Saturday, March 7, 2009
Mexican Chicas Don't Get Fat
Why is it that whenever I go out for Mexican food, I have to prepare myself for an unhealthy evening of indulgence? Don't get me wrong. Mexican food is one of my favorite types of cuisine, but I do always feel that it's a sort of treat or something I could never really indulge in more than one a week - at most. Even at the most gourmet Mexican restaurants in the city, I still feel as though all dishes are fairly heavy, emphasizing cheese, cream, and enormous tortillas. After a week in Mexico, I have an entirely new perception of Mexican food - well, actual Mexican food. I never once got sick of it or felt like I was eating unhealthily. In fact, I could not get enough. I will even admit that for my final meal at the Cancun airport, I ordered pork tacos from the food court - and they were better than what many restaurants in New York City serve!
So what's the secret? The key is finding the truly authentic restaurants - which really was not too hard to do near the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Once you identify the right restaurants (with the help of the locals), you will see that everything you order is just so fresh and full of spice. There was barely any cheese or cream on most dishes. Instead, there is an emphasis on seasonal produce, meats, and spices. Even the tortillas are lighter - made almost always of corn and warm upon arrival. This might help explain the gorgeous tan bodies of most of the people in the surrounding area. Although, a relaxing, carefree Caribbean lifestyle spent mainly outdoors could always be a contributing factor as well.
We were fortunate enough to stay at Cesiak, an eco-lodge in the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve where not only the setting was incredible, but the food was too. Every morning, we were greeted with a sunrise and then made our way to the dining deck for a breakfast feast. Everything on the menu from omelets to hot cakes to fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola was a cut above a typical American start to the day. While I am not a huge fan of Mexican coffee, I did find that the freshly squeezed orange juice gave me a great boost each morning. And, as the day went on, it was the guacamole that facilitated all future energy boosts. Yes - guacamole for lunch, happy hour, and dinner - twice a day at minimum, and it never got old! Each batch would be a little different from the next - perhaps more tomato, fewer onions, or simply an addition of lime and garlic. But, regardless of the differences, each serving was always delicious. It didn't hurt that guacamole was always served with homemade baked tortilla chips.
No matter which direction you turn while visiting Cesiak, there is always some body of water in vision - after all, Sian Ka'an is on a peninsula. You can imagine how all the seafood served is therefore extremely fresh. My favorite main dish which was offered for lunch and dinner was the shrimp tacos. As with all food consumed there, these are just extremely fresh and full of flavor as the shrimp was marinated in a chipotle sauce and topped with freshly sliced tomatoes and avocados. One of my other favorite dishes to order at Cesiak and at nearly all other restaurants in the area was the ceviche. The combinations of fresh white fish, octopus, and baby shrimp with diced vegetables and lime were flawless. The flavors were crisp and completely refreshing - the perfect dish after a morning and/or afternoon under the warm Mexican sun. And, to compliment any of the food mentioned above, fresh margaritas were a must. I found the same holds true for actual Mexican cocktails - they are so much better in Mexico as quality tequila and fresh limes make a world of difference!
So yes, I am calling a week of indulging daily in omelets, guacamole, tacos, and margaritas a healthy one! While I would like to think there is just something in the air down there, I honestly think it's truly in the food. Go to Mexico, and specifically Cesiak, and see for yourself. Food and drink are at it's purest. And you will be too - waking, sleeping, dining, running, swimming, and exploring by the beach, under the sun. It doesn't get much purer than that!