Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where to Eat & Drink in Tulum


Gitano - The Gypsy Disco

I wanted to go into a little more depth with the restaurants and bars we loved during our trip to Tulum, and also to share some photos that help do these beautiful places justice. The setting and decor at each added so much to the experience, and were almost as important as the delicious food. The design and decor in this town is so on point; I wanted my house to look like pretty much every place.

Posada Margherita

Great for lunch or dinner, the view is unbeatable, and the food is fresh and delicious. Italian is a bit unexpected along the coast of Mexico, but it was fantastic nonetheless. We had an assortment of fresh foccacia and handmade pastas on their beachfront terrace, and of course some cocktails to enjoy with the view.


Coqui Coqui

If this hotel hadn't been booked up for ages, I would have loved to stay here. The interiors are so perfect, and the whole property feels like a secluded little spa. We only had a drink here and hung out at their beach, but this is the place for a massage or spa treatment, and check out their perfumery as well.


Hartwood

This restaurant is, in my opinion, the real gem of the town. I loved it so much that I bought their cookbook, which is stunning from cover to cover. Started by an American husband and wife who wanted to leave it all behind and follow their passion, this place has the freshest, most inventive foods around. You have to line up every day by 3:00pm, when the hostess assigns tables and tells you whether or not you've gotten in. Thankfully after that you can leave to walk around til about 7:00. 

My sneaky favorite dish was the jicama salad, and I don't even love jicama! We also ate langoustine salad and the freshest ever ceviche. Another unexpected highlight for me was the smoked beet with a puree of crack... or whatever that was. Their all-day slow cooked goat ribs are the restaurants staple, and they were fall-off-the-bone tendre and full of sweet and spicy flavor. We drank way too many pitchers of watermelon cocktails as well. The chef came out for a while to have a drink with us, and it was really cool to chat with him about the restaurant and food. 


Gitano

Finally, my favorite place for a drink was Gitano. Their decor and ambiance was unrivaled (see first pic of this post), and they had a huge selection of freshly made cocktails. We had a relaxed evening here, then later meandered to another bar for more of a late-night scene, but I could have stayed all night.


I had high hopes for this trip, and it somehow still exceeded my expectations. Most people who know me know that I press people to go here all. the. time. I'm not going to stop anytime soon.

A Perfect Girls Weekend in Tulum



A couple years ago, Tulum exploded as the must-see destination across the internet, from travel blogs to Pinterest to every magazine under the sun. Every photo looked more special and magical than the next, with impeccable design, laid back beach vibes, great restaurants, and turquoise water. So, of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon before somewhere else took over as the "it" spot (looking at you, Iceland). As usual, it took forever to get this posted, but better late than never.

This post is an overview of our trip, impossibly trying to share how adorable Tulum is in one little post. I can't believe how much more I loved Tulum than anywhere else I've been in Mexico, and I've been to various parts of the country 8 times. Hopefully this inspires someone to visit, because I'm beyond obsessed with this place. 

Thursday 

Three girlfriends and I took off for the Cancun airport on a Thursday morning (direct flight from Austin woo woo!), rented a car, and drove the approximately 1.5 hour drive to Tulum. On the first night, we checked into our hotel, Ana y Jose, had dinner and some margaritas, visited a couple bars along the main beach road, and called it a night before exploring the next day. We loved Ana y Jose; it was the cutest boutique hotel with thatch-roofed little cottages as rooms, a nice pool, and a gorgeous view of the beach.


Friday

We had a big breakfast in our hotel then hit up the beach! Girls trip essentials included the cutest koozies from ban.do, a portable speaker for the beach, pineapple cups for cocktails, and super cute but totally impractical custom bendy straws (see below). After some fun in the sun, swinging on swings outside our hotel, and dipping in the ocean, we cleaned up and headed to Posado Margherita for an early dinner. It's the absolute cutest restaurant, and had fresh Italian fare (odd in Mexico, but so good) right on the beach. Check out some photos on where we ate & drank here. 


Saturday

Spend the morning checking out some of the cenotes, or underground swimming holes, found all around Tulum. Two main ones are Cenote Dos Ojos and the Grand Cenote. They were so fun to swim in and explore, with insanely turquoise water reflecting all over the caves. 

Make sure to be back at Hartwood, the best restaurant in Tulum, and one of my favorite meals ever, at exactly 3:00pm. At this time, the hostess takes the names of the groups in line until all the tables for the night are reserved. You can then leave, wander the beach or head back to your hotel, until your dinner reservation. This meal was insane. So fresh, so fun, and the chef even comes and sits at the table with you to chat for a bit. Check out some pics here.

Afterward, have a drink at Gitano, dubbed the "gypsy disco" where the cocktails are delicious but the ambiance is absolutely top notch.


Sunday

The Mayan ruins can be found on the way back to the airport. Since our flight was in the evening, we decided to stop here along the way to break up the drive and make use of our Sunday. They were really fun to tour, and had the added bonus of a beautiful little beach hidden below the rocks. 


Seriously, how beautiful is this cenote?



Monday, June 12, 2017

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, Bleu Cheese, and Bacon Salad



I love kitchen gadgets. Like, seriously love kitchen gadgets. I've bought quite a few over the years... some good purchases, and some definitely bad.  But my current obsession, the Philips Avance XL Digital Airfryer definitely falls into the former category. Fried food is without question my #1 vice, and this nifty machine lets me mimic it in a healthy and easy way. We're air-frying errrythang at our house these days.

Fried chicken is my kryptonite. Be it chicken tenders, a fat Southern drumstick, or boneless buffalo wings, I love it all. While the airfryer lets me make healthier versions of all of the above, I went one step further and swapped in some cauliflower instead (bonus veggies). These cauliflower bites are perfectly brown and crispy, then tossed in some homemade wing sauce, and served over a store-bought Bacon & Bleu chopped salad mix. The entire meal comes together in about 15 minutes! It's perfect for a weeknight, and to satisfy that buffalo wing craving.


Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, Bleu Cheese & Bacon Salad 
Makes 2 entree servings

Ingredients
  • 5 oz. cauliflower florets
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 package Dole Bacon & Bleu salad mix (for a vegetarian meal, just omit the bacon)
  • 1/3 cup buffalo sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • 2 T. barbecue sauce
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • Cilantro, optional for garnish
Directions
  1. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk until yolk and whites are combined. Add whole wheat flour to a second small bowl.
  2. Dip each cauliflower floret into the egg mixture and rub until lightly coated. Roll in the flour, shake excess, and place in the basket of an airfryer, or on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil.
  3. Cook in the airfryer at 400 degrees for 14 minutes. (Alternatively, you can bake the cauliflower in your oven at 425 for 20 minutes)
  4. While the cauliflower is cooking, combine the buffalo, BBQ sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl. 
  5. Toss the salad and separate onto two plates.
  6. Immediately dip the cauliflower in the wing sauce, shake off the excess sauce, and place the pieces over the salad and serve. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Crispy Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro Mint Raita



Somehow a draft of this post got posted, and it just said "text" here, haha. Good info from me. You are welcome. That being said, there's really not much more too it than that. Adam and I are trying to find more uses for our Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer (that's a mouthful). While it makes incredible turkeys, we clearly aren't doing that often. So, we bought the accessory insert that allows you to make chicken wings, drumsticks, and even pizzas. 

Infrared is an incredibly healthy way of cooking. It results in food with a crispy exterior that mimics a vat of oil, while relying only on a quick spray. The recipe is super easy, with conversions for a regular oven.  If your Tandoori spice has some sugar content to it, check throughout cooking that it's not blackening too quickly. The cooling and tangy sauce is perfect for dipping or drizzling, with Indian flavors of cilantro and mint.


Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro Mint Raita
Makes 12 drumsticks

Ingredients
  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • Olive oil spray
  • 2 T. Tandoori seasoning, found in most grocery store's Asian aisle
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 1 large handful cilantro
  • 1 t. honey
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • Leaves of 2-4 stems of mint (see below)
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
Directions
  1. Preheat your Char-Broil Big Easy, or set your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Dry the chicken drumsticks, then spray lightly with olive oil.
  3. Rub evenly with Tandoori seasoning and a generous pinch of sea salt.
  4. Cook in the Big Easy with the lid on until chicken is cooked through and skin is golden and crispy, about 1 hour (internal temperature of 180). Alternatively, cook for 45-50 minutes in the oven, turning once halfway through.
  5. While the drumsticks are cooking, blend first four sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Blend in mint leaves, to taste. Add salt to taste.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Achiote Pork Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Onions



When asked where to go for Mexican or Tex-Mex in Austin, there really isn't one simple answer. Taco lovers will debate Torchy's vs. Tacodeli (Torchy's all day), locals usually pick whatever family favorite they were raised on, and sometimes it depends on the adventurousness of the company. When among food lovers, though, there's no choice better than the "inspired by Mexican soulfood" menu at Licha's Cantina. Located in the cutest little bungalow in East Austin, both the atmosphere and food can't be beat.

These Achiote Pork Tacos are my take on Licha's Cochinita Pibil, which comes with pickled onions, guacamole, and queso fresco. Instead of serving with tortillas on the side, I turned it into a taco, and swapped out the guacamole for a creamy avocado salsa. These are seriously the best tacos I've ever made. So good, in fact, that I made them twice in a week. They're great for a weeknight meal and for entertaining because the pork slow cooks for 8 hours, and can just be scooped into a taco come dinnertime. Make. This. Pork. Put it on everything.


Achiote Pork Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Onions
Servings: about 8 tacos

For the Pork
  • 3 lbs bone in pork shoulder
  • 2 T. achiote paste (in the Hispanic foods section of most grocery stores)
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 c. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 T. Mexican oregano
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 3/4 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • Heavy pinch each of salt and pepper
For the Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
  • 5-6 tomatillos, husked and wiped clean
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2-3 avocados, depending on size
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, about 1/4 cup packed
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional drizzle of honey, to taste
Pickled Onions
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 t. kosher salt
Taco Time
  • Queso fresco, crumbled
  • Cilantro
  • Corn or flour tortillas

Directions

Day Ahead
  1. Place pork in the bowl of a slow cooker, and rub achiote paste thoroughly into all surfaces, being sure to get under the fat and around the folds as much as possible. 
  2. Mix remaining pork marinade ingredients in a bowl, and pour over the meat. Marinate overnight, turning the pork at least once during marinating period, as it will not be fully submerged.
  3. Mix all ingredients for pickled onions together in sealed container, let sit at room temperature at least an hour. Move to fridge overnight. Will keep for 1 week in the fridge.
Day Of
  1. Set slow cooker on low and cook pork for 8 hours.
  2. Preheat broiler to high or 450 degrees. Brush tomatillos and jalapeño with a little olive oil, and broil until blackened, turning to blacken each side. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a blender, blend all salsa ingredients until desired consistency. You may want to add half of the jalapeño, without seeds, first and then add additional jalapeño from there if you want more spice.
  4. Assemble the tacos and eat! 

Yum


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Brown Rice-Crusted Escolar with Bok Choy and Mushrooms over Coconut Curry Broth



Recreating restaurant dishes at home is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. Testing and tinkering in an attempt to mimic fare from my favorite spots, especially expensive ones, in order to make them more accessible to eat everyday makes me so happy. After an incredible dinner at my favorite date-night spot in Austin, Lenoir, I knew I wanted to copy their rice-crusted fish. While theirs was out-of-this-world, mine is still really freaking good. This recipe is fresh and healthy, but still packed with flavor, thanks to the yummy, rich broth. I wish I could recreate Lenoir's incredible ambiance at home, but we'll start with the fish.



Brown Rice-Crusted Escolar with Bok Choy and Mushrooms over Curry Broth
2 Servings

Curry Broth

1 T. olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 t. minced ginger or ginger paste
1 t. cumin
1-2 T. red curry paste (I used 2)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fish and Veggies

Two 4-6 oz fillets of Escolar, or other white fish
Salt and pepper
1 cup brown rice flakes or cereal (example here)
2 T. olive oil
2 cups shiitake or mixed mushrooms
1 small head bok choy, sliced lengthwise into bite-sized strips
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, start making the broth by heating 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and cumin, stirring for 1-2 minutes until shallots are starting to become translucent, but before the garlic gets too brown.
  3. Add the curry paste and stir into pan ingredients. Saute for about 1 min.
  4. Add the chicken broth and coconut milk, reduce heat to a simmer, and remain simmering while prepping other ingredients. Before plating, taste broth and add salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Salt and pepper both sides of the fish. Brush one side with a little olive oil, and dip into brown rice flakes or cereal. Some will fall off as you work; that's ok. 
  6. Add 1 T. olive oil to a new pan over medium heat. Cook fish on first (non-rice) side 3-4 minutes, flip and cook until fish is just done and flaky to a fork and the rice has become golden brown and toasted (about 6-7 minutes total). Remove from pan.
  7. Add 1 T. olive oil to pan, add mushrooms and bok choy. Saute until just starting to soften. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute, until mushrooms start to brown.
  8. Ladle broth into a low bowl or plate. Top with fish, bok choy, and mushrooms.

Yum

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Joshua Tree: Cholla Cactus Garden



It's National Parks Week, and I'm excited to finally post some pictures from Laura and I's trip to Joshua Tree! This beautiful park has so much to explore, but without question the top of my to-do list was the Cholla Cactus Garden. I knew the light would be perfect just before sunset, and Laura kindly obliged my desire to take a lot of pics. I barely even edited the photos because they came out so beautifully.

I accidentally learned why they call these cacti "jumping chollas", as a cute little ball of pain jumped from a nearby plant to my forearm. I'm smiling in the photo, not knowing I'd be picking the little pricks out of my skin for over a month. That aside, I highly recommend checking this place out, and spending some time wandering amongst these unique and beautiful cacti.