This tiny little island is by far one of my favorite places to fall off the grid. Though it's just a 20 minute boat ride from Cancun, it's like touching down in a completely different world, especially if you explore the south side of the island (where more locals live). I just got back from spending a few more days there and this trip was all about total serenity. Last time, I was all over the place, exploring every single nook and cranny, where as on this one, I stayed close to my lovely beach front hotel (Casa Ixchel) with a bunch of good books and a ton of naps. I guess I never realized how sleepy I was until I got in between the cozy white down comforter at Ixchel. Hell, I couldn't even lay out in the sunshine without falling into a blissful nap. I did eat some amazing food from a few little loncherias (I'll post later on those) and spent some time drinking mojitos and daiquiris in town, plus hung out at Manana (the best little bookstore/cafe ever), but beyond it was all about just chillin' by the pool. What a glorious trip~
Much as I love the thrill of discovering new goodies in the city, I am, in all honesty, a creature of habit. When I find something I like, I remain entirely loyal 'til the bitter end. I'll happily sing its praises to anyone and everyone, especially strangers on the hunt for a few new finds. In the vein of sharing, I offer a few timeless joys that I'm loving right this second.
Octopus salad from Gruppo Di Amici
Ever since my solo trip to the islands of Greece years ago, I've had an ongoing love affair with the quirky, eight-legged octopus. I'll take it any way I can get it, from tucked in a bowl of soup to charred and tossed on a spring salad. My favorite Italian hideaway does it best for summer: served chilled and folded with capers, slivers of celery, olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon. The wine drenched mussels will rock your world, too.
This is one of my favorite shops in the entire world. It's a tiny bookshop, cafe, watering hole on the island of Isla Mujeres and I swear to God, it is the EXACT sort of establishment that I would own. Littered with shelves full of books, an open kitchen and seating area, freezing cold strawberry daiquiris, a health-conscious menu...I mean, what else is there? They even load up the cocktail to go if you want it for the road (who doesnt love wandering around a village with drink in hand?). In just a day or so, I will be plopped right at that very bar you see in the photo, slugging a perfect rum-laced daiquiri and soaking up the sun. I bet a gazillion dollars a place like this would do great in Chicago and I got all jazzed after my first trip to Isla thinking I should open it! Then, I realized that the less assets I have, the better. For now. I like to be light and lean, definitely, but I think if I do open a place like this, it has to be coastal...you know? In the perfect little fishing village. A place I could stay forever.
I'd like to credit all my spectacular finds along Devon Avenue to Bhabi's Kitchen, more specifically Bhabi's hours of operation. Seems that every time I roll past the restaurant in need of some good Indian food, it's closed. But considering the bevy of delicious spots packed along the avenue, my heart never skips a beat.
Enter new kid on the block, Mazza Barbecue. Man, what a lucky find. This sunny, storefront is poised and ready for the budget-minded heat-lovers to pour through its doors and once the gals get a load of the adorable waiter (imagine an Indian Dean Martin), they won't be able to stay away. The cheap and excellent food is just the icing on the cutie-pie cake.
I wish I could tell you everything I managed to shove down, but when it comes to Indian food, simple is as simple does: I usually just order something with spinach, lentils or potatoes and call it a day.
In celebration of my upcoming trip back to my favorite little Mexican island, Isla Mujeres, I have been on a Mexican eating frenzy. I've gotten a nasty addiction going for my corn tortillas fried in oil and stuffed with melted cheese (they have to be corn now for me, no more flour--it makes all the difference in the world). I'm getting wild with the homemade guacamole and I have located the perfect tortillas chips (Xochitl). Picking up fresh limes from the market down the street from my place takes my wishy-washy happiness to a whole new level and I cannot get enough of the smoky chipolte salsa I've been buying by the truck-load. Sour cream is now just plain old nasty when compared to thick Mexican crema and I've still got my raging love affair with rum going. Gotta say, I can't wait to get back to Isla, ride my bike and swill some drinks. What would I do without Mexico? Where would I be? What would I obsess about? What else is there?
According to the bill, we'd consumed 16 mojitos this time around. I wondered, how is that even possible, with three wee gals and a time span of just a few hours? I blame it on the setting sun, no days off work in weeks and an appetite for the good stuff.
The night started out innocent enough. I was meeting a few pals at Morseland just down the street from my place for a simple mojito. Though I'd never been to this popular haunt, I wanted to scope out my friend Lisa's new 'hood on Morse Avenue and try a new place. Morseland's reputation for killer mojitos was the clincher.
So, today was a banner day. Me and my pal Lisa painted the bottom of my new boat (1973 30 ft. C&C I just bought last week)! Before we did it, I was thinking the project was a bit much...ahh, but not so. I took a trip to West Marine earlier in the week, talked up the sales guy (Richard), bought all the supplies and hell, we just hauled down to Crowley's this morning and got to it. What an awesome experience. It swear, all in all, it took us no more than 2 hours. For those interested (and I know you are out there)--here is the process (2 peeps).
You need 2 cans of VC17 copper paint, 1 paint pan, 2 paint sticks with foam rollers, 2 sand blocks, 3 sheets of sandpaper, a couple of rags, tape, and some boat soap. That's round about it.
First, we scrubbed down the boat (with waterhose and scrub brush, of course) and let her dry. Then, we taped her off and sanded the bottom lightly with 320 grit sandpaper; very lightly, Lisa! Next we simply wiped her down and got to painting. Lis wiped while I mixed copper paint together. Two cans took us directly to the edge and if she were even a smidge over 30 ft., we'd have gone into can number three. I fell so accomplished...like I have conquered the entire free world. Next week comes clean the deck and cockpit, make minor repairs and then BAM!--in the water she goes (I got a much coveted star dock at Montrose, thank God!!! It's just a couple mile bike ride from my house). Chalk this one up in the good book, for sure...here are a few more photos (the ingredients and the scene of the crime)
I have a new favorite restaurant in NYC. It's a tiny gem in the West Village called The Little Owl. I was just there this past weekend and talk about the perfect place to eat. Of course, I only had brunch, but if dinner is anything like brunch, watch out. I tired SEVERAL mimosa's with fresh squeezed grapefruit, awesome eggs benedict, whole grain pancakes with crystal clear vanilla syrup and mascarpone and the ultimate truffle, parmesan and watercress omelette. I guess I just love that the staff didn't hound us for our table even though the place was packing up...and that they were all charming and helpful (another mimosa? SURREEEEE!!!). Another biggie to add to the life to do list for my little cafe in Mexico. Squeeze fresh grapefruit and add it to champagne; drink copious amounts with clientele.
*Plus, another bonus was the owl on the ledge over the door....just like my endangered species Elf owl cell phone ring...hello...
I'm not sure why I don't seek out French food more often. A few years ago, I spent months in Paris, wandering the narrow side streets in search of the flakiest croissant and the tenderest coq au vin. Despite the taste I developed for the bold yet simple flavors of the regional cuisine, I can't say that I've craved French food since. Not once.
Of course, that all changed with one simple dish: the unbelievable salade lyonnaise at Le Bouchon. Imagine perky little greens dotted with giant tears of lardons (impossibly delicious strips of fatty bacon), crunchy croutons and a perfectly runny poached egg. Words can't describe the satisfaction in discovering a still-warm hunk of bacon buried beneath a mess of field greens when you're two bottles of pinot gris into the meal.