Let’s just address it directly…in this line of work, a bout or two of party flu just goes with the territory. Long nights of community connection occasionally become long mornings of recovery, and although I still retain much of my youthful healing potency–this is only Lap 31 around the Sun for yours truly–I still need a bit of a boost some days to get cranking again after a particularly intensive evening of practical research.
For these reasons, the debuting Rehab Brunch series at the humbly named Casa de Cristobal in Ojo de Agua caught my attention in the most impossible to ignore fashion, drawing me in with promises of a Cajun low-country buffet and unlimited breakfast drinks. Sunday came, and I suited up in my best scouting shirt (purchased, incidentally, from Cristobal’s jazzy local vintage shop Ropero de Jovany) to check it out…for professional purposes, of course.
The Vibes: As with many points of interest in town, the view from the street belies the wonders inside. Remember that part in the Willy Wonka movie when the Golden Ticket winners made a confused passage down the weird little hallway to find an entrance to a magical production floor where miracles are made?
Something like that, but for adults (and those who only resemble them).
On the other side of the door awaited the colorful confines of Casa Cristobal, an oasis off the dusty streets of Real Mexico. A selection of carefully chosen regional flowers made for vivid accents on the entryway. Alongside the footpath was a swimming pool complete with the required inflatable toys as well as a waterfall under which I could easily see myself spending Sunday mornings standing under for restorative treatment.
Strolling up to the bar to a friendly greeting from the host, I decided to get the journalistic element of my visit out of the way early by asking what inspired him to open Casa de Cristobal to the drunken public. “I see it as a celebration of my journey…the time right after I decided to be true to myself was a struggle. I arrived here with a few dollars and no connections, now I have the store and this great place. I just want to share something amazing with people I enjoy.”
Looking around the spacious courtyard and admiring the custom-logo tables at the venue, it was clear to see that discovering who he truly was became the most reliable route to lasting success. As someone on a parallel path in life, I, most indubitably, can dig it.
The Vices: Man oh man the vices. I’ll be honest by saying I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I heard “Cajun low country buffet”…but from a culinary standpoint, a few cultures have carte blanche to feed me any time and Cajun is one of them.
Prepared especially for the occasion by the crew at Gringo Gourmet, the offerings themselves more than delivered…for instance, I find raw oysters downright icky (sorry beach vendors, I know walking around with those things all day must suck), but the Oysters Rockefeller shooters were an absolute treat, probably because butter and garlic.
Another star selection was the muffaletta sandwich, decked out with Italian charcuterie and finished with a deliciously piquant olive spread. There were also carefully calibrated spoonfuls of chicken, waffles, and cheesy grits on the menu, and although I had enjoyed each of these items separately, they combined into a single entity to form something greater than the sum of their parts.
Still, among a lineup of absolute hits, the pork tenderloin with praline sauce was a phenomenon worthy of special mention. The sweet glaze contrasted with the savory meat in a manner that still sings on my tastebuds right this sentence. I saw another guest sneak a to-go handful on the way out, which is probably a better and more persuasive review than I can offer with this limited word count.
Seriously, imagine carrying sticky pork in your bare hands on a warm summer day, then imagine that the inconvenience was well worth it. Suffice it to say that by the time I rolled out a few hours later with a souvenir cup of tequila and grapefruit puree in my hand, I was already excited to come back. I don’t always wake up on Sunday morning in need of rehabilitation, but when I do (and sometimes just for the hell of it) you now know where to catch me. Stay vibrant, my friends.
The Verdict: Even science backs the long-held theory that the right dietary choices the morning after high-octane revelry can greatly assist in the rejuvenation process, and although this was only a test run for inevitable future afflictions, I’m happy to report that spending a few hours at Casa de Cristobal is a highly effective cure for whatever ails. The debuting event space is set to serve as home to a calendar of special presentation from weekday lounge sessions to afternoons on the grill with great food and even better company…maybe I’ll catch you there.
Info: Agua Zarca 573, Ojo de Agua