Food Musings

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

Luna d’ Miel-Isla Mujeres

March10

We discovered this little gem and its owner Isabel a number of years ago when I first convinced D to join me on the island.  At that time, I had stayed in various neighbourhoods on Isla but never the airport strip.  Knowing that D would equally enjoy Centro and the Colonias for his morning walks and time of exploration, while I could be perfectly content just gazing at the turquoise sea and the crashing waves, I happened upon Luna d’ Miel.  Fast forward to this, my tenth visit to Isla, we were once again embraced by Isabel and her sparkling clean, pristine apartments with a very special bonus.

We had expected to wheel our cases into our favourite room which we had secured the year prior before we returned home.  But Isabel stopped us and asked us if we would prefer another option.  An apartment had been built for her personal use right on site but she explained to us that she prefers to rent it to her visitors.  Our answer was a resounding grateful-YES!  Here’s why:

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The combination living and dining room (there is a round glass dining room table just to the bottom left of where this photo ends) was fashioned from the former front lobby of the hotel.  This was taken just before our guests arrived to watch the Canada’s gold medal victory in the Olympics.  We spent many late afternoons enjoying a glass of wine in this glass encased room.

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Sister #3, D and I had lots of room to cook together in the airy and efficient kitchen where I remembered the front hotel desk of the hotel to be. The kitchen is equipped with fridge, mic, coffee maker and everything that you might need to make simple meals. We were preparing to host the birthday celebration of The Frenchman (more details of the party to follow).

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We were able to sit 10 for an el fresco dinner but not without the help of Isabel who brought in tables, chairs, table cloths and twinkle lights.  She is so hospitable and generous with us, having done the same thing the year prior when we hosted another birthday party for Sister #2 and her twin brother.

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There were no other guests staying in the hotel the evening of our dinner party, so we set up on the cement terrace for appetizers before dinner.

But back to that original tour.

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The brand new bathroom had an enormous walk in shower and lots of space and storage.

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The bedroom boasted another seating area, king sized bedroom, overhead ceiling fan, separate (from the one in the living room) remote AC, wardrobe and direct access to a shaded pergola and the plunge pool.

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Here’s the primary reason, we love Luna d’Miel in the first place.  It is one of those special places on the island where you can watch both the sunrise and sunset.  We were awake at the time pictured just above, each and every morning, just before the sun began to rise.  We would have brewed our coffee in advance, and we would sit quietly in these white chairs and watch the sky come alive.

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We could sit and gaze at the blues of the sea, with the breeze in our faces,

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or swing in the hammock (we brought our own from home and hung it ourselves) forever and a day.  Some afternoons we would venture to North Beach but in all honesty, we couldn’t think of a reason to leave.

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This tree did not provide quite as extensive a natural umbrella when we first started staying at Luna d’Miel.  It has grown and its canopy has expanded since then.  As visitors to the island know, the traffic on the airport strip is non-stop.  We got used to the traffic noise and gladly endured it to perch in the setting sun and watch the world go by.

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This is the view of the Bay of Cancun right from the living room window of the suite.

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The sun sets above the palms and over the bay.

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We actually enjoyed a rainy day, perfectly dry inside but enjoying the falling rain through the floor to ceiling windows.

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But the very best thing about staying at Luna d’Miel this season was that the rest of our family was just two doors away.  J1 would bring our Grandbaby over as soon as she was awake in the morning, knowing that we would be waiting for her.  He would return to their casa to rest and perhaps sleep some more and we would spend a wonderful hour or so with the joy of our life.

Luna d’Miel and Isla Mujeres is our paradise but somehow the Wee One made it that much more glorious with just a giggle, two-toothed smile or gaping-mouthed smooch.

Kath’s quote: “The littlest footprints make the biggest impressions on our hearts”.  -Unknown

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Sunrise from Luna D’ Miel-not one but TWO hearts! For us, love was all around.

Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

Casa La Brisas-Isla Mujeres

March6

I had a particular budget threshold in mind to invite and host our family on Isla Mujeres.  As you may know, accessibility is a big issue for our family.  In addition, we had the wee one with us (including her necessary baby equipment).  There are some accessible hotels closer to town that might have done the trick (i.e. Hotel Paraiso) but when you add up the cost of multiple hotel rooms a house seemed a better option because of affordability and a common place to gather.  D and I scoured the options in person and then I did additional research on line.

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We gave the family three options and in the end because Casa Las Brisas was the shortest walk to Centro, it became our number one pick.  We clocked it as a ten minute walk to the south end of the Navy Base.

After a bit of initial effort getting in touch with the house owners, communication by email flowed back and forth and everything was set for our arrival.  Miquel of Capi’s Property Management was at the house to greet us and hand off the keys.  When we noticed an accessibility issue (you never really know until you are on site), he was quick to respond by delivering a makeshift ramp so Daughter #1 could get from the kitchen door to the outside deck on her own.  We didn’t notice at the time, but this meant that she was always in the shade, so when he came around again, he had another Islander build a second mini ramp so that she could access the sunny level too.  The front bedroom where she and her cousin stayed was large and spacious.  The only little detail was that the remote for the AC required a change in battery and so the room temperature was constantly set to 17 degrees!  The washroom was also well laid out and a plastic chair from the terrace made a sit down shower possible.  One night the gang took a cab from town and the taxi was able to pull in literally inches from the front door to make the transition easier.

The back bedroom which had immediate access to the terrace was designated to J1, J2 and the wee one.  The baby could comfortably nap in the portable playpen that was ordered from Sonrisa’s rental and when we accumulated on the terrace for a night cap, the storm shutters could be closed to block out the light and the sound.

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Happy hour on the terrace

Most importantly for a foodie (and boozey) family like us, there was a full sized fridge for the brewskies and freezer for ice-making for cocktails.  There was also a heavy duty cooler that we pressed into duty when we wanted to grab a cold one even closer to us.  The all important blender had enough power to whip up smoothies or cocktails.  J1 invented a Mexicoolada with pineapple, coconut syrup, rum AND tequila!  I loved the gang’s Kahluaada which also contained pureed banana.

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The kitchen was well stocked with other appliances and utensils too.  I used the electric fry pan and toaster to make back bacon and eggs the morning that Canada played in the gold medal round of Olympic hockey.  The view when gazing out the window while doing dishes was absolutely breathtaking and should have encouraged everyone to take their turn at dishes.  The kitchen opened into the living room and terrace so was perfectly situated.

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J1 and the Wee One doing their exercises on the terrace.

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La Brisas’ plunge pool and view to the north.

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The hammock, the lounge chairs on the terrace and the little plunge pool were used constantly and were so convenient with the baby and for us all to assemble for happy hour or a night cap.  One night that I babysat the Wee One, I was able to lie in the hammock and gaze at the stars and I believed that I was the luckiest Glamma in the world!

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The beach right in front of the house.

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As they say-“location, location, location”.  The airport strip is absolutely my favourite place to stay on the island as I am a sunrise, sunset and crashing waves junkie.  From La Brisas you have it all.

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Sunset from the roof.

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The sun had just set on our arrival day.

There was some confusion as to what to do with the toilet tissue (the sign in the bathroom encouraged you to put it into the toilet) and Miquel had to make a return visit to get it unplugged. Once the gang realized that they were not in a hotel and getting daily cleaning service, they got into a routine with circulating towels and disposing of garbage.  The request for additional drinking water was a bit too lengthy what with having a baby in the house.

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The furniture was comfortable and well maintained.  This is my primary complaint of hotels on Isla-there is never anyplace to sit except on the bed.

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Beautiful bathroom ceiling fixture.

I love themed décor but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea.

The house is also equipped with a sturdy commercial safe.  We walked by the house after the gang had vacated it and there were an army of persons to get everything tidied up and ready for the next lucky renters.  Our damage deposit was efficiently returned.  A couple of days later, there was a group of guys from the southern US who were holding a company retreat in the house.  They too looked as if they were enjoying everything that the location had to offer.

I read the journals and guestbook of the house while babysitting one evening and my heart is broken that the owners feel that they must sell La Brisas after years of refurbishing it and loving Isla.

Kath’s quote: “God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk”.-Meister Eckhart

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Love-that is all.

 

Come N’ Eat in Neechi Commons

March5
come4.jpgNeechi Foods Co-op at 865 Main St. in North Point Douglas is incorporated as a worker cooperative, owned and operated by its staff and the Neechi Commons’ building with its exposed brick walls and sunlit rooms was beautifully designed to let the sun and sky flood inside, while at the same time keeping the prairie wind at bay.  We wound our way up the spiral staircase to their restaurant dubbed Come N’Eat and found the last available table tucked next to the window.  The inauspicious dining room is pristine and unadorned with the exception of huge paintings on the north wall.  We shopped many times at Neechi Foods when they were located on Dufferin for pickerel, wild rice and blueberries and I had pretty much decided that I would go with one of these authentic ingredients.  Would it be the bannock French toast covered in blueberries or the wild rice and sweet potato croquettes?  I knew too that Come N’Eat would be memorable because I had also visited the Tallest Poppy Restaurant just down the street.  The connection?   Talia Syrie who operated the novel little café in the Occidental Hotel is now the Food-service Manager at Neechi Commons.  I was also familiar with her talents from her work with Raw-Almond, the temporary pop-up restaurant on the river near the Forks.    

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In the end, I opted for the Pickerel Burger.  The cost of this local fish is forever accelerating which makes me happy for the toiling fishermen of Lake Winnipeg.  But the dear price of the fish must be a challenge for chefs who are trying to prepare affordable dishes incorporating our local delicacy.  Come N’Eat chooses to economize by preparing a patty of potatoes and some minced pickerel which delivers a delicate fish flavour.  In truth, I would have liked to have known this in advance because the menu description of Breaded Pickerel had me salivating for a different taste altogether. 

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The grilled bun was set aside and instead I tucked into the House Salad of wild rice, cucumber, corn and apple.  The dressing was light and the nutty full-bodied taste of the rice was allowed to shine.

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My luncheon date decided upon Talia’s New Breakfast which proved to be a casserole of sautéed mushrooms, peppers, bacon and potatoes, crowned with two glorious poached eggs and triangles of bannock.  Glistening green kale poked out of the casserole.  She remarked that she had never tasted kale prepared in this way before.   The cook had gone easy on the salt and the entire dish “felt” and tasted full of nutrients and very healthy. The fruit accompaniment was a nice light extra.

This is a lovely spot for delectable food at breakfast and lunch.

Come 'n Eat on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Eggs taste best in the spring. Fresh eggs are given to young mothers to drink, and popular wisdom holds them to be good for newlyweds too.”-Pellegrino Artusi

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Love-that is all.

Asia Caribe-Isla Mujeres

March4

2014 was significantly different for the three sisters on Isla Mujeres: Sister #2 had already been and gone, visiting the island just after Christmas so that her daughter (who became an Islaholic on her own steam) could make the trip with them before the latter returned to her new home in Australia.  With them was a new family member; we call him “The Aussie” and the brave man demonstrated his deep love for our niece and us all, by visiting Canada for the first time in the winter, which to our dismay has turned out to be the coldest recorded in over 35 years.   He is now appropriately initiated to Island life. 

Sister #3’s dates were only slightly different than my own but her Isla network has widened to such an extent that I call her “Islapedia” and she is the perfect resource to chum with if you are new to the island.  So too, she is friends with so many of the locals and such a loyal one at that, she fills her time on Isla with repeat visits to their businesses.  I, on the other hand, am still trying to visit every restaurant on my “must visit” list at least once and I still have not spent enough time on the island, even though the days would tally almost 100.  So too, we had our own “newbie” in our entourage as “The Frenchman” spent his first week on Isla.  All this preamble is to say that Sister #3 visited many restaurants that I did not have the pleasure of and even though she is at this moment watching her last Isla sunrise, she has already written and emailed me this guest blog post.  

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I give you, Sister #3: “Walk down Hildalgo, the main restaurant thoroughfare of Isla Mujeres, any night of the week and you are sure to meet Annalise, an endearing woman doling out samples of yummy sticky ribs. Annalise and her husband, Chef Peter, are the proprietors of Asia Caribe which opened in a smaller location in 2008. 

The year they opened was the first time our gang visited their establishment which specializes in Thai and Chinese cuisine as well as sushi.  Mexico may seems an odd location to open an Asian restaurant but the reality is that people from across Asia have been in Mexico for many generations; helping to settle coffee plantations and build the railway.  They brought with them ingredients like limes, coconut and rice that are now staples in what we know as Mexican food. 

Over the 6 years since our first visit to Asia Caribe, our gang has grown and the kids are now young adults and they have discovered this restaurant themselves. They find it a great place to satisfy their sushi craving and their desire for healthier options, as Asia Caribe offers lots of items suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

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We didn’t get to Asia Caribe on our visit last year so were determined to make a stop this year and were very glad we did.  Everything was beautifully presented.  The service was attentive and most importantly, the food was delicious.  We started with cocktails of strawberry margaritas and mango daiquiris.  You could actually taste the tequila in my margarita and the fruit in both drinks was obviously fresh and not a bar mix.   

The waiter started by bringing us a plate of marinated cabbage with little dollops of sriracha chilli sauce. The cabbage is a perfect balance of sour, sweet and spicy and is a great amuse bouche to awaken your palate.  

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My dinner mate and I decided to share two entrees; Garlic-Ginger Shrimp and Pecan Encrusted Grouper.  Both were served with fluffy rice garnished with daikon radish and slivered carrot, a medley of carrots, chayote, water chestnuts and snow peas and a bit of slaw of jicama and carrot. 

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The grouper melted in your mouth and the tamarind sauce was a nice balance of sweet and sour which still managed to not over take the fish.  The ginger in the garlic shrimp was a nice addition adding another taste and a bit of heat. 

Our only regret of the night was not having room for a delicious dessert.  We have sampled both the coconut cheesecake and the chocolate Kahlua mousse in the past and would have enjoyed that to finish but instead made due with our fortune cookie and a stroll around town to try and work off some of the fullness in our tummies. “

Kath’s quote: “I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then, after your camped at night, you could eat him. How about it science?”-Jack Handey

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Love-that is all.

P.S. To Annalise from Kathryne.  I mistakenly called you Lori the last time I saw on Hidalgo.  I love your name and will forever remember it.

 

Post Holiday Confessional-Healthy Eating on Isla Mujeres

March3

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Just got back this weekend from our winter break in paradise.  In spite of walking for miles all around the island and eating the whole and healthy food of the locals, my jeans were a little snug this morning and I went back over my tropical diet to figure out why.

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Most breakfasts were eaten in our fabulous little apartment of yoghurt, fresh fruit and granola.  When we are home I select no fat, plain Greek yoghurt, but alas, the Balkan style has not yet hit Isla grocery stores.  We opted instead for vanilla yoghurt but speculate now that it was far sweeter with a higher fat content than we are use to.  So too, I make my own granola sweetened with moderate amounts of honey and/or maple syrup and the variety that we purchased there was far sweeter.

Lunches were typically left overs or sandwiches that I made up for the beach or to nibble on while swinging in the hammock of egg or chicken salad.  I packed my own no-fat mayo with me but it was hard to resist the lime mayo that they sell on the island.  We love the freshly baked tortas that are sold from carts, market stalls and in the groceries but were also able to purchase seven grain bread like home to avoid the white processed flour whenever possible.

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Ziggy’s Coconut Shrimp & Garlic Shrimp served at Monchi’s

We did dine out almost every evening.  I told myself that I would stick to grilled fish but had to have one feed of coconut shrimp and the frutti de mare pasta that I so love.  Whole wheat pastas have also not yet found their way to the Yucatan.

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Snacks on Isla Mujeres are tempting too.  The Sabita brand potato chip is yummers and so are the local tortilla chips.  Almost every restaurant serves house made chips and salsa and although the pico de gallo is sensational and oh so healthy, the grease laden chips that the restaurants prepare are required to scoop it up.

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I also celebrated my time away with a scoop of coconut gelato and a mango popsicle, which I was pretty happy about because I could have easily treated myself to one every time we strolled down Hidalgo.

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I managed to stick to vino tinto on most evenings but the from scratch mango margaritas and pina cooladas were hard to resist on a couple of occasions.  But do you know what the killer was?  The cervesas!  In many cases the cost is equal to water in the restaurants which is one excuse for my abundant consumption.  In addition, many of our Isla traditions revolve around them i.e. a celebratory beer both to and fro on the Isla ferry, a cold one on the beach with a home-made sandwich or when you have arrived home from the beach and are about to hop in the shower.

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The reality is, cerveas tastes absolutely exquisite on Isla.  When D, Daughter #1 and our niece ordered a round with a fajita lunch, we all declared that they were the best beers we had ever tasted!  We remembered to keep our little apartment fridge stocked with them but I did not always remember to refill and chill my water bottle.  So this in the end was my downfall, because I drank too many cervesas for one simple reason: I was thirsty!

If the waistband is a little snug, was it worth it?  Oh my YES-I will do an extra couple of days of Zumba to make up for my indulgences.

Kath’s quote: “How long does getting thin take?”-Winnie the Pooh

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Love-that is all.

 

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