Archive for July, 2010

Tacos al Pastor for Foodie Friday

When I first moved to Mexico it was to Merida, the capital and the largest city of the state Yucatan. This is also where I had my first encounter with Tacos al Pastor, shepherd’s style tacos. I was initially attracted to it because the big slab of meat on a vertical rotisserie reminded me of Shoarma, something I use to love to eat in Amsterdam as an after-drinking-before-going-home-to-sleep snack. But that’s another story.

Tacos al Pastor is a version of Shoarma however, and was introduced to Mexico by Libanese immigrants in Puebla in the 1930’s. Shoarma is made with lamb but here Mexico pork is used and instead of marinating the meat in herbs it is of course marinated in … chiles, mainly guajillo.

The meat for the tacos al pastor is cooked on a vertical rotisserie in front of a flame. The rotisserie is called a Trompo, sometimes the tacos are called tacos al trompo, and there is a piece of pineapple on the top of the spit. Much to my surprise the piece of pineapple is not just there for decoration or taste but it’s there because the juice of the pineapple contains an enzyme (bromelain) that helps make the meat very tender, thank you Wikipedia.

El Trompo

When the meat is ready it is thinly shaved off the spit with a large knife and put on small corn tacos. A “real” taquero (the guy that makes the tacos) will then cut a piece of pineapple on the top and will send it flying to catch it on the plate with a flourish. Next the tacos are sprinkled with onion and coriander and served. Then it’s your turn. I suggest you put some freshly squeezed lime juice on top of and a hot salsa of your choice. Mmm, buen probecho.

Tacos al Pastor

There are many Mexican restaurants Playa where they serve tacos al pastor. You won’t find them on Fifth Avenue however you will have to be more adventurous and venture out to 30th Avenue for example where you will find my favorite El Pastorcito (Avenida 30 x Calle 30) and don’t come too early either because they won’t serve a single taco al pastor before 7 PM!

By Monica Hartlief – Monica is the Restaurant Chairperson for Taste of Playa 2010. She owns and operates a local Property Management and Vacation Rental company, Latido de Mexico,


Learn to Taste Red Wine Like a Pro!

It’s Wine Wednesday once again! Check out this informative video on the basics of wine tasting produced by the wine pros at Wine Spectator. It’s sometimes difficult to talk about the nuances of wine tasting without coming across as snobby and elitist. I think they have done a fine job with this short video.


Meatless Mondays…Cooking class on Meatless tacos

We found a great video that teaches you how to make meatless tacos!  It is easy and the ingredients are most likely in your kitchen.

Have fun!

Submitted by Nicola Inwood. Nicola is the Executive Chairperson of Taste of Playa 2010.  She writes for numerous blogs, one being and is the owner of various businesses in the Riviera Maya.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Reducing meat consumption by 15% (the equivalent of one day a week) lessens the risk of chronic preventable illness and has a strong positive impact on the environment.

Michele’s Killer Sangrita

In my experience, the best way to really enjoy a top quality tequila is with Sangrita as an accompaniment. Sangrita, literally, means “little blood” and is the traditional aperitif enjoyed with a good tequila. It is served on the side (mixed together, this is known as a “Vampira”) and is sipped alternately as a chaser to sooth the fire of the booze. Since moving to Mexico five years ago, I have had the opportunity to try many wonderful tequilas with just as many wonderful (and some not so wonderful) variations on Sangrita. While you can find it pre-made and bottled in the grocery stores, no self respecting bartender in Mexico will serve the stuff nor do I recommend you drink it. A good bartender will have his own well-guarded secret recipe, that may have been passed down from generation to generation.

Sangrita Recipe

One evening, at our house in Mystic, Connecticut, a few months before we made the big move to Playa del Carmen, Rob and I cracked open a bottle of Patron Silver and went to work concocting the perfect Sangrita. In all honesty, I have no idea how I was able to keep track of all the variations but when I came to my senses the next morning (or was it afternoon) the chicken scratch that remained in my notebook revealed a damn good house-made Sangrita recipe, one that can just as easily be made in your home kitchen as it can behind the bar in your preferred Mexican watering hole.

2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
3 tsp. minced onion
8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. celery salt

Combine ingredients, shake well, strain, chill and serve cold with shots of good tequila. In the end, Sangrita should resemble blood, and a dash of grenadine, if you have it on hand, will do the trick. Sangrita can and should be made to suit your particular taste. It can be made quite spicy or, if you like it a bit sweeter, add a bit of grenadine syrup or more orange juice. Then settle in with friends and a selection of your favorite tequilas and enjoy an authentic Mexican experience!

Michele Kinnon is the Marketing Chairperson for Taste of Playa 2010. She writes a local interest blog and is the owner of Buy Playa Real Estate Advisors.

Wineries of Mexico – Casa Madero

The Grand Old Man of Mexican Wines — Casa Madero

Originally published April 10, 2010 on

In 1575, the Spanish Crown appointed governor of then-to-be state of Coahuila, and the founder of San Luis Potosi, his Excellency, the estimable Francisco de Urdinola. The good governor founded the first winery in the Parras (“grapevines”) Valley, and produced the first commercial wine in the Western Hemisphere. Although not Mr. Popular among the local indigenous population, we can raise a glass to ol’ Francisco for getting the ball rolling in Mexico.

Shortly thereafter, in 1597, Felipe II of Spain deeded a land grant to Don Lorenzo Garcia who founded the Hacienda de San Lorenzo. In the late 19th century, Don Evaristo Madero Elizondo bought the wine production of the Hacienda from its then French owners, and Casa Madero, the oldest surviving winery in the New World, was born. Today, Jose Milmo, the great, great grandson of Don Evaristo, continues the tradition. Happily, the hacienda and wine cellar structure have been preserved in their original beautiful condition.

The Parras Valley, (reputed to be one of the hideouts of Poncho Villa) sits at an elevation of about 5000 ft., and has the ideal climate for grape cultivation. Quite arid, with cool nights, and warm days, its mountain spring water creates an oasis for man and vine. Primarily red wine country, with low rainfall (only about 11in.annually, and only in the harvest months of June, July, and August), superb Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot are produced, and in the right hands, and with careful handling, delicate, delicious whites such as Chenin blanc, Chardonnay, and Semillon can wet your whistle nicely.

In the 70s the Milmo family, who had been producing grapes normally used in brandy, (and still do a brisk brandy business selling primarily to markets in northern Europe), began to replant some of the vineyards with popular varietals such as Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Most of the production each year still goes overseas, but Jose is anxious to shed the “Mexican Wine” label and actively markets more and more to restaurants. Currently, the product split is 60% brandies, 40% wine (thanks in no small part to Jose’s passion for wine!).

The mid 70s however, were not kind to Jose and Casa Madero. The dreaded phylloxera insect, whose favorite breakfast, luncheon and dinner entrée are the roots of grapevines, virtually wiped out the vineyards over a period of time. So each year, about 100 acres were replanted with vines shoots grafted from European varieties which were free from infection. It wasn’t ‘til 2003 that all the vineyards were replanted, this time with more careful selection of varieties best adapted to the climate. Today, over 1000 acres, with highly sophisticated irrigation systems, organically produce over 350000 cases annually.   already making wine from indigenous vines at the Mission of Santa Maria

Since most Mexican wine drinkers favor European style wines, most Mexican wineries, including Casa Madero, tend to look to Bordeaux for stylistic inspiration. The Casa’s reds reflect that emphasis, with somewhat restrained and complex personalities of fruit and mineral tones. But I found the whites leaning Californian, with the fruit forward, fat, chewy flavors for which Napa, Sonoma, and the Russian River areas are known.

Today, Jose continues to push the envelope on quality. Each year, he invites winemakers from all over the world to spend a sabbatical summer at the winery to exchange ideas on ways to make the best wines possible. He is determined to improve his wines, increase his presence in the national market, and show Mexican consumers what Casa Madero is made of. Having met him, and sensing his commitment, I have no doubt he’ll do it.

“Summertime with wine and the living is easy”.

Written by Dick Avery -Dick Avery is the head sipper at VinoClubSMA, a wine club devoted to the enjoyment of “boutique” Mexican wines through free tastings. He can be reached at  Visit the website

Meatless Mondays – Chaya: Food or Medicine?

Chaya Plant

Chaya is a fast growing, green spinach that is indigenous to the Yucatan Peninsula.  It is used by the Mayans as a medicine to heal improve the blood circulation, help digestion, improve vision, dis-inflame veins and hemorrhoids, help lower cholesterol, help reduce weight, prevent coughs, increases calcium in the bones, de-congest and disinfect the lungs, prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood, improve memory and brain functions and combat arthritis and diabetes.The list is amazing and worth a try when you are visiting the area

To say more praises about this miracle food, chaya is also richer in iron than the spinach and it’s a powerful calcium and potassium source.

Chaya is now known as the poor mans food as it grows wild and locally. Once you can identify its leaf, you will see it growing in many locations around the pueblos, in people back yards and on business’ properties. Many Mexicans who are not from the area, are not aware of the existence of this power food.  It does not grow in other regions, like prickly pears, or agave plants and is truly the magic food and plant of this area.

Chaya can be used to wrap food and cook it, like the idea of a crepe.  Vegetables, cheese and other fillings can be rolled into the chaya leaf and either baked or pan fried to soften its texture.  It is used as a vegetable filling and it is used as a compliment to stews and soups.

One favorite use of Chaya is in a blended fruit juice, and if you go to local smoothie makers, you will find chaya on each menu.

Recipe for Chaya Maya Fruit Smoothie

1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice

1/4 cup fresh Orange Juice

8 or 9 leaves of chaya

Crushed ice

honey or sugar if desired

Put all ingredients in a blender and sweeten with honey or sugar to taste. Blend for over a minute with ice.

The juice will be green in color and be a bit frothy.  It is a great start to your day.

Submitted by Nicola Inwood. Nicola is the Executive Chairperson of Taste of Playa 2010.  She writes for numerous blogs, one being and is the owner of various businesses in the Riviera Maya.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Reducing meat consumption by 15% (the equivalent of one day a week) lessens the risk of chronic preventable illness and has a strong positive impact on the environment.

Susan’s Enchiladas Verdes

Being a caterer in Mexico and passionate about food, has allowed for many food adventures in my years of living here. If I don’t know what an ingredient is used for or eat something so delectable I have to make it,I will learn how to do it! Friends and clients often ask for recipes so I thought what better way to share some than on our blog!

It was on my first trip to Playa del Carmen in 1994 when I first saw enchiladas verdes in a small local restaurant right on Fifth Avenue. You didn’t really venture off 5th then as it was where the only restaurants were! They were so good I knew I had to find a way to make them myself! Which I did. With recipe in hand I ventured out to find tomatillos (toe ma tee ohs) which I thought were green tomatoes and later learned that they are part of the gooseberry family. This makes them easily recognizable in the produce section…looks like a green tomato with a paper like wrapping on it. Of course the ones I was able to get, were canned, because that’s the only thing you can get in the winter time in Winnipeg … “Winterpeg”. So it didn’t quite have the freshness I was looking for. So I tried it in the summer with fresh tomatillos and voila …. there I had it the fresh taste of Playa in my mouth!


1 kilo or about 15 large tomatillos or 1 large can
1 1/4 cup less sodium chicken stock
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped or 1 can green chilies
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

2 1/2 cups shredded roasted chicken
1/2 cup grated cheese *manchego or mozarella
1/3 cup low salt chicken broth
1/3 cup fat free sour cream
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

8-10 small tortillas *corn or flour but I think flour works best!

For salsa:

(1) To prepare the sauce, peel the tomatillos, remove stems and wash well. Cut into quarters.Or open the can!

(2) Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until fairly smooth.

(3) Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced to about 2 cups of liquid; around 5-10 minutes.

For Filling:

(1) Preheat oven to 400 F

(2) Combine chicken with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well.

(3) Coat the bottom of large baking dish with cooking spray then spread 1/2 cup of the salsa on the bottom to prevent sticking.

(4) Warm tortillas slightly, then fill with 1/3 cup of the filling and roll them up. Arrange on the bottom of the baking dish.

(5) Pour remaining salsa on the enchiladas and bake for 10 minutes.

**Traditionally, a queso cotija (which looks like a crumbly feta but is a dry cow’s milk cheese) and media crema (heavy, thick cream) is put on top before serving. This is optional or I have used more manchego cheese and melted on top when baking which is delicious!

This recipe has been featured in ANNA Magazine

Have a recipe to share? What about Enchiladas Rojas? Let us know!

By Susan De Lima – Susan is the Operations Chairperson for Taste of Playa 2010. She owns and operates a local catering and concierge business Latido de Mexico,

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