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Where’s the beef?

Before leaving Boquete for Argentina my mouth was watering for Argentine beef. We were never disappointed, I wish I could say the same in Panama. The debate is why is the beef in Argentina, Canada or the US better tasting and more tender than what Panamanian cattle produce.

Beef_Grade_Chart

In the US and Canada the best and most expensive beef is marbled with fat and aged, preferably dry aged for several weeks. Dry aged Prime Beef is the gold standard and is bought and sold at a premium price in steakhouses.

Neither Panama nor Argentina ages it’s beef. The beef  ages in the truck in route to the store. Yet when I bit into the steak below in El Establo in Buenos Aires I was in carnivore heaven. Aged or not it was tender and excellent.

A great steak

Some would argue that beef in the US and Canada is grain feed and that beef in Panama grass feed. Grass fed beef is not as marbled as grain feed beef and thus is not as tender. The beef in Argentina is grass fed and not aged, so that is not the magic although it may help. Add that grass feed beef is probably healthier than the grain and antibiotic laden beef from the US feed lots.

The display of beef in Argentina shows beef cuts available there. They are not the same cuts as we see in the US or Panama, perhaps that is part of the difference. I kept looking for heavily marbled beef to cook, I never found any.

Beef Counter Buenos Aires

Beef Counter Buenos Aires

So what makes the difference, why is beef in Argentina heavenly for a carnivore and beef in Panama usually only good for stew? It is not the marbling nor the aging. An article in Epicurious suggests it is that they cook their beef longer in Argentina. Epicurious . Since no one can cook their beef longer than a typical Panamanian I will disagree. It could be how they cook their beef. We ate only grilled beef in Argentina, most beef here is stewed to a second death.

After some trial and error I think I found the answer to a good steak in Panama. First find a butcher that knows what a steak is supposed to be. I cannot find a chart of beef cuts for Panama, I once saw one at Riba Smith in Panama City and it looked like the beef does, large sections slabbed off the cow.

The chart of Argentine cuts is surprisingly from La Prensa in Panama.

1647070b

The chart below shows where the beef you want to grill comes from.
beef_chart

This a nice list from Chile making an effort to cross reference countries that actual have defined cuts. In Panama few people appear to grill beef, they guisado, stew it to death and therefore anything will become tender and everything will lose it’s flavor.

beef

So how does a someone who has no intentions for buying and butchering a beef cow  deal with the lust for a good steak in Panama. If you have deep pockets Super Baru and several restaurants have beef imported from the US. If you don’t want to spend $20 or more on a steak I am going to share some learned facts.

First Filete is Filet Minion, it is always tender but not very flavorful. You can follow and recipe for Filet Minion or oven roast a filete as a Chateaubriand. Since you can buy a filete here in Boquete for under $4 a pound, now 454 grams,  not a bad deal.

Go to Price Smart, they offer Rib eyes and New York cuts.  Sadly they are usually all red and when grill like chewing gum. Every time I go to Price Smart I sort through all of them and if I find any that are well marbled, it does happen, I buy them. I then age them in my meat drawer for a week at 40ºF.

The other cut that works well for grilling is also from Price Smart, they call it Ropa Vieja and you can of course us it for that but it is skirt steak which when grilled and slicked diagonally cross the grain works great for frajitas or as aha I grew up calling London Broil.

It is clear that some of the other slabs of beef sold here can be used for grilling, they question is finding out what lies inside the slab and being prepared to grind it for hamburger or stew it to death if there is no marbling.

TCM: Prof. Peter Bormann on Tsunamis on Fat Tuesday

If you missed the meeting today you missed another excellent presentation by Dr. Bormann who travelled from near Jaco Costa Rica to educate us. The quality of many presentations like this is excellent and I am dismayed when half the seats in the BCP are empty. It is makes me question if the effort of those who organize and present is worth the effort for a disinterested community.

The presentation on Tsunamis was a good university survey level presentation. The summary is that if you are on the coast, any coast and feel an earthquake for over 10 seconds in duration put away the surf board and head for higher ground and stay there until you hear an all clear. It can take hours for a Tsunami to hit and they are usually multiple waves, the first not being the largest. Another signal of an impending Tsunami is if the ocean retreats further than normal, then run for higher ground because it indicates a tsunami wave is in route.

When asked if he had any knowledge of Tsunamis in Panama Dr. Bormann said no, but there is little written history. He commented of an island which had an old legend of tsunami flooding and that that legend coupled with observations of nature saved many people when the island was hit by a tsunami. The residents had fled the coast already. It might be of interest that I spoke to locals in Pedesi a couple of years ago. I asked why no one built on the beaches there until recently, they had similar local folktales of waves sweeping the beaches clear of earlier structures.

This is Fat Tuesday, it is also the official Carnaval holiday in Panama so don’t expect much to be open. The exodus from the national Carnaval fiestas will start later today and end tomorrow as people head back into real world again. Be careful drinking and driving, in fact don’t do it.

Here in Boquete the big event is at Fuzion Grill starting at 5pm. I hope to see you there.

How to get your FBI Report

For the interest of those obtaining visas

Courtesy of Price Peterson

Identification Record Request / Criminal Background Check 02/09/2013
Panama is now requiring a Federal FBI Identification Record (Criminal Background Check/criminal history record/rap sheet) not just one from the state in which you last resided for purposes of obtaining residency.
This is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. If you have been arrested in other countries, those arrests may also show up if your fingerprints were taken.
Only you can request a Copy of an FBI Record or Proof That an FBI Record Does Not Exist for yourself.
To Request a Copy of Your Record – Submit your request directly to the FBI.
To use the Record in Panama, it must be certified by the FBI (by request) at the time of the request for the Record, and then sent to the US State Department to be Apostilled, or notarized for use as a legal document overseas. The FBI will return the document directly to you.
You will then need to forward the Record to the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office which can then place an Apostille on the document for use in Panama and return it to you.
If the FBI finds no record, you will receive a “no record” response. If you do have a criminal history record on file, you will receive your Identification Record or “rap sheet.”
For More Information – See the responses to some frequently asked questions.
Submitting an Identification Record Request to the FBI

Step 1: Complete the Applicant Information Form
· If the request is for a couple, family, etc., all persons must sign the form.
· Include your complete mailing address. Please provide your telephone number and/or e-mail address, if available.

Step 2: Obtain a set of your fingerprints.
· If you already have a fingerprint card, it must not be older than 18 months to be accepted by the FBI
For new cards, provide the original fingerprint card. Previously processed cards or copies will not be accepted.
Your name and date of birth must be provided on the fingerprint card. Fingerprints should be placed on a standard fingerprint form (FD-258) commonly used for applicant or law enforcement purposes.
Include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints and impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken simultaneously (these are sometimes referred to as plain or flat impressions that include both thumbs).
If possible, have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician. This service may be available at a law enforcement agency. Taking of fingerprints in Panama is provided by the DIJ (Dirección de Investigación Judicial), located in Ancon, in front of the “Mercado de Abastos”, telephone: 512-2222.

You will then have to take the fingerprint card to the Ministry of Foreign Relations to authenticate or Apostille the document before sending it to FBI Headquarters so that they will accept it as your fingerprints.

The Ministry authenticates the signatures of all the ministries and official offices in Panama except the Ministry of Government and Justice (Including the Public Ministry – Attorney General, Fiscales, etc.) and the signatures of official public translators. They may be reached at 511-4045 or 511-4046 or at fax 511-4061. The fee for the authentication is $2.00, and the hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They are located in the Sun Tower Plaza, Ave. Ricardo J. Alfaro, on the First Floor

Price

The no carnaval, carnaval of Boquete

I did not get to the Bid4Boquete Wine Tasting and silent auction, no tickets. Still it seemed like a good night to get out and enjoy the non carnaval atmosphere of Boquete.

Mayra and I went to enjoy the music at La Posada, it was mobbed. In fact all of the town was mobbed. I am convinced that Carnaval came to Boquete with all the people trying to avoid Carnaval in other parts of the country. Lots of folks were visiting from Panama City I noticed a face I had seen before in a corner table a La Posada, Mayra conformed the the President of the National Assembly, Sergio Galvez was sitting and enjoying the music.

Sergio Galvez & Ricardo Marinelli - La Prensa

Ricardo Marinelli & Sergio Galvez – La Prensa

This is the same Sergio Galvez who entertains the public by hamming it up for the press  cameras in both the assembly and outside of the chambers. He is also the generous politician who spent $675,000 government dollars buying 30,000 hams to give out to his constituents. A move called perfectly acceptable by the President of the Republic of Panama.  See La Prensa for more details about the ham handing out the hams.

I love politics in Panama, they are so very transparent and certainly a Carnaval in the own right.

Carnaval, Bid4Boquete and a Tequila Mocking Bird

This is a big weekend in Panama, Carnaval, it has a slightly different twist in Boquete. Carnaval Panama’s version of a religious festival in anticipation of lent began yesterday with parties in much of the country. Although Tuesday is the only paid holiday for the private sector, government workers are off until Thursday. They did work extra days in compensation, but this makes for a five day party time for many.

There are places like Boquete that do not have Carnaval celebrations, others like Las Tablas that revel in the event. Carnaval in Panama is a party for the young in body and spirit. It consists of rum, seco, beer and lots of water. You traditionally ingest the rum, seco and beer and are sprayed with the water. Local news channels have been building the expectations for a few weeks showing people buying special Carnaval   clothing mostly very short shorts and tee shirts. Consider Carnaval in places like Las Tablas a massive wet tee shirt party. The closest Carnaval town to Boquete is Dolega, so if you want to experience Carnaval Panama style you now know were to go. If take a camera make it waterproof because and wear a too be wet tee shirt.

It is politically significant as well as an acknowledgement of the party that that MINSA, the health ministry will be distributing free condoms at Carnaval events. I wonder how many will be used as water balloons?

While Carnaval is happening in Dolega Bid4Boquete, the annual fund raiser for Boquete charities is having their main events. Today they started with a art and home wear show in the BCP. I was there buying some art this morning, you should too. The money goes to good causes and there are good things there.

Bid4Boquete at the BCP

Bid4Boquete at the BCP

Bid4Boquete at the BCP

Bid4Boquete at the BCP

Tonight is the annual Wine Tasting, it sold out before I bought tickets; I never plan far enough in advance. Tonight is also the live auction of some really nice stuff.

Tomorrow in the Arco Iris room of the Fair grounds is the main event for the entire Boquete community, more auctions, silent and more. Lots of food, events for children and who knows what more. The doors open at noon and the worker bees are preparing today.

If you do need a little of the Carnaval experience a little closer to home Tuesday is the day, Fuzion Grill is the place. For music, drink and jambalaya, New Orleans style. The ban Tequila Mockingbird is mixing free drinks for the first on the scene and the Boquete Jazz and Blues festival will have hurricanes and food for those who make a small donation.

Tequila Mockingbird Boquete Panama

Tequila Mockingbird Boquete Panama

In all these should be a few fun days in all of Panama, Boquete included. Just be careful driving the roads will be shared by both the intoxicated and police with breathalyzers. They have been warning people more than a beer or a shot and you will receive a fine if caught.

David to Boquete Highway progress report

As predicted the construction restarted in January. Label me a cynic but I think the forces layoff of hundreds of employees was to avoid paying salaries for  the holidays of November and December. Now they are back at work.

Union Fenosa is removing power posts near Los Algarrobos now and both CabelOnda and Cable and Wireless are moving cables closer to Boquete.  The road is once again a daily reassignment of lanes and changes abound basde upon construction needs of the moment. This makes the drive more dangerous and down right hazardous at night.

Progress is being made and once again my unanswered question is why are they spending over one hundred million dollars on a new well constructed four lane highway from David to Boquete?

The current government does nothing unless there is an economic gain for members of the government, call that Panamanian politics. It is rumored that the massive new five star hotel and housing project in Jaramillo Abajo being constructed by TransCaribe, David Ochy, has a partner who is the current President of the Republic of Panama. If that is the truth, it could explain the use of massive amounts of borrowed government money to make Boquete more accessible. We will all need to wait and see if that rabbit pops out of the hat or if there are other more populist reasons for the expenditure. The benefit of bearer shares of corporations in Panama allows for great secrecy for everyone, you may never know who really owns anything here.

Regardless, when completed David and Boquete will be about twenty minutes apart. The construction of what appears to be a new government hospital in Clamito along the new highway, will make emergency medical assistance far closer to Boquete than before. It will take  about fifteen minutes to drive there in an emergency  instead of the current forty minutes to Regional or hospital Chiriqui.

Basically Boquete is becoming less of a sky island. Boquete will become more attractive to tourists flying into the expanded David airport. We are entering a time where tourism will become even more important to the local economy and I suspect we will see an increase in the numbers of what are called residential tourists, those who move here, like me.

Terminal renovation at David Airport

Terminal renovation at David Airport

The new “friends of Panama Visa” makes it easier than ever to obtain permanent residency with a $5,000 bank deposit and and either a job or opening a business. Under this visa you can open your own business and work in it, no need to hire employees unless you want them. This coupled with the enhanced access is going increase the growth both in Boquete and all of the “interior” of Panama as people worldwide smell opportunity.

A final taste of Chile and Argentina

I am going to truncate the writings about our trip to a short summary and a long movie. We enjoyed Chile, Mayra loved Viña de Mar, I preferred Mendoza, perhaps the milder weather made her happy, the desert of Mendoza brought back memories of Tucson for me.

The economics were interesting, I did a short price survey that might be of economic interest to some.
price comparisons

Both Argentina and Chile were more expensive than Panama on the items I compared BUT if you take cash to Argentina and exchange at black market rates, 7:1 instead of 4.71:1 for pesos Argentina is a bargain.

This 34 minutes Youtube film is a great photographic summary of our trip and yes we would return again given the time and opportunity.

TCM: Rainelda Mata-Kelly, a legal update

Rainelda Mata-Kelly made trip to Boquete to provide our community with an update on some of the changes in immigration law and in a long question and answer period clarified many other issues for people.

I am going to attempt to summarize.

If you are looking for a Visa she recommended two options as best today. The Pensionado visa if you are retired, do not want to work and can show a pension of $1,000 a month for yourself and another $250 for a dependent.

The other option is a creation of this government and allows anyone from forty seven different countries to put $5000 in a bank account and apply for a visa that includes a work permit. This is the winner right now, no income requirement, work permit and permanent resident status in about six months. Rainelda pointed out the rules on this visa are cloudy and interpretation might vary with a new director of immigration, but for now this is a great option.

She emphasized the current need for an FBI report for US citizens and the fact they are rejecting people with arrests, even if never convicted of a crime.

If you are a pensionado and want a Cedula E she recommended getting one. She is going to confirm that the costs have not increased from the $60 government fee. Under the current interpretation of the law Pensionados with five years residency and a Cedula E , can request citizenship. In response to a question she did point out that you are required to renounce your prior citizenship when accepting Panamanian citizenship and the impact of that will vary depending upon your original citizenship.

The question came up about the email circulated by News.boquete from a local law firm saying bearer shares are going away by 2016. Rainelda said there is discussion of a change in law due to international pressures but no law has been introduced into the legislator and nothing has changed at this time. The law may or may not change in the future. Her advice was that she does not recommend bearer shares to her clients but if you have them, the fear of an uncertain change to the law is not reason to do anything now; wait.

In response to questions she discussed the use of Private interest foundations for protecting assets and how they differ from Trusts and corporations in Panama. If you do have a Private Interest Foundation be aware the Tasa Unica, the annual fee to the government for the Foundation has be raised from $300 to $400. The rate of $300 remains the same for corporations.

There was a lot more but I failed to take notes. :)

For more information contact Rainelda Mata-Kelly

Telephone:
(Int. access code+507) 216-9299
Fax:
(Int. access code+507) 216-9298
Mobile phone:
(Int. access code+507) 6618-0515
e-mail:
rmk@mata-kelly.com Website: www.mata-kelly.com
Office Address:
Suites 406-407, 4th Floor, Tower B, Torres de las Americas, Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Rep. of Panama.
Mailing Address:
P.O. BOX 0818-00534, Panama City, Republic of Panama

 

Mendoza Argentina, a trip summary

In pre Columbian times the region now known as Mendoza was inhabited by the Huarpe Indians in the Uco Valley, North and Northwest, the Incas at Uspallata and the Mendoza River Valley and the Puelches to the South of the Mendoza River.

“The Huarpes stand out because they had developed a net of irrigation channels in the Huentota Valley (city of Mendoza today), which enabled them to grow potatoes and corn.

The Spaniards found this clever system, which they later called “Dique de la Toma de los españoles” (Spanish Capture Dam).” History of Mendoza

This system has been expanded over time and now the desert of the Mendoza region is lush where irrigated. The city hosts what must be hundreds of thousands of trees, a two hundred hectare park (San Martin Park) with lakes and rich wine growing vineyards. The tree lined streets temper the brutal heat of the Mendoza summer in January.

For us Mendoza was wonderful, today a metropolitan area of just under one million people in a low density housing environment. Parks abound and each is beautiful and we stayed overlooking Plaza Indepenencia.

To a tourist the reason to go to Mendoza might be wine, it is the heart of Argentinas wine production. We spent some time finding vineyards and discovered some of the guidebooks were incomplete on how to do it.

You can of course spend a lot of money following the advice of Trip advisor and go on a wine tour. Apparently those tours are excellent. Dan and Deborah hired a tour guide for their own private tour and were pleased at the results. Mayra and I took a bus and wandered around the small town of Lujo de Cuyo looking for a vineyard or the guide book recommended local taxi, there were no vineyards close and no local taxis. We struck out but the next day to try again. This time the four of us took the new light rail, which was bought from the City of San Diego.

Light Rail, you need a RED card to cover your fare no cash.

Light Rail, you need a RED card to cover your fare no cash.

When we left the train we took a taxi to a spot recommended by trip advisor, it was not there. Deborah, suggested another spot, Bodega Rural, panned in trip advisor and the taxi took us there.

We arrived during lunch and visited an olive oil producer in the area. Mendoza produces huge amounts of olive oil in addition to wine. After a brief rehydration stop there, we walked to Bodega Rural into their wine museum and tasting room and had a wonderful time. Avoiding the free wine, which was considered awful by Trip Advisors, advisors, we paid for good wine and it was indeed good wine. I know that because Dan and Deborah told me it was good, neither Mayra nor I know much about wine.  I do wonder how can people write nasty things about free wine? Did they think the best was going to be gratis?

Mayra dreaming over some Malbec

Mayra dreaming over some Malbec

One of the interesting and for me unique things in Mendoza was that the sidewalks are effectively rolled up at one in the afternoon when everything except restaurants closes for four hours. We were told that it was because of the heat, very believable, but we were also told they do the same thing in the winter and I can attest they do it all day Sunday. In any event this tradition makes the city a relaxed place with a hub of parks and late night activities.

Mendoza
After some wining at Bodega Rural, we walked a few hundred meters back to the main road and once again using the advice of Trip Advisor we discovered Casa Campo, country food at it’s best, try the rabbit, Mayra did. Great food, great beer and a great atmosphere, lunch for four cost about US$100, not cheap by Panama standards.

If you go to Mendoza, and I recommend going, stay at least a week. Forget hotels rent an apartment, visit the 1883 public market an try some of the local foods at home. The public transport is great, the food excellent, the wine inexpensive and the people friendly.

Dan discovered the Park Hyatt Casino and Mayra and I returned to listen to Mariachis, they started one time and ended their performance at midnight. Mayra was amazed to see people ordering dinner at midnight, very Argentina.

Enjoy a bit of the Mariachi Mexico from Mendoza by clicking here.
Mariachi Mexico recording

A few hints if you travel to Mendoza.

We went by bus from Buenos Aires, the buses leave the Retiro bus station in the evening. There are several classes of seats and since the best route we could find was a thirteen hour, nonstop ride we took the best seats, what hey call Cama Suites. The cama suite is a bed, includes dinner of sorts, wine, champagne and a breakfast in the morning. The trip was smooth.

We never did figure out wht the green thing was and the steward had no clue either.

We never did figure out wht the green thing was and the steward had no clue either.

I used trip advisor and google maps and with the one peso a day charge from Movistar it was a lifesaver when wandering the streets.

Take a good hat, sunscreen and drink lots of water to balance the dehydration of the sun, the beer and the wine. Go to a kiosk and buy a RED pass, it works for the buses and light rail. The card costs 3 pesos and the ride vary a little depending on distance but are usually about 3 -4 peso, pesos run about 5 to a dollar. If you are not a red meat eater, I am sorry because the great Malbecs crave red meat, but you can find lots of options and white wine too.

Restaurants we visited

Florentine Bistro

Arutitio

In Lujan de Cuyo we visted to a place not in trip advisor but small, local and excellent. Lo del Dante near the central park.

Maipu we ate lunch at Casa Rural

Mendoza Argentina

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The Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival needs YOU!

For the past six years Boquete has hosted a Jazz Festival, last year with the involvement of Hans and Barbara it expanded into a Jazz and Blues Festival. If not for their efforts, the contributions of a handful of corporate sponsors and individual donations the festival might not exist.  If more people do not step up and help financially and physically,  the seventh might be the last.

The Festival is running on the energy and donations of too few people. There are few corporate sponsors, one of which is Panamonte Brands, not associated with the hotel of the same name.  Panamonte Brands does not sell their rum in Panama, still they have made a significant donation of rum that is helping to fuel this festival. They make some of the best rum I have ever tasted and I am not alone in my judgement.

Panama Red

You can help the festival continue and make it’s financial goals my donating, donate enough and you will get enjoy some rum. Panama Red made Dana smile and now her dress, hair, lips  and skin are all shades of red. Buy tickets for a raffle and you might just win a $400 bottle of rum, tickets to the 2013 festival and more; I did. Hans and Barbara will be at the Tuesday Market looking for you and your donations.

For all of you who read this blog and want to see further development of the arts in Boquete Panama please help support this event. Here is the schedule for this years festival, more details on the events, the artists and how you can help are on the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival Website.

Festival program (preliminary, subject to change)

Friday, February 22, 2103
4pm -7pm The Art of Musicopening of a complementing artshow at the Boquete library

Saturday, February 23, 2013
5pm – 8pm Wine tasting at La Casa del Risco, Hacienda Los Molinos

Thursday, February 28, 2013
2pm – 3pm New Orleans style street parade with costumes, beads and all
3pm – 5pm Garden party at the Panamonte hotel with the Rigoberto Coba Jazz quartet, admission $5
7:pm – 9pm Presentation of Panamonte Brands rum at the Panamonte hotel. Live music by Boquete’s Fantazy JazzbandAdmission $5
9pm – ??? Jam session at Mike’s Global Grill, hosted by Ron Hacker & The Hacksaws, Admission $8

Friday, March 1, 2013
2pm – 4pm Free concert in the Boquete central park with life music, 

4pm – 5pm harp-playing instruction class in the park by master blues-harpist Bob Corritore for students of local schools. The Hohner company donated 50 harps specially for this event!

8:30pm – ??? Jam session at The Rock restaurant, hosted by master Blues harpist Bob Corritore & Chicago’s legendary Bluesman Taildragger, backed up by the Boquete Blues Band. Admission $8

Saturday, March 2, 2013
12pm  – 6pm  Open-air at the amphitheatre at Valle Esconcido
Four Jazz and Blues bands (see artists page)
Doors open at 11am

9pm – ??? Jam session at the Amigos restaurant, hosted by the Randy Oxford Band.Admission $8

Sunday, March 3, 2013
12noon – 6pm   Open-air at the amphitheatre at Valle Escondido
Four Jazz- and Blues bands (see artists page)
Doors open at 11am

 

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