Rick Bayless is known for his cookbooks, cooking shows, and restaurant, Frontera Grill, all of which are accredited for popularizing Mexican cooking in America. So when it came time for us to visit Mexico, we immediately checked his web site for recommendations and Playa Del Carmen happens to be one his favorite places. Today we visited several of his recommendations, including Mega Supermarket and DAC Market. We were not let down.

Mega sign

Mega is a humongous superstore, if you know of Wegman’s throughout the North-Eastern United States, you’ll get the idea. It is massive.

mega

Their cheese section alone is the size of some supermarkets in Manhattan.

sausage and cold cut area

As we wandered through the store, I saw a few Kirkland-brand items on the shelves and wondered if they were owned by Costco. I checked out their parent company site, CCM (Controladora Comercial Mexicana), and discovered that in 1990 they created a joint venture with Costco, to bring their products to Mexico. Since then they have opened 31 Costcos in Mexico and 70 Mega Supermarkets. They also own many other food businesses.

liverwurst

Anyway, we enjoyed various samples, such as liverwurst with a mayonnaise-based sauce. It was too rich, even for me.

weaved queso

We almost began to drool over their huge butcher area, cheese shop (they had a braid of Queso Blanco the size of a television), and a gorgeous bakery. We noticed a bunch of very interesting items, such as oranges and limes that had been candied and hollowed out. I’m not sure what they’re used for.

sugar hollow oranges sugar hollow limes

And super bright jellos, available as-is, or in cakes.

jello

We spent the bulk of our time closely examining each and every baked good.

pan dulces

Unlike in the US, we walked around with tongs and placed our selections on a round tray, like a pizza pan. Then handed it to the clerk, who packaged them. In addition to breads, they had many types of doughnuts…

doughnuts

And, many types of pastry…

pastry

One of the custard-filled pastry was braided similarly to a Chinese style, often used with hot dogs.

pan dulces 3

Another item, a cupcake, was decorated and looked like the familiar Hostess treats.

kinda hostess cupcakes

Quite a few of the baked goods seemed to be regular breads, that were made sweet by either filling them with cream or topping them with sugar.

cream filled bread

The whole bakery was just beautiful and alluring.

breads

Perhaps the item I had the highest hopes for was a flakey pastry filled with ham and cheese and coated in fruit jam and sugar.

ham and cheese pastry

The flavor of the pastry was standard, but it was room-temperature, so the cheese solidified and was nothing special. We thought if it were heated it might be better, but there was no toaster in sight.

doughnut and sweet bread

We also felt the Dulce de Leche-topped doughnut was average and the bread with a sugar crust was nothing to speak of. Jessica mentioned preferring the Chinese bakery look alike (bualua bao) of this second item.

roll

There were croissant-shap
ed dinner rolls that tasted pretty good. I wouldn’t suggest eating them plain, although they had a light butter flavor, but if I lived nearby and was having a dinner party, these would definitely be on the table.

cilantro baguette

And finally the winner of the morning was the Cilantro Baguette. There was tons of fresh cilantro baked throughout the dough and the scent was wonderful. However, perhaps because of the baking process, the cilantro flavor was not overwhelming at all. It was perfectly balanced and totally enjoyable.

cilantro baguette 2

Plus the crumb was so moist and chewy. We loved ripping it apart and eating it. Some of it made it back to the hotel with us, where we munched on it poolside, while (at least in my head) fellow guests looked on in jealousy.

DAC market 2

Back to reality for a moment. We also stopped by DAC Market, one block from Mega, and also via Rick’s suggestion. It was a lovely, open air market with a rich selection of local goods, plus some foreign items. If you’re a chili head like me, you’ll faint at the site of their dried chili selection–cascabels the size of tomatoes! They also have a great selection of ground spices, beans, and fresh produce. I can see why anyone with a kitchen would stop here. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything for us to buy and munch on so we moved on. But not before checking out the attached smoothie stand and cookery. It looks great, but we wanted to get to La Bamba Jarocha with some room in our bellies.

posted by jessica at 05:37 PM Filed under Shopping, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.