Mexican Cuisine Rises to the Top

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The Cancún-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival celebrated with Ferran Adrià, Ingrid Hoffmann, and plenty of mezcal

Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival

Culinary stars from around the world gathered to celebrate the first ever Cancún-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival last week, where guests were invited to "taste the New World" and to discover what Mexico has to offer in terms of fine dining. It did not disappoint.

The festival, held March 15-18, kicked off poolside at The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach, where 23 chefs­­ — including Aarón Sanchez, Jacques Pépin, and Ingrid Hoffmann — offered samplings of Mexican-inspired dishes during the "Stars Tribute to Mexico" opening dinner. Guests enjoyed live music and sipped wine from U.S. producers Mondavi and Blackstone, Chile’s Casa Blanca, and (our favorite) Monte Xanic blends from Mexico.

Click here to see our sneak peak at the Cancún-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival.

Of course, everyone was clamoring to see this year’s guest of honor, iconic elBulli chef Ferran Adrià, who was toasted at a gala reception Friday evening at the Live Aqua Cancún Hotel.

Demos and tastings were held each day at the Sandos Cancún Hotel, with chefs like Normand Laprise from Montreal, Mara Salles from Brazil, and Patricia Quintana from Mexico, while Mexican sommelier Juan Carlos Flores co-hosted wine tastings with vineyards from around the world.

The ME Cancún Hotel’s Rose Bar hosted "Cancun After Dark," where "The Liquid Chef" Junior Merino and his team prepared innovative cocktail concoctions, and Saturday, the relaxed beachside atmosphere at Iberostar Hotel in Cancún was the perfect setting for "The American Express Gourmet Tasting Village," where chefs, guests, and students from Le Cordon Bleu Mexico mingled, sampling mezcal, wine, and (yes) more food!

There, The Daily Meal caught up with New York City restaurateur Drew Nieporent, who came to support Adrià as well as his partner in New York City restaurant Centrico, chef Aarón Sanchez. "From a food standpoint, Mexico is certainly up and coming," Nieporent said. "Somehow it’s been relegated to bottom of the heap, at least in America... which is why it’s important to come to these events and see the quality of the food first hand."

If you missed out, you’ll have another chance to attend the festival next year, when the Riviera Maya region will take its turn hosting the spectacular event. Salud!