Category Archives: travel

Master of cheap eats

I’m making a quick entry tonight – nothing fancy, but certainly worth noting. 

We got stuck in the dinner rush last night and ended up wandering through town looking for a place to grab a bite. Finally we hit upon a redneck Mecca – Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar. It’s not what you’d call a local place, featuring more hamburgers and Mac n’ cheese than tacos and ceviche. But it does have some Mexican dishes and it is a solid concept. (If you don’t know of Guy Fieri, he’s a celebrity chef known for his road trips featuring hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer down-home dishes with their own flair. His TV show, “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” – or Triple D as his fans call it – is a favourite with Canadian and American foodies that love low-brow food.)

We tried to stay in theme, so I had tortilla soup and Martin has ancho lime wings with the seasoned fries. All of it was tasty, hot and fresh – they hit the spot. After all, what more can you ask of comfort food?


Then just to really top the night off, we shared the churros which come warm with Mayan chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Sheer heaven! 


It wasn’t cheap by usual Mexican standards but it was cheaper than the prices at his Vegas or New York location, I would bet. The server mentioned their new spot will be in Dubai – another place expats will likely enjoy a taste of home, not to mention those curious about American comfort food. 

I want to talk more about simple food done right in future posts – a meal doesn’t always have to be impressive or innovative to be spectacular. Sometimes you just want to be satisfied in a heartening sort of way. I know I went to bed with a happy tummy last night! 

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Dinner a block at a time 

One of the things I love about Mexican cuisine is the way it lends itself to casual eating. Simple foods with fresh ingredients shine. So, last night we had a dinner of street food. 

Our first stop was a pizza place recommended by Trip Advisor. Okay, not traditional Mexican food but a testament to the booming tourist industry here. Still, the “hole-in-the-wall”‘style of the place is typical to every street vendor. 

Next we needed a dose of local fare so we set out in search of something suitable. A shining “Tacqueria” sign down a side street from the circus of 5th Avenue shone like a beacon so we ventured towards it. 


Next the smell attracted us even closer…

The sight of the cooking meat was enticing and the ubiquitous plastic chairs and yellow decor screamed authenticity. The sincerity of the waiter on the street clinched the deal: “Quieres un taco?” We had pork tacos (from the cooking tower of slices in the go) with tender gently spiced meat and soft tortilla that melted in our mouths. The tacos were rendered sublime by the homemade condiments and the Corona with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Condiments included pick de gallo, hot sauce, pickled onions and an avocado sauce that resembled thin guacamole. All of them were delicious and unique.

We wandered some more and thought about another savoury nibble but our tastebuds were satiated. We watched the people, and chuckled at the hucksters and their spiels for the tourists. We were amazed that a young vendor thought we were a likely sale for drugs (“señor! Do you want cocaine? Ecstasy?) We were also dismayed by the fact that embracing each other seemed to brand us as “honeymooners”; so many North Americans are uncomfortable with displays of public affection. 

By the time we saw The Chocolate Cafe our minds were made up – dessert was in the offing. I had a Mayan Hot Chocolate and Martin had a piece of chocolate cake. In Mexico chocolate means cocoa, so the flavour is different than his French-styled sponge with ganache filling. The texture is less silky but there remains a richness to the flavour; it’s just not as buttery.  We watched as Friday night energy built up, with some locals leaving work and more tourists hitting party mode. 

Rejuvenated by our latest morsel we headed back to our “pension”. The promenade after eating and our leisurely conversation punctuated by the street’s entertainment was the perfect digestif. 

And so are foodie memories made on vacation. A healthy dose of spontaneity, a pinch of a sense of adventure and a few cups of energy to keep you propelled until you are satiated. Dusted with the magic of a foreign place, it makes the perfect recipe for a memorable experience. 

Not Easily Embarrassed

Well, like I said. There are power outages here quite frequently in our area, sometimes continuously in little bursts over a period of hours, sometimes a constant couple of hours. My first post for this blog last night was one such occurance and the posted version was not the edit. Sorry.

On the up side, I did follow thru which is important particularly when it’s a commitment to someone cared for and about. This getting older has a tendency to edit life in a way. There are of a sudden lots of things that seemed necessary to daily living now under the no longer required category. Some of the void no children at home commitments. Lack of structured work.  Change of environs to a more relaxed lifestyle. Many little necessary adherences that gobble up our time and energy to make the whole work not a part of life anymore. This concentrating on oneself takes some getting used to. Like everything, there’s a curve to learning the satisfaction levels.

I have a close to insasiable curiousity. Just want to understand how we/it works, tastes, feels, smells…what does it look like? Being alive amazes and delights me. Even when it hurts. Always something new to experience. To understand.

I am fascinated at present with how readily we elders, who have adapted all our lives to live our lives, thru this sorting and editing process create a limited and narrow status quo of anything and anywhere. These are our tolerance levels we seem to say, otherwise it needs effort we do not want to expend.

You might wonder where this is headed. I don’t know. Musings on what should have been a delightful sojourn at the local expat Saturday morning marketplace. The first crack in the seemingly neverending graciousness of the Mexican people toward the Americans.

On a more positive note and one I am personally sure about the potstickers were great for dinner tonight. Four different sauces: a very spicy sweet chili, a chili ponzu that definitely had a bite, a vinegar (no black Chinese so balsamic), ginger, soy concoction and a chopped hot red pepper, chopped fresh garlic, more ginger and rice vinegar that was quite tasty. Cooking method was bang on, crispy on the bottom and steamed to perfection. These wrappers not quite as translucent and tender as they could have been so think I will try and perfect the dough yet one more time again. Also a chance while mixing and rolling to mull over the consquence of marketing a dream, raking in the proceeds and then denying the product.

Actually guess I’m back to where I started. Follow thru.

 

 

 

 

The Grocery Adventure 

You know you’re a foodie when an adventure in a foreign country is going to the grocery store. 

We went to the Centro Mart here in Playa del Carmen – it’s like Superstore back home. But we don’t have these kind of things:

Not bottled milk, but bottled rice concentrate. It’s like pulverized rice pudding. And it comes in flavours too, like chocolate and coconut. Full of nutrients!

You might have had tortillas but were they this fresh? I watched while the girl poured in the batter and then minutes later the flattened and toasted tortillas rolled out in the conveyor belt. I got them still warm!

Ceviche anyone? – in bulk. Fill your boots. 

Chicurron, or crackling, as my mom called it when I was a kid. It’s fried pork rind. I don’t think it has any nutrients but if you like crispy things, it’s amazing. 


These papayas are not just in honour of Superboel weekend – they are always this big here. I don’t know whether it’s the sun and heat or soil or what but they are big, and tasty. This half worked out to about $1.50 CDN. 

Altogether we spent $40 – for a monster bottle of vodka and enough mix for the week, 3 large water jugs, some bananas, an avocado, chips and salsa for the week, a few pastries and sandwich fixings for tomorrow’s lunch. 

I am doing the happy dance! Flavours galore, freshness abounding (okay, maybe that’s not a word but you know what I mean) – and I’m on holiday. 

Have to go experience more exotic things. Talk to you tomorrow, or as the locals say,  “Hasta luego!”

Peanuts or pretzels?

The glory days of air travel are gone; it seems all that is left of the in-flight service from a foodie perspective is the insipid cry of “peanuts, pretzels!” As the flight attendants wander down the aisle. 

Granted, airline food (at least in economy class where I’ve been eating it) has not been any great shakes for a long while. But nowadays you might as well bring your own, since it’s all our packaged snack items anyway. 

Travelling by air used to be a grand experience in itself, with cocktails and full meals on platters with silverware. It was a full service, but now you purchase the service in pieces – buy a snack, buy a drink, buy your space for your luggage… 

Don’t get me wrong, I know air crews still work hard. I am just the kind of person who enjoys a smooth ride as opposed to feeling the speed bumps created by breaking things up into little pieces. Isn’t the journey supposed to be as much fun as the destination?


We are on our way to the Mayan Riviera so I look forward to posting some more worthy edibles in the next two weeks. 

You will also see a few guest posts from my worldly mom, Nancy, who is wintering in San Carlos, Mexico and has spent the last few summers “on the continent”, touring Europe. She has graciously offered to fill in since my ability to post might be hampered on vacation (whether by intermittent wifi or too many margaritas!)

Here’s to enjoying whatever you find on your plate and in your glass! 

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