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Isla Mujeres 2014 Trip Report-Day 11, Part 2

September29

Autumn is officially upon us and although beautiful, I know what is on its way to the Canadian prairies.  To warm me up, I remembered that I still had a couple of Trip Reports to finish off.  

So, meanwhile back to my recounting of Day 11 on Isla…… If you recall, the gorgeous, clear day suddenly was interrupted with torrents of rain.  Since this was our last full day on Isla, we were undaunted and kept our plans for our progressive dinner in Centro.  This is often how we spend our last full day.  Not only were we trying to make every minute count but we were still trying to check every taste and locale off of our “must try” list.  So we donned our ponchos and headed out into the torrential rain.  The dollar store ponchos that we had packed from home worked well but not our leather shoes in the flooded streets. There was some intriguing action going on in Centro that day.  We walked by Hemingway’s which had closed messages taped all over it.  There were sniffer dogs and big burly guys with guns under their ponchos, helmets and masks.  It was like a scene from a movie, the likes of which we have never encountered back home in the centre of Canada.  But I was comforted that crime is appropriately dealt with on the island and that as long as we kept our own proverbial noses clean, we should never have to encounter such a scene. It was too early for dinner or even appetizers, so we made the rounds where our other family members were staying to say our good-byes.  Our first stop was my brother’s hotel Los Arcos right on Hidalgo.  They too have been coming to Isla for years and he and my beloved sister-in-law love being right in the heart of the action.  He pours an amazing rum and coke to which D gleefully accepted.  I imbibed in a glass of vino tinto and some chips and salsa (trying to be polite but knowing that I had hours of eating ahead).  Our second stop was on the south perimeter of the zocolo at Sister #3’s at Casa el Pio.  She too has her favourite spot where she has stayed, year after year.  More glasses of vino tinto were poured along with the island’s delicious potato chips and onion dip.

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After we departed, our progressive dinner began in earnest with a stop at our favourite spot at Bally Hoo (I was the only one in our entourage who hadn’t been) for fish and chips and mango margaritas.

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At our next stop at Roca Mar we sat on the covered balcony for shrimp ceviche and Sols.

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J2’s Mom agreed to babysit the Wee One so that J2 could join us for the entrée course.

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We loved everything about Abuelo’s including the brightly covered napkins that wrapped around the cervezas-a little touch that added some colour to the grey night.

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J2 loved the pina coolada with fresh juices.

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The place is teeny but welcoming and cozy.

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We were amazed by the quality of the food that came out of the equally teeny kitchen.

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D chose the whole red snapper and was blown away.

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 J2 decided upon the seafood kabobs and was delighted that the fish was skewered with fresh whole strawberries.

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Abuelo means grandfather and the restaurant is aptly run by three generations.  We had heard not only how fabulous the food was but that it was lovingly presented.  Everything we heard was absolutely right.   Complimentary chocolate flan was delivered to us all for dessert -even me who hadn’t ordered an entrée.  We can’t wait to go back to Abuelo’s. We carried on with more vino tinto at Don Cheapo’s.

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We strolled up and down Hidalgo to help digest our supper and make room for another dessert!

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Our niece had been to the island in the New Year and her favourite spot was Café Hidalgo.

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Gorgeous crepes were lovingly created by a hippie lad who considered each plate a work of art.  J2 selected nutella, banana and real shredded coconut .  I chose the sugar and lime with strawberries and just whipped, cream.  We were so impressed with how homey the café was with books and games to help you pass a rainy day or if you were dining on your own.  Another spot that we will definitely go back to. By this time it was late, and if you recall, we had started the day hours ago in part one of this recounting.  J2 invited us to their balcony at Roca Mar to sip a Kahlua but in spite of our intent to fit extra minutes into our last full day, we had to admit that it was time to make the stroll home one last time.

Kath’s quote: “I am not a glutton — I am an explorer of food.”-Erma Bombeck

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Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2014 Trip Report-Day 11, Part 1

July22

This day was our last full day on Isla.  On this and most last days on the island, we try to fit in all of the events that we haven’t experienced yet.  Most of the circumstances involve food or cocktails.  True to form, J2, her Mom and the Wee One picked us up at 7:30 am for breakfast at Mango.

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I love the food at Mango but I adore the décor just as much.

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We shared Coconut French Toast

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& Eggs Benedict.

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Both the Wee One’s Glammas took turns entertaining her while we ate.

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Can you see that she has her Poppas enormous blue eyes?

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J2, Glamma V and the Wee One headed for Punta Sur as D and I strolled home.

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And then just like that…the weather changed and a deluge began.

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The weather was so extreme that it felt totally like a new day had dawned.  But you know what they say?  Even a rainy day on Isla is better than most days anywhere else.  We coped the best we could by visiting family members to say our good-byes and having a few cocktails along the way…

Kath’s quote: “When we lose, I eat. When we win, I eat. I also eat when we’re rained out.” -Tommy Lasorda

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Love-that is all.

 

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Isla Mujeres 2014 Trip Report-Day 9

July9

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The beginning of another glorious day on Isla.  I sit with my coffee and watch the day come alive and take picture after picture thinking “This will be the last one, the sky can’t possibly get more beautiful than this”.  And then it does and I take another.

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For the previous couple of days, I had watched this family assemble on the shore from their rented house a few doors to the south.  On this day, I went over and told them how beautiful they look in the sunlight and took this and a number of other photos for them.

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We don’t always walk into Colonias, sometimes we head to Centro but I still can’t leave my camera behind and just walk.  I MUST capture Isla so that I can relive that slow pace and the long shadows of the newly risen sun.

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I love this house and the artistry demonstrated in the painting of it.  I wish the lovely woman watering her plant had windows to see her beautiful island though.

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We finally arrive at our destination-Café Cito.  We miss Ziggy but still come for the pineapple/coconut/banana jam.

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and Mexican eggs

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and fried eggs with hash browns and their pretty good coffee.

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We set off again, deliberating over the idea of renting bikes for the day.  After waiting for places to open and then checking the condition and price of the rentals, we decide to pass.  I am not really sure why we were so easily dissuaded and then I find out later that a friend of ours who had rented a bicycle was cut off by a scooter and received fairly serious injuries when his bike crashed.  I guess our guardian angel was watching over us.

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So we make our way back home but not without a stop at our favourite spot for real fruit popsicles-this one mango.

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We spend the rest of the day luxuriating in our own little paradise.  We keep the great kitchen in our apartment at Luna d’Miel stocked with juices, fruit, snacks, beer, wine and enough key ingredients to make a sandwich to eat by the sea.

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The blues of the Caribe were particularly vibrant that day.

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When I am not lying in the hammock writing or reading one of the zillion books the I devour on Isla, I have a lovely pastime.

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I am a beachcomber, collecting heart shaped shells, coral & stones, beach glass-my favourite colour is the very pale sea-foam green and I am ecstatic when I find a turquoise piece.  I also search for the inside spiral of conch shells.  I bleach them and then glue a pin on them to give as gifts to my girlfriends.  The strip of the beach in front of Luna d’Miel is perfect for collecting and I go out bright and early each morning and stand in the surf and let the treasures just wash up and find me.

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When it was time for dinner we waited for Sister #3’s cab to pick us up on their way to Monchi’s.  Since every vehicle going north to south and vice versa on the island can only take one of two roads, there was a 50/50 chance that we would be successful.  With Facebook added to ensure that she request the east airport strip with her cab driver, the odds went up to 100%.

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The Wee One, J2 and Veektooria were also at Monchi’s, together with Doona’s entourage that we had traveled and dined with on other occasions.  When you add in Bro #3 and his wife, I think there were thirteen of us that evening.

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I can never decide whether or not I like Ziggy’s (he has since moved to Barlito’s, by the way) Coconut or Garlic Shrimp.  Lucky for me, Sister #3 was on the fence too, so we each ordered one and then swapped to ensure that we each had a combo.  Most everyone had shrimp of one description or another but orders of grilled chicken and enchiladas were also equally enjoyed.

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We stopped to appreciate the beautiful trees growing across from the restaurant before we walked back home.  We often end the day, the way we start it, sitting in our chairs at the water’s edge, sipping a glass of something and gazing at the sky.

Kath’s quote:Second star to the right…and straight on ’til morning“. -James Kirk

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Love-that is all.

Little South America-Winnipeg Exchange District Tour

June27

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a media preview of this new Exchange District Tour.  We assembled in Steven Juba Park across from Carnaval Brazilian Barbeque and I was hoping that it would be our first stop as I have enjoyed tapas in the lounge but had never been upstairs to check out the dining area.

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We walked past the huge rotisserie area as we made our way to our table and I stopped for a moment to see the cuts of meat and sausages and pineapple twirling around.

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When we are on Isla Mujeres my favourite taco is called “Taco al Pastor” where thinly sliced marinated pieces of pork are cooked on a vertical shishkabob while rotating next to an open flame.  The only time I had seen meat cooked in this manner was while I was travelling in the Middle East.  With research I discovered that indeed Lebanese immigrants to Mexico brought this technique for cooking lamb and the Mexicans adapted it for pork.  As a result, back in the 1960’s this same dish was called Tacos Arabes (Arab Tacos) but for some reason has been renamed.  Speculation is that the original use of lamb is the connecting nuance because “pastor” means shepherd.  On Isla Mujeres the pork is often layered with rings of pineapple and sliced off the rotating skewer all at once so in my mind I have always associated “Pastor” as having something to do with pineapple-boy, was I off.  Can you follow my musings here?  Carnaval cooks both pork and pineapple on their rotating skewers and so the taste reminded me of Mexico and the Middle East at the same time.

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In addition to the pork and pineapple, I also loved the skirt steak (there are 14 cuts of meat served in total).  There are also over a dozen sides on the menu and all the ones that we sampled were from the cold section.  Somehow almost every dish was empty by the time it arrived where I was sitting so that I missed out on the Chickpea Salad, the Hearts of Palm Salad and the Kale & Broccoli Salad.  What I thought must have been the Panzanella (sometimes called Tuscan bread Salad) made with Bononcini, croutons and tomatoes was also only tomatoes by the end of its rounds.  I express this disappointment because if they were anything like the Mixed Field Green Salad or the Arugula, Raisin and Pumpkin Seed Salad that I did get to sample, they would have been very fine indeed.  Without further delay I should mention the excellent Brazilian Cab Sav that accompanied our first courses.

Carnaval Brazilian BBQ on Urbanspoon

When we met up with owner Noel Bernier at our next stop, he explained that the location for Carnaval was obtained three years before it opened.  Noel wanted it to be a place where “original gauchos” could bring their style of cooking and eating to Winnipeg.  Noel’s fiancé from Brazil works at Carnaval as well as manager Fabio who we also had an opportunity to meet.

While we sipped another excellent wine at Hermanos, this one a full-bodied Stagnari Tannat from Uruguay (the tannat grape was originally imported from France but is now considered the national grape of Uruguay), Noel continued with his story: he puts the most importance on Hermanos because it was only through a labour of love that it reached its current success.  In fact, Noel’s mission was to “celebrate the heart of South American food”.  He does not want Hermanos to be considered an “ethnic” restaurant per se, but a South American fusion restaurant with a Canadian influence.

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Take the dish “Peru Meets Manitoba” for instance.  Noel suggests that it was the Peruvians that invented ceviche-the method of “cooking” fish and seafood in a lime marinade instead of over heat.  I am crazy about ceviche, eating it almost daily while on Isla Mujeres (hope that you can tolerate my Isla fixation) but had never been to a restaurant that was bold enough to attempt it on a local fish.  I thought that pickerel might be too delicate to hold its own against the lime juice but oh no-it is a perfect marriage, made better by the coupling.

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I also loved the sausage board where a chorizo style sausage was served with grilled bread and peppers declaring a bold taste statement.  Sausages are the perfect way to use every part of the animal.  Since Noel indicates that the South American culture is very “farm-focused”, this is not at all surprising.  Farmers are the most resourceful people in the world and in my opinion, if I am to be a carnivore, I think that using every possible part of the animal is respectful and ethical.

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The tenderized and breaded beef called Milanesa was also a multi-cultural phenomena.  Wikipedia indicates:

The milanesa was brought to the Southern Cone of South America by Italian immigrants during the mass emigration called the Italian diaspora between 1860-1920s. Its name probably reflecting an original Milanese preparation cotoletta alla milanese, which is similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel.

Who knew?

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Similarly, an empanada comes from the Spanish verb meaning empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.  I thought that Hermanos’ version was closer to a samosa which would also be authentic as Wikipedia (isn’t it a handy resource?) states:

Empanadas and the similar calzones are both believed to be derived from the Indian meat-filled pies, samosas.

I tasted both the beef and black bean variety as well as the chicken and sausage and could not decide which I like the best.  What I did know with certainty was that the Tannat held its own when swigged after each taste of beef and which is consistent with its Uruguay popularity because beef is consumed more extensively in South America than anywhere else in the world.

Hermano's on Urbanspoon

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Before the entourage departed for Corrientes Argentiene Pizzeria, Noel reminded us that these restaurants were never intended to be “chef-focused” but to be a home for persons from South America who wanted to showcase their talents.  Not surprisingly, we were greeted by another handsome South American when we arrived at the comfortable pizzeria.  Sylvio, who is a recent arrival to Canada was assisted by Cynthia who explained that the design of Corrientes was to replicate a popular neighbourhood in Buenos Airies (which Noel earlier declared was to him the most fascinating city on earth).  She also explained that there are many “Corriente” streets in various Argentiene communities.  The beautiful building which is home to the this third café is one of the oldest in the city having been built in 1882.

satour1I had sampled their excellent pizza on previous visits and had learned about the influx of Italians to Argentina after World War II.  A delicious hazelnut and chocolate dessert, called Gianduia was served.  I, who can typically resist desserts, lapped up every dollop and then sat back to savour an Argentiene Malbec-once again: stellar.

Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

I hadn’t expected to be so impressed with the Exchange tour from both the perspective of the historical significance and what I learned and tasted in the way of food.  But more than anything, it was Noel Bernier’s passion for Winnipeg’s exchange district and the food that he loves that impressed me most.

Kath’s quote: “The best fertilizer is the footprint of the farmer.” anonymous

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Love-that is all.

 

 

Isla Mujeres Trip Report-Day 9 (Part 2)

June18

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It has been months since I wrote part one of this Day 9 Trip Report and what have I been busy with? We’ve lived through the most severe winter on the Canadian prairies in over a century; we’ve successfully renovated and sold my mother’s home of 58 years; we have opened up our little beach house for another season and the Wee One continues to grow and delight us.  We have already booked our time on Isla in 2015 and so I thought that it was high time to focus on getting my 2014 reports completed. We’ll see how this goes.

From Part 1: When our family is with us, we spend a lot of time in Centro but as soon as they depart, we find ourselves drawn to the Colonias for long walks through the neighbourhoods.  On this day, we actually walked into Colonias twice-once to reacquaint ourselves with the exact locale of Deysi & Raul’s and the next time to actually dine there.

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Overlooking one of the Salinas.

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Gorgeous blossoms were everywhere.

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I love the blue paint used on Isla-doors and windows duplicate the colour of the sea.

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There are explosions of colour everywhere, here at a local produce vendor.

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The painting of this stucco must have been pain-staking work.

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There is one specific place in the Colonias where you can see the sea to the west with Cancun in the distance

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while the Atlantic is just a glance to the east.

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This is the ocean view just steps away from some of the Colonia’s homes.

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More blossoms and more bright blue paint.  I can’t get enough of either.

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A tribute to motherhood in the zocolo.

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We walked back to our “home” on the airport strip, had a lunch of left overs, read and rested in the hammocks and then lapped up the exquisite sunset before venturing back to the Colonias again.

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Our long-awaited destination.

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The view from our table perch at this wonderful family restaurant.

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We started with chicken tortilla soup.

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Delicious sautéed veggies with the meat and cheese in the fajitas.

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You could literally make a meal of the fixings.

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Adorned with pico de gallo and one of many delicious sauces.

Kath’s quote: “Now shall I walk or shall I ride? ‘Ride,’ Pleasure said; ‘Walk,’ Joy replied.” ― W.H. Davies

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Love-that is all.

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