Saturday was a very sports-themed day. First we took E to his last soccer game of the season and then Mimi had a gymnastics exhibit.
It has been rainy and windy all morning but thankfully it cleared up when the game started. E was on a 2nd grade team through our city rec league and enjoyed it. His best friend from the neighborhood was on his team as well which was fun for him. They had a wonderful (and very patient!) coach.
Things have been busy around here. School ends really early in UT and E finishes next Friday (!) Our schedule has been crammed with end-of-year stuff along with soccer games and gymnastics.
Before I moved on to other things I wanted to do one more post about our trip in April to Mexico in April. We went on a taco tour in Cancun which was one of my favorite things from the trip.
I found the Taco Tour on TripAdvisor. It seemed fun, it was only $15 a person for the tour plus a little extra for the tacos and tips, and the reviews were good. So I submitted our info on the website and waited to hear back from them.
Merak, the tour guide, emailed me back within 48 hours to confirm and gave me his cell number if we needed to reach him and we (N, me, and 3 friends from N’s company) were set to meet him the following evening in front of a grocery store in Cancun.
Merak was a great tour guide–friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and passionate about Mexican food and tacos. We set off on foot from the supermarket and arrived at our first stop for tacos al pastor.
Merak told us that al pastor was invented when Arabic immigrants came to Mexico and brought shawarma with them. Locals adopted the method of cooking meat on a spit but incorporated local flavors and used pork instead of lamb and al pastor was born.
Merak recommended only ordering tacos al pastor if we were at a restaurant and saw their al pastor on a spit. N0 spit–don’t chance it! He also said that tacos al pastor normally come with chopped onion, cilantro, and pineapple. Our tacos were SO good (pictured at the top of this post) I liked the pineapple.
After that we set off walking to our next stop. We walked through town and saw locals out enjoying the evening. At one point before we walked down an alley Merak pulled us aside and said that they were remodeling the building on the side so the alley was especially dark right now but not to worry, he wasn’t leading us into an ambush and we we weren’t going to get mugged. And we didn’t, the end.
The next place was a taco cart in another (better-lit) alley.
This taco cart was across the street from a modern, upscale restaurant which is where Merak said a lot of taxi drivers would take you if you said you wanted good tacos. He also said that the driver would usually give you a card for a free margarita and then when you redeemed it he would get a kickback because the card had his referral number on the back.
As we walked past the restaurant he told us to look inside and see how many Mexicans were eating there. There were only a few (mostly eating with tourists) but we went across the street and the tables by this taco cart were PACKED.
Merak listed his favorite tacos from this stand: chorizo, steak, and tripa (tripe). As soon as he said the tripe taco was good I knew what I was having! It was crispy and a little smokey like bacon and really good.
The next place we went was a seafood restaurant. Merak said because the Cancun is only about 40 years old and developed as a tourist area there isn’t a fishing industry. People realized they could make more money using boats to take tourist snorkeling and whatnot rather than fishing for a living–you can take tourists out to look at the same fish day after day but if you catch them to eat then that’s it.
Merak said that people also know that the tourists expect to be able to eat seafood in Cancun–so most restaurants bring it in frozen. Just a few places get it fresh like the one he took us to.
We finished our tour by walking through town to a big town square. There was a big thatched roof called a palapa over a stage where a singer was entertaining a crowd. Merak said that people gather every night to hang out as families and enjoy the cooler temps.
Merak told us which vendors to avoid (he had eaten at one of them and gotten sick the week before) and which to consider for dessert. Everyone ended up getting ice cream at this stall he recommended. It was all made fresh and there were several local flavors that Merak tried to explain…”it’s a green fruit about this big…the inside is salmon-colored and it tastes kind of a melon but not as sweet.” The vendor was happy to give everyone lots of samples and everyone ended up with something they liked.
It was such a fun experience. Merak was a fantastic guide and such good company. I felt privileged to be able to eat such delicious food and to learn more about locals lives and eat in Cancun. Everyone in our group was so happy afterward and agreed that we would have paid more than $15 USD for the experience. Merak said he knew he could charge more but that he didn’t want to, that he felt blessed to get to eat good food and share his love of Mexican food with tourists.
After we finished shopping for produce and chicharrón (fried pig skin) at Mercado 23 with Felipe, we went to his restaurant to cook our 3-course lunch with him. I was impressed with his restaurant. While small (it’s in a converted apartment) it was bright and modern and the kitchen was well-organized and impeccably clean.
The first thing Felipe did was make a drink by blending the chaya leaves he had bought at the market and mixing it with sugar water. The resulting punch was a bright vivid green, herbaceous, and very refreshing.
Then we got started on our guacamole appetizer.
Felipe told us about a traditional snack he would have with his family when they went to the market when he was a kid: they would buy ripe avocados, roll them around to mash the insides, slice them in half, and then use chicharrónes (fried pig skin) to scoop out the avocado. Delicious!
Next we worked on the pork dish. We cut a pork loin into thirds and then marinated it in oil, garlic, salt, and Mexican oregano. We put the scraps from the loin into a pan with oil and I browned them on the stove to make a base for the sauce.
Then Felipe put a plancha (a traditional griddle) on the stove to toast ingredients for the pippin mole sauce.
Then Felipe put all the sauce ingredients into his fancy Thermomix and it blended everything up.
We browned the pieces of pork loin on the stove and then Felipe put them in the oven to finish. And then he plated it up and N and I ate what was probably the best pork dish I’ve ever had. The pork was so tender and juicy and the pipian sauce was bursting with flavor. The powder on top was ground toasted tortillas which added a nutty flavor.
In between working on the other dishes we had also been working on a rosemary creme brûlée for dessert. It seemed like a normal creme brûlée receive but we added rosemary and scraped half of a vanilla bean into the egg yolk/cream mixture. After simmering it on the stove Felipe strained it twice before pouring it into small mason jars (which are apparently beloved in restaurants worldwide).
After the little pots of cream mixture were finished simmering in their water bath on the stove we used a torch to carmelize sugar on top. And then Felipe picked up pieces of rosemary with tweezers, lit them on fire and then blew them out, and then held the smoking rosemary inside the mason jar, shutting the lid to trap the smoke inside. So when we opened the mason jars you got this whiff of smokey rosemary before you started eating. It was SO GOOD!
I love creme brûlée in general and this was the best I’ve ever had. It was so creamy and smooth without any air bubbles because Felipe had strained it twice and the rosemary added this slight herby savory note so the sweetness was even more noticeable in contrast. Yum.
We had a great time cooking with Felipe. It was fun to see a professional chef at work. I noted how he was always cleaning and tidying as he worked and am trying to pick up the habit myself at home.
Our Spanish isn’t very good and while his English was a little better it felt a little awkward at first since it was just N and me, Felipe, and a guide. But as time went on it became easier and easier to understand each other. Funny how that happens 🙂
Felipe told us about how he met his wife when he was the chef at a prominent vineyard in Mexico and she was a sommelier there. About how he learned to love food from his grandmother and how the name of his restaurant Lu’um means “earth” in Mayan and about how he hopes to share his love of creative food with people through his restaurant. After a few hours together we swapping pictures of our families on our phones and listening to one of N’s K-pop mixes through the speakers in the kitchen.
It was warm in the kitchen and while it didn’t seem to bother N or anyone else I got hot and sweaty (as I am prone to be–it’s my curse to bear) and Felipe kept aiming the air conditioner at me and pouring me more and more cold chaya to drink which was super refreshing.
My only regrets about the experience were that we didn’t get the recipes written down and I’m already getting fuzzy on the pipian mole ingredients, and that it was our last day in Mexico so we didn’t have time to come back to Lu’um for dinner. Felipe does a 6-course tasting dinner that sounded fantastic and we would have loved to tried it. It is now one of my biggest reasons for wanting to go back to Cancun 😉
You can follow Felipe’s restaurant Lu’um on Instagram and Facebook. If you’re going to Cancun and love food I wholeheartedly recommend eating at his restaurant or the market tour/cooking class we did. It was one of the highlights of our whole trip.
A few weeks ago N and I were able to spend a week at a lovely Mexican resort on the coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya area. N’s company had invited us on the trip and graciously took care of the resort and airfare. That, along with my mom coming down from WA to stay at home with the kids, made it a real treat.
We mostly just wanted to relax on this trip so we didn’t tour any ruins or go to the big amusement parks. But we did go on two great local Cancun tours. They were both aimed at letting you experience the local food culture 🙂
We booked this combination market tour/cooking class. It was one of my very favorite things from the trip. I’ll post more about the cooking class but here are photos from when we met the chef, Felipe Morales, at Mercado 23 and shopped for lunch ingredients together.
The market was fascinating! It was mainly locals doing their grocery shopping. When I travel I love getting a look at how people really live in a place.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been frantically preparing to leave the kids with my mom and go to Mexico with N on a company trip. Getting the kids (and E’s food allergy stuff) all set up for us to leave was pretty stressful.
But–we’re here now and it’s amazing! I’ve put a few photos up on Instagram so far and will post when I get back. Xoxo.
On Wednesday morning after doing his hair for crazy hair day at school, E noticed the small collection of cloth-bound classic novels we have on a shelf in our living room. He asked what type of books they were and I explained that they were novels some of which were written over a hundred a years ago. He thought that was so cool and asked if he could read them.
I steered him toward Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland since it was the most kid-friendly and he read happily until his carpool came.
Since then he hasn’t picked it back up again to read; I think Diary of a Whimpy Kid has lock on his interest at bedtime right now. But since then he has TALKED about reading novels a lot. He thinks they’re cool which warms my former English-major, book-loving heart.
E’s oral immunotherapy (OIT) for milk is going well but we’ve had a few bumps. The week after the change to daylight savings E complained about a stomach ache after dosing in the morning. I texted the on-call Dr. and he said to give him some prescription Zantac which seemed to resolve things.
His stomach hurt 2 or 3 more mornings that week. Once his stomach was still churning when our carpool came by to take him to school so I sent them on and kept E home for another hour to see if it resolved. It did so I took him to school, but I admit I was a little nervous until I picked him up and could keep an eye on him myself.
One other day he said his stomach hurt but begged not to take the Zantac because it tasted so bad. He said he’d throw up if I made him take it and yep, he threw up almost making it all the way to the trash can.
The odd thing was that he didn’t have any stomach issues when he dosed in the evening. Our doctor said that eating too soon after waking up may be making E nauseated and suggested waking E up earlier before feeding him breakfast.
It was already hard to get E out of bed at 6:15 so the idea of waking him up even earlier was daunting. But I told him that if he gets out of bed quickly he can play computer games for 15 minutes while I make his breakfast. It has worked! Since he started getting up earlier before eating breakfast his stomach hasn’t bothered him. Hooray for the healing power of computer games 😉
So we are still chugging along. Right now E’s at 8mL (a little over 1 1/2 teaspoons) of whole milk twice a day. If other issues come up it may affect things but right now we’re on track for E to graduate from milk OIT in July.
I’ve been going through photos from the last year and came across some I never posted here. These are from our visit last summer to see my parents and brother. I loved growing up in western Washington and really enjoy going back for visits, especially in the summer.
While we were in Olympia my mom and I took the kids to Lattin’s Country Cider Mill. I had never been there before but I was totally charmed. The cider and doughnuts were tasty and walking around to look at the animals was free.
I hope we get to go back for another visit this summer 🙂