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?
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!
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.
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.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.
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!”