Farm-raised chicken, hand-made cheeses and heavenly bacon, it’s all available right here in El Centenario.
By Fern Corraini
One of the best perks of living in El Centenario is that we’re able to take advantage of food items produced right here in our pueblo. What a rare treat it is to know who produces your food and have confidence that it is fresh, natural and conscientiously produced. Following are three local sources we love.
Lacteos Lulu (The Cheese Lady)
This much-beloved cheese shop is the oldest business in El Centenario. Here, the Espinozas have been making their delicious handcrafted dairy products since the sixties. Today, locals stop by this friendly shop to purchase a wide variety of house-made cheeses, from the familiar queso fresco and panela to salty seco. In addition to fantastic cheeses, Lacteos Lulu also sells fresh butter, yogurt and milk straight from the cow.
In 1967, four families from Jalisco and Michoacan relocated to the new ejido of El Centenario, which at that time was nothing more than wild desert on the Bay of La Paz. Lulu and Luis Espinoza were one of those families. Sleeping on beds of split cardon cactus to protect themselves from snakes, these valiant folks lived under a canopied cotton tree, and for many years, the Espinozas provided these families and the homesteaders who followed them with handmade cheese. They eventually built a house, and for the next 18 years, Lulu and her family made cheese in her kitchen and sold it to the public at the front door.
In 2002, the business was awarded a government grant which allowed them to build an addition onto the house with a storefront and a kitchen devoted to making these wonderful milk products:
Queso Fresco – Think of this as a fresh mozzarella. It’s great with frijoles, chilequiles, salads, fruit. Try it in enchiladas.
Oreado – Fry it! It holds its shape and gets a nice crust on it. Makes perfect saganaki, the Greek fried cheese appetizer.
Panela – This is basically a young queso fresco but with less salt and fat. It always comes in a round form.
Requeson – A low-fat, low-salt variety that is like a drier version of cottage cheese. Make a favorite Mexican botana (appetizer/snack) by adding small diced tomatoes, green onion, cilantro and serrano. Pile it on tostadas or use as a healthy low-fat dip for totopos or crackers.
Asadero – This is the essential melting cheese typically used for quesadillas.
Seco – A dry, salty cheese to sprinkle on finished dishes.
Cajeta – Sweetened cooked milk (dulce de leche or thick caramel sauce)
Chongos Zamorano – A milk-based dessert made with cajeta and cinnamon.
Mantequilla – Fresh butter
Leche Bronca – fresh milk straight out of the cow.
Yogourt – both fruit-flavored and natural varieties
So step away from the commercially prepared dairy products in the Walmart aisle, and try Lulu’s legendary cheese. You won’t be disappointed!
Calle Aquiles Serdan. Turn off the highway at Risol Construrama. The shop is in the second block on your right.
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sunday
Granja Los Abuelitos (Alex the Chicken Man)
Happy chickens + happy chicken farmer = happy customers!
When you pick up your chicken from Alex’s farm in El Centenario on a Thursday, you know that very bird was running around eating corn just a few short hours ago. Imagine!
The chicken farm is located just off the highway at KM 16.5 on the beach side of the highway. It is clean, inviting and odorless, with four large connecting pens for chickens at different stages of growth. The youngest chicks are only a day old when they arrive at the farm. They are grain-fed and they live their little chicken lives without ever receiving any hormones or antiobiotics.
Harvesting is done on Thursday mornings. This is Alex’s least favorite part of raising chickens, but his spiritual, Buddhist-like approach to it helps. He thanks each chicken for its life and service before it is killed. Alex says he does it because “it feels better”. No wonder his chicken tastes better than Bachaco! A few hours later, between 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., customers can pick up their fresh chicken…whole for roasting (complete with innards, yippee), in pieces, or splayed for the BBQ.
Alejandro Pulido (too bad it isn’t Pollido) is a Centenario boy who grew up caring for farm animals, and went on to get a degree in Animal Production (zootecnista) at the university in La Paz. He has been raising chickens for ten years now. When I asked him why he chose chickens, his response was perfect: “I like chickens.” He says that working with them is like therapy.
Happy chickens + happy chicken farmer = happy customers!
Cell/WhatsApp: (612) 137-8508, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Granja Los Abuelitos
The “Heavenly Bacon” Guy
It was always great fun to go for a bacon run in El Centenario…seeing the huge slabs of pork hanging from the ceiling, smelling the bacon smoke pour out of the smoking room, getting your bacon sliced to order, and anticipating a tasty BLT for lunch. Once you’ve cooked up a batch of this bacon, you’ll never go back to that sad, stringy store-bought Oscar Meyer stuff. This bacon is lean, chewy, smoky and full of flavor. Sadly, The Bacon Guy no longer sells his bacon out of his smokehouse. However, you can still enjoy this tasty product, it is now sold at local stores including Carneceria Chayito, Chata’s tienda, Minisupers Aragones in El Centenario, and Aliser’s in Chametla. Jorge Aguirre, the chef at KM 14, also takes orders in advance for pickup on Tuesdays, along with other locally sourced groceries. To order, follow his Facebook page here.
Fern Corraini is a veteran traveler and explorer who moved to La Paz from Canada fourteen years ago and is happy to call Mexico home. In addition to her international travels, Fern has been an English teacher in Canada and Guadalajara, a customs officer, a beekeeper, a sandblaster, a travel rep in the Dominican Republic and a motel owner. When she’s not busy keeping Baja Life Realty organized as our administrator, Fern loves to cycle, visit the beach and spend time with her two rescue cats. She loves La Paz and firmly believes that the taco is the perfect food.