The American Express Magazine division gives members with Platinum status and higher a schmancy, shoppy little travel magazine called Departures. Mérida is lovely for all that we love it for, but it’s really not schmancy or shoppy. That’s why I was delighted and surprised that the magazine has paid Merida a big tribute.
It’s here online, but if you’re more a MasterCard person, I’m not sure if this link will work.
The story, by Sara James Mnookin (wife of author Seth Mnookin, with whom I had the pleasure to briefly work) starts out ticking off Mexico’s most famous chowhound zones: “Mérida has not yet given the world a dish on par with the moles of Puebla, nor can it lay claim to an ingredient like the vanilla beans of Veracruz. It has nevertheless blossomed into Mexico’s latest foodie destination, redeeming a region long marred by fruity frozen drinks and all-you-can-eat buffets. Though Cancún is just a four-hour drive east, Mérida feels a world apart—and always has.”
Sad that she felt Cancún could define the entire region. Is that the general impression the world has of the peninsula? One big Cancún?
She then gives a quick profile of one of the city’s most famous expats, “Jeremiah Tower, the godfather of California cuisine who helped give Chez Panisse its panache in the 1970s and later founded Stars in San Francisco, the now-shuttered shrine to decadence where Mario Batali received his early training.” He arrived in Mérida in 2005 after a series of unlucky moves precipitated by George W. Bush, Hurricane Katrina, and then Hurricane Wilma.
The author then segues into the home cook culture — as it is throughout Mexico, pro chefs are often bested by the talented amateurs, she says.
Readers meet Aliza Mizrahi, who runs a cooking school on a one-acre microfarm just outside the city. And then to David Sterling at Los Dos. She mentions he is working on a book on Yucatecan cuisine and helped start Slow Food Yucatán, whereby Mercado Fresco de Slow Food Yucatán sells organic baked goods and food specific to Yucatán.
Lots of interesting dishes are described in beautiful detail, as are the more upscale restaurants. Mention is made of “American retirees now flocking to the city.”
Mérida seems almost chichi when the writer is sent by the American Express Company!
All in all, a very nice boost for the city, seen through the eyes of someone wearing designer sunglasses!