Sunday, December 25, 2011

If I had a restaurant...

Over the 10 years I've lived in Yucatan I've often thought I should open a restaurant in the Jungle. I thought It would be a simple grill with fresh garden veggies and the best cuts of meat or fish in the market... Now someone has done it for me and I can relax. A couple of weeks ago we sat in the rain and enjoyed every last minute and every last morsel of our meal. Now just googling the words Hartwood Tulum makes my mouth water and my eyes all teary.

Bon Appetit "You'll find the beach restaurant of your dreams on an overgrown road in Tulum. It may lack walls, stoves, and a reservationist, but the fish is impeccably fresh and the open-fire cooking smart and soulful"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

WaHaCa... Signs of the Thames

We met Thomasina Miers over pavo reino blanco at Christamas dinner this past year. James and Alexandra Brown's cook is the woman they met over the road. She has a cocina economica but it has no sign outside and the front door is shut. It's a secret place known only to the neighborhood. The turkey had been delivered live on the 23rd and kept in the garden of James' studio. Thomasina was here in Yucatan and Oaxaca with the chefs from her trendy Mexican eateries in London called Wahaca . It seems she had won a TV cooking competition (Masterchef) some years ago and Alexandra's Mexican brother-in-law had given her a call. My friend Kathleen Baird-Murray had told me about Wahaca when she was here for day of the dead and we were lamenting the fact that there was no good Mexican food in Merida. Now I suspect there will be a hint of habanero drifting down the Thames...

Friday, May 14, 2010

NY Times Food Critic

Mark Bittman came to Merida a couple of years ago and hung out with David Sterling from Los Dos Cooking School. "This much I had gathered before leaving home, and when I met Mr. Sterling it all rang true; the guy is an encyclopedia. The Yucatán, which feels as Caribbean as it does Mexican, is to Mexico as Alsace is to France, as Sicily is to Italy, as Hawaii is to the United States: formally a part of the union, but culturally quite distinct, and with a well-preserved sense of identity. Mr. Sterling and I checked out the offerings of Yucatecan food at most of the many food stalls that open on Sunday mornings in central Mérida. The Spanish influence is expected, the Mayan core of the cuisine intact and welcome: you might be offered, for example, a paper cup of grated fresh corn with chili and lime."

...and he also discovered Ana Sabrina's tacos on a sunday morning in the park Santa Lucia.

Rick Bayless in Yucatan

If anyone can save Yucatecan Cuisine from it's own bad self it's Rick Bayless. Having lived for 6 years without PBS I thought I could live with out it but I guess I'll have to buy the DVD collection for season 5 Interspersed in every show are scenes of Rick making the dishes that he found in the Yucatan or that were inspired by a special ingredient (one show focuses on the spice pastes that are the base of the seasoning of the cuisine). These scenes are shot in Rick’s home kitchen and garden in Chicago. Rick’s clear explanations and the availability of recipes for all the dishes make it easy for viewers to make these dishes at home and experience the flavors of the Yucatan that Rick rhapsodizes about. One of Rick’s favorite shows is the one where he builds a pit in his yard, along with the help of his 15-year old daughter Lanie, to prepare cochinita pibil, the Yucatan’s most famous dish. After being inspired by seeing a cochinita pibil unearthed at a friend’s house near Merida, Rick and Lanie return home, dig a hole in the ground in the yard, line it with bricks, build a fire in it and cook an achiote-marinated pig in it. They invite friends over to witness the unearthing of the pig and then to enjoy it with them at a fabulous party. This show, among all 13 shows that make up the 5th season of the series, clearly exemplifies Rick’s passion for bringing the earthy, gutsy, delicious flavors of the Yucatan into the kitchens of fans of the show in the United States. What will the neighbors think when the people next door dig a pit in their backyard?

The Gay Chicken Syndrome

No really he's just the happy chicken. He is beside himself with joy to be chosen to be grilled and served on a styrofoam plate with a side of bean juice and cabbage salad in individual plastic bags. There will be mushy rice and habanera salsa on the side. There may or may not be a place to sit and for sure there will not be enough napkins. I never order chicken in a restaurant but grilled chicken is one of the absolute best things you can find in any village or neighborhood of Merida. Just look for a dusty road and you'll find a delicious purveyor of Grilled Chicken. Great for a picnic.