Browsing: Isla Mujeres

The Little Mexican Cooking School: A Case of Mistaken Identity

July18

This is the second installment of our time at The Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Moreles.  Sista #3 here again……

Most people in North America do not realize that when they talk about “Chinese Food” they are actually referring to an Americanized rendition that has very little in common with the food found in the various culinary regions of China.  Mexican food is similar.  A trip to Taco Bell does not compare to a meal of tik’n xic (grilled fish) or cochinita pibil (pork slow roasted in banana leaf and marinated in sour orange). These delectable dishes are native to the Yucatan Peninsula, where my family and I travel each winter.

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Chef Christobal, our instructor that day at The Little Mexican Cooking School, hails from Oaxaca (pronounced – wa-HA-ca). Our class started with a review of the foods of Mexico and how they got there.  Prior to the arrival of Spanish the food in Mexico included; squash, corn, beans, turkey, fish, insects, cactus and various fruits, veggies and chilies.

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The ingredients for dishes like the colorful Pico de Gallo (translation: beak of the roster) of tomato, cilantro, onion where nowhere to be found before the arrival of Columbus. The Spaniards brought things you would expect; livestock, wheat and vegetables that grew well in their homeland.  The Spanish had also spent some time in Asia, so also had with them things like rice, spices and citrus fruit. The perfect storm for the birth of a very tasty, cuisine.

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Mexico has a diverse geography including 6,000 miles of coastline, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, deserts, rain forests and of course islands! So it makes sense that the food of different regions would be based on the agriculture of that area.  Chef Christobal explained that this is why you find wheat tortillas in the north and corn tortillas in the south. Many of the chilies are the same species that have different characteristics dependent on the climate where they grow.

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Like we tend to do with many aspects of culture, we have over simplified the food of Mexico.  Here’s an example.  Think of mole and you are likely to envision mole poblano, a sauce with many ingredients including chocolate that is native to the Puebla region. But travel to Oaxaca and you will find a variety of seven other moles. You see mole is simply the Aztec word for sauce.  The same concept applies to salsa, the Spanish word for sauce.  So you can see why people are confused when they read “papita salsa” on a menu and a green pumpkin seed sauce tops their dish.

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Mexicans have much national pride and their food is one way they express it.  If you pay attention you will see the red, white and green of their flag in many of their dishes.  They are a resourceful people, good stewards of the land and animals and gracious hosts.

There is much to learn about all the cuisines of Mexico. I haven’t even mentioned food Meccas like Cabos, Tabasco, Baja, Guadalajara, or Mexico City.

Kath’s quote: “Mucho para cocinar, y no hay mucho tiempo para cocinar. – So much to cook, so little time.”-Sista #3

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Love-that is all.

The Little Mexican Cooking School: Salude – A Drink to your Health

July17

This is the long-promised recounting of our culinary adventure while vacationing on Isla Mujeres.  Puerto Moreles is a ferry trip and then a taxi ride away and even though it is hard to budge us from our precious Isla once we arrive, the promise of a new adventure involving food and beverages, was hard to resist.  This first installment is written by Sister #3.

When you think of enjoying a nice cold one in Mexico it is likely a cold Corona or a salty lime margarita come to mind?.  Mexico is a hot country and it is important to stay hydrated, and liquor, while refreshing, is not the answer.  If you are looking for a delicious alcohol free beverage while south of the boarder, there is a plethora to choose from.  

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I never drink pop at home but I must confess I’m a bit addicted to Mexican soda.  Sure you can find the standard cola, lemon-lime and orange flavours but you will also be treated to some very unique taste sensations.  Jurritos is a popular brand and I am pleased to say they are now readily available for purchase at Latin markets around our fair city. Mango, guava, pineapple, watermelon are all fruit flavours that I can’t believe no one in North America is producing in soda.  They also make tamarind, which is a lovely sour taste, and one called Jamaica, which I have not tried, made from hibiscus stamen. I have eaten hibiscus and would say it is a bit perfumy for my taste.  My very favorite flavor is Manzana, which means apple, and it is harder to find. Lift, a coca-cola made version, is everywhere in Mexico but I love Sidral Mundet, which, like the Jurritos, comes in a glass bottle with a pop top. 

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On our last visit to Mexico, my sister Kathryne and a friend and I took a day trip to experience The Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos.  Besides learning about the food of Mexico we had the opportunity to try some of their homemade “soft’ drinks. 

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We started our morning with a chocolate making demo and then this delectable hand made chocolate was used as the base of our first beverage. By adding water and ice our cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and cacao seeds, AKA artesian chocolate, we had a light and refreshing, and might I add, caffeinated beverage.

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Our next break featured a frosty jar of melon agua fresca, which translates to fresh water.  To make agua fresca fruit is pureed and then strained through cheese cloth.  Water, lime juice are added and voila!  Another kind of fresh water was our treat at the next break.  Horchata is made by adding water to ground rice, cinnamon, sugar and a little lime zest. The mixture is strained and the flavourful rice milk is the result. 

We ended our day with a cold corona, followed by a glass of sangria and a shot of really good tequila with our main meal. OK old habits are hard to break, but it was great to have the chance to enjoy other traditional Mexican beverages that day.

Kath’s quote: “The correct order of beverages is starting with the most temperate and ending with the most heady.” –Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva’s Gelato

July14

 

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Do you know the difference between gelati and gelato? In Winnipeg most of the little shops that serve Italian ice cream have gelati in their names and then many years ago, Eva’s Gelato opened almost at the corner of our street.  The owners, as opposed to having of an Italian heritage were from Argentina and so I concluded that gelato was a Spanish version of gelati.  Perhaps I was even guilty of having perpetrated that Winnipeg rumour. In those days, Eva’s was a a narrow little store front with not much room for more than the freezer and a hard-working employee.  The frozen treat was scooped from a big white plastic pail into a weeny brightly coloured bowl with a “Barbie-doll” sized spoon.  My eyes were always pulled to those translucent bowls but I was a sugar-cone fan from a way back and so even though my eyes wanted one thing, my tummy desired another.

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Now, of course I know that gelati is simply the plural version of gelato, or maybe it is the other way around.

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I have had my fair share of gelato experiences in between our original taste of Eva’s and the “new” Eva’s sensation.  While D and I traveled along the west coast of Italy from Sicily to the Italian and French Riveria, gelato fixes were the primary motivation for an evening walk after long train rides or a day of hiking.

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We have our favourite spots too on Isla Mujeres where coconut gelato is my fav and D’s is pistachio.

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Eva in the mean time had also been busy, moving east on Corydon into expansive new digs.  The quality of her product did not diminish with the move.  Nor did its popularity.  By then Eva’s was available at other retailers in carton form.  I even enjoyed it recently at the inaugural Bomber game at Investors Group Field.

We decided long ago that Eva’s made and served our favourite gelato but I needed a recent photo of their new locale.  So I sent J2 (aka Daughter #3).  Many of you know that she is days away from giving birth to our first grandbaby and when I asked for the favour, she was quick to oblige.  What is it about pregnant women and ice cream?

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When I was expecting my first baby 28 years ago, it was the summer that Dairy Queen came out with Blizzards.  D and I would often walk in the evening with DQ as our destination.  J2 has gained just the right amount of weight and even though our grandbaby is sticking way out in front, from the back, you wouldn’t even know that she was pregnant.  I on the other hand, gained some 70 pounds when I was pregnant the first time around, and I can definitely equate that weight gain to the Blizzards.  During my third pregnancy when I craved ice chips and celery, my weight gain was 22 pounds.

Kath’s quote: “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

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Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres Day 10

May23

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We were up for anther glorious sunrise and just enjoyed our time on the ocean side of Luna D’Miel. 

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Brother #3

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One of our favourite beach vendors.

Later that morning we went to find Brother #3 and his wife on North Beach. 

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When lunch time came around we walked the short distance to the Loncherias (across from Las Palmas).

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This little sweetie was on her school lunch break.

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Over the years, we have eaten at three of the four Loncherias and decided that it was high time to make it a fait du complete by visiting Poc Chuc. 

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D had a chicken burrito and I the poc chuc.

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Even though the latter is not usually accompanied by papas fritoes, they very cheerfully accompanied me.

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We luxuriated in the setting sun.

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That night we visited Ziggy, the personable waiter from Café Cito’s at Monchi’s  in Colonia’s  for dinner.  Ziggy, like so many Islanders, works night and day and in the evening he is the cook at Monchi’s.  It was my first visit and will not be my last.

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The evening started with slices of baguette with a garlicky dip.  I ordered pineapple fried rice with chicken where Ziggy scoops out a pineapple then mixes the fruit with a twist on his fried rice recipe including shredded purple cabbage and celery.  

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D and Sister #3 loved the coconut shrimp. 

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Sis-in-law had the fish special which was stuffed with seafood in a white sauce and wrapped up and baked in a foil packet. 

We all love the chayote (sp?) which tasted like a cross between a melon and cucumber. 

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Dona tucked into garlic shrimp. 

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Brother #3 was really pleased with his enormous burrito.

Time is slipping away from me since we spent our two glorious weeks on our precious Isla and even though I keep a travel diary, the details are slipping away from me too.  But I can tell you with certainty, the emotions that I was experiencing that day, because they are the same ones that I have everyday that I spend on the island-delight in the rising sun and glorious days spent basking in it; deep satisfaction with the food so carefully prepared by the exceptional Isla cooks; peace while gazing at the turquoise sea and setting sun; and lastly, immense joy when in the company of my beloved family and Isla family. 

Kath’s quote: “He is the very pineapple of politeness!” Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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My coffee filters at Luna D’Miel-I kid you not!

Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-Dinner at Mango Cafe, Isla Mujeres

May17

Mango Café (found in Colonia Meterorologico on Isla Mujeres, Mexico) is infamous as a great place for breakfast.  Our first ever visit to Mango was for dinner on the equally infamous Jamaican Night hosted every Monday.

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I love Mango.  The owner Polo is a great host and the food is fantastic. I make a point of making at least one stop there every trip but it occurred to me that I have never tried their regular dinner menu. I was so over the moon with their Jamaican food and breakfast items, how could I have overlooked an opportunity to sample even more of their fare?

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The menu at dinner is not extensive, but I am a firm believer in doing less and doing it really well, instead of doing lots and it being just OK.  We were a party of seven and most of us ordered different items, so this meant I got a look at almost every item on the menu.

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We started with a couple of orders of Tostones for the table.  These yummy fried plantains were topped with a green apple guacamole, an interesting twist on tradition.

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For our mains the boys ordered Ajilla catch of the day in a garlic and gualillo chili sauce and chicken stuffed with guava paste, cream cheese and chaya, a Mexican green thought to be a super food.

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Two of the girls ordered enchiladas and tropical fish stuffed with crab, shrimp and cheese topped with a pepita (pumpkin seed) sauce.

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Three of us wanted to try the chicken skewers served with coconut peanut sauce.  My friends made a special request to have a side of rice to make this appetizer into a light meal.  I, on the other hand, added another appetizer to make mine dinner.

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I tried the jalapeno peppers stuffed with goat cheese and blue cheese and topped with bacon.  These were served with two dips; habenero jelly and tamarind balsamic dressing.

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As we were celebrating the recent nuptials of friends who joined us for dinner, we decided we had to conclude the evening with a couple desserts and seven forks.  We had the cheese cake which was scrumptious; served on a chocolate crust topped with strawberries and sauce. We all love the coconut crusted French toast at Mango for breakfast and at dinner they turn this delicacy into dessert by topping it with vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce, calling it Mango toast and cream.

The attention to detail in the food at Mango is exemplary.  Even the beverages were a delight.  Many of us enjoyed the ginger lemonade and a few others ordered a variety of agua frescas, refreshing fruit waters made with everything from watermelon to hibiscus flower.

I know that next year I will have to be back for breakfast but will also return for dinner.  Only problem is I just noticed a lunch menu packed with items I’ve yet to try.  So much food, so little time!

Kath’s quote: “One way can be learned by starting to see the magic in everything. Sometimes it seems to be hiding but it is always there. The more we can see the magic in one thing, a tiny flower, a mango, someone we love, then the more we are able to see the magic in everything and in everyone. Where does the mango stop and the sky begin?”- Joshua Kadison

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Love-that is all.

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