Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Bally Hoo Revisited-Isla Mujeres

April15

Previous to my arrival on Isla, I have prepared a list of restaurants that I intend to visit again or try for the first time.  The idea of going to a single Isla restaurant more than once during my stay, never ever crosses my mind.  And yet during my 2011 visit I went to La Lomita, Tino’s (the Rib Man), La Brisa’s Grill and Fredy’s twice each and Chuuk Kay and Bally Hoo three times each!

Since Bally Hoo is close to the ferry, it was our destination of choice when D and Daughter #1 arrived.

 

It also made sense to watch the sunset from there before boarding the ferry to start our journey home on departure day.  While savouring Isla for our last moments, we feasted on shrimp ceviche one more time.

Both days we went ga-ga for the fresh caught fish and chips (although I do wish that they hadn’t resorted to serving frozen fries). 

But I could eat that fish every single day and wouldn’t even use a fork,  just pick the fillets up like a chicken finger and dunk them into the tangy tartar sauce. We also sampled the fish tacos-equally good.

On one occasion we stopped to have breakfast.  The coffee was steaming hot and poured often.  The setting was gorgeous and breakfast pretty darn good too. 

To be honest: I was on Isla, surrounded by the most stunning view, with my best girlfriend (who doesn’t live in the same city as me and so we only see each other twice a year)-it wasn’t about the food that day.  

Below is a photo of a Bally Hoo which are frequently used as bait for saltwater sportsmen.  They attract tuna, sailfish, mahi mahi and dorada.  As you dine on the stilted platform of the restaurant, they swim all around you in the shallow water.

Ahh Isla-my beloved second home. 

Kath’s quote:  “The only kind of seafood I trust is the fish stick, a totally featureless fish that doesn’t have eyeballs or fins.” –Dave Barry

Como-no-Isla Mujeres

April8

When we gather on Isla Mujeres it is a process.  Itineraries vary accounding to shcedules back home and flight costs/bookings.  This creates two distinct pleasures for me: the anticipation that someone I love will soon be on the Island that I love and going to meet the ferry.  At one time the ferry only meant one thing: that I had to leave, but now with my new routine there is joy as well.  Unfortunately, on the day that Sister #2 arrived on Isla (with my beloved bro and sis-in law and Brother #3) I missed the boat.  That is to say, they had arrived earlier than expected and were already settling in while I waited on the dock.

But because there are so many of us and it is a small island, word got around efficiently that we were meeting at  Como-no’s that evening for dinner. I have walked by Como-no’s patio tables many times and to be frank was never lured in by the modernistic furniture and hookah pipes but the interior was so cozy and comfortable that we felt as if we had been invited into someone’s great room.

We did not notice at first, how long it took for our dinners to arrive because we were content to visit and get caught up with news of Isla and news of home delivered to and from the newly arrived.  So too, the Frozen Mojitoes and perfectly shaken Margaratias were liquifying the passage of time.  We also knew that Lee and his wife were expecting their first baby and thought-tonight may be the night!

Well anything worth doing (or eating) is worth waiting for and oh my goodness, the food was divine!  Most of the table (at my end at least) ordered the special of fresh Grouper and Shrimp.

Sister #2 chose the Mediteranean Platter and I surprized even myself and ordered the Chicken Schnitzel.  It doesn’t really matter what we order, as we all taste from everybody else’s plates anyway.  After all-we are  family (or honouree family).

Both the Schnitzel and the Grouper were so delcicous that many in the group came back to sample them again later during our stay.  The Schnitzel was huge enough to share, but by this time I was very hungry and managed to put away every bite.  My love of thin meats, lightly breaded and sauteed comes from my little Polish Grandma Felicia who made fried chicken like no one else on earth! 

Lee the owner, surprized us with a complementary dessert to sample.  It was a chocolate sausage which we cut it into a half dozen slices and the chocolate and nuts were so rich and dense that it was enough to satisfy the need for something sweet to conclude a lovely meal.

Lee and his wife are from Israel.  V who was my room-mate for that stage of the vacation and I, and our husbands, have all travelled to Israel on seperate occaissions and felt instantly connected to this talented, hospitable (handsome!) and soft-spoken man.  We were eagar for news of his babies’ safe arrival and I understand that Yahi (a healthy girl ) was born to them days after I returned home to Canada.  Maxel Tov Lee and Chen!

Kath’s quote: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”-Julia Child

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Barlito’s-Isla Mujeres

March28

After months of craving the cuisine of Isla Mujeres, I surprize even myself when I get a hankering for a hotdog or crispy bacon or hot buttered toast like home.  Three days into my last trip, when we were settled in to watch the Oscars on a big screen TV at Brisa’s Mexicana on Hidalgo-I went and ordered a burger for supper!  Somehow James Franco and Ann Hathaway inspired me to do so.  Of course, it was not the restaurant’s forte and I looked longingly at V’s Chiles Relleno and Sister #3’s Shrimp Tacos.

Barlito Bakery & Market Cafe is right on a sunny corner of Hidalgo & Abasolo and is the perfect place to run into friends, people watch or when you get a craving for back home baking.  I found myself joining tables of people that I knew on a couple of occasions and heard the oohs and ahs while freshly squeezed oj and steamy mugs of coffee were consumed.

One morning after one of D’s solo morning walks he arrived back at our place with piping hot biscuits filled with cheese and egg.  We split two, three ways and they were a satisfying breakfast.

I understand that the biscuit recipe is one that has been acquired from an aunt or uncle of the owners Tiffany and Brad Wareing.  I breifly got to make their acquaintance but they were very busy at “command central” behind the counter.  I look forward to doing so again and trying their White Lasagna or Carolina pulled pork next time.

Kath’s quote:  “In the Virginia of the olden time no breakfast or tea-table was thought to be properly furnished without a plate of these indispensable biscuits…..Let one spend the night at some gentleman-farmer’s home, and the first sound heard in the morning, after the crowing of the cock, was the heavy, regular fall of the cook’s axe, as she beat and beat her biscuit dough…..Nowadays beaten biscuits are a rarity, found here and there, but soda and modern institutions have caused them to be sadly out of vogue.”-‘Virginia Cookery Book’ (1885)

M&J Cazuela’s-Isla Mujeres

March21

Until recently, I understood that a cazuela was a baked omelet that I have sampled over the years at M&J’s various locations.  I now know that the restaurant is so named for the little terra cotta baking dish that the egg blend is poured into for the cooking stage.  I have also learned that because of the special high heat that the clay dishes endure, they take on special properties and your food continues to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes after the cazuela is removed from the oven.  So when I have been disappointed that my eggs weren’t cooked to my desired doneness (with no “jigglies” as one of my 3 bros likes to say), it was actually because I was being an impatient tourista and consuming my brunch dish too soon! 

There was a vendor set up for the locals for carnival a couple of weeks ago and I wish that I had purchased a stack of these affordable casseroles for home.  They would have been great for the serving of our staggered breakfasts at the lake.

M&J’s original location at the unrenovated Roca Mar hotel had a magical charm. (When I peaked in on this trip there was a bride receiving a spa treatment).  Tables were set out on the sidewalk at a busy curve of the route into Centro and you could look down the slope to the west shore and the Bay of Cancun while experiencing the roar of the crashing waves of the Caribbean just feet away.

M&J’s new home at the corner of Guerrero and Abasolo has a lovely, cozy feel.  We sat under a trellis that allowed the dappled morning light to fall across our table.

And the Holbox Cazuela of tortillas, eggs, beans and salsa topped with fried bananas was cooked to perfection (or perhaps after all this time, I am learning the patience of the Mayan people who I so love, and didn’t dig in too soon).

V and I also shared a Crepa Amanecer- a delicate crepe surrounding ham, asparagus, herbs and that wonderfully rich Mexican cheese.  The crepas are served with M&J’s potato casserole (a recipe I have tried to unpack for years).  The coffee was wonderful and the freshly squeezed orange juice even better. 

Marco and Julie-your new spot is a gem and I predict much continued success.  My only regret is that I didn’t finally get to meet the infamous Julie who so many of my Isla friends speak of so fondly. 

Kath’s quote:  “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”-James Michener

Arroz a la Mexicana

March14

Whenever we come home from a vacation, we try to keep the memories alive by maintaining holiday routines and eating and drinking favourite treats from the trip.  In all honesty, we even do this when we come home from an extended time at the cottage.  When we arrived from Italy, D went out to pick up some milk and fruit but found himself in De Luca’s -throwing salami, olives and capers into his shopping basket.

We asked Daughter #1 whom accompanied us to Isla Mujeres, what she was missing most.  We were expecting the warmth, the turquoise ocean or the friendly Mayan people, but true to form, her reply was-the food!  So when we assembled for mandatory Sunday supper I did my best to recreate the flavours.

D put big thick pork chops onto the barbeque flavoured with mango/chipolte seasoning.  It wasn’t the same as eating Fredy’s prok chops on the sidewalk on Hidalgo-but they were really good.  We are completely out of groceries but I did find a bag of cole slaw in the fridge that was the basis for an Isla Slaw with a sour cream/orange & lime juice dressing.  But the big hit was Mexican Rice.  On Isla, a version of this is even served at “fast food” windows like Tino’s Ribs and Rotisserie Chicken.

Last family trip to Isla

I found this in “Cocina Islena” a fund-raising cook book for PEACE(Protection, Education, Animals, Culture & Environment) -a name for people interested in working together for a better Isla Mujeres. 

1 1/2 c rice

1/3 c oil (I used butter)

1 large chopped tomato (8 oz.)

4 oz. chopped onion

1 chopped garlic clove

3 1/2 c chicken broth

Heat oil in rice pot.  Stir in rice until all grains are well covered, then saute, stirring constantly,  until a light golden colour.  This should take about 5-10 minutes. 

In a blender, blend the tomato, onion and garlic until smooth.  Add to the rice and continue to cook while stirring and scraping the bottom until the mixture is dry.  Add the broth and reduce to a medium heat, uncovered until the liquid has absorbed and small air holes appear in the rice.  Remove from heat and cover tightly, so that no steam can escape, for about 20 minutes and the rice continues to cook in its own steam. I wanted to visit my guests so I put a lid on after I added the chicken stock and simmered on a low heat for 20 minutes.

Kath’s quote: “Rice is a beautiful food.  It is beautiful when it grows, precision rows of sparkling green stalks shooting up to reach the hot summer sun. It is beautiful when harvested, autumn gold sheaves piled on diked, patchwork paddies. It is beautiful when, once threshed, it enters granary bins like a (flood) of tiny seed-pearls. It is beautiful when cooked by a practiced hand.”-Shizuo Tsuji

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