Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Cuisine branches out beyond the expected

Above, Grilled Pulpo and Camarones at Peruano in Merida

It seems way too long since the blog offered any nourishment. This first restaurant post from Merida has little to do with traditional dishes of the Yucatan (Don’t worry, we’ll serve you some of those soon.).

Since the most recent food post was from Italy, we’ll begin the transition with a visit to an Italian enoteca – Oliva. Having been spoiled so recently, we hesitated to try this high-end Italian in Merida. We were richly rewarded though. Lamb ragu, cauliflower risotto and a beautifully delivered filet of sea bass all measured up to Italy. Of course, Oliva had me hooked with a special starring one of my favorite foods in the world – soft-shelled crab.
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Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Flavorful alternatives add depth to food scene

Mariscal, Peruvian-style marinated seafood at Aborigen Restaurante

More than any other location we visited in Andalucia, Malaga seemed willing to embrace global food influences. There were several South American restaurants in the center of the city that took full advantage of the city’s fresh seafood, translating into great ceviche. We made multiple visits to and recommend both Aborigen Restaurante and Andino Gastrobar.

Alexso Restaurante delivers an intimate contemporary experience with excellent service on a level that should soon merit stars, yet without the high prices that characterize those discovered restaurants. Our lunches there included such dishes as moist sea bass perched atop seafood rigatoni, succulent suckling pig and white chocolate flan with violet ice cream.

The Italian restaurants we tried were good as well. The pizza and the saucy eggplant emerging from the oven at U Siciliano Bar Ristorante; the only disappointment was the supply of arancini had run out when we visited. The bruschetta and pastas at Radici Osteria Italia were perfect and the outside tables on a primarily pedestrian street were pleasant, but do not expect lightening-fast service.

Plus Malaga has some vegetarian options. Locals pack Vegetariano el Calafate for their multi-course lunch specials, so reservations are advisable.

The biggest surprise was hidden amongst a row of restaurants lining one side of Plaza Mercedes. The outdoor umbrella-shaded patios provide pleasant people-watching spots so attract a high number of tourists and drinkers. The fresh vegetarian dishes emerging from Canadu were a higher caliber than the offerings of many of its neighbors and inexpensive for such a prime location. Apple and pine nut croquetas, Persian rice, asparagus and mushroom risotto and mountainous fresh salads made us repeat customers.

Postcard from Marfil, Guanajuato, Mexico: Wait, are you sure we are not in Italy?

The creamy rich black rice risotto above was one of the best risotti we had in Italy. Wait. We were not in Italy any longer. We were in Guanajuato.

But Peccato di Gola is so good, I dare plop a post about it right here in the middle of “postcards” from Italy. We went to Marfil on the edge of Guanajuato to visit the Casa Museo Gene Byron (more to come about it after delayed Italian posts are delivered). People rave about the food at the museum’s restaurant, but it was closed on a Monday – often an issue when traveling.

So we walked past the ancient dam to the other side of Marfil, not a major hike, to an at-first unappealing strip of restaurants right on the side of the roadway. But stepping inside the comfortably furnished Peccato di Gola quickly altered that first impression.

We were considering opting for pizza, but the owner/chef (who we think is from Rome) piped up that Monday was our lucky day. On Mondays the restaurant offers a 300-peso (about $15) fixed-price lunch. This is not your normal fixed-price offering; no, it is one inviting you to fully understand the restaurant’s name. For our 300-peso per person investment, we could order anything on the menu, except steaks, until we wanted nothing more. Peccato di Gola translates as the sin of gluttony. And we fully consented to commit it.

With a large selection on the menu, we sat back and let him pick our starters while we tried not to fill up on the freshly baked olive bread. The chef definitely had my attention when he bypassed the wood-fired stove to a smoldering grill and placed something over the coals for us. Oh my, grilled octopi. He followed that with fried zucchini blossoms filled with gorgonzola and topped with shrimp. And then a plate layered with rounds of salmon carpaccio and a board bearing caprese salad.

Did we stop there? No, not I said the glutton. We sampled lobster ravioli, again topped with shrimp. And perfectly cooked salmon. Then he brought out a dessert board for us.

I do promise, though, that these photos are from more than one meal. We sinned twice, and then went back one more time to try the pizza.

Although the pizza topped with vegetables popped out from the wood-burning oven looking perfect, it actually was our least favorite dish there. The crust had good texture but had the issue we generally find true in Mexico. Pizza crusts in Mexico often have too much of a white-flour taste compared to what we are accustomed. While not up to Italian standards, this still was the best pizza we found in Guanajuato.

But no matter what day you decide to head to Marfil – a short and inexpensive cab ride from downtown – let Peccato di Gola transport you to Italy. Aside from the pizza, everything we sampled on the menu comes highly recommended.

Oh, to have the opportunity to sin like that again.