Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Happy New Year-Isla Mujeres-Day 7

January19

I knew Tino as “the Rib Man” for years before I knew his name.  Now a days, he has this sign to mark his location.  There was a time when we would walk up and down the streets on Sunday and look for the smoke. 

The guys purchased this bag full of food.  The accompaniments are in the little bags.  If you are new to Isla, this is how the locals package up “fast food”. 

Our Son preferred the bone in ribs.  He thought that they had the most flavour and since there is almost always a layer of delicious fat close to the bone, he knows what he’s talking about.

D and I prefer the boneless ribs as we are trying to smarten up and eat leaner in our autumn years.  They are an incredible value.

Are you getting tired of these photos of my gorgeous family? Sorry, I’m not.

We spent early afternoon around the pool and then headed to the beach for the last sunset of the year.  We spent the same day this way a couple of year’s previous.

Our youngest and her cousin December 31, 2007.

2011 was a year filled with joy and sorrow in our family.  There were definitely rain clouds on our horizon. 

But as always, Isla heals and refreshed our souls and poured glorious colours and memories into our lives and we came home ready for a fresh, new start.

Our entourage in the square December 31, 2007

Just “us” December 31, 2007 before the Newbie had joined our family.

We had long-standing plans to walk to Chuuk Kay for a late New Year’s Eve dinner. They are working on the west sidewalk and so we stuck to the gorgeous new east sidewalk on Medina.  But beware, that side is not very well lit and every once in a while there is a breach in the path without warning.

Now I must explain here that our time at the restaurant was not what we were expecting and I take total responsibility for this.  Last year, we went to Chuuk Kay twice in in 2 weeks because we had so much fun.  Javi (and his “band with no name”) has become our good friend and he made a pretty ordinary afternoon feel just like New Year’s eve!  I so badly wanted to experience this again for our Son and Newbie that when I was lucky enough to make a reservation on Facebook while we were still home, I didn’t take the time to ask for many details.  Well Javi wasn’t playing that night, he was at Fayne’s starting at 11 pm.  He had been there all afternoon and I am sure that great fun was had by all.  By the time we arrived at 9 pm the place was almost empty and by the time we left, it WAS empty-even the liquor had been removed from the bar.  You could hear that the staff were assembled elsewhere, anxious to begin their own festivities after working full shifts that afternoon.  They wanted us gone and who can blame them?  In the mean time, we were willing to make the best of things and decided to have a quick dinner and then walk back to Centro for midnight.  Chuuk Kay has an extensive wine list and we splurged a bit to begin the evening.

These quesadillas and creamy guacamole were a big hit.  They were bulging with ingredients and perfectly grilled.

The seafood nachos were heavy on the beans and not so much the seafood but delicious none the less.

The Fettuccine Alfredo was a savoury surprize with the addition of ham and mushrooms (and spaghetti noodles).  Our son really enjoyed this rendition as it is close to a ham and pea fettuccine that I make at home.  And you know that “Mama’s” cooking is always best.

D and our Newbie both chose the coconut shrimp and were delighted with their decision.  Both had half of their servings to take home for left overs.  The secret to good coconut shrimp is to butterfly the meat and then firmly press each piece into the coconut batter.    The cleanest of oil must be used and they can’t be cooked too long.   The chefs at Chuuk Kay obviously know these tricks-these were perfect.

Daughter #1 chose the Grouper which was quickly sauteed in garlic and butter.  She appreciated the abundance of vegetables that the fish was served with.

I was craving fruite de mare (again) and asked that the marinara sauce be replaced with white wine and garlic.  They did so but also replaced the rest of the seafood!  The result was all shrimp BUT it was absolutely succulent. Good thing we would only be kissing each other at midnight.  We were too full for dessert and anxious to get back to the square.

We were surprized by the crowd of locals and travellers alike who had assembled in the zocalo. The seawall had been blocked off that afternoon so that the fireworks display could be set up.  For us it was magic-colourful bursts of energy and light to heal our hurts and herald in another year. 

Kath’s quote: “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”-Bill Vaughn

 

Cafe Cito & Basto Grill-Day 6 on Isla Mujeres

January18

We love everything about Cafe Cito:  1) Both the inside and exterior of the building are so lovingly detailed and maintained and their colour palette is daring but somehow everything works perfectly together.

2) They make a great cup of coffee.

3) Our server is a kook.  Perhaps he is one of the owners as he is very “proprietorish” in his service.

4) I get to gaze at my gorgeous children while our food is carefully prepared. (We left one other beauty back in Canada as she decided to travel elsewhere over the holidays).

5) With the Mexican breakfast, you get to choose between a juice and fresh fruit.

6) The Mexican eggs are scrambled with onion, tomato and peppers and are served with beans and 2 buns. 

7) They liberally season their breakfast potatoes with coarse pepper and their eggs are perfectly cooked.

8) It is their jam that gets the highest raves-a combination of pineapple, coconut and banana jam, I have been trying since I got home to get the proportions right to recreate it.

Holy, moly almost all of the photos that I took on this day are off food.  The son and our Newbie went to Jax for lunch and we ordered a Rotisserie chicken to share around the pool.  A whole chicken is $9 for 3 of us to eat our fill with 2 pieces set aside for tasters for the other two.

This is the sign of the place that we like to go on Hidalgo but we have seen other locations around the island.  Perhaps it is Isla’s version of a franchise.  Does anyone who knows the island better than I, know if this is so?  We think that we might have perfected this recipe at home too.  Let me know if you would like a copy of our rendition.

The Kids (or shall I say-“our grown children who have minds and lives of their own”) decided that they wanted a night without us old folks, so we were left to fend for ourselves.  But before we went our separate ways, D ran out to fetch banana milkshakes for us to mix with Kahlua (a huge bottle purchased at the Navy Store for $10) for a PRE-happy hour cocktail.   Our indulgences are getting down right ridiculous aren’t they?

We started the evening by crossing the street to watch the sunset at the Fisherman’s Co-op.  We were actually treated to two sunsets that day-one when the sun dipped into this bank of cloud.  Our server paused to watch this spectacle with us.  He shared that he had lived on Isla all of his life but had never tired of this glorious occurance.

When our son was little he used to call these “God” clouds because he thought that the light streaming through, was from heaven.

Many places make one of our favourite dishes on Isla but because of its location I suppose (right at dockside) we think the ceviche at the Fisherman’s Co-op might be the best.  I make this recipe at home too-imagine no fat and no carbs, just pure protein.

It is a bit of a hike to our next destination but as you can imagine we have some of the day’s calories to wear off.  I am likely going to say something grossly unpopular here-but we were unimpressed by the Soggy Pesos.  There was no breeze from the water so it was hot and sticky and the place was full of middle aged men.  I suppose if I were single, this might be an attraction but we felt like we had entered into a boys’ club where we had not been invited.  Hey, I have a very open mind, we’ll try again another time.

By this time we’ve worked up an appetite again and so we hop a cab to Basto Grill.  This is no easy fete, because we had never been there before, I didn’t have a street address, we speak kindergarten Spanish and our eager cab driver had never heard of it.  Here’s the issue: the name is not very clearly indicated on the yellow circle in the middle of this awning.  So you may want to take a Mapchick map with you to scope the place out.  But don’t let this stumbling block prevent you from making the effort, because the little place is wonderful.  PS a reader has just messaged me to say:

“Easiest way to get to ‘Bastos” is to tell the taxi driver to go to the SuperEx in the colonia, get out in front of the store, Bastos is on the street to the left of the entrance, big blue canopy.” Thanks Dana

The restraurant is built onto the front of a family home and we are guessing that the hard-working couple on the other side of the kitchen window are the Mom and Dad to the three strapping boys who are the servers.  D observed that the family must be doing okay because the guys were wearing designer jeans and have stylish haircuts.  They work their buns off to make everyone feel at home-fetching ice cold beverages from the house and moving more and more tables and chairs onto the street to accommodate arriving guests.

The meal starts with an assortment of pickled items, creme fresh and tortilla chips; a Mexican anti-pasta.

D chose the Filete de Pescado al Perejil accompanied by a pasta a la Mantequilla y Verduras al Vapor (I don’t know what on earth this all means after “fillet of fish”) but he had a far off look on his face as he savoured everything taste.

I thought that I might pick at something a little lighter or even take it home for pool side left overs and selected the Hamburuesa Especial with jamon, queso y piernam horneadade y papas fritas.  The burger was fantastic-the best I have ever eaten on the Island but I will admit that I hardly ever select foods that I can order from restaurants at home, when I am on Isla.  Why would you?  I can compare it to Jax and Basto’s is FAR superior.  Besides the burger patty, there was a layer of sauteed beef strips as well of the other accompaniments listed above.  And the fries-well they rival La Lomita’s, which as you may have already read, are my yardstick.

D would rather come to places like Basto’s (and La Bruja and Mochi’s) than go anywhere on Hidalgo and sometime soon we are going to stay right in Colonia’s and discover all that is has to offer.

But we do love to stroll Hidalgo and people watch and so we had the cab drop us off at North Beach so that we could do so.  When we got back to the hotel the rest of the gang was already home and watching a movie so we had a nightcap on the balcony and pointed out the difference in the southern sky from our northern one back home.  Boy or boy, we old folks know how to live.

Kath’s quote:“And the Quangle Wangle said
To himself on the Crumpetty Tree,–
‘Jam; and Jelly; and bread;
Are the best of food for me!”-
Edward Lear

La Lomita & Lola Valentina’s-Isla Mujeres, Day 5

January17

D decided to totally rock our world by changing up our morning routine and moving a table out into the sun on the sidewalk outside our hotel. 

He also went to the bakery at 7 to purchase a variety of sweet pastries instead of tortas.  I had the one with a frosting on it that I pressed into crushed nuts-yum. We sliced pineapple and pears into our yogurt.  

We started the day with a stroll on playa la media luna.  Beachcomber that I am-I love scouring this little beach for treaures.  I once found a number of pieces of purple sea glass-the only beach in my travels, where I have done so.

At lunch time we made our way to the first restaurant that I ever visited on Isla- La Lomita’s.  As with many other places on Isla, when they set these condiments down, they explain which one is picante-in this case, the gorgeous green one.  Many years ago, a friend of ours was in the washroom when this was explained.  She grabbed a chip and scooped up the mixture thinking that it was a guacamole.  Before we could stop her, she had ingested an enormous mouthful.  Suffice it to say, that we almost had a medical emergency on our hands.  So take heed of what your server is telling you.

This is La Lomita’s famous bean soup that comes with many entrees.  D was kind to me and only ate half of this bowl.

These are the french fries that I hold up every other french fry that I ever taste against.  In my mind-the perfect fry, not overcooked and a very sweet, fleshy potato (even if the oil should have been changed).

And these are the much-loved and sometimes duplicated chiles relleno.  I have attempted to make them at home.  Sister #3 does a way better job with hers than mine.  But we have recently found a Latin market in Winnipeg that does a pretty fine job of them.

We basked in another glorious sunset later that day.

That evening our son and the newbie went to Da Luisa’s to celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary.  They reported later that they sat all by themselves by the crashing waves and sampled grilled shrimp and a stuffed chicken.  The loved the wine selection there.  Actually, they loved everything about their evening.

In the mean time, Daughter #1 picked Lola Valentina’s for us to try. She had spotted it when we were at Fredy’s for Christmas dinner.

Here they are tasting their hibiscus margaritas. 

 

I choose this mango cilantro one.  I would say that I enjoyed mine the most.  I really appreciate that Lola Valentina’s is innovative enough to put a new spin on an a favourite but in my humble opinion, on a island that makes the most amazing margaritas at some of the most affordable prices, 70 pesos is excessive for the inclusion of cilantro. 

Mind you, the restaurant is really gorgeous and the little extra touches like woven tortilla baskets did not go unnoticed on my part.  So too, Kate our server from London, England did a first class job of looking after us.

The food was pretty much perfect and well priced for the care and ingredients that went into each dish. 

Both D and Daughter #1 had grouper (Filette Relleno de Salpicon) stuffed with crab, shrimp, garlic and cheese.  It was topped with Pipian- a creamy pumpkin seed sauce. 

I chose Pollo Relleno: Chicken stuffed with chaya, guava paste and double cream cheese.  It was covered with a sticky mango glaze. 

The service was so prompt that we had lots of time to roam Hidalgo that evening.  As we were walking by Sancochos, we couldn’t believe our eyes: the Jets hockey game being played in Winnipeg was on the big screen!  We ordered a round of night caps and settled in to watch an exciting game when our home team won in overtime.  But even if the Jets had lost it would have been another perfect day on Isla. 

Kath’s quote: “Beans are highly nutritious and satisfying, they can also be delicious if and when properly prepared, and they posses over all vegetables the great advantage of being just as good, if not better, when kept waiting, an advantage in the case of people whose disposition or occupation makes it difficult for them to be punctual at mealtime.”-Andre Simon

La Bruja & Angelo’s-Isla Mujeres, Day 4

January16

I certainly get my monies’ worth from a trip to Isla (even when we go at high season and the plane fare costs a small fortune) because I savour the anticipation and recounting of a trip just as much as I love the time actually spent there.  On this day, here on the Canadian prairies, it has snowed overnight and and the promise of frigid weather is ahead.  But I am warm and cozy, still in my housecoat, having shared a pot of coffee and the weekend paper with D.  He is meeting a friend for coffee, Daughter #2 is at work and the house is quiet.  I can prepare for this blog post by reading my travel journal and sorting through pictures and all of a sudden-I am on Isla again.  I am smelling the fragrance of mornings there, tasting the freshness of food, feeling the early sun on my skin and listening to the sounds of the breeze and scooters and the friendly greetings of the islanders.

Day 4 was golf cart day-one of my favourite days on Isla.  We always select the carts where all the seats face forward because I feel so ridiculous sitting on the back of one of those things with this big silly, self-conscious grin on my face looking into the windshields of the taxi-drivers or few vehicles on the island.  We always pack up lots of stuff for the day too, so we wait for a cart that has a storage compartment on the back.  We take books, chairs, snacks and beverages, just in case we get the urge to plunk somewhere on the eastern shore.

We started by heading up the west road all the way to the Garrafon look out.  Along the way I was able to show the Newbie where I stayed my first year on Isla and the route to my early morning walks to punta sur and the cliffs of the east shore.

We have spent some special time in Italy and even though I love the soft gellato colours that the houses are painted in Positano and Cinque Terre, I am crazy about the rainbow of bright colours that islanders paint their homes.  We are so concerned about long-range things like “re-sale” values in Canada that we wouldn’t dare pull off such a daring colour scheme.  But the islanders live for the day and for the joy that a vibrant dash of paint induces. 

When it was time for lunch, D wanted to find the little place that we had discovered a year previously.  It had no name and we kind of had the feeling that the family was operating a lunch stop out of their living room.  D knew exactly which house it was and went to investigate.  Sure enough, it was someone’s living room and the industrious folk had converted it back to their family home.

I was on the search for Monchi’s, but when we couldn’t find it easily and we knew exactly where La Bruja was from previous visits, we opted for there instead.   

Our Newbie couldn’t believe that her 3 chicken tacos only cost her 150 pesos.  She couldn’t finish them and took leftovers home to our son who was under the weather and back at the hotel.

Daughter #1 ordered chicken fajitas and

D chose beef fajitas.

I had garlic fish and was hoping to substitute their homemade French fries for the rice.  I got both and “carb-lover” that I am, both were delicious.  We love this family restaurant for their simple but oh-so-delicious food and caring service.

We made a stop at the Ladies Bead Co-op on the way back to Centro and met these young apprentices who were learning the trade from their Moms.  We are guessing that this was because it was Christmas break from school.

We headed back to Centro and I whipped up homemade guacamole because the avocados from the market were at their ripest.  D made nachos with just a bit of manchego cheese and cilantro.  We also got to witness this gorgeous sunset from our balcony.

Someone expressed a hankering for pizza and so it was Angelo’s for dinner! 

Angelo’s has a wood-burning oven and this delightful puffed up flatbread is the first treat served from it.  They serve it with a fine balsamic and olive oil reminiscent of our lovely and memorable meals of Italy.

Because we clung to the west coast of Italy, I ordered fruite de mare pizza (and pasta) wherever I could and the redition that Isla’s chef’s serve at Angelos (and Brisa Caribe) are just as splendid.  And a trip to Isla is so much less expensive than one to Italy (when the middle of Canada is your commencement point). 

Everyone loved their choices and there were leftovers to eat around the pool in the future.   

Penne with asparagus, garlic, white wine and cream.

Shrimp in an exceptional tomato sauce.

Carbonara on bow-ties.  With every dish, you get to select your choice of pasta noodles.

Ham, Italian sausage and artichoke pizza.

At Angelo’s and the other places that set up tables on Hidalgo, it is always so much fun who you will see on the sidewalk.  In February, it is often the many fellow travellers that  have become good friends, that we see passing by.  During Carnivale it may be one of the colourful and skilled dance ensembles, sometimes it a troupe dressed in ancient Mayan garb but on this day it was…

Santa!  He was accompanied by the old man of 2011 and the baby representing 2012.  They sang Feliz Navidad and collected coins from the diners.

 Some in the family saved room for a sweet taste and we stopped at the newest gelato shop at the corner of Hidalgo at the zocalo, where coconut, pistachio and nutella flavours were sampled and enjoyed. 

We walked off a portion of these calories with time along the seawall where a strong breeze was coming off the water.  Another day had drawn to a close on our precious Isla.

 Kath’s quote: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”-Federico Fellini

 

PocChuc & Bally Hoo-Isla Mujeres Day 3

January13

Before sunrise

We started the day with our usual routine and then D and I took a very long walk to the shelling beach. 

I find the most amazing treasures on this shore

My preference is to stay at a place on the airport strip so that I can be close to this beach

Daughter #1 parked herself at the seawall to read and the son and the newbie headed back to the beach for the day.  When hunger struck, Daughter #1 treated us to the Poc Chuc loncheria (two down from Alexia & Giovanni’s).  We have never had disappointing food at any of the loncherias that we have visited.  The food was served piping hot and very efficiently (and the tall strapping waiter was very handsome).  We sampled their special nachos with pork, chicken, cheese, guacamole, salsa and beans (I can’t believe that my photo didn’t turn out because they were gorgeous). 

 

We also shared pork tacos

and shrimp empanadas.  With 2 beer and a coke the total bill was $21! 

Afterwards, I ventured to my favourite stall at the market for cilantro, avacadoes, pineapple and freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. 

After watching the sunset from the sidewalk in front of our hotel, we got the evening off to a fun start by playing a game at happy hour around the pool.  Once a winner was declared we strolled to Bally Hoo for mango margaritas, calamari, chips and salsa, fish and chips and a shrimp fajita.

Fish and chips are an appetizer on the Bally Hoo menu.  We’re crazy about this fish-the batter is so crispy and because the pieces are small, they are really quickly fried.  When we first started ordering this dish years ago, the fries were homemade-oh my.

Another beautiful day on the island.

 Kath’s quotes: “Anyone who eats three meals a day should understand why cookbooks outsell sex books three to one.”-L. M. Boyd

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