Lola Valentina Isla Mujeres 2020

July29

We have enjoyed Lola Valentina’s for many years. On my visit and subsequent blog post last year http://foodmusings.ca/restaurants/lola-valentina-isla-mujeres-2019/, I linked to a number of other wonderful dining occasions.

On this visit we started with a sampling of their artisan cocktails.

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In the red tiki glass was a Classic Mai Tai concocted of Bacardi Blanco rum, Bacardi Anejo rum, Captain Morgan rum, orange liquer, orange juice, pineapple juice and lime juice. It was stellar!

Not to be outdone in the accompanying green tiki glass came an Aloha Isla, made from Captain Morgan rum, Malibu rum, Licor 43, lychee and passion fruit. I couldn’t decide which one I loved more.

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We started food service with guacamole garnished with green apple, bacon goat cheese balls! The apple provided sweet crunch, the bacon savoury saltiness and the cheese ball a creamy pungent hit. OMGoodness! We hoped the rest of the evening was going to be this delicious.

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I enjoyed a second cocktail of an avocado martini. Since avocados are supposed to be good for you, I pledged to drink one a day (JK).

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One of the first dishes we sampled was from the “Bowl” section of the menu. The Mexican Bowl was chock full of rice, corn, cheese, avocado, pico de gallo, green salsa and sour cream. The hanger steak which occupied a quadrant of the bowl was so tender and perfectly prepared. Lorena who was a part of our gang LOVED IT!

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We also enjoyed tempura cauliflower tacos that were a sensational vegan choice. Meat? Who needs meat! They were accompanied by yummy cole slaw, guava/chipotle sauce and guacamole.

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Another tempura taco choice was Lola Valentina’s shrimp tacos. The shrimp were enormous and snapped when you took a bite-my barometer that they were fresh and perfectly cooked.

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The first time I ever saw Lola Valentina’s Pablano Fish it was on the table of a diner next to me. I was so enthralled by the dish and how he avidly dived into it, that I asked him how it tasted. Well he oohed and awed and I knew that I just had to order it. Unfortunately by the time it was set down in front of me, I was too full to make a dent in the dish. I did appreciate the creamy stew with shrimp and vegetables crowning amazing mashed potatoes. But the sauce-the poblano sauce was simply divine! Lucky for me I had some family members sitting close by who agreed to help me eat the dish because I absolutely refuse to waste food.

Lola Valentina’s consistently delivers exceptionally well prepared food. Whether you are taken care of “Morning Abel” or “Evening Abel” you will be in very good hands.

Kath’s quote: “You cannot make everybody happy. You are not a taco.” -unknown

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Lola Valentina’s Breakfast 2020

July28

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My husband D doesn’t like to accompany me on my Isla restaurant visits. He is not able to stay as long as I do on the Island (he is younger than me and still working full time) and when he is here, he has his own lists of favourite restaurants to visit. One of a very few exceptions is Lola Valentina’s!

D adores Lola V’s coffee so that was the first order of business. I had already had my coffee quota so I enjoyed a smoothie instead. I can’t specifically remember all the fresh ingredients but I do recall green apple, celery and pineapple juice. If this is also one of your favourite smoothies, let me know what the other ingredients are.

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Lola Valentina’s plates photograph like works of art!

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Every single layer of Lola Valentina’s Avacado Toast was fabulous starting at the bottom with the homemade gluten free toast. Guacamole, poached eggs, hollandaise and pickled red onions were stacked high and accompanied by arugula spinach and cherry tomatoes. The creaminess of the guacamole and the poached egg were offset by the pickled red onions and cherry tomatoes creating the perfect combination of textures and tastes!

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D chose Lola’s Gourmet Chilaquiles and was well pleased. Lola’s soak their tortilla chips in adobo sauce then they are sprinkled with cotija cheese. I don’t typically like Chilaquiles because the tortilla chips are too crunchy but these were tender and full of the acidic, sweet and spicy flavours of the adobo sauce. These were served with perfectly fried eggs and a juicy & tender beef tenderloin. You may notice that my husband ordered this menu item, but I tasted it. In fact, D and I split most of our meals. When he thinks something is really exceptional, I get a bite. Such was the case with his Chilaquiles.

“Morning” Abel was our server that morning. His exuberance for the food and  all things Lola Valentina overflows from Abel. He is more than attentive, he is someone you would like to invite to sit down with you. Covid note: I hope “Morning” and “Evening” Abel and the exceptional staff at Lola Valentina’s fared well when the island was shut down and I am sure that visitors to the island are delighted that they have reopened!

Kath’s quote: “When you  wake up in the morning said Piglet at last, what’s the first thing you say to yourself.  What’s for breakfast? said Pooh. What do you say piglet? I say, I wonder what ‘s going to happen exciting today, said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully, it’s the same thing he said.”-A.A. Milne

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El Patio Isla Mujeres 2020

July10

We had made friends with Jacob at El Patio a couple of years ago and it became our Isla hangout for a nightcap. But El Patio also has excellent food and we were in for a treat that evening.

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We started with a cucumber and basil mojito and a traditional frozen margarita. Signature cocktails are relatively new to the island (last 5 years or so) and El Patio has some of the best.

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Our libations were accompanied by both Buffalo Shrimp and Coconut shrimp. We liked the latter best but both were piping hot and made from plump and firm shrimp.

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I had been craving a salad for a long time on the island and this take on a Greek Salad was a refreshing surprise. The dressing was balsamic and complimented the addition of creamy avocado perfectly.

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We also loved the shared concoction of a pineapple margarita with mescal. The glass was rimmed with a special ingredient- agave worm salt! Not my cup of tea but I found a way to sip the delicious margarita without hitting the salt.

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At entrée time, we were encouraged to try three unique taco concoctions. The first was poblano rajas, where the poblano chile is roasted and then sliced into thin strips or rajas. The chicken tinga incorporated another pepper, this time chipotle in an adobo sauce. When I have cooked with the these on a previous occasion they were too spicy for me but this version was less firery and delicious. The final taco of the trio- chorizo and potato was my favourite as I am affectionate called the Potato Princess by my husband. To mix the potatoes with chirizo was a beautiful way to add subtle smokiness.

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Our waiter explained that the chef has a very high standard with their fresh fish policy. Unlike some restaurants (it wasn’t shared who) if you request grouper and they are out  of it, they will not substitute an alternate but come back to the table and indicate that you are out of luck. With this explanation, D ordered the octopus for his main knowing it would be deliciously fresh. It came in a ajillo sauce. There are a variety of ways to make ajillo depending upon what Spanish country you are in. In Mexico it combines oil infused with quajillo chili peppers and a smoky paprika.

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By this time, the sun had set and the lights of the bar were sparkling. If you think El Patio is just about the live entertainment and bar atmosphere, think again they are a great dinner choice too.

Kath’s quote:“Chipotles, which are dried jalapeno peppers, give out a terrific smoky flavour – they’re warm, earthy and usually not too spicy.” -Yotam Ottolenghi

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Mayan Beach Club Isla Mujeres 2020

June26

I have visited the Mayan Beach Club a couple of times since they have occupied the space when The Sunset Grill moved up island. The visits weren’t stellar, but all that has changed. I don’t know what came first: the arrival of Gustavo or the all Mayan kitchen team? Suffice it to say that both the ambience and the food were flawless!

Gustavo explained to us that the Mayan Beach Club had the goal of not just serving dinner, but an experience. This is why they meticulously select the best local providers for fresh ingredients. Not to mention their diverse wine list of 45+ wines from 10+ different countries.

I was accompanied that evening by my long time friend and her husband. We don’t live in the same Canadian city so try to visit the island at the same time each year. If I couldn’t have D to share the evening with, these dear friends were the next best thing.

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As the sun set and created a gorgeous pastel sky, the first course was served.

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Mussels had been sautéed in white wine and then placed in this cauldron that kept the dish piping hot. Spanish chorizo, spinach and cheese were perfect enhancements. R did the honours of serving us.

On each of our plates R placed the mussels and a tomato fettuccine served with premise made bread. The dish was a decadently gooey taste of the sea.

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A salad course came next and was appreciated for its lightness and flavour. An intact romaine (with leaves still attached to the core of the plant) had been topped with a premise made Caesar dressing and ribbons of parmesan. A perfect parmesan cup came filled with triangular croutons. Every bite was a success.

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This avalanche of Caribbean octopus arrived next. Perhaps it was the roasted potatoes that captured my heart. But it could have also been the red onions, spinach leaves and balsamic drizzle. I know one definitive thing, the decadent cream sauce was sublime!

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Perhaps with this wider shot you can determine why the dish was called octopus on the rock.

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I had never eaten Osco Buco on the island but wasn’t surprized when it was placed in front of us. Only the top restaurants with expert chefs who can coddle a veal shank in the oven for over five hours, deserve to serve this dish. The three chilies sauce that the tender roast was served with, created a perfectly fused dish of Italian and Mexican cultures.

Somewhere prior to this dish we received another surprize- a beautiful soprano with a voice to match, wandered amongst the tables to serenade us throughout the evening. Her repertoire was an endless array of international selections sung with passion and skill.

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At this point Gustavo visited us to tell us about the Mayan Beach Club’s wine dinners: a country is highlighted with 7-9 courses and corresponding award-winning wines as well as live operatic music selected from the country as well.

I long to attend one of these wine dinners or perhaps another option: their Family or Large Group Dinners. These consist of a spread of the freshest caught sea and farm products they can source. The traditional and local dishes are served family-style in a creative and inventive manner.

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A tasting of premise-made Italian gellati garnished with fresh and juicy strawberries arrived next. The unusual carrot cake and sweet & crunchy crumbs were the perfect accompaniment for the luscious gellati.

The evening will always remain in my memory, for the many reasons why I love Isla and her people. Perfection in every sense of the word.

Kath’s quote: “This is an evening of wonders, indeed!”-Jane Austen

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Sesso Locos-Isla Mujeres 2020

June24

On the evening Sister #3 and her friend (now my friend too) arrived on the island, I asked that they join me in visiting Sesso Locos. See this link for my last Sesso Loco visit: 2019

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We were immediately created by Sesso himself (his nick name not his real name), who could tell that we were thirsty. I decided to try a sangria. Even though the recipe may not have been authentic, it was the best sangria that I tasted on the island.

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Coconut shrimp is a “must try” in our books. There were a round half dozen of these that were not “shrimp” but the size of a toddler’s fist! They were perfectly cooked and had a great mango sauce to accompany. These were very much enjoyed by sister #3 and I .

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Fish (sea bream) prepared in mango sauce was a lovely treat.

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Our favourite though was the El Pastor Pizza. This medium fed three of us with enough left overs for two more lunches. The crunchy pork belly was beautifully offset by both the pineapple and the unusual addition of cilantro.

As always Sesso’s staff were friendly and efficient and his restaurant well maintained and lovely. Sesso Loco’s is always on our “must visit” list.

Kath’s quote: “Anyway like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbeque it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh shrimp kebobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp , coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That-that’s about it.”

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