There are many Master Chefs in the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo area, but there are also many, many women cooking in restaurant kitchens who are not professionally trained chefs. These “Cooks” learned from their mothers or grandmothers and continue to prepare foods in the traditional ways that define Mexican cuisine. They cook Mexican “soul food.”
One of these traditional restaurants and “Cooks,” is Mrs. Carmen Ayala Higuera or “Doña Carmen” of Costa Brava Seafood Restaurant in Troncones Beach, located about 25 minutes north of Ixtapa on Interstate Highway 200. Troncones Beach has a significant population of American residents and vacationers, who come for the natural sea environment and surfing that is popular in the area.
Doña Carmen is a landmark in Troncones Beach. Her family is originally from Zihuatanejo but she has lived in Troncones for almost 30 years. “Doña” (pronounced Don-ya in English) is the feminine term for “Don” and is used to address people with respect. Doña Carmen opened Costa Brava about 20 years ago and enjoys loyal customers who come back to the restaurant every year. In addition to running her restaurant, Carmen raised five (5) children. They are all almost grown now, but locals still remember seeing the kids studying their school lessons at the restaurant table. The “second generation” still waits tables and hosts the guests.
Visitors and residents of the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo area can enjoy lunch and a beautiful day on the beach and a wonderful seafood or traditional Mexican meal. Costa Brava Restaurant also has a pool and hammocks to pass the day away.
Doña Carmen shares two (2) of her favorite recipes: Seafood Platter and Tortilla Soup.
Seafood Platter (Mariscada Costa Brava) – For 4 Persons
12 Medium Shrimp
1 Fish Filet
Garlic, Salt and Black Pepper
Clean all sea foods. Cut the lobster lengthwise and top with garlic or “Mojo de Ajo”. Grill it. Sauté the octopus and shrimp in garlic and butter. Grill the fish filet with garlic and black pepper. Place rice, black beans and guacamole in the middle of a large platter. Place the steak and sea foods around the edges. Garnish with limes.
Tortilla Soup (Sopa de Tortilla)
A few Tortilla Chips
A few Salted Crackers
1 Chili Guajillo without seeds (or about 1 tbs. Chili Powder)
Manchego Cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
A petal of Onion
A clove of Garlic
Place tortilla chips, salted crackers, onion, garlic, carrots, 1 chili guajillo (without seeds!) and a little water in a blender and liquefy. Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add liquid. Heat. Add a chicken bouillon cube. Add more water if necessary. Serve soup along with little dishes of tortilla chips, cheese, cream and avocado.
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