When traveling to different cities, many people like to try to local foods. Region-specific meals in most areas can tell a person more about the area, for example Gulf seafood and Cajun cuisine in the South, barbecue in Texas and lobster in New England. Traveling in the United States it is easy enough to do, but once you get to a foreign city, where transportation, the language barrier and local knowledge may be hard problems to surmount, the answer may be a food tour. A good example is Mexico, where most people, especially from the Southwest are familiar with what passes for Mexican food here and curious what it might be in Mexico itself. In Puerto Vallarta, Vallarta Food Tours has produced a tour that will give the foodie from the U.S. a great way to see how food in the state of Jalisco's second largest city is similar and yet different from Mexican food in the United States.
The tour company is run by a couple who relocated to Puerto Vallarta from Denver, Colorado. Lindsay and her husband Paul went on a food tour in Chicago two years ago and she was so excited about what she had seen that she contacted the tour operator for help with setting up her own company. She had lived in various places outside the U.S. before, becoming especially excited by her time in Singapore. Singapore is known far and wide for their street food and also for the range of food available, from noodle shops to high-end restaurants. After becoming immersed in the variety of foods available in Singapore, what she decided was that Puerto Vallarta, with it's vibrant food scene, was in need of a way for tourists to see the real food of Puerto Vallarta and not just the food available in the hotels and all-inclusive resorts.
Getting on one of the tours is easy to set up. Tour times and reservations can either be made through the company's website, www.vallartafoodtours.com, or by toll free phone. They will also give you advice on how to get to the site of the start of the tour, which is a simple taxi or bus drive, or for many even a walk from most major hotels and cruise ship terminals in the area. This is a perfect way to meet some of the local people, try their food and drink and see areas not normally on a packaged tour of Puerto Vallarta. Come along now on one of their tours and see what the real Puerto Vallarta food scene is like.
Ricardo, or Lobo as he is popularly known, is one of the tour guides. He is very knowledgable about the area and it's cuisine. He grew up and lived most of his life in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley, moving to Mexico a few years ago to enjoy life with much less expenses. The walking tour starts in front of a shop, taking the tour members down some of the non-touristy streets in Puerto Vallarta, exactly the type of area that is a foodie's delight. Soon enough the tour comes to its first stop, which Ricardo explains was the best carne asada taco cart in Puerto Vallarta. Tacos el Cuñado has been in the family since 1968. Unlike most taco places in the U.S., they specialize in only the beef carne asada and marinated pork tacos. They are prepared, fresh and served on soft corn tortillas. On the side of the counter are 4 types of fresh-made salsa, from mild to habenero hot. To accompany them, there is a small salsa bar which has sliced radishes, a terrific pineapple habernero salsa, fresh pico de gallo, onions and fresh chopped cilantro.
To get to know the real people of Puerto Vallarta, Ricardo introduced the group to the owner of Tacos el Cuñado and told the group about the history of the place. It is a medium sized trailer, big enough for two people to work in. The aromas emanating from it were amazing, with the grilling meat and spices filling the air with wonderful scents. As the group watched, the owner prepared carne asada tacos for everyone. The meat was delicious, nicely seasoned and cooked so it was still moist with a nice crispiness on many of the pieces. On the side guests could add items such as the radishes and the pineapple habanero salsa, one of the most delicious salsas to be found anywhere. This was a great start to the tour and exactly the kind of place a foodie wants to see.
The group walked a few blocks further, walking past a restaurant called “The Revolution” and listening to stories about it when it had been frequented by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming in 1963 of the “Night of the Iguana”. Although Elizabeth Taylor was not in the John Huston film, she was in the middle of a tempestuous relationship with Burton. Both of them were married to other people at the time and the relationship and movie put Puerto Vallarta on the map. Reaching the beach, it was a nice walk down a pier with a stylized “sail” at the end of the pier and then down the Puerto Vallarta beach, stopping to look at some skewers being grilled for sale, a very popular item for the beach there. It was a very nice beach with a lot of restaurants on the walkway alongside it. The tour group turned back up into the main section of the “old” downtown part of Puerto Vallarta and continued on the walking tour.
A few blocks more and the tour came to it's second stop, Cesar's Coconut Stand, another place still in the same family since 1984. It's a tiny cart, with Cesar doing all the work himself. Behind him, in the building where he lives upstairs, is the storage for all the coconuts he uses daily. With a deft hand, he punctures the coconuts and pours out the delicious coconut water into a cup for his customers. The second part of the treat is when he hacks the coconut open, taking out the delicious flesh and sprinkling a special spice mix on it, consisting of salt, some chili powder and a squeeze of fresh lime. The sweetness of the flesh played perfectly with the spicy topping. Ever smiling, he was happy to see that the group enjoyed his coconuts so much.
In part two, next week, the tour will continue, tasting even more local treats and specialties of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Molé, candies, ceviche and more await as Vallarta Food Tours introduces savvy foodies to the true delights and people of Mexico.