By Brad Liski
“Try mine!”; “You have to taste this.”; “Are you kidding me?”; “What is that?” “Amazing!” The first bites, and looks, are always a cause for comment. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems that when we sit down at a table to break bread, we all become one group and beam with excitement about what is placed in front of us. Maybe it is simply that the culinary experience ties us together. Culinary travel seems to be a hot topic of an activity that spans the test of time. Since the first explorers, experiencing local food and drink have been a must-do for every traveller. And like many other activities, Canadians stand apart in our desire to try new foods. We travel the globe looking for unique experiences, authentic cuisine and local beers, wines and spirits! I have been blessed to travel many places in this world and I still find something special about eating the local food and drinking the local specialties. The one part of the world that stands out for me though is Mexico, and specifically my latest trip to Riviera Nayarit.
We had a whirlwind itinerary for the four days of my trip, and as I look back on it now, every meal we stopped to eat, time seemed to halt. I think that can be said for all travellers. Time away from the regular life sometimes feels like a whirlwind in itself, but when you sit down to have a meal, a sense of calm takes over. Well at least it does until you find out what that word on the menu really means. But in that comes the laughter and sense of adventure. I could write for days on the specifics of each bite over my trip, but words cannot do them justice. The images are much more powerful and if you are reading this on your iPad or computer be sure to check out the videos.
Our first day took us to the Sunday market in La Cruz, just north of Nuevo Vallarta. Open every week around 10 a.m., this market is popular for locals and travellers. As we enter the far end we pass fresh produce, cheese, meats and even gluten-free baking! The colours, textures and tastes are mouth-watering and merely tempt us as we make our way to the food area. Impossible to miss, you are pulled towards the barbecues and grills. The options are vast but I find myself deciding on a pork sausage in a bun. Seasoned to perfection along with morning-picked lettuce and tomatoes and a sauce that is spectacular. The first bite crunches through the soft bread and grabs the meat, mixing the flavours perfectly as if designed to cause this effect. Market food will never be the same for me.
The next day, we head to Punta de Mita. Nothing ends an amazing morning of whales, birds, snorkeling and paddle boarding, like local Mexican lunch at a great beach-side restaurant called Mariscos Tinos. In Mexico, like many other countries, each region has their unique foods and drinks. This time we were focused on the drink. I’ve tried Mezcal and I have definitely tried Tequilla, but here I was introduced to Raicilla. And it was fantasic. Another Agave plant spirit it has a uniqueness that you must try, but if you plan to do activities in the afternoon, you may want to stop at two...or three.
Day three took us adventure seeking in the small surf town of Sayulita. The morning was set for ATVs and the afternoon was ziplines, so we knew a good hearty lunch would be in order. After parking the van in a lot that appeared to be someone’s yard, we walked along a bridge through a kitchen and on to a patio overlooking the beach. Don Pedro’s was one of those places you read about. An amazing, low-key, casual surf-side restaurant with fantastic food. I dined with a family from Canada and watched the faces of the kids as the meals came out. Pizza with local seafood and fresh vegetables, and they loved it! I couldn’t resist ordering three different starters so I could really dig into the fresh seafood. It was fresh alright, tentacles and all, but the taste was breathtaking. Prepared to perfection, this little restaurant’s chef knew what he was doing.
On our fourth day, I wanted to go even more local and that took us to Bistro Organico Cielo Rojo in San Pancho (aka San Fransisco). Organic, local, fresh. We had a breakfast I will never forget. With less than 10 tables in the entire outdoor restaurant, of course the one beside us had Canadians. While we waited for the chef to bake his to-order scones, we chatted with our fellow Canucks. They explained how they always eat here and it is always amazing. The herbs are grown along the wall three metres from the table. All the ingredients come from the locals of the town and the flavours confirm the freshness. Another must do.
Now that my mouth is watering just from the memory of these meals, I find myself craving another trip to Mexico. I fully respect how the explorers of the past sought out these new taste experiences, and I completely understand how Culinary Travel is a key to the industry today. Enjoy every bite!