Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Casual Restaurant Critic meets The Thai Flasher

Way out in the far reaches of the expanses of ocean front property and ocean front wannabe property, there is a small gringo-run restaurant called Progreso Pastas. Or rather, there was a restaurant called Progreso Pastas but since the owners decided to take a break and go to Thailand for a while, a new owner came along and took over the place and guess what kind of cuisine he is offering? Oh. You read the title of this article already.

The Critic was sitting in his office, mindfully minding his own business when what on the computer screen should appear, but a man and a dog in the form of video star Erich Briehl interviewing Chris Zimmermann (of The Sean Hennessy Theater fame) who is the man behind the Facebook phenomenon Thai Flash which brought the concept of flash mobbing and Thai food together at predetermined times and places in Merida. Chris has opened the Thai Flash restaurant in Progreso (just off the road to Chicxulub, actually) and the Critic suddenly became very very hungry.

A quick drive out to the temporadista-infested coast and after briefly losing his bearings, the Critic found what he was looking for. Unfortunately he found it too soon – at 5 PM the place was still being set up and so the Critic went for a drive around the area, taking photos of flamingoes and trying not to get crashed into by gangs of pre-teens on four wheel drive off road ATV’s barreling along the sandy byroads around Chicxulub. This is where the money is so the kids are white and blond, while further inland – just a few rows of houses in fact – the populace becomes significantly darker and the ATV’s vanish to be replaced by the occasional horse or good old foot power.

Finally it was 6 PM and the Critic again got lost trying to find Chris’s Thai emporium. At last, and finding a parking spot on the street behing a car with plates from Texas and across the street from another with Manitoba plates, the Critic was in and ready to order. Only gringos occupied two other tables in what used to be the house’s garage which has been turned into a small dining area with some rather pretty Thai lamps at one end.

A new waitress, freshly installed and featuring a southern accent (not Peto; Texas) took the Critics order while a local celebrity from the world of real estate, completely over qualified for the job, manned the bar with ease and prepared the house specialty: a lemon grass Mojito. This drink is the best Mojito the Critic has had in Merida, as most places overdo the soda, others the sugar and usually the plant ie the mint, is flavorless and too subdued. This lemon grass version, invented by the Thai Flasher himself, is deliciously refreshing and dangerous because before you know it you will have drained your glass and picked out all the green stuff and ordered another, only then realizing that each of those Mojitos pack an alcoholic punch!

The Tom Yum soup is a work in progress and the recipe is still being tweaked to get it just right. The spice is there, the veggies and coconut milk too, but there is a little something missing and that is being worked on. Probably even as you read this, dear reader!

The Pad Thai however, has been perfected and due to a small snafu with the ordering process, the Critic had his with peanut sauce, which apparently is not always the norm. This Pad Thai, with fresh sprouts on top and plenty of Tofu and veggie goodness, will feed a small family, tastes as good as any Pad Thai the Critic has had and is extremely satisfying. Highly recommended. There was no room for the curry and so that will have to be eaten on another occasion, perhaps with the Better Half.

There was no room for dessert either but Chris graciously invited the Critic to a Thai Iced Coffee. Slightly sweet and served on the rocks, it was a perfect way to finish off the meal.

How to find the place you ask? If you are coming from Chicxulub along what is Calle 29 (please don’t bother memorizing this, the whole beachfront area is far too rustic to have signposts with street names or numbers on them) you are basically SOL as there is precious little in the way of markers to indicate a right turn onto Calle 32. Keep in mind that if you hit Progreso you have gone too far. Pass the parque, an optimistically-named area devoid of houses and featuring a tree or three and some shack-y constructions. Continue on for a few more blocks and hope for the best. If you make it up to the other one way street running from Progreso to Chicxulub and you hit the end of the wall of the Neek Kaan condos, you are in the right place so back up and look for a cross street.

Confused? You should be. Here is their Facebook page:

That should help. Contact them and have them explain it to you!


In Case You Missed This – The Truth About The Drug War in Mexico

Written by Don Winslow, for the Huffington Post

Mexico’s drug problem isn’t.

Mexico’s drug problem, that is.

It’s America’s drug problem.

And our looking at it backwards is a huge part of the problem itself.

We sit and blame Mexico for smuggling drugs across our border as if we were innocent in all this. As if the evil (and they are) Mexican drug cartels are forcing Americans at gunpoint to consume illicit drugs.

(The proposition is not as far-fetched as its sounds. In 1842, Great Britain forced China to accept opium importation, and took the island of Hong Kong to use as a staging base.)

We condemn Mexico for exporting drugs while ignoring the inverse dynamic — we are importing the drugs. We are the ones bringing in 20 tons of heroin, 110 tons of methamphetamine, 330 tons of cocaine and literally countless tons of marijuana annually.

The cartels could stack up drugs on this side of the border until California tilted into the ocean, and if we weren’t using them, it wouldn’t matter. The drugs would be worthless, instead of the multi-billion dollar product that we have made them.

Mexico has every right to be furious.

We insist that the Mexican government ‘crack down’ on the drug cartels, while at the same time we maintain the world’s largest drug market just across its border. We condemn Mexico for its corruption while ignoring the societal rot in our own culture. We act appalled at the (appalling) level of violence in Mexico without ever acknowledging our own share of the responsibility for perpetuating it.

Just for the sake of getting a different perspective, turn the map upside down for a second. Just to get a fresh look, put Mexico to our north and consider the situation.

What if we had highly-armed, wealthy and immensely powerful criminal organizations thriving in the United States — ‘cartels’ whose combined power rivaled the national government. Let’s say that they had enough money to bribe politicians, judges, police, even the military. Let’s suppose that they felt so insulated from consequences that they assassinated police chiefs, mayors and journalists. That they were responsible for an average of ten thousand violent deaths or disappearances a year. That they conducted unspeakably grisly tortures by way of vengeance and intimidation. In the streets of New York, Chicago and L.A.

Now let’s say that Mexico funded them.

To the tune of $25 billion annually.

Go just a little further and say that Mexican entrepreneurs supplied them with the guns they use to kill.

How long would the U.S. tolerate that situation?

Months? Weeks? Days?

What if Mexican drug consumers were funding, let’s say, terrorist organizations inside the United States? How long would it be before the tanks started rolling?

But that’s exactly what we do to Mexico. Our drug money goes south (along with our guns), perpetuating the power of the violent cartels, creating untold misery and suffering for the Mexican people, destabilizing their society, government and economy.

(It is estimated that fully 10% of Mexico’s economy is built on drug proceeds.)

At the same time, we commit more billions ($10 billion in 2011, twice what we spent of treatment and prevention) to try to interdict the drug traffic, money that only drives up the price and gives more profit and power to the cartels that control the prime smuggling turf. We increase the violence in Mexico both by buying the drugs and then by trying to stop them from coming in.

And then we call it the ‘Mexican drug problem.’

We’re Mexico’s drug problem.

by Don Winslow, Huffington Post, 20 July 2012

A Quick Visit to KFC in the Gran Plaza Mall

I am feeling hungry and the ticket guy at the movie theater won’t let me in ‘cuz he says it’s too early for the 4:10 showing of Spiderman which is the only new movie this week and I really don’t feel like watching last weeks offerings of Madagascar 17 and Ice Age 42 and the Mel Gibson rent-payer Get the Gringo which I downloaded illegally anyway from and watched on my laptop and was amazed at how bad it was so why pay to see it in the theater and so I walk by all the food vendors in the “food court” at the Gran Plaza mall, finally settling on KFC and some fried chicken.

If you want to screw up their little system ask for two pieces of chicken. Just the chicken. The initial smile from Yael, a chubby, effeminate and very ebullient little employee faded as he looked back at the menu board and then told me it would be more economical for me to order the combo, with two pieces of chicken, a styro container of their starchy instant mashed potato with the euphemistically named gravy, another styro container of their sugar and mayo laden cole slaw and a nourishing white flour biscuit as well as a soda to complete the fat intake. No, I just want the chicken, I told Yael. He hesitated, and then very professionally the smile returned to his round face and he charged me the 32 pesos.

My order was then passed on to another employee and I was sent along the counter to wait. I watched as the employee doing the actual placing of food in bags, double check with Yael to make sure that she had read correctly – only two pieces of chicken. Nothing else. Yes, Yael nodded, smiling at me. Meanwhile, an employee in the back of the restaurant, sucking back a refresco, was hugged and then kissed on the shoulder by another employee. The fact that they were both males did not startle me as much as they fact that they were in KFC and in full view of the public. I am convinced that in racially tolerant and sexually liberal Kentucky the idea of two Mexicans kissing in the local KFC would go over well.

Ruzzel – yes, that’s Ruzzel with two Z’s, another creative Yucatecan version of an English name – was in charge of handing the bag of food to the customer and carefully looked at the ticket, then at me.

No va a querer refresco?” he asked, doubtfully.

“No”, I replied, “solo el pollo“.

After getting an affirmative nod from cheerful-again cashier Yael, he handed me my bag with two pieces of chicken and off I went to find a spot in the crowded mall to eat it. The chicken was hot and the original recipe still tasted pretty darn good.

Casual Restaurant Critic re-visits Asado Brasil

The Casual Restaurant Critic was in the mood for meat as part of a protein-intensive, carbohydrate-depleted diet regimen. Since Better Half was away there was no reason to go to a fancy schmancy restaurant and the Critic didn’t feel like cooking for one, so the idea of Asado Brasil and their never-ending supply of chewy, fatty meats was appealing.

Upon entering (the door is opened for you when you approach, a small, but welcoming detail many other Merida restaurants might adopt as well) the Critic was greeted warmly by one of the owners; not the one that looks like the Haitian voodoo priest in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die; the other one. Nice to be recognized and to see a smiling face when entering a restaurant.

A Mexican (as opposed to a Brazilian) waiter immediately arrived at the table and asked, in a theatrical voice and a flourish of forearm and hand, if the Critic would like something to drink.

Una copa de vino tinto, por favor” said the Critic.

Una copa de vino tinto” repeated the waiter, obviously a fan of old movies and, with another dramatic flourish, retreated to the bar to fetch a glass of something red which arrived a few moments later, very chilled and tasting vaguely Merlot-ish. Good enough for the meat-fest about to come.

And the meat arrived almost immediately after indicating to the thespian waiter that no, the Critic was not having any of that salad bar right now. Turkey cooked with bacon, chicken wrapped with bacon, sirloin, sausages, chicken hearts, and all manner of beef and pork arrive on large skewers (this is a rodizio style restaurant) and portions are cut and served to your hearts content. A very satisfying way to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon.

When the Critic could eat no more, he visited the salad bar for some watermelon dessert and found it to be the best part of the melon: the center, cold, crisp and sweet. A perfect way to balance out all the salt, fat and protein!

The total bill, with tip came to $300 pesos for one person which included one buffet, one glass of wine, and one glass of Maracuya agua.

The Casual Restaurant Critic reviews Habaneros Yucatecan Restaurant

It has been a while since the Critic has reviewed anything and for that he expresses his most heartburn felt apologies.

If you are tired of the Chaya Maya and La Tradicion, both great options for Yucatecan food and yet, you want something new every once in a while, you might try the relatively off-the-beaten track Habaneros, located next to Puerta de Campeche behind the Siglo XXI Convention Center and the ex Carrefour Chedraui supermarket.

The restaurant is small, the tables and chairs are real ie not plastic donated by a beer company and the service is friendly. There is a complete menu featuring Yucatecan food on one side and Mexican dishes on the other.

The Critic and his Better Half found the food tasty and took some photos to illustrate the care taken in the presentation; the plates look quite pretty when they appear before you.