A trip from New York to the Riviera Maya more than six years ago inspired Eric Werner and Mya Henry to pack up their lives and move to Tulum, where they opened Hartwood, a radically different kind of Mexican restaurant that that highlights the native ingredients of the Yucatán through simple, elemental preparations.
Eric and Mya tell their story in a new book, Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán. It retraces the path of their journey to Tulum, from the first moment they realized they wanted to make Mexico home to the the process of building the restaurant and eventually becoming an integral part of the community.
Everything at Hartwood is done the unconventional way, from the hand-delivered, hand-chipped ice for cocktails to the spear-caught daily catch that’s served every evening, and isn’t realistic for the home cook. Eric knows this, so he and Mya adapted the recipes to be suitable in a home kitchen.
“At home, most people don’t have a wood-burning oven. But you have other options: you could cook the food entirely on the grill; you could grill over wood and then complete the dish in a preheated conventional oven,” he has said of the book. “Or if you don’t have a grill, turn up the burner on your range: use a well-oiled cast iron skillet brought up to a high temperature so that it gives a nice sear to what you’re cooking.”
The couple’s favorite recipe in the cookbook is a jicama salad that’s served with oranges and mint crema. “Our plot of land had a 20-foot-long wild jicama vine, and we’ve been making the Jicama Salad since before the restaurant actually opened,” Eric says. Another one of his go-to recipes is the Lentil and Papaya Salad with Lime and Honey Vinaigrette, a simple, delicious and healthy combination that plays the fresh flavors of papaya and grapefruit against earthy lentils and amaranth leaves.
See more about Hartwood in our video below, and check out all of our stories and recipes from the restaurant.