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February 2008

La Lomita--A Local Institution


Ah, La Lomita.  Once, when I was on Isla a year or so ago, I had fantastic chile rellenos there, though this time I didn't see them on the menu.  So, I went for the octopus drenched in butter.  Hi delicious meal X a gazillion.  I can only say this bright-as-shit gem of a restaurant is forever consistent and always up to snuff with the good stuff. 

When you order a beer, I think a kid runs to the grocery store down the block to purchase one and then slings it out on your table as if it just came from the rear kitchen. There are random cats slinking around hunting for scraps and some free bean soup rolls out with each dish.  It's a perfect mix of locals, expats, tourists and loners.  Nothing party like about it in the least. fact, it is dead quiet.   And, definitely nothing real special about the decorations.  Just good food and cheap tickets.

Of course, on my last day on the island, I zoomed by when the doors were shut and saw a sign for chile rellenos on the door.  Maybe it's just not on the menu?  I also witnessed a crazy good looking bowl of sopa de lima plowing out of the kitchen.  Next time, for sure.


El Hurache...Again and Again and Again...


One of my all time fave places to eat on Isla Mujeres is a small, locals-mostly joint called El Huarache (it's just around the corner from La Gloria, the little English schoolhouse).  Nothing on the menu is over a few dollars and for real, they make everything to order including the unbelievable empenadas, huaraches and quesadillas.  But, these pups aren't just normal quesadillas or regular run-of-the-mill empenadas.  They are so dang superior to everything you've ever had made with maiz, you'll find it impossible not to keep ordering more and more and more.  And, then to top it off right, one MORE!

The TV is always blaring, the light is god-awful, someone is always passed out, not a soul is ever particularly delighted to see you, and there is no alcohol served.  I truly adore it. 



Tapas on Isla Mujeres...Sorta...


Funny, I never expected to find a quasi-tapas joint on Isla.  Lis and I would haul ass by this dark looking bar every day while zooming around the island and one afternoon, it was begging for a pitstop.  Once again, I am at a loss for the name, but those of you who know Isla will find it across from the baseball field and those addictive shaved meat tacos. 

It was nothing more than a giant room full of colorful locals and a jukebox.  We'd no sooner ordered a few beers when loads of baby plates full of food came out.  All topped with tiny toothpicks.  Yum. 
There was tuna, cukes and jicama in chile (my fave), potato salad, ham and cheese cubes, pineapple and chile, chips and salsa...along with lime and salt, of course.  What a glorious shove down we had.  The table was soon accosted by a real friendly guy who spoke not a lick of English, but kept buying us beer (he was in love with Lisa, ha!) and then a few more fellas, one of whom I loved to death.  He was a very handsome gentleman from Cuba but was now on Isla and about to open a girls dance school.  He wanted me to come be his assistant.  Could you imagine?  Can't wait to share that news with everyone!

Meanwhile,  I guess I'd love to.

Things quickly turned to chaos around our table.  Numbers were being exchanged, phones were whipped out, ID's were being shown off (don't ask me why), and laughs were had by all.  We ended up roaring out of there and over some tacos down the road, I discovered the Cuban's cell phone in my little bag.  He must have been freaking out, but when we returned it a few hours later, he just said he wasn't worried because he knew we were good people.  Right-o.

Good people.  Good island.







A Fish Goes Down Hard....


, one day me and the gals were trolling around picking up ingredients for the PURE cooking workshop and Deisy wanted us to stop by a relative of her's house so she could grab some food that was just made and needed to be on the way to Alexandra's (her daughters) school---at least that is what I think I deciphered. 

All access was ON in the kitchen for fish de-gutting and I wish I'd had time to try the food at this little restaurant located on the south side of Isla.  I mean, with a kitchen like this and mad dedication going hand in hand with could the grub not be fantastic??

Wish I knew the name of the place.  Next time I'm on Isla Mujeres for sure...this will be pitstop #1.  And for real...guess I'm moving to the island.  Why not, hell....

And seriously, I cannot wait to get the horrified emails from the peeps freaking that I've laid out photos in this way.  BUT DUDE, this is food.  This is what you eat.  This is from the source.  This is real.  This is Mexico. 

And, this is what you should all aspire to witness--and taste--one day. 





Tinga De Pollo: Get to Know it Quick


To the sheer delight of all...on the final morning of the PURE Pilates of the adorable housekeepers at Casa Ixchel showed up with a giant gift in a pot--a straight up vat of homemade goodness.  It was a classic dish called Tinga de Pollo.

I'm sorry but this tomatoey, spicy, rich, delicious concoction of chicken and chorizo served up with crema, tostadas, lime and queso was one of the best things I've ever tasted in my simple little life.

Bless you Oyuki.

A quick recipe is here.


The Coldest Beer on Isla Mujeres....


The coldest beer on Isla Mujeres is found at a local spot just a short walk from the ferry (sorry, my love, Manana).  I can't remember the name but it is across from the Social Justica seafood joint and has a string of yummy beers perched in the window.   

Why so cold?  Dunno, but they have a special fridge that houses beer only and it is literally steaming cold fumes when it arrives at the table.  Lis and I guzzled them with wild delight through the course of the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and over reviewing Sailor Jim's notes, Lis even assisted in attempting to help me get that damn nail polish off--like I said, I'm not a mani person!  I also dig that a toothless fella hawks natural beauty supplies while I drink, too.  LOVE IT.

They also churn out haunting tostado's that have stalked me across the whole of Mexico this past week. I keep searching for the EXACT replica, to no avail.  It's tough to find veggie tostados that have flavor, but these kids have it down---along with funky, jacked-up forks galore. 

And, for the record, I have a real tough time remembering the name of anywhere.  I just know where it is, what they serve and how good the best thing goes down. 






Sabor Michoacan and Ceviche on Isla Mujeres {From The Raving Dish}


Ceviche has always sorta freaked me out. I've never been able to wrap my head around the fact that this tasty dish is straight up raw seafood cooked in lime juice. How is that even possible? Is the acid from the limes that intense? Well, thanks to a recent cooking workshop I took in Mexico, I now know the answer. Acid is indeed the key, and it only takes a few minutes for it to hammer down its powerful effect.

To backtrack a minute, before I left colder-than-cold Chicago for sunny Mexico, I tested out a new restaurant, a tiny, family-owned Mexican restaurant called Sabor Michoacan in my Rogers Park 'hood. It had just opened in the sea of North Clark eateries, and for less than a can of Red Bull, I partook in the juiciest ceviche I've come across outside of mainland Mexico. Bright pink bullets of fresh shrimp came tossed with tiny bits of emerald-green cilantro, dots of tangy onion and chunks of ruby-red tomato. But, I didn't stop there.

Continue reading "Sabor Michoacan and Ceviche on Isla Mujeres {From The Raving Dish}" »

My Favorite Family on Isla Mujeres -- And My Favorite Food


Seems like everywhere I go, I adopt a local family.  This time, on Isla Mujeres, it was the family of Jorge, the handy man at Casa Ixchel.  Never have I met such incredible people.  From sweet and innocent Lupe to Bubu, the hysterical wailer, to Alex the coquetta, to Deisy the mama bear/incredible cook, to Henesis the Julia Roberts look-a-like to Audy the Danny Yankee lover...I fell in love with each and every one of them.  I grew so attached the family as a whole, it became really hard to focus on the PURE retreat instead of them. 

The whole week was packed with the family--Deisy and Jorge were the chefs for our cooking workshop so there was always something to do---shop, plan, eatImg_6357.  Me and Lis decided to support the gals and pay their way through an 8-week beginners course in English school (La Gloria) partly because it will help us when we return later this year.  They practice English with us and we continue to practice Spanish with them.  And, Deisy happily cooked for us a half dozen times.  The best ever empenadas and sopes (con creama), all thrown down with some cervezas. (More on this food later).

At some point in time, Audy treated me to a pedicure and manicure.  Sol's a flowin'.  I never get a manicure because I kill it minute one.  I'm too much of a tomboy, I guess.  No matter, this wasn't any old mani/pedi.  The whole gang was involved.  I had my Spanish book out while Lupe rocked some homework.  I learned a few new translations that have been crucial throughout the week:  drunk, dirty, ugly, boyfriend, never.  Go figure.  It was legend. 

Why was it legend?  Because these experiences are exactly what travel is all about all.  Local connects, intuitive moments, home-grown food...they all equal giant moments in the bit of time that is life.   No preconceived expectations are ever met, but oddly without knowing it, they are surpassed.  You can't really ask why.  You just flow.



Sometimes You Can Sail Without Being a Sailor


One of my favorite spots in all of Isla Mujeres is a little bookshop/restaurant called Manana.  I wrote about it on my last trip here and this time, I fell even more in love with it.  Every day, you run into the same faces over and over.  It's kinda like Manana makes the island go 'round.  It's a hotspot for all the relaxed folk on Isla and one day me and Lis were chillin' at one of the open air bar windows when a funny little diddy named Jim rolled by.  He was wondering if my laptop picked up wi-fi and before Lis could slam another beer, he'd invited us out onto his sailboat for some snorkeling adventures.  I love how a sailboat always tracks me down no matter where I end up. 

Early the next AM, Lis and I headed out with Jim on his dinghy to his boat.  He'd just bought the beast and sailed down from Florida.  Of course, he had no idea how to sail, but he just knew that he had the money and the balls.  Sometimes that's all it takes.  In fact, most times you need even less than that.  A couple of wrecked boats, cave blowouts, coral burns and bellowing guffaws later, me and Lis had determined that Jim would be a buddy for life.

He gave us a tour of Against the Wind (from Nashville, TN and not the boat pictured) and for real, the boat was decked.  I had the best shower off the stern of his boat that I've ever had in my life.  The interior was stacked with crates of Jiffy mix, freezers full of meat, three friggin' GPS units, a gold panner...I mean, Jim had hit up everything before setting sail. It made me SAD as hell that I'd just sold my own boat, but lifted me into a whole new excited frame of mind at the idea of buying a new vessel.  I might need one a little bit bigger than a 30 footer.  Yikes!  But, in LA for sure...I gotta be able to leave the boat in water year round. It's just that simple.

After determining that we'd do our best to stay in touch, we established a communication mode (scribbled notes under a pink rock just off the dinghy dock), had a few beers with some of his new sailing pals at an octopus joint, and hit the road.   

Well, first Jim busted out his hand-drawn map to the port authority.  Poor thing.  He'd not checked in with a soul upon arrival.  You gotta love it. 

Meanwhile, this was Day 1.





Hello Bright Pink Home-Applied Mani from Isla Mujeres...


See, this is the funny things about blogs.  You never know where the action is happening in real time. You might think you do, but in reality the blog could be weeks or months behind what is really going on.  Case in point--I've just spent 2 weeks on Isla Mujeres, a tiny speck of an island off the coast of Cancun,  yet not a soul has any idea what just shook down in my life. 

My PURE Pilates retreat just wrapped up and I have one more night on the island before I start the long-ass drive back to LA.  Alone.  Thank God.  I've spent weeks in the company of others and as special as the times were, I relish in being along.  Dead alone.  At all times.  It's so easy to get back to the MST basics--nothing but me, my truck, my moments in time, and all my glorious stress-free space in the universe.  I like it.  No, actually, I love it.

These one-shot-says-it-all photos lays out my trip in a nutshell, but over the course of the next week or so, I'm gonna backtrack and spread it all out like a stain.  A big, fat MST-infused Isla Mujeres spillover that I just don't want to end.   Ah, but the thing to remember is that all the adventures keep on 'acomin.  That must just be my plot in life.  I accept it.  For sure...all the time.