Seriously Fresh

After wishing my Le Cordon Bleu culinary students a fond farewell on Thursday night after their exam, I dashed home to pack my bags and prepare for a brutally early morning flight to Acapulco. One of my best friends was getting married there over the weekend, and my wife and I had been looking forward to this trip for months.

I've been to other parts of Mexico a couple of times in the past, but never as far south as sunny Acapulco, and we were blown away by the amazing heat and humidity as soon as we stepped off the plane. It was a wonderful change of atmosphere after having left the cold, gray, dirty snow-laden Chicago area only hours before.

Mexican food is one of my most passionate loves, and even though our main purpose for being in Acapulco was my friend's wedding, my wife and I were determined to exploit any opportunity that presented itself to eat some delicious local specialties.

Acapulco is obviously an ocean hugging city, so it seemed safe to expect some pretty good seafood, but what we ended up eating was so much better than anything we were hoping for. The life changing experience occurred on our last night there.

We met up with a couple of friends on the beach, and took a little stroll into a small market area that included a cluster of seafood stalls and cevicherias all facing out onto a small concrete plaza set with a dozen or so plastic tables and chairs. We picked the stall whose owner gave us the warmest reception, and sat down in the fading sunlight and soft Pacific breeze of an Acapulco Sunday evening.

We first ordered some very good mahi-mahi ceviche tostadas, and made quick work of them while tipping back a few cold cervezas. Our main course was one of the most dramatic specialties of the area; a whole red snapper, pulled out of the water offshore only hours earlier, butterflied open and cooked "a la plancha", then splashed with a spicy sauce that gives the fish its designation "a la diabla". It was presented in the middle of the table family style, and was simply adorned with rice, thinly sliced onions, and lots of lime wedges. We were also given a basket of piping hot, freshly pressed and griddled, hand-made corn tortillas wrapped in thick cloth to keep them warm and pliable. There were also no fewer than half a dozen different hot sauces on the table, but the hands down winner was the super hot green chilli salsa that was served in a lava stone bowl called a molcajete. It was the perfect topping to the perfect fish preparation. Thinking about loading one of those amazing tortillas with moist, fragrant, spicy hunks of super fresh snapper makes me determined to get back to Acapulco as soon as I possibly can.

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