Eating Your Way Around the World at Puerto Vallarta's Festival Gourmet International

Eating Your Way Around the World at Puerto Vallarta's Festival Gourmet International

Something spectacular is happening south of the border; a gastronomic explosion of international dimensions that is attracting worldwide attention to the charming town of Puerto Vallarta. Long known for its beaches, the city is now one of the most respected culinary locations in the country outside of Mexico City. Besides world-class beaches and Mexican fare, there are many restaurants of note—each representing a unique ethnic and culinary tradition—raising the bar to outdo the other in ambiance, cuisine and welcoming vibes.

festival gourmetPhoto Credit: Michael Reiss

Although the gastronomic scene is available year-round, perhaps the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta might be in the month of November, when the Festival Gourmet International celebrates food's primal power to bring people together. This year oenophiles and gourmands enjoyed an unsurpassed experience of gastronomy, wine and spirits during the annual celebration which took place from November 13-23. This year, 29 of the most renowned restaurants in town each invited a guest chef to partner with their local ones. The guest chefs share their expertise with the kitchen staff and compose unique festival menus to highlight their joint efforts.

festival gourmetPhoto Credit: Michael Reiss

Each day and evening during the festival, the program included special events starting with the kick off “Gourmet Village Grand Opening Gala” held oceanside at The Westin Resort & Spa. Here, 58 chefs from four continents and 11 countries wow over the crowd with tasty tidbits from seafood ceviche to seared foie gras with cocktails and sips of world-class wines including many exemplary Mexican vintages. The night is topped off with live music and dazzling fireworks.

festival gourmetPhoto Courtesy of La Palapa

Besides the special menus available throughout the festival, each evening highlighted a specific chef and winemaker over dinner" where creative courses, select wines and entertainment are featured. Among the most popular things to do at the fest is the Progressive Dinner where diners can restaurant hop to some of the finest tables in town all in one night. Start out at La Palapa, which is a quintessential beach hut by day and by night, the seductive sounds of tropical jazz invite you to listen, linger and enjoy the savory cuisine at one of Vallarta's most popular restaurants. You can also dine on the sand with the waves gently splashing in the background or feast under the open-air thatched roof hut—all aglow with candles and amber light.

festival gourmetPhoto Credit: Michael Reiss

Some of the other choice dining options included fare from local Chef Perez who prepared tropical Mexican favorites using fresh ingredients and international spices. Invited Chef Steyn from Switzerland creatively served Black, Squid-Ink Ceviche with accompaniments reminiscent of the seashore, a dish designed to impress all the senses and wow his guests.

Over at Trio, a restaurant located in a colonial townhouse, we enjoyed an open courtyard and rooftop terrace in the heart of old Puerto Vallarta. Trio is a visual and culinary delight! From the masterful skills of two European chefs, Bernhard Guth from Germany and Ulf Henriksson from Sweden, comes Mediterranean-inspired recipes executed with confidence and flair. The beet salad is paired with a Mexican white blend that complements the richness of the local goat cheese and moderates the acidity of the salad.

festival gourmetPhoto Credit: Michael Reiss

Then guest Chef Henriksson prepared Butter Poached Salmon and Pumpkin Three Ways. This melt-in-your mouth dish, paired with a Zinfandel blend from Mexico left us entranced and ready for more as the Progressive Dinner moved on to the River Cafe. This restaurant sits on the banks of the Rio Cuale, where guest Chef Marcos Fulcheri from Argentina prepared a hearty lamb dish.

The culminating course for the evening was dessert served at Café des Artistes. Chef Thierry Blouet, who is one of the festival organizers, presented his guest Chef Carlos Gaytan from Chicago: a guacamole crema and buñuelos (Mexican sweet and crispy fried dough balls). It comes served as an amuse bouche with a stunning trio of shared desserts, a cascade of petit fours and a premium tequila tasting all accompanied to the sounds of live piano.

festival gourmetPhoto Credit: Michael Reiss

While catching your breath and building up an appetite between events, there is plenty to see and do in the city. Relax pool and ocean side at any of the many luxury lodging options from The Westin Resort & Spa in Marina Village to the private villa, Casa Tres Vidas in the exclusive Concha Chino area of Puerto Vallarta.

You can indulge in a signature treatment at the Ohtli Spa, the largest facility in town and one of the most recognized in Mexico. While rejuvenating at the spa located at Casa Magna Marriott, book a tequila tasting or cooking class expertly conducted by Sommelier Audrey Formisano. Or take in a walking or food tour of the old, downtown district to experience the lore of bygone days and taste the heart and soul of Puerto Vallarta. No matter what you choose to do, you won't want to miss next year's event. Your stomach will thank you.

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