One of our favorite vacation spots is in Mexico, on the Caribbean ocean known as the Mexican Riviera, near Playa Del Carmen. While we feel a bit guilty that this is not a spice mission vacation, many factors seem to lead us back to this same spot. We have enjoyed many Caribbean Islands and worked spices in as a factor, Jamaica for allspice and ginger, St. Lucia had an artisinal cocoa plantation. Grenada in particular was a wonderful education on the growing of mace and nutmeg and we thoroughly enjoyed our day visiting the nutmeg cooperatives. In St. Vincent we took a three hour drive, each way, to visit a tiny arrowroot plantation. Yet it is pretty much an all day affair to reach these islands. Cancun is a very brief 3-1/2 hour trip, another 45 minutes south we reach our destination, the water is beautiful, the golf is world class and we have an all inclusive hotel chain which we enjoy called Iberostar. So, while we really enjoy the spice seeking vacations, sometimes we just really take a vacation that is not work related, sorry to disillusion anyone!
At any rate, there are many gourmet restaurants to choose from at the hotel, one is French, one a steak house, one features New Orleans cooking, etc. Mostly, when you dine there, it seems like children playing make believe, but they are having a great deal of fun, so you want to play along. In the gourmet French restaurant, they wear French styled uniforms and speak a few words in French until you try to talk back to them in French and they have to come clean, that they have only learned how to greet you and say thank you! When we received an initial offering, compliments of the chef; the waiter had no idea we call this an amuse bouche. It was a watermelon concoction, we think we had to drink it from the bowl because they forgot spoons on the table but we are not entirely sure! There was a sudden crackly explosion in our mouth. Could it be, pop rocks at an all inclusive resort in the middle of a small town in Mexico? I flashed back on a meal that I had in Chicago, at Moto and again on a dish at Graham Elliot. I believe those who downplay the molecular gastronomy movement in the restaurant world might want to take notice. If the work of Ferran Adria has made it into the jungles of Mexico, I believe we are in for a longer ride than some of us thought. However, the seafood bisque the following night was freeze dried or dehydrated crab and lobster pieces with a giant soba noodle. The fact that It simply did not come back to life when the luke warm cream broth was poured over it made me realize what can happen when this stuff goes wrong – it goes horribly wrong! (Speaking of which, did Graham 86 the hickory smoked ice cream on the beef tartare yet?) We have really been enjoying the fun of this movement and are going to start to carry some of the more normal molecular gastronomy ingredients in our line soon. Anything that promotes fun in the culinary world can’t be a bad thing!