Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Dates and a Churro


The last time I was in Seoul I was supposed to go on a date with a cute Korean guy named Sam. Sam was Korean born but studied Engineering at UC Berkley and spoke perfect English. He was tall and handsome and reminded me of Daniel Henney from Criminal Minds.

Daniel Henney

 I had been at a shrine meditating, making delicate paper cranes as a lesson in patience & participating in a tea ceremony all day. On the way home to change my clothes, I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop. When I woke up I was in an entirely different town, over an hour away. We tried to reschedule, but the timing was never right and I ended up leaving South Korea before we got a chance to hang out. Even though we never went on our date, we stayed friends on Facebook.

I recently found out that Sam got engaged to a woman who looks like she could be my sister. She is the Great Value version of me; Not as tall, and booty not as big. But good for them, discounts are great. Enjoy your Apple Dapples til death do you part.

I may have missed my date with Sam, but everything happens for a reason. If the universe wanted us to go on that date, it would have made it happen. 

I guess I believe in being in the right place at the right time and it seemed as though the universe was aligning things in my favor on my Mexico trip.

On my third morning there, I packed my bags and checked out of my room. Aaron and I took an Uber to pick up James at his hostel and then the three of us went to the airport to rent a car and start our day trip to Puebla.


A photo I took in Puebla

Puebla is a small town, a little over an hour outside of Mexico City and it's also the birth place of molĂ© sauce. We had an amazing lunch and then browsed the local shops. James helped me pick out a handmade Huipil, a simple white cotton dress, embroidered with red, yellow and pink thread around the neck and sleeves and then we walked through the town square together. While Aaron was deciding on which hand painted sugar skulls to purchase, James pulled me to the side. 
Huipil dress
You know that dinner I’m going to tonight?”

I played dumb but I knew exactly what dinner he was talking about. He was referring to his date with the mystery woman that he, Aaron and Huey had met a few nights before.

I vaguely remember you and Aaron talking about it last night”.

James looked over his shoulder to make sure Aaron couldn’t hear us. “I think I can get another reservation, but I can only get one. I’d really like it if you’d come.”



It’s about a $150 per person,” he continued, "but it’s at one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world. It’s gonna be worth it.”

At first I was hesitant because of the price. But then I reasoned that I only had 2 more days left in Mexico and had not spent a lot of money thus far. Up to this point, my hostel had been around $9 a night, and I was spending less than $20 a day on meals and transportation combined.



I’d love to go.”

As we drove back to Mexico City the scenery switched from green farmland to hilly and tropical. Stacked high in the hills, you could see the colorful houses from the highway. The sky was the prettiest shade of light blue and the hot sun beamed into the car as it peaked out behind the clouds. I unwrapped my shawl from my shoulders and let the sun tan my skin through the windows.


Mexico City from the highway
The three of us took turns being Aux cord DJs. Aaron, out of respect for being a Toronto native, played Drake. I sang along to Sia, and James put on some Michael BublĂ©. Hearing him sing “I just haven’t met you yet” slightly off key, as we sped into the city limits, was almost the best part of my day.

On our way to drop off the rental car, we stopped at a traffic light where a young boy on the corner was selling bottled water. James motioned for the boy, who couldn’t have been over 10 years old, to come over. He reached into his pocket and gave him a handful of pesos. When the boy tried to give him change and the bottled water, James told him, “No, esto es para ti.” This is for you.

I quietly ovulated in the passenger seat

Seeing the gap toothed smile on the young boy’s dark brown face was definitely the best part of my day.

We parted ways with Aaron at the airport and ordered an Uber to head to dinner.

During the ride, James answered text messages on his phone. Without looking up he asked, “Have you seen Chef’s Table on Netflix?”

It’s on my list of things to see,” I replied as we moved through traffic. I watched vendors shutting down their elote carts for the evening, just as I had on my first night in town.

That’s how I heard of Pujol. It’s ranked the 17th best restaurant in the world.  We’re in for a treat!” James said excitedly.


Pujol
By the time we arrived, the sun had gone down, but the temperature outside had not yet relented. We entered a dark building, first through a heavy glass door and then through an even heavier brass door. A man in a very nice suit then led us to our table as the room buzzed with soft chatter and smartly dressed people ate their dinner.

Quietly following the host to our table, I became acutely aware of my appearance.

I don’t know what it is about traveling in a car all day, but it makes me sweaty. Even if I’m just sitting in one spot, rapping to Drake songs, I end up sticky. Luckily I didn’t smell like I had worked in a field all day, but I definitely felt like it. My face was glistening, my hair was not as smooth as it had been when we left for Puebla that morning and my dress was wrinkled from sitting in the car.

Thank God the lights were low and candles were placed strategically throughout the restaurant. Maybe nobody would notice how disheveled I was.

But as luck would have it, waiting patiently at our table was one of the most attractive women in the restaurant. She was dressed in a dark sapphire blue dress with a plunging neckline that served as a beautiful contrast to her sun kissed complexion. Silver drop earrings daintily hung from her ears, peaking out from behind her thick shiny hair, occasionally sparkling in the candlelight. She looked like she used expensive conditioner, routinely got her ends trimmed and didn’t need to own a vibrator.

James hugged the beautiful woman and then sat down to my left, leaving me to sit directly across from her. 

Mary this is my friend TK.”

Thanks for letting me join you tonight.” I smiled.

Mary looked unimpressed.


I distinctly got the feeling she didn’t want me there but she quickly snapped out of it and put on a pleasant smile.


Thanks for coming. Should we order?”

With my hand, I tried to smooth down my edges and pull my shawl over my car-tanned shoulders. I must have looked like I grew up in a trailer park eating twinkies and drinking whole milk with strawberry syrup for breakfast.

Imagine going to dinner with Keegan Michael Key and Lucy Liu and feeling like Celie from The Color Purple. I use Lucy Liu as a reference, because unfortunately we don’t have enough Asian representation in the media, but Mary is actually Filipino and Lucy Liu is Han Chinese. 
They don’t even favor one another, but my point is that both women are stunning and I felt anything but glamorous in that moment.

Truth be told, I don’t think Mary felt so great in that moment either, but I had a feeling it wasn’t for the same reason.

Both Mary and James ordered a drink and we placed our orders from the menu. The waiter brings a beautiful yellow cocktail to the table and sits it down in front of James.

Wow, this is really great. Would you like to taste it?” James hands me the glass.

I sip the drink slowly before handing it back to him. It was lemony but not too sweet.

Mary looks from me to James. 



Umm, can I try it too?”

Of course.” James quickly hands her the drink.

Lord, this was getting awkward. I'm just sitting there like, 



Next up was our 6 course meal. You were allowed to choose one item from each Roman numeral. We decided to each pick something different so that we could all try as many things as possible.


Our Menu
For the first course I ordered chicharron because I had tried it in Peru and it was lovely. Mary ordered the chicken skin with escamole and James ordered the chicatana. When the plates arrived, we split the dishes between us.

I looked at the food presented before us and everything seemed small and foreign. Well everything except for the hollowed out gourd in the center of the table, that had white smoke rising from it.



The waiter explained what the dishes were. The gourd contained ants that were smoked right out of the ground and straight into the gourd where they were seasoned and further steamed to tenderness. 
Chicatana smoked ants in a gourd

The escamoles were edible ant larvae, harvested from the roots of the Agave plant. 


Esacamole

Ya'll that is not a typo. James AND Mary had both ordered ANTS. Talk about farm to table. First it was brain tacos and now this! In my mind I was like, “You can have him sis. You guys can cruise the world, and eat at Netflix restaurants in fancy dresses. I’m going to get $2 mystery meat street empanadas after this.”


 I was THISCLOSE to calling it quits after the waiter's explanation, but I had already paid my money for the evening. 

I can’t say that it got much better from there guys. At least not for me. Our waiter brought some forest green tortillas with the next course.


I tore off a little piece and started to chew. 

Then I just sat there for a moment trying to figure out what I was tasting.

This tastes like Neosporin.”




Mary tried so hard not to laugh out loud that she nearly snorted.  What did you say?”

I cleared my throat. “These tortillas have a… medicinal quality to them.”

She giggled, but after that comment, she seemed to open up to me a little more.

I felt bad because I was thousands of miles away from home, at the 17th best restaurant in the world, with two amazingly sexy dinner dates and all I wanted was a slice of pizza.

But I hung in there and tried those small portioned, weird ass fancy foods. I was proud of myself for trying something new.

The final course, our dessert, came to the table and it wasn’t awful. It was a long circular churro, some Mexican hot chocolate and mint ice cream that looked like sea foam.


A warm cinnamony churro

I watched Mary slide her spoon into the foamy concotion. When the waiter brought over a bottle of champagne with a card.


Foamy mint ice cream with chocolate flakes
Mary was surprised and quickly read the card to herself before paraphrasing  and disclosing it's contents to us. Apparently some guy she knew in town was smitten with her, but I got the idea that she wasn't into him. Must be nice, getting bottles in international area codes while you're on a date with a hot guy you just met and his dusty travel buddy.

I could tell that Mary and James dined like this a lot and even though I felt very out of place I was okay with how the evening was going. I realize this was an experience I'd never forget, and I was thankful for it.

The three of us ended up going to very nice hotel bar where James knew the bartender. We met up with Aaron, Jimmy and Huey who had just come from a luchadores (Mexican wrestling) match. 

I asked James to pick a drink for me, since he's the bartending expert, but it ended up tasting like mouthwash. I suppose that was a good way to get the last bit of Neosporin taste out of my mouth though.

Whisky & a side of crickets 
The 5 of us spent the night laughing & drinking until 3 in the morning. Mary had loosened up considerably and was actually a very sweet and funny person. I guess I can't really blame her for how she acted when we first arrived to Pujol. I'd be pissed if a guy brought someone on our date too. 

It was Mary and Jimmy's last night in town so we did a round of shots for them before everyone dispersed for the night.

From left to right, in order of importance (lol just kidding): Huy, James, Jimmy, Aaron, Mary, and I


I only had one more night left in Mexico and I was excited to see what it would bring.

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