More Yucatan Cuisine: San Simon and Caballero Pobre

Last Saturday, we went to a birthday party for my suegro.

Jorge’s grandmother had traveled from Yucatan to celebrate, and a visit from Abuela Elsy wouldn’t be complete without some fabulous Yucatan cuisine.

First we had San Simon. This dish is basically turkey with broth, covered in lots of toppings. The toppings can vary depending on the recipe, but our San Simon was covered in fried plantains, onion and homemade french fries.

It sounds like the most random combination of ingredients ever… but it was DELICIOUS.

For dessert, I got to try Caballero Pobre (“Poor Gentleman”) for the first time. I feel like this dish is basically the “french toast” of the Yucatan. It’s a baguette soaked in egg, fried in a bit of oil, then covered in a syrupy-cinnamony sauce.

Jorge’s been going over to his parent’s house every day this week to get some more of Abuela Elsy’s food.

What dishes are popular in your area?

What I've Been Up To

So the past few weekends I’ve taken tons of pictures to share with you guys! Things have been pretty busy at work, but I figure I’ll keep ya’ll updated. Here goes…

Last Weekend:

Went to my friend Dama's birthday party at Black Pub Friday night

Saturday: Went to another friend's birthday party, complete with palapa and a taco stand

My "gringas"... flour tortilla, pastor, onion, cilantro and pineapple

Saturday night: Burgers in a friend's backyard (it had very cool design, but I only managed to get a shot of this light-covered palm tree)

 

This Weekend:

On Saturday I bought this... I'll tell you why later!

Sunday afternoon: Puerto Morelos

Saturday night: Carnaval parade in Playa del Carmen (all pictures were either blurry or blocked by pedestrians, but the costumes were great!)

What did you do this weekend?

5 Year Anniversary Surprise

Can you still celebrate dating anniversaries once you’re married?

Well, we did it anyway.

On Friday we had our 5 year dating anniversary, and Jorge wanted to take me on a dinner date to a surprise location. I wore my favorite yellow dress because I don’t get many fancy occasions for it.

I was really excited when we got there and I found out we were going to Elefanta, an upscale Indian restaurant at Plaza La Isla. We had a table under a palapa by the lagoon, which was lovely. About halfway through the meal, we felt water misting our feet. The waiter explained it’s their bug repellant spray to protect the legs. Pretty cool.

We’d never had Indian food before, but it was DELICIOUS. We started with potato and cheese naan bread, then had saffron and cheese shrimp and some kind of amazing spiced chicken for the main course.

I didn’t take many pictures because who wants to take pictures on a date? Plus “romantic lighting” isn’t very photo-friendly. You can check out Elefanta’s photo gallery, though. It’s a really, really beautiful restaurant.

All I have for you is a shot of my view of the lagoon:

I love upscale restaurants, hotels, etc, but for some reason I always feel out of place in fancy venues. What if the waiters find out that I’m not rich like the rest of the customers? That we had to save up for months for this dinner? That this is my only (sort of) expensive dress? That we took the city bus to get here? Totally irrational. But I love going anyway 🙂

 

**Update: By “popular” demand, here’s a picture of my favorite yellow dress:

Splash! Restaurant in Cancun’s Hotel Zone

Right after our afternoon at the beach last Sunday, Jorge and I took the Hotel Zone bus to a restaurant we’d been wanting to try called Splash. It’s located right on the lagoon (by where Basic nightclub used to be, for all you partiers) and has some pretty decent prices!

My lettuce tacos (shrimp, salmon/caviar, and tuna)

Jorge with his michelada

We spent $260 pesos total (several tacos each, drinks and tip).

Jorge says we have to return because this place has “The 3 B’s… Bueno, Bonito y Barato“!

Mexican Traditions: Cake and the Baby Jesus

Those of you who took high school Spanish might remember a popular Latin American holiday: El Dia de Reyes (or “Three Kings Day”).

Falling on January 6, this holiday is celebrated throughout Mexico. The three “Reyes Magos” (aka the Three Wise Men) bring gifts to little kids, Santa-Clause-style.

Another popular tradition on El Dia de Reyes is cutting the Rosca de Reyes (King’s Cake). If you find a tiny plastic Baby Jesus in your slice of cake, that means you have to bring tamales for everyone to enjoy on February 2nd, El Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day).

This past Friday, my office department ordered our Rosca from a popular local bakery called Tere Cazola, complete with cream cheese filling. (yum!) I did not get the Baby Jesus figurine at our office Rosca-cutting! Saved!

My Jesus-less slice at the office

In the evening, however, Jorge and I were invited to a get-together with some of our friends. I wasn’t feeling well and stayed home, but Jorge cut my piece for me. Turns out I  got the Baby Jesus and will be one of the lucky 3 friends bringing tamales to our get-together on February 2nd.

My coworker's slice of Rosca, complete with Baby Jesus

In other words… El Dia de Reyes is a great excuse for Mexicans to throw TWO parties: the rosca-cutting on January 6th, and the follow-up tamale party on February 2nd. Gotta love Mexico, right?

Hopefully I’ll get to blog about all my tamale-parties on February 2nd! Can’t wait 🙂

My Mexican Thanksgiving

As I was going through some pictures yesterday, I realized I hadn’t told you about my Thanksgiving!

Back in the US, my family does Thanksgiving just like everyone else’s family… turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy and lots of desserts! When I was in college in Cancun, I never had any fall breaks. Now that I’m working, I only get back home for Christmas. So I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2005, I think. (or seen any fall weather, for that matter!)

This year, my suegros took pity on me and prepared a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. They invited some of their friends, and I invited some of mine. We had a pretty big group (not all are pictured), including an American priest from the church my suegros go to.

There was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and lots of veggies! Everyone seemed to really enjoy all the American food. I was almost expecting them to break out the tortillas, but they resisted.

Thanksgiving dinner still had some undeniably Mexican touches to it, though… dinner didn’t begin until 10:30 pm, the turkey was heavily seasoned with lime, the dinner was blessed by a Catholic priest, and the priest had to explain the Thanskgiving story several times to our Mexican guests. Close enough!

Me being a dork

Oh mashed potatoes… it’s been too long since we last met!

Taste of Playa 2011

I’d been looking forward to this past Sunday for a year now, and I was not disappointed!

Jorge, Viri, Juan and I all made our way south to Playa del Carmen for the annual Taste of Playa culinary event, sponsored by Diamonds International. For those who haven’t had the chance to explore the Riviera Maya, the city of Playa del Carmen is well-known for its charming bars and restaurants. The entire Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is filled with all kinds of dining venues, ranging from casual sandwich shops to chic upscale restaurants. Local bars are open-air, ideal for people watching while indulging in a margarita or artisan beer.

At Taste of Playa,  the best of all these unique options come together at Parque Fundadores, set on the Quinta Avenida right by the Caribbean Sea. Guests lined up to purchase “Playa Pesos”, each costing $10 pesos (roughly $1 USD) each. With just 1 Playa Peso, you can purchase some mouthwatering tacos, a cold cocktail, a spicy ceviche or even sushi!

We each wandered around on our own, sampling from almost every vendor we saw. The favorites among our small group were the crunchy tacos and some chocolate-covered cream puffs. I’m always surprised how the simplest dishes often turn out to be the best.

After an hour or two of culinary inspiration at Taste of Playa, our small group walked up and down Quinta Avenida to enjoy the laid-back vibe of Playa del Carmen before heading back to Cancun (where we immediately went to a taco joint, surprise surprise).

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slideshow do most of the talking. Try not to drool onto your keyboard:

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Taste of Playa Returns to the Riviera Maya!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already got my calendar marked for November 20. The city of Playa del Carmen will once again be hosting its annual “Taste of Playa” event, where guests can sample the favorite dishes and drinks from the city’s most popular bars and restaurants all in one stunning beachfront location.

My long-time readers may remember that Jorge and I got to go last year, and it was an amazing day filled with beer, cupcakes, shrimp and Caribbean views. (They obviously know exactly how to win over this couple!)

In my excitement to go back, I scored an interview with friend, Playa del Carmen resident and fellow blogger Michele Kinnon from Life’s a Beach, who has helped organize the event ever since its beginnings. I love her insights on PDC cuisine!

Michele, how are you involved in Taste of Playa?

My husband Rob and I are proud to be corporate sponsors for Taste of Playa. This is our third year supporting this community event. As expats and business owners in Playa del Carmen, we are always looking for ways to give back to the community that has given us so much. Taste of Playa is exactly the kind of event we try to ally ourselves with as it truly celebrates the diversity of the region. For the first two incarnations of Taste of Playa I had the role of Marketing Chairperson for the event, a job that I found challenging but rewarding in many ways. I got to work with an amazing group of women, all business owners in Playa del Carmen and all committed to promoting the Riviera Maya as a tourism destination.

How did Taste of Playa begin?

The idea for Taste of Playa was conceived in 2009 by a group of Playa del Carmen businesswomen. We were looking for a way to draw positive attention to all the wonderful things the Riviera Maya had to offer, ultimately increasing tourism to the area. This new culinary event was the culmination of hundreds of hours of planning and preparation volunteered by the Executive Committee and dozens of committed and passionate sub-committee members.

Why do you think this event has become so popular so quickly?

I think the event has been so successful because it appeals to many different people for many different reasons. For locals, it is a fun, affordable festival to enjoy with family and friends. For foodies it is a chance to scope out new restaurants and get some face-time with favorite chefs and restaurant owners. For tourists it is a destination event, one which many people now plan their travel around, that offers the opportunity to try the signature dishes of 40 plus local eateries all in one place, something they would likely not be able to do within the span of the average vacation week. For everyone, the event is a way to try great cuisine at a very accessible price whether you go for the VIP pass or buy individual tasting tickets.

What makes Taste of Playa different from other culinary events throughout the world?

What distinguishes Taste of Playa from many other food festivals and culinary events is its diversity. There is no one cuisine that represents The Riviera Maya. Certainly, we are in Mexico and Mexican and Maya cuisines are well represented here in hundreds of restaurants and eateries. What is different here is that unlike in most cities, which are divided up into neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Little Italy, all of the chefs and restauranteurs who have brought their unique cultures and cuisines to the Riviera Maya are working and living side by side with chefs from the local Mexican community. Walk down La Quinta in Playa del Carmen and you will find an Indian restaurant next door to a sushi joint, next to a taqueria, an Italian pizza place, an Argentinean steak house and so on. It’s like a great big culinary melting pot and Taste of Playa was designed to reflect just that!




What kind of cuisine can we expect to see at Taste of Playa this year?

As the Riviera Maya has a culturally diverse population made up of people from all over the world, we can expect that the cuisines represented at Taste of Playa 2011 will be equally diverse! Expect to see influences from France, Italy, Thailand and Spain mixing it up with traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine! Many of the participants from years past will be returning but we also have quite a few new restaurants coming on board. I’m excited to see what they will bring to the table!


Thanks, Michele!

All photos courtesy of tasteofplaya.com

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Casitas Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Cancun

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.