Food Musings

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

Most Romantic Dinner Spot on Isla Mujeres

December7

I have many friends on Isla Mujeres.  Some I have shared a dinner or lazed upon the beach with and others I have met “cyberly” and then eventually met in person.  Such is the case with this friend who is a US ex-pat now living full time in paradise.  I have asked her opinion of the best place to go for a romantic dinner for two on Isla ( I happen to know a couple who could use one).

“Greetings from Isla Mujeres!  After some chilly weather (for us) it is finally a beautiful beach day!  The Island is quickly getting decorated for Christmas & it looks festive.  We just put our tree up on Sunday with the kids.  Now the count down for Santa begins!!
 
Sunset Grill is a pretty spot but I have heard mixed reviews about the food & the beach seating (they charge extra to sit on the beach).  By the time you arrive Fenix, an Asian Fusion restaurant should be open.  That is on the beach at NaBalam looking towards Avalon.  The couple opening it up used to have a quite popular place in Nashville. 

Looking west towards Cancun from the vicinity of Casa Las Suenos

A couple other romantic options with a view would include Casa Las Suenos (used to be Altmar Lounge, on Punta Sur next to Casa O’s).  It is a beautiful setting, under a great big palapa looking out at Cancun.  They have reopened their restaurant which used to be excellent but have not done any marketing to let people know.  Another soon to be opened & should be opened by that time is Marina Paraiso.  They have a chef from France who will be doing lovely dinners on their deck under big old  trees with views of the water.  I have been there for a private dinner & they food was incredible.
 

The Caribbean Side

Da Luisa at Casa Ixchel on the Caribbean side has a great ocean view.  I have not had dinner there but I have had tapas & drinks.  The chef Giorgio from Italy does a great job.
 
Without the beach or a view….Sergio from Rooster Cafe starts his Special Chef Dinner Menus around December 15th on Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays.  Honestly, his culinary creations are some of the best I have ever had in my life.  He is truly the most talented Chef (accredited at La Cordon Bleu in Austin) on Isla.  I am still dreaming about his pork belly three ways, his shrimp in a grapefruit reduction sauce & his filet mignon in huitlacoche sauce.  WOW.  The decor of Rooster is a bit more modern & for them evenings, he has table clothes & it has a nice romantic feel.  You can also make reservations for his chef’s tasting menu, where he will bring 5 or 6 courses out for you.  This is by far my favorite place for a special occasion.
 

The bright lights of Hidalgo

Also without a beach or view, Lori Dumm previously of Mango Cafe just opened up Lola Valentina on Hidalgo with a Mexican business partner, Rodolfo.  The place is very pretty.  The food is Mexican Fusion.  The tables are quite big so there is not a real romantic feel at the table but the lighting & decor feels romantic.”

Kath’s quote: “Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.”-Sarah Bernhardt

 

Amazing Flourless Black Bean Brownies

December5

Last week on twitter, when a follower thanked me for the black bean burger recipe, I mentioned that I had tasted these amazing brownies the night before.  This created a bit of a twitter flurry and I sought out this recipe to create a link for them.  Since then I have a hard time forgetting the taste or my amazement that they contained black beans.  Here is the the recipe with some of the hard to find ingredients already adapted.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (canned is fine)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ cup instant coffee

¼ teaspoon sea salt

4 large eggs

1½ cups liquid honey

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch (rimmed) baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spray.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high.  Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely.  Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor.  Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth.  The batter should be thick and the beans smooth.  Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt.  Mix well and set aside.  In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute.  Add the honey and beat well. Set aside. Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture.  Stir until blended well. Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup.  Mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy.  Drizzle over the brownie batter.  Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set.  Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares.  (They will be soft until refrigerated.  Makes 45 (2-inch) brownies. 

Kath’s quote: “Blessed relief for Mother and the other women in the household!”-Heinz slogan when it introduced the commercial version of ketchup in 1876

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Lost Author Chili (Meatless)

December2

I have  connected with an old business acquaintance recently.  She and I have emailed and chatted on the phone for years and known of each each other for eons before that, but only met in person for the first time last week.  Isn’t life strange/wonderful that way?  We are now FB friends and I am getting to know another side of her life a bit better.  She recently sent me this recipe and although I have not yet made it, I know that it will be a hit.  The inclusion of salted cashews and beer, is why I am convinced.  Thank you Carolyn.

“Here’s a receipe that I love, and don’t pull out as often as I should.  Just made it tonight to take into the teacher’s tomorrow for Student Lead Conferences, and am glad that I made a little extra for myself!!

 

 2 Tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups chooped green pepper

1 cup chopped onoin

3 cloves garlic, minced

Two 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (can use fresh)

One 19 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

One 19 oz can mixed beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

One 12 oz can of beer

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon basil

1 1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon tabasco

1 bay leaf

3/4 cup cashews (unsalted)

1 cup shredded swiss, mozzarella, or cheddar cheese

Heat oil. Add celery, green pepper, onion, and garlic.  Cook until tender.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, beans, raisins, vinegar, chili powder, parsley, salt, basil, oregano, cumin, allspice, pepper, tabaco, and bay leaf.  Bring to boil.  Simmer, covered 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in beer and cashews.  Return to boil.  Simmer uncovered 30 miutes or until desired consistency. Remove bay leaf.  Sprinkle cheese on top of each serving. Enjoy!”

Kath’s quote: “You can’t possibly ask me to go without having some dinner. It’s absurd. I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.”-Oscar Wilde

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Over Easy in Toronto

December1

Almost three weeks have past since our sojourn to Toronto.  One of our favourite meals was at Over Easy in the Entertainment District.  As the name implies, they serve breakfast all day long.  So why has it it taken me so long to write about it?  Because I would have to admit to y’all that I had poutine for breakfast and loved it!

Now in my defense, it wasn’t really poutine (even though they called it such on the menu).  It was more like a hearty breakfast casserole with the inclusion of authentic cheese curds instead of grated cheese.  Specifically, there was a layer of hash browns topped with bacon and smoked ham, cheese curds, and two poached eggs.  That was smothered with a lemony hollandaise.  The meal was loaded with carbs, fat and calories and my oh my, was it delicious.

D very sensibly chose eggs Florentine which included fresh spinach.  This great place also serves home made brown toast and an excellent glass of oj.

Unfortunately, the coffee was horrible or I could have sat there all day.  The decor was cheerful and cozy and I loved the fresh colours.

Over Easy on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote: “It was a nice breakfast – two hard boiled eggs, a piece of Danish, and a Coca-Cola spiked with gin.”-John Cheever

Sydney’s at the Forks

November29

Our evening at Sydney’s was near perfection, right down to the soft fluffy snowflakes that were falling on the courtyard of the Forks, when we were the last satisfied patrons to leave that night.

When I say “near” perfection,  Laura had done her utmost to reserve a round table six weeks prior to this special evening and when she was escorted to a rectangular table which is not as conducive to inclusive conversation, she was told that someone would come to speak to her.  Well, that someone never materialized and the request was ignored or forgotten.

But no matter, I anticipated that the evening would be stellar as I had recently followed the Gold Medal Plate competition and knew that Chef Michael Schafer had taken the bronze.  So we were in for an award winning evening.

We started the merriment off with the Ceasar that the server suggested.  We detected the addition of horseradish and I noticed as we raised our glasses for a festive toast, that my glass was reducing in contents more quickly than the others.

You may already know that Sydney’s provides a seasonal menu for one price of $55. per diner (with the option of a couple of more expensive choices), which capitalizes on the fruits of the local harvest.  The offerings are a fusion of Asian, French and Italian influences.  Since these are my personal favourites (with the exception perhaps of Mexican), I knew that I would well pleased with everything that came my way.      

Some started with split pea soup which tempted me as I spotted the inclusion of truffle and house-made ham.  But I opted for something lighter to start and was satisfied with my gorgonzola and walnut topped, beet salad.  Statisfied until I tasted D’s prawn and veggie kakiage……

Kakiage is a tempura of mixed vegetables and often includes shrimp or prawns as this one did.  The was a pocket of wasabi powder in the mix which was well balanced by the citrus ponzu sauce.  I was coveting D’s choice.

 

The next course included a gorgeous beef liver pate sampled by some and a pumpkin risotto that caught my eye.  The pistachio crumble, sage oil and parmesan crisp were delightful and I was content.  That was… until I tasted D’s savory bread pudding. 

The choice, which I thought was unusual at first, was the perfect blend of seasoned bread and a savoury sausage.  It might have been the surprize hit of the evening.

The courses were divided by a cleansing sorbet and then the “mains” began to arrive.  This double lamb shank, pictured above was enhanced by a rosemary, dijon crust.

  

Laura and Sue opted for the spicy garlic rock lobster tail and tiger shrimp.  I had a nibble and was duly impressed.  D enjoyed his salmon with warm olive salad and I, my bone-in pork chop with an apple stuffing.  Perfectly cooked to a medium rare with juices still flowing, it was gorgeous.

By the time dessert arrived, we should have been linking arms for a stroll in the snow but picked up our spoons once again.  D let me taste his satisfying chocolate crepes with a marscarpone fig cream.

I was over the moon for my apple tart with blue cheese ice cream and a brandy snap.

 

What could enhance this circle of friends, celebrating Christmas?  Well did I mention that Santa is one of my friends?  Here he is making his selections of the evening’s fare. 

And again, just before we departed for the evening.

Sydney's at the Forks on Urbanspoon

I truly hope that your festive season, gets off to as good a start as mine.

What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”-Phyllis Diller

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