Cristina’s Mayan Riviera Tour

Last month my boyfriend and I went on a tour of the Mayan Riviera. We flew to Cancun, rented a car and explored as much as possible in one week. We visited Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Xel-Ha, Tulum, Coba, Chichen Itza and Valladolid. We even managed to squeeze in one night in Bacalar enjoying one of the most beautiful lakes in the world: La Laguna de Siete Colores. We explored many cenotes, attended Cirque du Soleil and went scuba diving where we discovered a couple of turtles.

The love of this part of the world has drawn many people to leave everything behind and open shop in Mexico. You will find numerous diverse and delicious restaurants. Even smaller towns like Puerto Morelos where we dined on delicious guacamole and ceviche on the beautiful beach of Playa Moroma.

One of the first places that really caught my attention was Mar-Bella Fishmarket. The entrance looks like a 7-Eleven, not kidding. As you climb up a tiny, metal stairs you find yourself in a spacious, wooden restaurant with an amazing view. In the market you can choose from fresh fish, lobster, shrimp…whatever you’re in the mood for. They will prepare and cook to your specifications. Quite magical! One tip: make friends with your waiter; he will be a lifesaver as you navigate the market.

Marbella Fishmarket
Carretera Cancun Puerto Juarez,
Sam km 2
Cancun, Quintana Roo

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Thai-Mexican Fine Dining in Acapulco: Zibú

In the middle of one of the most dangerous roads in Acapulco sits one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to Zibú, Thai-Mexican fine cuisine with the most beautiful Caribbean like atmosphere. The mesmerizing views of Acapulco Bay, fantastic service, and delicious food makes going to this place a memorable experience that you’ll want to repeat as much as possible. I’ve been quite a few times myself and even spent New Year’s Eve that at an awesome party. 

Zibú
Avenida Escenica S/N, Fraccionamiento Glomar, Pichilingue, 39887, Acapulco, Guerrero

This last time I went for a romantic date with bae. He had never been before, so I took him by the hand and guided him through the most delicious dishes of Zibú. The entrance of the restaurant is hard to find because the only thing you see, even more so if you go at night, are a few steps, the sign of the restaurant, and the valet. As you take a few steps down, you meet with the hostess under a beautiful palapa, right next to a rustic bonfire. I would suggest making a reservation, they are on Open Table, and they tend to book quickly, they also host events as well, so sometimes half of the restaurant is unavailable. For instance, the time I went, there was a wedding reception. But as a customer, you would never know, the only reason I knew was that my sister was a part of the wedding. As I said before the restaurant has different sections and private rooms that the regular customer would never be aware, once I saw one of their smaller rooms filled with roses and candles for a proposal once, so special.

Anyway back to me! As I was trying to show my boyfriend the best of the best we had quite the big dinner. We started with the amazingly delicious Camarones Sol y Sombra (Sun and Shadow Shrimp), it consists of six grilled shrimp placed on top of a mirror of mango sauce, the sun, and tamarind sauce, the shadow. It was not only delicious but amusing. As you can tell from the picture, it comes with veggies, mashed potatoes, and rice which is mostly carbs and neutral flavored so that they absorb the sauce to give the protein a beautiful complement. It can be sweet or sour or mix both sauces and get the best of both worlds. It’s a very well rounded dish, just delicious.

Camarones Sol y Sombra
Arroz Oriental
We then ordered Arroz Oriental and the Chicken Pad Thai. The rice has a colorful seasoning, ginger butter, and Thai red pepper, also a variety of seafood: shrimp, octopus, calamari, and lobster. If you like paella this is an interesting twist. It was delicious. Next up the chicken pad Thai, personally I love the texture of noodles and these were just perfect, the flavors of this dish were less bitter and more sweet with a hint of spice. Honestly, the food and the service were so good that we were planning on when our next visit should be.
Chicken Pad Thai 
Selva Mextai
As full as we were we could not miss dessert, this is one of those places that you can’t leave with out trying to fill your body with the biggest amount of food you’re capable. After a few minutes, we both agreed on getting the Selva Mextai. The description of the dish leaves out an ingredient on purpose, and even if you ask the waiter what it is, he won’t tell you, he will tell you though that you’ll have to guess after you try it. It was fun, we have no allergies, and we were curious, so we got it without fully knowing what to expect, and I’m glad we did. The coconut ice cream was fantastic, buttery and tasted just like an iced coconut. It did not have a hint of artificial flavors, and the dulce de leche made up for a great companion to eat. The mystery fried vegetable surrounding our dessert, well I can’t tell you, you’ll have to guess once you’re there!

Comida como debe de ser! Angelopolitano and Nómada Heladería

One of the most iconic neighborhoods in Mexico City is La Condesa-Roma, which used to be a hacienda during colonialism but in the 20th century started to change along with the fracture of the hacienda and the expansion of the city. Its narrow streets are filled with small businesses and a combination of tourists, hipsters that live in the area, and the old timers, which combine to make this area of the city feel vibrant, fun, diverse, and forever changing.

You can now find libraries, art galleries, bars, nightclubs, antique stores, offices, and of course, hundreds of restaurants. Mexican, Italian, German, ice cream shops, vegan, French, Japanese, Chinese, American, Spanish, bakeries… that’s just a few examples of the cuisine you’ll find here! They’re also almost always great and no chains. The owners might be in the restaurant, and a lot of them like to get creative with their business. You can find amazing experiences in this area.

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AltaMed East LA Meets Napa & La Rioja + OC Meets Napa & Mexico

After much debate and consideration I was able to narrow down the awesome (pescatarian friendly) bites and beverages from AltaMed’s East LA Meets Napa & La Rioja as well as OC Meets Napa & Mexico. The events were incredible fundraisers with proceeds supporting health care for uninsured patients (from AltaMed). I couldn’t believe how huge the event was and was happily jumping from one table to the next in my attempts to try everything.

My Favorite Food Picks!

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M Cocina Creativa: A Mexican-Vietnamese Birthday Dinner in Guadalajara

Last weekend I went to Guadalajara, one of the biggest cities in Mexico. Filled with culture amazing food and lots of tequila, this city is a true Mexican gem. Tequila region is just an hour away from there and you can actually ride a tequila train that leaves from Guadalajara. A cousin of mine lives there and since he knows I’m a food blogger he picked a special restaurant so that I had the chance to blog about his city, he took me to M Cocina Creativa, which means “creative kitchen”. This restaurant totally justifies its name. It’s a Mexican-Vietnamese fusion restaurant that implements ingredients you wouldn’t normally see in a menu in Mexico, like pork stuffed squid (which were delicious).

M Cocina Creativa
Av. Aurelio Ortega No. 611, Seattle, 45150 Zapopan, Jal., Mexico
http://www.mcocinacreativa.com/

Another thing that makes the place unique is the really big two story indoor patio with a rustic feel, a fountain made out of half a tree, really tall ceilings and filled with plants. It’s not only relaxing and romantic but it really makes you forget you’re in the city.

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Restaurante Esmeralda in Acapulco

Acapulco located only three and a half hours from Mexico City is one of the biggest destinations for “chilangos” (people who are from Mexico City) and also for international travelers. Back in the 1950’s, Acapulco was huge for Hollywood elite, even Frank Sinatra included it in his famous single “Fly Me to the Moon.” Other notable characteristics of this charming city are the views of the bay:  “La Quebrada,” a tall cliff where divers throw themselves into the sea (with the only protection of their knowledge of the tides) and over three hundred days of sun and warm ocean. The average temperature is between 78 and 89 degrees throughout the whole year.

Acapulco has many different ways to entertain its visitors including; the longest zip line above the sea opened earlier this year, chic nightclubs, delicious restaurants, bungee jumping, fishing, all of the water sports one can think of and so much more.

Restaurante Esmeralda

One of these water sports is what brought me to Restaurante Esmeralda. After water-skiing we were famished so our captain took us here where we got to eat the most amazing “Pescado a la Talla”, enjoy beautiful views of the lagoon and the ocean, relax in hammocks and look at the amazing nature all around the island, including a baby alligator.

Restaurante Esmeralda
Pie de la Cuesta, 40981 Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

This restaurant is located on Montosa de Cocuya Island it is close to where Cocuya lagoon and the South Pacific Ocean meet. (a 40-minute boat ride to get there from where we were water-skiing) There’s a legend revolving around this island and the ones next to it; people say there was a man here once that had a hundred wives and they all lived there together. The rumor is all the local women here, that serve and prepare the food at Restaurante Esmeralda, are his descendants or ex-wives.

So this island belongs to the staff of Restaurante Esmeralda. 

 

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Biwon Restaurante Coreano Brings Korean BBQ to Mexico City

Korean food in Mexico City is not that easy to get. After living in Los Angeles for almost three years and having Korean food only fifteen minutes away from me it was harsh to accept my new reality: no Korean food. Heartbroken is an understatement for the way I felt about this. 

One day as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I found out there’s a small Korean town close to Downtown Mexico City. It consists on a couple blocks right next to El Angel de la Independencia, Mexico City’s icon. 

As soon as I got this news of a K-Town in Mexico City, I called my boyfriend (who was also heartbroken because he fell in love with Korean food while visiting me in L.A.) and on we went for some Korean barbecue.  

Biwon Restaurante Coreano was our choice. If you’re walking down Florencia Street you could totally miss it. It’s a small entrance, so tall people, be prepared to duck down in order to get in. This old-fashioned restaurant is situated upstairs and it was packed at the moment we arrived. No hostess just a couple of waiters running fast and furious to accommodate hungry patrons. 

Biwon Restaurante Coreano
Florenica 20, Juàrez, 06600 Cuidad de Mexico, CDMX, Mexico

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Brunching With Best Friends at D’kírico in San Ángel

San Ángel is a colonial neighborhood in Mexico City with lots of tradition, its cobbled stone streets and colorful facades take you back in time. But on the inside things are entirely different, restaurants and shops occupy the place of what once was bedrooms of the richest people in Mexico City. One of these restaurants is D’kírico. 

D’kírico
Plaza Grand San Ángel
Calle de la Amargura #17, Álvaro Obregón San Ángel, 01000, Ciudad de México, CDMX
www.dkirico.com

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puffy tacos

A San Antonio #TacoTuesday

Las Carretas Restaurant
4054 Naco Perrin, San Antonio, TX 78217
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Carretas-Mexican-Restaurant/116019481753408

For this installment of Taco Tuesday I sunk my teeth into some amazing puffy tacos. After devouring all that turkey and dressing I needed to cleanse my palate. The puffy taco was invented by Henry Lopez. The puffy taco has been a San Antonio staple since then. Puffy tacos are made with a dough called masa. Fresh masa dough is available at most mexican specialty stores. The dough is then pressed into discs and fried in oil. The water in the dough puffs up when fried. The shell the perfect combination of soft and crispy. Picture a little pillow for meat! The great thing about puffy tacos is that they can be filled with anything!

The first taco was filled with amazing and savory picadillo. Picadillo is a savory meat filling including beef, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and cumin. Some recipes for picadillo include raisins. Don’t judge. It is amazing.  img_8849

Second up on the taco train was a chicken puffy taco. This taco was filled with shredded chicken. The chicken was moist and seasoned with garlic, cumin, tomatoes and peppers. 
img_8850

These tacos were just what the doctor ordered…my turkey coma is cured.

Say Yes to Busy Nights! Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas to the Rescue!

chicken-enchilada-4b

The first time I made these amazing chicken enchiladas was back in February, while covering for a co-worker on maternity leave, and coming right off a week long ski trip to my entire sales team in town! I was extra busy and needed to learn to lean on my Crock-Pot. I have always thought of Crock-Pot meals as 1. Heavy 2. Unhealthy 3. Fat 4. Hokey Midwestern (no offense). In the last 12 months, my opinion on this incredible kitchen appliance has completely shifted. So after eight years of being used solely to make my specialty football season queso, we are now using our crockpot on a regular basis. This recipe is the current favorite in our household.

Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast per person
  • Can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • Can mexi-corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 chopped jalapeños
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 10oz can enchilada sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot chili spice
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • Option- 1 cup dry quinoa

Recipe:

  • Spray Crock-Pot with Pam
  • Put everything (except chicken in Crock-Pot) and stir
  • Add chicken (I would stab it a few times, so it incorporates all the flavors)
  • Cook on low for the 9-5 work day, or on high for 3-4 hours

My 3-year-old was able to pour all the ingredients (except the chicken) into the Crock-Pot this morning. I’m all about empowering kids to cook, and he is so proud when I let him run the show!

chicken-enchilada-1b

I ran to the market after work to buy Funfetti cake mix for my daughter’s smash cake this weekend and saw a stack of tostadas out of the corner of my eye. So tonight, we have fully branched out. We made…Chicken Enchilada Huevos Rancheros. I mean. Oh. My. Gah. I had to try it. My husband was skeptical but went all in. We did two tostadas stacked (with just a little bit of the deliciousness in between, then more on top; then topped with a salt and peppered egg over easy, diced avocado, pickled jalapeno, and mexi-cheese.

chicken-enchilada-2b

If you’re ever in a rush or need to bring dinner to a new momma, impress a girl, or feed a group, definitely give this a shot. In taco form or served up fancy, this meal has never let us down, and is always sure to impress! Can’t wait to find our next Crock-Pot favorite!

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill in Raleigh, NC

Happy #nationaltacoday!

The first time I stumbled onto Salt & Lime Cabo Grill, it was with my sister in law and her then 3-year-old. It was a beautiful, unusually cool North Carolina summer day, and we comfortably sat outside in the patio area with our two toddlers, eating salads and drinking margaritas. It was awesome (and surprisingly relaxing)!

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill
6006 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609
http://saltandlimecabo.com/index.html

salt-and-lime-4b

Fast forward a year later, and this restaurant has become a staple for our Friday Family Date Nights! It’s so much fun to get the four of us together for a no-pressure meal. Over chips and salsa, we laze our way into the weekend. Over the course of the meal, our almost-toddler daughter nabs her way through the fruit at the top of my white wine sangria, and our 3-year-old son eats chips and salsa non-stop for about 45 minutes. Insane. The GM always stops by to play with the baby, and every single wait staff we’ve had has been both incredibly accommodating and extremely welcoming to our chaotic family. On several occasions, they have even squeezed us into a table that is reserved in 45 minutes, allowing us to get in and out and home before bedtime. As far as I am concerned, Salt & Lime has the best customer service in town!

salt-and-lime-1b

Salt & Lime is a Baja-inspired restaurant serving everything from taco plates to fresh salads to delicious looking burritos and plated entrees. Everything is prepared fresh daily, which would be my only caveat with this restaurant. On one occasion the salsa was way too spicy for us, which ruined our son’s “dinner” – but one in twenty times is a blip; hardly an issue! They have a pretty extensive menu with several types of salsa and guacamole – one day I’m going to try that fire roasted tomato with goat cheese guacamole; it sounds amazing! I regularly order their Avocado-Tomato Salad with House-Spiced Salmon added. It’s one of my favorite things on the menu, so fresh, and the salmon is just perfect!

salt-and-lime-2b

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a taco kick! This is our new go-to when our parents are in town, so it’s fun to order 3 or 4 taco plates and swap out tacos. My husband always goes for the BBQ Mahi taco plate – he loves it! My current favorite is the Bangkok Shrimp – they are sticky and sweet and a little bit spicy! My only albeit is that it is fried shrimp, but a little cheat every once in a while is good for the soul! (I’m sure they would grill it if you asked, as a whole, the restaurant seems very keen to please). The Jamaican Jerk tacos are also on point, but a tad too spicy for me! The last time I took the whole fam, my brother, a vegetarian, ordered the spicy gazpacho and the Baja nachos and was very impressed. I was pleased, to say the least, as he is quite the world traveler; Paris being the newest town he can call home. My sister and mom split the Quesadilla Grande, and we all shared around the table. Everyone was full and happy when we called it a night!

salt-and-lime-3b

They are constantly adding to the menu, and so there is always something new to try whenever you go! I’m excited – we are heading there Friday night to celebrate my babe Margaret’s first birthday! We rarely get dessert when we head out on the town, but you can bet I’m getting my girl something sweet to celebrate the big UNO!

#tacotuesday!: Acapulco Restaurant in Downey, CA

When I had the opportunity to head down to Downey to check out Acapulco Restaurant’s new and improved menu, I jumped at the chance—and not just because they’re located across the street from my beloved Dunkin’ Donuts!

acapulco-exterior

Acapulco Restaurant
9021 Firestone Blvd., Downey, CA 90241

I grew up eating authentic Mexican food cooked by my mom, and as a result, I’m a little spoiled when it comes to South-of-the-Border cuisine. I’m generally not a fan of Americanized or Tex-Mex style platters which are usually lacking in flavor and spice and overflowing with filler (mushy beans, rice, and iceberg lettuce—UGH!). I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect at Acapulco. At the very least, I was hoping for a good margarita. Well, not only did I get one of the tastiest margaritas I’ve had in a long time, but I was simply blown away by their new menu. So much so, that I wish I lived closer to Downey so I could eat there more often. Right now, the new menu is only available at the Downey location, but I’m hoping that it will eventually be added to the other locations as well.

Walking in, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw their display of their new Poke Tacos, with fresh cubes of raw ahi tuna nestled in crunchy chipotle flour shells, and drizzled with wasabi-guacamole, topped with arugula and cheese. Yum!

poke-tacos

The next thing I knew, I had a drink in my hand—the Acapulco Sunset. This is my dream drink. It’s fruity, it’s spicy, and for me, it’s so nostalgic. It’s their version of the Mangonada or Chamango, which is a classic Mexican fruit drink made from mangos, lime, and chamoy (a chili-spiced condiment made from pickled fruit) often sold out of carts or fruit stands in Mexico.

acapulco-sunset

The Acapulco Sunset is even garnished with a traditional tamarind candy straw and this adult version kicks it up a notch with the addition of Cuervo Silver tequila and triple-sec.

¡Salud!

tania-acapulco-sunrise

Next up was a sample of the Ceviche Rojo, which was tasty mix of mahi mahi and shrimp, mixed with chunks of pineapple, guacamole tartar sauce, and a zesty mango relish. The shrimp was so meaty, for a second I thought it was lobster. Three bites in and I was already fantasizing about digging into a massive bowl of this with a bag of chips on the side.

ceviche-rojo

My daydreams were interrupted as the next dish arrived- a wonderful seafood pozole. Comfort food at its finest, and perfect for autumn! It was brimming with seafood: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, and mahi mahi, all mingling with crunchy cabbage and radishes in a creamy, limey broth that packed a nice amount of heat.

seafood-pozole

Next up was the seriously awesome carne asada. The platter is nothing short of a feast with an 8oz grilled skirt steak, cheese enchilada, a cheese-stuffed chile, Yucatan-style charro beans (with a stick of bacon!), and corn on the cob.

carne-asada

This was no average corn on the cob—it was Mexican-style elote slathered in smoky, peppery goodness with a tantalizing mix of Peruvian chiles, black pepper, lime, mayonnaise, and chili piquin, topped off with crumbled bacon bits. Sooo good!

corny

The steak was also fantastic. Very tender and juicy and seasoned nicely with garlic, Anaheim chiles, and salsa de molcajete. I’d definitely return just for this dish alone.

The good times kept on rolling with a new drink to try: the Moonlight Melt, so named because the mix is added to a generous puff of blue cotton candy which instantly melts into a sweet and colorful concoction made with Cazadores Blanco and orange juice. If you’re like me and enjoy sugary drinks with the flair of tableside preparation, this one is for you!

moonlight-melt

The next dish was another winner: Tropical Tacos al Pastor. Like the other dishes before it, this was the vision of executive chef Enrique Tayun and a real delight to eat.

enrique-tayun

The carnitas are made from juicy pork that has been marinated for 24 hours in a mixture of chiles, spices, and pineapple juice. True to its name, the meat was bursting with tropical flavor, and I really enjoyed the small, street-style tacos they were served in.

tropicl-al-pastor-tacos

The best part was a very thin slice of grilled pineapple at the base of each tortilla that added even more juicy flavor to the mix.

tropical-al-pastor-interior

By now the sun was setting and being on the patio afforded the best view. The restaurant has not only revamped its menu but its interior as well, and I really dug the sophisticated island vibe of the place, especially once the fire-wall around the perimeter was lit. Talk about mood lighting!

patio

After all this food and drink, I began to feel like I really was on vacation, but it wasn’t over yet! The next dish to be served was a fantastic Tropical Salmon. I have to admit that salmon isn’t my favorite fish in the world, but the way they prepared this dish may have converted me. This had more of a fusion feel as it was served with sautéed bok choy in addition to other veggies. The fish itself was meltingly tender and flaky, seared in a garlic butter sauce and glazed with a sweet roasted pineapple and ginger salsa. The tangy sauce really complimented the rich flavor of the fish well, and I began to rethink my position on salmon altogether.

tropical-salmon

Surprise! It was time for another drink. This was the margarita I mentioned earlier—a coconut margarita, to be precise. I’m actually shocked at how much I enjoyed this because coconut, like salmon, just isn’t my thing. But this was clearly a day of challenging my preconceived notions about things I normally don’t like and, holy moly, this drink was so good! Made from Sauza Blue Reposado, Cruzan Coconut Rum, coconut cream, lime juice, and topped with fresh coconut shavings, I felt like I was instantly transported to the beach. It was another sweet drink, and very smooth. This would make a great dessert cocktail.

coconut-margaritaSpeaking of dessert, I was pretty full at this point, but I could not resist digging into the final dish: Fruta Bionica. A delicate, honeyed basket made from pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts and sesame seeds held a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mangoes, bananas, apples, blueberries, raspberries, and creamy roasted walnuts, sailing on a plate of strawberry drizzle.

fruta-bionicaIt was just the way I like my desserts to be: fruity, light, and leaving me wanting more.

Chef Tayun and his colleagues did an amazing job with this new menu, and I really think they managed to elevate what would be a predictable dish in any other restaurant with unique and surprising flavors all inspired by real Mexican cooking.

tania-with-chef

Even if you don’t live near Downey, it’s worth the drive to try some of these new items and share a drink with some friends on the beautiful patio as you watch the sun go down. Who would have thought you’d find a real slice of Acapulco in Downey?