Mexico - How Much Time You Got...


Mexico is dope...even if it is just for 72 hours.

My word, where the hell do I even begin.  Still been in NJ working on this show, but we did a quick wrap out and I hit up a new spot in Mexico for about 72 hours.  Costa Careyes.  I was so bloody tired, I barely snapped a shot (and I even got myself a new super-sonic camera).  It was all I could do to pull out the iphone and take a quickie.

Not that there wasn't beauty.  It was maddeningly lush.  So super rich and green and lush.  Fly into PV.  Drinks cervezas immediately in prep for windy 3 hour car ride south of the city.  Stop and have shrimp with butter (my dish of the trip).  Load up on more cerveza.  Get to hotel and drink silly and sleep and sleep.  Wake up to the most insane view (pix later), and a kayaking trip around the cove.  Just gotta make it around that big rock!  Cut up my toe, got tossed about trying to land on a rocky beach.  Had to ride the kayak like a surfboard to get back into the big blue sea.  Drank more.  Ate til I passed out.  Next day - kayaked around the bend to the palapa-covered restaurant that had no power (so they had to close at 7 pm), sans shoes.  Rode right up onto shore, plowed through pescado ceviche, shrimp con mantaquilla, coconut shrimp, more beer, tequila, micheladas.  Then waltzed right back out to the kayak, hopped in and hit it back around the bend.  Laid into a pass-out-style massage, swam in the massive pool, drank a hundred pina coladas and mojitos, attempted to make my way through an 800 page thriller, slugged back tequila shots, spent a little time in a hammock on the front deck of my killer room (with own private plunge pool), gazed at a trillion stars, drank some more.  Just a dream trip - all planned in about 2.2 seconds. 

Woke up and headed on out.  2 beers on the way.  Holla, Mexico.  That's kinda how you need to roll down south.  I still have a great time even if I am too tired to snap a photo. 

PS - Tanner than ever)


The Last Time Something Mattered - Isla Holbox Fish Fry


It always takes me a minute to remember when it was that I last did something that mattered.  Not just a big something, but a little something.  Was it making small talk - in Spanish - with the janitor in an elevator?  Was it not losing my cool with the internet rep on the phone, and instead just being real sweet and calm, knowing the problem would get fixed soon?  Just little bitty things that make someone elses day soar along instead of f'ing it up.

We were still trolling around Isls Holbox on the golf cart and we noticed a mess of Mexican lads clustered around the water.  Which can only mean one thing is on the horizon - fish.   After skidding to a stop, we boldly walked over to their rough hewn set up and inquired about what they were doing.  Without hesitation, we were offered cold, cold Sol's, warm tortillas and still cracklin' fish straight out of the pan.  Nobody spoke a lick of English, but we went around the group, gathering up names, using up our combat Spanish, tasting little pecks of their food, sipping up drops of Sol from their beaded cans, and generally just being happy with where the day stood.

Stopping to investigate the unknown always matters and it always surprises everyone.  Me included.  They guffawed when looking at their group picture on my camera and somehow a morning was made all the way around.  How easy was that moment in time - and it could have possibly never happened if we'd not blown over the flooded dirt road. 

New motto:  Just stop.









After Rum Must Come Food

Once the gullet has been properly satisfied with rum, food is next on the agenda.  Should be first, but food doesn't quite take the edge off like a cold one does, now does it?

I think you all know at this point, I'm in for the homespun take on meals.  I love the homemade snacks, the bits of simple goodness that are churned out in kitchens around the world.  I try to love the restaurants that charge lots of money (for ALWAYS sub-par food), but it just doesn't resonate with my belly.  And, my belly always wins.

So - on Holbox - it's the tiny cocina economicas that dot the island that get my vote.  The good man Jaun Paul just off the town square blew my mind with his gooey chaya empanadas.  If you don't know chaya - it's like spinach with a hit of wheat grass.  Known for its intense medicinal properties (re:  deep cleansing of the bowels), it's an acquired taste but one that just makes you feel good.  Especially when doused in cheese.

Bowls of beef soup (I only slurp up the peppery broth with rice - and snatch all potatoes and carrots), palm-sized panuchos and salbutes, fresh caught amberjack (for real, I actually saw the fish and then suddenly I was eating it - the plate was done up real fancy), and of course everything else I can get my hands on.  Especially if it's found deep in a cooler, wrapped in a bag, filling a bright bucket, on the back of a flimsy buggy, safe in a plastic container, or sizzling away on a grill.  

Holbox did not fail me.








Life Begins in the Bottom of a Mojito Mug


If you're anything like me, every single day begins with the very best of intentions.  No matter what the environment.  I'm gonna get up, pound some coffee, rock some kind of sweaty workout, and just start anew.  All the madness in my head will clear up, there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and life will once again make sense.  This is ALWAYS the process at the top of the day, just before rolling out of bed.

Then, all shiz hits the fan.  It's immediately decided that today is a very proper day to start off with a icy mojito and a good book.  I mean, come on.  We're on an island for the love.  There's no workout to be had.  There's a rickety golf cart, a pocket full of crumbled pesos, and deep need for a little something to take the edge off.  Throw in a good book about being lost at sea for 76 days, and we've got the makings for a very relaxing morning.

Welcome to Isla Holbox.  




Isla Holbox & Millions of Rum Drinks Later...


Let's just get right to it.  The minute you step off a plane in a warm, tropical land - the first that that must be addressed is the undeniable craving for a rum-laced drink.  Or vodka, or cerveza, or sake...whatever the poison is, the thirst must be quenched.  And then, you feel as if you arrived.  You are finally...away.

For me, and my good friend Mexico, it's rum.  I sucked down a rum punch the moment I walked out of the Cancun airport and within seconds had decided that Isla Mujeres was on the back burner and this trip called for a new place.  A little island by the name of Isla Holbox.  They say its the Mujeres of years past, so after some fierce negotiations with a gent named Octavio, we were on our way to completely unchartered territory.  No reservations, no preset intel on the island, nothing but a little time on our hands and an violent desire to be in a bikini with a beach in the background and a cold one in hand.

After a sprinty 2-hour ride to Chicala, we grabbed a couple of delicious empenadas con queso, hopped on the $5, 20-minute ferry ride and began what turned out the be the most expensive trip ever.








This Is Life


I blasted through Chicago a few weeks ago intent on one thing only - my favorite food.  That's it. Maybe others would look for reconnects on certain friendships, a dip in Lake Michigan, maybe a cruise down LSD...I on the other needed Indian, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Cuban, all done up right like I know it should be done.

Which means, me and my pal Lis killin' a 6-er of Dos Equis over lunch at my fave Pilsen huevos rancheros house - Nuevo Leon.  We popped the first one in her truck outside the joint - at the crack of 10 am, mind you.  So happy, just so happy. 

That is why I love Chicago - I feel no guilt, I feel no remorse.  I just do, live in the moment and call a spade a spade at any given moment of the day.

I had someone tell me today that sometimes I seem all keyed up.  Keyed up?  Shit man, try managing my level of energy on a daily basis.  And, really all I have to say is I CANT WAIT TIL GLEE COMES ON.  Yo.






Las Islas Marias - Chicago / Momofuku - NYC


Back in the day, all I used to write about/to obsess about was food.  Food is and always has been this magnetic essence that's been dear to my heart, but sometimes I stray away from it on this blog.  Not sure why.  Maybe cause I forget my camera sometimes and no way am I posting/jabbering about something otherworldly without some poppin' photos to bring up the rear. 

While in Chi this past weekend, I ate like a king.  Lebanese takeout, Cuban tamales and cortados, Vietnamese spring rolls, and a new place.  Las Islas Marias, a fish house on N. Clark.  After stuffing myself with all my old favorites within a 24-hour time frame, I ended up aching for ceviche and Dos Equis, so me n Lis popped on over to finally give this joint a go.

I loved it.  They troll out with a little plate of fish ceviche, crackers, salsa, tostadas and limes the minute you plop down and the beer is icy cold.  We ordered shrimp cocktail, guacamole,  and shrimp ceviche and I wasn't disappointed.  I've been on an oyster trail as of late, a massive mission in my eyes.  Been trying to find something that compares to the plump freshies in Veracruz.  I've been let down each and every time, but I will say that I slammed a 3-pack at Momofuku in NYC last night (seems like a decade ago) and they were delish.  Small, but delish. 

Anyway, the ceviche was solid.  Not Veracruz by any means, but still something to daydream about. My vote for the best is still Casa O's on Isla Mujeres.  Care not what you say, I know ceviche.  Seems, I know oysters too. 








Pozole Perfection {From The Raving Dish}


A mere six months ago, I was in sun-kissed Mexico and I couldn't sleep. It wasn't because I wasn't tired; oh no, I was dead exhausted. It was stroking in on 5 a.m. and I was wide awake because I'd been on the beach drinking rum since sunset. The time had come to either satisfy the voracious munchies or to cut my losses and hit the hay. I chose to eat. But what could I possibly find on a tiny tropical island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula before sunup on a Sunday morning? I woke my pal Lisa up from her deep, unsuspecting slumber and we decided to find out.

We drove a dozen crazy loops around the five-mile-long island, and finally stumbled across a 24-hour market. We succumbed to an old stand-by: a can of cheese Pringles. We were almost back to our hotel when I remembered a two-table restaurant that I'd eaten at earlier in the week. I'd noticed a hand-scratched sign that simply read, "Pozole Sunday Only." On the off chance that some nana would be slinging up some hominy stew before the crack of dawn, Lisa and I plowed by in my truck (yes, I'd driven to Mexico from Chicago) and were met with a glorious sight to behold. A bona-fide grandma was standing in a scrap of a kitchen lovingly stirring up a cauldron of homemade pozole; it was game on. Nothing like island spice to settle a Cuban rum-filled belly.




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Roadside Shrimp Tamales


Mexico is a patchwork criss-cross of tiny villages, each touting their own specialty.  They sling up stands along the side of the road and every single vendor sells the exact same thing.  Pretty much identical to the core.  How the heck do you even know where to stop?  Sometimes it's oysters.  Could be truck campers.  Might be  elote.  Maybe dried shrimp packs.  Anytime you stumble across a little town that is obviously very proud of their goods, you might as well stop. 

Sometimes you even run across something you've never had.  Like shrimp tamales

Never have I seen shrimp tamales, so when I left San Blas and almost immediately hit up a slew of shrimp tamale coolers along a strip of arid desert, I had to have one. was interesting.  Not quite what I was expecting--the shell was still on--and then as I dove into it a bit further, I noticed a couple of black beads. HELLO SHRIMP EYES BIG AS BLUEBERRIES. 

Good Christ, that was a hunger drainer.  I quietly wrapped my tamale back in its husk and slammed a Nescafe. 

Turns out these tamales are famous in the state of Nayarit...but it's just a wee bit too much sea for me.





Bubu Buries Misty


Playa Norte is definitely not my fave beach on Isla Mujeres.  It's just too crowded.  But, I did love getting buried there by crazy little Bubu one sunny afternoon.  She covered me with sand in a NY minute while Lupita played with shells and only halfway buried Alex.  If you've never been buried in sand, I suggest you try it immediately.  It's cool, calming and serene.  Especially when you are a couple/few down.

The snorkeling out by the rocks is pretty decent at Playa Norte...but man, that God awful looking hotel in the background is just a killer.  Oh, and everyone on the beach freaked out over a baby star fish.  I mean, full crowds were drawn, cameras were busted out, video was being shot.  Who knew a itty-bitty star fish would be such a novelty on a tiny island in the middle of the Carib.  You'd have thought that a giant talking whale had washed up on the beach from the commotion that was caused. 

I guess I passed out soon after that ruckus.