: Step into just about any restaurant in Puerto Vallarta or any oceanfront destination in Mexico, for that matter, and chances are you will find this delicious citrus-marinated seafood salad on the menu. Commonly served as an appetizer, ceviche is prepared by combining chunks of raw fish, sliced or chopped onion, chopped tomatoes and cilantro with limejuice.
A few minutes before the fish is finished cooking over the wood fire, the cook adds the final touch: a secret red sauce that gives the fish its special flavor. This traditional dish, which originated in the fishing region of Isla de Mexcaltitan, Nayarit, is usually prepared with pargo (sea bream), a fish that does not readily dry out when exposed to heat because of the fat content of its skin.
Cravings: Sopes & Huaraches
: As clay is transformed into amazing artifacts in the hands of a ceramist, the dough used to make corn tortillas, known as masa, can also result in these delicious traditional treats commonly found in mercados and other casual eateries throughout Mexico.
Homemade Ice Cream
: While most of us have been succumbing to this sublime favorite for eons, producing ice cream at home or in small quantities has been a labor-intensive task until recently. Smaller, electric ice cream makers that rely on small canisters that can be placed in the freezer ahead of time to facilitate production have taken the place of old-fashioned hand-cranked machines that required ice chunks and salt for cooling.
: Chayote, a staple of the traditional Mexican diet, is a member of the squash family. It has a thin, coarsely wrinkled skin fused to white flesh, with a texture that could be described as a cross between a cucumber and a potato. It can be eaten raw in salads or used in a variety of traditional recipes, including soups and stews.
: It sounded so easy! “Just soak the molcajete in water for 24 hours, scrub it clean, grind some rice until it doesn’t turn gray, and you’ll be ready to make the most delicious salsa in all of Mexico!” Traditional molcajetes (mortars) are threelegged bowls carved out of lava rock (black basalt) that are used with a tejolote (pestle) for grinding dry ingredients to make traditional Mexican salsas.
North Shore Restaurants and Their Stories
: Fervor for food, family and their special locations on the Riviera Nayarit links eight extraordinary and diverse restaurateurs who have each established unique and beloved eateries. Hailing from as far as New Zealand and as close as Vallarta, each brings distinctive experience and imparts an individual flavor, not just to the fare but to the entire dining experience.
Cravings: Candied Fruits
: Candied fruit, or fruta cristalizada as it is known in Mexico, is manufactured using the techniques imported by the Spaniards in the 1500s. A laborious process of repeatedly submerging fruits in scalding water and sugar syrup gives entirely new personalities to commonplace pleasures such as pineapples, figs, orange and lemon peel, even squash.
Best Way to Blow Your Diet: Paris Café Pâtisserie
: In the dictionary, “temptation” is a 10-letter word, but at the Paris Café Pâtisserie it is only six letters: p-a-s-t-r-y. Eric Lenoir, cafe owner and pastry chef, learned the art of pastry making as a youth, while baking at his mother’s side in Paris, France. He has worked worldwide, including being a chef in Las Vegas and Ecuador, and starring in his own TV cooking show in California.
Behind the Scenes at a Tortilla Factory
: Few things in Mexico are as emblematic and timeless as the humble corn tortilla. Made by hand since pre-Columbian times, this thin, unleavened flat bread is the star ingredient in popular dishes such as chilaquiles, enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas and tacos. The process of making tortillas has remained essentially the same since its origins. Corn kernels are soaked in limewater, causing their skin to peel.
Chiles Secos: The Essense of Mexican Salsa
: An essential element of Mexican cuisine, hot peppers, or chiles, can be used and purchased either fresh, canned or dehydrated (secos). In fact, chile seco is a term used for a broad variety of peppers that are allowed to mature and dehydrate.
: While chicken is a mainstay of many a diet, my own included, I rarely treat myself to duck, considering it a special occasion poultry. And, truth be told, when I do indulge it’s either in Peking Duck or Duck a l’Orange – not only because I love them both, but until recently they were the only duck dishes I knew!
: While it’s native to tropical Africa and an essential ingredient in several Asian cuisines, not to mention Worcestershire sauce, we like to think of tamarind as our very own. Widely popular in Mexico, tamarind grows wild in tall trees that produce 3- to 8-inch-long, brown, pea-like pods containing a soft acidic pulp and many seeds. When fully ripe, the shell becomes brittle and easily broken.
El Tuito Sound Slide Show
: This sound slide show complements our article on El Tuito, providing additional information on places to visit as well as more images. Check it out! (Sound Slide Show)
: At first glance, there is nothing particularly exciting about this rather unattractive, prickly vegetable. And yet, the unassuming cactus, or nopal as it is known locally, packs quite the star power. Native to Mexico, it was deeply entrenched in Aztec mythology, called “the plant of life” for its ability to produce a brand-new offspring from an old, dying specimen.
A Warm Salute to Inspirational Puerto Vallarta Restaurateurs
: Exemplifying the wide range of qualities required to excel in the restaurant industry, each restaurateur pictured here has contributed immeasurably to the outstanding world-class dining scene this popular resort destination enjoys.
Great Finds: Caprina Cheese Shop
: Visit the dairy section of any Puerto Vallarta supermarket and you’ll find a surprising selection of fine imported cheeses. But perhaps you’ll be more surprised to learn that you can satisfy your craving for Brie, Camembert, feta, fontina and other unique cheeses and support the local economy at the same time!
Raicilla, Mexican Elixir
: When listing Mexican drinks, tequila is sure to appear at the top; however, there’s a new spirit that’s set to beat, or at least compete closely with, tequila in terms of popularity and quality: raicilla. According to the Mexican Wine Association, raicilla is a spirited drink with a defined aroma that reminds us of the sunny and well-drained lands that give birth to the agave.
Molcajete at Your Table
: If you are looking for an authentic Mexican dining experience while visiting Puerto Vallarta, this molcajete salsa, custom made right at your own table is as close as you get to the real thing. A regular feature at Agave Grill (Morelos 589, El Centro) this salsa, served with tortilla chips or totopos, is a great way to start your meal. (Sound Slide Show)
Cravings: A Guayaba
: A very rich source of vitamin C (even more so than the ubiquitous orange), guayabas – or guavas, as they are known up north – are as delicious fresh as they are in their many widely available incarnations, from thick rolls of rich guava paste to bottled guava nectar. And since they can be harvested year round in warm climates, they are considered one of Mexico’s leading fruits.