Last week my friend Kathleen White and I had the pleasure of dining with a couple of talented and genial Merida chefs, Remixto
owner Brent Marsh, and his partner, architect and sous chef Stan Khang. Brent and Stan are the brains, hands, and hearts of Remixto, a “culinary salon” that aims to educate people visiting and residing in Merida about the delights of Yucatecan and Mexican foods. Kathleen is the owner and innkeeper of El Ave Blanca
, a cozy B&B where I stayed my first month in Merida. Kathleen had previously participated in one of Chef Brent’s cooking classes, which is documented here
. I had hoped to take a cooking class while here, but classes are on hold while the chefs oversee the renovation of their new home and teaching kitchen. So they invited us over to see the house and have dinner — a most pleasant surprise!
Their home is an impressive and modern remake-in-progress of a large Spanish colonial home in the historic center of the city. My utter lack of architecture and design vocabulary and style prevents me from adequately describing this handsome space. (I’m wishing I had snapped a couple of photos.) On the first floor, you enter what will be a roofless courtyard, pass through the media room, then emerge half-outdoors into a long living/dining room, which is open to a tropical garden where you would expect the long wall to be. The absence of a wall creates the ambiance of a comfortable and casual patio. The kitchen beyond, which has a beautiful center work counter made of resurfaced railroad ties, also has a large wall opening to a patio, vegetable garden, and pool in the back. From the front of the living room you can look all the way through to the rear garden. The open walls will eventually be enclosed with large rotating screens that will allow easy access to the gardens. In the meantime, insect repellent is on hand, but the pest factor is usually tolerable in the dry season, except following heavy rains. Ceiling fans keep the air circulating, and we weren’t bothered by mosquitos. An intriguing double wall acts as a chimney and pulls hot air from the first and second floors up through the roof, making air conditioning unnecessary, even in the brutal summer heat. The second floor, accessed by a striking wood staircase, has two bedrooms separated by an open terrace with beautiful wood floors and wires above to support flowering vines. You can view the plans
and follow the history and details of the building project on their blog
. After the house is finished, Stan will turn his attention to his architectural design business.
Yummy tortilla soup
Dinner was, of course, terrific. Starting with a first course of a delicious light but flavorful tortilla soup, we moved on to a delectable shrimp dish with achiote sauce and radish sprouts over spaghetti, followed by a luscious dessert of coconut pie with caramelized mango topping and sour orange curd. Wines from Mexico and Argentina were the perfect complement.
Light touch with local ingredients
Brent’s approach to Mexican cuisine is to prepare both traditional and modern dishes that showcase local ingredients, and that present them in a way that’s new, light, and friendly to the non-Mexican palate. He clearly loves to educate people about local ingredients and to encourage experimentation. This week I made his simple version of cafe de olla.
It was sweet, delicately spiced, and my new favorite way to have coffee. Today I tried guacamole. Next, it’s on to more adventurous things.
A perfect ending
Brent’s plans for Remixto include cooking lessons for travelers and visitors in the winter, and lessons and events for expat residents in the summer. He’ll also continue his travels to various parts of Mexico to learn about local ingredients and techniques from chefs in those regions.
I would love to bring a group to Merida to take part in what Remixto has to offer, along with other enriching activities available in this part of Mexico.
They're as fun as they look!