Food Musings

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

Sardinia Smile-2023 Isla Mujeres Restaurant Feature


We live a blessed life. When I am not at home in our perfectly located house of 35 years, living at the lake or on Isla Mujeres, we are often planning other sojourns. Right now we are considering Italy again (if airline prices come down). Isla and Italy are pretty much tied with me for a favourite place to visit. I would say “live” but I would miss my immediate and extended family too greatly.

So when we are on Isla and we get the opportunity to enjoy a piece of Italy, we jump at the chance. I can’t say I have sample every Italian food restaurant on the island and that is because I stopped when I thought that I had experienced the best. We have dined at Sardinia Smile on a number of occasions. Some of my all time favourite meals were eaten there.

What makes our visits particularly authentic is that Sylvia and her staff mostly speak Italian, so in the same way that I have trouble expressing myself in Italy, so too the task is troublesome on Isla. But somehow we always manage. It adds to the charm.

It was late afternoon when we arrived and Sylvia had just opened the restaurant. We had foolishly double booked ourselves. She encouraged us to sit inside because of a potential rain storm. We always sit outside which is also the case in Italy, so I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. But only for a few moments, because sure enough, rain started falling in enormous drops and it came on as if a dike had been broken. Fortunately it didn’t last long but I was happy for the suggestion that Sylvia made of the dry table inside.

We started with Sylvia’s suggestion of Aperol Spritzes. A refreshing cocktail that we had first tasted in Sienna, Italy. It was just what the doctor ordered and we settled in without a care of being double booked or the inclement weather.

Why doesn’t every restaurant in the world serve an amuse bouche? My dining experiences are always elevated by this gesture! You take a readily available product like tomatoes in Mexico and pair it with toasts made from what is likely excess bread and voila! You have “amused a guests’ mouth” and it cost very little to do so!

We decided to share a soup as one of our appetizers. When D settled upon tomato soup I secretly thought that his choice was a bit pedestrian. Oh my gosh! I didn’t share my thoughts with him because the creamed soup with extra cream garnish was the best creamed soup I had ever tasted; anywhere! I was actually sad when the bowl was empty and whenever I get a soup hankering, I think of this sublime bowl every time.

Offer me anything in garlic and wine and I can just about guarantee that I will love it. especially when what is floating in the glorious duo are tender and oh so fresh seafood; black mussels in this case. A generous squeeze of lime brought out a spritely essence. We dipped the fresh bread into the broth to ensure we did not miss out on a drop of the nectar.

When I love a taste, I LOVE A TASTE! It may have been surprising that I ordered almost a duplicate dish for my entre, but it was really the ultimate complement to the Chef!

In the mean time, D chose a hearty seafood risotto. He too was enamored by the mussels and there were clams as well as enormous shrimp. The rice was perfectly soft and bursting with flavours that had been locked in by a slow heat and constant ladles of broth.

At this juncture, I excused my self to the ladies room saying” I am too full for dessert UNLESS we get offered Sylvia’s panna cotta”. Guess what was sitting on our table upon my return? I can’t resist the sweetened cream and the mini servings are the perfect size!

Sardinia Smile has been a mainstay on the south end of Hidalgo for years. They are closed Wednesdays but open every other day from 3:30-11 pm. Do yourself a favour and same a bundle on air fare to Italy!

Kath’s quote: “Art, passion and family traditions for three generations.“-Sylvia owner of Sardinia Smile.

Love never fails.

Garden of Frida-2023 Isla Mujeres Restaurant Feature


Don’t you love it when good guys finish first? Let me explain. I have not met Chriss Medina in person, try as we might to connect, but I have met her wonderful family in the two restaurants operated by them on the Island. We visited Rinconcito Kahlo in 2022 and found our way to the Garden of Frida in 2023. Both are much loved by locals and visitors alike for authentic and affordable tacos and a couple of more unusual offerings.

When I say “found our way” I mean it literally. We looked it up on the Mapchick App and asked my sister to drop us off from her golf cart. We drove by twice, without knowing we were there. Then I texted Chriss and got more specific directions. The mystery was solved when we realized that Garden of Frida is adjacent to Empanadas Tito. In fact, it kind of looks like they share the restaurant. So it took a bit of extra effort to find it. But we were so glad that we did.

I love the branding of the restaurants, especially that Frida Kahlo was a woman of inner strength with a love for Mexico and its culture. I don’t think I am out of line by saying the owner Chriss embodies those strengths as well. Frida is also popular in Malaga Spain where I visited last fall. I sent Chriss photos of her whenever I spied them.

We started by sharing a shrimp taco and and a pesca (fish) one. You will find that simplicity shines in this case. There was very little adorning the tacos so that the fresh fish and shrimp tastes were front and centre. The shrimp was so well prepared that it kind of snapped when you bit into it.

Next up was another taco trio-I knew that Pastor was on the left and I messaged Chriss to find out the exact names of the other two. I think we got lost in translation because Chriss says that all three were Pastor. I am sure the truth will eventually be told. In the mean time, whatever they were, boy were they tasty!

We washed everything down with a Frida Viva and a Papaya Juice. The chef puts the same amount of care into mixing the drinks as a high end mixologist. They were so refreshing.

The piece de resistance were the Quesabirrias that we had for dessert. We got hooked on these unique tacos when we visited the original Kahlo location in 2022. The dipping sauce is so amazing that D slurped it up with a spoon.

So this is what I mean. Don’t you love it when someone as lovely as Chriss succeeds with her restaurant businesses? Sometimes the good guys (women) do finish first.

Kath’s quote: “I love you more than my own skin.“-Frida Kahlo

Love never fails.

Jax-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature


We first visited Jax in 2005 on our first trip to the island. Jackie, the owner of Jax recently shared with me that even on a holiday with Mexican food as amazing as the islands’, travelers eventually crave something from home. Over the years, she has determinedly ensured that when you have that hankering for a burger or a loaded baked potato, you will think of Jax. She is absolutely right because in 2005, we had wandered in for a hamburger.

Jackie’s manager and most of her staff are Islanders that have been with her almost back to those early days of the new millennium. Having been in the restaurant business ourselves, we know that that is a monumental accomplishment. Jackie claims that she doesn’t have any business secrets but that she strives to give her staff the best products using tried and true recipes, using the best tableware and restaurant accoutrements that money can buy and then empowers her staff do the rest.

Of course having one of the most beautiful locations on the island, certainly doesn’t hurt Jax’s success. We were there for Happy Hour one evening when the entertaining Ken Wanovich stopped singing to allow everyone to witness the glorious sunset! Sure the scenery has changed over the years, but the location is still absolutely stunning.

On this evening, we snuggled in to enjoy some of the tastiest fare on the island starting with selections from Jax’s extensive bar list. D was delighted by the variety of martini selections and was well pleased with his choice. I was in love with Jax’s glassware package and would love to order some items for our home.

I chose a Banana Cabana (on the right) made by blending Bailey’s, rum, banana liqueur and what else? Fresh banana of course. The taste was like a luscious banana milkshake and I would have happily ordered another one, except we started considering some food options.

Now by this time, quite by coincidence, our hometown NHL team was playing a televised hockey game. The bartender found the broadcast immediately and ensured that we could view it from multiple directions. Nascar racing was also being broadcast to the delight of a table of boisterous fishermen. Even though Jax welcomes the sports enthusiasts, Jackie wants the world to know that their offerings are broader than the standard fare at a sports bar. Case in point, a couple of appetizer selections had just been delivered to the table.

This exquisitely presented dish was mixed ceviche. Made with shrimp, octopus and conch, the unique veggies and herbs were a lovely spin on the classic Mexican dish. The edible garnish was not only beautiful but delicious too. We used the just fried tortilla chips to scoop up the avocado with the lime marinated seafood. The cucumber added fresh and spritely tastes. We gave the chef full marks on his artistry.

Loving the conch in the ceviche, we decided to order conch fritters, not haven indulged in them for a long while. They were beautifully shaped (including bread and eggs I suspected) and were perfectly fried without a greasy texture. The potato rosette and tomato garnish blew us away.

When the time came to order our entre, we were in a dilemma. D was leaning towards a steak because he had a craving for a loaded baked potato. I was inclined to fish and chips but then got distracted by the variety of seafood platters and didn’t know which way to go. Jackie suggested we have the fish platter but suggested she add a steak and a couple of shrimp choices too. The pic above is what was placed in front of us as a result.

The fish came grilled, fried AND blackened. No matter how it was prepared, there was no denying the fresh and delicate tastes of fish.

So too, the shrimp came fried, sauteed in garlic butter and breaded in a sweet coconut. There was even a succulent lobster tail. We loved the fabulous garnishes and felt like we were in a dining dream!

The biggest surprise was the filet mignons which were prepared exactly to our desired doneness. With goey cheddar cheese and real bacon on the spud, the steak and potato combo would have been completely satisfying all on its own.

Some skeptics might say “oh sure, that’s how the food comes out when the chef is tipped off by the owner” but we went back at least twice more for shrimp bowls, fish and chips and fried chicken and we were uber impressed each time. Service at happy hour is a bit hectic but that is because the place was jammed especially on Wednesday when we went back to hear Ken sing.

Jax is the real deal. Whether snacks or dinner, the food was expertly prepared and beautifully presented. Service was efficient and friendly. Sure you can watch your favourite game there, but Jax is so much more than a sports bar. Go for a romantic or family dinner the next time there ISNT a game that you don’t want to miss.

Kath’s quote: “Food brings people together, makes memories, and expresses love and care… no matter where the recipe comes from. I make food art like this to inspire & equip home cooks to pass down a resilient food culture – a precious heirloom – onto the next generation“. –Heirloom Food Project

Love never fails.

Green Verde-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature


We have enjoyed the hospitality of Rafael and Green Verde for many years. It is one of our “must visit” places and a friend of ours once declared it, the best food on the island.

On this day, D was still needing his coffee fix but I was in the mood for something more thirst quenching. My refreshing green juice was a blended concoction of celery, apple and pineapple. It was very delicious, but I shouldn’t have gulped it down so quickly because we had so much eating ahead.

No less than three dishes arrived next.

This amazingly complex dish was the Breakfast Enchiladas from their Special Mexican section of the menu. Corn tortillas were stuffed with scrambled eggs to which bean sauce and cream had been swirled on top. A bed of shredded lettuce added to the crisp texture and also provided a bed for the ground chorizo sausage which added a bit of punch. Scrumptious.

This gorgeous dish was also from that special section on the menu. Huarache usually come with green or red sauce but we enjoyed more of the savoury bean sauce.

Green Verde’s Mexican omelet was chock full of shredded beef, slivered peppers, bacon, onion and Oxaca cheese. We loved all three dishes and took note to add some unusual ingredients to our weekend breakfasts this summer at the lake.

Rafael had no intention of letting us off that easy. He knew that I preferred savoury tastes at breakfast but guessed correctly that D likes his sweets, so he came around with a platter sampling another couple of dishes.

In the top right corner were Ranchero eggs in a Red sauce and in the left foreground were the Red Chilaquiles. These two dishes ensured that we were chock full of appealing and nutritious food.

In the top left corner was a delightful banana crepe topped with (get this) ice cream and sprinkles. We love bananas foster which this dish was reminiscent of. To the right edge of the photo was meaty bacon and vanilla/cinnamon French toast. My fav taste combo-sweet and salty.

We dined another couple of times during our recent month on the island. Especially memorable was the evening when we took old friends upon their arrival on the island. She loved the Mezcal Shrimp: marinated and then flamed in tequila, they were delectable when served on a bed of mashed sweet potato. I had sampled them this trip too and whole heartedly agreed with her.

So too, the interesting spin on the Chicken Poblano was a hit. Instead of stuffing everything inside of the pepper, it provided a cradle for all the fixings.

Although I have never been to the restaurant at lunch, the point is that Raphael executes enticing dishes no matter what time of day. Let them know if you are a large group and tell them that you do not mind if they deliver the dishes as soon as they are ready, to avoid meals cooling off in the open air restaurant. They are closed Monday but are open every other day from 8 am -9:30 pm.

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is love made visible“. Authour Unknown.

I thought that these were appropriate for a restaurant of this name.

Love never fails.

Amazona Beach Club-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Features


Imagine for a moment, you are on a tropical island with the love of your life and it is Valentine’s Day. You are spending the day at a Beach Club as a VIP. When you arrive, there is no one else there. What could possibly be more perfect?

When we first visited the island in 2005, we found ourselves at Playa Loncheros for the day. Not having a clue where I was going, I walked south on the west side of the island and must have landed exactly where Amazon is now. So let’s start at the beginning…Amazona had the perfect strip of land, sand and shoreline to create their beautiful complex.

We were escorted to this first row location and served refreshing welcome drinks.

There were beds for napping.

There was also a couch and coffee table for our drinks and amazing assortment of food.

First up was a beautiful tray of creamy guacamole and pico de gallo served with the loveliest tortilla chips shaped into petalled flowers. Since we all know that we eat with our eyes…this was a feast! They were the perfect way to start our leisurely afternoon.

Day trippers started to arrive in catamarans from Cancun. The property is so huge, even when they were packed, we felt uncrowded in our own private space.

We were curious as to what was on the buffet for everyone. What we liked best was the fresh fish that had been prepared to make up your own tacos or salad.

Our served dishes continued. Up next were enormous shrimp (isn’t that an oxymoron?). I am talking more like baby lobster tails. They were perfectly prepared, the chef knowing that a shrimp that size would get rubbery with overcooking. And the homemade cocktail sauce that they had been plunged into was so amazing, that I asked for cutlery then I ate the meaty shrimp in little slices and slurped up the sauce with a spoon.

Although we were well-entertained with watching people pose (many quite provocatively) on the water swing and enjoying the DJ’s music selections, we thought that it might be a good time for a walk and a stretch so we wandered to the end of the pier to take in this more panoramic shot of the property.

In addition to a Valentine’s Day selfie.

A sushi course was ahead: wrapped in plantain, seaweed, shrimp and cream cheese. Each was complex and tasty and the dipping sauce was appropriately sweet, salty and unami.

Petalled tostados elevated onto shot glasses came next. The toppings were shrimp, pastor and pulled pork and we were delighted with the crunchy textures and varied tastes.

We thought that we couldn’t possibly eat anymore and then these amazing coconut shrimp came along. The mango salsa that they came plunged into was the perfect pairing to the crispy texture and sweet tastes (coming from both the coconut AND the shrimp).

Can you see the sea gulls to the left of the pic who cut through our palapa on their way to the open bay?

We visited with many of the day trippers that day, but when they answered the call back to their catamarans, we lazed back for one last time of relaxation in solitude and silence. Many of the day trippers wonder “You stay on Isla? What is there to do all day?” We answer “this”.

Amazona Beach Club is open daily until 6 pm. But I wondered if they were open when the seas were too rough for a catamaran crossing. I understand that they host a number of special events in the evening by invitation only.

Kath’s quote: “A life lived in love will never be dull.”-Authour Unknown

This heart greeted us when we arrived at the beach club that morning.

Love never fails.

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