Tag Archives: Life in the Yucatan

What’s your favorite ice cream place in Merida?

What’s your favorite ice cream place in Merida?

Arte Helado! Lemon Pie ice cream. Yum.

Here’s the Casual Restaurant Critic’s – their Pay de Limon is most amazing!

Arte Helado Campestre

A Re-Visit to Merci

Merci on a Sunday is guaranteed to feature a wait and sure enough, when the Critic and his Better Half arrived this past Sunday to have breakfast, several people were parked on the bench outside the door. Dalia – next door and on the Critics list based on Better Half’s recommendation – was the backup plan and it was evident that tables were available there.

Nevertheless, a table for two was not a problem and Critic and Better were seated upon arrival. Brunch is available on Sundays from 8:30 to 4:00 and features breakfast items as well as more lunch-y options.

The Critic opted for chilaquiles, served up here with a sunny-side-up egg, a longaniza tomato sauce, avocado, some cheese, and fresh radish garnish. And a smattering of shredded chicken to round out the caloric intake. Better Half ordered what appears to be a sort of Croque sandwich which, she assured the Critic, was delicious. Coffee (latté) was great, as was the almond and pepita croissant and home-made papaya jam.

Recommended? You bet.

Two café lattés and the day’s agua de naranja con mango

Le croissant

L’autre pain whose name the Critic cannot recall. But it was flaky and deliciously warm and with some butter… yum

The chilaquiles rojos

Le sandwich d’oeuf

Customer Service Tales

In a short span of two days, I had three memorable customer service experiences which I think are typical of Merida, a city not known for its outstanding customer service whether it’s retail or restaurant. Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences? Read on.

The Dry Cleaners

Pre-wedding (not mine, one I had been invited to)  and I had some shirts to clean so I stopped at a previously unknown-to-me dry cleaning operation at the Uptown shopping mall. I stopped there because I rarely if ever visit the dry cleaners and so my criteria for selecting one is if I see it on the side of the road or not. This one was there, with a parking spot to boot, so I stopped.

In I went, holding my two items of clothing and standing behind a woman who was in the process of leaving her clothing. No one looked up or acknowledged my presence in any way. The space was small, so the young woman behind the counter knew I was there, I was sure, and the other lady who was wandering around behind the counter unsmilingly definitely looked my way at some point before quickly looking away without so much as a growl.

I was there for a while, while the counter lady and the customer lady negotiated what was cleanable and what was not. I was growing increasingly impatient as one does when one is ignored, but finally, after what seemed like a Pleistocene length of time, customer lady departed leaving me face to face with counter lady. She looked up and then at my shirts.

Digame?” she asked, finally acknowledging my presence.

¿Digame? What is she? A Venezuelan phone operator?

I asked her if she had any idea of what it felt like to be invisible. Her response came in the form of a bovine stare and silence.

“It would have been nice if at least you had said hello when I came in” I remarked.

Es que estaba atendiendo a la señora

Of course, I hadn’t noticed. Silly me. And imagine the effort and coordination it would have taken to continue attending one client and saying hello to another! I ask too much. There wasn’t much more to say so I left my shirts, took my receipt and left.

Thank you, Tintorerias MAX. Never again. Well, one more time, to pick up the shirts.

The Camera Store

It had been almost a week since I left my Canon camera to be repaired and maintained. When I went to pick it up, the person behind the counter informed me that unfortunately, it was not ready.

I was more than a little mortified since it was my daughter’s wedding and I kind of needed to have the camera that night, but I held it together as best I could.

“Is there nothing that can be done? I had hoped it would be ready for tonight. It’s my daughters wedding you see.”

Déjame hacer una llamada” the employee said and went into the back room.

Although I have been coming to this place for many, many years now and know the owner quite well. I could understand that things were what they were and if it wasn’t ready, it wasn’t ready.

Le vamos a prestar una cámara” I was told when the employee emerged, smiling, from the back room.

Once I picked up my jaw from the floor, I thanked her profusely and signed the receipt for 20,000 pesos of camera that they were lending me in order for me to be able to take photos at my daughters wedding. Who does that anymore? I was impressed, big time.

You have my business for life, Victor and Digicentro.

Home Depot Stop

I have 10 minutes to run in and buy a faucet, a simple garden-type faucet, as there is one at the house which is not closing properly and so, water is running all the time, which means the pump comes on all the time… but I digress.

10 minutes.

I rush in, only to find that the aisle that has the faucets is closed, as a forklift is working in the next aisle over. There is an employee standing next to that little fence they put up.

“Can I just rush in and get this faucet?” I ask, showing him the one I had brought from home.

No, porque están trabajando al lado” replies the employee.

I point to another customer, in that very same aisle, looking for something.

“What about him – does he have magic powers or something?”

No, de hecho le estamos esperando para trabajar.

OK, while you work/wait could you perhaps pop in and get me one of these? You know where they are, it’ll only take a minute.

He does. Comes back with several models.

Tengo este que es cromado pero es de medio, el suyo es de tres cuartos. Tiene que comprar un adaptador. Y tenemos este otro de tres cuartos que no necesita nada.”

I don’t like the 3/4 inch one because it looks like a gas valve shutoff thing. OK. I am ready to buy the adaptor and the half-inch version, in chrome.

Miraculously, the forklift stops working in the next aisle and I am able to enter this one to peruse the faucet offerings. I quickly find exactly what I am looking for and am in the cashier line-up, not before showing the employee what it was I had been looking for. He shrugged and said “Oh” and that was that.

Home Depot, no worries and as the Terminator said, I’ll be back.

 

 

 

What is That in There?

Refrescos

Unmarked mysteries in the fridge

What the Hell is That?

Explaining some of those mysterious things lurking in that fridge.

If you are traveling in the Yucatan, and stopping here and there, especially in the smaller towns and villages along your route, you will perhaps see unusual things (along with the usual assortment of commercial brand soft drinks) in the corner store refrigerator that you might not have at your Seven Eleven back home. Here is an example (photo) of such a fridge and a brief explanation of what it is you are looking at, top left to bottom right.

Top Shelf

  1. Flan Casero. This means home-made flan and when I asked the young lady what it all had she said “huevo… y no sé que otra cosa” which means that she knows it has eggs in it, and that’s the extent of her knowledge of this version of flan. Flan is flan, so no need to go any further with the explanation, I think.
  2. Flan Comercial – this is flan from a box. Jello brand makes a flan that you add water or milk to and voila. That’s what’s in this larger cup.
  3. Those white liquid bottles are horchata. More on that when we get to the main horchata section.

Second Shelf

  1. Jamaica. Pronounced hah-MY-cah, this is an infusion made from a plant very similar to rosehips but much stronger. With fantastic diuretic and antioxidant properties, jamaica, along with its pale cousin horchata, are the most commonly found drinks along with sodas, in any self-respecting taqueria. Note that it is sweetened, as the original version with no sugar will make your tongue curl.
  2. Cebada. Cebada (seh-BAH-dah) is a drink made with barley. It’s kind of a strange, acquired taste kind of drink and those barley bits are a bit like bubble tea with the rubbery tapioca balls, and personally I am still struggling with it. But hey, it’s a drink with a source of fiber built-in.

Bottom Shelf

  1. Horchata. The rice (and sometimes almond) drink that accompanies jamaica in every fridge where Mexican food is served. There will be sediment on the bottom, which is a good thing. Give it a shake or two and enjoy it’s almond/cinnamon taste. Again, very sweet and most times made from concentrate. If you find the home-made version, marry whomever it is that made it because this is a true delicacy and becoming more and more rare in the world.
  2. Tamarindo. The fruit of the tamarind tree is a paste and it is extremely sour. Mixed with sugar, it becomes an excellent base for sherbets and drinks. Mixed with sugar, salt and chile it becomes the ubiquitous Mexican candy that will certainly give you the runs when you first try it.

There are other things in the fridge as well. In this case, as it was a taqueria, there was a giant tub of raw meat on the floor of the fridge. Do not be put off by such apparent disparate refrigerator ingredients and be thankful that you don’t live in a land where nanny-state laws prohibit such practical solutions to every-day restaurant problems.

Marmalade Barra de Cocina Norte – It’s Open!

photo of the locale Marmalade Barra de Cocina Norte

Discretely tucked away in the corner of the Bon Ami Plaza (yes that’s really its name)

Tucked away in a corner where the Pho restaurant used to be, surrounded by defunct storefronts in a small commercial plaza on a congested avenue that has the most ridiculous amount of little L shaped shopping centers in Merida, Marmalade is a welcome addition to the area and, judging by the quality of the food and service, guaranteed to remain for some time. This is refreshing since there are so many people that have more money than business sense who are throwing their money into any and all kinds of businesses doomed to fail because they really have no idea of what the hell they are doing.

Location at the bottom of this article!

But I digress. Marmalade is not one of these.

Having visited the location on 47 on two occasions, the Critic decided that Better Half needed to experience the food and service that Dawn and Stephanie are throwing out there. And what an experience it was. Three delicious breakfast items ordered and eaten with gusto, and fragrant baked goods for the ride home (LOL) along with the kindness and attention of the hosts, make this restaurant the new favorite breakfast spot in this part of town.

Each plate and food item is a work of art, the plating/presentation beautiful. Everything tastes spectacularly good and everyone who works here seems to be happy to be there looking after guests.

The Critic had used up all his jam on the toast that came with the breakfast but there was a slice left. Dawn generously brought over another kind of jam just to be able to put something on that last piece of toast. It was a home-made pineapple and serrano jam. Truly amazing!

The Casual Restaurant Critic (and the Better Half) cannot recommend this place highly enough. A perfect spot for a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast – this is Marmalade Barra de Cocina!

flowers, table setting, restaurant, Marmalade, Merida

Fresh flowers on every table

desayuno

Marmalade Breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast, homemade jam and hash browns too

Home-cured lox

wafles, fresas, crema batida, light, desayuno, Merida, Marmalade

Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream

Pineapple and serrano jam. Really

Location location location! There’s a map and everything!

https://www.facebook.com/marmaladenorte/

 

 

 

Camino de las Flores – Parque de la Paz

On this site of the old penitentiary, in a park called the Park of Peace, there is a display of flowers happening that might be worth a visit if you are interested in flowers. The display has been presented in the form of an original design that incorporates Mayan cosmology and the personal vision of its creator, Martin Ramirez.

Eugenia Morales and Martin Ramirez – photo Maru Medina

Martin and his wife Eugenia Morales, both agricultural engineers, started what was then a novel idea back in 1994: opening the city’s first exotic plant store in Merida’s first world-class mall, the Gran Plaza. Since then they have moved on to larger projects. This current project, one of only three in all of Mexico has been done in conjunction with the municipal government of Merida.

An interesting fact that should be considered when taking in this bounty of color: each plant had to be selected according to the time that the flowers would appear, in order to achieve all the colors at the same time, not an easy feat.

The exhibit opens at 9 AM and is a good morning activity, which can be combined with a posterior (or prior) visit to the nearby Santiago market for breakfast.

Some photos of my very recent visit to the Camino de las Flores:

 

 

Highlights from the Club Sibarita Festival Gastronomico 2019

The Critic and his Better Half bought tickets for several culinary events for this year’s version of Club Sibarita’s Festival Gastronomico 2019, the third such festival in Merida and now recognized nationally as an event worth attending. Chefs from all over Mexico (including Merida of course) and places further afield are in attendance, showcasing their talents with exquisite creations for attendees to swoon over.

Events at Pueblo Pibil in Tixcocob, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca in Merida and the Hacienda Xcanatun were packed and the food was truly amazing. It made for some very late nights, and often the Critic and BH were home around 1 in the morning, full of great food and excellent wine courtesy of Casa Madero.

Enjoy some photos of the highlights of the events! First up: Pueblo Pibil, in Tixcocob for a leisurely and delectable lunch. Click on the photos to make them grow magically.

Next stop: Hacienda Xcanatun for the Fine Dining signature Sibarito event.

Lastly, Taste the Best at Altozano:

El Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca

The Critic and BH along with MiniCritic, enjoyed a solid, good, Yucatecan lunch on Sunday at the new-ish and already very popular Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca. (Note and hola to Jan Morgan: the information on where it is etc. is in the link which is the name)

First of all, this is a gigantic restaurant especially compared with the cramped quarters of the also popular Chaya Maya or others, probably because it is an old colonial-era home of one of the henequen barons from back in the day. So you have a huge interior open-air patio surrounded by terraces and rooms which make up the area for tables. Each of the rooms features a henequen (sisal) based theme that is still being completed and will be finished very soon.

In the back, there is a re-creation of a small Mayan “village” complete with the requisite kitchen structure where two or three mestiza women make hand-made tortillas. Other chozas feature information and displays on ingredients used in Yucatecan cooking. Explanations are in Spanish and English, and the Critic is happy to report that the translations are pretty good. Also in the back yard is the pib area, or cooking pit(s) where the food is cooked, in the traditional way of the Yucatecan pueblos. On this visit, the Critic arrived in time to see, along with a dozen or so other interested diners, the moment when the ‘relleno negro’ was pulled out of the pib, and samples were given out – delicious!

In addition to all this, there is a gift shop and a small museum-like display of artifacts and ingredients typically used in the preparation of Yucatecan food and it is evident that someone took their time to arrange and present all this in an attractive and professional manner.

The food was excellent. Well prepared and tasted as it should. BH enjoyed one of her favorite dishes, a Sunday Merida classic called puchero de tres carnes, MC and the Critic both had queso relleno, which is the standard (for the Critic) by which all Yucatecan restaurants are measured. This queso relleno, complete with capers, raisins and almonds is the real deal and is up there with the best of them. Brazo de reina and a small mucbilpollo or tamal were had as appetizers. The first was good, while the tamal was just OK and lacked the crispiness of the fresh-baked version.

Keep in mind that this is heavy food; very filling and you will need a siesta afterward. Don’t feel the need to try everything the first time you visit. You can come back. And don’t eat this at night, for crying out loud: Yucatecan food is a mid-day thing.

What really blew the Critics mind, however, especially after recent forays into various “fancy” restaurants and their indifferent or just plain inadequate service, was the service at the Museo. Santos arrived at the table to introduce himself and when offering drinks made a smooth, professional, sales pitch that convinced all three members of the Critics lunch group to try the house cocktail. Throughout the meal, Santos was not more than a hand-wave away, in spite of having several tables under his charge. There was no intrusiveness, no slinking up to the table, no mumbling and no arriving with the dishes and not knowing to whom they belonged. So, a big shout-out to Santos – keep it up!

The location will make this place very successful and if they keep up the quality of the food and service, this place should be around for a while. Enjoy the photos!

The least photogenic of any appetizer in the world, these are black beans (l) and sikil pak (r) along with tostadas. The sikil pak is excellent.

Shot of the museum part of the restaurant

Gift shop

Museum from the other side

A little pueblo in the back yard – your clue that you’re not somewhere else is the building poking out between the trees

One of the chozas and the display

Inside the choza: here we have an explanation of recado verde

There’s cooking going on right now, under there.

Pueblo in the foreground with a giant hotel in the background for context

A fizzy but not too sweet opener

Brazo de Reina I

Tamalito known as mucbilpolloI

Mucbilpollo II

Brazo de Reina II

Preparing to uncover the pib

The chef explains what is happening here

After carefully removing the earth, the laminated tin sheet is taken off the pit

With the tin sheet removed, this is what you see. Jabin leaves and branches aromatize the food

A treasure chest, waiting to be opened

Forget gold coins and trinkets. This treasure chest contains something much more memorable

Preparing a sample for those watching

Aguas frescas de chaya y ramon. Yes, ramon.

Puchero!

Queso Relleno!

Public Transportation Prices Drop, Uxmal and Chichen Prices Rise

The powers that be have decided (link at the bottom of the page) that a drop in the price of your local bus ticket is warranted and starting February 16 the price will drop from 8 pesos to 7.50. This represents a huge saving of course for those using the buses, and those 50 centavos will be put to good use elsewhere in the family expense budget.

But wait. Have you ever seen a 50 centavo coin?

There are several versions of this cute coin from Mexico’s glorious past kicking around; little silver-colored things made of some worthless metal that range in size from tiny to microscopic. If you have ever tried, you know that picking one of them up off the ground or floor is a geriatric nightmare. Plus, who actually uses them anymore? Do you really think that when you pay your bus fare with a 10 peso coin you are going to get 2 pesos back AND that 50 centavos coin too? That bus driver, already overworked and underpaid for his 12-hour shift, is going to be very pleased to provide this extra service.

Maybe they will have a redondeo, OXXO-style, to benefit some charitable organization that exists only in the minds of its creator.

Enjoy the new bus fares, everyone!

Meanwhile, the Yucatan’s archeological sites are getting a makeover as new tariffs are introduced, doubling the current entry fee price for visitors. Expect huge and amazing changes as the sites are upgraded. Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, might even get phone service in 2019!

Just kidding. Of course, there will be no improvements forthcoming. All that money will go the way of the Elton John concert money, for which there was little to no accounting and whose destiny is a mystery still, years later.

Besides the huge increase to see the Mayan sites in the state of Yucatan (one of the few states in the country to charge people an additional entry fee along with the INAH ticket) the folks in the hallowed halls of government have also decided that since people don’t have anywhere else to park their cars, buses, and vans, it would be a grand idea to raise the price there as well.

Parking at one of the sites – and there are no other options for leaving your car anywhere nearby – has gone up by 167% from a symbolic 30 pesos to a whopping 80 pesos. And it’s not like it’s an incentive to use some sort of alternative transportation system to get to Uxmal or Chichen (or Ek Balam or Dzibilchaltun) because there is none.

 

Things are going swimmingly. Happy 2019!

https://sipse.com/novedades-yucatan/gobierno-mauricio-vila-dosal-disminuye-precio-camiones-merida-323741.html

Have you heard of DIEZ DIEZ?

Diez Diez is a new boutique hotel offering that is in the works just a block off Paseo de Montejo. The kickstart party to the construction which is underway as you read this was at the end of January. Some music, some drinks and some classy snacks from chef Roberto Solis (Nectar, Orori et al) made for an interesting evening, meeting the project founders, architects and promoters.

Should be interesting – stay tuned!