Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Blue Bally-Hoo, Isla Mujeres 2022 by Sister #3


For many years the first stop we made on Isla was Ballyhoo.  Straight off the ferry, suitcases in tow, we would stop for a cold beer and a serving of fish tacos. So I was disappointed to hear of it’s closing. 

I was thrilled to hear that last December at the same location, Blue Ballyhoo opened it’s  doors. Totally different ownership, but the same great location. Aesthetically far more beautiful, the restaurant layout has been reconfigured. It now has a nice clean new bathroom, gone are the days of using the one next to the gas station. There are additional tables set out on the beach, that has filled in what used to be water next to the dock, allowing more seating. I love to sit with my feet in the sand when I eat seaside.

There are lovely turquoise lounge chairs where we spent an afternoon enjoying cocktails and yummy guacamole. 

It was wonderful to meet Lilly who is running Blue Ballyhoo. Lilly has deep roots on Isla. Her grandfather, Mr. Lima owns the dock on which the restaurant is located. He owned Zazil ha, now known as Mia, the first hotel on Isla Mujeres. Her dad, Captain Anthony runs their four sport fishing boats, the Lilly M, the Andrea M, named for Lilly and her sister, and the Keen 1 and 2, named for her mom, a well know hotelier on the island. Captain Anthony is all about making fishing a sport and conserving fish species. He works with the BBC, National Geographic, and Guy Harvey. 

Lilly is ever present in the restaurant, building relationships with her customers in order to create an experience that really delivers. She is so grateful for the fisherman who bring in their catch to be cooked up or just stop in for a drink. She enjoys the banter of both old and new fishermen sharing stories of the past and how it used to be whilst talking about the new destinations to go fishing. 

Having lived in Isla her whole life, Lilly is a font of knowledge when it comes to the island and life on the water. Her family is all about serving visitors and providing hospitality. 

On our first visit to Blue Ballyhoo we tried a cocktail called the ‘Mahaché’. Created by Lilly it contained gin, lemonade and blue curaçao. I asked her what Mahaché means and she shared it is a rain storm. I think this talented mixologist should also create a ‘norte’ and a ‘hurricane’ and make them her signature cocktails. Blue Ballyhoo prides itself on an excellent Margarita and of course, everyone wants a marg in Mexico.

For dinner we enjoyed fish tacos. Served with tartar sauce and spicy mayo. The fish portion was more than generous and the batter was crunchy and delicious. I had to eat some of the fish before I could attempt to roll it into a taco.

We also enjoyed the fish in red Guajillo sauce with rice and veggies. The fish was Wahoo caught the previous day. The sauce was flavourful and not at all spicy.  

As a smart restauranteur will do, Lilly has selected strong and talented chefs. You can hear the pride she has in their work when she talks about the food they produce and the impeccable kitchen they run.  The food is excellent! 

The ambiance is great, good music and the vibe is light and fun. Like establishments in countries around the world there is a shortage of serving personal available. The servers were attentive but pretty new to their roles. They were trying their best. You might encounter a bit of a communication challenge but with pointing to the menu and a few hand gestures, you’ll get by. I looked at it as an excellent chance to practice my Spanish. 

I’ve always wondered what Ballyhoo meant. Lilly explained; a Ballyhoo is the fish that is used as bait for Sail-fishing, and since Isla Mujeres is a big sport-fishing hotspot and the main customers are fishermen and captains, Blue Ballyhoo just seemed to suit the place .

I wish nothing but the best to this local family and the Blue Ballyhoo. They are now open for breakfast and from the pictures I’ve seen the food looks spectacular. 

Kath’s quote: “In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.”Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.

Tiny Gecko, Isla Mujeres 2022-Sister #3


The day we visited the Tiny Gecko there was an unusual event taking place on the malecon. A twenty four hour run that started at noon that day and had participants running through the day and overnight until noon the next day. As we waiting for our table we watched in amazement as the runners, now six and a half hours into their run, trotted back and forth the length of the malecon. I would think if the heat didn’t kill you the monotony would. There were other folks along the malecon cheering them on, offering high fives, which along with the music from the Tiny Ghecko must have helped lift their tired spirits. 

When we were seated the band was mid-set and the energy level was high as folks finished up their afternoon cocktails. 

We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and chef Paulino came out to meet us. This talented Chef from the Yucatan has lived on Isla for more than 30 years and has been with the restaurant since it’s opening four years ago. As a matter of fact Tiny Ghecko boasts a non existent staff turn over since opening, which speaks to the unity of the team and kindness of owner and philanthropist Raguel Rodriguez. 

Our meal started with an lovely amuse bouche of fresh bread rolls with a drizzle of blueberry sauce, Parmesan cheese and grated garlic. A delectable combination of sweet and savoury.

The next dish brought to our table was fried calamari rings served on a delicate tomato sauce encircle with thinly sliced beets. The squid was tender and the batter light and crunchy. 

Next came the coconut shrimp. The best I’ve had on the island. So many restaurants overcook them but these were perfect. The shrimp were huge and juicy and the coconut batter was golden and perfectly cooked. Served with mango sauce along side Chef Paulino’s signature turtle shaped rice, the plate decorated with beet mayonnaise. 

Our final dish was squid stuffed with lobster, octopus, shrimp and fish resting on a bed of little potatoes and vegetables in a pool of spinach sauce. It was so rich and delicious we took half of it home for a feed the next day. 

So while I think Tiny Gecko is a great place for an afternoon or late night cocktail and music, you are missing out if you don’t make a point to dine on the extraordinary food. The flavour combinations are creative and the product so fresh and high quality. A testament to the talents of Chef Paulino and the Tiny Gecko team. 

Kath’s quote: “A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster, salad and champagne. The only true feminine and becoming viands.”-Lord Byron

Love, that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2022- Getting into Isla’s Rhythm


We enjoyed the quiet of the morning, and then it was a day full of company!

Kelly and Moby were walking to town for a painting class but stopped by for a lovely catch up chat.

Later, friends Jan and Bruce joined us for Happy Hour. Unfortunately it was too windy in the back of our place by the water and too noisy with the traffic of the road so we made it a quick one and took roadies to watch the sunset and walk to dinner.

We never tire of watching the sun lower in the sky from Medina.

We met J and B on the island and have been close ever since. I mentioned that it was a windy day, well I had to settle for this pic of Bruce in mid-sentence because in all the others, Jan’s hair was completely blown off of her face. We girls stick together about those kind of things you know.

I wasn’t very impressed with pics of D and I either but decided on this one with only half of my hair blown off of my forehead.

The setting sun accompanied us all the way to our dinner destination. Green Verde (open the link to see pics and details about our great dinner).

Kath’s quote:

“Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”-Charles Pierre Monselet

Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2022-Day 2 Surprising Hortencia


Had a wonderful sleep and then we were up with the sun for coffee and pictures.

I love this quiet time on the island. The sun’s reflection on the water invites me to reflect on the blessings the island offers us.

This is our typical island breakfast. Even though we eat sugar and fat free yoghurt when we are home, we treat ourselves to creamy mango youghurt when in Mexico. Somehow the little bananas are sweeter there than in central Canada. I bring Almond Special Kay from home to top the concoction.

Next on the aggenda, we walk into Centro for cilantro and a couple of things forgotten while at Chedrui.

There are a couple of routes into Centro. We often choose the malecon for the shade and cooler breeze off the water.

We just had to scope out the new food offerings that had vacated the zoccolo and moved closer to the malecon.

I hailed a cab home and D stayed and reacquainted himself with Centro, looking intently for the spot where we could buy sour dough bread for sandwiches at home. I mistakenly thought we were looking for a bakery, whereas we were searching for a deli.

When D arrived home he ate the leftovers of the Rueben from Neal’s from the night before. I tucked into a cheese, cucumber, lime mayo and truffle sea salt sandwich. Delish.

We spent a lazy afternoon reading in the hammock and beachcombing.

The beautiful tree that acts like an umbrella over the front terrace at Luna D’Miel.

Over the years the years, we have met so many wonderful neighbours at Luna d’Miel-Gloria and Hue from Saskatoon, Iowa friends Kelly and Peggy, Jan and Michelle from PEI and Susan and Bruce from…. approximately 1 km awat from us at home, in the same neighbourhood we live in Winnipeg!

This year was no exception-Lorraine and her Husband (his name escapes me at the moment) reside in Austin, Texas and were there for a family wedding. Very little chance we will see them on the island again any time soon because their travel agenda is to never see any place twice, unlike D and I who love the familiar and the adventure of exploring a new place. I tried to do a Facebook search on our new Texan friends to no avail. Drat-they were lovely.

We walked to the other side of the airport strip and then took our time along Medina as the sun was setting. When I recount being able to walk everywhere, it is with an explanation mark and I sigh of relief. I have been waiting to have me second knee replaced, but Covid has prolonged the wait list. I consulted with my surgeon and he thought that a shot of cortisone would do the trick and he was right! I had the shot the Friday before we left and I felt like a spring chicken on the island. I am sure the warm sun and the vitamin D did wonders too. I am my best self on Isla.

When time was dwindling before our dinner reservation, we did hail a cab for the last leg of the journey to a new and fabulous restaurant-Rinconcito Kahlo (see this link for all the detail).

D and I remembered that we were just down the street from our Mexican family-Hortencias! Although the house looked dark, we timidly knocked on the door. Suddenly Mary and Sara burst through the entry way, laughing and crying and hugging and kissing us! After a couple of minutes Hortencia and Marcello emerged bleary-eyed. We realized that we had called too late for the matriarch and patiarch of the family. But they embraced us the same way.

Our entertainment for the rest of the evening were Naftali and Irma’s boys, especially Mateo was so happy to have an audience. He danced and did acrobatic tricks with his dinosaur. All the boys joined us when Mary and her husband borrowed Marcello’s truck to drive us home. It was a wonderful gathering with promises of other times that we could be together.

We realized that it wasn’t the sparkling turquoise water, the ice cold cervesas or the delicious fresh food that we had missed the 2 years as we waited to return to the island-it was these precious people!

Kath’s quote: “When old friends reconnect, there is a refreshing newness, after great memories wash over you, the stage is set for so many more.”-Tom Althouse