If Kauai is the island for nature lovers (shoutout to Ishihara Market, my favorite poke) and Oahu is the island for those seeking city and surf (shout out to Hanauma Bay, my favorite beach), then Maui is the family-friendly island. A little something for everyone, which makes sense because that’s where we went with Nishan’s family this winter. Whether you’re two, thirty-five, or seventy, Maui has something to offer. Here’s how we spent our week:
First things first: coconut ice cream at Lappert’s.
What is a trip to Hawaii without the best poke of your life? The tuna was like butter at Eskimo Candy Seafood Market.
If it’s finer dining you’re after but want to do native Hawaiian food justice, go to Lineage. The poi mochi was the standout here.
Crab cake salad at Nalu’s South Shore Grill. Super chill, super fresh.
The requisite shave ice. Five-year-old me was very happy.
The otherworldly Haleakala National Park. My favorite place in Maui — photos don’t do it justice. If you go, be prepared for a hair-raising drive, though.
All that hiking at Haleakala deserves another poke, this time at South Maui Fish Co.
Thank you for sharing your bounty, Hawaii. And the poke. And the shave ice. And the ice cream.
Mexico City has no shortage of stellar cafes and every morning (and afternoon), we’d find a new one to try. On our fifth day, we headed to Quentin Cafe as a starting point to spend the day in the Roma neighborhood.
You know what else is in Roma? Parque Mexico, which is probably my favorite park on earth for one very important reason: dogs. So. Many. Dogs. A pack of huskies taking a nap off leash? No big deal. An Afghan hound, a great dane, and a handful of Australian Shepherds taking a jog? Yeah, this is normal. A couple beagles and a golden retriever making friends with a samoyed? This is just par for the course at Parque Mexico. I could spend all day here.
But we had more things to eat so we walked over to Tacos Don Juan for delicious tacos piled high with meat and slathered with avocado and nopales and all manner of fiery, flavorful salsas.
We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling Roma and stopping for a honey croissant at Panaderia Rosetta before heading to the storied Pujol in Condesa.
“Street snacks” to start.
Elotes ahumados. I’ll have 500 more of these, thanks.
Chaytoe squash with spiny lobster pico. A light and fresh palate cleanser.
Softshell crab, cucumber, daikon, and shiso. Okay yeah, I’ll have 500 more of these too please.
Barbacoa ox tonuge, black beans, and cactus.
Mole madre 1739 days, mole nuevo. Infamous.
The mole was served with hoja santa tortillas.
Tamarind sorbet. I would buy this by the gallon if I could.
Coffee tamal, ginger ice cream, and honeycomb.
Without a doubt the best, most ethereal churros I’ve ever tasted.
So yeah, Pujol lives up to the hype. I’m thankful that we were able to experience this meal.
On our last morning in CDMX, we had one last coffee at our favorite Chiquito Cafe and got ready for lunch at Maximo Bistrot Local. Eduardo Garcia is the chef and founder at Maximo Bistrot. Garcia was born in Mexico and raised in the U.S. After he was deported twice, Garcia started his own restaurant in Mexico City, Maximo Bistrot. The restaurant serves another purpose in that it provides a place for deported immigrants like himself, a chance to find work that not only pays the bills but also provides a deep sense of pride. Today, Garcia is considered one of Mexico’s top chefs and runs several restaurants.
Sea urchin tostada. This was my favorite course of the meal and could have happily eaten just this and called it a day.
Roasted beets, fig, and pomegranate.
Pappardelle with ragu.
French toast with berry compote.
And just like that, it was over. I hope to not let another decade pass by before my next trip to Mexico. Anthony Bourdain said it best: Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history.
Our third morning in Mexico City was a Sunday, which is when the Paseo de la Reforma becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare: runners and cyclists and families (and doggies!) all come out to enjoy the day. Think vibrant public spaces and good health via walkable streets.
Near the Paseo de la Reforma is Chiquito Cafe, a tiny cafe serving up some of the best coffee and tea CDMX has to offer (and there is stiff competition for excellent coffee in this city). We enjoyed a quick breakfast here before making our way to Chapultepec Park.
Chapultepec Park includes Chapultepec Castle, the only castle in North America to have ever actually housed sovereigns. But to me the appeal was the murals. They were stunning! A mural of the revolution adorns the entrance. If you close up, you can see some of the figures looking directly at the viewer, as if making an appeal to support the revolution.
We continued making our way through Chapultepec Park and stopped along the way for a tasty, crunchy, spicy Oaxacan tlayuda before walking to the National Museum of Anthropology, also housed in the park.
For dinner we headed to Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco for more Oaxacan cuisine. I could have probably eaten a gallon of the housemade salsa, that is, until the duck taquitos with mole colorado arrived. For those familiar with Iranian cuisine: you know khoresh-e fesenjoon? Okay, think fesenjoon, but in mole form. In the best way possible. Oh yes, I could eat a gallon of these too. By the time the short rib barbacoa arrived, I was already full from the richly flavored taquitos.
All this gluttony was sort of fuel for the next day (or so I tell myself), because we were up bright and early on day four to take the bus to Teotihuacan, which links the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun.
Photos don’t to it justice — Teotihuacan is more expansive and stunning than I could have imagined, and let’s be real, mostly I’m just really proud that I managed to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. Make this day trip: it’s absolutely worth the hour or two drive from Mexico City. Just make sure to bring some water.
Once we were back in Mexico City we headed to Taqueria Los Cocuyos in the Centro Historico for what were among the best tacos I’ve had in my life. Lengua, suadero, campechano, and cachete. So tender, so flavorful. My happy place.
While in the centro, we checked out the Metropolitan Cathedral before heading back to our home base in Zona Rosa and narrowly escaping a rainy downpour. For dinner, we had a warming bowl of ramen at Kominari Tonkotsu Ramen, a cozy restaurant frequented by the Japanese-Mexican community.
How can one city contain so much energy and so many surprises around every corner?
I hadn’t been to Mexico in nearly a decade which is kind of crazy because, you know, it’s only a couple of hours away by plane. What took me so long? I’d been raptured by Pujol ever since seeing the Chef’s Table episode about Enrique Olivera, but there is so much more to CDMX’s food scene. Tacos de canasta! Barbacoa! Churros! Tlayudas! And that’s just scratching the surface.
Our six-day trip to Mexico City was basically a thinly-veiled excuse to eat, with some stunning cultural stops along the way.
After tacos and ensalada de nopales in Zona Rosa’s Taqueria de Califa on our first evening, we went for more tacos on day two in the San Angel neighborhood. Tacos de canasta and carne asada, to be exact.
Afterwards we walked it off at Bazar del Sabado, a Saturday-only market by artists of all kinds. Creative art for days! Not pictured: all the cute doggies enjoying a day out with their families, including an old English sheepdog. My day was made.
Afterwards we headed to the weekends-only El Hidalguense for barbacoa. It may not look pretty, but inside this maguey leaf is the most tender lamb you’ve ever tasted. Tuck it into a tortilla, drizzle some salsa over it, and you have yourself a delicious, albeit heavy meal.
We walked off the barbacoa at Casa Fusion, another arts and crafts market, this time near Zona Rosa. Satiated but craving something sweet, we capped off the day with churros con chocolate at the storied Churreria El Moro, one of CDMX’s oldest churrerias.
At the height of the Mendocino Complex fires this summer, my sister and I spent a smoky 48 hours in Portland, Oregon. But wait, isn’t Portland 550 miles from Mendocino? Yes, but the fire was so big that the smoke had not only descended southward into the Bay Area, but also north to Oregon. I guess we can consider smoke as one of California’s new dystopian seasons these days.
But back to Portland. We ate and we ate well. The real star of this trip? Kachka, which is kind of like what would happen if your Russian grandma and a hipster opened a restaurant serving fare from all over the former Soviet Republic, from the Baltic states to Armenian, Azeri, Georgian specialties that aren’t too far flung from the flavors of Iranian cuisine.
Yes, Santa Rosa’s airport is adorably Snoopy themed, complete with a The helper is in Lucy information desk inside. Life-size statues of Snoopy abound.