Lucky us! Last weekend we enjoyed two of our favorite San Pedro eateries on back to back nights. We enjoyed the casual beachside setting of Caliente for their half-price margarita Friday taco night special and the more upscale, urban feel of Red Ginger for artful cuisine on Saturday evening. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.
After our meal and three margaritas each (!!!), we were craving ice cream, so we walked over to Mannelly's for a treat. Believe it or not, Barry had to have TWO separate servings. Yep -- he ordered two scoops, and after finishing those, went back for two more! I don't know how he does it! We get ice cream so rarely in Belize (since it would melt if we tried to bring it home on our bicycles), it's a rare treat, and we really had an appetite for it this night!
We've only eaten at Red Ginger a couple of times because it's rather pricey, but it's absolutely scrumptious, and service is top-notch. We were not disappointed this time either. Once again, the service and food were perfect, and the atmosphere so tranquilo, it helps you forget any worries or stress you might be experiencing. When you want the best San Pedro has to offer, this is the perfect place for that special meal -- birthday, anniversary, or just because!
Instead of bread, your meal comes with complimentary plantain chips and a spicy chipotle aoli that is rather addictive.
Of course we couldn't resist their very special desserts. We shared a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a tart key lime pie. Both were irresistible, and just look how beautiful!
I may never cook again.... :)
We hadn't eaten dinner at Wild Mangos, one of San Pedro's most popular restaurants, in quite awhile, only lunch. It was time to ride our bikes to town and enjoy the delicious creations of well-known Chef Amy Knox once again. Since we had reservations, we got a primo table!
We started by sharing a tasty black bean gordas appetizer. Barry enjoyed a Pantyripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice), and I went with SanPedroScoop's favorite here -- Caipirinha (not on the menu, but delish and reasonably priced at $8 BZD).
For our entrees, I tried the Budin Azteca ("Layers of tortillas, beans, sauteed veggies, mole negro, cheese, and garlic white sauce (Mexican lasagna-ish), side salad with chili-raisin vinaigrette.") Both the Azteca and the salad were super flavorful and great to look at, too. I just love creative, healthy food!
Barry went with the Conchita Pibil ("Mayan spiced shredded pork, rice, black beans, plantains, pickled onions, and corn tortillas"). He loved that it was served with an assortment of salsas, from hot to inferno level, just like in Mexico!
We've always had a soft spot in our hearts for Mangos' desserts, though we do miss the molten chocolate cake that used to be served hot in a coffee cup. (Just putting in a plug for it's return!) We decided to try two of the desserts we hadn't had before, and they were both absolutely wonderful choices -- and good together, too, since of course we shared.
This Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake would whet any chocolate-lover's appetite. Moist, rich, simple dark chocolatey perfection!
Every bit as good was this Mexican Margarita Cay Lime Cold Cake, described as a "local dessert made of a creamy lime filling, biscuit layers, tequila, with a guava sauce". It was truly a thing of beauty, and we loved it's tart creaminess.
The perfect way to end a perfect meal is a ride back home on our bikes with our headlamps. It's so much fun to ride under the stars with a cool breeze and less traffic than during the day. It's one of our very favorite things to do here on Ambergris Caye.
The fruit and vegetable markets in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico were a feast for the senses! Although we do get some excellent fresh produce in San Pedro, the markets here have limited offerings compared to the bounty available right across the border in Mexico. We wished we could have taken advantage of the many wonderful-looking, healthy foods for sale, but without a kitchen or any form of refrigeration, we savored the colorful produce bounty with our eyes instead of our palates. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed our walks through the markets, dreaming of what we could create with these beautiful, nutrition-packed local foods. Hope you'll enjoy feasting with your eyes as well!
Stay tuned for more from San Cristobal before we head back to Belize!
For our third and final night in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, we decided to go for broke and hit happy hour before going to the restaurant we'd decided on for dinner. Woo-hoo! As we were walking around checking our options, this sign touting two for one margaritas for $70 MX (approximately $5.60 US) lured us right into Ay Dolores! for a couple of drinks and appetizers before dinner.
We tried the tamarindo margaritas, which were excellent. Here's one of my favorite photos of the whole trip, which you'll recognize if we're Facebook friends.
To accompany our drinks, we ordered some of their delicious guacamole, fried cheese, and quesadillas. I loved that the guac was made with red onion and lots of cilantro and have since modified my own recipe likewise.
Our waiter was super friendly, and although I was sure I'd remember his name, sadly, my memory fails me now since it's been over a month. (Yes, I am getting old!) He was very proud of his English and spoke it well, which was a treat for us -- we could actually have a nice conversation, something we didn't get to do often while in this part of Mexico. He had another staff member take a photo of the three of us on his phone, and we also got one on our camera.
For our dinner, we went to Entropia, a French-Mexican fusion place that is the #2 rated restaurant in San Cristobal in Tripadvisor. We got this photo earlier in the day while it was still bright and sunny out.
And here's the interior in the evening.
We decided to stick with margaritas, and they were also offering a two for one happy hour special. Score! Don't tell our friendly waiter at Ay Dolores!, but these tamarindo margs were even better than theirs. And the waiter was obviously French. San Cristobal is a cultural treat!
Barry had a chicken dish that was served with black beans and yet more guacamole. There's no such thing as too much guac, though, right?!
I had the special of the day, which was a really, really nice fish dish, potatoes, and salad. The fish looks rather plain in the photo, but it was very fresh and perfectly seasoned and cooked. I'll never know, but when I ended up with a bad stomach 36 hours later, I wondered if eating this salad was my downfall. I did eat a few other salads in Mexico with no problems, but Montezuma's revenge finally caught up with me on the way back, in Palenque.
One slight negative of Entropia was the little children who came in during our dinner attempting to sell us things. It's pretty obvious that they really only want a peso or two, but they offer little trinkets for sale instead so it's not so obvious they are begging. There was a lot more begging and what I call "aggressive vending" in San Cristobal than the other places we visited in Mexico, from both children and adults. We didn't want or need anything they were selling, but I carried a few pesos in my pocket to give out to the kids. They would normally leave quickly upon getting a peso or two. It's too bad that they are living lives requiring them to do this.
Barry still had a bit of appetite after dinner, so we stopped for him to have a gelato.
I was too full, but it looked good. However, the flavors were unmarked, and having to ask a Spanish-speaking worker what every one was made for an interesting ordering experience!
On our last morning in San Cristobal, we were disappointed to find our favorite place for breakfast, TierrAdentro, closed. We kept walking by hoping they were just opening late, but when 9 am came and went and the door was still locked, we decided we better find another place. We noticed that many restaurants in Mexico don't bother posting their days or hours of business outside; if the doors are open, they're open, and if they're closed, they're closed. Simple as that.
We ended up at the Cafeteria del Centro and had a good breakfast. The atmosphere wasn't quite TierrAdentro, but it filled the bill and nourished us for our day of travel ahead.
After breakfast, we bought a couple snacks for the road. Can you say chocolate?
Not totally related to dining, but having heard what great coffee was grown, processed, and could be purchased, in this part of Mexico, I picked up this bag of organic coffee to bring home to Belize. It only cost me $70 MX (about $5.60 US) and was indeed a special treat. Long gone now, though!
Stay tuned for more from San Cristobal before we head back through Mexico to Belize!
I had planned on a blog post on the birds of the Orquideas Moxviquil botanical garden for today, but when I looked at our "birds" photo folder, I realized that it included photos from many different sites on our trip, so I am going to wait and do a bird photos post after the other trip posts, as I have done in the past. So today, instead of birds, you get food!
Our favorite restaurant in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico quickly became the TierrAdentro Cultural Center and Cafe. As I was working on this blog post, I came upon an excellent article providing much information about the restaurant and the center's goals. I didn't know until I read the article that the cafe had been recommended as one of the top five places to eat in San Cristobal by the New York Times. Not bad! In addition to the cafe, there are Zapatista co-operatives selling art pieces and crafts in the same building.
As an aside, I knew almost nothing about the Zapatistas until we got home from this trip and I read a little. I didn't much care for history when I was in high school or college, but I'm finding it more interesting now that I'm older. Turns out that we missed a parade of Zapatista rebels in San Cristobal just a few days right after we left. That would have been a unique travel experience.
Our first meal here was a daily special dinner that came with a spicy noodle soup and bread, entree of chicken mole and rice, and fresh lime juice. Everything was simple and delicious, and the price was very reasonable at $65 MX each (approximately $5.20 USD). This did not include the wine, however!
For dessert, our favorite place quickly became "Oh la la!", a small coffee and French pastry shop right down the street from our hotel (and TierrAdentro). It was very hard to choose just one goodie to take back to our hotel room, so we didn't even try.
The following morning brought us right back to TierrAdentro for breakfast. Turns out they don't open until 8:30 am, so we took a walk beforehand as we were there too early. One thing about the cities we visited in Mexico, they're so hoppin' in the evenings that everything seems to start later than in the US or Belize, where I can't imagine a breakfast place not opening by 7 am. It was well worth the wait, though, as the breakfast was muy excellente!
Quoting from the article I linked above, I found this interesting (after arriving home -- did not know this at the time):
"The center buys its coffee directly from co-operatives within the Zapatista controlled areas. Its policy is to buy the best organically produced café arábigo, which is usually exported to Europe, so that it is available to local people. It also believes in paying the price asked by these co-operatives without bargaining. Within this frame of reference, it is able to offer a truly excellent double expresso at 17 pesos (just over 1 USD) and sell one kg of high quality coffee at 90 pesos. Starbucks charges 160 pesos for the same quantity and quality."
For dinner that night, we tried a place that came highly recommended in Tripadvisor (#3 of 89 restaurants in San Cristobal): Pizzaria Napoli. This charming Italian restaurant in a colonial home seats only a few, and since we opted for an early dinner after eating only snacks for lunch, we had it entirely to ourselves. The owner took our order and was incredibly warm and welcoming -- I wish we had gotten her name.
We had a table outside looking out on the courtyard. It was a little bit chilly since the sun was going down, but I had bought this pretty shawl at one of the many market stands in town (for only $70 MX or $5.60 US, such a steal I didn't even haggle). I used the shawl quite a bit in San Cristobal, as the city's altitude is over 7000 feet, making it much chillier than anything we'd experienced since leaving the US.
Our pizza couldn't have been more delicious.
Since the pizza was a fairly light dinner, of course we had to indulge ourselves at Oh La La! bakery again. Don't worry, we did not eat all this this evening -- we saved some for snacking on the next day.
The next morning found us right back at TierrAdentro, where we both had hotcakes. We had thought we were ordering banana/blueberry hotcakes, and were excited about that since we never get blueberries in Belize. Unfortunately, the translation from our cheat sheet threw us off as the hotcakes were actually filled with bananas and dried cranberries. When we got home and looked up blueberries and cranberries in our dictionary, it appears that both can translate to arándano. Oh well, they were still quite tasty, especially since they were served with both real maple syrup and local honey. Yum!
A little later, we stopped by Oh la la! so I could get another cup of coffee -- most restaurants in Mexico don't give free coffee refills.
Here are some of the other treats they sell, though we never got any since we couldn't seem to resist the French pastry counter.
Please stay tuned for Part 2 of San Cristobal dining. There's more good food to come!
During our two days in Palenque, Mexico, we got to enjoy some tasty food. On our first night, we just wanted a simple dinner. We needed to find an ATM to get some cash beforehand and ended up walking a long way looking for a Scotiabank ATM. We never did find one so had to backtrack to another ATM, then re-backtrack to Pizzeria Palenque. I was more than hungry (and fussy!) by the time we got there, but it was worth all the trekking. The pizza was delicious, and the cervesas were very cold. Great prices too!
Our pizza had fresh tomatoes, spicy chorizo, jalepenos, and avocado. Delish!
Both mornings we had the continental breakfast at the Hotel Xibalba, which was included in our room rate. The breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, bread and butter, and really good coffee (but only one cup -- free refills are not typically given in Mexico, or Belize for that matter). We sat outside in handmade chairs constructed from thick wood rounds, sanded and polished to a smooth shine.
We didn't eat any lunches out as we were at the Palenque Archaeological site the entire full day we were in town and ate only snacks, but we had an excellent dinner that night after climbing lots and lots of stairs all day long. We ate at El Huachinango Feliz (The Happy Snapper) right next to our hotel. We'd noticed a good mix of locals and tourists the night before and that it was FULL -- a good sign.
They first brought out a complimentary shrimp and vegetable salad with our beers and chips. Wow! What restaurant gives away shrimp salad? It was absolutely full of shrimp and delicious, similar to ceviche but not swimming in lime juice.
For his entree, Barry ordered the shrimp au gratin, and I went out on a limb and tried the octopus au gratin. It was tender, well-seasoned, and absolutely delicious! We ate every bite and rolled out of there full to the brim.
Stay tuned as we travel farther west to San Cristobal next!
Although we only had three meals in Campeche on our way through, we made the most of our time and had some really delicious food. Walking from the bus stop into the centro historico, we came upon the #1 place in Tripadvisor, Chocol Ha. We planned to come back to try some goodies later as this dessert and treat place doesn't open until 5:30 pm.
At the moment, however, we were in need of lunch. We walked by a place called Chef Color in one of the lovely colonial buildings and decided to stop in. There was a mix of locals and tourists dining, which is usually a good sign.
Barry ordered his new favorite Mexican dish, Panuchos, while I decided on some fresh seafood ceviche. Both were delicious!
For dinner that night, we walked around for awhile looking for a place that appealed to us. We ended up at Luz de Luna. This place was decorated with vibrant colors that beckoned us right in from the street.
The proprietor of this place is a lovely Mexican lady who speaks excellent English, and the menus were in both English and Spanish, which was very helpful. I ordered vegetarian burritos, and Barry tried the chicken flautas. Both were delicious. If you go, be advised that the restaurant does not serve alcohol. We had the "water of the day", which was a limeade and very tasty. The glassware and tableware here was so beautiful as it so often is in Mexico.
The check (la cuenta) came in this adorable little bag where you could place your payment. Charming!
After dinner, it was time to hit Chocol Ha for a bit of dessert. What fun! I indulged in a chocolate frappe, while Barry tried the decadent chocolate crepes. A wonderful way to top off a meal.
Believe it or not, the sweet decadence of the crepes only whetted Barry's appetite for dessert, and he had to have some ice cream too!
The following morning brought us back to the irresistible Luz de Luna for breakfast. Anticipating a fairly long travel day with only a couple of snacks for lunch, we wanted to make sure to eat heartily enough to hold ourselves for awhile, and we succeeded.
They start you out with some delicious coffeecake-like bread. It would be really hard to eat low-carb here, so no need to try.
I had delicious French toast, and Barry had a great-looking omelet. We also shared a fruit plate but somehow didn't get a photo of that.
After all that feasting, we were well-stoked for another day of travel. But before we leave Campeche, stay tuned for more photos: there's even more to see!
On Sunday around lunchtime, we were walking around downtown Merida where a variety of outdoor food vendors cluster to serve the shoppers and walkers. I wasn't very hungry but was hoping to find some Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup), a classic Yucatecan soup I'd heard so much about. Although the booth we stopped at said they had it to lure us in, they didn't actually, though they had some other kind of chicken soup. Realizing it was probably too hot for soup anyway, I settled for a cooling Horchata (a traditional rice beverage) to drink, and Barry got a panucho.
Since we had such a light lunch, we decided to eat dinner early and tried one of our Tripadvisor picks, Amaro. Since we were eating so early, we had the place to ourselves. I started with a michelada, another specialty drink in Mexico, and Barry had one of their special cilantro/habanero margaritas. We also ordered some guacamole, chips, and salsa to whet our appetite as we perused the menu.
I still had Sopa de Lima on the brain, and we'd planned to go for sorbet after dinner, so I decided to have a light soup dinner. Barry had a chicken dish.
After our relatively light meal, we strolled back up to the Paseo de Montejo for some sorbet. We'd eyed this place the night before but had chosen fancy desserts at Hennessey's.
We neglected to get a photo of the breakfast Larry prepared for us on Sunday morning, but it was very good -- fresh fruit, granola, yogurt and toast. On Monday, the day we were hitting the road again for our next destination, we asked for a hearty breakfast (but sans meat) since we'd be eating only snacks for lunch.
Before heading to the bus station to be on our way, Barry was determined to stop at the French pastry shop, Cafe Creme, very close to where we were staying. A Frenchman owns and operates it, so it is authentic and lovely. We figured we'd pick up a couple treats for the bus ride, since we wouldn't be having lunch.
After meeting the owner and getting a few free sample tastes, we picked our poisons. It was all so delicious we could hardly go wrong with any choices.
Stay tuned as we travel from Merida to our next destination, Campeche!
One of our favorite things about visiting a new city is trying out new-to-us restaurants. Merida has a reputation for having great food, and we weren't disappointed.
Our first night in the city, we were too tired from our travel day and lots of walking for most of the day to do much for dinner. We decided to walk around the corner from La Casa Lorenzo to a pizza place Larry recommended and bring home a pie to eat in his bar area, which we'd have all to ourselves, since we were the only guests at the bed and breakfast. This vegetarian pizza did not disappoint. Of course Barry got my olives, and I got his mushrooms. Yum!
The next morning, Larry said that he would either serve us breakfast (included in our room rate) or take us to a very authentic Mexican place to eat, Wayane. Always up for something novel, of course we chose the latter, and it didn't disappoint.
Our juices -- Barry had chaya/pineapple (the green one), and Larry and I ended up with tamarindo, though we thought we ordered mandarin orange -- must have been our Spanish! No matter, it was delicious.
As with our juice orders, there were some misunderstandings with my food order. I though I'd ordered three different egg tacos (with various add-ins), but ended up with only one egg and two meat (chicken and pork). They were delicious but way more food than I really needed. Larry successfully got three egg tacos.
Despite the small ordering snafus, this place was a really fun experience, and the food was great. If we hadn't been staying at Larry's, we would never have known about it, and it was a bit of a drive in his car, so we wouldn't have gotten to enjoy this authentic breakfast. Thanks Larry!
For lunch we tried a place we'd read about on Tripadvisor, Chaya Maya, recommended for authentic Yucateca food. It is downtown and super popular with locals and visitors as well. The waiters spoke almost no English, and the menus were in Spanish as well, making it an interesting experience, but we did just fine.
We started with a cold cervasa and complimentary chips and sauces. Yummy.
We both tried the Turkey Panuchos, a traditional Yucatecan dish. They were really colorful and tasted great.
An interesting thing; there was a woman making tortillas on one side of the restaurant. Very cool!
After eating two very authentic Mexican meals, we decided to do something completely different for dinner. On Larry's recommendation, we strolled down the Paseo de Montejo and ate at an Irish pub/restaurant, Hennessey's. And even stranger, we ordered pasta! And it was actually very good! It was a light chicken and veggie pasta, leaving us room for a yummy dessert.
We shared two different (and very lovely) desserts, cheesecake and chocolate terrine. They tasted as good as they looked!
Please stay tuned for much more from Merida!
We began our second full day in Tulum with breakfast a place that is quite popular with the locals, right on the main street: Don Cafeto's. It was good, but not our favorite meal of the trip, and we were downwind from heavy smokers sitting at the table next to us, so the experience was not the best. But it was reasonably priced and conveniently located right on the main drag. The coffee was really, really strong -- a bit too much for us.
They bring you this rather unexpected bowl of pickled vegetables and garlic (!?!) before your meal arrives. I don't know if this is supposed to be a hangover cure or what, but it didn't hold any appeal to us in the morning, and we left it untouched. The homemade salsa, however, was nice, and Barry enjoyed it on his omelet.
For lunch after our long bike ride, we were pretty hungry. We decided to try Charlie's on the main street through Tulum, which we'd heard was good. It really was! We had the place to ourselves as Mexicans tend to eat lunch much later than we do (like 2-4 pm, with dinner correspondingly late).
We started with a couple of brews and the complimentary chips with very, very piquante habenero salsa. Yum!
I liked this bottle wall behind Barry...what a great way to recycle and lets light in too!
For our last dinner in Tulum, we decided to splurge with a trip to Cetli, one of the fancier restaurants in Tulum. We'd read some excellent reviews and were really excited to try it. We had the place to ourselves when we first arrived to the candlelit garden, a beautiful spot for dining.
The beautiful setting....
The chef/owner, Claudia, does most of the serving as well and really makes this place a special treat as she explains each of the dishes. Everything is organic and so carefully prepared. It's a foodie's paradise!
Claudia first presented us with this lovely plate of starters. I couldn't begin to tell you exactly what it all was, but every morsel burst with flavor and sounds of "mmm...mmm...yum" could be heard emanating from our table again and again. There were a couple of homemade cheeses, delicious breads, and some tasty toppings.
Ordering was difficult as everything sounded amazing, but Barry decided to try the "Metzli", described as "Chicken breast roll with macho banana, covered with black mole sauce". The presentation was as special as the taste.
I selected the "Na-a-a", which was a grilled grouper fillet served with grilled vegetables. It was simple but perfectly prepared.
At a place of this caliber, of course we had to try dessert, because we knew they would be special too. We tried the "Cetli" (Corn cake with chocolate and kalhua) and "Tzopelic" (Bread pudding served over a layer of white cream sauce with strawberry and almond liqueur topping"). Mmmmmm...it goes without saying that these were amazing! We passed them around so we could both try each dessert, and licking the plates was oh-so-tempting, but we held back.
With our tastebuds fully satiated, we were presented with homemade candies wrapped in corn husks as well as a couple of bookmarks when the check came. This was our most expensive meal of the entire trip by quite a lot. With two glasses of wine each and the two desserts, we paid $80 US, which included the tip. We thought that was a reasonable price for a meal of this fine caliber and would have been much higher in the US or on Ambergris Caye for an equally fine meal.
Our final meal was a quick breakfast the next morning -- a travel day. We stopped in at a little natural cafe on the main drag on the way to the bus station and each had a lovely, large fruit cup with yogurt and granola, plus coffee. This was one of my favorite breakfasts of the trip. It was simple and delicious, and I especially liked that they had cut the fruit up very small, so it was easy to eat, no peeling or cutting necessary!
Stay tuned for one final Tulum post, then onward to Merida!