Sometimes in this life, as strange as it sounds, you get to go eat places that you don’t even get to go eat. That’s pretty much what happened last night, when I went to Cozumel on the Mexican Caribbean for a couple hours – by way of Chef Peter Laufer and his Table One right at the Hotel InterContinental on the traffic-snarled 610 Loop in Houston. You might say, we all pretended we were on the beach at a sister resort in Cozumel - perhaps no one pretending more than Chef Peter, who actually had to work this gig.
The disconnect was pretty extreme: six of us sitting in the tiny room off the InterCon’s busy kitchen (as a banquet for 600 trundled ahead somewhere that seemed far away). Though Table One is no Caribeno Palapa (pictured above), the Houston chef did his best to transport us by way of his food. We also got to swap war stories with two essential representatives of the Cozumel resort – Swiss-born GM Henry Walther, plus his Guadalajara-born director of sales and marketing, Martha Paredes. The menu carried us through tortilla chips with fresh salsa and guacamole, ceviche, a very classed-up version of tortilla soup, snapper roasted in banana leaf with guajillo sauce, and a dessert letting arroz con leche share a plate with fresh tango and a super-crispy sopaipilla.
And while it seemed an even longer leap of faith and food, we talked about the resort’s own edition of Alfredo di Roma. Years ago, I became friends with a polished but now-deceased gentleman named Guido Bellanca, who had somehow talked the heirs of Alfredo’s in Rome (that’s right, the place that invented fettuccine Alfredo in 1914, only to see it bastardized almost everywhere) into letting him open the real deal in New York City and in the World Showcase at Disney’s EPCOT. Someday, when I actually make it to the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa in person, I won’t only feast on chips and salsa, ceviche, tortilla soup, snapper roasted in banana leaf and some kinda tropical dessert. I already have my order in for some fettuccine that Alfredo di Lello would recognize as his own.