February 27, 2012

¡Viva Ceviche!

After stocking up on sushi and sashimi in Vancouver, it is in a very different manner that we enjoyed raw seafood on the splendid Oaxacan coast last week. Following our Mexican friends Paco and Paola's recommendation, we looked for "ceviche", that typical dish of the coastal regions of Central and South America - which over the time has developed its own distinctive style in Mexico.

Just like fish tartare, ceviche features fresh raw fish cut in very small pieces. The main difference lies in the fact that the fish is left to rest in a citrus-based marinade for a certain period of time, which can vary from the time it takes to mix the ingredients and serve (modern-style ceviche), to a few hours (traditional style ceviche). Other seafood such as prawns and squid are common too in Mexican ceviche, which usually also includes tomatoes, onion, avocado, cilantro (coriander) and chili, and is served with flat toasted tortillas or "tostadas".

At Kapricho, a tiny little eatery along the main road of San Agustinillo, a tiny little village itself on the Oaxacan coast, Ivonne serves exclusively ceviche - and probably eats mostly ceviche too, looking at her own tiny little proportions. As a fervent advocate of short menus and simple concepts, I particularly appraised that charming young lady's choice to propose just one dish, the one she has truly mastered.

She still offers a few variations of it though. Next to the classic fish or prawn ceviche, Ivonne's chalkboards also feature a "Ceviche Tropical" where mango, apple and mint have replaced the usual tomatoes and cilantro, a "Ceviche Kapricho" which includes a bit of everything - fish, prawn, tomatoes, onion, avocado, cucumber, carrots, mango, pineapple, cilantro and ginger - an extra hot "Aguachile" and even a "Ceviche de Soya" for vegetarians.

We visited Kapricho twice over three days and tried the "Ceviche Kapricho" as well as the "Ceviche Tropical". Both were marvels of freshness and flavour, absolutely perfect after a hot day by the sea. Two lovely sauces were also there to accompany the tostadas and bring an extra kick to the dish: a green blend of cream, onions, cilantro and green chili, and a red blend of mayonnaise and chipotle, a smoke-dried jalapeƱo chili. Ivonne revealed to me that she marinates the seafood for two hours in salted lime and orange juice and discards the marinade after that, using fresh lime juice to serve. With that extra bit of knowledge, ceviche will definitely be on the menu of my next Mexican-theme dinner party upon our return!

February 20, 2012

Sushi frenzy in Vancouver

My brother had warned me - "you will love Vancouver's all-you-can-eat sushi deals". He was right. Well I did not exactly go for the all-you-can-eat specials, as I can only eat so much and I know this kind of deal never really works for me. So I would just order a la carte, but I did manage to eat raw fish every single day of our stay in Vancouver. Even our Valentine's day dinner ended up as a delivery sushi meal eaten watching TV in our hotel room. Way more romantic than any fancy restaurant, isn't it?

February 13, 2012

Pike Place Chowder, Seattle

 Passing through Seattle the other day, our first excursion was none other than to the famous Pike Place Market. As it was time for some lunch and we were too hungry to wander around to assess dining options by ourselves, I asked the man in the information booth at the market entrance to recommend us a place to have a bite. He suggested Pike Place Chowder for, well good chowder. That sounded like a nice idea, especially as it was a rather grey and chilli day. It turned out that we did very well following that kind man's advice, as the chowder proved wonderful.

February 6, 2012

Portland Pancakes

We left Portland and our new friends Becky and Russ a week ago. Although we were no more than friends of friends seeking accommodation, after our brief time together their exceptional welcome along with some uniquely American experiences quickly made us feel like we were part of the family.

Becky and Russ are true Oregonians, which after these few days in their lovely company could be put as: an incredible sense of fun, a poignant devotion to inter-college sport competitions (or Ducks vs. Beavers for the ones in the know!), a singular pride of the "man cave" (well hidden behind large garage doors...) and a particularly enthusiastic approach to the concept of "joie de vivre".