Can you tell I enjoy being on the road? I also really love my life here and I know I'm the luckiest guy on the planet in that I get to make a living doing what I'm passionate about, but there's nothing quite like a ticket and passport.
How many times have I had Queso Fundido? Countless. How many tequilas have I consumed? How many times have I heard a mariachi band play Jesusita in Chihuahua? It seems like the answer would be "plenty" and but when it all comes together, there's nothing quite like it.
In Guanajuato there's a bar called Luna. Half of it is indoors, with old movie posters from the golden age of Mexican cinema and the other half is outdoors. It's on the Jardin de la Union and the park is chock a block full of musicians, all eager to play and collect your pesos. I was with my friend Christopher Ann, who can only be described as the ideal traveling companion, and we were listening to mariachi, drinking a bandera (one shot each of tequila, sangrita and lime juice), snacking on queso fundido and it struck me: I was happy. Maybe I'm cynical or negative but happiness doesn't often register in the moment for me. But as I felt the warmth of the tequila and heard the hooting and hollering of neighboring tables, I knew I was where I wanted to be.
As I noted my own happiness, I noticed Chris had the look that women get when they're dancing with a man who actually knows how to lead. It's almost a stupid but triumphant smile, if that makes any sense. We raised our glasses and toasted the large party across from us who were sporting for the music and they smiled and raised their glasses back. A gentleman at another table let out a hoot and a holler as the band got hotter and hotter. Once the violins started their pizzicato, I started to well up. Not wanting to actually cry, I started to eat.
So I was either a complete romantic trainwreck or this queso fundido was really that good. I asked Chris and she felt the same way. But why? It seemed to be cheese melted under a salamander or broiler, chorizo and mushrooms. What was the big deal? We asked the waiter and he came back with word from the kitchen that the cheese was gouda. I've seen recipes that called for gouda but it's usually written as "gouda, or another good melting cheese". I don't think I've bought gouda since 1975, but that will change.
When it was Chris' turn to request a song, she chose the classic Noche de Ronda, but this was a very modern band and instead of memorizing the lyrics, the lead singer whipped out his Blackberry while serenading my friend. It was the perfect finale to a perfect afternoon.