Thursday, March 10, 2011

Culinary Tour: The Yucatan

Culinary Tour Day 3 and 4:

We headed out early on Tuesday morning, aptly named Fat Tuesday, seemingly in recognition of the quantity of food we are ingesting on this tour. We rode the ADO bus from Cancun to Valladolid, a small town in the Yucatan, that was bursting with life—lots of young kids milled about the town square in the soft evening light, flirting with their novios.

We skimped on breakfast Tuesday morning, enjoy a smoothie of mamey fruit and bagels. Once we arrived in Valladolid, we walked to one of the town's swimming holes, or cenote, for a meal and a swim. It was beautiful. A cenote is a sink hole that is full of cool, clear water. The food at Cenote Zaci was delicious, including typical Yucateca Mayan dishes such as poc chuk, queso relleno, chicken pibil, and longaniza sausage.

The local kids were wet enough, celebrating Mardi Gras by throwing water balloons—and even water melon---at each other.

Which brings me to our favorite dish in Valladolid. We enjoyed food at the Taberna de las Frieres Tuesday night. Situated over a cenote, the restaurant boasted the best appetizer ever, in our foodie opinions. The grilled watermelon salad had us all swooning. Layer of chimichurri brushed watermelon, grilled and placed on grilled panela cheese with thin tomato slices. The topper was a delicious sauce which we managed to find out was made with papaya and tamarind.

On Wednesday we started our day of fasting with cappuccinos and empanadas of corn and squash, then headed to the local market to browse the produce—and shoe shop. Stall upon stall of shoes, clothes, trinkets, meat, fruits, vegetables and honey filled the large municipal building. I bought various spice mixtures and a few types of honey. When I asked one of the vendors how to prepare food with the ingredients, she simply asked me, “Do you have a servant?” “No”, I replied. She shrugged her shoulders and turned to the next customer. Do I appear that hopeless?

I grabbed a torta from a small food cart to fill my surprisingly empty stomach. Marinated grilled pork with beans, guacamole, tomatoes, pickled onions and salsa on fresh french bread. Delicious!

After marveling at the ruins of Ek Balam, we enjoyed a late lunch at the gorgeous restaurant Casona. I sampled the relleno negro, a black pepper mixture over stewed chicken.

I am looking forward to getting back to cooking classes on Isla Mujeres; my one regret on this side trip to Valladolid is that we didn't have someone to teach us how to cook with all of the wonderful local foods and spices. Guess I'll just have to come back next year.

1 comment:

RCakeWalk said...

Just gorgeous. All of it! I was purposefully neglecting coming over to your blog, since I knew pangs of insane jealously would wash over me... and of course, I was right. But today it's sunny and blue skies, and though not met with swimming and tropic temperatures, I'm reminded that Spring is almost here! Hope you have a wonderful remainder of your trip...