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Hi all. I'm new to this area of Mouthfulls...tanabutler saw I mentioned an upcoming trip and asked if I'd post something over here. :o

 

In October, I'm flying down to Mexico for Day of the Dead. In Merida, the capital of the Yucatan, there's a cooking school called Los Dos. They have a class centered around food of the festival and including side trips, shopping in the local market, etc.

 

Here's a description of the class:

 

http://www.los-dos.com/specials.htm

 

(scroll down to October 31-November 2)

 

 

 

Heidi from 101cookbooks.com did a nice review of the school here:

 

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000171.html

 

 

To prepare for my trip...I've been working my way through Rick Bayless' "Mexico: One Plate at a Time". If anyone's got any good recommendations from that book, I'd really appreciate it! When the hotel proprietor in Merida found out I was coming for a cooking class, he offered to let me flex my cooking skills in his newly rennovated kitchen. I'm not one to turn down an offer like that, but I'd feel more comforatable if I went with a couple recipes that are tried & true! :o

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We'll be staying at Hotel Trinidad, which is apparently 7 minute walk to Los Dos. Here's a link:

 

http://www.hotelestrinidad.com/hoteltrinidad/hotel.htm

 

So far, we're staying from October 30- November 3, but we may stay on longer and day-trip from Merida. I have been to Merida before, but was less of a seasoned traveler then, and didn't see nearly as much as I wanted to. (There is a funny story about meeting up with a shaman, but I'll save that for later!)

 

I'm actually flying into Cancun early and plan to do some scuba diving in Cozumel, then head to Merida. I hear there's a street fair on Sunday that is not to be missed....I'm hoping to get into town early.

 

Any tips/places to see/things not to miss are welcome and sincerely appreciated. :o

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Other than the obvious (strolling the broad sidewalks of Paseo Montejo in the mornings, exploring the many famous ruins within a few hours' drive, enjoying the free concerts each evening at the various squares, diving the cenotes, etc.), I'd strongly recommend a visit to Ría de Celestún....this is a must-do. Hire one of the guys with a boat to take you to see the flamingoes, egrets, and other wildlife in this remarkable preserve.

 

I love the Yucatan.

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Scarlett--

 

Probably not Johansen, Huh? Oh, well, not your fault.

 

Anyway, I'm sloppin' over with envy of your forthcoming trip. Like Jaymes, I regard Merida as one of my favorite Mexican cities, maybe even simply my favorite.

 

Some stupid guide books stupidly advise you not to eat anything from street carts and market vendors. Whatever you eat, your indwelling bacterial colony is going to be at odds with the new crowd that are even now getting ready to move in. So eat what you wil. And have some pepto bismol and kaopectate on hand for the occasional unfortunate result

 

The almond drink Horchata is exceptionally refreshing, and most of the fresh fruit and sorbetes are wonderful.

 

Be sure to try chelada and michelada, which are doctored beers. Some dark brew, like Modelo Negra, is jacked up with lime juice and salt to make chelada, and with Pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and some other spicy additions to become michelada. It's wise to remember that limon means lime, and when the limons are starting to turn yellow, they are at their gentle jusiest.

 

You've been there before, so you probably know about Pollo Pibil, Panchuco, and lime soup, and besides, you're going to cooking school. Be sure to write down what your instructors say are the most genuine and correct restos. (Maybe I'll go back in the spring.

 

Hammocks (lots of luck staying aboard) and Panama hats are good recuerdos (souvenirs). Merida is the store central for fiber products. (In the 17rh Century, it was the largest producer and exporter of ships' cordage in the world.)

 

Day trips and picnics in and around some Mayan archeological sites nearby are generally a delight. Beware of folks selling mayan artifacts. If they're real, they're illegal.

 

Take picture and have fun.

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Maurice-

 

Thanks for all the scoop! You'll be happy to know that I love eating from the street vendors. I've found some of the best food from these places....

 

Okay, so I was clueless the last time I was in Merida. I'm looking forward to going back and checking out the things I missed out on. Can you tell me more about Pollo Pibil, Panchuco, and lime soup? Do you have some favorite places and/or descriptions?

 

Ah...and I do love Horchata. Unfortunately the last time I was in Mexico, I discovered that some places use a mix from a box, then add water. <Blech!>

 

I like the idea of Michelada and am looking forward to trying it. I found an interesting article that discusses it (along with other drinks) here:

 

http://www.beveragenet.net/cheers/2003/0307/0307lat.asp

 

(scroll to the bottom for the Michelada discussion)

 

The article also provides Rick Bayless' recipe, which is just as you described:

 

Michelada

(Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo Restaurant)

1/2 lime

coarse salt

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 dash soy sauce

1 dash Tabasco sauce

1 dash Maggi seasoning (sold as Jugo Sazonador in Mexico)

12 ounces beer, preferably a dark Mexican beer such as Negra Modelo

Squeeze juice from lime and hold. Rim glass with squeezed lime and dip in coarse salt. Fill with ice. Add lime juice, Worcestershire and soy sauces, Tabasco and Maggi. Pour in beer, stir and serve with remaining beer for topping up.

 

Cheers!

Scarlett

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Can you tell me more about Pollo Pibil...

The traditional way of cooking meats in the Yucatan was to dig a pit (pibil), line it with stones, get it really hot, take the meat and marinate it in a mixture of annatto seeds ground into achiote paste combined with other ingredients, wrap it up in banana leaves, bury it in the pibil.

 

The meat most often associated with the pibil is pork, and the resulting dish is probably the Yucatan's most famous: Cochinita Pibil. Although they do prepare other meats this way as well -- ie, chicken - Pollo Pibil.

 

We actually made Cochinita Pibil in a Mexican cooking project we undertook here on MF.

 

Mexican Cooking Project - Cochinita Pibil

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I noticed in the second link (the one about 101 cookbooks) that Heidi thinks most people have never heard of Mérida. To me, that is a stupid and condescending thought, as I know of no one who has not heard of Mérida. Personally, I used to go there every year, and I often stayed at Hotel Colón because it has steam baths. Also, I liked their stationery.

 

I've only been to Mexico City twice for Day of Dead, but it's a great time to be there. Be sure to take pictures of the store windows. If you get the chance, take a side trip to Guanajuato, which has a music fest,Cervantino Festival in October and November. It used to be October only, but they've extended it due to popular demand. The full festival is not in November, but they still have the roaming troubadors guiding and seranading people in the evening.

 

My favorite Mexican food is in Yucatán, and there is a strong Lebanese influence there. It is common to find pita bread at the restaurants, which I like. I like Mérida a lot, but I like Oaxaca better, as a place to visit, but I spend more time in DF.

 

If you get sick, buy some Bactrim at the local farmacía, and it should cure you in a few hours (at least it did for me).

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Lars-

 

Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions. I was wondering...we've got a bit of a time crunch. The class ends on a Weds, we plan to stay Thurs exploring a bit of Merida. We fly out on Sunday from Cancun, so we've got Friday and Saturday to explore. With our limited time constraints, do you have any suggestions of other places not to miss? We're thinking of Campeche or Valladolid. Pros or cons for either?

 

Also, I was wondering...can you expand more on how the Yucatan food is different? I'm intrigued and trying to read more about it. Unfortunately, I have a bunch of Rick Bayless books and it doesn't seem to be his area of focus.

 

As for Heidi's comment about Merida being a town most people have never heard of....living on the west coast of the US, I would agree with her. In Seattle, my experience is most people here frequent the Pacific side of Mexico. Easy access is the predominant reason, I imagine. From here, it can cost less than $300 to fly to Mazatlan, Cabo san Lucas, or Peurto Vallarta. While flying to Cancun most times of the year can cost $800. Last year, I took a backpacking trip from Cancun, Tulum, Chetumal, Flores (Guatemala), & Caye Caulker (Belize). By the reaction I got just from my co-workers, you would have thought I'd traveled to the ends of the earth! Which is why it's so wonderful for me to know others who have frequented Merida and can provide good information. :o

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