Cozumel Chef takes guests beyond the tourist restaurants.
Those who know me understand my penchant for culinary adventures. This was the case when, after doing a little online research, I stumbled upon the Cozumel Chef. Otherwise known as Emily, this classically trained French chef runs the much-acclaimed Cozumel Chef food tour.
In a quest for something totally different to do on my umpteenth cruise to Mexico’s popular island, I contacted Emily via email to try to sign up for her food tour. Yes! Space was available. Good to go.
The meeting place for our Cozumel Food Tour was in front of Mega, at 11:00a.m. Mega is the island’s equivalent of Walmart, but bigger, brighter, more fun and across the street from the sea. Plus, Mega is only a three-block walk from the main cruise pier, Punta Langosta or a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the other two cruise terminals further south.
Six of us arrived at Mega’s on time with Emily there to facilitate the meet and greet. Our group comprised of three Nashville girl friends on a Carnival Cruise, a husband and wife from Denver who were staying on the island in a vacation rental, and me. Introductions complete, we hopped into Emily’s mini-van into the heart of Cozumel. Our destination: Los Antojitos.
Unassuming and plain from the outside (as we would find all of the scheduled restaurants to be), we approached our first stop with a bit of apprehension.
As is obvious from the street-side menu, this was an empanadas place. If you don’t know, empanadas are a small pastry-dough circle, stuffed with either meat, fish, chicken or cheese, or vegetable filling, folded in half, edges pinched together and baked or deep-fried. Common at places like this for a Cozumel breakfast, we were served a choice of piping hot cheese- or ham-filled empanadas and bottles of horchata (homemade rice milk flavored with cinnamon and sugar.)
From Los Antojitos, it was a short drive to No Name Restaurant. Yes, that is the name; No Name. There’s one woman who does it all and befitting the restaurant, we never learned her name, either. No Name Restaurant features Yucatan food and she was preparing cochinita pibil, a baby suckling pig, wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted in the earth.
The owner/cook carefully shredded the meat by hand, straight out of the banana leaf.
Even though it looked like chicken and had an enticing aroma, I still couldn’t eat a baby pig. Everyone said it was delicious. Next, a visit to El Mercado, a local Mexican marketplace.
This is no small market. There are stalls and stalls on the inside with vendors selling everything from fresh fish, slabs of meat and chicken with feet to communion dresses and sequined platform shoes. Mainly though, it’s all about the food. Open at 7a.m., the produce is neatly stacked, bags of fragrant herbs and spices are displayed from the ceilings. This is where to shop for authentic Mexican food for your kitchen.
Next stop, a Mexican version of what we’d call a diner.
With our table for six reserved, it wasn’t long before our next course was served; a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup, Yucatan-style. Except for some colorful vegetables mixed in (more than we use in the States) it looked and tasted like the traditional comfort food.
It’s not a cheap eats as you’d think from the name. Cocina economica translates to mean an inexpensive kitchen; quality ingredients and only two or three dished are featured each day. Not that we were starving, but it was time for the main entree at the Pescaderia. Fish.
Not fancy, just fresh.
This restaurant is also known for their excellent ceviche (raw, marinated fish.)
And the highly anticipated main meal…
Our three-hour tour was winding down with yet one more place to go….dessert!
We each chose one of the homebaked sweets. Coffee lovers could go two doors down for an espresso but none of us left the bakery.
Five restaurants, one market and an afternoon of fun, new friends and fabulous food. Freshly picked or caught, cooked or raw, it was a sensational foray into traditional Mexican and Yucatan cuisine.
With advance notice, Emily will do her best to make arrangements to accommodate dietary needs.
Wondering about the water? We all did. Everywhere you go, there’s bottled water. No one in Cozumel drinks the water but not for bacterial reasons. There is way too much limestone that filters into the natural water. Because everyone has bottled water delivered and it’s used for everything, you don’t have to worry about drinking the water or eating anything made with or rinsed in water.
If you’re heading to Cozumel, whether by cruise ship or for a land vacation, I’d highly recommend that you contact Emily and see if you can join her food tour. Here’s how to reach the Cozumel Chef:
Disclaimer: I was a guest on the Cozumel Chef tour, however, all opinions are my own.