Flavors

Fresh Grouper

Fresh Michigan Blackberries

    The first Michigan Blackberries of the season.

 

Since I was young, I drew culinary inspiration from myriad sources–many of them random. I loved to read menus in hotel phone books when I traveled, marveling over descriptions of foods I could envision from the photos and short explanations. I read cookbooks like some read romance novels, paying less attention to amounts than combinations of ingredients, flavors, tastes. I’m no good at physics or chemistry, but the alchemy of flavor fascinates me.
The internet has given me such an array of resources that I’m somewhat overwhelmed and find myself going back to hard copy cookbooks for inspiration.
Instagram has provided a wealth of photographic ideas, along with descriptions of ingredient lists that are wonderful guides.
So much of cooking is about experimentation and improvisation. Listening to your senses.
When I read ingredient lists, it teaches me what flavors other chefs are putting together, what might work, and ways I might take both traditional and original flavor pairings and make them my own.
Environment can also be a huge inspiration for cooking. When I’m in Michigan in summer, I have lots of fresh fruit and garden vegetables to inspire meals. Michigan winters make me improvise with available produce–carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, rutabagas–that my father keeps in his cold storage. In California, I came across tiny veggies in the grocery store that delighted me. I’d never seen anything like them, and they prompted a delicious white bean and sautéed squash soup. On Isla, I have fresh seafood to glory in. Look around and see what’s local, and fresh–let those ingredients be your guide.

This post’s purpose is to inspire. My travels between Michigan, Isla, and California have afforded culinary experiences I wouldn’t have believed possible a year ago.

If you’re inspired to cook and experiment, or have questions, please share in the comment section. I love to talk food. ❤️

Fresh Grouper
Fish Market Fresh Grouper that made the most delicious sushi and ceviche.
Fish Market Fresh Grouper
It doesn’t get any better than watching your fresh caught grouper get filleted, Caribbean-side.
Fresh grouper
Homemade sushi with ahi tuna and fresh grouper from our local fish market!
Poc Chuc Chicken and Ribs
This Poc Chuc Restaurant is just down the road from us. It’s cheap, has delicious sides, and the grilled meat is smokey and full of flavor. Yummm.
Fresh Shrimp and Fish
Lolo Lorena’s elegant fresh shrimp and fish with a creamy sauce made from shrimp broth reduction.
Gravlax
Lolo Lorena’s gravlax with goat cheese and tomato water.
Grilled Chicken Avocado Salad
Salads are a thing in my family–and they’re one of my favorite foods. I crave them.
This salad is made with Bibb lettuce, avocado, grilled chicken, bean sprouts, roasted sunflower seeds/pepitas, and blue cheese.
Sliders
Slow Down Sliders–one of our favorite island meals!
Fresh Michigan Blueberries
Fresh Michigan Blueberries!
Homegrown Veggies
Part of Papa Mills’ beautiful garden.
Homegrown Broccoli
I’m blessed with a daddy who raised us on homegrown vegetables. Thank you Papa Mills.
Homemade Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Homemade Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Mamma loves to make cookies (and eat them, but only in the morning because chocolate keeps her up at night).
Homemade Lasagna
Mamma Mills’ Homemade Lasagna with garden ingredients. Home ❤️
Homemade Angel Food Cake
Mamma Mills made Grandma Harkness’ Angel Food Cake recipe for my birthday. My favorite.
Garden-Fresh Dinner
My birthday dinner this summer: Mills Salad and two kinds of lasagna. Wow.
BBQ Chicken
This BBQ Chicken place around the corner from our casa sells a whole chicken, black bean soup, pasta soup, noodle salad, and sauces for 150 pesos out the door–roughly 7 dollars. So. Good. Before he packs up your chicken he adds extra BBQ sauce and caramelizes them on the grill a few moments longer. Yes.
Fresh Shrimp Cocktail
Ryan loves to make fresh shrimp cocktail and I love to eat it. We can’t find horseradish down here, so we ask friends to pirate it to us!
Mar Bella Pulpo Diablo
Delicious Mar-Bella Octopus grilled with a red diablo sauce and served on a bed of arugula.
Avocado Toast
Chef Nick’s avocado toast. The flavors here are fresh, versatile, and perfectly balanced.
Chef Nick's Cream of Corn Soup
Chef Nick’s cream of corn soup–it tasted like the essence of late-August Michigan summer sweet corn.
Strawberry, Pecan, Blue Cheese Salad
Ryan loves sweet/savory salads. Fresh strawberries, Bibb lettuce, blue cheese, candied pecans, and a maple-balsamic reduction. Yum.
Fresh Lemons and Plumeria
Fresh lemons and lemon yellow plumeria from Ryan’s mom’s yard in California. Swoon.
BBQ, leftovers, and good wine
Delicious BBQed ribs, grilled pineapple, fresh cornbread with Yucatán honey butter, sweet potatoes and coleslaw. Yep.
Chili peppers and sungold tomatoes
California fresh chili peppers and sungold tomatoes, which are my favorite. I eat them like candy.
Skirt steak and chimichurri
Perfectly medium rare skirt steak with chimichurri sauce.
Snacks and Wine Tasting in Arroyo Grande
Snacks and Wine Tasting in Arroyo Grande–after going for a motorcycle ride of course 😉
In and Out Burger and Animal Fries
My first In and Out Burger with Animal Fries in LA. Oh yeah.
Grandma Walters' Homemade Lemon Meringue Pie
When we visited her in California, Grandma Walters made us homemade Lemon Meringue Pie from her lemon trees.
Seafood platter
This photo is way too dark, but I had to give credit to the amazing seafood and especially the BC oysters we ate on our California trip.
Tiny pineapple
I’ve never seen a pineapple like this…California…☺️
California Roll
This dressed up Tiger Roll was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Seaweed Salad
Seaweed Salad–one of my all time favorite foods. It’s a green/texture thing.
Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
Roscoe’s Chicken and waffles with a side of candied yams. The yams were like eating the best pie ever.
Tiny Veggies and Fresh Citrus
All the citrus was picked fresh and the tiny veggies I couldn’t resist at the grocery store. I made a delicious bean and sautéed baby squash soup with them.
The North Garden's Tuna Tostada
I’ve learned to love the tuna tostada living in Mexico, and at Isla’s beautiful and delicious North Garden Restaurant, they serve one of the best I’ve had.
The North Garden's Shrimp Tacos and Steak Sandwich
One of the best meals I’ve had on Isla, these shrimp tacos from  The North Garden with grilled cheese, poblano peppers, corn, and a smokey salsa and Ryan’s steak sandwich carried the day.
The North Garden's Lobster Tamal
This beautiful breakfast of blue corn tamale and lobster served with salad, grilled corn and an overeasy egg is delicious and such a lovely contrast of colors and flavors. Another win from The North Garden!
North Garden's Walnut Pecan Eggs Benedict
Can’t say enough about how tasty this Eggs Benedict was–The North Garden again. Isla’s restaurants have taught me how versatile this dish really is. 
Chef Nick's Salt Cured Veggies
Not only is this dish beautiful, but the salt cure makes you want to eat the radish, carrot, and beets like potato chips. Chef Nick of Madera truly knows flavor. #inspiring

Author: Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer/writing consultant/English Professor/Creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula living on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

1 thought on “Flavors”

  1. OMG…got our tummys growlin’ over here! You’re bean and squash soup sounds yummy! I make a white bean soup with chicken broth, Spicy italian sausage, kale and fresh sauteed garlic.😊

    Love your stories girl!!

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