Browsing: Food & Travel

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.

 

Sabich and Save A Child’s Heart

January28

In the olden days Air Canada had this great offer for students.  You could buy a special pass which allowed you to fly standby on domestic flights until you turned 22 years of age.  I took full advantage of this and visited Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto on a regular basis.  I imagined my self to be very “worldly”.  Well our 22 year old puts me to shame.  She has traveled across western Canada, to El Salvador, across all of South Africa, Nicaragua, Israel and Jordan.  As opposed to my style of young travel which was to shop and hit the tourist spots and clubs, she volunteers- performing humanitarian work when she leaves home.  After her most recent stint in Israel, volunteering with the wonderful organization entitled Save a Child’s Heart, (more about this later) she made us her favourite Israeli meal.

Sabich was brought to Israel by Mizrahi Jews who moved in the 1940s and 1950s. On the Sabbath, when no cooking is allowed, Mizrahi Jews ate a cold meal of precooked fried eggplant, cooked potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. In Israel, these ingredients were stuffed in a pita and sold as fast food. In the 1950s and 1960s, vendors began to sell the sandwich in open-air stalls.

This is where Daughter #2 fell in love with the taste of Sabich.  She said that the street sellers came to recognize her as a regular and knew her name.

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She assembled all of these fresh, whole, simple ingredients and then instructed us as to how to assemble our Sabich.

She first showed us how to carefully open our pitas so that it would remain intact when stuffed.  Next, we placed a big smear of hummus on the floor of the pita and then placed slices of potatoes, hard cooked eggs and cubed eggplant inside.  All the other toppings of sliced banana peppers, parsley, kosher pickles, Israeli salad (like a pico de gallo), chopped and seasoned cabbage and hand-formed falafel were optional but she encouraged us to try them all and she was absolutely right, as each bite was just a little bit different but absolutely delectable.

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She also demonstrated how to knead the falafel in the bottom of the pita to break it up and spread the crunchy, spicy concoction into the other ingredients.

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Not everyone was successful in rolling the stuffed pita up but I was pretty impressed wth my own.  We washed everything down with lemonade which she made the old fashioned way-with lemons!  I can still smell the lemon groves in Israel from my own sojourn there.

Now that Daughter #2 is home, she is still raising money for Save a Child’s Heart.  This is the organization’s mandate:

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart  disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.

If you would be so inclined to contribute to her fund raising goal, you can do so with the link imbedded here: Give Your Heart Out this Valentine’s Day.  The link tells you more about how her heart was touched by the kids that she cared for there and how you can help.

Kath’s quote: “You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.” -Unknown

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Love-that is all.

PS to B-I am humbled by the honour of being your Momma.

 

 

 

Cafe Savour

January7

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Café Savour at 956 St. Mary’s Rd. is pretty much what I imagine our little restaurant would look like, if D and  I ever stopped talking about it and actually did it.  From the hand-painted tables, toss cushions, twinkle-lights and turquoise wine glasses to the photos adorning the walls from the places they have traveled together, this place reflects our personal taste and eclectic style.

We could never duplicate the skill level coming out of the kitchen though.  Chef Louise Briskie de Beer’s menu is imaginative and her creations, oh so delectable.  Her partner Faiz de Beer personally takes care of every table himself and his service is attentive, warm and comfortable. They are the only staff in the restaurant so they only open the limited hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.  We imagined them sharing a bottle of wine when the evening was through as they were tackling all of the dirty dishes.

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Their prix fixe menu, offers three courses for $35 or five for $45.  If you are concerned about quantity but want to sample as much as possible, you could follow our lead and order one three course and another five course and share it ll.  As a result, we started with an amuse bouche of house baked breads and dukkah which is a Middle Eastern spice and nut mixture to enhance the tasty breads.  Even though the recipe is a middle-eastern one, they discovered it while travelling in Australia.

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Next up were bowls of piping hot soup, in fact the hottest food I have ever had while dining,  Many soups are “held” for the kitchen’s convenience but Louise must heat small portions up when she receives an order.  I could not decide between my savoury bowl of sausage, mushroom and wild rice and my husband’s of cauliflower, potato and curry.  Bother were perfectly balanced and appealing in their own distinct ways.

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We shared a South African appetizer trio of “Dhaltjie”-spinach and chick pea fritter, “Frikkadel”-masala flavoured tuna patty and Cape Malay spiced samosa.  All were enjoyable and we concluded that we like the fritter the very best.  We also shared a deconstructed and reconstructed Greek salad where the wheels of tomato and cucumber were presented in a tower accompanied by rings of purple onion, green peppers, olives and feta.

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My husband opted for a slow roasted lamb shank smothered in au jus and sweet onions, while I tucked into an unusual eggplant parmigiana that we guessed had been made to order rather than the typical casserole style.

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But wait; there was still dessert to come: a chewy cherry crisp and a decadent chocolate apricot pate.  You might suggest that we would have been exhausted by eating such a quantity but the owners provide the perfect sized tastes of the starters and you are more than satiated with the portion of the entrée.  Every taste from start to finish was divine, made even more so by their reasonably priced wines by the glass.

Cafe Savour on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Savour: enjoy something unhurriedly, to enjoy something with unhurried appreciation“

Love-that is all.

Idle Thyme

November13

Whenever D and I get the yearning to leave the city and set up a little business in the lake, I stop myself with two thoughts: 1) the busiest time of year is also the time that we would like to be doing what everybody else is out there doing: enjoying the long and warm days with the family, reading in a hammock, walking the beach, riding bikes in the forest and (for D) playing tennis every morning and 2) the off-season must be such a challenge to pare back staff and supplies and keep a close eye on expenses to make it to the next lucrative summer season.

We know the restaurant business and understand these challenges, so we were non-pulsed with the reaction from the owner and our server at Idle Thyme at the Traverse Bay corner of Highway 59, when we asked if she served decaff coffee (I am trying to cut back and I had already had my two cup limit of half caff that morning).  She hesitantly admitted that she did have decaff but that she would have to put on a fresh pot and “that we had better drink the whole thing”.  We also could not help but notice that there was no peanut butter, jams or jellies served with their delicious brown and rye toast.  When we requested some, she scooped it out of a “home use” jar behind the counter.  It happened to be our favourite variety so this too, was not an issue.

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I ordered a “Build Your Own Omelet” of cheddar, mushrooms and red pepper.  The concoction was delicious and perfectly prepared and was enhanced by both the toast made of bakery whole wheat bread and little half moons of fresh potato that were browned up on the grill.

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D thought that he was back in the States when he spied Corned Beef Hash, a combination of pan fried potato, corned beef, onion and horseradish which came with two (also perfectly cooked) easy over eggs and rye toast.

We both thought that our selections were first rate, affordably priced and we left satisfied by our late fall breakfast at the lake.  Our only concern would be for those guests, especially visitors to the province, who might not know what a struggle it is to keep the doors open once the off-season arrives.  Would they be as understanding of the humphing and sarcasm?

Idle Thyme on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Canned soups can be magnificent, the lowly meatball wildly exciting, and old-fashioned corned beef hash an emotional experience.”-Cosmopolitan (1952)

Love-that is all.

 

 

 

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