afterwards I caught the bus back to Ipanema and, with perfect timing, met up with a huge group of people going to a rock bar. Basically, we were 'that group’, the mob of drunk gringos singing along to every song because we knew all the words (the DJ moved from the 60s to the 90s and honored our requests with surprising speed and diligence). All-in-all, a very fun night.
Saturday during the day, I’m fairly certain I just slept in super late and saved my energy for that night. We went to Ipanema again. First up was a dive bar…in fact, I don’t even know if it can be called that. It’s basically an 80 square foot shop with a counter and a pile of beer. But everyone at the counter when we got there was some kind of old alcoholic, so you know it’s gotta be a good place. Some of the girls in our group requested a shot and got literally a CUP FULL OF TEQUILA, so I know I’ll be going back there soon. When they closed at 12, we went pretty much next door to a kind of 'Southern’ (United States, that is)-themed bar, featuring surfing on the TVs and ridiculously strong, cheap drinks. Again, this was another place I can see myself becoming a regular. The bartenders (bartendresses?) were extremely cute and liberal with the booze. Around 1:30 or so there was a parting of the ways; half of the people wanted to go to Lapa (samba central) and half were going to a favela party. I was out of money, but I got someone to spot me some cash so I opted for the favela party.
One of the guys in my group promised there would be a bank along the way but of course he was full of shit and acted like a complete bag of trash when I called him out on it, so I took more of his money. Like 12 of us piled into a little VW bus at the bottom of the hill into the favela and winded up the streets to the very top, where the party was. It was interesting-favelas aren’t the war-torn drug hotspots they’re made out to be in films, or at least not on the surface. The last few years, especially with the Olympics/World Cup coming up, there has been a drastic increase in police presence in the favelas, so I saw a cop car or a foot patrol of officers every block or two. We got to the top, paid our entrance fee (they asked if I was on the list and I gave some generic name like 'João’ [Brasilian equivalent of John] and got the discounted price) and entered.
There was a reggaeton band playing there, and they were pretty damn good. Lots of people dancing, an incredible view of nighttime Rio, all-in-all a great time. I bumped into a few more people that I knew from the program, but the douchey guys that got me there in the first place insisted on staying until like 5:30 and I was tired by around 4:00/4:30 so I headed out with some other people instead. Walked down the hill through the favela (a LONG walk at night when it’s your first time in a favela) and then continued walking the remaining 3.5 miles back to Copacabana because I had drank all my bus money. Got home at sunrise.
Anyway, there’s the verbose highlights of my weekend. I’ve missed a lot of school this week due to laziness (yesterday was a beach/Infinite Jest day) or registering with the federal police (allowed me to miss an entire day of class today, boo-yah), but I haven’t been on the ball with blog updates. So it goes.