Browsing: Isla Mujeres

El Patio de Musica, Isla Mujeres 2019

March18

The biggest surprise of this year’s sojurn to Isla Mujeres was the revamping of El Patio de Musica. I would venture to say that while the previous focus was on the music and beverages, the food seemed a bit of an afterthought. But that was then and this is now. Although they are the only establishment on the island that engages continuous musicians, we felt that the focus had definitely shifted.

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Happy Hour is 3 until 6 everyday and I enjoyed a Mango Margarita for 70 Pesos (Lime Margs were 60 pesos). D appreciated that they boasted a complete line up of craft beer from the Isla Brewing Company. He especially enjoyed the Mucho Macho and that would be because D just is (mucho macho…). While D was on the island we returned each and every night to soak up the ambience and those delicious drinks.

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One evening we stayed for dinner and boy were we glad that we did. We love charcuterie back home and order it often when we are dining out. It never occurred to me that we would find the meat and cheese boards on Isla but we most certainly did. The board highlighted two kinds of salami and four cheeses (I successfully negotiated with D so he would trade my blue cheese for one of the other three). There also was a lovely charred Argentinean chorizo which we both adored as well as a grainy mustard and fig preserves. When we asked for additional crostinis, they were cheerfully supplied. We might have concluded with the charcuterie as we often do back home but we just had to sample a couple of entrees.

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I had not had coconut shrimp up until that time and eagerly chose it. The six shrimp were perfectly cooked and nice and crunchy with lots of coconut flavour. They were offset by a mango dipping sauce and complemented with vegetable rice and buttery veggies.

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D hadn’t yet ordered fish tacos and made that his choice. He ordered two grilled and one fried. Red peppers and zucchini accompanied the grilled fish and cole slaw and chipotle crema topped the fried. He declared the fried one the winner as he was delighted with that spicy sauce. Guacamole and Pico de gallo also arrived on his dinner plate.

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So too, we had not yet sampled the flan on this visit, so El Patio was the night to do so. It was excellently prepared and tremendously satisfying.

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We missed the sunset that evening but caught a glimmer of it through a vine covered trestle on the roof, by our table.

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We were enamored by the foliage and the exotic birds that the greenery attracted. The sweet singing of the birds, added to a very memorable evening.

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But when all was said and done it was the staff that we most appreciated. We must have been asked half a dozen times if our libations and dinners were to our liking. We got special attention from  server named Jacob; he was born for the hospitality business-engaging, sincere and attentive. He was the real deal!

Overall with the exception of street vendors, we thought that El Patio was our best bang for our buck on the island.

Kath’s quote: “If music be the food of love, play on”-William Shakespeare, ‘Twelfth Night’

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Love never fails.

Green Verde-Isla Mujeres 2019

March16

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We visited Green Verde for the first time in 2018 because a close friend of ours declared that it was the best restaurant on the island. When we walked there this year from our apartment on the airport strip, we were surprised to find that they had moved almost across the street.

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Their new location was equally pretty (see the photos above) as the original. I really got a kick out of their former location which utilized reused and recyclable items in their décor.

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I think that they moved some of their furniture with them because I distinctly remember this beautiful table and chairs.

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First off we enjoyed delicious Mango and Passion Fruit Mosquitoes. I am amazed as to how the islanders have upped their game regarding artisan cocktails. These were very enjoyable, in fact, each and every time that we sample a cocktail at a new spot, we imagine it to be the best.

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We really enjoyed their shrimp, first marinated in a green sauce (we were at Green Verde after all) and then flamed in Mezcal where we expect the pan had been deglazed with the addition of butter and then used as the base for the terrific sauce. The five jumbo shrimp (I always giggle when I state this) were plated with spaghetti that was topped with a drizzle of cream, cheese and little scoops of avocado.

One of the first dishes I ever ate on Isla was La Lomita’s Chili Relleno. Although I haven’t had a chance to visit them this year, I am still hooked on poblano chillies.

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Green Verde’s rendition is stuffed with a mixture of chicken and corn and then topped with a slice of a creamy cheese and garnished with sunflower seeds! It was accompanied by a side of Mexican rice and beans. Although I typically forego the beans, I loved a taste of rice with each scoop of the poblano stuffing.

The entire evening was lovely and we were well taken care of. The move across the street hasn’t lessened Green Verde’s food or service quality. There are so many lovely variations of typical Mexican fare. Check them out.

Kath’s quote: “….shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle. Indeed of the whole realm of Nature the sea is in many ways the most harmful to the stomach, with its great variety of dishes and tasty fish.”-Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79)

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

Pizza and A More-Isla Mujeres 2019

March13

Everybody knows that the world’s best pizza is eaten in Italy and being the pizza lovers that we are, we are constantly drawn to Italy for the food. But consider this: we have eaten amazing pizza elsewhere in the world and some mediocre pizza in Italy. Perhaps it is not the geography that dictates the excellence; but the ingredients, the knowledge and the passion. Case in point, recently before the start of the 2019 Oscars (which we watched in Spanish), we enjoyed a stellar pizza on Isla Mujeres.

Mateo the owner/chef of Pizza and A More and his family have been on Isla for less than a year. They emigrated from Italy via Playa del Carman but made the move to the island in search of a quieter life. He is from Rome and his wife is from Milan. They are expecting their first child this spring.

Upon arrival we were asked if we would care to sit in the garden. When we said yes, we walked through a garage and past an enormous paper mache elephant that had been constructed for the upcoming Carnival. D remarked that it was the biggest piñata he had ever seen. After a spell, a mighty energy burst from the kitchen door. It was Mateo with his enormous grin, his booming voice and his hearty handshake. We knew we would be in good hands.

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Walking back and forth to the kitchen he first brought us an amuse bouche-“suppli”. Mateo explained that although many regions of Italy make arancini which we first tasted in Sicily, suppli are characteristically made and served in Rome. The word suppli is the Italianization of the French word for “surprise!”. The Roman snack is formed from of a ball of rice, with bolognaise sauce and mozzarella.

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We asked Mateo to prepare us his favourite pizza. He must have had a hard time deciding because the one that arrived was a half Italian sausage and mushroom (Boscaiola) and the other half anchovy, capers and black olives (Romana). Mateo explained that he imports his flour, tomatoes and mozzarella from Italy and that the bubbled crunch of the crust is achieved when corn meal is sparingly added to the dough.

We thought that Boscaiola might be a province of Italy that we had not yet travelled through but with research, found that the name implies that mushrooms are a key component, with bosco meaning woods and boscaiola referring to the woodcutter’s wife. Even more pronounced than the mushrooms themselves was the Italian sausage-oh that sausage! The ground pork had a smoky flavour and upon inquiry we learned that the second ingredient is the inclusion of bacon.

The Romana included black olives, and salty capers and anchovies along with the excellent tomato sauce, mozzarella and a dusting of oregano. I typically eat my pizza like a purist that lifts the triangle to my mouth, starts at the tip and ends up at the ridge of crust. This pizza though was so rich that I folded it in half and balanced the pungency of the toppings with the satisfying grounding of the crust.

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As Mateo offered us espresso, he also mentioned his second location closer to Playa Norte to make pizza by the slice available to the beach crowd. His pizza by the slice is thick and hearty as a result of creating denser dough the evening prior and then baking it twice each morning.

Tiramisu will eventually find its way onto the menu along with pastas; once he is able to source pasta flour from Italy. They offer delivery service to the entire island. Mateo indicates that his most loyal customers are the islanders themselves. That is a good enough endorsement for me.

So I ask you, is the best pizza dictated by geography or passion? In this case, I believe that latter makes it so.

Kath’s quote:“There’s a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back, you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air.”
Steven Wright

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Love never fails.

 

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Lola Valentina-Isla Mujeres 2019

March11

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We have enjoyed the offerings of Lola Valentina’s for many years. From the rehearsal party of our niece (see link here), to a family breakfast with the Wee Ones (see that link here) and other delicious meals (see another one here), Lola Valentina’s is always on our “must try again list”.

On the evening of this most recent visit, we were joined by my SIL and her Sis, as well as Boo and the Frenchman. Server Abel took care of us and when I say “took care”, I actually mean that he went out of his way to fulfill our every whim. “Would you care for a cocktail?” “Why yes, what would you recommend?” “Well do you like citrus or fruity, would you prefer sweet or tart, would you like a tall or a short drink, on the rocks or blended?”

Abel was from Argentina. We have met hospitality servers from around the world including Israel, Italy and Sardinia. When I teach food and beverage service back home I always tell my students that they will be equipped to work anywhere in the world as long as they keep on top of a couple of essential world languages.

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On this evening, I finally settled upon a mojito with both pineapple and orange juice which was the perfect solution to the questions above and

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the gentlemen in our party ordered Moscow Mules. The latter were served in hammered copper cups with scoops of shaved ice. It was not just our entourage who enjoyed them. Another evening at another restaurant, a man that started a drink conversation with D, recommended them too.

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With our drinks we savoured  a trio platter of Hibiscus Flower Empanadas, Bacon Wrapped Poblano Chilies and a Chorizo Bomba-all crispy and mouthwatering!

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This a close up of one of the forkfuls-fabulous ingredients, well prepared and oh so delectable.

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I also took a photo of our neighbour’s supper which was the gorgeous Grouper in Poblano sauce on mashed potatoes. He declared that it was simply amazing. And later when I had a taste of Boo and the Frenchman’s dinner, I can say-he was right!

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Others at our table enjoyed Fish Tacos and I loved my bite especially when I dipped it into the chimichurri sauce that came with my entree. Abel told us a fascinating tale about an Irish man named  Jimmy McCurry who in the 19th century was traveling with indigenous troupes to fight for the independence of Argentina. Jimmy was alleged to have invented the sauce but Argentinians couldn’t properly pronounce his name and it became chimichurri!

Essentially chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used for grilled meat.  It comes in a green version (chimichurri verde) and a red version (chimichurri rojo). The authentic sauce is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar.

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There were also oohhss and aawwss over the Coconut Shrimp.

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My dinner was marinated baby octopuss (they did not refer to them as squid) with avocado risotto, greens and fresh edible flowers! Marinated in both wine and beer, they were very tender and bursting with flavour.

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D selected a tantalizing fresh fish special.

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Dessert was another trio platter including Apple Chimichangas, Chocolate Empanadas and Peanut Butter and Jam Empanadas. The desserts besides being luscious were so inventive. The peanut butter and jam concoction was pure genius!

Lola Valentina’s is one of Isla’s well established restaurants but they have not rested on their laurels. They continue to be influenced by their guests wants and needs in addition to expert mixology and adventurous cooking.

Kath’s quote: “I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.”-Richard Starkey

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

Casa O’s Lime Soup from Cocina Islena

February13

On my first vacation on Isla Mujeres (2005), we mistakenly stayed near Punta Sur not knowing the layout of the Island. Now there were some benefits…we walked so much we didn’t have to worry about our calorie intake, there was a beautiful quiet pool at our villa and the sunrises on the craggy cliffs were exquisite.

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I couldn’t find any food photos from that evening but I did find this blast from the past. The three sisters taken that night at Casa O’s.

One evening we walked the dark road to see what might still be open and couldn’t find a thing but with research we discovered Casa O’s and set out to celebrate my sister’s birthday on one of our last evenings on the island.

I can’t tell you a whole lot about what we ate and drank but I can tell you that the Lime Soup was a.m.a.z.i.n.g! On subsequent trips to Isla we heard that Casa O’s owners Lynn and Tom McGrath decided that they had to close the restaurant. Does anyone know what is in that space now?

Anyhoo the reason for that preamble is that I found the recipe for their soup in my Cocina Islena Cookbook. Here’s what it indicates with the recipe:

This Maya-style soup was a favorite of Paul Newman when we had Casa O’s restaurant. We didn’t have any photographs of Paul enjoying his meals as we didn’t want to bother him or create a fuss when he was in our restaurant. What a great, great guy he was.

Here’s the recipe:

Casa O's Lime Soup from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
In the Yucatan , where the recipe for Sopa de Lima originated, it is made from Yucatan "limas agrias" which translates as sour lemons.
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ½ white onion
  • 2 sweet chilies
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 pound of limes
  • ½ T cinnamon
  • dash of herb, epazote
  • 2 pieces fresh mint
  • 1 quart of chicken broth
  • 2 T liquid Knorr Swiss Chicken flavoring
  • olive oil to sauté vegetables
  • ground pepper to taste
  • corn tortillas and/or fresh crusty bread
Instructions
  1. Pour chicken broth into a pot large enough to hold all ingredients-approximately 2 quarts.
  2. Roast chicken in an oven, or barbeque and shred into pieces when cooled and add to pot.
  3. Cut corn tortillas into ½ inch strips and fry in hot oil until hardened but not crisp.
  4. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt and set aside. (These will be used as a garnish on top of the soup).
  5. Chop tomatoes, onion, chillies, and celery, sauté in a T of olive oil until soft-add to pot.
  6. Mince and sauté garlic, add to mixture.
  7. Add spices such as cinnamon, fresh mint, black pepper and epazote.
  8. Add Knorr Swiss Chicken Flavoring to mixture.
  9. Slice limes into thin circles, add to pot, (reserve one slice per bowl to use as a garnish).
  10. Simmer ingredients together for 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are melded.
  11. Reheat tostadas (fried tortilla) strips.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and float a lime slice on top of the soup.
  13. Decorate each bowl with a few reheated tostada chips.
  14. Cut up fresh crusty bread-serve with soup.
  15. Pretend Paul Newman is your dinner companion.
  16. Enjoy!

Over the years we have found many other Isla restaurants that do a good job of Lime Soup too….La Lomita for one!

Kath’s quote: “A person can only be judged by their actions, and not by their good intentions or their beliefs.”-Paul Newman

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Love never fails.

 

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