Saturday, April 19, 2014

Semana Santa in Mérida

image from Yucatan Today
(for a more indepth description of Semana Santa, just
click on the above link to their web site)
Semana Santa, or Holy Week,  is a big deal in Yucatán. In addition to the religious importance of Easter, there is also celebration all around. This is the beginning of the 'beach' season for Yucatecans. Just when most of the US and Canadian snowbirds head for cooler digs, the hundreds of beach bungalows, which have been virtually abandoned for most of the year, welcome the arrival of throngs of people. The beach towns dotting the Gulf Coast come alive with laughter, music, and partying into the wee hours of the morning. This is not exactly our cup of tea any longer and we will likely not venture to the gulf so often during the summer as we prefer walking late afternoons along a mostly deserted beach.

We decided last night to take a stroll down to Parque Santa Lucia, just a few blocks from the house, to pay a visit to the new Dairy Queen. We no longer keep ice cream in our freezer for late night indulgences ( which has most likely contributed greatly to the weight loss for both of us), and DQ has become a once-a-week routine to reward ourselves for not giving in to the temptation to purchase  a half gallon of Blue Bell for more than 150 pesos. So, loathe us all you want, you haters of anything 'American' that has invaded Mexico. Did I mention that only once have we run into another expat sneaking a cone at DQ? The fairly steady stream of patrons are Yucatecans who have discovered that a blizzard or a cona cubierto (chocolate dipped vanilla) is soooo refreshing on a hot evening.

As we turned the corner to the parque, we saw a throng of people silently proceeding down Calle 60 toward the Plaza. Led by a group of priests, these faithful walked in absolute silence fully feeling the significance of their action. It was a moving sight.

Our tummies full, we walked back home, thankful to have found a home in this culturally rich city.
And thankful that DQ is just a short stroll from there.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Superb Dining Adventure...

Elizabeth and Chef Pedro
Our friends, Elizabeth and Anne, had been wanting us to accompany them for dinner at K’u'uK, a newer restaurant in Colonia San Ramon Norte, for months. Last week we finally made reservations for five on Tuesday night. None of us had been there before, so we printed directions from Google Maps and thought it would be easy to find. We decided to pick up Elizabeth, Anne, and Bob, who are on staying on Calle 66-A, at 6:30 for a totally unfashionable reservation time of 7:00 PM. It seems we all like to dine ahead of the crowds which usually ensures better service and has us all home at a reasonable hour.

We pulled away from their house right on time, thinking we would be early for our reservation.  At 7:30, after driving around for an hour trying to find the restaurant, Alan phoned them and asked for help with directions. It seems we were in the correct neighborhood, but as we later found out from the Chef, Google has not accurately located the exact address. We had followed dead end streets on dirt roads with no luck. The doorman remained on the phone with us as he guided us directly to their front door. Talk about service. Once inside, we were offered our choice of tables, inside or on the terrace. We chose inside for the air conditioning that seemed just right. At that hour, even 45 minutes late, we were the only patrons. We were offered a tour of the kitchen and other areas of the restaurant either before or after dinner. We chose to eat first as we were all quite hungry.

Once seated we were given two menus -the tasting menu and the a la cart menu. We were also served a special house agua infused with chamomile and apricot. The tasting menu was explained by the maître d' and we all chose the 10-course selection (they also offer a 14-course).  Each course consists of only a few bites, but after the meal we all were satisfecho. After a Sorbet macaron, we were served Chaya con huevo (Chaya with egg) on a potato film with chaya leaves and herbs from the garden. The lechuga local included edam cheese, avocado, baby potato, Yucatecan chili ashes, and herbs. There were then two fish courses, the first being tuna cured for 3 days in Celestun pink salt with grapefruit puree, mustard, and maltodextrined twice-fried pork belly. Then came Hogfish snapper with white cucumber, mango with chîa seeds and habanero chili. There were courses with Cerdo Pelón (Creole suckling pig) and rabbit with slow cooked, crunchy corn roots, garden spinach and underground cooked corn.

Each course was served with just the right interval, leaving time to have conversation and enjoy the ambiance. The final course was, of course, dessert. Three of us had the Sorbete de remolacha, beetroot sorbet with confitura de limón amarillo, tierra de cacoa, espuma de yogurt nitro y aceite de oliva. The other two were served ice cream (dulce leche) over cubed fruit and flavored purees. All delicious. Presentation is sublime at K’u'uK. Each course is served on a different and unique plate or utensil, all of which are extraordinary. When you consider that dining in this restaurant is an event and not just dinner, the price seems reasonable. It is like an evening at the Symphony or the Opera. You will be no less amazed.

 The two owners escorted us through their fabulous kitchen created with materials exclusively from Yucatán, a point which they can justifiably make with pride. They then showed us the lab where they experiment with flavors, concentrating the essences to be infused into their various sauces, creams, and even drinks. It all seemed very scientific and state of the art.

 I should mention that the chef asked if we would mind being filmed during the presentation of our meal for an advertisement to be aired on local television. In appreciation Chef Pedro presented Elizabeth with an autographed copy of their incredible book explaining the concept of K’u'uK complete with beautiful photographs of their creations. This was truly an amazing dining experience and a night to remember.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Here's a Color to Write Home About

I discovered this renovation while taking a peek at a friend's new home several weeks ago. I'm not sure if it's a home or a business, but it's huge and bright lavender. A really lovely facade.

Could this have been a place where horses were once kept?

The building stretches along a good length of the entire block

Not sure how to describe this pediment, but to me it appears to be neoclassical
with a touch of art deco

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Personal Account of Quality Health Care in Mérida

Much has been written on blogs and discussed in forums on the issue of health care in Mexico and, specifically Yucatán. We all know that many people from the United States and Canada come to Mexico for quality and less expensive care. Until you experience it yourself, these testimonials really don't carry much weight. What is one person's good experience can be anothers nightmare. Let me tell you my story of disappointing results from a procedure a little over two years ago in Virginia. I don't usually like to discuss my personal health issues, but I believe that in this case it could help someone who might be having trust issues with the Mexican health care system.

On a routine eye exam, my optometrist discovered that the intra-ocular pressure in both eyes was too high. After monitoring this for a few months, with no change, he referred me to an ophthalmologist who specialized in this condition. I was given a prescription for eye drops to lower the intra-ocular pressure. The side effect was dilation of the pupil for a couple of hours in the morning and again at night. This interfered greatly with my work, which consisted of being in front of a computer for the better part of the day. After a few months of this, I was told that a solution would be to perform the same surgery for removing cataracts, although I did not have sufficient cataract advance to warrant the surgery at the time. However, it would be needed eventually and this surgery could (and I stress could) result in a lowering of the intra-ocular pressure. The surgery entailed removing the natural lenses and implanting artificial lenses, a very common and low risk procedure. I agreed and selected a newer type accommodating lens, which just means that one lens is for distance and the other for near vision. I was told that my vision would not be perfect, but that I would probably no longer need glasses except for reading fine print.

To make a long story shorter, I had the surgery and recovered well and quickly. I was told that it is common for this type surgery to produce scar tissue after a period of time. This will cause some blurred vision and can be remedied with a quick laser procedure. Sure enough, after about six months, my right eye (the one with the near vision lens) became blurry. I like my vision to be clear and sharp so I went in for the laser procedure. The blurriness improved a bit, but gradually returned and became even worse. I was told, simply, that the Cristalens brand that I had implanted was not yet perfected and that I would just have to live with the blurred vision, which seemed more like an oily film coating my eye.

Fast-forward to Mérida. I needed to have my eyes checked so I found an ophthalmologist, specializing in cataract and corneal transplant surgery, with an office at Alta Brisa. Dr. Alejandro Claros Bustamante, a young physician in practice with his father, provided a thorough examination and consultation. He even asked his father to take a look at my eyes. The opinion was that some vitreous humor was leaking and coating the lens, thus causing the blurriness. I was told that a quick procedure called a vitrectomy could be performed which would eliminate the problem.

Two weeks later, I had the surgery and have had amazing results. The blurriness is completely gone and I can see clearly for the first time in almost two years. I'm not sure why the doctors in Virginia never considered that this could be the problem. It seems that they have only about 5 minutes of time to consult with you after a technician has performed all the tests. You wait one to two hours past your appointment time, are served coffee and cookies to make up for this long wait, then rushed out with a polite handshake. This is the unfortunate state of health care in the United States.

I'm so happy I found my doctor in Mérida.