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Yucatan-- Cooking Schools/Restaurants Recs


Caarina
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I will be travelling to the Yucatan and Belize in April with my best friend, and I will be probably using Merida as a base for a week and then travelling out to different towns in the surrounding area.

I wanted to take a cooking class to get more familiar with the cooking of the Yucatan (which I don't know much about), and I found this cooking school. Anyone have any comments or personal experiences here? http://www.los-dos.com/ It is run by Chef David Sterling.

I am going to be on a budget, so I'll only be taking the day class.

If someone has another recommendation in Merida for restaurants, cooking classes etc, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks!

Caarina

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Hi there! I was in Merida the end of October-early November. I took the series class at Los Dos, centered around Day of the Dead.

I can highly recommend David's classes. In fact, I'd recommend taking his class early on in your trip. The day begins with a breakfast, poolside. Then he lectures about the history of Mexico, influences to the Yucatan, and the types of food that are unique to this region. He will discuss the recipes and the various types of ingredients you'll be using, what's unique about them, and their uses.

After the lecture, you'll walk to the big market area to buy ingredients for the day's cooking. This experience is enhanced greatly by the thorough lecture provided beforehand.

You'll go back to Los Dos kitchen, which is well outfitted and comfortable. There you will prepare the menu, then eat lunch in the formal dining room.

I would imagine this is typical. We received a spiral bound notebook with recipes and notes on chilies, history of the Yucatan, etc. Also, upon arrival for the day, we were given sturdy aprons with the Los Dos logo. These were ours to keep.

Overall, the price is similar to what I expect to pay in the US for a class. Given that the chef is a transplanted New Yorker with an anthropologists passion for Yucatan food, it's well worth the money. And if you have the money for a splurge, a stay in one of the two guest rooms at Los Dos is my idea of heaven....

E-mail or PM me if you want more information or to see photos from my trip.

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

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I haven't taken classes there, but I have seen the place, and the chef seems great and enthusiastic. To my knowledge from researching travel guides, it's the only really organized cooking class you can get in the Yucatan anyway. (I think I heard about some more casual things in Playa del Carmen, but maybe that was a one-off deal, and some language schools in Merida will tack on a pretty impromptu cooking class if you ask.) If Yucatecan food is new to you, I'd imagine this would be a great experience.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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Don't miss ceviche at El Marlin Azul--it's on C 62 (I think)--if you're on the plaza facing north, go north on the street running out of the left side. It's only open till 4pm, and doesn't have much of a sign (look for a blue awning--long counter inside; next door north is also theirs, a little unmarked dining room). Freshest ceviche I had in the Yucatan, even better than places on the coast...go figure.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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  • 2 months later...

Going to be on the Yucatan (Merida, Campeche, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Isla Mujeres) for a couple weeks soon and am looking for specialties of the region. Not interested in "safe" options, European foods, a good place for granola and yogurt, etc. Just Mexican food with an emphasis on regional dishes.

I would be interested in a more upscale, fusiony sort of place if it were in the same vein as Izote or Aguila y Sol in Mexico City, or the Trotter's place in Cabo. But it really needs to be exceptional.

We're spending only one day in Cancun and Isla Mujeres, so those are less important.

Places with a good collection of street food vendors or fondas serving cocina economica to the locals are always greatly appreciated. I love to know where the people who are working at the hotels in resort towns are actually eating.

Also, if anyone has a rec for for a cooking school other than Los Dos in Merida, I'd love to hear it. I'd especially be interested in one near Playa del Carmen since my wife can hang out at the beach while I take a class, whereas I don't think she's going to want to do her own thing in a big city like Merida.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Am I too late? Have you gone?

Merida isn't "big city"-feeling at all--you would never guess a million people live there. The center is very compact and tidy, and you can wander around easily--no street hassle.

In Campeche, there are two exceptionally delicious places to eat: one is called La Pigua (though when I was there last, it was being remodeled, and everything had moved next door to a place called Sir Francis Drink...tee hee). It's just north of the center, outside the old walls--head up C/8. Excellent seafood. Very popular.

The other awesome place, much simpler and cheaper, is La Parroquia, just off the plaza on C/55--open 24hrs, big airy diner feel. All tasty.

In Merida, see above (El Marlin Azul), and also go to Parque Santiago at night for snacks--a little bit west of the center, at C/70. There are a couple of snack joints open for panuchos and salbutes.

In Cancun, go to Parque de las Palapas downtown and just snack a lot there. Heck, even the taco carts in front of the bus station are good. And there's a very cute lunch place called La Lomita in Isla Mujeres, and a couple good ceviche places on the beach right next to the ferry dock.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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Don't miss ceviche at El Marlin Azul--it's on C 62 (I think)--if you're on the plaza facing north, go north on the street running out of the left side.  It's only open till 4pm, and doesn't have much of a sign (look for a blue awning--long counter inside; next door north is also theirs, a little unmarked dining room).  Freshest ceviche I had in the Yucatan, even better than places on the coast...go figure.

We've spent a lot of time in Cozumel over the past 20-years and have made seeking out good local dining something of a mission. We have a pretty extensive list of reviews at: http://www.mxtravel.com/cozumel/cozumel_restaurants.html but the highlights of our favorite local places are:

When in Mexico, you have to try a real tacqueria and our favorite in Cozumel is El Serra on Ave 30. We each usually order a plate of 4 or 5 tacos al pastor con piña (grilled marinated pork with a slice of pineapple) with an occasional chuleta con queso taco (pork chop with cheese) for a change of pace. Dinner for two including soft drinks ranged from $70 to $85 MXN depending on how hungry we were that night. And these tacos are so good we dream about them when we’re not in Cozumel.

Whole fried fish is something of a regional specialty and Santa Carlos located on Ave. 50-B between A.R. Salas and Calle 3 is our favorite fish place. Start your lunch with a plate of mixed ceviche for the table while you’re waiting for your main meal. If you want, you can go into the kitchen and pick out the fish you want. We usually get one plate of the fillet and another of a small whole fried snapper along with a beer and a soft drink for a total $150 MXN. Fried fish just doesn’t get much better than this.

You’ll get another great lunch at Candela’s at the corner of Ave 5 & Calle 6. They change entrées daily and if you want, you can get a look at what’s on the menu that day as you enter the restaurant and walk by the kitchen. The meal includes a choice of soups, a main course that includes a meat and 2 sides and unlimited supply of iced jamaica drink (hibiscus flower tea); all for a grand total of $45 MXN (or just over $4 US) per person. Everything we’ve tried there is excellent and the setting is very comfortable. We have heard some people complain that they were charged more for their meal at Candela’s but we speak a little Spanish and even throw in a Mayan word or two and maybe that makes a difference. But even if they were to charge you $60 or $65 MXN, lunch at Candela’s would be worth it.

While not really a local Mexican eatery, one of our favorite meals in Cozumel is Guido's Pizza, on Ave. Rafael Melgar on the north end of town. While it is not cheap, it is very good. Along with the pizza, they offer a very nice salad, "puff" garlic bread, various Northern Italian specials and homemade sangria. Garden diners find themselves under a canopy of bougainvillea and philodendra vines and are treated to an eclectic mix of recorded music. This is a great choice for a late leisurely lunch.

Manati is located in a very small old wooden building on the corner of Calle 8 and Ave. 10. Don’t be surprised if owner Leo Rojo not only takes your order but then goes back into the kitchen to prepare it as well. The menu features local ingredients in recipes inspired by cuisines from around the world. One of our favorites is the Mango chicken in puff pastry.

Cofelia's is a really cute breakfast and lunch restaurant with seating in a pleasant garden on Calle 5 less than a block from the waterfront. We've had scrambled eggs with bacon and the house quiche and both were good as was the jamica (hibiscus flower) drink. They had a really nice chipotle (smoked jalapeno) sauce on the table that went well with both the eggs and the quiche. Good service, nice atmosphere and well prepared food.

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