foodie

Awesome Tour!!

Darwin and his group of Blues Cruisers arrived in Progreso and we had the pleasure of showing them just a tiny taste of the Yucatan during their brief stop here. Here is what he had to say! 

I arranged a tour with Ralf at William Lawson tours for our day in Progreso. We had 10 people in town for the day off the Holland America Maasdam on a blues cruise. Since our cruise was a charter, our times were a bit irregular. Ralf earned my business by being the only tour operator I traded emails with that actually paid attention to what I asked and offered to personalize a tour for us. We were supposed to be in port from noon to 6pm, so our time was limited. At first we were going to tour some ruins, but then we decided to lessen the time driving that we would visit a local cenote and eat an authentic Yucatan meal. As it turned out we arrived almost an our late. We had exact directions on where to meet our tour guide, and even though we were late, Angel was waiting for us. He whisked us out of town in a very nice Mercedes van. At our request he stopped just outside of Progresso at a market so we could sample some of the local beers. He helped us pick them out and when they didn’t accept US money he paid for the drinks himself (we reimbursed him in US). Soon we were at the Noc Ac cenote. Our first impression was...that’s it? It looked very small, but we were just looking at the entrance to a cool underground cavern; not huge, but large enough to enjoy and explore. We loved it! After some swim time, we toweled off, loaded up, and headed out for some lunch. Instead of spending time driving to and dining in a restaurant, Ralf suggested that we visit his house where he would have an authentic Yucatan meal catered for us. I was a bit apprehensive, but quickly agreed because I was comfortable with Ralf. He called Angel several times during out trip to the cenote to be sure we were comfortable and being well taken care of. Ralf’s home was beautiful and he had tables set up for us in his backyard garden area. We enjoyed local cervezas, teas, and non-alcoholic beverages and 4 kinds of dips. Then we enjoyed a variety of sandwiches and tacos indigenous to the local area. Our favorite was cochinita pibil, a kind of pulled pork sandwiches. We really liked the habanero sauces, one mild (which is an oxymoron for habanero) and one that tasted mild initially but then had a wicked after-burner kick. Ralf was a fabulous host and took the time to speak with each and everyone of us. To us, he is no longer a tour provider, but our friend and he and his family are welcome in our homes whenever he is in Houston, Seattle, or Connecticut. All too quickly, we had to head back to our ship, but Angel still made time for us to stop at a local grocery for sodas and Halloween masks (so we could participate in a contest onboard...we came in 2nd). All in all, one of the best day trips we have ever had...and we’ve had plenty. We heartily recommend Ralf, Angel, Jorge (driver) and William Lawson for all your Progreso needs.

Visited October 2013
— http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g150811-d256079-r182627293-Progreso-Merida_Municipality_of_Merida_Yucatan_Peninsula.html#REVIEWS

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.
— http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1905471