Puerto Vallarta: Ceviche
Is Just the Beginning
Mr. Concepcion, with his deep wrinkles and sun-leathered skin, has the look of a content and patient man. Most days you’ll find him on the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s seaside walkway with a million dollar view. He sells tuba, a refreshing mixture of purified water, apples and walnuts. Or is it pecans, coconut water and strawberries? He won’t say.
The recipe is known only to himself and his wife. Each morning they rise early to mix the day’s batch, sometimes as many as 500 servings. Tuba tastes like fruit water but its silky smooth texture strikes me as unique. And yes, I’d like another!
Next stop is Taqueria El Cunedo, a 45-year-old taco stand in the Zona Romantica as the old town is called. Don’t expect a menu because they only offer one thing: carne asada tacos.
Specialization is a key to successful street dining in Puerto Vallarta. “Beware of vendors who offer everything!” I’m warned. “Be sure to go where there are plenty of Mexicans”.
It’s rare that I trust street food anywhere, never sure of what risk I might be taking, but today I’ve encountered a machete’-wielding man hacking coconuts under a palm tree, sampled fresh tortillas at a neighborhood tortilla factory, and entrusted my palate to a bustling family operation serving the local steak specialty called birria.
Vallarta Food Tours is the brainchild of Lindsey Prime, an enthusiastic American expat living in Mexico. Her love of local street food and Mexico itself prompted her to create a food tour in 2011.
“This is significant in Mexico,” says Lindsay, “because people are unsure of where they can eat and if they will get sick. Most people want to try a street taco but have no idea which one, where to go, what to order and therefore miss a lot of the really amazing food here.”
Each locale she works with has been interviewed and vetted with multiple quality assurance tastings (nice work, huh?).
The cost of the tour is $49 per person and I think relevant to note that each vendor is paid their retail prices, testimony to Mexico’s low costs and Vallarta Food Tour’s commitment to supporting them.
El Guero Cevicheria
Without the tour’s guidance, I would have wandered by the tiny El Guero Cevicheria, operated by Antonio and Cecelia, whose families have been in the fishing and seafood industries for generations.
Antonio’s day begins before dawn in the fish market. He won’t reveal his ceviche recipe other than to tell me it’s always made with high quality mahi-mahi or red snapper, minced vegetables, and lime, topped off with a slice of ripe avocado. It is utterly fantastic!
It’s not just the street food that is so fantastic; there are plenty of established restaurants to choose from. Restaurants such as the wildly popular No Way Jose, serving authentic Mexican fare under on the rooftop terrace decorated with paintings of local artists; there’s the upscale Trio Restaurant run by two Europeans offering expertly prepared continental fare, or there’s Gaby’s where the tortilla soup is not to be missed!
Burton and Liz
In the 1950s and 1960s Puerto Vallarta was a small fishing village. That changed after the filming of “The Night of the Iguana” and Elizabeth Taylor’s then-scandalous affair with Richard Burton. It has since become home to significant number of expats, artists, and gays without losing its small town appeal.
What’s not to like? Fantastic weather, beaches galore, an abundance of fine eateries and upscale art Puerto Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens.galleries. The city has a “melting pot” feel and embraces its expat and gay communities. You’ll find gay tours or gay bar hopping, boutique gay hotels, and you’ll meet artists and expats who run businesses.
This greatly affects the welcoming atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta. If your Spanish is rusty you’ll have no trouble communicating in English or paying with American or Canadian dollars.
The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens sits on 20 acres of lush mountainside just 30 minutes away. Founded in 2005 by Americans Bob and Betty Price, the garden conserves and displays native plants with a significant focus on the hundreds of orchids native to Mexico’s western coast.
There is a lovely simplicity here. Many of the plants are casually displayed in groupings of mismatched pots, orchids grow out of tree bark or appear to dangle in the air, just as irregular as Mother Nature intended.
Although a small garden by some standards, it’s big on natural beauty. Numerous trails and a river walk allow visitors to observe orchids in their natural environment, surrounded by the forest’s silence. The restaurant serves up drinks and a wonderful lunch on the veranda.
What better way to end our visit than a sailing tour with Vallarta Adventures? Their sunset sail should be referred to as Vallarta Relaxation! We boarded and headed to Banderas Bay as cocktails were mixed.
Visiting the marina before our sail gave us time to wander around ogling the serious, sleek yachts in the harbor which in turn is surrounded by elegant condo complexes, everything in shades of white and blue.
There are about a dozen of us waiting to board our Beneteau sailboat which is no less elegant, albeit smaller than the yachts we’ve seen. The Vallarta Adventures crew is going to make sure we relax Mexican style; appetizers and drinks appear from the fully provisioned bar below deck.
Ahead is the wide, open sea; behind is a cityscape tucked against a purple mountain range – the Sierra Madre. The wind whips the sails, gulls watch from above, and laughter trails back to those of us sitting under the canopy.
For the next two hours as the sun begins to set and darkness settles in we experience Puerto Vallarta from the unique perspective of the Pacific waters.
We were wooed by reliably warm breezes and a spectacular sunset. There’s plenty of chatter, new friends, and romantic moments. Good night Puerto Vallarta.
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