If you're a foodie seeking a gastro-oriented all-inclusive resort retreat, then Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta is for you. As one of the many properties in the lauded Velas Resorts portfolio, I was truly impressed with this particular location's continual efforts to keep its culinary options interesting and innovative. Indeed, this adults-only luxury boutique resort is helping set new and noteworthy standards in the all-inclusive realm at large.
I had the pleasure of dining with Luis Angarita, Casa Velas' General Manager, who spoke about what sets the resort apart from others in the region. He underscored that, more than anything else, Casa Velas prides itself on providing top-notch service at every level of the operation. "Food, creativity and presentation [are] comparable to top restaurants in world capitals," Angarita boasted. "Name your favorite specialty cuisine—Mexican, French and Italian—it's exquisitely prepared by award-winning chefs. Everything, from unlimited food and wines to premium beverages, in-suite service, and even gratuities and tax, are part of the all-inclusive daily rate."
With its on-site gourmet restaurant, Emiliano (one of only two restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta that have earned the AAA Four Diamond award), guests are treated to unlimited access to high caliber cuisine for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 24/7 in-suite service. Beverages at Casa Velas are equally progressive, with fun nightly events like wine pairings, and tequila, mescal and martini tastings.
Salmón en salsa de maracuya
Gourmet Tasting Menus
In addition to its regular menu, Emiliano also extends six different five-course meals (a new one each evening) that are masterminded by head chefs from Casa Velas' sister property, the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Menus draw from all three of their AAA Four Diamond restaurants: Frida, Piaf and Lucca. These menus rotate each evening and run for a week, starting with a French tasting menu and martini tasting hour on Sundays led by Piaf's head chef. On Monday, Lucca's Italian-Mediterranean sampling and wine pairing takes center stage.
Tuesdays and Thursdays feature an extra special treat as 20 guests are invited to a private "dinner with the chef." Here, Chef Eliseo Ibarra Ramos prepares a special menu while television cooking personality, Yolanda Yanar, gives step-by-step explanations on the menu's preparation. Wednesdays, Frida's head chef hosts a Mexican tasting menu and tequila tasting hour. Fridays offer a truly elegant experience as Chef Ramos prepares a gourmet French menu while a renowned pianist provides accompaniment and live entertainment. Saturday rounds out the week with cuisine and seafood specialties from Veracruz, Mexico.
Pastelito de cangrejo
Authentic Street Food
While Emiliano's tasting menus have proven enormously popular, the restaurant also features dishes that bring to mind the tempting aromas and "tantalizing visions" of the street foods found in Mexico's colorful markets. Guests can sample entrées, appetizers and desserts from six different regions including Veracruz, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Jalisco, and the Yucatan. Each day a different region is featured alongside Emiliano's larger menu of additional Mexican and international selections. What's more, servers are dressed in corresponding regional costume and are happy to answer questions about ingredients and preparation to any foodie's satisfaction.
Dueto de Mares
Where the Gastro Garden Grows
During my stay I strolled down to Casa Velas' impressive on-site organic botanical garden where the resort grows its own herbs, flowers and vegetables. Home-grown basil, thyme, mint, lemon and cactus are used in the kitchen, while home‐grown mint is used for mojitos, cilantro for margaritas and hibiscus flowers in martinis. Want to bring the taste of a Casa Velas specialty cocktail home with you? The chefs will gladly send guests home with their favorite recipe. You will also spot, or better yet smell, clove, mint, aloe vera, spearmint, and basil leaves in the resort's spa treatments.
A Mighty Mini Bar
Casa Velas' commitment to luxury, well-being and elevated eats extends beyond the bounds of the resort's restaurants and bars—extending right into the guest rooms. Instead of the usual boring, calorie-laden mini bar fare, Casa Velas provides freshly "made on demand" crudités. Guests can choose from the "Mexican turnip"—a combination of carrots, cucumber, jicama—or an alternative selection featuring celery, beetroot and pineapple. You can also choose from three different light and healthy dressings, including mango, chipotle or basil. Crudités are available upon request from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and, of course, are included in the all‐inclusive daily rate.
With its heightened food and beverage program, Casa Velas is playing an integral role in re-defining the all-inclusive travel category at large, and is a decidedly tasty choice for the "epicurious" traveler.