Monthly Archives: June 2011

What the Heck is a Beachstro Anyway?

It’s a cross between a bistro and a beach, that’s what!

So, as the Casual Restaurant Critic had far too much time on his hands and while surfing the internet for food porn he stopped by Facebook and read about a Beachstro and then read about homemade Rocky Road Ice Cream.

Rocky Road Ice Cream!

“Gotta have me some of that” thought the Critic and away he went.

Turns out this here beachstro is not really a bistro but it is on the beach (between Chuburna and Chelem to be exact) and by golly they have pizzas too so the Critic got hisself some of that as well. They bake ’em fresh right there in a big old pizza oven right there in their kitchen too! And the Critic did taste it and found it to be good. The Rocky Road Ice Cream was tasted and it too, passed the test with flying colors.

Now, Cil (or Sil) and Michael said their crust didn’t work out that well that day but you know what, the Critic’s gonna say it was pretty darn good. It’s hard to eat pizza and drive especially with all the new regulations about what y’all are supposed to and not supposed to be doing while you’re driving, but the Critic did pull it off. Also ice cream eatin’ is a challenge, but he’s got that down as well. It’s getting a Tweet in there between bites that’s real hard.

Here’s their Facebook info:

Now there ain’t nowhere to set down and eat right there, but you can get it all to go. So if you are gettin’ just a little tired of eatin’ fried fish for the Nth time on your summer vacation at the beach, well you just go and order yourself some pizza and ice cream.

You can buy the house too, if you want. Ice cream not included.

Pat and Betty Visit the Pharmacist

Pat stared up at the ceiling fan, spinning lazily above the bed just enough to move the air around a little. It was not hot; rather, it was pleasant in the mornings in Merida, always cooler than when she went to bed the night before. She thought about her latest sculpture, the one with the forks she had mentioned to Betty at the cafe the other day when they talked about Seidy. She still had to do something about her muchacha. That’s how Pats mind worked – as does everyone’s she presumed – moving from one subject to the next, linking along like a series of clicks on the internet that take you from one idea to the next in a few seconds in a never-ending barrage of images and information.

Thinking of the internet reminded her that she had wanted to update her Facebook profile picture which still showed her standing, smiling then, next to a man she thought she had once loved. She got up, slipped on an old extra large t-shirt with a faded University of Maryland logo and made her way through the silent house to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. Seidy had not yet arrived. Good.

The click click click of the gas stove top annoyed her and she made a mental note to have someone come and check the burners or whatever it was that made the thing take so long to light. When it finally did, she put some water on to boil and looked through her collection of teas to see what exotic infusion was going to inspire her this morning. She settled on a black tea called Lemon Lift – what was it with those names – which was from a selection in a welcome basket that Betty had shown up with when she moved into her new home in Merida.

Betty had been a real godsend, a friend when Pat most needed one. The separation from Matthew had been the most difficult thing Pat had ever faced and the realization that she was not getting any younger as she moved into single-ness again – as well as a whole new country – made her feel uncertain and insecure in addition to being severely depressed.

She had met Betty one afternoon at Merida’s main square; two extranjeras sitting at adjacent tables having a sorbete and watching people go about their lives. Pat was still staying at a nearby hotel while her house was being readied; Betty was having a pre-comida sherbet as was her custom after a morning of dog walking and a swim in her backyard pool.

“Isn’t this sherbet the best?” asked Betty; she was having mamey. “Betty” she continued extending a hand between the two tables.

“Yes, it’s fantastic” said Pat, who had been overwhelmed by the strange flavors and had finally settled on safe and familiar strawberry. “I’m Pat” she replied and took the offered hand.

From there they had talked like old friends for what seemed like hours and when Pat finally peeked at her watch discretely, so as not to offend her new companion, she realized with some embarrassment that she had probably kept Betty from her mid-day meal, although there was no complaint from her new friend.

In the time since, Betty had adopted Pat and shown her around Centro, telling her which restaurants were good and which ones to stay away from; where she could get a cheap (and clean) manicure and pedicure – “they keep their scissors and things clean, so you don’t have to worry about an infection” she had said – and the little laundry place just around the corner where they do such a good job. Once Betty had been apprised of Pat’s emotional situation and they had come to the conclusion that most men were cursed with a defective chip that caused them to spin out of control after reaching a certain mileage, Betty also told Pat about ‘her’ pharmacist, a quiet and very serious middle-aged man in spectacles and the obligatory lab coat who worked in an hole in the wall pharmacy next to a small clinic on 57, who could discretely and without a doctors prescription, procure all sorts of medicines to combat all manner of ills.

She smiled and popped a tea bag into a cup of hot water, remembering the first time she had visited Dr. Gustavo, which was the name on the glass door of the pharmacy, in a two-tone Gothic hand painted script. Responsable: Dr. Gustavo Fuentes Alcocer, UNAM. Betty had done most of the talking, introducing her new friend and explaining that she was a little down.

Mi amiga tiene una depresion” said Betty to Dr. Gustavo seriously after exchanging the usual buenos dias and como esta usted formalities. Dr. Gustavo nodded gravely and Betty continued “necesito una medicina para ella“. Pat looked on, suitably nervous and looking the part without much effort. Betty patted her shoulder.

Dr. Gustavo turned back and looked briefly at the metal racks behind him, where little boxes and containers were neatly arranged in what appeared to be alphabetical order, then disappeared for a moment between the racks. With only the A section visible, Pat could make out a few familiar names and some not-so familiar ones. While Abilify and Afterbite sounded somewhat recognizable, there were some strange ones there like Acarbosa Tarbis and Aclasta. There were so many!

When Dr. Gustavo returned to the counter he presented Betty and Pat with a small box with the name Ludiomil. “Es como Prozac” said the doctor seriously and, after the briefest of interrogations regarding Pat’s health, handed Pat the box in a small plastic bag. Pat fished out her pesos and Betty helped sort out the colorful bills until they had the right amount. They paid and headed for the door, Betty shouting “Gracias doctor!” and Pat smiling sheepishly as they stepped out into the sunshine of Calle 57.

It seemed so long ago already. Pat shook her head and took her cup of Lemon Lift tea to the kitchen table, where her laptop was waiting obediently and clicked open her Facebook page. “15 new messages!” was the excited announcement at the top of the screen. She sat down and began to read.


Will Pat get around to updating her Profile Pic? Will she set a date for her sit-down with Seidy? Will she spill lemon tea on her laptop? Stay tuned for another installment of Ti’ho Tales coming as soon as inspiration strikes again!

Frijol the Malix Gets a New Home

He was born in the street, raised in the street and it was being in the street on a particularly fortuitous Thursday afternoon (not that he could have differentiated between a Thursday and any other day) that brought him to the attention of the bare-legged lady with the yellow hair who took one look at him and scooped his bony body up and threw him into the back of her car, making cooing sounds and speaking in a gentle tone that was new to him.

For most of his life, as long as he could remember at any rate, his life had consisted mainly of running, hiding, knocking over garbage cans and nearly getting killed by cars while running across streets. Food was scarce in a land where even the humans had to scramble to eat. Old tortillas, bits of chicken bone, plastic bags with rotting meat, these were his staples most days.

It was not rare to get a kick in the side from a passing human if he wasn’t paying attention or, feel the sting of rocks pelted from groups of curiously smaller humans who also chased him and made loud, aggressive noises.

Often there was no previous warning. The humans would be still one minute, and then smack, he would get clobbered. Brooms were often used against him as well, whenever he got too close to those places where the humans congregated and the smell of cooking was in the air, driving him to distraction while he scratched himself.

Ah yes, the scratching. At some point when you live in the street, you pick up some ticks and fleas and these just seem to multiply exponentially all over your body making it unbearably itchy and causing welts and bleeding which makes you feel even worse and seems to anger the humans even more because the beatings and rocks and brooms seem to be everywhere and more often.

In any case, the yellow haired lady had found him on the street and had literally and figuratively lifted him out of his misery.

He felt fantastic. Now obviously well-nourished, his coat was shiny and insect-free and his yellow-haired lady talked to him constantly in a soothing voice, patting his head gently and stroking his fur and if there was a thunderstorm or one of those extra-large, monstrous contraptions out on the street backfired, he would run, tail between his legs to his benefactor who would stop whatever she was doing and calm him down.

He learned to recognize her name when other humans stopped to say hello to her and pat his head; they called her Betty.


Will Frijol the Malix live happily ever after or will he get run over by a bus? Will Betty’s hair remain yellow or will the black roots start showing? Will the gringos and their neutering campaign get to Frijol the Malix thereby affecting his virility?

Stay tuned for another exciting installment of Ti’ho Tales, coming soon (I hope)

A Merida Institution Turns 50 – La Susana Internacional

If you have spent any time in Merida, any time at all, you have been to La Susana Internacional in Kanasin for panuchos and salbutes and perhaps a delicious caldo. If you haven’t, well shame on you!

Last night, La Susana Internacional threw at party to celebrate their 50th birthday and the Casual Restaurant Critic was there to partake in the festivities and a chunk of tres leches birthday cake complete with fluorescent, super-sweet icing. Imagine! 50 years this place has been operating, not in its present format as it once was a trailer-type stand. This beats Elaines, which recently closed upon reaching 50 years – it seems that panuchos never go out of style!

The restaurant was packed with larger than large tables and it seemed that entire Yucatecan clans came out in full force to celebrate and ; there were at least 5 tables of 12 or more people, happily enjoying their dinner to the sounds of live trio music, and the waiters were scrambling to get the food out of the kitchen.

Here are just a few photos; enjoy!

The Casual Restaurant Critic in Muna – Lol-Pich Restaurant

If you are in the Puuc region and are not as far out as Uxmal or Kabah and can’t visit the Pickled Onion in Santa Elena, you are probably wondering if there is another option for decent food someplace in between Uxmal and Merda that is not the San Pedro Ochil hacienda. The Casual Restaurant Critic wondered this as well and after visiting with Pedro in Muna, decided that a new restaurant had to be found to expand the database so to speak.

Two restaurants were recommended to him; the new La Finca restaurant just outside of Muna on the way back to Merida and Lol Pich, described as a more local, family oriented option just a little closer to town. The Critic and his guests settled on the latter for lunch.

Lol Pich (lol=flower, Pich=the giant Swiss Family Robinson tree just out front) does indeed appear to be a family run restaurant and as it was Fathers Day, was full of families celebrating except for one table which was where the Critic and guests sat. A young man, friendly enough, in an Alice in Wonderland tshirt acted as the waiter and several ladies could be seen in the kitchen working diligently. The menu is a one page affair that is not big on Yucatecan food and seems to be more of a general option for locals and visitors alike.

The table finally settled on Poc Chuc, beef fajitas and Yucatecan chicken. When the dishes arrived the chicken had been converted into beef but our Alice in Wonderland man noticed right away, muttered “era pollo verdad” and took the plate back to the kitchen. As this dish belonged to the only lady at the table, the Critic and guest politely waited. And waited some more. Finally, the Critic asked how much longer it would be for the chicken. “Ya casi” was the answer, which means a lot of things and usually is not particularly hopeful, so the Critic asked that the two dishes, now getting cold, be taken back to the kitchen to be kept warm while the chicken was being finished.

After what seemed like a long time during which the guests were able to enjoy the rather loud, heavy on the tuba music coming from some impressively large speakers, the Poc Chuc and beef fajitas again appeared in front of the diners. The chicken was still not forthcoming and it seemed that this was becoming a Groundhog Day moment. Eventually the chicken did arrive and all was well in the world.

The food was fine, but nothing to rave about or even consider writing home about. Total bill with a Michelada, a coke and two cervezas came to $280 pesos before tip.

The Critic will try La Finca next time; while not bad, the Lol Pich is not particularly great and for those looking for something more Yucatecan, not the best option. The restaurant at San Pedro Ochil is still much better for that.

Leaves in your Pool – The Horror

Here in the charming area that I live in with my lovely Better Half, we are blessed with enough terreno to be able to have a variety of local vegetation including many a tree, on the property. I in turn am blessed with a forward-thinking Yucatecan who is not only good looking and smart, but also atypical in her appreciation for the flaky barked chaka, the honey bee attracting dzidzilche, the lush green jabin and spiny chukum and who early on in our relationship agreed with the idea of leaving the local trees on the property, rather than adopt the accepted local method of bulldozing and burning.

As the years have gone by, our selection of trees as well as the variety of smaller plants, has grown. From a ramon taken from a property behind one of our stores in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto part of town to coconut palms rescued from an earlier home that was bulldozed over to make way for a parking lot to towering yellow bamboo from Cuernavaca from Better Halfs grandmother to… the list goes on.

One of these later additions is a trio of mango trees, that popped up on their own as a result of our rather haphazard composting methods which involve taking the mornings fruit peelings, coffee grounds and egg shells and tossing them under the trees around the edge of the property where the lizards, birds and worms do their thing. Well, during one mango season, several of the mango pits (?) we had tossed actually became trees and this year, the trio, which has grown vigorously and has reached rooftop height, yielded a small basketful of delicious mangoes; not just one kind, but two varieties!

If you are about to stop reading in disgust at the cloying sweetness of this little story, I understand. But fear not, because I am about to introduce to you the antagonist in today’s rant, er story.

Next door neighbors, wouldn’t you know. Let’s call them the AN’s. Not because they are Vietnamese but because they are Anal Neighbors. AN’s for short. These are the folks who need to have every. single. thing. in it’s right and proper place in it’s right and proper position and… well, you get the picture. Each morning at 7 AM their mozo serenades the area with the whine of a vacuum cleaner on ‘high’ with which all four luxury vehicles are vacuumed. This happens 6 days a week and it is a wonder that there is any carpet fiber left in that automotive carpet.

Relations, initially cordial enough, over the 10 foot dividing wall (built by yours truly on our land) between the two properties had already been strained in the past when one of the huge palma real (Royal Palm) fronds crashed down on said wall, knocking out a (rather chintzy) lamp on the neighbors side of the wall on our property and causing great grief to Mrs AN.

“How could you not see this was going to happen!?” she angrily yelled at our gardener  as it is infinitely easier to yell at someone’s employee than at your neighbor who might answer back. “I TOLD you these fronds were going to fall!” Our gardener shrugged.

The tree you see, is on our side of the wall. Better Half, feeling motivated to smooth over any misunderstanding offered to cut down the offending oxygen producing tree but Mrs. AN quickly countered with “It’s not about THAT” to make it clear that she LOVES trees and wouldn’t have a tree sacrificed on HER account.

This week, one morning when Better Half was waiting for the coffee to percolate, she noticed it was rather clear along the side of the wall where the AN’s have their swimming pool. Sure enough, the ANs had (apparently) commissioned their vacuuming mozo/gardener/aspiring horticulturist to clear some branches that were hanging in the vicinity of their swimming pool and this machete-wielding Mayan with the sensibilities of a Donald Trump hacked away at the trees on our property leaving stumps where two of the three mangoes stood, along with several other tree casualties.

After the initial shock and resulting fury, there followed a neighborly chat/visit where things were patched up somewhat and the end of the story will probably mean the demise of said mangoes in the interest of neighborly relations. To which Mrs. AN will loudly emit protesting sounds while secretly happy that no leaf will contaminate her pristine pool and garden tableau.

The whole incident also had me reflecting on the bigger concept of trees vs man and got me to wondering how annoying can it really be to have some leaves in your swimming pool? Is it really that much of a tragedy to have a leaf brush up against you while swimming that you would have to chop down anything in the vicinity? Are you expecting the Home and Gardens photographer to show up without telling you first? What?

And when clearing or widening streets and putting in sidewalks: where does it say that a road cannot go around a tree, or a sidewalk skirt it; why is it necessary to sacrifice a large, healthy tree for the sake of a ‘straight’ road. Cars have steering wheels do they not? People can walk around a tree can’t they?

This little tale is also a reminder that it’s healthy – and in your interest – to love thy neighbor, or at least tolerate them; as my Better Half points out, if you have a problem or some sort of emergency, it is much more likely that your neighbor will be around to help you well before any friends or family can get to you. A point which she also stressed to the AN’s and which hopefully sank in so that they will feel free to come over and discuss any future tree trimming with us before asking their employee to undertake said trimming on their behalf.

From Quince to Pitaya

The Pitaya, also known as the Pitahaya, among other things (Google it – I did!) is now available at your local Walmart or mercado de frutas favorito. When you see the mass of purple, fuchsia and yellow piled in spiky heaps next to the poor regular-looking grapefruit you will surely be inspired to buy one or three or at least take a photo.

Oftentimes (is that a word I wonder?) people of the expat variety will look at me in horror when I tell them that a great many Meridanos shop for their groceries at Walmart or any of the other large supermarkets. I think I will write a post on the subject!

Doña Juany gets a Headache

Stepping out, broom in hand, into the relatively cool morning air in front of her colonial home that had once belonged to her parents and who had gone off and died, leaving her in charge of taking care of the old, crumbling family home, Doña Juany paused for a moment to take a breath.

Fate. Yes, as fate would have it and thanks to her ungrateful and unhelpful brothers deciding to marry and move to el norte because God forbid that her sisters in law should have to live in Merida’s congested downtown – las wachas – she had been the only one left to live in what used to be a grand colonial home but which was now reduced to a dusty relic, complete with cracks in the walls and ceilings, vines creeping into the kitchen and rotting wooden door frames. She glanced – half angry, half sad – back at the sagging front door and grunted sharply, beginning to sweep the sidewalk with quick, violent movements.

Of course she had not gotten married; the love of her life had been Carlos Irigoyen but what had been a promising love affair was fatally interrupted by the constant neediness of her mother who was on her deathbed and had no one else to care for her. Juany’s father had died a few months prior and that prolonged illness and the news that Mama was also now sick, was the motivation her brothers needed and they had fled the family home to take refuge with aunts and uncles and in universities in Mexico City and Monterrey.

“Anywhere but here” she muttered to herself, sweeping a little more vigorously.

Of course while they were off enjoying life and improving themselves under the guise of ‘studying a career’, she was left behind with Mama Rita, as the servants – long since gone after her fathers illness dried up what was left of the family fortune – used to call her; bathing, feeding, changing her now baby-like mother and arranging for a priest to come visit once a week to keep up her spiritual health. Not that she minded of course – she had to remind herself sternly – but wouldn’t it have been nice if her brothers had shown at least some interest in helping out, in some small way. But no, not even a hint of interest let alone outright help. And then they started in with their girlfriends, some of whom eventually became their wives – las wachas – and they all moved back to Merida, but as far away from el centro as possible, to fashionable neighborhoods with pretentious names, like Monte Alban and Monte Cristo and Monte Fulano and Monte Mengano.

Her sweeping picked up speed to the point where she was now slashing the broom back and forth, not even seeing what it was she was sweeping.

And so here she was, unmarried, overweight and bitter, saddled with a responsibility in the form of a house that she couldn’t get rid of even if she wanted to, given the condition of the building and the drooping real estate market in Merida.

She stopped sweeping and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. Embarrassed, she quickly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and muttered something about el polvo just loud enough to be heard, in case anyone was looking out a nearby window or door.

She could feel a headache coming on.

It was at this moment that Frijol, the neighbors dog, sauntered into her line of sight and stood before her, looking up with those big dark malix eyes and wagging his tail expectantly. He was a healthy, well fed, all-black former street dog who had had the fortune to be adopted by Doña Juany’s neighbor, a gringa who had moved in a few years back and with whom Doña Juany had come to be on speaking terms when they occasionally crossed paths on their street.

With a jerk of his head, Frijol turned to bark happily at his owner, who now also appeared in front of Doña Juany.

Buenos dias, Juanita!” said Betty cheerfully.

Buenos dias, Doña Beti” answered Doña Juany, forcing a smile and hoping her eyes were not too red. “Mucho polvo” she added with a quick rub of her left eye.

Si” replied Betty “es muy seco todo” and with that she turned, waving, and sang out “adios Juanita!” while opening her front door and with the malix Frijol bounding happily ahead of her, disappeared inside.

Doña Juany looked after them for a moment, then took her broom and slowly stepped through the sagging wooden front doors back inside, closing them carefully behind her, making her way past the scratched petatillo rocker next to a small metal end table that featured a scene from a Disney cartoon, through the off-white, almost green square-tiled kitchen, making a beeline for the baño with the one naked overhead light bulb and finally reaching the stained wooden wall cabinet with the broken mirror, where she kept her headache medicine.


Will Doña Juany find comfort in Aspirin? Will Frijol the Malix live happily ever after? Will Betty remember to call Pat?

Stay tuned for another installment of TihoTales, when inspiration strikes!

The Problem with the Muchacha

“I mean it’s not like she’s actually stealing anything” said Pat, holding the cup of decidedly watery coffee with both hands, feeling the cups smoothness and marveling at the fact that you could even hold a fresh cup of coffee in a porcelain – albeit chipped – cup with both hands. Shouldn’t this be hotter?

Betty nodded, completely in tune with the frustrated sentiments of her recently arrived friend from Baltimore, for whom Betty had procured a maid in response to Pats request because, as she had put it, “I need more time for my art.”

Blonde, blue-eyed and originally from Guelph, Ontario, Betty had had similar concerns when she first arrived in the formerly-white city of Merida some years ago but now had become accustomed to the locals way of doing things. She recalled the shock of finding her mozo, a young lad of about 22 with a limited command of English and decidedly Mayan features whom she had hired off the street, poking around in her kitchen when he was supposed to be watering her garden. “Que haces, Juanito?” she had asked and the mozo had simply shrugged and left her there, wondering if she should make it more clear what his job description was and seriously debating whether or not she should count the spoons.

Pat interjected with a sigh. “I know she is a sweet girl and would never take something without asking” she said “but I can’t shake the feeling that she has been through my things”

The waiter, a man in his fifties with a large belly completely inconsistent with his income, approached the outdoor table. “Mas cafe?” he asked, all the while checking out Betty’s legs, which were bare, muscular and tanned, thanks to her plaid shorts and a strict regimen of daily swimming and walking her dogs. “No, gracias” said Betty, while Pat just shook her head. The waiter retreated into the dark confines of the cafe.

Pat continued. “I mean there I was, in my studio doing some work with forks. You know I am working on a piece that involves forks, right?” Betty nodded. “And I look over at the kitchen and there is Seidy talking on her cell phone and putting something in her purse. So I put two and two together…” Her voice trailed off.

“Look,” said Betty soothingly, “you really don’t know what she was up to and I’m sure you’re just jumping to conclusions. Remember that I talked to Seidy’s mother before we had her come to work for you and she assured us that Seidy was very responsible and completely dependable.” Pat nodded. “Why don’t you ask her what she was doing?” continued Betty.

Pat shook her head, setting down the chipped cup. “I couldn’t do that” she said, “I would be accusing her of something and what if it is all a misunderstanding?”

Betty smiled gently. Pat had been through a lot in the last few years and her self-esteem was still somewhat fragile. After her husband had left her in yet another classic middle age crisis love story, Pat had spent much of her time depressed and only when she discovered her passion for art – and anti-depressant drugs – did she climb out of her funk and rejoin the living. Now she had managed to purchase a small home in Merida and was getting by on her savings and the occasional sale of her rather controversial art. There was not a huge market in Merida, it seemed, for abstract sculptures made of kitchen utensils.

Betty signaled for the bill to a passing busboy using that ‘writing-in-the-air’ motion she had picked up as part of her cultural conversion, who nodded and continued on to the cafe’s interior. A moment later the waiter emerged from within and asked Betty if she wanted the bill. “Si, por favor” she said and a few minutes later was fishing through her fanny pack for some pesos. Placing the money on the bill and mentally calculating the 10 percent she was leaving as a tip, she looked at Pat. “If you like, next week when I have a moment, we can sit down – together if you like – and talk to Seidy and find out what she’s up to these days. You know, sometimes when you talk to them, you get to know a little about what it is that’s going on in their lives and everything is really OK.”

Pat’s slightly worried expression seemed to brighten a few shades. “That would be great Betty” she said, “can I call you?”

“Of course” Betty replied with a smile. They got up and made their way down calle 62 until they came to the corner of 61, where they parted, with a peck on the cheek just like the local ladies of a certain economic and social background do it, and continued on to their respective homes in Centro.


Will Pat resolve her doubts? Will Seidy cough up her secret? Will Betty adopt another street dog?

Stay tuned for another installment of Ti’ho Tales, coming soon, should the inspiration strike!