Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Sesso Loco-Isla Mujeres 2019

April3

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Seso recognized as soon as we walked in. He was happy to see us and greeted us warmly. Here is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, sharing his setbacks and his triumphs like glugs of ketchup from a bottle. He told us of his struggles on Hidalgo and then his determination to kick start everything all over again on Medina in Colonias. By my estimation he has achieved resounding success but there is more. He has done so without a whiff of arrogance or false pride. This guy is the real deal folks.

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I love the décor of Sesso Loco. It is cozy and comfy yet open and breezy. Tables are set with plant slips just like I would be inclined to do at our summer house.

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We started with Mango Margaritas and Pina Coladas. They were frosty, potent and went down very easily. I was nearing the end of my stay so I was going over my checklist with my brother and his wife (who were staying for a 3rd week), of places I still had to visit or where I was determined to revisit in my short time left.

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Brother #3 decided upon the Coconut Shrimp. I had seen many of these served all over the island during this stay and I observed the following: some places give you five shrimp, some the customary half dozen and others that strive to provide extra value give you seven! Such was the case at Sesso Loco. My Bro offered me a taste and it was sweet and meaty and crunchy/tender all at the same time.

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I was looking forward to having a second feed of beef on the island. When we first started visiting Isla in 2005, we wouldn’t have considered ordering beef. But these days with better refrigeration and speedier delivery, beef is popping up on many menus. I am a beef lover from a way back. Not only did my Dad once run a packing plant but D and I met while both working at a steakhouse in our home town. So I know of what I speak…

A rib-eye is not for the faint of heart. It is the most flavourful steak I know of because it is served with the bone. But it is the liberal marbling of the steak that adds the greatest punch of flavour. That is if you don’t mind cutting around the fat, and I don’t mind at all. My favourite foods are worth the extra effort: artichokes, wild blueberries and truffles!

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My SIL ordered chicken skewers but was mistakenly served fish ones.

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This was not a big deal as the meal was replaced in minutes and she enjoyed every single bite of the grilled vegetables and tender chicken. Sesso though was beside himself, apologizing over and over again. And this is how I know that he is the real deal. A chef can display his passion for food when the dish looks like a work of art but that same passion showed in Sesso when he thought he had disappointed us. He would have stood on his head and spit nickels in order to correct his mistake!

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We had enjoyed a perfect evening in spite of  a single glitch. The food was great, visiting with my dear family was wonderful and knowing that we would see Sesso on the island in another year, the icing on the cake.

Kath’s quote: “Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for”. -David Chang

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Love never fails.

 

Xantolo Alma-Isla Mujeres 2019

March29

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There have been a couple of new restaurants spring up in Centro since our last visit. I mistakenly judged a book by its cover as I walked by Xantolo a number of times . It occupies a corner that has previously been called “sketchy”. Boy was I wrong! The interior was beautifully appointed and the staff that enthusiastically greeted us were eager and knowledgeable. We had an opportunity to meet Daniel the owner and we knew that we would be in good hands. His English was impeccable and his business savvy vast.

We shouldn’t have been surprised as a sister restaurant to Xantolo was Lola Valentina that we have been fond of for a number of years and after a stellar visit again this year. They have a third restaurant in their family and that is La Esquina where we intended to visit as well. And when I say “family” I mean it in the truest sense of the word. The staff obviously love what they do and you get a real inclination that their enthusiasm knits them together. Our server Francesco with his mop of curls recommend his personal favourites for us to try.

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But first we decided that we were interested in sampling their two for one Margaritas. I am sometimes skeptical about these offers having consumed my fair share of watered-down cocktails. These were not only the best twofers we had every sampled, they might have been the best margaritas we had ever tried, anywhere! (I say “might” because I am committed to doing more research in this area-lol). The Pina Maracuya that I am referring to was composed of mescal, triple sec, pineapple and passion fruit. I typically opt for a straw when the margarita is rimmed with salt but this one was the perfect combination of hibiscus, chilie and salt which enhanced the complexity of the drink itself. The skilled Mixologist at Xantolo was a woman from Minnesota (just to the south of our home).

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We were also treated to an Isla Tiki and a Xantolo Sour. I had to look up the ingredients the next morning because they were both so tantalizing that I didn’t take notes, I simply sipped and sipped and sipped.

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I have now determined that the Tiki was a combination of cinnamon, banana infused Captain Morgan and hibiscus flower.

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The Sour displayed mixologist skill when Bombay gin, basil, cardamom, pineapple, egg white and Angostura bitters were blended together.

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But, to the food! Francesco recommend the Cheese Sticks and even though we wrongly considered them pretty pedestrian, when the owner recommended them as well, we thought we might be on to something. Sure enough…we were blown away! Take the typical recipe from home that we were used to and enhance it with the inclusion of chorizo sausage.  When mixed with Oaxaca cheese and then rolled in panko flakes, they were delectable. But when consumed inside the recommended tortilla and dipped into the green tomatillo salsa-they were sensational! Sister #3 and I shared one of the two sticks which would be better described as Douglas Fir Tree logs as opposed to sticks. We asked Francesco if he would like our 2nd one and he enthusiastically accepted.

xtonolo2Accompanying the cheese was a white truffle soup that was also breathtaking. Me being a truffle lover, I appreciated the subtle tastes. The soup was crowned with pork crackling and Sister #3 was in heaven.

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We had to ask our server at this point to inquire if the Chef could hold off for a bit before starting to prepare our entrees. Once we had a chance to digest while sitting back and enjoying the pedestrian traffic on Hidalgo, we were ready to explore again. Carefully considering the specialty recommendations, Sister # 3 chose the Yukatan Pork Ribs which were marinated in achiote sour orange and served with cabbage, salad and rice. When she raised her fork to tuck in, the tender meat simply melted away from the bones, it was that tender. The taste was pungent from the sour orange but made subtle with the other accompaniments.

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I was over the moon with my Poblano stuffed with beef, pork, chicken, raisins and apple and hugged with a goat cheese and nutmeg sauce.

I loved the anisette garnish making it as pretty to see as it was to eat. Even as I type this, my mouth is watering knowing that leftovers await me for lunch. I once hauled an electric frying pan to Isla with me. The good folks at Luna d’ Miel keep it for D and I and many of us are putting it to good use at Xbulu Ha.

The food, drinks and service truly made this a mountain top evening.

Kath’s quote: “You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food“. –  Kurt Vonnegut

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Love never fails.

La Chatita-Isla Mujeres 2019

March27

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As I was arranging places to visit, I was able to manage almost entirely with my Spanglish and utilizing translatation apps. You may notice I said “almost”. In the case of La Chatita, not a word of English was exchanged and when I met the warm and beautiful women there, words were apparently not necessary.

One member of the family (Catalini) greeted me by introducing herself, where I thought she was indicating that I (Kathryne) was expected. So it turns out that we share a name and we share our mutual love of food. In this case offerings are from their family’s home of Guadalajara.

La Chatita was one of the places that we had a challenge finding as our first set of incorrect instructions took us to the vicinity of Bastos where the helpful owner redirected us. In spite of two cab rides to locate it, our visit was well worth the effort. I would suggest Googling the address because many restaurants in Colonias change location without notification. Of course, now that we have visited it isn’t hard to find at all!

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But to the food. We arrived after breakfast (9-12) in time for lunch (12-3). If their prices weren’t already reasonable enough, they have a daily 3 taco promo which included consume.

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The latter turned out to be a fine tomato soup which was enhanced with the inclusion of diced onion and squeezes of lime from the taco accompaniments.

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The tacos themselves were assembled when a lovely beef blend was placed inside 2 or even 3 tacos and then placed on the grill to crisp them up before serving. O yum.

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We also enjoyed Tuesday’s special of ham stuffed chicken in a poblano cream sauce. Both the ham and the sauce were on the salty side (to our liking) but when wrapped in the numerous tortillas, perfect.

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As I was taking a picture of the ladies in action in the kitchen, they were preparing a number of “to go” lunches which I was quite certain included enormous fried perogies. Upon inquiries they were described as potato croquettes, in other words perogies! I vowed to get there again before I left the island for those delicious looking bundles.

If you looked up “clean, cheap and cheerful” in an IM food guide, you would see a picture of this lovely little spot. Catalina is surrounded by either good friends or family members because their synchronicity was apparent to my own sister and I. This is one of those places where you will remember the love even before the menu.

Kath’s quote: “The secret ingredient is always love.” -unknown

HEART ISLA MUJERES

Love never fails.

 

 

Isla Vida-Isla Mujeres 2019

March25

You know when you meet someone and you simply click? So it was recently when we met Lisa at her Isla Vida restaurant. She is a Canadian like us so of course we had that in common but also a love of good food and gracious hospitality.

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We had quite an adventure finding her place but here are the best directions I can give you……. Take Medina all the way south until you are just past the south tip of the Salina Grande in the Colonia of El Canotol.  On the left hand side of Medina, you will see a very tall wall with brightly painted stones. Continue about 2 more blocks and you will see a large tree on the right hand side of the road that has been decorated with white lights. Turn left at that street and then left again. You will be on Flamenco Street across from the El Canotol Market.  

We started our evening just as the music commenced. We were there for the food and to learn Lisa’s story so after the first couple of times that the musician came to our table, we simply didn’t make eye contact and we were left to our conversations.

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We started with the special drinks that Lisa recommended -Tropical Sun and Isla Vida. The former was a concoction of pineapple and orange juices, as well as Malibu Rum and coconut cream. The latter a mixture of mango and pineapple juices with Malibu again and vodka. Both were so refreshing and delicious. 

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We also had the treat of tasting the hand-crafted peanut liquor made by El Torito. I also sampled El Torito’s hand-crafted liquors at the Artist’s Fair. Now back home, I am wishing that I had purchased a couple of bottles to bring home with me. Lisa’s endorsement was that the product was excellent but the people behind the product were even better!

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Smurfs also arrived at our table. They were a fun concoction of Carolanne’s liqueur and blue curacao and tasted like blue bubble gum!

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I miss Bloody Caesars when I am on Isla but Lisa being Canadian features a great version.

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But to the food…the mahi mahi in a pineapple glaze with a crispy fish skin garnish was amazing. Perfectly prepared and gently nestled upon spring mix greens, the flavours simply sparkled.

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So too the lobster fettuccine alfredo. When lobster is not in season, frozen lobster served with a silky fettuccine is a wonderful treat and discovering so many chunks underneath the pasta was a pleasant surprise. The alfredo sauce was luscious and displayed the hand of a skilled chef who we were lucky enough to meet!

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We also enjoyed a stuffed poblano. Different from Chiles Relleno it was filled with gooey manchego, pico de gallo, creamy chipotle, black beans and mango and the flavours sang in harmony.

Our dinners were so satisfying that we could not imagine eating dessert or having another cocktail for that matter. We made our way down the street to Medina and wondered how we had gotten lost in the first place.

Do yourself a favour and let Lisa, her chef and the beautiful daughter of the new English teacher in town, take care of you for an evening. You will not be sorry.

Kath’s quote: “I will stop loving you when a mango grows on an apple tree”.-Lekiesha

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Love never fails.

 

Dulzara Argenta-Isla Mujeres 2019

March22

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Dulzara Argenta has been open for two years as of last November but because we had never visited before, we didn’t know that we had arrived at it until we were right on their doorstep.

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Dulzura means sweetness and tenderness and although that describes this female duo’s business, it also describes themselves. Embracing and kissing my cheek when we, total strangers went upstairs to visit their bakery.

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It has a small inside eating area with beautiful open windows that make you feel a part of the community.

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and a charming and colourful upstairs patio.

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We commenced our visit with a tall and cool iced coffee.

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Besides bakery goods they make empanadas and pasta. We tasted both beef and chicken empanadas with Argentinian chimichurri sauce. They were fabulous. 

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This is a photo of their pasta machine hauled all the way from Argentina, that they employ for both their empanadas and fresh pasta.

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But for the moment let’s go back to their primary offerings-pastries! We tasted this luscious lemon pie

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as well as raspberry cheesecake.

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Although I didn’t get a chance to taste this pear pie (seen here) or the quince pie, they looked delectable. The latter as I understand it is very Argentinean.

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We also enjoyed the tastes of two kinds of “Alfajor”, another traditional Argentian confection. In both cases, two cookies are sandwiched together with a filling. In the case of the chocolate one it was a luxurious dulce de leche. Each pastry was sealed with either a dip in chocolate or a role in coconut.

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One of our new friends demonstrated the ancient ritual of drinking mate. Mate, also known as chimarrão or cimarrón, is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink. The procedure involves pouring hot water into the bowl of herbs while at the same time sucking the infused liquid through a straw. I understand that the mixture is high in anti-oxidants and very healthy. We were given a gift of mate to take home including a metal cup with a wooden interior and the mate herb mixture.

Marita is taking English classes and practiced by writing out the procedure to make mate for us.

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Both women obviously love their business and the traditional food they serve. They say with glee “we cook what and how our Mommas cooked! ”

I returned later in the week to witness the fresh pasta being made.

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These heavenly little pockets were lovingly stuffed with spinach, Parmesan, garlic and other seasonings.

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Ribbons of fettuccine were hand cut. Both swam in a light sauce of fresh tomatoes. A garnish of basil and a shake of Parmesan made them perfection!

Kath’s quote: “I compare a pastrycook who makes good colifets to a distinquished fashion designer, endowed with perfect taste, who can make charming things with vey little material. In the same way, out of almost insignificant scraps of pastry, we have to create pleasing and graceful things that also tempt the appetite”.Antonin Careme (Marie-Antoine Careme) (1783-1833)

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

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