Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Destination Wedding in Mexico: November 2008

A week in Puerto Vallerta including some great restaurants

My friends Joel and Rusty hosted a four day bash to fete their nuptials. 82 guests converged on the charming town of I, Mexico on the west coast of the country. I was fortunate to stay in a lovely reasonably priced hotel (Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas) that boasted a delicious Mexican restaurant: La Playita. Black bean soup, seafood salad, and chiles rellenos stuffed with whole pieces of lobster were delicious dishes that I consumed with glee. I must order everything WITHOUT cilantro and that posed no problem to the kitchen.

At the luxury Villas next door (Quinta Maria Cortez and Casa Tres Vidas)--we were welcomed by our hosts for breakfast each morning. In addition to the refried beans and rice and huevos rancheros was served the most delicious bacon I have ever tasted. People also raved about the sausage.

We were invited to La Palapa which is a restaurant on the city beach that has a complex of condos that can be rented for several days or weeks. We all sat at tables beach side--under umbrellas--as we were served by friendly waiters. I had the most delicious coconut jumbo shrimp in a papaya-mango sauce (from the restaurant), skewers of fresh shrimp and plates of lobster that I could buy from vendors on the beach (see photos). The restaurant also serves three different types of ceviche and I had one with passion fruit and jicama. If you want to go shopping, you don't have to move as the vendors wend their way through the people sunning and swimming on the beach. You can buy jewelry, candy, cakes, blankets, hammocks, etc. etc. It is a very colorful scene and so it is easy to spend the day watching the movement of the ocean, eating and drinking, shopping, and enjoying the atmosphere.

One night, Joel and Rusty hosted a dinner at La Piazzetta--one of their favorite Italian restaurants in the Romantic section of town. We were served a variety of delicious pastas, pizzas and antipasto. The signature drink is tequila in the form of the margherita, but I enjoyed several very good tequilas on the rocks during my week-long stay in Mexico. On another evening, 12 of us went out to Cafe Olla--also in the old Romantic section--and were delighted by the copious platters of grilled seafood and fish. That is a very popular place and one must reserve in advance. On another evening, I went to Polo's Mariscos which is an excellent seafood restaurant. The shrimp cocktail is the greatest!!. You get 12 large succulent shrimp in a light tomato juice-type sauce topped with fresh perfect slices of avocado. The dish is served in an old fashioned drugstore ice cream sundae glass. This is almost considered peasant food and can be had at any small restaurant, as the shrimp is so plentiful in that part of the world.

The wedding was a beautiful event on the beach with a truly lovely service. After the ceremony, mariachis serenaded us as we enjoyed various hors d'oeuvres (including those excellent coconut shrimp as well as mushrooms stuffed with cheese). At the Villas we had a formal sit down dinner with a choice of grilled beef or red snapper Vera Cruz style (onions, and tomatoes). Instead of the usual rice and beans, this elegant meal was served with fresh vegetables, a salad and potatoes. The wedding cake was a delicious white cake with fresh strawberries. It was difficult to remember that this was November, as the weather was hot and perfect and the food very summery.

We had two other delicious meals at the Villas--Mexican specialties (chicken chilaquiles, salsa, skewers of chicken or pollo) on one night and a delicious Mexican barbecue consisting of chicken in a spicy sauce as well as fantastic ribs. I had my share of corn and of flour tortillas too and so it was not a surprise when I returned home weighing four pounds more than when I left!! Even though there is so much fish, the food is quite starchy and it is easy to put on the pounds.

I stayed in Puerto Vallerta for a few days after the wedding as did other guests. So of course, I explored the local restaurants. I went to Polo's Mariscos on a rain evening and had great shellfish. One of the most simple things you can get is a shrimp cocktail and this one was served as a big ice-cream parlor parfait glass chock full with large succulent shrimps in a spicy red cocktail sauce. The Combo for one was unbelievable: two skewers of grilled shrimp with assorted vegetables; two of scallops with mushrooms and grilled lobster on a side plate. With this came lovely garlic bread. Being Mexico, the bill was very affordable.

Before I left, 11 from the wedding party and I went to the very popular Cafe Olla where the Seafood Combination for three consisted of baked potatoes, grilled whole lobsters, jumbo shrimps, mahi-mahi, red snapper, swordfish, rice and vegetables: truly a feast! The fish and shellfish were all very fresh and perfectly cooked.

For my last night, I dined at El Corono on Playa dellas Animas. It is a separate restaurant at the foot of my hotel. There, I had a huge burrito rolled with cheese and chicken, refried beans, rice and vegetables. Very filling but very good.

You would not be surprised to learn that after this trip with all the filling food, I came back to Paris ready to go on a diet. No more croissants for me for several months! That is the price one pays for the gourmet lifestyle.