Nine Days on a Culinary and Cultural Vacation in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo. The story begins here…
The magic of a place can take hold slowly, building moment by moment so that in fact you don’t fully realize its power until you leave.
But then again, that’s why they call it vacation.
Our journey begins in Tulum. From the start my husband and I were smitten. We met many foreigners who called Tulum home – musicians and foodies, massage therapists and hotel managers. Each seemed to have a story. Some of the details were sketchy and I pressed no further.
Tulum, in the state of Quintana Roo, is a beautiful, magical land. It was home to the Mayans many years ago who came to the coast, according to our guide, after depleting the resources in the neighboring state, Yucatan. Yucatan, by the way, means “I don’t understand you” the ironic name given to that area after the Spaniards invaded and asked, “what is this place called?” At any rate, scientists think that the amount of wood it took to produce mortar for the pyramids made that land inhospitable.
The Tulum ruins are PACKED every day with tour buses arriving starting at 9 am. Crowds of people pour out heading to the ticket line. Masks and dresses swing in the wind, while men with body paint hold large snakes for photo ops. I learned that you can get there starting at 7 am, though it costs a bit extra to get in, and watch the sunrise over the ruins. Next time.
We ate many fine dinners and enjoyed craft beverages including the best mojito ever at Baley. Standouts include the stuffed pepper appetizer at Cenzontle and our cooking demo at Restaurare, probably one of my favorite restaurants in Tulum. Restaurare is a vegan Mayan restaurant, and we learned to make their signature dishes, mushroom ceviche and soy protein tacos pibil. Chef Maria from Tabasco, also told us how she makes her mole, which they serve over plantains and rice. The cooking demo was fabulous and well-organized. We all were stuffed and amazed at the creativity and incredible flavors of the dishes we enjoyed. But of course when in Mexico, the local digs are amazing, and we had the best Al Pastor tacos at Antojitos la Chiapaneca on the main road in Tulum town. Tourists and locals fill the place after 6 pm each day, and the .30 cent tacos are made as fast as they can manage, which is pretty fast.
After listening to the waves crash from our beachfront accommodations at Alaya Tulum, we headed inland to Valladolid, where the story continues. Later.
RECIPE: MUSHROOM CEVICHE
Makes 1 generous serving
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
¼ white cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
¼ red onion, diced
1 tsp minced cilantro
3 heaping spoonfuls of sauteed oyster mushrooms * recipe below
1 spoon xnipec ** recipe below
salt and pepper
lime juice to taste
Mix all ingredients through xnipec together.
Add salt and pepper and lime juice to taste
Pile in ½ coconut shell or small bowl
Garnish with avocado in some fancy way
Cut ½ pound oyster, shiitake, portabello or other mushrooms into bite sized pieces
Heat 1 tbsp oil over med-low heat.
Add mushrooms and sautee in oil with salt, pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic and a little finely diced white onion (¼ onion?).
1 red onion finely diced
1 whole habanero very finely diced so you don’t see it
juice of 2-3 limes
salt and pepper
Thank you, 7th Sense Media/Paddy Cassidy for the great photos.