Cruise Critic in Progreso - A Taste of Merida!

Chris from Cruise Critic wanted to check out a little of what we do on the Taste of Merida tour, which is perfect for foodies. The Yucatan is famous for it's cuisine which is NOTHING like what regular Mexican food looks like, especially that which is found north of the border. Spanish, French, Lebanese and Mayan culinary influences fashion the unique and delicious delights that make up the gastronomy of this area. Here is Chris' write-up. 

The foodie tours start in Merida with a tour of the Grande Plaza, including the cathedral and Governor’s Palace. It also includes a stop at Sorbeteria Colon, which has been around since 1907. While they have traditional flavors, Ralf recommends that you try coconut, guanabana and other tastes that are more exotic (I’m plotting a stop here later tonight).

We went to the traditional Yucatan restaurant where Ralf brings guests who take the tour. He explained the dishes on the menu, and did the ordering. You can create your own salsa, based on what kind of peppers you like (smoky, spicy, sharp). You can also watch a woman at the restaurant make the corn tortillas by hand. So fresh and yummy when they are done that way.

Contrary to what many people think, Yucatan food itself isn’t spicy. The salsas and condiments that they bring adds the spice. The food in this region also has European influences that you don’t see elsewhere in Mexico, primarily because the Yucatan Peninsula was cut off from the rest of the country. In colonial times, people took their culinary cues from Cuba, the Caribbean and New Orleans instead of Mexico City.

Ralf persuaded me to try Michelada - beer spiced with Worcester sauce, served in a glass rimmed with salt and chilis. Think of it as a Mexican Bloody Mary (and it’s tastier than it sounds). Other dishes we tried included sopa de lima (lime soup), empanada de cazon (shark!), longaniza - a smoked sausage similar to chorizo that you eat in a homemade tortilla - and queso relleno (stuffed cheese). I liked all of it except the last, which seemed a little rich to me.

By the end, I was stuffed. But if you’re a sweets lover, ask Ralf about his wife’s cookies. She’s the Mrs. Field’s of Merida, with a baking business that encompasses several stores (and supplies restaurants too). The company is called Kukis. He gave me a box of sweets to bring home. The office will appreciate them, I’m sure.

In my last post, I didn’t mention the prices. For a family of six, the Mayapan/cenote tour is $87 per person. The Taste of Merida tour is $111. All tours include entry fees, tours of sites with qualified guide, food and drinks, tips to local “helpers”, towels, lifejackets etc. Prices go up with more people, down with fewer.

I’m the type of person who splurges on excursions when I travel (in Europe, Context Travel is my go-to service), and I often hire personal guides, particularly in countries where I don’t speak the language. I tend to ask A LOT of questions (and so does my husband), which can annoy people when we’re on a larger tour. I also hate trips where you end up stopping at a cameo factory or papyrus museum that you have absolutely no interest in, just because the guide or tour company is receiving a kickback. So for someone like us, a personal trip like this, tailored to our interests, is a good value. I always walk away from these type of experiences feeling like I met a friend.