Monthly Archives: February 2012

Santiago Learns a Lesson

** warning – this article contains ‘bad’ words **

Santiago Puc Arjona felt chastised and furious. An important lesson about drinking and driving, as well as the dangers of littering, had been brought home to him just minutes before, when, while driving back to his home in Merida, he drained the bottle of Corona he had brought with him from his cousins wedding in Tixcacal and tossed it out the window of his silver 1992 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. The bottle had shattered against the glass in his drivers side door, which was when Santiago realized with some surprise that he had forgotten to roll down the window before throwing the bottle out.

Chinga su madre!” he said aloud, angrily.

Continuing to curse his bad luck under his breath, he pulled off the narrow highway and, checking for traffic, opened the door and stepped out to survey the mess. The remains of the Corona bottle littered the inside of the truck and the drivers side window now featured a rather prominent crack that ran diagonally across it.

Me lleva la puta madre” he cursed again under his breath angrily and proceeded to look behind the seat for something with which to sweep out the glass. Yesterday’s copy of the Por Esto newspaper would do, he decided, and rolling up a section or two began to sweep the glass shards out of the truck and onto the side of the road.

When he was done, and shiny bits of broken glass lay motionless on the grey asphalt, he felt a sudden and very real urge to urinate. Leaving the side of the pickup, he stepped to the front of his vehicle where traffic coming from behind could not see him and unzipped his fly. The relief was blissful as he watered the weeds on the side of the road and he turned his face towards the sun, closing his eyes, to take in the last of the afternoon rays. The buzz from the beer at the wedding had not dissipated even with the adrenaline-pumping moment when glass hit glass inside the truck.  He zipped up and walked back to the drivers side of the pickup taking no notice of a car-full of tourists who turned their heads to see what he was up to as they drove past in a rental with orange Quintana Roo plates.

Snakes are not uncommon in the Yucatan and among them, the boa constrictor is often seen on highways and byways, sometimes making the Local section of the Diario de Yucatan newspaper when a group of police or firemen are called upon to shirk their patrolling duties and is assigned the delicate task of catching one in someones home and then have their photo taken with their prey.

It is less common for a snake such as the aforementioned boa to to slither out of the underbrush on the side of the road and somehow find its way into a vehicle, but today, as Santiago’s luck would have it and while he was happily relieving himself, a boa constrictor did just that, nestling itself comfortably in a space behind (and under, given its size) the bench seat that stretched across the interior of the pickups cabin.

Santiago got in the pickup, turned the key and the 6 cylinder engine roared to life reassuringly. Putting the vehicle in ‘drive’, he pulled out onto the highway and reached the periferico a few minutes later, coming to a stop at the traffic light and completely oblivious to the fact that an enormous reptile was curled up just inches away.

Au Pied de Cochon in Merida? Really? Well, kind of.

The Critic saw the sign, a vinyl banner on one side of the Intercontinental hotel here in Merida, announcing the fact that Au Pied de Cochon was in their restaurant, a temporary visit by the chef with all his great food and the complete menu! Until the 17th of February, which yesterday, was tomorrow and is now today.

If you know the Au Pied de Cochon restaurant in the Distrito Federal, you know that it is a nice – very nice – place to have some fantastic food and enjoy the good service typical of Mexico City’s restaurants where you had better provide good service to your customers or there are 17 people standing in line for your job. If you know that, you will understand the critique. If you don’t, click on the link to see their menu and location and by all means go and soon.

The Critic made a reservation – the day before – for the Better Half and the MiniCritics both and all four arrived at the Frutas y Flores Restaurant in the Intercontinental restaurant here in the formerly white city of Merida, turning into the hotels underground parking lot in sentido contrario as it is not really clear that this is an exit, but the Critic digresses once again from the subject at hand which involves pigs and their feet; that is, the restaurant.

Standing in the entryway to the restaurant, the Critic immediately felt both silly and dismayed. Silly because he had made the reservation and dismayed because the restaurant, with the exception of one table, was completely devoid of human activity except for the waiters. At 8:30 PM, perhaps it was early. The young man at the door welcomed the party and when the reservation was mentioned, he smiled and said to choose any table. He then left the group to get to the table of their choice appearing when it was reached to help the ladies with their chairs.

A bread basket, containing white rolls, probably baked on site, slightly warmed and accompanied by a pat of hard butter with the signature Au Pied de Cochon wax paper arrived soon after.

Let’s stop here for a moment. If you have had the fortune to visit the Mexico City location, you have probably noticed that this is not what happens there: a) you will never find the restaurant empty; b) the hostess will never let you stroll in unaccompanied and pick any table and c) the bread basket contains a variety of delicious breads, only two of which are white rolls. If you haven’t been, you’re probably thinking everything is hunky-dory up to this point, or at least normal for Merida.

The appetizers arrived and the usual Yucatecan question arose: the waiter picked up the French Onion Soup, looked at the diners and asked “Sopa de Cebolla“? The Critic has written about this infuriating lack of a system to identify diners before and so another demerit point was silently added to the experience. Why, in an empty restaurant, the waiters cannot make a note of who ordered what is beyond the Critics comprehension.

The French Onion soup was superb. Cheesy, hot and full of flavor. The tomato soup was, well, a tomato soup, only luke warm and offered little in the oohs and aahs department. The Critic had fallen in love with the clam appetizer in Mexico City and had looked forward to this buttery cholesterol bomb all day and when it arrived, it disappointed. Both luke warm and lacking in the fatty deliciousness of the Mexico City version, it was just OK.

The main courses. The ‘entire menu’ concept was a little misleading as there was no lechon confitado, con  lentejas  y tocino which the better looking Better Half had enthusiastically enjoyed and so she ordered the scallops. Mini Critics ordered duck confit and roasted pigs foot with Bearnaise sauce. The waiter returned a short while after taking the orders to inform the table that the duck confit was not available and would a duck breast do? Alas, the pigs foot was also unavailable and it was suggested that the roasted chamorro (a little higher up on the pigs leg) could be ordered instead. Perhaps it was because this was their last day, but still, one would expect they have everything on the menu when dealing with this level of restaurant. Just a thought. The Critic chose the rib eye with French fries and a green peppercorn sauce, thinking that it would be something along the lines of Trotters Steak au Poivre, with those delectable thin crispy potatoes that you can’t stop eating once you start.

Everyone – well, almost everyone – thoroughly enjoyed their meal; the flavors were delectable although again, the food temperatures were not as hot as they should/could have been. The Critics rib eye steak dinner was the worst of the four: it was unevenly cooked, luke warm, thin as a bistek and the French fries were almost surely of the frozen in a bag from Costco variety. Highly disappointing, even with the addition of the rather glutinous green peppercorn sauce.

For dessert, a creme brulee which was very good.

In summary, the Au Pied de Cochon franchise lent it’s name to a promotion that will probably not garner them any fans and for those who are already fans, it was a huge disappointment. A recommendation or not is a moot point as today is their last day.