Food Musings

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

North Garden Restaurant-Isla Mujeres 2018



In Portugal this January.

When I am on Isla Mujeres, D is typically at my side. This year though, he was only able to be on the island with me for one week. This was because we had already traveled to Phoenix and Portugal this winter. I don’t mind dining alone. In fact it gives me an opportunity to observe the restaurant without distraction. I watch the servers and their interactions with guests. I also observe their delight at tasting and consuming their food. In this case breakfast.


I had been on the beach early that day but my lawn chair unexpectedly broke and so I made my way back to my hotel. I decided to stop en route to see if North Garden had a table. Every other time I had walked by, the place was jammed and there were line ups of people waiting to get in. On this day though, there was only one larger party ahead of me. Breakfast became my consolation prize for having to cut short my beach time.


The name of the restaurant became very obvious when I was sat down in the cool shade of this beautiful tree. This variety also creates a natural umbrella at Luna D’ Miel where we often stay. In addition to offering up its shade, it drops leaves on you periodically to ensure that you are awake.


I started with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I was one thirsty girl, haven finished my water bottle on the beach at least an hour before.



Since the restaurant was busy, I had lots of time to make my selection from their extensive menu.


Pecan Eggs Benedict was my choice and I was delighted when they appeared so beautifully in front of me. Notice the inclusion of pecans and crispy strips of side bacon as opposed to the typical back bacon.


I always cut into my Benedict right away to ensure the desired doneness of the poached eggs. One side was perfect and the egg yolk intermingled with the hollandaise sauce. Unfortunately the other side was too hard to do the same. In spite of my personal preference, the entire dish was delicious. I was anxious to visit North Garden again for lunch but did not have the opportunity. They are already on the “must try again” list for our next visit.

Kath’s quote:“In the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves – nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them – the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs. If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her innermost being that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end… there could have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air.”― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


Love never fails.




Ana’s Breakfast at Fredy’s-Isla Mujeres 2018



Many cooks have a specialty they are known for. In our family D has his chocolate fudge sauce, Sister #2 her eggs Benedict, Sister #3 her chocolate lava cakes and me my lemon oregano chicken. Ana, wife of Fredy has her sopes. We first tasted them when she set up a breakfast restaurant call Mel and Alda’s in Colonias.

A sope is a traditional Mexican dish originating in the central and southern parts of Mexico, where it was sometimes first known as pellizcadas. It is an antojito which at first sight looks like an unusually thick tortilla with vegetables and meat toppings. The base is made from a circle of fried masa (ground maize soaked in lime, also used as the basis for tamales and tortillas) with pinched sides. Sometimes other ingredients (mostly meat) are also added to create different tastes and styles of sopes.


Ana’s sopes are tender and full of flavour even before her delectable toppings are added.


Since I can never get enough of potatoes, I chose to have them scrambled with eggs. There were beautifully fresh and seasoned perfectly. The crunchy bacon accompaniment was an added bonus.


There are a couple of Canadian treats hat I enjoy when I am traveling, one is crispy bacon and the other is a good cup of coffee. Ana serves both.


Fredy perched himself at the end of our table while Ana flew around the kitchen. She did come out to say hi and make sure that we were happy with everything. It was at this opportune moment that I captured them here.



We are not coaxed out of our breakfast routine very often, (that is yoghurt and fresh fruit in our hotel), so we cannot advise on any other offerings from Ana’s extensive breakfast menu. But we can tell you that everything we have sampled on this and the previous occasion has been top notch.


She also had this sandwich board out on Hidalgo while we were on the island. I think her breakfast and lunch offerings are only served during high season. Drop in and see what they are cooking up the next time you are strolling Hidalgo.

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is love made visible.” -unknown


Love never fails.


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Topaz, Isla Mujeres 2018


We like many visitors to Isla watched with interest when the Isla 33 Condos were built on the south east end of the island. We are “out of that league” as far as owning or even renting there. But we can dream, can’t we? One way to play along with that fantasy is to dine at Topaz -the main floor bar, restaurant and patio. The night we dined with good friends, no one could pick us out as renters from the airport strip. Or could they?

Upon arrival, we were sat at a lovely table on the patio. In fact that evening, everyone who was dining was doing so el fresco.


We started the evening by sharing Mango Ceviche. This great variation on traditional ceviche tossed mango, white fish, cucumber, red onion and cilantro together and then marinated them in lime juice. I could detect another ingredient and when I checked the menu I found that there was also a splash of tequila in the dish. I couldn’t discern what kind of white fish was used in the recipe.


We also shared coconut shrimp- a dish which finds its way onto many Isla menus. We make these at home when we are missing the island. A trick I utilize is creating a slit down the back of the shrimp to “butterfly” it and then press the increased surface into the coconut mixture. Topaz’s version didn’t do this so they were big and extra plump. I appreciated the innovative way they adhered them to the plate with a vegetable puree.


I knew exactly what I was ordering as soon as I spotted this dish on Topaz’s extensive menu. The lobster mac and cheese included lovely chunks of lobster amidst a creamy cheese sauce and pasta. The dish was light on the promised truffle oil or perhaps I assumed it was light because I am addicted to the taste and crave it often. I did appreciate how the dish had been heated under a salamander broiler to caramelize the top layer. I ate every single rich morsel.


D considered prime rib or lamb because he thought it was unusual to find these of an Isla menu but in the end wanted something lighter. He settled upon grilled tuna and enjoyed it immensely.


One of our companions enjoyed these crunchy fish tacos.


While the other tucked in to these beef tacos. She thought that the kitchen may utilize prime rib in this recipe and she appreciated the extra tenderness and flavour.

Our service could not possibly have been more attentive or caring. The staff are well trained and highly professional.

The moon was out that evening and from our vantage point on the patio we could see it glimmering on the sea. We lingered over our beverages imagining ourselves as permanent residents there.

Kath’s quote: “Aim higher in case you fall short.”  ― Suzanne Collins


Love never fails.


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Corto, The Common at the Forks Market, Winnipeg


Full disclosure: I have been a fan of the cuisine of Scott Bagshaw ever since he opened the first Deseo at the old Royal Albert Arms Hotel on Albert St. in the Exchange. I was even able to pick out one of Scott’s creations in a black box seafood contest where I sat on the panel of judges. There is something about Scott’s conceptions that simply resonate with me.


Alas, although I have visited both Enoteca and Maque, I have yet to dine at Passero, Bagshaw’s newest restaurant at the Forks. I have attempted to make reservations a couple of times to no avail. As a consolation prize I recently met a colleague at Passero’s daytime manifestation- Corto. At Corto you can order a Italian take away sandwich and either eat it in the Common area seating, at Passero’s slick bar top or at one row of seating in the restaurant. Once you choose a table, you still order at the counter and pick up your food when it is ready. Heck I would wash my own dishes to eat Bagshaw’s delicious fare.


My lunch date chose the calabrian roast beef which had been grilled with provolone cheese, pepperoncini (a mild Italian pepper) and was served alongside truffle au jus for dipping. Lucky for me, she wasn’t shy about letting me taste a 1/4 of her sandwich (just so you know, I exchanged hers for 1/4 of mine). The sandwich was full of deep beefy tones and was busting with natural juices. We had been warned by the lovely woman at the order desk that our lunches would be messy and she was right.


My chicken parm was equally messy to eat but there were plenty of napkins provided and used I batch of them. A buttery brioche bun had been stuffed with a perfectly fried chicken fillet which in turn had been smeared with a roasted tomato sauce in addition to goey buffalo mozzarella. Crowning the bun was a dusting of Parmesan cheese to provide salty pungency. Not only did I eat every morsel, I used my fork to scrape the additional bits off the butcher wrap paper.


My companion also ordered these inauspicious crunchy potatoes. Tiny potatoes had been boiled, smashed and either roasted or perhaps deep fried to create the most amazing side. Maybe it was the garlic aioli that elevated them from tasty to sensational! The other sides were tomato salad, a spin on a Caesar salad or roasted beets. Next time I am at the Forks for lunch, I might just order sides. The romaine salad also included chestnut and crisp sausage and the roasted beets were enhanced by a smoked cambozola cheese, pistachios, blood oranges and salsa verde!


D and I love going to little places that have a certain vibe that they could be anywhere in the world-Possero/Corto is one of those places. I look forward to perching on one of these stools to check out the concoctions that both the kitchen and the bar is putting out. As I was leaving, I spotted a condiment out on the bar top. It was a squeeze bottle of my favourite black truffle oil. Another reason I cannot wait to visit again!

Kath’s quote: A great chef is an artist that I truly respect. -Robert Stack


Love never fails.



Chilito by Ruben, 2018 Isla Mujeres


You may have heard of Ruben because of his generous heart and “Rueben’s Kids” -his charity on the island (more about this later) or you may know him for Ruben’s his little restaurant in Centro that has been putting out fabulous food since 2016. When you meet him, it is unlikely you will forget him for his exuberance for feeding people, taking care of islanders and life itself.

My sisters and I are cooks with three different styles. I am a “resourceful” cook (using leftovers and making recipe substitutions), Sister#3 is a trained cooked and is familiar with French culinary terms and techniques. Sister #2 is a decadent cook. She prepares food that tastes so good-adding extra cheese and sauce and her secret ingredient-butter! Ruben cooks just like Sister #2. His creations are all beautiful and carefully prepared but if he can elevate the taste with cheese, sauce or butter, he does and does so lavishly.


Case in point: Ruben’s guacamole at Chilito’s was amazing. It had something extra that I couldn’t put my finger on-lime juice, garlic or crème fraiche? The guessing did not dissuade us. We made short work of the guacamole while we sipped frosty cold beer, red and white wine.


The soup course was sublime. Ruben suggested we guess its ingredients and we weren’t even close. He wouldn’t share his secret proportions but he did tell us that it was a magical combination of spinach, zucchini and pablano chilies. The tastes were complex and yet beautifully melded. We decided we could all have returned the next day, just to indulge in that soup again.


Both R & M chose entrees of grouper in sweet tamarind sauces which they loved. I selected garlic grouper which was sparkling fresh and terrific.


Husband D chose the steak and langostino. Ruben apologised that they were out of filet and substituted a rib eye. Since D and I grew up in the steakhouse business, we know that a rib eye because of its proximity to the bone and increased marbling is a far tastier steak. When grilled properly (which this was) it can be just as tender as a filet. The sweet langostino was also beautifully prepared but just to be extra confident about the taste; Ruben had smeared herb butter over both.

The food was plentiful and so delicious that we all finished our plates and could not consider another morsel. But as we lingered over our beverages and chatted with Ruben, space was magically created and all of a sudden, two desserts and four forks appeared before us.



While my companions scooped up the flan which they thought was great, I indulged in bites of the petite slice of chocolate cake that I requested. But I had to put my fork down and surrender. Delicious as it was, I was done.

Further to Ruben’s charity news…while Ruben’s in Centro supports Ruben’s Kids, Chilito’s will support the seniors of the island. Ruben enthusiastically spoke of raising funds for wheelchairs and walkers. This is what makes Ruben so special and his restaurants places that you love to return to. In spite of his personal issues, he continues to love islanders and travellers alike with his excellent fare and he knows that at the end of the day it is giving back that makes this world go round.

PS Anybody know what a chilito is?

Kath’s quote: “I believe that we all have a responsibility to give back. No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck. Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful”.-Ron Conway


Love never fails.





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