HEALTHY BUT TASTY – PREPARING THE MENU FOR HACIENDA AMARTE

I’ve always said: “Never, ever in my life will I run a restaurant.” I grew up in one and I know what it takes; you are married to your restaurant. My father owned 3 successful restaurants, so I am quite familiar with the business.  I know what I’m talking about.

Restaurant Charcoal

Restaurant Charcoal

Restaurant Bajazzo

Restaurant Bajazzo

Playa peeps have gotten to know Honza’s cuisine over the past five years and often have said: “You should start your own restaurant.” Then we would look at each other and delicately smile, meaning: “No way!” Honza too has had his own bar/restaurant, and subsequently managed 5 grand café’s/restaurants/ bars with 118 employees, for nearly 20 years at the downtown hotspot of our hometown The Hague; The Grote Markt.

Grote Markt Den Haag

Grote Markt Den Haag

Well guess what? We’re opening a restaurant! Not because we have to, but because we want to with all our heart. Hacienda Amarte; the eco boutique hotel and holistic retreat center we are bringing to life includes a large restaurant that can easily hold 100 seats. Pfff!

Rehearsal with Professor Mary Grogan

Rehearsal with Professor Mary Grogan

Our vision is to create an haute cuisine menu with a Mexican-Mediterranean flavour, and the ingredients will all be fresh, local, and organic if available. Healthy but Tasty, is the slogan Honza came up with. Of course we’ll add a few of Honza’s famous specialties to the menu. ChecMex food! The idea is to produce a few products ourselves, like tomatoes and cilantro. We already have been using the fresh herbs from our garden for our menu.

The herbal garden behind the restaurant.

The herbal garden behind the restaurant.

Eventually we want to set up connections with local Mayan farms that will supply us with their fresh and organic products, like chickens and eggs, but also supplies of pork and beef. Just because we offer you organic ingredients and a variety of vegetarian dishes doesn’t mean that we won’t serve you a good pork roast. Let’s be clear about that!

One of the biggest gifts we have received from the owner of Hacienda Amarte – who we will call ‘El Arcitecto’ from now on  – is chef Mex, a simpatico Mayan man in his early thirties from a little village near Chichen Itza.  For many years he has worked with the French chef Guillaume of the restaurant ‘Pavo Real by the Sea’, also owned by ‘El Arcitecto’. Check it out, it’s pretty good.

Restaurant Pavo Real by the Sea

Restaurant Pavo Real by the Sea

Chef Mex has learned the trades of the ‘haute cuisine’ by years of experience. I like that. I may be entitled to call myself an environmental Engineer (got the diplomas), but all the other stuff I’ve learned by practice, just like our chef Mex. And then chef Mex called for an assistant. A bright Mayan boy called Canek from the colonial city of Valladolid joined our team. He is in his early twenties, and even had all the appropriate diplomas.

The colonial city Valladolid

The colonial city Valladolid

 Honza and I explained our visions; fresh and local produce, and organic when available. The chefs prepared a menu and we picked a few dishes we thought would offer a good presentation for the grand opening. On Wednesday we went to the weekly organic market in Puerto Morelos and got our supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The organic market in Puerto Morelos

Chef Canek & Chef Mex

Markt

Choosing produce at the organic market in Puerto Morelos

 We consulted with the local fisherman coop. Then we crossed the highway and got the rest of our supplies in the other part of Puerto Morelos. Chicken and eggs and lomo.

Chicken 'recien matado'.

Chicken ‘recien matado’.

Ordering fresh lomo.

Ordering fresh lomo.

We have received the contacts of the ranchos that supply these little stores and we intend to visit these farms and verify if they are Amarte worthy, and we’ll keep you posted on the proceedings.

And then the yummy part started: tasting after tasting of exquisite food preparations. The presentation was an absolute art. This was so much more than we could have hoped for.

For the 1st tasting we had chosen the cucumber gazpacho with tomato compote, Hierba Buena sorbet and roasted almonds, followed by Grouper filet served on Hoja Santa, accompanied with Jasmine rise, spinach and a variety of local organic vegetables.

Cucumber Gazpacho

Cucumber Gazpacho

Fresh Grouper on Hoja Santa

Fresh Grouper on Hoja Santa

For the 2nd tasting we had chosen the melon soup with mint, and roasted chicken breast with rosemary potatoes and a variety of local organic vegetables. Let me tell you that Mary Grogan, who I lovingly have introduced as the Opera Diva the moment she entered the lobby of Hacienda Amarte, was very impressed.

Melon Soup with mint

Melon Soup with mint

Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled Chicken Breast

For the next tasting we had chosen the Amarte salad and lomo filet with coffee sauce, and the crème brûlée.

Amarte Salad

Amarte Salad

Grilled Pork loin with mushroom potatoes

Grilled Pork loin with mushroom potatoes

Creme Brulee
Creme Brûlée

Then there were 2 more menu options left that we needed to try out for the grand opening menu, and that was the fish ceviche with mango and the Eggplant Gratin, our vegetarian option. We had no doubt whatsoever that these dishes would be just as tasty as all the previous ones and we were right.

Fish ceviche with mango and crispy bananas

Fish ceviche with mango and crispy bananas

Eggplant gratin

Eggplant gratin

I can tell you that everything we’ve tasted is far beyond we could ever have hoped for. We can write history with these 2 Mayan chefs!

Tomorrow is the grand opening of Hacienda Amarte. I don’t even know how I found the time to write this blog, but I needed to share this food porn with you. I gotta run. See you mañana!

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