In my business travels, I spend ALOT of time in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan region, in the state of Quintana Roo. I am in Cozumel weekly, but sometimes I am required to fly out of Cancun since few of the airlines offer weekday flights year round. This might cause you to say, "boy he's lucky, getting to go to all those places every week." Well, before you do, let me say this, I am very lucky to have a full time job that pays well and allows me to share my talents with others.
What's the downside? I have to travel constantly, and go to the same place every week. I have flown into Cancun over 100 times, yet I've never SEEN Cancun. I have never been downtown nor do I even know what it looks like. I do know the road from Playa Del Carmen intimately, since that is how I get to Cancun from Cozumel, using a ferry into Playa. I have a regular taxi driver, whom I befriended over time, that meets me and off we go.
Many times I have to catch something to eat on the run, and my friend and driver Carlos Cupul Aguilar, knows all the great places (by the way his hair is not green, it's my crappy phone camera). Many are roadside taco stands, and some actually have a sit-down service. My favorite is by far... La Floresta. La Floresta is located on the main highway in Playa Del Carmen and is well worth your time if you're vacationing in the area.
As you can see by the limited menu, it is mostly seafood or "mariscos" on the tacos they serve. Alright before you flip out over the prices, they are listed in pesos, it runs about 10 - 1 dollarwise. So if you see something that costs 16.00, this is around $1.50. The place is truly a bargain and the food is wonderful. La Floresta has been in operation for 17 years, and is owned and operated by my new friend Enrique Gonzalez.
Let's start with my favorite the shrimp tacos. These shrimp are untra-fresh, batter-dipped, butterflied, large shrimp. They are fished locally from this region and have such a wonderful flavor. The batter is light and fluffy and enhances, rather than covering up, the delicate taste of the shrimp. They come to you bare, accompanied only by a warm, masa (corn) tortilla.
The condiments provided are a wonderful Pico de Gallo, which is a diced tomato, onion, jalapeña, cilantro, and lime juice salsa. They make the freshest and best Pico I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE!!! This is also aided by a red and green salsa, the green being a green habañero pepper sauce that must be used with extreme caution. To finish out the taco you're provided with mayonnaise. Really? Mayonnaise? You betcha, anytime I find a new use for mayonnaise is cause for celebration, and this one knocks it out of the park.
You put your taco together as illustrated, add a little green fire, and some mayo and man, oh man, is it ever tasty. The best tacos I've ever had. The crabmeat tacos I pictured in the previous post were good, but the shrimp tacos are wonderful. What Mexico calls taco and what is served at McTacos in the US are quite different in spirit and ingredient. These are massively superior.
Down the road you can find tacos made from braised pork, chile rellenos, and chicharrones to name a few. These are nearly as marvelous in their flavors and simplicity. Maybe we will explore these in a future post.
As for La Floresta, the staff is friendly and quick. Lupe and Carlos (pictured) were wondering why I come by so often, my driver Carlos explained that I worked on the cruise ship. They smiled, posed for a picture, and went about their business. The people of this region of Mexico are the friendliest and most accommodating people in the world, I love this part of the country.
I hope you get a chance to experience this area, its food and its people. My friend Carlos takes great care of me, I have met his family, including his baby daughter, and they are lovely. Make it a point to check out this restaurant if you do make it down Yucatan way.