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!

Who Doesn't Love Brunch?

The concept of brunch and its growth have caught on like a wildfire. But, did you know that the term 'brunch', was first printed in the late 19th century  when it was suggested as an alternative to heavy post-church lunches on Sunday. Nowadays, whether it's in London, New York City, Melbourne or here in Tulum, brunch is everywhere. Special occasions like Mother's Day brunch have become a part of a normal culinary experience. Below are my suggestions for a scrumptious brunch.

Del Cielo

A cute café in the beginning of Tulum Pueblo, they serve fresh juices, smoothies, baked goods, tartines, salads and sandwiches. My favorite is the avocado tartine. Breakfast items are served with either guacamole or salsa and salad. The bread is delicious and the flavors of avocado mash, onions and cilantro balances perfectly. The coffee is here is nice and strong. I prefer strong coffee which I still have a hard time finding even in NYC.

Cenzontle Jardín

Located amongst the eco-chic hotels and boutiques is a divine "garden". A restaurant that made such an impact on me during my first visit to Tulum, my friends and I went back the following night and is what sparked my return. Brunch started just a couple months ago but it can almost rival its dinner with an eggs benedict to die for. Honestly, I'm not sure if it's the eggs they use here but the hollandaise on it is unreal. Additionally, the ambience during the day is almost worthwhile in itself. Brunch cocktails such as a bloody marys and mimosa are available as well. The Bloody Mary I had was savory, strong and exactly what I needed. Before your brunch items are served you receive a basket of bread baked in-house with rosemary butter. On my visit the bread had specks of pink from the beet and was garnished with orange peel.

El Pez

Part of the Colibri Boutique Hotel Group, El Pez is located a short way down the Boca Paila road. The property includes hotel rooms and is very private as there are no neighboring hotels (directly anyway). It sits on a small cove and is right in front of a nice beach.

The ambience of the restaurant is superb. Open and breezy, you sit under a huge palapa at a table which has a great view. I've had lunch here a couple times and really enjoyed the level of service. It is attentive but not overwhelming. More recently I tried their Sunday Brunch. The occasion was Mother's Day (May 8th in the U.S.) and I ordered an poached eggs served on top of rye bread with roasted beets, caramelized onions and Chaya (spinach-like vegetable) and a touch of bacon. It was absolutely scrumptious. It was more like a luxurious version of a tartine. I liked the rye bread as it added both flavor and fiber. A healthier alternative to wheat bread. My mother ordered a smoked marlin eggs benedict which looked delicious. While I didn't order a cocktail, they serve mimosas and blood marys.

I highly recommend El Pez for your next meal. I'm still eager to try their dinner.

Buon provecho everyone!

Airy and bright interior at El Pez

Stunning view at El Pez

El Pez

Smoked Marlin Benedict at El Pez


House baked bread with beet, hibiscus & garnished with orange peel

Mezcal based Blood Mary= Heaven

Brunch sandwich at Cenzotle

Eggs Benedict with bacon and fried fish

Favorite Tropical Fruits

I love tropical fruits. One of the top reasons I'd be homesick for Hawaii while living in NYC was because I missed eating tropical fruits. Mango, lychee (litchi) and passionfruit are definitely my top three.

Luckily for me, I found a way to eat these fruits without traveling to my home state. Mexico is much closer than Hawaii and significantly less expensive. It helps that I'm new to Tulum so I'm not running into people who've known me my entire life.

Mangoes are currently in season here. In Hawaii, they are a summer fruit. Seems in the Caribbean they start a little earlier than Hawaii. My mom used to bring back mangoes she'd receive from people who lived in warmer areas of Maui (mangoes require warmer temperatures to grow and ripen). The bottom drawer of our refrigerator was always full with mangoes. There are many varieties of mangoes. Here in Tulum I've been buying the Altoufo variety. They are an even color of saffron yellow on the outside and a slightly brighter, orange tinted yellow on the inside. The flavor is succulently sweet, the texture isn't stringy at all but more creamy. To me it's perfect and I'm so happy when eating them.

Passion fruit (maracuyá in Spanish or lilikoi in Hawaiian) is a tangy fruit full of edible seeds inside of sac-like structures, similar to, but not exactly like pomegranates. The outside is either bright yellow for a dark violet. Passion fruit grow on vines and the flowers are incredibly stunning. The smell of a passionfruit when you cut it open is vibrant even intoxicating. Passion fruit is delicious fresh and a beautiful addition to gelato, sorbet, cheesecake, créme bruleé or even eclair filling like my friend Alana does here . Not only do passion fruit taste incredible, they're great for your health as well. But really any fresh fruit is beneficial to your mind, body and stomach.

Lychee (Litchi) apparently will be in season here in the summer. I wasn't sure I could get them locally as I've only had them in Hawaii and Southeast Asia and hadn't thought to research it even. I really can't wait to have all my favorite tropical fruits at the same time. The best part is that they won't come from thousands of miles away which means they'll taste that much better.

I haven't even begun to cover the surface of tropical fruits that are available around here and in Mexico as a whole. But writing about them would become more of an encyclopedia about fruit so I stuck to my absolute favorites.

Altoufo mangoes at a grocery stand

The perfect mango

Passion fruit (Maracuyá) gelato in Playa del Carmen

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.

What a year so far!

Hi, terribly sorry I haven't posted anything this year. Ever since last December I've been working on myself- letting go of past hurt/baggage and renewing and refreshing for this year. I recently turned 30 and I'm not sure if what the new decade or what but I felt a deep desire to make big changes.

I just finished an online food writing course. This was partly to add more mental stimulation in my life and also to continue learning. I looked back at old blog entries and I don't know why it didn't occur to me earlier but maybe I just wasn't ready. Anyhow, I love it and am going to use to blog to write about and highlight my passion for food (pictures included of course!).

Even bigger than all is that fact that, due to an incredible experience of vacationing in Mexico and Cuba, I've decided to sublet my room here in NYC and move to Mexico to live for three months. During that time I'll focus on my food writing and growing my jewelry business. Tulum has a beautiful beach, many fresh water caves, delicious food and the prevalence of Mayan culture. I'm beyond excited and can't wait to share it all!!

Looks like it'll be an adventurous year filled with more travel which makes me so happy! Wish me luck and stay posted.