Following an afternoon spent touring the Mayan ruins in Tulum, a 30-minute drive south of Playa del Carmen, I had several options when I returned to the Fairmont Mayakoba. I could go to the beach for a swim, spoil myself at the spa, or eat insects.
In retrospect, this was a no-brainer. How many chances would I get to eat bugs prepared by a chef at a Five Diamond resort?
These are no ordinary insects. Erika Montesinos, the chef at Fairmont’s La Laguna Restaurant and Lounge, told me that workers might spend a full day collecting just a handful of the worms she prepares. The escamoles, or larvae from the chicatana ant, that she sautéed in epazote, garlic and butter, are a delicacy harvested from central Mexico.
“Like Mexican caviar?” I asked.
“That’s a good name for it,” Montesinos said.
All of this comes with a caviar-like price. The appetizer sampling of ants, worms, chapulines (grasshoppers) and acociles (a crayfish species) costs $40.
The insects were made more enjoyable – and yes, I did enjoy them for the most part – thanks to sommelier Luisa Maria Salgado’s pairings with Calavera, a Mexican craft brewer. Calavera’s Dubbel nicely complemented the salty chapulines, served in a tortilla with guacamole. (Doesn’t everything taste better with guacamole?)
The Witbier brought out the rich, buttery flavor of the escamoles, which Salgada assured me are high in protein and vitamins.
They’re not just tasty, but guilt-free. You can’t say that about chicken wings.