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Sweet October-y Memories

3 Oct

So it’s October.

Mexico will be filled with Day of the Dead festivities, marigolds, altars, calaveritas, Catarinas… tons of culture!!

And yet, today I can’t stop thinking about these:

I wanna go home.

Casitas Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Cancun

20 Jul

Last night I had an amazing opportunity to go to the Ritz Carlton Cancun to see their first baby turtle release of the year. Within the next few weeks you’ll see more about their turtle program, but for now I wanted to share other parts of my visit.

When I walked into the lobby, I was excited to see an old buddy from college at the reception desk! (Cancun is a very small city.) So while I waited for my hostess, Eduardo (“Lalo”) and I got to catch up on old times. Paulina Feltrin, the hotel’s PR Director, came to greet me and gave me a tour of this immense hotel. It was amazing! Luxury restaurants, beautiful artwork, gorgeous facilities… *sigh* Everywhere we went, we were welcomed by smiling and attentive staff.

What really caught my eye was their culinary center. They offer cooking classes with Chef Rory Dunaway in this amazing kitchen:

I know, right?

As of now my cooking skills are limited to sandwiches,  spaghetti and some pretty great guacamole, but if my kitchen looked a bit more like this… I’d make cooking a priority! (Then I’d invite all of you guys over for fabulous brunches.)

After the turtle release (more on that later, I promise!), Paulina and I had an incredible dinner at their beach restaurant, Casitas. It was a truly beautiful setting in a private cabana overlooking the Caribbean. I got to practice my nighttime photography, which you guys know I’m still trying to master… so you know, apologies in advance for all blurriness.

Casitas Restaurant

Our private cabana

We started the meal with their seafood platter: shrimp, Alaskan king crab (my new favorite), lobster, oysters, tuna tartar and a variety of amazing dips.

**Word to the wise: You’re supposed to swallow oysters whole, not chew them. Learned this the hard way.

For the main course, I ordered the Petit Filet Mignon, which came with a selection of salts as well as chimichurri and bearnais sauce. Anyone who has had a meal with me knows that I tried them all! I also asked for a side of mashed potatoes with grated cheddar, which reminded me of my mom’s Twice Baked Potatoes. The entire main course was to die for, but unfortunately I was too busy enjoying it to take pictures. (shameful behavior for a blogger)

I did make up for it by taking pictures of dessert: a sampler of all their dessert options!

From left to right: chocolate with brownie, Key Lime Pie (best I've ever had!), orange and mandarin pannacotta, tiramisu, upside down pineapple cake, and cheesecake with raspberry cream

Paulina and I talked in Spanglish about culture, family, tourism and food throughout dinner, and completely lost track of time! It was 10:30 before I left to go home. By the time I walked out the door, I had fallen in love with their beach, the hotel, their community programs and Casitas restaurant.

Thanks so much to Paulina Feltrin and the Ritz Carlton Cancun for their incredible hospitality.

Mexico’s Aguas Frescas

13 Jul

I remember my first taste of agua de horchata. I was living in Acapulco and I stopped by a little neighborhood cafe with a girlfriend. She told me it was a refreshing drink made with rice, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. This piqued my curiosity because I had a hard time understanding how rice could be refreshing. The waitress set a glass down in front of me filled with what looked like milk with a slight beige tint. I took a sip, and my love affair with aguas frescas was born.

Aguas frescas roughly translates to “refreshing waters” in Spanish. They’re delicious drinks with a water and sugar base, infused with fruits, cereals (like rice or wheat), or even flowers. You can find them at any food establishment throughout Mexico, whether it’s a taco stand or a five-star restaurant, and they provide an incredible alternative to water or soda.

My friend Leslie Limon is also a huge fan of aguas frescas. She’s a beautiful American woman raising a family in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. (Oh, who am I kidding? She’s practically Mexican!) On her blog, La Cocina de Leslie, she posts mouthwatering Mexican recipes, including aguas frescas.

Since she is so much more talented than I am in the kitchen (ahem), I’ll share some of my favorite recipes from her blog…

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Water) Leslie refers to this drink as part of the “aguas frescas trinity” (Jamaica, Horchata and Tamarindo, the three flavors you’re sure to find everywhere in Mexico). It’s a personal favorite… very refreshing and made from dried hibiscus flowers. Talk about exotic!

Agua de Pepino (Cucumber Limeade) I tried this for the first time at the Mexico Today Kick-Off Event in Oaxaca. I just wish I’d discovered it sooner! I prefer mine with extra lime.

Agua de Sandia (Watermelon Water) No explanation needed for this one! Just as refreshing as it sounds.

(Leslie, you’re missing my favorite! I’d love to see your recipe for agua de melon.)

During my trip to Oaxaca, a few of us also got to experience an aguas frescas tasting with the city’s famous Aguas Casilda. They set up a table offering clay pots of refreshing drinks, then combined them to make unique flavors.

Berta Cruz from Aguas Casilda pouring some lovely "agua de horchata"

"Agua de horchata" mixed with "agua de tuna" (the fruit, not the fish!) (although here in the Yucatan, we'd call it "agua de pitaya")

They offered us different combinations of tuna (aka pitaya), horchata, lime, and even pumpkin. The pumkin water didn’t look too appetizing, but trust me, it was delicious!

A makeshift Mexican flag made with "limon", "horchata" and "tuna"

It was an incredible experience to taste these incredibly fresh aguas frescas. If you want to learn more about different flavors, you can check out Aguas Casilda’s website by clicking on the button (Make sure to click on the “Sabores” tab to see everything they offer… pretty impressive!):

Next time you’re in a restaurant in Mexico, make sure to ask, “Qué aguas tienes?

Have you ever tried any aguas frescas? What’s your favorite flavor? (Mine is agua de melon… canteloupe water!)

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  I was also invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Oaxaca as part of my role.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Father’s Day in Chabihau

29 Jun

**Note: If I normally follow you and I haven’t commented on your blog in a few weeks, it’s because about 1/3 of the blogs I follow have been strangely blocked on this computer. Trying to figure out what’s going on…**

Ok, I am a horrible blogger! But it’s been a pretty busy month, which is awesome. I still haven’t shared my photos from my trip to Chabihau, Yucatan with you, and that was almost TWO WEEKS AGO. For shame. We went to the towns of Chabihau and Yobain for Father’s Day to visit Jorge’s family, and it was relaxing as usual!

The best tamales I ever had!

Jorge in his natural habitat… in front of the table.

Happy dogs!

flamingos 🙂 That's as close as they get, though.

Arrow!

"chilpachole de langosta" with lobster Jorge's uncle caught that morning... HUGE!!

A new beach house in Chabihau... I'm going to steal it.

Beachfront Lunch in Puerto Morelos

24 Jan

First of all, thanks to everyone for the advice last week on this post. I was expecting it to be more of a unanimous opinion, but everyone had something different to say!

I think everyone was right, which was what made this a difficult decision. In the end, Jorge and I decided that we won’t be getting involved in real estate anytime soon, and there will probably be more courses available in the future, so we’ll save the money now and take a course later!

—————

Anyway, moving on…

This weekend was a blast! On Saturday, my friends Juan and Viri invited me to lunch with their families in Puerto Morelos, a small beach town about 20 minutes south of Cancun.

I’d passed through Puerto Morelos many times, but this was the first time I’d seen the beach!

We had a late lunch at Pelicanos restaurant (lunch in Mexico is at about 3 – 4 pm). The food was ok, but the drinks and the view were AMAZING.

Pelicanos restaurant
View from our table

My shrimp ceviche... not bad, but a little dry!

Juan Sr's giant fried fish

The boardwalk

The dock and the beautiful Caribbean

*sigh*

Viri and I stopped by this neighboring restaurant for some Kahlua flan.

"La Panza Es Primero" - "The Stomach Comes First" .... amen.

My strong but delicious mojito!

I’m so glad I finally got to spend some time in the town of Puerto Morelos! I could enjoy those views (and those mojitos) for a lifetime.

Yucatan Seafood on New Years Day (not for the squeamish… you’ve been warned)

3 Jan

Well, I had a very busy but very fun New Years weekend! Jorge and I went to visit his family in the towns of Chabihau and Yobain (near Merida, Yucatan) for a few days.

My first meal of 2011 was filled with traditional Yucatan cuisine, made mostly with fresh seafood caught by Jorge’s uncles and cousins in the beach town of Chabihau.

For my first meal of the new year, I had "Chilpachole", a soup made with shrimp and "jaiba" (a Mexican crab). I also got to try the jaiba meat straight from the shell. This is one of my favorite soups!

fresh local "jaiba"

Jorge's uncle shows me the "tikinxic" (Yucatecan dish with enormous grilled fish) before going on the grill. It's split open and covered in bright red achiote sauce.

Tikinxic on the outdoor grill

Tikinxic... ready to eat!

Would anyone like to venture a guess as to what this is? It's a mass of fish eggs! Roe! Yummy...

Jorge's family gathered around for a meal of tikinxic, chilpachole, and frijoles charros (Mexican version of pork and beans)

And just so we can end this post on a non-queasy note, here are some photos of Chabihau on New Years Day, 2011…

What did you have to eat/drink for New Years?

A Taste of Playa

25 Nov

This past Sunday was the annual Taste of Playa event in Playa del Carmen.

The event was held at Parque Fundadores, a beautiful area by the beach. Many of Playa del Carmen’s best bars and restaurants set up their own table, serving samples of their more popular dishes and drinks.

I’d been dying to go for months, but Jorge wasn’t as excited about it. Good husband that he is, he agreed to tag along. By the end of the day, I think Jorge was more excited than I was!

 

First, we went to buy our “Taste of Playa Pesos”. This little chips costs $10 pesos (or $1 US) each. With these, you could buy a drink or sample dish from the different restaurants and bars.

Jorge and I were able to try quite a lot for $200 pesos ($20 US)… not too bad!

Fried shrimp with sauce, and a side of rice with lime

"Sex on the Bar" by Luna Blue... best drink ever?? I may or may not have had 3 of these...

Cupcakes by Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery ... God bless you

Red velvet cupcake

Overall, such a fun event! I was surprised by the number of expats I saw there (probably way more expats than Mexicans!)

We’ll definitely be back next year.

How to Make an Amazing Dinner With No Stove

25 Aug

Jorge and I have developed a bad habit of eating dinner while watching TV (his fault) and of ordering takeout too often (my fault). So the past 2 nights, we’ve made an effort to cook our own meals and eat them at our table (yay! We have a *plastic* table now!).

Since we have some pretty awesome wedding gifts and a small but charming front patio, we decided to take advantage and do something cool. The end result was pretty awesome.

We ran out of gas in our small tank, so using the stove and oven was out of the question. Thank God we have this:

Sliced zucchini topped with feta cheese... yum! The recipe called for eggplant, but the supermarket didn't have any, so I improvised. I think the zucchini turned out better anyways.

Dinner looked like this:

Zucchini turned out great:

Homemade guacamole, Caesar dressing and CHILE MAYONNAISE!!

MMM dinner! Quesadillas, caesar salad, zucchini with feta, and canteloupe juice... all of the dishes, drinkware and serving dishes were wedding presents 🙂

So lucky 🙂

Cheester Pasta

20 Aug

Last night, Jorge and I went to dinner with 2 of our best friends at one of my favorite restaurants… Cheester!

Cheester is a great casual outdoor restaurant that sells ENORMOUS pastas. Customers can write all over the walls, and the menu is written on a chalk board inside. It’s ALWAYS full!

First, they bring you rolls with a DELICIOUS habanero sauce... this sauce is so spicy, you can't eat more than a few drops of it! 🙂

The lamps over the tables are made of plastic funnels 🙂

Juan and Viri ordered the Don Corleone pasta... this is also Jorge's favorite!

I ordered Margarita pasta (and shared a little with Jorge, who'd already eaten dinner). Lots of cheese, red sauce and pesto! Mmmm! Definitely a serving for 2 or 3 people.

Juan, Viri, Jorge and Gringation

Good luck getting a table! Only downside is that this place closes at 11 pm… very early by Cancun standards.


Yucatan Seafood: Ceviche de Chivitas

12 Aug

When we visit Jorge’s family in the fishing village of Chabihau in the Mexican state of Yucatan, we mostly eat at his aunt’s house by the lagoon. “Tia Lili” has her own mini-restaurant, specializing in freshly caught seafood.

My personal favorite thing that Tia Lili makes is fried fish, but second on my list is ceviche de chivitas.

I’ve been trying to find information online about chivitas so that I could out how to translate it to English for you. I had to do some very creative Googling, only to find 3 webpages with tiny tidbits of info on this type of seafood. Here’s what I found out:

-The best way to describe chivitas in English would be as small river snails.

-I can’t confirm this 100%, but they seem to only live in rivers/lagoons on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Chivitas translates literally into “little goats”. Why? Wish I could tell ya.

Anyway, the same evening that we went searching for flamingos, 2 of Jorge’s uncles took a rowboat out onto the lagoon to catch chivitas. They came back with HUNDREDS. That same night, Jorge’s uncle steamed them on his large outdoor stove.

The next day, I wake up, walk to Tia Lili’s house, and see my in-laws and Jorge’s uncles extracting the chivitas from their shells.

They use long, thick needles to get them out. Once they’ve been steamed properly, they seem to come out pretty easily.

*This might look kinda gross, but I swear it’s soooo good!*

On the left side of the board are the beautiful shells. On the right side are the chivitas.

a closer look

Konan maxin' and relaxin' under the table

They filled up an entire bucket with shells. I asked to keep them for decorating the house later (after a thorough bleach cleaning, of course)

Final product: Ceviche de chivitas with tostadas... great appetizer! and what Mexican meal would be complete without a glass of Coca Cola?