For Houstonians used to air-conditioned everything, the Yucatan can come as a shock. Especially when you happen to be visiting when the average temperature is more than 100 degrees and humid in a way even we mavens of mugginess couldn't imagine. Picture walking through simmering molasses and you'll get the idea.
Most businesses in Merida, the capital of and largest city in the Yucatan, have a fan at best to cool down customers. It's the visitor's job, then, to find places throughout the day to cool down. Museums are fairly reliable sources of AC, and we especially liked the Museum of the City of Merida, conveniently located just across the street from the rough-and-tumble Mercado Lucas de Galvez, a sprawling market selling everything from live poultry to giant aguas frescas to watch batteries.
But the best way to keep cool is to make frequent snack stops. Not far from Palacio Canton, the elegant turn-of-the-century home that hosts the Museo Regional de Antropología, it's not easy to miss the candy pink exterior of Rosas & Xocolate. The boutique hotel is pricy, shocking for Mexico, really. But even budget travelers will have no problem footing the bill for snacks.
Our crew started with aguas and cervezas, then shared a plate of panuchos, perhaps the Yucatan's most common antojito. They're similar to tostadas, but the tortilla that serves as a base is stuffed with puréed beans. At Rosas & Xocolate, they get an upscale lift with a thick blanket of shredded duck atop the tortilla, along with fresh lettuce, avocado and pickled onions.
But the real reason to visit Rosas & Xocolate are the very words that form its name. There are a number of chocolate treats on the dessert menu, but only one also makes use of the flower that even lends its color to the walls. In the U.S., molten chocolate cakes are slowly being retired as a vestige of the late '90s and early '00s, along with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. But they became popular for a reason, a fact of which we're most clearly reminded when they burst as readily with high-quality dark chocolate as the version at Rosas & Xocolate.
The saucy center melts with intensely, honestly flavored rose sorbet. There are drops of rose gel, too. A single, crystallized rose petal crowns the cake. The tangy berry coulis at the top of the plate? Avoid it. It's neither rose nor chocolate. And we can think of few things to better prepare a group of Houstonians to return to the fire of the Merida streets than this gustatory equivalent of a spa treatment.