Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

From a Los Angeles foodie: Channeling Johnny Depp

Taste the Yucatan at Chichen Itza

Channeling Johnny Depp

You never know when an email can excite your taste buds.

My neighbor Carol sent me a mouth-watering video for Puerco Pibil.

As a Johnny Depp and food fan, I sent it on to friends including Chef Annette and Karyn (of Circle of Food).

In a flash, I got back a mini-education on Puerco Pibil from Chef Annette.  “The true name is Cochinita (little pig) Pibil…A pib is the pit method of cooking by the Maya of wrapping seasoned meat in banana leaves and slow-cooking it underground.”

But even better, she mentioned, “The best place in L.A. to find true Cochinita Pibil is at Chichen Itza near USC in the Mercado La Paloma food-court.  They have it on their menu every day. They use pork butt, shoulder and cushion cuts. The beautiful color of the sauce  comes from annatto paste, not chiles as many think. There is no heat in this dish other than a chile sitting on top or a fire-roasted salsa on  the side. The banana leaves impart a subtle but incredible flavor to the dish. Their menu is authentic, 100% Yucatecan.”

I was sold. The next afternoon Carol and I drove to Chichen Itza in a freezing rainstorm, braving the flooded streets, potholes, and bad drivers.

Foodies are crazy like that.

We introduced ourselves to owner-chef Gilberto Cetina and asked for his recommendations. Starving, we said, “yes” to everything, and we were not disappointed. With bite after exotic bite, our eyes lit up, and all we could say to each other was, “OMG, and Yummmmm!” You don’t waste time talking when food is THIS good.

We were no longer in cold, wet Los Angeles. By our taste buds alone, we were transported to the sunny Yucatan where the ocean is turquoise and the achiote is brick-red. In between bites, Carol agreed that when eating exotic, you can be taken – if not “out of body” – out of L.A. (at least while the meal lasts).

I asked Carol,  “Were we channeling Johnny Depp?” and she replied (without hesitation), “Constantly.”

Photos of our savory meal can be viewed here.

Article by Deni Mosser with sharp edits by her meal companion, Carol Fuchs.

  1. Deni

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience and taste buds.

    On one of my previous trips to L.A., Chef Annette took me to Chichen Itza where I did enjoy the cochinita pibil. I wanted to transport it back to Tucson.

Leave a Reply