Think Cancun is all tequila shots and tacos, crammed with spring breakers looking to party? Upscale restaurants and resorts from Cancun to Tulum, and throughout the gorgeous Mayan Riviera on Mexico’s eastern coast are fighting to change that perception one plato at a time, and food-focused travelers are taking note.
Thanks to a slew of inventive restaurants helmed by heavy hitters in the food and wine world, this region known best for its beautiful beaches now has culinary hot spot to add to its list of attractions
Chefs making waves include six-star Michelin chef Martín Berasategui of San Sebastian, Spain, whose restaurant Passion at the chic Paradisus resort in Playa Del Carmen boasts playful molecular gastronomy and world-class wines in a sleek setting (there’s even white-glove service).
There’s cooking classes for hands-on types, too: The Ritz-Carlton's Culinary Center overlooking the stunning Caribbean Sea offers seminars in Mexican and Yucatecan cuisine (not to mention serious tequila tastings).
And this recent surge of culinary creativity was on full display at the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival, tempting tasters with four days of food and wine from March 13-16, 2014. Now in its third year, the festival showcased talented toques of the region, including Adrian Herrera, Ricardo De La Vega, and Xavi Perez Stone, along with international headliners Daniel Boulud, George Mendes and Richard Sandoval. The event culminated with a grand tasting on March 15, and The Daily Meal was there to get the dish (tough job, we know). Here are six of our favorite snacks and sips:
Foie Gras-stuffed Macarons (Grand Velas Riviera Maya)
French influences and techniques were on full display at the festival, like in this indulgent mashup of two French favorites, foie gras and macarons.
Chorizo and potato soup, served in a egg shell (Restaurante Benazuza at Oasis Hotel)
Fittingly, playful bites from Benazuza like this chorizo and potato soup served in a hollowed-out egg shell nodded to molecular influences and Spanish ingredients. Chef Rafael Zafra was a prodigy of el Bulli’s Ferran Adrià, after all.
“Oreos” with goat cheese with sweet organic tomato jam (Las Ventanas Restaurant at Royal Hideaway Playacar )
Festival attendees couldn’t resist these bite-sized, savory “Oreo” sandwiches, created with homemade goat cheese and sweet organic tomato jam. Executive chef Eugenio Villafaña brings more than 15 years of experience to the table, and focuses on sustainability, raw foods, and fresh, local ingredients at the luxury resort.
Mexican cheese with poblanos and rompope sauce (Grand Velas Riviera Maya)
Though it featured cheese and poblano peppers, this whimsical dish tasted like New York cheesecake with a hint of coffee and spice, thanks to the rompope sauce, which can be likened to Mexican egg nog. Que rico!
Forget the Coronas and lime: Independent, Monterrey, Mexico-based cerveza makers brought serious craft brews to the crowd, most notable was their refreshing Pilsner release.
Vinos L.A. Cetto Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California
Though wines of Argentina and Chile were on full display at the festival — and made for great pairing partners with the plates on offer — the stars of the show were 100 percent hecho en Mexico. This refreshing cabernet-based rosé from rising star wine region Guadalupe Valley in Baja, California was fitting for its name, Vino de Primavera.