MY TRIP TO NOMA MEXICO
Foodie Experience of a Lifetime
Remember that time when I went to Tulum, Mexico to eat bugs in a jungle for $750? Well I thought it was only right that I share my experience with you all, albeit one year after. It was by far one of the most incredible experiences of my life. From the initial procurement of a reservation via Tom Sietsema and a little tweet I sent that literally said "YAS!" (regrets), to the moment I hugged René Redzepi and dined with him in a jungle on the coast of Tulum, it was an experience I will never forget.
It all started one fateful day in April 2017, when I was perusing the Twitter-verse early one morning to check out the early report on one of the most sought after restaurants, Noma Mexico. There, I saw an eight hour old tweet from Tom Sietsema (food critic for The Washington Post) stating that one of his readers had two extra seats to the exclusive Noma Mexico pop-up. I replied with little hope, and within an hour the tickets were mine. There were uncontrollable tears, leaps of joy, and hyperventilation due to the fact I had emailed with one of my long-time idols, Tom.
I booked our flight for Mexico immediately because by some strange fate there was a sale going on specifically from DC --> Mexico for $200 round trip. SOLD. I asked my dad for a donation to pay for dinner, he obliged (THANKS, DAD!), and we were on our way! You can hear all about the full experience here on the Mustache Mesa Podcast, where I was a guest.
So what's so special about this restaurant, you ask? René Redzepi is a chef from Copenhagen, who gained fame from specializing in hyper local Nordic cuisine. He is known for forging for plants, sea creatures, herbs, vegetables, etc. and using as many of the products from a region as possible. This includes pickling, fermenting, dehydrating, cooking over fire, cooking with different temperatures and times, etc. He is a pioneer in the local and sustainable food movement and is a true idol of mine. Redzepi started hosting pop-ups in different regions to learn more about the local ingredients in those areas. He started in Tokyo, then opened in Sydney and most recently, Tulum, Mexico.
Redzepi employed local people from Mexico, including many local farmers to grow indigenous products for his restaurant. He also employed many tortilla makers from the area to make fresh, hand made tortillas for every service. Although there was a hefty price tag, Redzepi went as far as hosting a final dinner for the community at the end of the pop-up, so that all could enjoy.
Since all payments are sorted ahead of your reservation, no money is exchanged and it's truly an evening of luxury and pleasure. The service is one of a kind - as staff from all over the world chat with you about the dishes, bring you anything you could possibly want, and genuinely try to make you as happy as you can be. For me? I'd had enough "mead," so they kept the local mezcal flowing during the evening ;).
Some dishes take days to make, while others take hours roasting low and slow in homemade clay/salt crusts, or wrapped in banana leaves buried beneath the Earth. No matter what we were eating, you could tell that it had been treated with the most impeccable care, picked at peak ripeness and finished only with elements that would enhance the natural flavors rather than cover anything up.
Take a look through my photo diary of our dinner and let me know what your favorites might have been.
The octopus above was cooked for hours in a custom salt and clay crust over low, slow heat, creating the most succulent and tender bite of octopus tentacle. Served simply with a pumpkin seed puree, it was decadent and sinful. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat octopus again after having it prepared this way.
Below is a close up of the suckling pork tacos. The pig itself was presented to us table-side once it was uncovered from it's cooking burial as a teaser for what was to come. Served simply with cilantro sprigs, seaweed glazed jicama, a chipotle rubbed roasted plantain, limes, and fruity salsa verde, it was a perfect two bites.
After a completely indulgent dinner, we were taken on a tour of the kitchen, where we learned about the importance of family meal (a meal of which all the staff joins in on before the start of service), the chain of command at each station, the sand pit grills, and the importance of having time off and taking time to have some fun.
It seems like a family working together at Noma, and I wish I could be part of it. Creating such a personal meal for so many diners is a true spectacle, and the phenomenal food was just the cherry on top.
Would you pay $750 to dine in the jungle???