I love food. Good food.
That is one reason living in Melaque is a bit frustrating. Most food here falls into two categories.
Category #1: Boring. Even the best of Mexican foods is handicapped by a reliance on three basic ingredients. And you can only recombine them in so many ways.
Category #2: Bad. I have had more mediocre meals in the Melaque area than anywhere else I have lived. And that includes eating in Air Force mess halls -- the unusual happenstance of a bureaucracy using a meaningful term.
About two weeks ago, I overheard a fellow diner talking about a new restaurant in town. Chez Cedric.
The name sent me spiraling into gastronomic fantasies. Pig foot with a pomegranate reduction. Veal topped with a mango-pablano-onion salsa. Lamb wrapped in sage and apricots.
How could be bad? It is Gallic.
But my fantasies were Pearl Harbored back to reality when I heard the place had one specialty: pizza.
I love pizza. I could live most of my life on pizza. But it easily falls into both the bad and boring categories here.
There are plenty of pizza joints. But they are all summed up in an expatriate’s misplaced comment: “It is almost as good as Domino’s.” And the quality descends from there.
With that in mind I headed over to Chez Cedric. And I was pleasantly surprised by the décor. I have come to expect pizza parlors north of the border to look either like bordellos or western trading posts.
Not Chez Cedric. It is spacious. Covered by an elegant palapa. And the linen-bedecked tables are spaced sufficient for the most discreet of conversations. Manned by liveried waiters clothed distinctly from the uniformed kitchen staff.
And get this. Customers are welcomed by the appropriately-attired chef-owner at the door. Charlie Trotter could not have played the role better.
The old adage that no one leaves a Broadway show humming the scenery applies just as well to restaurant ambiance. I may have chewed the scenery a bit in my life, but I was at Chez Cedric to see if his pizza could survive the Melaque curse.
The menu courses fall into three areas. Salads. Crêpes. Pizzas.
But not just any pizza. Wood-fired oven pizza. And that was what I had.
Pepperoni pizza. With a bit of a test. I have found that most pizza restaurants here are a bit distrustful when a customer asks for an additional item. Onions were mine. My waiter simply responded “certainly.” An attentiveness that would continue throughout the rental of my table.
The crust was perfect -- avoiding the usual Hobson’s choice of cardboard or congealed library paste. It was light and just crisp enough to complement an amazingly tasty and peppery pepperoni. It was not Boar’s Head. But it is the best pepperoni I have tasted in town.
And the tomato sauce was superb. As if it had been freshly made from sautéed tomatoes.
But the selling point was the cheese. Creamy without being greasy. And it had none of that chemical after-taste that haunts other pizzas.
The pizza was neither boring nor bad. Making Chez Cedric part of a short list.