Monday, September 26, 2011

Fruit Plates! Fruit Drinks! Sweet, Ripe, Tropical Fruits In Isla Mujeres

This is a typical fruit plate In Isla Mujeres. It is from Alexia & Geovanny's in front of the Mexican Mercado. These four loncherias are my favorite place to order fruit plates because they are always fresh and affordable. (~$4) After taking your order, someone may dash into the market to purchase your fresh, ripe fruit.

The fruits are usually cantaloupe, watermelon, banana, mango, papaya, pineapple and lime. Sometimes strawberries or kiwi. Yogurt, granola, and honey are usually offered. The plates above are from Tacos Tumbra. I don't recall if the blue tablecloth is from San Martin's or Poc Chuc Loncheria, which are side by side, in front of the Mexican Mercado.

The exotic fruit plate above is from Villa Rolandi's, Isla Mujeres fanciest restaurant. The fruit plate at right is also from this hotel, located in Sac Bajo.

Cafe Mogagua at the corner of Juarez & Madero (above).
The plate below is actually french toast from Bistro Francais.
Cafe Hidalgo has an excellent fruit bowl, but I don't have a picture of it. The fruit are cut in small pieces and usually include apples, berries, and kiwis, in addition to the usual tropical fruits. Below are two pictures of their fruit crepes. They cut it to order, so you will have time to relax and enjoy the excellent hot chocolate or European style coffee and people watch while your food is being prepared.

This is from Elements of the Island, on Juarez, at the north end.

This is from Cazuela M&J on the back street.
This is a typical fruit cup from a street vendor. The white slices are jicama and they are dusted with chili, which is optional. You also can chose mango that is green and firm if you prefer, which is usually eaten with chili and lime.

A very young man has replaced this woman on the corner of Juarez & Matamoros by Cafecito, possibly her grandson. I once bought a bag of ten peeled tangerines from her for ten pesos. I shared them with my friend who works at the taxi stand. After we discovered they were incredibly sour, we had a fine time passing them out to taxistas and watching the faces they made as they ran to the trash to spit out the fruit. The taxistas had a great sense of humor about it, and it was a lotta fun for a dollar. This woman sells at the first corner in Chica Salina, on the first east-west street.
Typical independent village produce store In Isla Mujeres. There is one downtown on the east-west road just north of the Naval base that is a favorite of mine, recommended to me by local women. If you don't see what you want, ask...she has refrigerators in back for lettuce and such.
This is the Supermarket San Francisco on the town square. The local women know which days are the best days to shop there for produce.

A store at the Mexican Mercado.
Photo from Mexican Mercado downtown
There are unusual dried fruits for sale. The ones I recognize include mango, papaya, peach, kiwi, apples, apricot, pineapple, dates, figs, and several more I really like, but can't identify. I got these at the Super market on the town square.

Fresh orange juice costs about two dollars a liter. You can also buy a half liter bottle, and or in a knotted bag, with a straw. Grapefruit juice costs about three dollars per liter and is not always available. Prices and sweetness can vary week to week. He also sells peeled oranges. He lives in mid island and pedals his trike full of oranges into el Centro daily. He is usually by main on a side street in the morning and in front of UltraMar ferry in the afternoons.He has chilled juice bottles on ice that are freshly squeezed. There are juice vendors in the Mercado and in the colonias, usually until 2-3 in the afternoon. At MaraVilla Caribe a vendor stops by daily, who also sells vegetable juices and mixtures.

A great way to enjoy tropical fruits is in licuados, or smoothies. To the right is a Mango licuado from Amigo's on Hidalgo. Mamay milk shakes are a favorite of mine, with their mildly nutty flavor. If you have a chance, try agua de sandia, which is watermelon juice. It is very refreshing, but does not keep. Qubano's  may have it available, who serve lunch and are closed on weekends. Sometimes the juice sellers at the market offer it. 

This is agua de Pitahaya or Pitahaya "ade". It is not usually available  but is easy to make with a blender. At MaraVilla Caribe there are Magic Bullet blenders that work great for making fresh fruit drinks. There are two produce vendors a couple blocks away and a juice store. Fruits are usually ripe when sold, and people often shop several times a week.
This is pitahaya and watermelon salad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pan Muertos: Day of the Dead Bread & Calaveras de Azucar--Sugar Skulls

Pan de los Muertos: 
Day of the Dead Bread
This is a simple sweet bread, with anise seeds added for bitterness, often dusted with sugar for sweetness. In Isla Mujeres you will find them among the baked goods at the Super San Francisco in the couple weeks preceding  Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 2. Individual vendors will also be selling them. A soft bread shaped like a bun, it is usually decorated with bone-like pieces. As part of the celebration, loved ones eat pan de muertos as well as the relative's favorite foods. The bones represent the lost one (difuntos or difuntas) and there is often a baked tear drop on the bread to represent sorrow. The bones are positioned to portray the circle of life. This is a typical pan muertos, above.

This pan de los muertos was made by a norteamericana. This apron is from Mexican Sugar Skull as is the paper mache skull below.


Her face is unforgettable and she goes by many names: 
La Catrina (Fancy Lady), La Flaca (Skinny), La Huesuda (Bony), La Pelona (Baldy). 
A fixture in Mexican society, she's not some trendy fashion model, but La Muerte — Death.

La Catrina
Created 101 years ago, her name was "Calavera Catrina or Garbancera" (by José Guadalupe Posada) as the figure at left. Calavera means "skull", Catrina is her name, and Garbancera refers to a Mexican who identifies with her European ancestors, while denying her local heritage, culture, or race. The more recent version at right is by Diego Rivera. She is mischievous, and flirty, with a sense of fun, while representing Death.
La Flaca (Santa Muerte)
La Flaca, or the Skinny One is also called Santa Muerte, who often carries a scythe and a globe, or other objects, and wears a long robe. She is a type of religious figure, with a cult following. While this is condemned by the Catholic Church, some estimates indicate followers may have grown by over 2 million in the past decade. Depending on which history you read, this cultish worship began in the mid 1940's, or in the 1960's. 

Other names for La Muerte:
Photo taken in Isla Mujeres.
La Huesuda--Boney
La Calaca--A skeleton or skull representation often including marigolds, that is usually a playful depiction, in festive clothing with musical instruments, celebrating the joyous afterlife. I really like the scene in the movie "Frieda" where Calacas portray the docs & nurses after her accident. People collect these whimsical figures.
La Pelona--Baldy
La Parca--The Grim Reaper

Calaveras de Azucar--Sugar skulls, which can be intricate when made by hand. This tradition comes from Europe. Celebrating with your departed relatives is considered an indigenous custom.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pozole: Pork Hominy Stew In Isla Mujeres

Pozole  Rojo
(Nahuatl: potzolli, which means "foamy" or "froth"; variant spellings: pozsole, pozolé, pozolli, posole).
Posole at Manolito's on Sunday
It is a pre Colombian stew made with hominy that is eaten at special occasions throughout Mexico. It's ingredients vary between regions. In Isla Mujeres, it is made with a rich red broth and hand pulled pork, and served with tostadas or crackers, limes, radishes, onion, oregano, cilantro, lettuce, and chile powders. It is usually made in a large batch and fed to a big group of people in celebration of a special day. I think you can still find it on Sundays at Loncheria Manolito's which is near Mango Cafe on the east side of the island.  

Pozole is made using a special corn called cacahuazintle, pre-cooked in a water solution with calcium oxide for a couple of hours, making the corn grains lose their fibrous outer layer so that they open like flowers when boiled

 This pozole was served as a free meal Wednesday at the Community dining room on mainland Isla Mujeres in celebration of Independence Day.

Loncheria La Lomita serves pozole on Thursdays. They are on Juarez across from the naval base. Juarez is the one way street between the main street and the pedestrian street.

Occasionally someone sells pozole from a tricycle.  Other likely sources would be the cocina economicas and the loncherias. Here is a recipe.
Pozole can be made with other meats and has a different broth in different regions. Green chile pozole, white pozole, and vegetarian pozole have been sold in local  restaurants. Traditionally in this region, it is red and made with pulled pork.

Holy Pozole! This is tasty....try it! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tacos Pastor

Tacos Pastor In Isla Mujeres

Salsa tray at Medina's on Hidalgo.
  Pastor means shepherd, but these tacos are made from pork. The meat is grilled on a vertical spit called a Trompo, which means spinning top.
Two Pastors and a chorizo (w cheese) from Medina's
First it is marinated with spices that often include chiles, anchiote (annatto), and sour (Seville, naranja agria) orange juice. Juicy bits of charred meat are sliced from the outside, as well as a piece of the pineapple that sits above the meat. It is usually served on a small thin corn tortilla with cilantro, onions, lime, and a selection of salsas, radishes, and nopalitos (marinated cactus strips). If it is served on a flour tortilla with cheese, it is called a Gringa.

Locals often order tacos pastor at Medina's on Hidalgo and from Cachirul in La Gloria (which was known as "the  baseball park taco stand" whose name was Tacos al Campo). 
They cost about a dollar apiece and these restaurants usually start serving after dark, and are also popular with tourists.

Two Pastors & a Chorizo (w nepal cactus) from Cachirul
Sides & "fixin's" at Cachuril.

Achiote is used in most traditional Maya cooking
Annatto ( English), 
Achiotl / Ku'u up (Maya), 
Achiote (Spanish),  
Native to Mexico, now grown in many countries for its great taste and natural coloring qualities.

 Su'uts' pak'aal (Maya) 
 Naranja-Agria (Spanish)
Green, with a thick bumpy skin, often used in sauces; tastes like a combination of lime and orange.