Coming from Vancouver, a Canadian city with a large population of health-conscious, active folk, I was happy to discover the same type of community here in Playa del Carmen. There are local eco-labs producing biodegradable skin and hair care products. Weekly farmers markets pop up around the city with vendors offering regional superfood products, honey, and fresh home baked goods. New health food stores are appearing more and more around town. There are plenty of vegan eateries and vegetarian menu options if that’s your lifestyle of choice.
Although there are no mountains to hike, there are miles and miles of white sand coastline to wander along. Playa is a small enough city to get around on a bike, which is the transportation method of choice for many. Palm-fringed golf courses, tennis courts, soccer fields, pools and open-air yoga palapas are bustling with adults and children of all ages. The endless summer climate makes it nearly impossible to not take advantage of the great outdoors.
As far as Playa del Carmen has come in recent years in the way of health products and services offered, finding a large selection of organic products in one location has been a challenge...until now. ArtHumus in Plaza Paseo Coba on Aviation Avenue celebrated its grand opening at the end of June to much fanfare.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with founders David and Ana Paula in the intimate French restaurant and wine bar. With so much happening within the modern, yet cozy bistro setting of ArtHumus, I was eager to explore their intriguing business concept. Over a glass of organic white wine, I learned how they managed to so successfully entwine their love for quality French cuisine and wine with their passion for the arts and sustainable living.
Juanita: How long have you been in Playa del Carmen and why did you choose Playa?
David: Our family moved from France two years ago. I came here almost 15 years ago on vacation and fell in love with the area. We were ready for an adventure and I convinced Paula to move here and begin our next chapter.
Juanita: What are your backgrounds?
Paula: I am an artist of fine art and I study permaculture.
David: I have worked in different industries throughout the years, but have spent over a decade in the restaurant business. During that time, I learned every aspect from service to the art of preparing French cuisine.
Juanita: What inspired your vision for creating a place like ArtHumus?
Paula: As I began a study of permaculture, it lead to a fascination with nature as well as a desire to live a sustainable, organic lifestyle. Our family has eaten mainly organic for six years now.
David: When we moved here, we met many people who had chosen the same path as we had, but noticed that there were not many places in Playa del Carmen that provided organic products. Paula first began contemplating the idea for creating a space where organic products were easily accessible and where our like-minded community could gather. Together we designed ArtHumus which serves our original purpose, while also introducing good quality French cuisine at a reasonable price.
Paula: It was important to us that our children grow up with a consciousness of the environment and healthful living. Our two daughters are involved in every way possible.
Juanita: What would you call ArtHumus if you were to clarify it for the public?
Paula: This concept is very difficult to fit into one box. Our ideal image is a holistic meeting place with a European flare.
Juanita: What does the term slow cooked mean?
David: Slow cooked food simply means everything is made from scratch. None of the ingredients used come from a package or have been processed.
Juanita: Can you explain what permaculture is?
Paula: Permaculture is a method of agriculture which integrates human lifestyle with nature in its very basic, natural form. The goal is to create and maintain highly efficient, self-sustaining ecosystems. Organic seeds that have not been modified in any way are key in this method.
Juanita: What can visitors expect to find here?
David: ArtHumus is a slow food French restaurant and organic wine bar. In the store, we receive organic produce every Thursday. Our shelves are stocked with a variety of practical organic products such as general cleaning products, toiletries, teas, cheeses and yogurts, natural snack products, baking supplies, skin care, clothing, seeds and yoga gear. Also, we carry a line of natural pharmaceutical products including essential oils and vitamins.
Paula: Towards the rear of the space is a library and meeting room decorated with pieces of artwork by various artists that both Playenses and visitors to Playa deserve to enjoy and purchase, if they so choose. As well, I have included a few of my own treasured paintings in the theme. At the very back is a lounge space with a sofa seating area and tables that is perfect for a group. Also, we have teamed up with the yoga and meditation studio next door, as our clientele tend to share the same interests.
Juanita: Where do your products come from? How much is locally sourced?
Paula: 95% of our products are made in Mexico. Our organic backpacks and lunch kits come from the States. Our wines come from other countries as Mexico produces very few organic wines and they are very expensive.
Juanita: Where does your organic wine come from?
Paula: It comes from the United States, France, Australia, and Spain.
Juanita: Who came up with the menu? What are the top dishes you would recommend?
David: Paula came up with the entire concept, then I designed the menu. There is a ‘Menu del Dia’ that changes everyday. This is important because the dishes are of the freshest quality and it allows us to use what is in our kitchen, creating less waste. All of our recipes have been passed down from three generations back. The mission is to provide traditional French cuisine. However, at times it is difficult to find all of the ingredients, so we are challenged to evolve and to work with what is available. This requires that I stretch my creativity and inventiveness with the recipes, which makes it fun - adding a twist to the traditional.
Our Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon and quiche are popular items.
Juanita: I think this is a great initiative that provides people with an accessible platform from which to link to resources that aid in creating whole and sustainable existences. Are you involved in any other community programs?
David: We are proponents of the slow cooking movement.
Paula: Little by little, initiatives like this are coming to Playa del Carmen. We have encountered a large percentage of locals who think like we do. So we plan to host conferences on permaculture here, inspire people to cultivate their own gardens. We have a growing library of reading material on this subject so people can educate themselves on permaculture.
Juanita: What are you passionate about?
David & Paula: French food, nature, art, holistic, sustainable living and providing a place where people can convene and have a delicious, healthful experience.
ArtHumus is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m.to Midnight, Sundays from 2 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. It is on the south end of the city between the two north entrances of Playacar on Aviation Road. For reservations, call (984) 593-6738 or if you would like more information visit arthumus.com.
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About the Author
Juanita grew up in a small town in the middle of Canada. Having experienced twenty years of ruggedly cold climate, she had seen enough snow to last her a lifetime. After moving to and working in Vancouver for thirteen years (where she was ecstatic to see the odd palm tree) she jumped at the opportunity to move with her husband and three children to Playa del Carmen. She calls it a ‘dreamy existence’ and cherishes year-round, backyard barbecues with friends, road trips and watching the sunrise over the Caribbean. She writes for Bric Vacation Rentals.