Browsing: Food & Travel

Black Hawks-Chicago O’Hare Airport


The world is such a small place these days.  When we were on our way home from Isla Mujeres earlier this month, I bumped into Laura (who I have written about often in this space), at the Cancun airport.  We embraced and got caught up on each other’s time away as well as some of the projects that we are mutually working on back home.  Then we compared travel itineraries.  We were heading back to Winnipeg and she and her husband had the same destination but were routed through Houston.  Our connections went quite smoothly but they missed their connection, had to overnight in Houston and then rework their route.    The very next day, they too were in Chicago O’Hare airport.  Had I blogged about our meal earlier, perhaps they would have been able to use the info.  A small world, indeed.

As soon as we deplaned, we were on the lookout for somewhere we could watch the Jets game, as well as a spot that served a good selection of locally brewed beer.  Blackhawks fit the bill on both fronts.

The team behind Stanley’s Southern Food with 2 other locations in downtown Chicago, has partnered with the Chicago Blackhawks to open this airport eatery in terminal 2 at O’Hare. Decorated with Blackhawks memorabilia, the restaurant offers items based on the original six NHL cities -including a New York sandwich, Montreal sandwich and a Chicago one that’s packed with spicy Vienna all-beef polish sausage, grilled onions and mustard.

D had the Toronto burger (did they intentially make this look less impressive than the American team’s?)

The Son had the Elvis Presley Burger.  He claimed it was so good that you didn’t need any condiments.  And he should know-he’s a burger aficionado.

My burger was also named for one of the original six.  I can’t for the life of me remember which one right now.

I was underwhelmed with my choice.

Several Stanley’s staples are also on hand, including the restaurant’s mac and cheese.


Daughter #3 choose this impressive shaved turkey Reuben. 


 Turned out the Jets game wasn’t on (we had the date wrong) but the local beer and most of our food choices made up for it.

 Kath’s quote: “Throughout history, the Poles have defended Europe. They would fight, and – between battles – they would eat and drink.”-
E. de Pomiand








Departue Day and Highlight Recap


Almost sadder than the conclusion of an Isla vacation, is the drawing to a close, the recounting of our time on Isla.  On these days I wake in anticipation of snuggling up in my fuzzy turquoise housecoat with a creamy coffee in my hand-made turquoise mug (seeing a theme here?) to remember and write and relive the time.  I do so as the sun is rising on the Canadian prairies and even though it is not the Isla sun that virtually assaults you on the island, it still holds the beauty and promise of a new day.  You may think that I live a life of leisure-affording the time to be spent in this way.  In the spring I will spend this time discovering the new things sprouting in my garden,  in the summer by beachcoming the shore at our cottage, in the fall-with morning rides on my vintage turquoise bicycle (now you’re thinking that this woman is obsessed!), but in winter, I am content to spend the hours from 7-9 am in this way. And then the business of my life begins.

But for now, onto departure day….

We have a number of Isla traditions on our final day.

I always get up in time for our last sunrise.

We always take sad face photos while we wait for the ferry.


I love this view from the ferry dock but when I arrive, I am always so excited, that I never pause long enough to get out my camera.  But in an effort to savour every last, sweet moment, I often capture this shot just before the ferry starts the journey across the bay. 

I always hold a landmark in my gaze, until it disappears compeletely.  This time it was our west facing window from our hotel.

I always interview my fellow travellers to find out their fiondest memories before they have a chance to fade:

Most Memorable Meals: Rooster for New Year’s Day breakfast, Da Luisa, Poc Chuc loncheria & Bastos Grill.

Favourite Part of the island: the east shore in front of Naciente, the seawall, the hammock on our balcony, Play Medina Luna, the shelling beach.

Most Fun Day: first day at the beach, wedding anniversary dinner, watching football at Jax, night out with D.

Best Shopping on Isla: Hortencia’s, the leather shop, Navy store,the other markets stalls by Hortencia’s.

Biggest Isla Surprize: the lovely weather, the banos, that no one got sick, how good the beach massage was, what a wonderful host Don Salome was, the spider at Soggy peso, not seeing Javi a single time.

Place with the prettiest turquoise water:  between the docks on Palya Sol, in our swimming pool, by the Poc Na hostel, on the ferry ride, by the seawall, at Garrafon.


These beautiful eyes seemed very concerned that we would be returning to Isla again.  And so for this and so many other reasons, we will.  Isla will always be a part of our lives. 

Kath’s quote: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”-James Michener



Sancochos & Angelo’s Revisited-Isla Mujeres Day 10


Often when we get to the end of our time on Isla, we change up our routine.  By this time we had used up all of our coffee so instead of making a pot for a plunk on the balcony, we went and had our morning coffee right on the water at Bally Hoo.  They make a great cup of coffee and watching the morning comings and goings of the sport fishermen is good fun. 

We don’t make any purchases until our time is drawing to a close on Isla.  So, after trying politely to resist the vendors on Hidalgo, they are shocked when we enter their shops, instead of strolling by.  We make very few purchases right on Hidalgo but I always make a selection of authentic pottery to take home for our collection.

We prefer instead, to purchase from our favourite vendors like the fellow who is an Isla second generation shoemaker.   D got a gorgeous pair of handmade leather flip flops.

We buy as much as we can from Hortencia’s.  She greats us with hugs and chants of “ahh mi amiga” when we arrive on her sidewalk.  Not only are she and her daughter (or daughter-in-law) excellent seamstresses, they know how to measure and fit women with real bodies, ie me and my Sistas.  Hortencia works six days a week taking care of her family in this way.  We have often met her husband there, but we think that she is the primary wage earner in the family.   The photo above is of her gorgeous grandchildren.  They have fun posing for their picture and then immediately want you to show them the results.  I imagine that the little girl looks just like Hortencia when she was the same age.

Hortencia’s prices are exceptional and she custom makes whatever you choose.  You pick the fabric from her inventory and come back the next day to see the finished product.  I have even brought pareos that I have purchased in other countries for her to sew up for me.  She is an excellent business woman who showers her regular customers with little tokens of her appreciation.  Well it has worked on me-I would never shop anywhere else.  She also introduces us to her friends in surrounding kiosks, if she doesn’t have what you are looking for-like Mexican blankets and hammocks.  By doing so, she says that we are getting the best price.  I couldn’t really say if this is true, but I feel very well taken care of. 

We also realize that after walking by our favourite Liquado and popsicle shop many times a day, we haven’t actually made a purchase. There are so many real fruit juice options.  I finally decide on the pina one and D the pistachio.  Look at the nutrition and goodness packed into this treat.

In addition to stopping at the places that we haven’t enjoyed yet, we also go back to our favourite spots one last time including: Sancochos for lunch.

We love the cats and dogs of Isla.  Daughter #1 has had a visit and a snuggle with every single dog we have come across on this trip.  This cat thought that he had struck gold with this frayed strap from one of our day packs and he entertained us while we waited for our lunch.

I had a this single taco for $1.50. 

Sure beats a Mickey D’s value menu item for the same price!

Daughter #1 ordered the Chicken Mole Enchilada.

D loved this chorizo and potato calzone.

The Son tucked in to the Spaghetti Bolognese.

And our Newbie enjoyed her shrimp enchilada.

We don’t hang around on North Beach very often, but spent our last sunset there while the girls had a beach massage.

You can tell that I am the primary photographer of the family as I rarely appear in my own recounting of a trip.  When we realized, that once again this would be so, we set up the timer for a beach shot.  We always get the giggles when we try to do self-potraits because invariably, we have only half of someone’s face or the camera setter hasn’t gotten position into the shot.


Me and my husband of almost 28 years.  I’m not quite into tennis and Springstein as he is and he’s not into Josh Groban and beach-combing as I am but in every other way, we are the perfect fit.  He is a planner and I am the archivist.  When we travel, he takes of every single detail and I feel so loved and cared for.

While I packed away some beach things, he took this breezy one of me.

Our last Isla sunset with God making Himself evident to us, once again.

One of those surprizing Isla rains blew in just after sunset and so even though we wanted to return to Fredy’s for another of his killer margaritas, we took shelter in Lola Valentina’s for our last happy hour.

While there, we recounted our favourite meals and decided where we should return for our last tastes of the island.

We started at the Fisherman’s Co-op  where shared their amazing shrimp ceviche with ice cold beer.  Someone also dining there, was from our home town and she came over for a visit.  They have a home on Isla (and one on the same area of Lake Winnipeg where we have a little cottage).  A couple of years prior, she had showed us their Isla masterpiece and invited us for cocktails on the roof at sunset.  They don’t call us “Friendly Manitobans” for nothing….

Next stop, by popular vote was Angelo’s.

Our Newbie ordered this gorgeous grilled portobello mushroom surrounded by other veggies.

D re-ordered the artichoke, ham, Italian sausage pizza and it came “quatro” style this time.  That is, each quarter had its own topping, this is typical of the way that pizza is served along the Amalfi coast in Italy. I had the Fruite de Mare pasta again-I know I am boring but the dish was anything but. 

And whatever else was ordered, now escapes me.  But I did a pretty darn good job of remembering most of our trip details, didn’t I?

And so the last day of our precious stay on Isla had come to a close.

Kath’s quote: Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences.” –Peter Farb & George Armelagos 

Roosters on New Year’s Day-Isla Mujeres Day 9


Finding a place in Centro open for breakfast on New Year’s day proved to be a bit of a challenge.  But Rooster’s was accommodating people and we were overjoyed.  You could sense that tables were waiting a pretty long time and we saw just one server zooming around trying to take care of everybody.  So a gentleman, whom I assume was the owner, began greeting potential customers at the door, to explain to them that some key staff members had not shown up for their shift and that he would prefer that they came back another time.  We have spent most of our careers in the restaurant and food-service business and really respected the proprietor’s decision in how to handle this restaurant disaster.  As for us, we were on vacation, had all the time in the world and the only real plan for the day was for the guys to catch some football watching at Jax.  So when other people decided to leave, we stayed and we were so very glad that we did.

Some menu choices were very good like the D’s pancakes with eggs and chirizo sausage. 

Others dishes were exceptional like the light and lemony hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict

and the Creme Brulee French Toast which our Newbie ordered.  You could see her taking little baby slivers of her meal to stop and savour each bite and make the consumption of it last a very, very, long time.

I choose the Isla Omelette with portobella mushrooms and zucchini flowers.  In regions of Italy, cooking with zucchini flowers is quite common.  I have had the pleasure to taste them only once previously even though I do have a recipe waiting in the wings that I have been wanting to try.

The contrasts between the earthy, meaty portobello and the fresh and pungent zucchini flowers were really exquisite.  Unfortunately, the over-sized slices of onion which had not been sauteed for long enough were a bit of a distraction and upset my tummy that afternoon.  But no matter, I would choose the omelette again given the chance and looking forward to another opportunity to do so.

It turned out to be a very lazy day for us. Since the guys were occupied, I took  a solo walk on Playa Sol at sunset.  For sustenance I stopped at the “Corn Man’s” cart.  He prepares each cob to order by piercing a pointed stick into one end and asking if you would like chili spice and mayonnaise (since the mayo wasn’t refrigerated I let it pass).  He did  accommodate my request with a big squeeze of lime and coarse salt.  For a decadent touch, he then rolled it in queso for me.  When I had seen others walking with their cobs on previous days, I wondered why anyone would choose to have their corn cobbed rolled in lumpy sugar?  Ah it’s cheese not sugar, after all! 


These were the photos that I captured of the first sunset of the year 2012.

Many readers are sad to learn of the closure of Sergio’s Playa Sol-ourselves included.  I had walked by the empty stretch of sand on a number of occasions but the closure hadn’t really sunk in until I saw this sad sight:

Quite a blustery wind was coming off the water that night but since we prairie girls are a hardy bunch, we wrapped up in pashminas, poured Kahlua over ice and squeezed in big wedges of lime.  We took these, as well as coconut shrimp left overs down to the seawall to face the wind head on. 

Afterwards, we walked Hidalgo to pick up a couple of snacks and had left overs of pork and rice back at the hotel.  A lovely, lazy, do-nothing-at-all way to start the new year.

 Kath’s quote: “…in a well regulated kitchen nothing is ever wasted, but with careful preparation even the ‘rough ends’ of a beef steak may be made into a wholesome, tender and appetizing dish; that ‘stale bread’ may be used in the most delicious ‘desserts’ and ‘farcies,’ and ‘left-over’ food from the day before need not be thrown in the trash-box, but may be made into an endless variety of wholesome and nutrious dishes.” –The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book 1901


Happy New Year-Isla Mujeres-Day 7


I knew Tino as “the Rib Man” for years before I knew his name.  Now a days, he has this sign to mark his location.  There was a time when we would walk up and down the streets on Sunday and look for the smoke. 

The guys purchased this bag full of food.  The accompaniments are in the little bags.  If you are new to Isla, this is how the locals package up “fast food”. 

Our Son preferred the bone in ribs.  He thought that they had the most flavour and since there is almost always a layer of delicious fat close to the bone, he knows what he’s talking about.

D and I prefer the boneless ribs as we are trying to smarten up and eat leaner in our autumn years.  They are an incredible value.

Are you getting tired of these photos of my gorgeous family? Sorry, I’m not.

We spent early afternoon around the pool and then headed to the beach for the last sunset of the year.  We spent the same day this way a couple of year’s previous.

Our youngest and her cousin December 31, 2007.

2011 was a year filled with joy and sorrow in our family.  There were definitely rain clouds on our horizon. 

But as always, Isla heals and refreshed our souls and poured glorious colours and memories into our lives and we came home ready for a fresh, new start.

Our entourage in the square December 31, 2007

Just “us” December 31, 2007 before the Newbie had joined our family.

We had long-standing plans to walk to Chuuk Kay for a late New Year’s Eve dinner. They are working on the west sidewalk and so we stuck to the gorgeous new east sidewalk on Medina.  But beware, that side is not very well lit and every once in a while there is a breach in the path without warning.

Now I must explain here that our time at the restaurant was not what we were expecting and I take total responsibility for this.  Last year, we went to Chuuk Kay twice in in 2 weeks because we had so much fun.  Javi (and his “band with no name”) has become our good friend and he made a pretty ordinary afternoon feel just like New Year’s eve!  I so badly wanted to experience this again for our Son and Newbie that when I was lucky enough to make a reservation on Facebook while we were still home, I didn’t take the time to ask for many details.  Well Javi wasn’t playing that night, he was at Fayne’s starting at 11 pm.  He had been there all afternoon and I am sure that great fun was had by all.  By the time we arrived at 9 pm the place was almost empty and by the time we left, it WAS empty-even the liquor had been removed from the bar.  You could hear that the staff were assembled elsewhere, anxious to begin their own festivities after working full shifts that afternoon.  They wanted us gone and who can blame them?  In the mean time, we were willing to make the best of things and decided to have a quick dinner and then walk back to Centro for midnight.  Chuuk Kay has an extensive wine list and we splurged a bit to begin the evening.

These quesadillas and creamy guacamole were a big hit.  They were bulging with ingredients and perfectly grilled.

The seafood nachos were heavy on the beans and not so much the seafood but delicious none the less.

The Fettuccine Alfredo was a savoury surprize with the addition of ham and mushrooms (and spaghetti noodles).  Our son really enjoyed this rendition as it is close to a ham and pea fettuccine that I make at home.  And you know that “Mama’s” cooking is always best.

D and our Newbie both chose the coconut shrimp and were delighted with their decision.  Both had half of their servings to take home for left overs.  The secret to good coconut shrimp is to butterfly the meat and then firmly press each piece into the coconut batter.    The cleanest of oil must be used and they can’t be cooked too long.   The chefs at Chuuk Kay obviously know these tricks-these were perfect.

Daughter #1 chose the Grouper which was quickly sauteed in garlic and butter.  She appreciated the abundance of vegetables that the fish was served with.

I was craving fruite de mare (again) and asked that the marinara sauce be replaced with white wine and garlic.  They did so but also replaced the rest of the seafood!  The result was all shrimp BUT it was absolutely succulent. Good thing we would only be kissing each other at midnight.  We were too full for dessert and anxious to get back to the square.

We were surprized by the crowd of locals and travellers alike who had assembled in the zocalo. The seawall had been blocked off that afternoon so that the fireworks display could be set up.  For us it was magic-colourful bursts of energy and light to heal our hurts and herald in another year. 

Kath’s quote: “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”-Bill Vaughn


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