Barbacoa de Chivo

Tacolicious and The Restaurant at ZAMAS

There are many varieties of Mexican food. You’ll often hear Californians, from San Francisco to the valley to San Diego, arguing over the most “authentic” Mexican food—which town serves up a hotter habanero or a juicier carnitas, whether a tortilla should be slightly crispy corn or stretchy flour. But what does it mean, authentic? There’s Oaxacan, Yucatecan, in some places your empanada will be made with flour and others with masa de maíz, in D.F. they’re serving up romeritos, in L.A. churros, everywhere else chicharron with Tabasco … all under the generic label “Mexican food”. But even well-traveled, well-versed Mexican food lovers (like you) rarely know whether the cheese on their torta is cotija or queso fresco or can taste if that pibil was truuuuly slow cooked for hours in a ground pit in banana leaves or, you know, not. So real talk, maybe what everyone means when they say authentic is actually just good. So let’s forget about where it comes from—Venice Beach to Veracruz, “Mexican food” is damn good.

Mexican food can be made and enjoyed by a variety of different people, in a variety of different settings, I take you to Zamas a few weeks ago when Chef Gerardo and Barman Extraordinaire Alex were paid a visit by the brains and the brawn behind Tacolicious SF. The weeks preceding their visit were filled with anticipation: a culinary salacious email correspondence included topics of sucking pig, goat, cucumber juice and habanero infusions.

The Tacolicious gang took some time off their usual SF grind, which currently includes working on opening their new restaurant in North Beach, to visit us at Zamas. Drink and eats specialists from the Bay Area, Joe, Telmo and Mike swapped secrets with our ¡Qué Fresco! kitchen and bar to churn out four days worth of deliciousness. If you don’t know Tacolicious, which you do if you’re from San Francisco, but if you don’t it’s a solid Friday night establishment on Chestnut near Fillmore to which you’ll give three hours of your life—one in trying to beat the system on the waiting list and the other two laughing and gracefully stuffing your face with friends.

Barbacoa de Chivo edited

On Telmo’s menu: suckling pig, goat BBQ and chilled avocado soup. Mike made use of local ingredients such as passion fruit and fresh coconut water and shook things up with Alex behind the bar, procuring a pineapple-habanero infused tequila that, let’s just say, we didn’t hate it.

Mike at the bar edited

With T-lish came Donnie Masterton from The Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende.
Beginning at age 15, Masterton earned his stripes as apprentice under chef David Bouley at New York’s Montrachet and it was then that he knew he was to be a chef. He went on to become Chef de Cuisine at Bice, Beverly Hills, The Hay Adams Hotel in D.C. and at the renowned Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. He moved west to Hollywood to work for Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group as Executive Chef, running the 18,000-seat Hollywood Bowl, then to the Bay Area where he opened Azie. Moving to San Miguel de Allende in 2005 was the culmination of his dream to live a simpler life. It was in the charming, much beloved artistic town of San Miguel de Allende that Donnie’s passion for food and wine evolved into The Restaurant. So if you didn’t know about Donnie, now you know.

While in Tulum, Telmo shared his passion for spear fishing with Antonio from Zamas and Mike was off on the paddleboard in the warm Caribbean surf. At home, Mike lives right near Ocean beach and goes out three times a week to catch the best waves. Donnie and his two beautiful daughters and lovely girlfriend enjoyed swimming in the ocean most days. We were so happy and proud that T-lish owner, Joe, liked Tulum and Zamas because we loved him and his team! The Tacolicious/Restaurant got on well with Zamas Chef Gerardo, who is hoping to find some time to visit them on their home turfs. Of course, GM Mara and Susan said that can only happen if they get to tag along.

Telmo y Donny edited

We’re excited to incorporate some of their ideas on our menu. The San Miguel-San Fran-Tulum-combo was a total mishmash of Mexican food and, regardless of its confused authenticity and origin, it was so good. Thanks T-lish and see you soon!

Guest Chef Series — Mike Isabella & Alicia Jenish

In the spring we announced our inaugural international chef and mixologist series. The series kicked off in March with Chef Mike Isabella, chef/owner of Graffiato and the upcoming Kapnos and G in Washington, DC. Alicia Jenish, executive chef of The Grand Cafe in San Francisco, was our guest chef in May. Mike and Alicia were kind enough to share a couple recipes with us. Enjoy!

Mike Isabella

Mike Isabella…. What can we say? What a character, what fun, what an all around good guy. Took the time from his busy schedule to wind down Tulum-style and check out our Yucatecan cocina. Shared his secrets and whipped up some wicked specials. And did we mention that Mike LOVES tacos? Lamb, pork, goat… And he is into the real food of the Yucatan – give him pig ears, pig feet, and all the rest of the animal. At the bar this guy loves his stuff strong and to the point. We have a new drink on the menu named after him, Izzy’s Margarita.


Don Julio Reposado, Mezcal Vida, Controy and lime, on the rocks, unsalted rim.

Alicia Jenish

It was such a pleasure to have Alicia Jenish at ZAMAS – she enamored us with her amazing specials and charmed us with her delightful personality. She loved the Tulum scene – the beach, the ruins, the cenotes, and swimming with the turtles. Belying her cheery deposition and colorful style, Alicia was quick to impress us with her knife skills when she butchered a 23 kilo pig in a half hour. Wow! She too is a TACO GIRL – do all chefs love meat? During her stay, she prepared some killer tortas and an awesome Pulpo Pizza. Check out her fabulous Pulpo Stew recipe that can be folded in with risotto or pasta – or used on pizza. Yum!

Pulpo Stew
1 large octopus, (about 4 pounds) cut into 1” pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups tomatoes, (canned unless it’s summer!) chopped
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons brandy
½ cup white wine

In a stainless steel pot, add the oil and heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden brown. Add tomatoes and cook until dry. Add the octopus and bay, cook until it has released its liquid and then cook till dry. Add brandy, flame and then add white wine. Simmer until the stew is tender. Cool and finish with a cup of fresh chopped parsley.

turtle mama going back out to sea

October is Turtle Time in Tulum

Turtle mamas have been laying their eggs and turtle babies are popping up everywhere on the beach in Tulum.

turtle mama going back out to sea

At ZAMAS, we’ve had five turtle nests on our beach this year and more newborns will be arriving soon.  Every time we see turtle tracks we know another turtle mama has laid her eggs.  To protect the nest, we make a stick fence around it.

ZAMAS beach report: baby turtle mama was here


You can hang out under the shelter of our large palm shades and just wait for their arrival.

Or take a night trek and watch for the arrival of other turtle-babies along the moonlit Tulum beach.

Or if big and beautiful is more your speed, take a swim with mature turtles at Turtle Bay in Akumal.

Whatever path you’s pure turtle-mania in Tulum this October.


  • Guided night trek to observe turtles hatching
  • Swim with turtles and picnic on the beach, turtle education tour
  • Beach cabaña, muy fuerte margarita, hammock


  • On-site dive shop at ZAMAS
  • Turtle & snorkel tour with cenote splash



Tulum is nesting ground for two endangered species, the Loggerhead and the Green Sea turtles. Female sea turtles return to the beach on which they were born to lay from 120 to 150 eggs; about a half dozen baby turtles will survive the treacherous journey to adulthood. These reptiles are threatened by increased disturbances and decreased sensitivity along the coast, so observe respectfully.


urtle babies hatched during the day are released at night to improve survival rate

September sunrise

Sneak Away to Tulum in September

September in Tulum is…old-school Tulum. The long lost days of a sleepy Mayan town with a few scattered tourists here and there. Cool white sand with warm, salty water enveloping your ankles as you walk down that famous long stretch of beach. The days begin in big bold sunrises and end in luscious rose-blue jungle skies. Tulum, as it used to be - a mellow, Mexican, beach town.

September in Tulum is…cenotes. Crisp and clear, these refreshing swimming holes are natural pop-up pools. Home to one of the largest underground water systems, these unique swimming holes are scattered everywhere around Tulum. There’s nothing like a cool cenote dip on a hot September day.

September sunrise

September in Tulum is…whale sharks! Yes, it’s a trek to Punta Sam (near Cancun), but once there you will be forever enchanted with these serene, elegant and powerful fish. The connection is truly spiritual. After September, these fish move on to new waters.

September in Tulum is…stars. It’s not 5-star, baby, it’s star-crazy. No big lights from big hotels or big street lamps…just big September sky. It may be star-sparkle with full moon-lit skies, or early star showers with late orange moons, or huge arrays of stardom on crescent moon nights – you can’t go wrong with a September night sky in Tulum.

September in Tulum is…local time. Time stretches out in Tulum in September. Days flow into nights into days just like a lazy wave flows over the sand. Hang with the locals while families come to the beach and men fish along the shore. Dine at ZAMAS under a starlit sky while Camilo Nu strums jazz or Andres Castani belts out some blues. Follow the after hours crowd to the local hot spot; it’s easy to mingle with bohemian ex-pats and late-night locals over ice-cold cervezas.

September in Tulum is… sweet-sea month. Frogs and crabs and pelicans along the way…there is a reunion of seaside fisherman every late afternoon. FRESH FISH!!! If there is a shortage of off-shore catch in the high season, it abounds in September… eco-fresh, eco-economy - you can eat DELICIOUS every single night at the beach after having seen your catch arrive that afternoon. Chat with the staff, mingle with the musicians, and lie on the beach under the stars… Midnight swim-it and skinny dip too… September hits the spot.

September in Tulum…is the life-reset button. It’s your first love affair, the delightful child who beckons to you, the time of magical adventure. September-Tulum is why you fell for Tulum in the first place, so treat yourself to the real thing….Tulum as it should be.

Family time