By: Chef Ron Dombroski
Memories and food: My favorite place on Earth is an island about 8 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula coast; a little place called Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) that is home to about 13,000 people, hundreds of shops, restaurants, hotels and resorts. Every morning we were greeted by the most amazing spread including Chilaquiles, Machaca Con Huevos, Crema de papa con nopalitos, tamales…things I would never think to order off a menu were spread out before my very hungry eyes, daring me to try the Machaca with its fiery Serrano chile and the Nopalitos (prickly pear) in crema. No bacon and eggs here! Not that I wanted that after indulging in breakfast heaven for a week. I’m sure eating this amazing food was made all the better by the view of the Caribbean Sea a few feet from our table.
Breakfast had thrown down the gauntlet! For lunch and dinner it was a constant adventure.
Shying away from tacos, burritos or anything remotely familiar, I was also trying to find what for me is the Holy Grail of Mexican cuisine…The Chile Relleno: A roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with a myriad of different options (queso Chihuahua, queso Oaxaca, manchengo, picadillo, crab, maize kernels are just some theofpopula more r fillings), dipped in egg batter or mascorn a and fried and served with a light sauce of tomatoes, onion and garlic. Heaven on a plate! Simple to eat, not make, delicious and intoxicating. We tried at least a dozen restaurants on the island and they were all fantastic, but there was one place that I remember the most: COMPADRES. I’m not sure if it was the day, the weather or a dozen other factors, but I remember that meal like it was yesterday.
Which brings me to the Palenque Bar & Grill and the movie “Chef.” There’s a line in the beginning of that movie when Chef Carl is walking through the Farmers Market with his son Percy. He spots “the sausage guy” and proceeds to order Andouille sausage sandwiches for the both of them. Their conversation covers the Louisiana Purchase, Andouille sausage, beignets and a trip to New Orleans. Percy says, “We can get it here,” referring to the food. Carl’s explanation came to mind as I was eating a Chile Relleno at Palenque recently: “It’s not the same. When you have it here, it’s good because it reminds you of like a whole world of memories that you have from being there.” It was perfect! The right consistency of cheese, excellent breading and sauce – Reminded me of COMPADRES. The burden of where to go for lunch is no more. I have found my beach. And when you go, skip the taco and go for the Relleno and Chilaquiles. You may make some good memories of your own. Just make sure to bring sunblock.
Comer como no hay manana!