Mexican Organic Chef’s Table Inside A Museum with a Caribbean Twist

 “El mejor producto fresco directo a tu paladar”

 (the best fresh produce straight to your palate)

This motto is the heart and soul of Paola Torroella’s Mexican organic chef’s table. No, it is not a typo. She means just that. Your palate, not your plate. She wants to tickle your taste buds with an incredible Mexican Caribbean fusion dining experience.

Unlike other chef’s tables I had tried before, this Mexican organic chef’s table is unique for two reasons. It holds the islands museum artworks, and it has a ZM0 (zero kilometre) certification. This means your carbon footprint is minuscule for an environmentally friendly experience. Incredible slow food dining using the freshest locally sourced organic produce from the Riviera Maya region of the Yucatan Peninsula.

With gorgeous Caribbean views on the shorefront of Cozumel Island, El Palomar is Cozumel’s oldest historical building. The perfect place to experience a Mexican Caribbean fusion of fresh island flavours. It also gives an in-depth look into the heart of the island as you dine.

This is because Cozumel’s museum (closed for renovation) has moved to El Palomar immersing you in a world of art, history, and culture while you enjoy your four-course Mexican organic chef’s table.

The Mexican Organic Chef’s Table Menu

This menu is personal. Designed to your individual taste showcasing your favorite flavours. Top Mexican chef Paola Torroella, head chef at El Palomar creates specialised dishes on the spot after sitting down with you to discuss what you like and what you don’t.  Then, each of the four courses is perfectly paired with high-end tequilas, mezcal, or fine Mexican wines.

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La Pecadora (the woman sinner) bar’s outstanding high-quality mezcal selection including Patrona, 400 Conejos, Amores at El Palomar © Belinda Woodhouse

A chef tailored four-course personalised menu is a luxury. But the organic KM0 (zero kilometres) certification makes it special. Fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, and ingredients are sourced solely from the Yucatán Peninsula within 300km of Cozumel Island. As a result, it creates Mexican Caribbean fusion that broadens your palate. Using local organic ingredients like flor jamaica (hibiscus flower).

First Course – Tropical Carpaccio with Prosecco and Red Berries

Thinly sliced fresh kiwi. Small sweet cubes of local piña de Miel (honey pineapple). Plus freshly grated coconut is bathed in a three-salt salsa balancing sweet and sour. All five of your tastes are activated: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Fresh creamy avocado evens this out for a perfect blend of texture and taste. The cold frosted glass of Prosecco with red berries is a great pairing for this little slice of sweet and sour heaven.

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1st Course – Tropical Carpaccio with kiwi, pineapple & coconut paired with prosecco infused with red berries © Belinda Woodhouse

One of the reasons that Paola, accompanied by Chef Andrés Alvarado, create such amazing dishes are these local organic ingredients. Creativity and a passion for great food bring them to life.

When asked what her favourite thing about being a chef was, she smiled and simply said,The rush of creating – cooking calms me.This passion shines through turning Mexican cuisine and spirits into an art form.

Second Course – Tacitos Flor Jamaica with a boutique Mexican Rosé

Tacitos (small tacos about the size of your palm) are a favourite snack in Mexico. Giving them a spicy Caribbean twist Paola adds flor jamaica. The dried flower buds of hibiscus flowers. Served atop smoked Emmental cheese, its smoothness balances the spicy flor jamaica creating a smooth spiciness. Paired with a chilled glass of Mourvedre Rosé, its sweetness adds to and compliments the combination. The cold wine is not only refreshing but also cools that hot spicy mouthfeel. As well, it helps rebalance your palate for the next course.

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2nd course – Tacitos (popular Mexican snack) with aged cheese and spicy flor jamaica (hibiscus flower buds) paired with Mouvede Rosé © Belinda Woodhouse

Unique local ingredients like hibiscus flower add a touch of the exotic to this Mexican organic chef’s table. This is an experience foodies worldwide dream of.

Because it is overlooking the Caribbean, the seafood chef’s table is by far the most popular. Fishermen deliver mouthwatering catch of the day, succulent lobster and fresh octopus daily.

Seafood, vegan, meat-based, or vegetarian, it makes no difference. Paola creates a specialised menu for you on the spot.

Third course –  Seared Panela Cheese and Calabacín with Maracuyito (mezcal cocktail)

Panela, a popular Mexican cheese is similar to Haloumi. Softer in texture, its subtle flavour complements the calabacín perfectly.  Calabacín is a member of the squash family only growing in the Yucatán region. Similar in size, shape, and appearance to zucchini, it has a white freckled light green skin and a more delicate taste and texture. Calabacín mellow sweetness compliments the slight saltiness of panela which creates a blended buttery mouthful.  El Palomar is famous for mixology cocktails. So, it is paired with a Maracuyito. A mezcal passionfruit citrus punch cocktail served in a glass jar with a tajín rim. Tajín, a blend of chilli, lime, and salt delivers that sweet-sour zing.

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3rd course – seared Mexican Panela cheese with a local Yucatán calabacín (zucchini) paired with a Maracuyito – passionfruit, citrus punch & mezcal. © Belinda Woodhouse

Exotic local ingredients are the reason international chefs and top Mexican chefs travel to Cozumel. Every two months, they have a Mexican organic chef’s table. Cooking and learning in a free exchange of ideas and talent.

Because of this, chefs take home how to taste, infuse, and cook with one of the 17 premium mezcals or 8 top-shelf tequilas La Pecadora (the woman sinner) has.

Fourth course – Carrot  Cake with Coconut Ice-cream and a flaming Mayan Carajillo

This carrot cake was divine with the coconut ice-cream taking it to a whole new level. Having said that, the real show stopper of this course was the Mayan Carajillo. Just WOW. Mayan Carajillo is a coffee infused with XTABETÚN, a local Yucatán liqueur. Like all liqueurs, it has a high alcohol content, which means you can set it on fire. First, flaming XTABENTÚN is slowly poured, infusing with the coffee just waiting to tickle your taste buds. Second, your taste is heightened by a seared cinnamon stick which activates taste through scent. As a result, it makes the perfect indulgence with dessert.

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4th course – carrot cake with coconut ice-cream and a Mayan Carajillo: XTABETÚN (local Yucatan honey anise liqueur) infused coffee ©Belinda Woodhouse

The XTABENTÚN label depicts serving Mayan Chieftans and gods. One small sip of this honey anise blend is enough to make you realise why. Not usually a fan of anise, I was hesitant to try this local Yucatán liqueur, but was glad I did.

Curious, I asked for a taste of the straight liqueur. To my surprise, I found I prefer it on its own. Sipped like a fine tequila and held in the mouth for a moment, it’s warm and surprisingly smooth.

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XTABENTÚN, a local Yucatán honey and anise liqueur. ©Belinda Woodhouse

These unique local delicacies hold a special kind of magic and are the reason travellers love the Yucatán region and keep returning time and again.

Bel Woodhouse

Head honcho at The Travel Bag since 2015 and author of the '21 Reasons to Visit...' travel book series, Bel is passionate about travelling every opportunity she gets and highlighting destinations with stunning photos and videography. A fun-loving Aussie currently living in the Caribbean on Cozumel Island off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, you'll generally find her frolicking in the ocean, trekking through the jungle or crawling over something as nothing is safe from her curiosity.