Tag Archives: mezcal

Riviera Maya: March 2014

Riviera Maya: March 2014

Not necessarily thinking through the idea of going to Mexico during Spring Break season, we descended upon Riviera Maya for a long-weekend escape from the Midwest cold. Luckily, most rowdy Spring Breakers park their butts immediately in Cancun where the airport is, rather than make the hour drive down the coast to Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen where we were.

We stayed at the very lovely Fairmont Mayakoba, where we were surrounded by the family Spring Break set, as well as a surprising number of conference travelers (who could actually be considered a bit rowdy). I’ve done my fair share of corporate conference travel and it’s funny to be on the outside looking in on that dynamic.

We did a lot of lounging by the pool and on the beach.  An amazing breakfast buffet was included in our room rate so we gorged early and held out for dinner.  Great green juice, omelets, Mexican classics and tropical fruits.

Han iPhone 701 Han iPhone 704 Han iPhone 707 Han iPhone 708 Han iPhone 709 Han iPhone 803Full moon

The Mayakoba area consists of three hotels and a golf course on the property.  There are man-made canals running between the properties, and you can take a ferry to get back and forth, or you can just take the ferry to explore the wildlife.Han iPhone 755

Han iPhone 762Crocodiles!  There was a woman sunbathing on her hotel room’s porch not 100 feet away.

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Han iPhone 775 Spotted: these creatures!Han iPhone 771 Mangroves

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Han iPhone 767Turtles

We went into town – Playa Del Carmen – two nights for dinner.

image_3Upper left: roll with butter wrapped in a corn husk

Lower right: cochinita pibil – Mayan-style pork – so delish with pickled onions.  We had this for many meals, including breakfast.  Basically a yummy pulled pork dish.  Also, there were tons of various salsas everywhere which are always fun to try, from tomato-based, to habanero, onion and tomatillo.

Han iPhone 830 In town, there were lots of beautiful wares being sold, like these sinks.

Han iPhone 825 Han iPhone 824And these colorful bags Han iPhone 819 and white “puffy shirts” a la Seinfeld!Han iPhone 818

Han iPhone 807The street map was clearly geared toward tourists with the toucan.

Han iPhone 827Stopped at this tropical outdoor (but covered) bar for a pre-dinner beverage.

Han iPhone 838And this trendy outdoor (but again covered) bar for a post-dinner beverage.

Han iPhone 694Saw this band of wandering mariachis on both nights…wearing slightly different outfits each time.

One of the most fun and interesting things we did was a mezcal tasting at one of the other hotels on the Mayakoba property.  They had a sushi-tequila bar (actually probably a good combo when you think about it), where Mark and I tried 5 different mezcals from the same producer, Wahaka.  As I noted in my January Texas post, mezcal is another liquor made from the agave plant, but is smokier than tequila, more like scotch.

We had a perfect perch on a couch on the porch of the Agave Azul restaurant, overlooking the water and the full moon.

Han iPhone 732Shrimp appetizer

Our waiter, who administered the tasting, was super nice, mainly I think due to the fact that as he said, he “didn’t know many women that like mezcal.”  Because he was so excited to find people trying mezcal, he brought us a few small samples of other mezcals he thought we would like, including a mezcal-rita (margarita with mezcal), which I have to say, I enjoyed 10 times more than the one I had previously in Texas.

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As we learned from our waiter and from the informational video he showed us, mezcal is much more diverse than tequila.  Yes, they are both made from agave, but whereas tequila is made only from one variety of the plant, mezcal can be made from many different types.  Additionally, the plants are smoked before being pressed to get the liquid, so that’s why mezcal has that smoky flavor and tequila doesn’t.  The plants can be smoked under wood, rocks, dirt, leather, etc., gaining different flavors in the process.  Mezcal is mainly produced in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, which is an extremely poor region.

I recently figured out how to use this voice recording feature on my phone, so like the nerd that I am, I took some verbal notes on what we tried from Wahaka (I have no idea the names of each that we tried, so that’s useless, but at least to illustrate the range of flavors mezcal can give, and all from one brand, no less!):


1. Woody: Reminded me of a fire pit in New Mexico, toasting smores – made from the Espadin plant

2. Piney

3. Floral but also leathery

4. “Ensemble” – a mixture of the first three essentially – smooth, smokey, herbaceous rather than floral

5. Most high-end…didn’t take any particular tasting notes but was definitely the least pucker-inducing of the Wahaka bunch

Extra: Amores (not Wahaka) which was our favorite of all for being smoky and smooth – also made from the Espadin plant

The other thing I kept noticing on this trip was all the fun and funky lighting fixtures wherever we went.  Somehow this sort of became an obsession, so here are a few of the good lighting shots (many were unusable given the photos were mostly taken at night…like of lanterns and such):

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Pretty delicate paper cutting of plants and animals, and soft reflection of the chandelier in the glass.Han iPhone 746 Han iPhone 747 Han iPhone 677 Han iPhone 796 Han iPhone 843This was a nifty puzzle-piece-looking ceiling at one outdoor bar

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All around a wonderful getaway for relaxing and warm weather.


First Time to Downtown Houston: A Weekend In Pictures

First Time to Downtown Houston: In Pictures

Market Square Park

IMG_1895 Sculpture in Market Square Park

IMG_1896 Close up you can see these pine-coney spikes are made of beautifully smooth amber-colored wood.

We went to The Pastry War in the Market Square neighborhood, a new(ish) tequila bar that is getting some hype (read about upcoming tastings on Eater.com) because they are holding cocktail classes led by the award-winning bartenders at Anvil, another Houston bar, which made Esquire magazine’s best bars for 2012 (but which fell off in 2013 much to the chagrin of some local publications).  It is also one of many new bars and restaurants opening in the area hoping to revitalize the neighborhood.  It was a really cool little part of town, and I highly recommend checking it out.

IMG_1915 Sort of hidden bar, as this was the only signage at the front.

We only did one pre-dinner drink at The Pastry War, but I would love to go back to Market Square to make a night of hot-spot hopping and people watching.  Here, a margarita on the rocks made with mezcal (from agave like tequila only smoky like scotch).  I’m really liking mezcal right now; I got a delicious concoction at Isalita, a Mexican tapas restaurant and ultra-cool night spot in Ann Arbor, which turned me on to it.  At The Pastry War, it was definitely a different twist in a tart limey (what one might consider refreshing) margarita, and I think I’ll stick with regular tequila in my margaritas.


Other photos from The Pastry War (named after the First Franco-Mexican War about which you can read on Wikipedia here)

IMG_1920Walking in through the outer seating area

IMG_1921 Obviously into the mezcal here

IMG_1900 A whole side of the menu dedicated to beverages distilled from the agave plant

IMG_1906 Agave plant memorialized as a single tile embedded into each table

IMG_1909 IMG_1901The bar area with friendly bar staff

IMG_1904 Behind the bar: some unusual taxidermyIMG_1903 A cozy corner of the bar with bric-a-brac

IMG_1908 Colorful mural in the booth seating area

IMG_1923 Skull motif on the ceiling

IMG_1907 Looking out to the outer seating area

IMG_1919 Mexican Coke!

Some other photos from the weekend:

IMG_1889 Ugh, this is what you get for running across the street with your sunglasses tucked in the V-neck of your shirt.  I wasn’t about to dodge back into traffic to try to retrieve the lens before it was run over.  And this is why I don’t buy expensive sunglasses.  Bye-bye.

IMG_1967 IMG_1968 A delightful lunch at Tiny Boxwoods (extremely popular restaurant attached to a plant nursery) with my sister.  When we arrived, there was a line out the door (you order and then they bring it to you at your table) and all the tables were full, but they were closing soon, so I held down two seats at the bar, while my sister stalked an outdoor table for us: success!!  White wine mojito for her and straight Pinot Grigio for me.  Along with my “French picnic” platter and the sunshine, it was a perfect afternoon. IMG_1969

IMG_1972Ugh again: This scared the sh** out of me in our hotel bathroom the morning we were set to leave.  Still gives me shivers.  Is this a roach?  I have no idea, but it’s disgusting.  I had called for a late check out, but once this was spotted and trapped under a cup, I got the hell out of there ASAP.  Something to be said for the winter chill in Ann Arbor I guess.

IMG_1979 Bye bye Houston sunset.IMG_1983 Hello Detroit 🙂