Cancun, Mexico: Too Bueno to Be True

I really, really wanted to write an epic food diary post from the 5 days I spent in Cancun. After returning, I have to say that I want to write one even more, because I ate some pretty fantastic food while there. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery went into panic, I’m-about-to-die mode, and I didn’t pack my charger for it (even more frustrating: it’s also not in my apartment, which means my camera is still on the fritz and I have to cross my fingers that it’s stashed somewhere at my parent’s house). Since I also didn’t bring my cell phone with me, I had no way of capturing these incredible foods for you. Maybe it’s for the best, anyway, since a full-blown account of what I ate for 5 whole days might be too long for even me to handle, and that’s saying something. Instead, I’ll just give you some highlights from the trip.

Upon arriving in Cancun, I was a little skeptical that I’d be able to get an authentic experience, especially in terms of food. I saw more American fast food joints (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, multiple McDonald’s, Burger King, even a Carl’sJr….) and American stores (yes, Cancun even has its own Walmart, and if this were a political blog you’d be hearing all sorts of opinions that I have about that) than I was prepared to encounter. Even the beautiful resort that I stayed at had some decidedly American, or at least not Mexican, twists to the foods they served (think: French fries as a side dish for quesadillas, a veggie burger with honest-to-goodness American Cheese – worst food decision of the trip on my part – and an alarming amount of Italian pasta and lasagna dishes). Still, I only had one meal that I actually regretted (the veggie burger), and I did escape the confines of the resort and downtown Cancun a few times to experience some truly incredible food.

Starting at the resort, we had lunch our first day at their outdoor Bikini Bar. L ordered this truly indulgent, perfectly tropical cocktail with pineapple and I think coconut. I stuck with (bottled) water, but ordered probably the best quesadilla I’ve ever had. It was a vegetable quesadilla, and I was expecting the cliché peppers and onions, maybe some beans tossed in for good measure – but what I got was a tortilla filled with queso fresco(a? I still do not speak more than a lick of Spanish) cheese, sprinkled with carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. It was such a unique choice of filling (at least from what I’ve experienced, particularly when I think of Mexican food), and yet spread some fresh guacamole and salsa and you have yourself a killer meal.

Also at the resort, I strayed from my determination to eat authentically Mexican in order to enjoy the best crepe dish I’ve ever had: think a mascarpone-type cheese and cinnamon-apple filling, with a fresh crepe delicately folded over it and sprinkled with walnuts. Then I poured a fresh strawberry sauce over it and pretty much went straight up to heaven. Seriously, all reservations I had about ordering something that is very un-Mexican disappeared when I realized how amazingly delicious they were. I let L have one of the sections and after telling me that he only wanted a bite, I left to check out the buffet and came back to an empty plate. You just can’t resist that cinnamon apple crepes!

 I don’t have any pictures of the other meals that I ate, but had a decent mole enchilada (a little too heavy and carnivorous for me – I might like mole as a veggie packed stew a little more), an out of this world black bean soup, and a killer Mexican “torta” which I thought would be like a quesadilla “pie” but apparently torta just means regular ole sandwich. Still, fantastic. I also had a spice-rub white fish cooked in a banana leaf alongside a mixed vegetable sauté and plaintain puree, a trio of unbelievable sauce toppings with breakfast (mango, raspberry, and chocolate), and some tropical fruits that I’ve been dying to try for ages, but wound up disliking because of their distractingly large seeds.

I also got to try some pretty novel drinks while I was there. I had my eye on a Banana Monkey drink (think: pureed bananas, kahlua and rum) but never got around to trying it; I was too busy with indulgent foods like tres leches cake, fresh passion fruit and guava ice cream, and complementary margarita cakes. I did order this “fresa de amor” drink, which was definitely appropriately named, because I believe I fell in love with that drink one sweet sip at a time. The two most interesting drinks I had, though, included “Green Juice” which was a sweet smoothie made from celery, parsley, pineapple, banana and a little bit of honey (don’t try it if you detest celery, but even I’m not a big celery fan and went bananas over this one), and – get this! – chlorophyll. You can drink chlorophyll. How crazy is that? I haven’t yet looked into the purported nutritional benefits or how it’s made (presumably some sort of tea-like filtration or steeping), but I saw it at the resort fitness center and just could not pass it up. I was hesitant, but it wound up tasting a lot like green tea – very light and refreshing.

I also snagged some Sweet Tamarind and Sweet Coconut, along with some swanky sample containers of honey and jam (1 each of black cherry and bitter orange), but I haven’t tried those yet. I was tempted by these amaranth-and-nut “cakes” or bars that L said looked like bird seed, but I was already spending a lot so I refrained. I also bought a Snickers Bar – I know, I know – because as far as I could ascertain from the label, it doesn’t have any hydrogenated oils in it, unlike the American version. Since Coke in Mexico is made with real sugar rather than corn syrup, I’m eager to do a little research and see if this is, in fact, correct. Does anyone else know of various foods, particularly candy bars, that are made with different ingredients in different countries? It kind of fascinates me, and if I’m correct in my meager Spanish nutritional scanning of the ingredients list, I’m pretty stoked to eat a Snickers bar for the first time since deciding to boycott any product with shortening or hydrogenated oils.

So there you have it, a little mini version of my culinary trip to Cancun! I have to say, even if it isn’t particularly cold here for the first week of December, it was tough leaving the warmth and sunshine of Mexico to return to what has turned out to be nothing but gloom and rain here. It doesn’t help that finals week is around the corner, of course, and so I have to bury my nose in my books for the next week. I probably won’t be doing too much cooking between now and the end of the semester as I try to clean out my freezer and fridge before going home for winter break, but I have more than enough backlogged recipes to share with you to hold us both over until I start holiday baking and have those delicious treats to tell you all about, too.

One Year Ago: Cauliflower Fritters


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