Biters, I just got back from the best beach vacation of my life.
Last glorious blissful week, the hand model & I stayed at the fabulous all-inclusive Blue Diamond Riviera Maya resort (blog post to come next week). While we enjoyed our stay immensely and loved the made-to-order, non-buffet style food, I just had to venture out to try the local cuisine.
We rented a car (despite multiple friends & family members begging urging us not to) for a night trip to the beachy, seaside town of Tulum to visit Hartwood restaurant. First off, Tulum is a must see when visiting the Playa del Carmen area. It reminded me of a less populated, hippie-er version of Venice Beach, but along a two lane dirt road with walkable restaurants and hotels around.
Highly recommend by Fodor's travel writer Marlise Kast, Hartwood is owned by chef Eric Werner and Mya Henry. The duo hails from NY where Werner got his start at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn and Peasant in Manhattan. Bon Appetit describes these two spots as "famous for cooking on wood", which incidentally is what Hartwood is all about.
The Tulum gem – going on 3 years now – is everything you'd ever picture when dining on vacation in Mexico. No walls, just palm trees, picnic tables, lanterns, a shackle bar, and only a wood-burning oven & grill to cook on. Solar panels & human hands are used instead of electrical appliances, and all food is fresh from the North Caribbean Sea or farmland.
- rustic garden Salad with pungent Lime & Basil Housemade Vinaigrette, sweet Red Onion, Radishes, Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Sprouts & surprisingly tender Charcoal-Grilled Calamari 175 pesos
- herbacious, juicy, almost too simple, fresh caught Grouper "Filete de Mero" with Basil Vinaigrette, Jalapenos, Spinach Leaves & Cannelini Beans 285 pesos
- the star of the show, falls right off the bone, stewed for 6 hours with a secret 3-step process, Pork Rib atop Pickled Vinegar Red Cabbage Slaw (special)
- more like drinking 3 very fresh juice cartons with a dash of rum, Carafe of Milpa Punch with Golden Rum, Citrus, Pineapple & Watermelon 350 pesos
Word to the wise, the Pork is big enough to split, and there's no need for a carafe, so just order a GLASS of your favorite fruity drink. Also, make sure to bring CASH, be ready to wait at least 15 minutes, and pound on the bug spray.
Despite the mosquitos, it's the open air that makes Hartwood such a truly romantic and magical place with dining right under the stars.
If you're lucky, you might get to meet Eric like I did. Alas, he said he was too shy to take a pic. (Although his friends at the bar said he was "Full of $#*!").