Cooling Off

The heat and humidity of summer, you can't forgo something refreshing like ice cream. On the road to the beach you'll find a number of restaurants, hostels and businesses. Amongst these is a quaint food truck. If you're whizzing by on a bicycle or in a car you may miss it but it is definitely not to be missed. This food truck is a family owned and operated vegan ice cream business called Helado Buena Estrella (formerly Instant Ice Cream).

Opening January of this year, their all-natural coconut milk based flavors are simply delectable. Choose from fresh tropical fruit, herbs like mint or basil, Chamoy (a condiment of savory, sweet and sour which is popular here in Mexico) or  You can combine your choice of flavors which are blended with coconut milk then poured onto a non-griddle, metal plate that then becomes cold as it's mixed with metal paddles. The metal plate gets as cold as -30C.  In a few minutes you have "instant" ice cream made right before your eyes! They are knowledgeable, kind and helpful so don't hesitate to ask them for suggestions if you're undecided. 

The story behind their business is inspiring. The owner, Alfonso, moved to Playa Del Carmen a few years from Mexico City where he began working in a restaurant. This was quite a contrast from the film industry he had previously worked in. He found much satisfaction from seeing the immediate reaction of a customer when they were eating. His idea about having an ice cream business was something he had thought about for years. Tulum was the best location. Given that the ice cream is vegan it made sense. Whether you have a dietary restriction or just want to have something dairy-free it's a good pick.

 The food truck itself came by way of Miami into Mexico and then they purchased the ice cream machine and the supplies. With the help of his parents they make ice cream that is not only vegan but depending on the flavors you get could have a subtle elegance, brightness or an otherworldly  brilliance. 

They recently underwent some change in business by expanding and changing their name. You can find them on Facebook also. Stop by, enjoy some helado and cool off!

Yucatecan Must

I'm certain you've had your share of Mexican food. And if you haven't, I suggest you have more or try it if you've never had it.

One thing that I've always loved about Mexican food, is how satisfying it was to eat after I'd go to the beach on Maui- particularly after surfing. Something about the mix of spices, beans, rice and guacamole whether it was nachos, a burrito, chimichanga (fried burrito), or enchiladas. Add a side of agua fresca of horchata or jamaica (pronounced a "Ha" sound and not a "J" like the country) and I was beyond happy. Food bliss as I knew it before I ever worked in the food industry.

Since my teenage years my understanding and love of Mexican cuisine has evolved to include more dishes and flavors. I also find it to be satisfying no matter what time of day. Food you find abroad, like many cuisines, doesn't reflect the nuances and regional differences of a cuisine. Mexico has traditional dishes that vary with each region. A burrito or chimichanga will be found in certain regions of Mexico and not others.

In the Riviera Maya and Yucatán Peninsula there's one dish that's particularly unique to the region: Cochinita Pibil.  Cochinita Pibil is a slow roasted pork dish flavored with spices including achiote or annatto. The marinated pork is wrapped in banana leaves, roasted underground for several hours. The roasted meat comes out having immense flavor while being delicately tender. The Cochinita Pibil is served on tortillas, often garnished with chopped and slightly pickled (with citrus juices) red onion. You can then top it with various salsas as you please.

One the most recommended places for Cochinita Pibil here in Tulum is Taqueria Honorio (on Satellite Sur between Andromeda Ote and Calle Sol Ote). It was highly recommended to me by a Mexican chef who has a restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn and a local staff member of a hotel. Taqueria Honorio is a family-run restaurant that's been around You can order either a torta (sandwich) or taco with different meats. I've tried the Lechon, Negro Relleno also but I like the Cochinita best. If you have a decent appetite I suggest ordering three tacos to start. The clientele is a mix of tourists and locals and the staff speaks minimal English so if you can, order in Spanish. However, Spanish isn't your forte then I'm sure a nearby customer will help you out. The places in town that serve Cochinita Pibil open early and close in the early afternoon so either look into the hours or get there on the early side.

Cochinita Pibil tacos

Viva Mexico!

I've been in Mexico for about a week and a half now. Absolutely love it here! This was honestly one of the best decisions I've made as of recent. After my first time visiting in January and then traveling to Cuba and later LA, I returned to NYC feeling a bit sad and almost lost. A conversation with my mother on the phone prompted me one night to have this epiphany that Mexico was calling. I had to go back. It was fourth day back in NYC and I had made a decision for myself. Of course I told others but I wouldn't be swayed otherwise.

Flash forward to just over a month and I had booked my one-way ticket, sublet my room, stored some things and found an AirBnB. I coordinated with a friend who had planned a vacation on a whim so the first few days I stayed with her. She's a former coworker who's smart and funny so it was an enjoyable time.

I'm living in Tulum, Quintana Roo. If you aren't familiar with Tulum, it was once a small hippie town, which has become quite the go-to spot for those seeking to relax, unwind and renew themselves whether it be with yoga, laying on the beautiful beaches or exploring the natural surroundings. It's about an hour and half south of Cancún. The area is very tranquil and lush green to complement the white sand and the bright, blue Caribbean sea. There are Mayan ruins in town and others with a bit of driving so the culture is quite predominant.

My main focus for returning was to explore everything it has to offer in terms of food. In the five days I was in area (including Cancún), I was impressed by the freshness of the food and also the quality of cuisine. Tulum became of special interest because of its location and the laid-back feel of the town.

So far I’ve had more tacos and tamales than I can count, have found a favorite café to drink coffee and do work at and made a couple new friends. But I know I’ve only scratched the surface. Follow along on my new adventure as I discover the nuances, flavors and beauty of the food here.