Not sure how the Oaxacan town of San Martin Tilcajete, known for its colorful and imaginative alebrije creatures, ended up with such an unusual wild and wacky celebration of Fat Tuesday, but it definitely is fun.
Instead of traditional Mardi Gras royalty, a bride and groom united in a mock ceremony reign over the festival. The bride is always a man dressed in drag and fittingly attired in an elegant white gown.
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Above, Mural by Jacobo Roa at El Catrin 47
Sopa de limon loaded with a mountain of shredded chicken; slow-cooked suckling pig flavored with sour orange, chiles and achiote – cochinita pibil; and panuchos, fried tortillas filled with black beans and topped with shredded turkey, are among the well-known traditional dishes commonly found throughout Merida. Most places offer multiple salsas. Even if you are from Texas, you need to respect them before ladling them onto your food. They range from mild to fiery habanero hot.
The stands at the markets and the stalls that pop up on the Plaza Grande on Sundays definitely are the bargain propositions for sampling these. Delivery is fast and efficient, and the food is made the way natives like it. Chefs always rave about the authenticity at the family-run El Manjar Blanco, particularly the cochinita pibil, which we found flavorful.
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Above: Micaela Mar y Lena crudo de atun
Grilled seafood is the specialty at Cocina de Mar y Lena, a contemporary restaurant that seems a magnet for an upscale crowd of fashionable Mexicans arriving by the Uber-full, at least they were pre-COVID. The grilled shrimp and octopus were wonderful, and the refreshing raw tuna (above) just melted in your mouth.
Chef Sara Maria Arnaud Gomez combines the flavors of Oaxaca with those of the Yucatan at Apoala on the prime people-watching park of Santa Lucia. From ceviche and fried zucchini blossoms to dessert, everything was beautifully plated. Loved their mezcal mule cocktails with a smoky charred chunk of caramelized honeycomb riding atop the rim.
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