Postcard from Merida, Mexico: A trio of restaurants for dining well

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.

click here to Read more and view appetizing photos

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.
Continue reading “Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Cuisine branches out beyond the expected”

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Seconds on that seafood platter, per piacere

“Leftovers” from a crudo platter at Pesheria Mattiucci

Maybe that photo is not appetizing, but it does represent how incredibly good and fresh the platters of raw fish served at Pesheria Mattiucci are. The freshness is key for the fishmongers who run this small place that still resembles more a fish market than a dining spot. Each type of fish on the platter is paired thoughtfully with an appropriate fruit, light sauce, herb or fresh flower to compliment its individual delicate flavor.

By all appearances, the Pesheria is not our kind of place. Only a handful of no-backed stools awkwardly perched at metal counters with no leg room. And no red wine (The Neapolitans worked hard to reform us on the importance of pairing their dry white wines with raw seafood, and we must admit they are right.). But despite the humble surroundings, the seafood was so amazing we went twice. Oh, and the fishmongers can cook fish perfectly, too.

The other “best raw seafood” spot for us during our stay was in the Vomero neighborhood. Panamar was only marginally more formal, part of the trend of chefs who want to focus on food – tablecloths and tableside service be damned. Sandwiches are their specialty, and they begin with large firm  buns.

Our favorites? The fuoritonno with cubes of red tuna, smoked burratina cheese, sundried tomatoes, smoked eggplant cream and fried arugula; and the mezzosalmone with cubes of salmon, buffalo mozzarella, grilled zucchini and a sauce of honey and red peppers.

Since those first two restaurants were seafood-centric, I pulled out most of the other seafood photos from our stay in Naples. Several of these places will be mentioned again later.

We had gotten hooked on fried anchovies in Spain, and found them abundant in Campania as well where they are called alicci fritte. With a squeeze of fresh lemon, pretty addictive. The pasta most associated with Naples is paccheri, sort of like giant rigatoni.

Perched at hightop tables on a fairly busy street, we loved the casual neighborhood vibe of Re Lazzarone downtown near the Archaeology Museum. Anonymous Trattoria Gourmet is tucked away on a lower street downtown in a location that helps keep it anonymous from tourists. The inside is spartan but packed with locals.

Godot, up in the Vomero neighborhood, is pricier and still well off the tourist track. Loved the gnocchi with peas and calamari. And the surprising find at the end of the trip was on the fringe of Vomero, Trattoria Scugnizzi. An inexpensive place popular with neighbors that seems way off the visitor radar. The only photo included with this post is a sample of the chef’s daily seafood pasta special, a sample because he was disappointed we already had over-ordered.

The others lumped into this seafood post were in more high-profile locations, but they still managed to keep some loyal Neapolitan diners: Anticchi Sapori; Ristorante L’Ostricaio; and Stritt Stritt.

More food later.