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Thursday, March 15, 2018

La Creperia UPDATE - Tulum, Mexico

I knew I belonged here when the owner handed me my crepe. There is an adorably creative cat tattoo on her arm, and her eyes go endearingly wide and her face lights up when I ask her about it. "I LOVE cats!" she declares, with a sweeping gesture of affection towards the 4 cats that occupy empty chairs in her shop. 

That's when I know that in La Creperia, sipping my cat-infused Iced Latte, is exactly where I'm meant to be.

They know how to brew a great cup of coffee, iced or hot, but not everyone wants to be caffeinated all day. The Mint Lemonade glows an enticing green, and the tart lemonade coalesces with cool mint for a daytime refresh.

I love all the tacos, and I love all the burritos. And I love all the lunch plates. Bring on the beef, pork, and chicken most of the time, but once in a while it's nice to just have a simple sandwich. The White Sandwich is a panini-pressed, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-within foccacia fencing fibrous mozzarella, lunch-meat ham, and lettuce. A simple cafe classic, this one really hits the spot sometimes.

I prefer the crepes. Their fruit & nutella crepes are always winners, but the Butter & Sugar is the best. A paper-thin pancake and a liquid layer of buttery sugar is good I could eat another. I didn't eat another. I ate two others that day...and the next.

La Creperia has a diversity of offerings, but they clearly specialize in sweets. They make the most delightful tarts, a fresh n' fruity Strawberry, and a rich, smooth Nutella, both with a perfect firm crust.

There's something special about this place, and I could sit here all day. The air is warm and inviting, and their simple but hearty cafe comforts make some of the best and most affordable breakfasts, brunches, and lunches around. Tulum has a lot of great food options, but I could eat here any day and every day.

Juanita Diavola - Tulum, Mexico

Let's try someplace new! It's right next to Posada Margherita so some of that awesomeness has undoubtedly seeped into this place! 

Nope. NopeNopeNope. Side-by-side, practically sisters, both Italian...definitely not the same. Posada Margherita creates culinary masterpieces, and Juanita Diavola makes disaster-pieces beyond compare. 

Pulpo Rostado
is a favorite and usually a safe bet at an upscale seaside escape, but this one made me want to make a different kind of getaway. The tentacles are indecisively roasted, some parts are mushy, bordering on slimy and adjacent portions are chewy and tough. The potatoes don't even have salt on them, and the olives taste...canned.

The Risotto Gamberi is better. The three jumbo shrimp are there for show. The are reasonably fresh though the tiniest, barely discernible bit over-cooked. The tiny shrimp interspersed within the rice infuses it with that seafood savor which finishes more like fishy flavor, and it contributes...the texture of jerky. 

This dinner cost more than Cetli and as much as Hartwood, and I cannot understand how or why. Crude should never cost more than exquisite; why is perfection more cost-effective than poor? Juanita Diavola: Satisfying they are not, to inedible they are close. In service, they are SLOW. I didn't think I was taking a chance on this one, but the experience was almost traumatic enough to scare me out of trying anything else on that street.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Ki'bok UPDATE - Tulum, Mexico

I love this coffee shop. It's a standout, from the clean modern decor to the brighten-your-day ambiance. There's a quiet calm if you're looking to work, but the atmosphere is electric with an undercurrent of liveliness that gives you the energy to get things done.

If you're sleepy from the heat, an expert Caramel Macchiato will perk you up. Every espresso is strong and sharp, and their delicate dishware makes it pretty.

It counteracts the carb coma from the secret-family-recipe Pecan Bar. Worth the calories, worth the carbs. It is to die for!

I think Ki'bok might be the happiest place in Tulum. Family-run and staffed by the friendliest, most efficient bilingual ladies, the pride and joy they put into this place is undeniable. Sit at the bar and hear their remarkable stories, find a table to compose your next novella, or just soak in the sun out back. This is a place for everyone, and you'll walk away happier than you've ever been.

Tropi Tacos - Tulum, Mexico

We go on a taco kick...only to find out all the good places are only open at night. The cabbie drops us off at Tacos Tropi instead, endorsing their "tacos muy ricos."

They are rich, but are just too much. The Tacos Gringas have a healthy helping of pastor, but the marinade is salty, and the chili is heavy. The pineapple is refreshing, but even with a light, white queso, it can't counterbalance the heavy meat.

The Tropical Plate is just as heavy, a saute of thin pastor, beefy bisteca, and juicy mushrooms, pineapple, and onions. A stir-fry of sorts, a desirable combination that spices up a tortilla and stands alone just as well.

The Soup that accompanies the plate is lighter and less tomato-y than I expected, but it's greasy. There as small clusters of ground meat, and it looks like they tossed in whatever the kitchen had left at the end of the day. I don't mind a good taco seasoning, but I don't care to drink it.

The Guacamole cools things off, and it goes great on all the tacos. All the avocados are at optimal ripeness, and they make a smooth, creamy slurry of green.

Tacos Tropi isn't for me. Not bad at all, but my palate will find something more pleasing elsewhere. Not a bad option if you're craving daytime tacos, and I'd rather save myself for Antojitos la Chiapaneca.

Las Palmitas - Manuel Antonio, Mexico

They have good tacos, and they offer an impressive array of flavors. You'll get your tacos and you'll enjoy them but you may die of old age first. 

They have stands of colorful fruit, and any can be made into Agua Fresca or a coctel. 

I got Mango, he got pineapple, and it's awesome. All fresh, all ripe, all the good stuff infused into water. It's the juice of the hippies, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. This water has almost no sugar to speak of, but it has a satisfyingly thick, filling texture and a hint of foamy fruit.

The first tacos are ready, a savory two-way Cochinita, one that's red pibil and  one with black relleno that finishes bold and little bit bitter.

They have tacos with every kind of meat, and I'm impressed by the selection. It's like the Jelly Belly of tacos, Taco Bell-y minus the diarrhea. They make every kind of meat you can think of but considering the speed at which they make them, they may be hunting the game to order. 

The Turkey and the Deer meat tacos are the most surprising. I find turkey bland, and theirs was pretty tough. The venison is in gamey shreds, but it's still more tender than the turkey, and the flavor is pretty good though I'm not sure it tastes the way a taco should.

Our tour guide is beyond exasperated at the wait, but I rather enjoy the suspense as the tacos come to the table two by two, pairs of animals marching up to Noah's ark...except the ark is a table and the animals are dead...

Dreary analogy aside, I rather enjoyed Las Palmitas. The service is slow, but I had nowhere else to be. The tacos came out slowly, which would have been torture for a larger tour group, but all it did was allow us to eat them while they were still warm. It's a leisurely lunch after an action-packed day, and I would gladly go back there to lounge over tacos and agua-fruit.

Coba Ruins and Punta Laguna Monkey Reserve - Tulum, Mexico

Now THIS is more our style. A tour group that doesn't believe in tour groups, a pricier action-packed, active adventure, just the two of us and a single guide. David is impressive; professional, intelligent, fluent in more languages that he knows what to do with. He picks us up in a comfortable van, and we get out at the gate of Coba. 

William shows us around as the morning sun starts to filter through leafy trees. He is Mayan and speaks impressive English, all of which he can translate to Mayan,  the most authentic guide I can imagine.

We bike along an easy path to Nohoch Mul Pyramid as the cold starts to lift, We're so early that the other tourists haven't arrived. 

The majestic pyramid is calm and quiet, not a soul to be seen. The ascent is no less daunting, though; climb in a zigzag and don't skip leg day.

My aching quads start to heal as we walk the flat path through the Punta Laguna Monkey Reserve. There are a few cute ones in the trees, and they leap, undaunted from branch to branch as we watch.

We get to do some flying of our own soon. A long zipline across a shimmering lake is next on our agenda.

What goes down must canoe back up. 

But we don't stay up for long. A harrowing descent into the mouth of a cavernous cenote, down the ladder into total darkness and meditative silence, just us and the bats. 

There's plenty of time of reflection as every moment of my day flashes through my mind. The depth and breadth of this action-adventure tour stimulates all the senses, and it's only when you get deep into this cave that this whirlwind starts to sink in. I love this tour for its intimacy and excitement. I love the pace at which it flows, and I love never having to stand in line. I contemplate take this tour all over again next time I'm in Tulum, though I'd pay extra to ride the zip line twice. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Antojitos la Chiapaneca - Tulum, Mexico

There is literally nothing that can make me feel better after that Isla Mujeres disaster-tour. Absolutely nothing on this planet...wait, is that pastor?

Antojitos la Chiapaneca specializes in street tacos, most notably al Pastor. Strips of pork parade around a spinning, shimmering spit, as a small fiery furnace chars each slice of glistening gristly glory. These tacos melt in your mouth, putting even pork belly to shame, and suddenly my nightmare day is barely a memory.

The Carne Asada is another option. The steak is tender with ready juice, and it's one of the best I've had, but there's no real reason to stray from the pastor.

Get any meat in a Torta if you don't want the taco mess, but pay the extra for the melted queso on top. The pastor savors up the soft, toasted roll, a porky pleasure in every bite.

The pastor at Antojitos la Chiapaneca is the best thing I've eaten in Tulum to date, and it's also the cheapest. 130 pesos (that's less than $7 USD) buys 12 tacos and a torta as well as a couple of glass-bottle cokes, and had I known we could eat this well for this cheap, I would have come here for dinner every night.