Foodie Heaven: Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico.

By Posted in - Destinations & Food & Drink & Mexico on October 6th, 2014 Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico, Gastronomy

By Cacinda Maloney

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

The mysterious drink appeared at the bar, sugar cane chunks immersed in a cocktail. The bartender instructed us to “chew the sugar cane to soak up the drink!” What a fun way to “drink a cocktail”, by not actually drinking it, but chewing the juice out!

When foodies go on vacation, they dream about adventures in flavor.  Things like culinary foams and gels, the kind used by creative and innovative chefs to make gourmet meals that are the ingredients of dreams.

This was just the beginning of THE most unusual culinary experience I have ever had in my life! Molecular gastronomy, have you ever heard of it? It is a sub discipline of food science that seeks to investigate the physical and chemical transformation of ingredients that occur while cooking. (1)

Well, that is the “wiki” definition, but really it is a modern way to cook that involves lots of science-y things and focuses on the five senses to your meal. A lot of the things you taste look like one thing, but then are really made out of something else. Your eyes are telling you are eating one thing, but in the end your taste buds are telling you, you are eating something else entirely different.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

So when taking a culinary tour in Cancun, Mexico, I had no idea what kind of treat (pun intended) I was in for when I had a chance to meet the chef of Benazuza, Rafael Zafra. He studied under the grandfather of molecular gastronomy, Ferran Adrià of the #1 Restaurant in the World: El Bulli in Spain and has two Michelin stars himself and is the master creator of Benazuza.

I even had a chance to dine at Benazuza for both breakfast and dinner on the same day and tried their tasting menu for each. Yes that’s right, an 18 course breakfast and a 26 course dinner. This is strictly for the professional; so don’t do this at home!

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Breakfast

For breakfast, we had things like Mexican coffee: café de “olla”, that was steeped in cinnamon and cloves before piloncillo (unrefined sugar that is pressed and tastes very similar to brown sugar with a molasses flavor ) was added.  As well as various fresh juices – watermelon and hibiscus juice, grapefruit and guanabana with rosemary juice and orange juice.  Then they brought out a spread of mango with chipolte chile pepper marmalade, strawberry with tequila marmalade and cream cheese jalapeños along with truffle and vanilla butter for spreading on tiny toasts.

 

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Next up was fruit kabobs made of cantaloupe and watermelon with honey brochette and modena.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

And then white chocolate yogurt with strawberries and white chocolate foam with citrus, a salmon and tomato volcano, and ham and cheese “sincronizada”.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza; Cancun, Mexico

There was also a potato foam with beans that was rich and creamy.

Then a selections of baked goods  with hot chocolate, but not the kind you drink around a campfire, more like real chocolate that is liquid and pours out thick, and rich and dark…

Benazuza Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Bar – Cocktails  with expert mixologists!

I had everything at the bar from an invisible margarita, to the sugar cane chew that I mentioned earlier to a cotton candy martini.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

For the Invisible margarita, the shot is in the straw!

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

This course started at the bar with a total of 5 unusual, yet amazing drinks. I especially like the mezcal foam, which was creamy and served with “worms” (actually a clever way to serve it with a crispy snack), the type you see at in the bottle of a tequila or mezcal bottle.

Dinner

Starters –

You have got to see this to believe it:

As seen in the very beginning of the video, we were given a show of damiana sour and nitro, and I have no idea what it was, it was frozen with dry ice and then tasted like a sweet dessert to clear our palate.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Then on to a false popcorn snack made with sour cream

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

and “reef” snacks with edible sea creatures made out of puffed rice

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

and then a “piñata” that was crunchy and tasted more like caramel. The waiters struck the “piñata” with a spoon and inside exposed the mound of guacamole. So we tore off the piñata pieces and dipped into the “guac”.

Chef Rafael Zafra's modernist take on Mexican cuisine - Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Chef Rafael Zafra’s modernist take on Mexican cuisine – Photo credit: Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Tapas –

We also had tapas, that included baby corn with vanilla mayonnaise and an imposter baby corn that was really foie gras!

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Next up was crispy rice treats covered in poblano pepper flakes (Pablano rice Kellogg’s) then the waiter poured chicken broth on top and the treats did the “snap, crackle, pop”, we are all used to when having rice crispy cereal.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Main courses included a modern take on traditional Mexican food, like Benazuza fajitas, white asparagus with lemon and chicken mole.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Fajitas at Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

And crispy tostadas with cream cheese and salmon.

As well as a “chef’s garden” – a layer of breadcrumbs and micro greens on top which gave the appearance of grass and earth and veggies.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Now, I may have forgotten a course here or there, as there was so much to take photos of and actually enjoy the meal at the same time, so please forgive me!

What is a 26-course meal without a dessert?

 We had three:

Pre Dessert –

Guanabana mollusk- “clam” that was really soursop jelly formed into the shape of a clam.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Photo credit: Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Dessert –

Maracuya Pinata – The sphere “pinanta” made out of passion fruit ice cream  and when cracked open with a wooden bat delivered berries and tiny, cut-up brownies inside, followed by a box of “fruits and vegetables”, which were “cherries” filled with chocolate cherry mousse and “oranges” filled with orange cream.

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

And of course a shot of ?? but this time I lost count of what on earth it could be!

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Wait?  are those limes?  They look like limes…

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Benazuza, Cancun, Mexico

Nope, that is NOT a lime…

 

Here are a few other articles I wrote about Mexico:

Riviera Maya:

Grand Velas – Raising the Bar on All Exclusives

Cancun’s Underwater Museum

Gliding Thru Hidden Worlds

Xcaret, What is it?

Xel Ha: Land Where Water Is Born

San Miguel de Allende:

Step Back in Time: San Miguel de Allende

My Secret Lover: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

It is True: I have Two Lovers

Zihuatanejo:

The Circus is in Town; Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico:  Unplugged Paradise

Oh the Colors of Mexico: Zihuatanejo

Stone Island:

Stone Island, Mexico

Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point:

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexico

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexico, Part 2

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexico, Part 3

Disclosure:  This culinary tour experience I was on was with the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau and hosted by Benazuza at the Oasis Sens Hotel.

 

 

 

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