A Week of Fine Dining and Weight Loss in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
It is true, and hard to believe. For almost a week I dined on irresistible food in Puerto Vallarta, certainly one of the greatest spots on the continent for excellent and varied cuisine, and came home 4 pounds lighter. Couldn’t believe it myself!
Velas Vallarta is large, a community of its own with a winding blue river connecting pools which flow through gardens, shaded by tall palms and crossed by several bridges leading to small pockets of privacy. Each room is spacious and elegant with a balcony facing the gardens and the sea beyond. Another river wanders through as well filled with huge white, gold and speckled koi that rush over to you as soon as you stop to look, ever hopeful that you came to feed them.
In the afternoon sun iguanas can be found taking shade under the trees, looking for all the world like dinosaurs fresh out of the dryer. My lovely suite came with a peacock on the railing next door. He was the first person I said good morning to, and the guy I had a night cap with in the quiet of the moon lit evening.
Our first experience of the new modern Mexican cuisine came from Casa Velas, a chef’s tasting menu under the night sky. Emeliano Restaurant for formal dining and The Ocean Club offering a creative gourmet menu on the beach. Both restaurants have innovative and varied menus with much of the fresh produce coming from their own botanical garden on site .Freda Khalo made an appearance, as did a group of at least 50 people aged from 10-60 playing modern renditions of Mexican classics. Very romantic on all fronts and I could die happily if I ate nothing but their tiny lamb chops with a secret sauce on top for the rest of my life.
Trio Restaurant is a bit of Europe in the heart of PV. The fresh ingredients that are the signature of Mexican culinary blended with Mediterranean herbs and a formal presentation. I had fork tender almond crusted lamb with a delicious pesto arugula sauce, and my friend had pan roasted red snapper with capers and lemon sauce. Both of us were delighted with our choices although perhaps a tad stingy on the sharing. Creme Brulee and Quark Cheese Mousse came with special coffees, we were a bit better about sharing those amazing treats.
The Vista Grill hanging on the side of a hill, is on a tiny street that seems impossible to navigate. You walk through the doors and onto the terrace, and you know you are in the cat bird seat looking over the city and out to sea. The view is heart stopping, and the food is up to that. Tables are set on a two level terrace offering privacy plus a front row seat as the sun disappears to the west. We were only there for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, but both were inspired modern Mexican cuisine making us wish we could stay!
La Leche has a unique approach to decor starting before you even walk in the door. All white, with black details in the form of milk cartons on shelves 20′ to the ceiling. The menu is very modern with handsome colorful fresh offerings of a wide variety that seems to jump off the plate in the all white world. I found the cuisine to be a marvelous blend of texture and spice, served in perfect proportions. Their house wines were as good, and they were happy to pair them for us. Deserts were simple and light, and then of course there is tequila.
In the course of our travels we visited several taco stands for lunch, each different and each delicious. Turns out that the reason none of them has a sign is because each one is in the same place, sometimes for decades. This location and the secret recipes to the one specialty that they make every day is passed from one generation to the next. The one I visited first had been there for 35 years, had a custom grill for warming homemade taco shells, searing shaved meat and sautéing veggies with one heat source. It was called “the Brother In Law” although nobody seemed to remember why. The food was fresh, the secret sauces came in green and red and both were distinctive, fresh and closely guarded recipes. I would tell you the red was not for the faint of heart!
There is also a kind of adventure dining in Puerto Vallarta. One of these is called Rythms of the Night. It is an almost out of body experience akin to Cirque du Soliel, but staged in the depths of the jungle. We arrived by boat after dark, and the whole of Las Caletas Cove was lit by torches with the only sound being the waves lapping on shore. Starting the gravel path from the dock I noticed a green mermaid sculpture in the shadows by a waterfall to the right. I was startled when she turned slowly and looked at me. I began watching for others, and sure enough, overhead there was a man sized iguana hanging upside down in a palm tree.All along the path were birds, lizards, and creatures in fantastic costumes visible only if you searched them out.
We climbed up the jungle floor on a path that led to a natural basin, amphitheater on one side, Mayan pyramid on the other. From high above and all around came drumming that you could feel in your bones, plus live music performed on stage as these amazing athletes performed stories revealing the history of ancient civilizations.While there were no pictures allowed during the performance, it was magically riveting, excitingly dramatic and an impressively athletic performance by all. And it left us hungry…. so down the path from this world that we had lived in for an hour and onto a candle lit terrace where a late dinner, a huge buffet of traditional Mexican choices, was served to the sound of the wind in the palms.
Another of these adventure dinners was served at Canopy River, way up in the mountains. The food was fresh and light, the tequila was made on site and delicious, and the party they throw is worth way more than the price of admission. Dinner is served high up on a terrace that give a long view through the mountains and canyons all the way to the Bay Bandaras. They grow most of their own ingredients for traditional Mexican offerings, and expect you to spend time lingering over the food, conversation and the view as the sun sets over the sea. Then the show starts. Dancing horses, mariachi’s and a festive finish with their own Cava de Oro tequila.
I had to step on the scale twice to verify that I had in fact lost 4 pounds in a week while eating fabulous food until I thought I would burst. Consider that everything the cuisine offers is still warm from the sun and so light and clean that it delivers more nutrition and flavor. So this is my new favorite diet plan, and I plan to return often until I can wear a bikini again!
Rythm of the Night Adventure: erenteria@Vallarta-adventures.com
Velas Vallarta: hotelcasavelas.com
Canopy River: CanopyRiver.com.mx
La Leche Restaurant: Lalecherestaurant.com
Trio Restaurant: Triopv.com
Vista Grill: VistaGrill.com