Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pardon my French

The trade between France and Merida brought us Marseille Tiles for the roofs and floors in the 19th century.  Now it's more recently brought us the cafe culture that allows us to sit with a coffee for hours or enjoy a light lunch or snack.

Cafe Creme I somehow managed to snub for the past 6 or 8 months or however long they have been off the corner of Calle 41 and 60.  I've had enough bad experiences with french food and pastry in the Yucatan to last me several reincarnations. But as my french god daughter is doing her gap year in the Yucatan and her mere was visiting me this week we dropped by for a cafe (sans creme).  The place was packed at 11 in the morning and we chose a table outside after someone more stealth than us slid into the table we wanted inside.   I had a fluffy yummy quiche with cheese and spinach served on a big plate with a little salad.The French mom had carrot cake and the enfant had a chocolate chip cookie...not too french for a french cafe but the owners and servers were nice and the coffee was very good.  And you can shop at Bodega 41 or El Estudio for gifts and crap for the home.

Bistro Cultural on the corner of 66 and 43 has 3 or 4 daily specials and always one or two are vegetarian though the French chefs specialties are pates and sausages.  You can meet the chef on saturdays at the slow food market and most of the offerings are organic or locally grown.   I was a weekly client before summer vacation.  This winter I've been a couple of times and it's much more popular than before.  In fact it fills up and by 3 there may not be much of a choice in the menu. This is a place that keeps getting better.   It's a bit off the beaten path.

There is a new French Bakery called Escargo on calle 58 between 57 and 59 in the pretty colonial red building...Bea from Coqui Coqui buys her pastries and she is a bread and cake fiend.  I've had a really nice pain au raisin from there that sent me briefly back to the Rue de Seine and for that I am eternally grateful.

Mexican Food in Centro

I grew up in Texas.  I ate Mexican food twice a week in New York and even once in a while in Paris and it's really not that easy to find a good Mexican meal in Merida.  Josh is from San Diego and had Mexican food daily and we agree that Mexican food in Merida is very hard to find.

We go to a filthy dive called Reforma once or twice a week and eat chile relleno or mole but nothing else. This season also the Chile en Nogada is very good according to the carnivores in my life. Christmas decorations are up year round and the chihuahua named Paris Hilton is an excellent and glamorous hostess. $

Frida's chef/owner is from Mexico City and when she's in the kitchen the food is very good. When she's not in the kitchen the food is inconsistent and the service is never up to par. $$$

Pancho's is as close to Tex-Mex as you can get but not close enough for me.  Here the service is the best thing about the place but if you're young enough not to know better you might like loud music and imitation cheddar cheese. $$$

The tacos of Ana Sabrina in the Santa Lucia Park are as close to real Mexican food as you're going to get and I'm there almost every Sunday. $

The new Apoala in Santa Lucia Park is a Mexican restaurant with many of the flavours of Oaxaca updated and it's the place to eat your first dinner in Merida as you may want to eat all your dinners there as there is nothing better to the north, south, east or west.  You can read my review on the other blog but basically my advice is order appetisers and then order more appetisers.  Good Mescal menu.$$$

...and not far from centro off Avenidas Reforma and Colon is one of my favourite lunch spots since I became a vegetarian.  Platos Rotos cook is also from Mexico City and offer and extensive menu that changes daily which makes it easy to go several times a week and not get bored.  It's home made comfort food in a very informal setting.  $

Mayan Meals best with Wheels

You can stand in line and rub shoulders with tourists and some locals at the hottest spots on trip advisor like El Chaya or Chaya Maya but the reports I've had from guests are that it's a 50/50 proposition.  You'll love or hate it.  I like the hand made tortillas and that's about it. The owner of these two restaurants also has a hacienda that has long been a destination for Sunday afternoon meals and events like weddings or 'quinceaneras".  I've had one meal in 11 years at Hacienda Teya that I enjoyed.  

My canteen when I moved here was the stand at the corner of Santiago market, El Reina de Itzlana 
for paunches and tamales.  The freshly made fruit shakes are great too.  The open around 8 but it's really best to go around ten when the place fills up with locals.  It's not open for lunch.

La Tradicion and Los Alemendros are popular with locals but that doesn't make them good.  They both have locations in centro.

I get out of town pretty often for my Sunday bike rides and when guests are in town we get in the car and do the hacienda, cenote, ruin and church tour.  Some of the best meals are at roadside stands like the goat beside the road in Motul or the grilled quail in Oxkutzcab.  Constantly good are El Principe Tutul Xui in Mani and Kinich in Izamal.  If I were going to one of the Starwood haciendas I almost surely order the Yucatecan dishes as chances are the chef has recently left and someone from the villages is filling in.  I think the best dishes at Hacienda Xcanatun are also the local fare.

It's worth reading the reviews at Los Dos Cooking School before you head out on your own.   Here is a link to his list of recipes...good to know what your in for.

I have been to El Chaya as of March 9, 2013 and I can promise you I will never go back it was absolutely revolting bordering on vomitus with a capitol V.   Someday I will elaborate but for now the rotten lettuce and clamless clam shells in my overcooked fish dish are too fresh in my memory.... I've had tastier acid reflux.