A Mexican Food Adventure (Part II)

Hopefully you enjoyed (and remember) my post last week about my culinary adventure in Hamilton, Ontario! That was Part I of an excellent culinary adventure. Here, is Part II 🙂

As mentioned in my last post, my intended destination was Playa del Carmen via Hamilton, Ontario and Cancun. After a non-stop morning flight from Toronto, I arrived to the heat of Cancun, ready to explore.

Make sure you pre-organize your transportation from the Airport to your hotel, so you don’t over pay and wait! Because all you ever want to do is just GET TO THE HOTEL as soon as you can, am I right?! So put on your proactive ‘hat’ and book a private, semi-private or shared shuttle. I used Lomas Travel to organize mine – a local Mexican tour company. And they were the most organized (that I could see) at the Cancun airport!

About 1-1.5 hours later, we arrived in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun. Usually a shuttle will drop you off right in front of your hotel UNLESS you are like me and book a hotel on the 5th Ave promenade for pedestrians only and doesn’t allow vehicles! ha ha. So my lovely driver,  carried my luggage a block until we arrived at Hotel Lunata.

 

My intention for 48 hours was to discover a quaint side of Playa del Carmen, which is easily a tourist hub and full of all-inclusive resorts! I am not sure how I found this wonderful little place, but wow, did I do well!

Hotel Lunata – A Spanish style archway entrance, green courtyard with spanish tile work on the stairs up to the rooms. What. A. Gem. And located right on the 5th avenue pedestrian walkway that seems to go for miles parallel to the beach, with shops and restaurants galore.

I did end up with a room facing the pedestrian walkway, which only tires around 12-1am, but had I had a room facing the courtyard it would have been quieter and I could have enjoyed my own private balcony. The staff were wonderful and helpful, it was safe and comfortable.

 

Upon arrival and fully admiring my quaint little hotel, I headed for the beach, sand between my toes was almost shouting at me, and it had a cold beer and lime waiting!

 

Now, here are the wonderful places I discovered…

Axiote – Cocina de Mexico. A recommendation by a Vancouverite living in Playa, and a pleasant surprise! YOU MUST go here. Opened by Xavier Pérez Stone, the Mexican winner of the Canadian Iron Chef in 2014. The cocktails are equally impressive and they did offer some wine, however I opted to try their mezcal drinks! I had the “Tomate” cocktail made of mezcal, cucumber, parsley, tomatillo and worm salt rim. It was delicious beyond my expectation plus it was refreshing! It’s on the other end of the 5th Ave promenade from Hotel Lunata, on a side street, so a destination and a bit of a secret, which is nice.

For food I had the most beautiful green salad I think I’ve seen “Salad Verde” with apples, avocado, tomato, dusted with Spirulina. And a dish with Oaxacan cheese with crispy grasshoppers sprinkled on top and ‘coloradito’ mole sauce. I was a little worried about eating crispy hoppers but at the same time intrigued. And all they did was add a touch of crunch (an apparently protein), but there was no other indication they were high hopping insects!

 

Piola – Another suggestion from fellow Vancouverite. She said “go for the Basil Margarita, trust me.” But you might as well go for food, such as a pizza which is what they do very well. Now, I know it’s not “mexican” food, but sometimes you just need to eat. And if you’re going to drink an entire Basil Margarita, then you’ll need it! Let me tell you, this margarita was sooooo fresh, it was actually worth walking the 20+ blocks to the other end of the 5th Ave promenade! A definite must as I am guessing it’s going to be hard to find a place anywhere else who can match this. The atmosphere here was awesome, lots of plants and breezy.

 

Tropical – Yes this little place I discovered was right on the 5th Ave promenade. But this particular day I was hungry and thirsty and I really needed shade, the sunshine was hot hot hot! Not only were the staff genuinely nice, the menu was not expensive and they had some unique dishes from this region of Mexico. I am a big fan of ceviche (although not native to this area, they added their local spin) so I had the “Green Ceviche” – fish marinated in coriander, parsley and cucumber sauce with a touch of avocado oil. It was, absolutely delicious. Normally ceviche is quite acidic, whereas this was smooth and tangy. Heaven on a plate.

 

Mango Margarita from a beachside café…

 

A ‘Michelada’ made with beer, lime juice, spices and a salted rim…

My Mom Doris and I at the Travel Marketing Conference…

I hope you enjoyed my Mexican food adventure and will add these places to your future travels!

Safe Travels & Happy Summer, Enjoy xo

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A Mexican Food Adventure (Part I)

Many people know me as someone who works in the Wine Industry, writes about wine, shares on social media and travels. But, not many know that I started my career in Tourism and Travel. I actually worked at my Mom’s Travel Agency (Vista Travel Olds) after finishing College. I took continuing education courses to become a Certified Travel Consultant a few years later. I’ve worked full time to part time and casually every since.

When I worked full time, it was hands down, the happiest job I’ve had – sending people on a vacation, guarantees way more smiles than it does frowns! So all of this to say, travel is in my blood and I’d say I do it well (now). There is however, always room for improvement ;).

In early May, I attended a conference with my Mom just south of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Because these years I’ve worked “outside of Travel”, I’ve secretly  been working with my Mom and her office in some way, shape or form!

a stop at Vino Volo at the Airport for wine & pizza

So I decided to fly via Hamilton, Ontario (to see cousins), then hop on a non-stop flight to Cancun and spend 48 hours on my own, touring and soaking up the sun before my Mom arrived!

Because, why would I NOT do this?!

So let me start by sharing about my time in Hamilton, Ontario. No typing error. Hamilton. Yes, the former steel city that can resurrect itself as an artsy, culinary destination. My cousins are avid foodies and adventurers, and just moved to the area within the last couple of years from Toronto. So they of course planned a culinary tour (Donita style) of Hamilton for us!

Stop #1 – a visit to the Hamilton City Market. A great place to get inspired for cooking at home and discovering local small vendors making yummy things, including local wines!

 

Stop #2 Radius for Lobster Poutine & Korean Fried Cauliflower along with a cocktail to kick things off. A casual and big space, fun menu and definitely turns into an evenings spot to enjoy drinks and dinner. Loved the exposed Brick and atmosphere.

This photo of Radius is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Stop # 3 – Berkeley North for Mushroom Dumplings, Shishito Tempura Peppers and a rotating fresh in-season menu with a vegetable focus & a good little wine list of local and Int’l wines. Try the Leaning Post Winery Chardonnay from Niagara Wine Region and/or the Sunset Winery Dolcetto from Italy. This was one of my favourite stops. It’s a smaller restaurant with intention in what they create in the kitchen and what they have on their wine list. 

Stop #4 – Brux House for a beer flight and Tamarind Rum Pork Ribs and Miso Hoisin Brussel Sprouts and dessert. I am not sure how we still had space to eat more, but we did! A great place in an old house, with a bar and seating downstairs or upstairs. Delicious food and a great place for beers!

That was a fantastic culinary and drinking tour of Hamilton! Don’t underestimate this comeback city!

Part II will be all about Playa del Carmen, Mexico!