Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Topaz, Isla Mujeres 2018

March23

We like many visitors to Isla watched with interest when the Isla 33 Condos were built on the south east end of the island. We are “out of that league” as far as owning or even renting there. But we can dream, can’t we? One way to play along with that fantasy is to dine at Topaz -the main floor bar, restaurant and patio. The night we dined with good friends, no one could pick us out as renters from the airport strip. Or could they?

Upon arrival, we were sat at a lovely table on the patio. In fact that evening, everyone who was dining was doing so el fresco.

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We started the evening by sharing Mango Ceviche. This great variation on traditional ceviche tossed mango, white fish, cucumber, red onion and cilantro together and then marinated them in lime juice. I could detect another ingredient and when I checked the menu I found that there was also a splash of tequila in the dish. I couldn’t discern what kind of white fish was used in the recipe.

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We also shared coconut shrimp- a dish which finds its way onto many Isla menus. We make these at home when we are missing the island. A trick I utilize is creating a slit down the back of the shrimp to “butterfly” it and then press the increased surface into the coconut mixture. Topaz’s version didn’t do this so they were big and extra plump. I appreciated the innovative way they adhered them to the plate with a vegetable puree.

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I knew exactly what I was ordering as soon as I spotted this dish on Topaz’s extensive menu. The lobster mac and cheese included lovely chunks of lobster amidst a creamy cheese sauce and pasta. The dish was light on the promised truffle oil or perhaps I assumed it was light because I am addicted to the taste and crave it often. I did appreciate how the dish had been heated under a salamander broiler to caramelize the top layer. I ate every single rich morsel.

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D considered prime rib or lamb because he thought it was unusual to find these of an Isla menu but in the end wanted something lighter. He settled upon grilled tuna and enjoyed it immensely.

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One of our companions enjoyed these crunchy fish tacos.

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While the other tucked in to these beef tacos. She thought that the kitchen may utilize prime rib in this recipe and she appreciated the extra tenderness and flavour.

Our service could not possibly have been more attentive or caring. The staff are well trained and highly professional.

The moon was out that evening and from our vantage point on the patio we could see it glimmering on the sea. We lingered over our beverages imagining ourselves as permanent residents there.

Kath’s quote: “Aim higher in case you fall short.”  ― Suzanne Collins

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Love never fails.

 

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Chilito by Ruben, 2018 Isla Mujeres

March21

You may have heard of Ruben because of his generous heart and “Rueben’s Kids” -his charity on the island (more about this later) or you may know him for Ruben’s his little restaurant in Centro that has been putting out fabulous food since 2016. When you meet him, it is unlikely you will forget him for his exuberance for feeding people, taking care of islanders and life itself.

My sisters and I are cooks with three different styles. I am a “resourceful” cook (using leftovers and making recipe substitutions), Sister#3 is a trained cooked and is familiar with French culinary terms and techniques. Sister #2 is a decadent cook. She prepares food that tastes so good-adding extra cheese and sauce and her secret ingredient-butter! Ruben cooks just like Sister #2. His creations are all beautiful and carefully prepared but if he can elevate the taste with cheese, sauce or butter, he does and does so lavishly.

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Case in point: Ruben’s guacamole at Chilito’s was amazing. It had something extra that I couldn’t put my finger on-lime juice, garlic or crème fraiche? The guessing did not dissuade us. We made short work of the guacamole while we sipped frosty cold beer, red and white wine.

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The soup course was sublime. Ruben suggested we guess its ingredients and we weren’t even close. He wouldn’t share his secret proportions but he did tell us that it was a magical combination of spinach, zucchini and pablano chilies. The tastes were complex and yet beautifully melded. We decided we could all have returned the next day, just to indulge in that soup again.

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Both R & M chose entrees of grouper in sweet tamarind sauces which they loved. I selected garlic grouper which was sparkling fresh and terrific.

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Husband D chose the steak and langostino. Ruben apologised that they were out of filet and substituted a rib eye. Since D and I grew up in the steakhouse business, we know that a rib eye because of its proximity to the bone and increased marbling is a far tastier steak. When grilled properly (which this was) it can be just as tender as a filet. The sweet langostino was also beautifully prepared but just to be extra confident about the taste; Ruben had smeared herb butter over both.

The food was plentiful and so delicious that we all finished our plates and could not consider another morsel. But as we lingered over our beverages and chatted with Ruben, space was magically created and all of a sudden, two desserts and four forks appeared before us.

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While my companions scooped up the flan which they thought was great, I indulged in bites of the petite slice of chocolate cake that I requested. But I had to put my fork down and surrender. Delicious as it was, I was done.

Further to Ruben’s charity news…while Ruben’s in Centro supports Ruben’s Kids, Chilito’s will support the seniors of the island. Ruben enthusiastically spoke of raising funds for wheelchairs and walkers. This is what makes Ruben so special and his restaurants places that you love to return to. In spite of his personal issues, he continues to love islanders and travellers alike with his excellent fare and he knows that at the end of the day it is giving back that makes this world go round.

PS Anybody know what a chilito is?

Kath’s quote: “I believe that we all have a responsibility to give back. No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck. Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful”.-Ron Conway

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast at Limon-Isla Mujeres 2018

March20

Today being March 20, 2018 you have very little time left to experience Limon for breakfast. But fear not, Sergio indicates that they will serve breakfast again in the fall. In the mean time, it will likely be no surprise to Limon fans, that breakfast was absolute perfection.

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Since there were four of us and we have known each other for decades, we were comfortable sharing and tasting each others’ food. I had selected the Eggs Benedict Limon Style. One was closer to a traditional style and the other with smoked salmon was a decadent diversion from classic fare. Both started with English muffins and a healthy base of sautéed spinach. The “traditional” version then was stacked with salami, Italian sausage and roasted ham infused with rosemary and garlic. I could have simply had a slice of that ham with a poached egg and would have been content. Both poached eggs were fresh and perfectly prepared and the hollandaise sauce on both was absolutely sublime. The second one was stacked with silky slices of smoked salmon. Tasting one version and then having a bite of the second was the perfect combination. Even though I swore that I would never be able to eat the entire plate, eat it I did! There is no room for petite appetites when you are visiting Limon.

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Our friend M is not accustomed to eating sweet offerings at breakfast but could not resist Sergio’s blitzes. The tender crepes were stuffed with both ricotta and mascarpone cheeses then surrounded by blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. The final touch was a ladle of red berry coulis. My forkful sparkled and was delightfully light. Everyone agreed and would have loved to have shared the dish as an evening’s dessert.

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This enormous platter was D’s choice. Called an English-style fry up, the platter was laden with (starting at 12 o’clock and moving clock wise): sautéed Portobello mushroom strips, crispy bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, a log stack of sweet potato fries and more bacon. Holding court in the middle were two perfectly fried eggs on a piece of toast. D too was surprised by his own appetite and ate every morsel.

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Our friend R selected the soufflé omelet. Now R is a guy who knows his food. He is an expert at the barbeque and I have watched him painstakingly take 20 minutes and stir scrambled eggs for six. R was the perfect person to order Sergio’s soufflé. Sergio explained to us that it took him many tries to perfect this dish. R knew this to be true and appreciated the effort. In my mind, both men know that food=love. That is why both are so exacting in their craft.

In case you didn’t know, a soufflé is a baked egg-based dish which originated in early eighteenth century France. It is made by combining egg yolks and beaten egg whites. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to breathe” or “to puff”. Depending upon the timing of combining the eggs, the egg yolks may get tough or the entire creation may deflate or fall. Sergio’s dish was perfection and R knew it. He loved the touches of bacon-wrapped asparagus and sautéed mushrooms but it was the egg casserole that he ate with admiration and reverence.

The courtyard setting at Sergio’s is perfect under white twinkle lights in the evening, but just as lovely in the bright sunshine. Limon’s staff are always top notch and overall the breakfast experience was a microcosm of the evening one-perfect setting, perfect service and perfect food (made with love).

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is great, love is grand, but souffles fall and lovers come and go. But you can always depend on a book!”-Claudia Christian

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Love never fails.

 

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Chaya and Cacao-Isla Mujeres 2018

March19

We met Chaya and Cacao’s owner Lori many years ago at Mango and subsequently at Lola Valentina’s. We know that she has exceptional skills in culinary artististy-that is to pair foods that enhance and elevate each other. The offerings from her new kitchen are no exception.

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Lori puts her money where her (our) mouths are, posting the Mission Statement for Chaya and Cacao right at the front entrance.

Sister #3 and I began our evening at a cozy outdoor table. I had past it many times on my walk to the beach. It is no surprise that Lori’s turquoise decorating accents would draw my eye. In truth I loved everything about the restaurant including the wooden fish hanging in the front window. I purchased three of my own when I visited Madera Food + Art later in the week. This elegant cocktail was absolutely thirst quenching and delicious but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. I do know that it was one of C + C’s weekly specials so it may or may not be available when you make a visit.

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The menu, like the cocktail, changes weekly in order to capitalize on fresh local ingredients. I was also impressed with Lori’s little touches such as serving course ground pepper and a Himalayan sea salt in the manner above.

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Even though I am not a vegetarian, I love vegetables tremendously, especially unusual ones like artichokes, eggplant and hearts of palm. Turns out Chaya and Cacao had both of the latter on that week’s menu. We started with this lovely twist on eggplant parmigiana. Enormous disks of eggplant were first coated in panko flakes, fried and then topped with plantain. The sweet starchiness of the plantain complemented the eggplant perfectly.

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Next up were delectable cakes made with hearts of palm. They were garnished and served with veggies and greens and this became our heavenly salad course.

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Lori mentioned that she had Thai stuck in her head that week and the next dish was her take on Tom Yum soup.  I loved the silky coconut based soup and the ribbons of cilantro. The dish also contained tofu, onion threads and crunchy bean sprouts. By this time both Sister #3 and I were getting full, so she packed up the soup so that we could share the lion fish entree that came next.

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Lori explained to us that Lionfish were posing a threat to Isla’s coral reefs. We were happy to do our share to consume the evasive species. We were delighted by the taste. Sister #3 thought that it tasted a lot like pickerel (aka wall-eye) that we fish and eat in Manitoba. Roasted veggies also adorned the wooden platter making the dish as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.

The island is fortunate that Lori has the tenacity and perseverance to stay living on the island. She loves locals and travellers alike, but cares deeply for the island itself.

Kath’s quote: “The biggest fish he ever caught were those that got away.”-Eugene Field

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Love never fails.

 

 

Capricci Pizza-Isla Mujeres 2018

March16

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Pizza is like hamburgers…everyone has a favourite place to go and will valiantly defend their preferences. On Isla Mujeres, I know that many people love Oscar’s and Mike’s and Angelo’s. I have never had pizza at Oscar’s or Mike’s but I adore the frutti di mare pizza at Angelo’s. Recently, I sampled Capricci’s Pizza & Sfizi on Hidalgo and were so very impressed. By the way, in case you were wondering what “sfizi” means; it is a “whimsical” word in Italian that sometimes denotes a treat or special section of a menu.

The owner of the Capricci is a first generation Italian. He is hands on in the kitchen, preparing his dough from scratch. He shared with us that his pizza creations were Neapolitan, meaning from the area surrounding the city of Naples. This makes them especially authentic because that is where pizza is said to have been invented. My husband D has visited the particular Neopolitan restaurant and although I cannot claim as much, I have been to Naples on a couple of occasions and know that the best pizzas are always the simplest but utilizing the finest ingredients.

The Capricci owner also shared his dough recipe with us…flour, extra virgin olive oil and semolina flour to finish. He did not reveal the proportions of the ingredients or the time that the dough is kneaded and rested. The latter is what makes a pizza, a pizza! It is the art and knowledge of working the dough that produces the desired results. By the by, his pizza crust is award-winning. He laments the loss of genuine pizza making in his homeland because of the influx of other nationalities and cultures who believe that their improvements make for a superior pizza. I commiserated with him: why try to fix perfection?

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We chose the Dolomite pizza, so named for the mountain range located in northeastern Italy. It was topped with hand-made Italian sausage, mushrooms, rosemary, mozzarella and Gouda cheese.  In addition, was a humble and yet surprising ingredient-cubed baked potatoes!

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The toppings melded together perfectly and the crust was divine-thin and crispy with hints of char achieved with a high quality pizza oven.

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When we heard that Capricci also has fresh pasta on the menu, we couldn’t resist. They have two Carbonaras  to choose from and although we intended to order the decadent one with cream, egg and bacon, we accidentally ordered the vegetarian version. We could tell that the noodles were excellent and that exceptional quality oils and Parmesan cheese was used, but we have to admit that carrot ribbons couldn’t take the place of bacon, especially Italian bacon.

Kath’s quote: “Your life is like a pizza. It could be round, it could be square. But you’ll enjoy it most of all when it’s something that you share.” ― Jim Benton

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

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