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Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco [long - pics]

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco [long - pics]
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  • Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco [long - pics]

    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2006, 11:46 am
    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2006, 11:46 am Post #1 - December 3rd, 2006, 11:46 am
    Part 1 – Hotel Dining

    The Chow Poodle and I spent the week of Thanksgiving in sunny Puerto Vallarta for some long awaited R & R. We stayed at the lovely Marriott Casa Magna in the Marina. Our room had a fabulous view of a huge expanse of Banderas Bay including downtown Puerto Vallarta with the Sierra Madres in the background.

    View of Banderas Bay From our Room
    Image

    The hotel was very nice and we spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the pool or on the beach. The hotel had a breakfast buffet that I tried two or three times. Surprisingly, the food on the buffet wasn’t dumbed down too much. There were the usual suspects (scrambled eggs, waffles, cereal, toast, bacon, etc.), but there was also a very wide array of Mexican food including posole, menudo, two types of tamales, sopes, plaintains, Mexican breakfast pastries, a bunch of fresh squeezed local juices and much more.

    Marriott Breakfast Buffet
    Image

    In addition to all the buffet items, they also cooked eggs to order. Of course they would make you an omelet, but they also turned out the best version of Huevos Rancheros I have ever had; with a generous glug of clarified butter taking the place of traditional lard for frying the eggs as well as for heating the underlying tortilla. After they fry up the eggs, you are free to choose the salsa you wish to top your eggs with from a wide selection ranging from traditional ranchero to fiery 3 pepper salsa made from peppers grown on site.

    Marriott Salsas
    Image

    One of my favorite pepper items located in the salsa section were these roasted serranos with pickled onions.

    Roasted Peppers
    Image

    We really didn’t eat in the hotel all that much except for one unremarkable room service dinner and quite a few servings of fish tacos and ceviche poolside.

    Poolside Fish Tacos
    Image

    These were some damn fine fish tacos. They were lightly breaded fresh caught red snapper, served with some crunchy cabbage, a little carrot and a drizzle of crema. Along side was always a bottle of Salsa Huichol and fresh limes. Except for the fact that the tacos weren’t deep fried, these were very evocative of the ones served at Tacos de Pacifico. Since we were actually sitting on the Pacific Ocean, I guess they actually were Tacos de Pacifico. Seriously, these were some fine tacos and really surprised me by being served by a hotel.

    Poolside Ceviche
    Image

    This was a shrimp and bay scallop ceviche, with a little fresh snapper mixed in. Everything was locally caught and the ceviche well made. The fish in this area is fantastic! In fact with only a couple of exceptions, I ate fish and seafood exclusively all week long.

    ------------------

    For Thanksgiving, we met my brother and his family, who were coincidently also in Puerto Vallarta for the holiday. We went to The Four Seasons, where they were staying, for an afternoon at the pool followed by their Thanksgiving Buffet. First of all, let me just say that as nice as The Four Seasons is, you might as well be in Cleveland. As much as our hotel tried to make you feel like you were in Mexico, The Four Seasons was just the opposite. The staff would only speak to you in English, even if you were fluent in Spanish. They had a little taco cart set up poolside with a mini el pastor spit. I ordered a couple of tacos el pastor and my brother ordered a couple with chicken. The pastor was so bland and other-white-meat looking that even the waiter couldn’t tell which were which. After a quick taste of both, I wasn’t 100% sure which one was the pastor, either. It was also the only place in P.V. that I encountered that used pre-packaged tortillas (as you'll see in my next post, this was the exception rather than the rule). At 3:00 exactly, the little Hagen-Daas cart came around dispensing ice cream for the overheated gringos. At least they had dulce de leche as one of the flavor choices.

    Thanksgiving dinner was a bit better, although their no local culture policy extended to serving only American style turkey and not even offering turkey in mole, which is a traditional holiday dish of the area. The best things on the buffet were the mashed potatoes, which were prepared with enough butter to float a battleship; the stuffing, which was a stellar version of a bread and sausage stuffing; and, with a veiled nod to the local geography, cream of pumpkin soup with white truffle oil.

    Four Seasons Thanksgiving Buffet
    Image

    Hopefully you didn’t think that I would fly all the way to Puerto Vallarta and just eat at the hotel, did you? Nope. I barely ate in the hotel at all. Stay tuned for Part 2, “All the Rest
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #2 - December 3rd, 2006, 12:13 pm
    Post #2 - December 3rd, 2006, 12:13 pm Post #2 - December 3rd, 2006, 12:13 pm
    Steve,

    Beautiful pictures. It looks and sounds to have been a swell trip. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

    The fish tacos really do look wonderful, so too the salsa bar; I'd especially like to try the roasted peppers with the pickled onions, perhaps on a simple taco... with carnitas or barbacoa, for example...

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #3 - December 3rd, 2006, 9:45 pm
    Post #3 - December 3rd, 2006, 9:45 pm Post #3 - December 3rd, 2006, 9:45 pm
    Part 2 – All the Rest

    Having never been to Puerto Vallarta before, and not knowing too many people who had, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to find a Cancun-like instant resort or a town that managed to retain some of the “little fishing village” charm that so captivated Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylorback in the 60’s. The answer was a little bit of both. No longer a “little fishing village”, the town has exploded in size, with new development happening everywhere. Even so, the main downtown area retains it stone-paved streets and quaint feel as long as you can look beyond the Senior Frog’s, Chili’s, Hooters and their ilk that have sprouted up on the main drag. Despite the appearance of the Uber-chains McDonald’s and Starbucks, Puerto Vallarta has managed to establish itself as a very worthy chow destination. They have the long running Festival Gourmet International which had just finished its 12th run as we arrived. The food offerings were quite diverse; with food from many regions of Mexico offered as well as quite a bit of international cuisine with a heavy emphasis on French and Italian. Chef Thierry Blouet is the mastermind behind the festival and runs Café des Artistes, a high end French restaurant in an old hacienda made to look like a castle. This seemed to be the leading high end restaurant in town. We decided to forgo a visit to Café des Artistes on our first trip to P.V. in order to stick with more of the local cuisine, including quite a bit of street food but also some quite excellent Mexican restaurants.

    We found that a week is not enough time to fully explore all the restaurants that seem worthwhile, let alone make it back to the really good ones for a 2nd helping. Other than the tacos from The Four Seasons that I posted about earlier, I didn’t have a bad meal the whole time I was there. Unfortunately, thanks to an overzealous hotel maid, many of my notes were lost, but I’ll do my best to remember all the details. In terms of addresses, they are mostly useless, but the cab drivers all know where pretty much any restaurant is. I never had a problem getting anywhere just by asking by name. Here’s a chow tour of Puerto Vallarta in no particular order:

    ----------

    Street Food
    We got to P.V. on a Saturday and decided to go into town to check out the scene and grab some dinner. It was a holiday weekend, with the following Monday a holiday to commemorate the Mexican Revolution. The Malecon, which is the boardwalk which goes along the ocean for a few miles was jammed packed with every kind of person you could imagine from large families ranging in age from <1 – 100 to couples and even packs of single girls, struttin’ their stuff to the sound of catcalls and beeping horns from the passing pickup trucks loaded to the gills with guys our cruisin’ for dates. It was quite a scene. After walking up and down the Malecon to check it all out, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous taco stands set up nearly all over town.

    Typical Taco Stand
    Image

    Our first foray to one of these stands was to this one, where 3 generations were serving up your choice of a variety of meats. The Chow Poodle had a couple carne asada tacos and I had an el pastor and a lengua. The daughter, our waitress, asked us if we wanted “beams” on our tacos. The “beams” turned out to be soupy pinto beans spooned out of a crock and put on top of the tacos in their whole state (not mashed or refried). It was an interesting take on the use of beans that I had not seen before, but I preferred my tacos without the beans as they made the taco a bit watery. I vowed never to ask for them again and I was never offered again. Evidently, this was a specialty of this particular taco stand.

    ----------

    There were several stands serving al pastor tacos. This one in particular was a favorite. It is located at the extreme north end of the Malecon, on the ocean side of the street.

    El Pastor on the Malecon
    Image

    This place actually specialized in fish, but they had this spit right out on the street. Notice that the spit uses lump charcoal for its fuel source. This was typical of all of the pastor stands that I saw. I tried pastor two or three times and while it was good, I wouldn’t say that it is a specialty of P.V.

    In addition to this place on the north end of the Malecon, the south end had its attractions as well, in fact, that’s where the main stuff is going on. There is a small amphitheater where there are constant street performers doing their thing to large crowds. Lot’s of the performances are very interactive and it wasn’t unusual to see a bunch of kids lined up, getting dragged into the act to the delight of their parents and the crowd. Across from that is a more or less typical town square with a bandstand. There were musical performances there and quite a display of public dancing from young and old alike.

    I could do a post with nothing more than the different food and attractions out on the street every night (but in particular during the holiday weekend). Instead, here’s a little photo montage of some types of food stands that I did not mention.

    Street Food Vendors
    Image

    ----------

    La Palapa is a picture perfect seaside restaurant located on Playa de los Muertos. It’s a great place to catch a sunset dinner. I had some large, head-on, locally caught shrimp in a creamy chipotle sauce and the C.P. had lamb chops that she described as perfect.

    The View at La Palapa
    Image

    ----------

    Si Senior is located a few blocks up from the main drag. Despite the cutesy sounding name, this place offers some really solid food. In many ways, the restaurant reminded me of Sol de Mexico, with the accent on several different types of moles and food from different regions. When I expressed interest in the different types of moles that they offered, our waiter brought out a sample of 4 of them.


    Si Senior Moles
    Image

    Clockwise from top: Pink mole, made with beets; peanut mole; brown Oaxacan mole; traditional black mole. These were all distinctive and quite tasty. I ordered a crab stuffed chile relleno, which came with a white cheese sauce made with queso fresco, I think. The beans were made in the usual manner of refried beans but with black beans instead of pintos. The C.P. had carne asada. Both were very good, with tortillas hand made by Rosita.

    Crab Chile Relleno
    Image

    Carne Asada Dinner
    Image

    ----------

    Ley Supermarket is a local chain and I couldn’t resist a visit to see how their supermarket compared to a place like, for example, Tony’s since they were roughly the same size. All I can say is they cram much more stuff in to the same square footage. There were cases of unrefrigerated eggs stacked floor to ceiling in the aisle. The offerings in the deli sections dwarfed anything I have seen here. Here are a couple of deli section pictures.

    Crema Section
    Image

    This was the selection of crema in the deli dept. You can see part of the cheeses in the background.

    Pickles/Olives
    Image

    This section was equally impressive, and this went on all over the store. They’ve got a full blown panderia as well as a carnicia and everything else you would expect at a supermarket. Prices were very reasonable.

    ----------

    Fried and grilled chicken was everywhere. Here’s the local branch of Pollo Campero

    Puerto Vallarta Branch of Pollo Campero
    Image

    Although I didn’t try any chicken while I was there, I think I would have preferred Super Pollo.

    He’s Everywhere, He’s Everywhere
    Image

    ----------

    When not having the buffet at the hotel, we would head to town and get breakfast for less than 25% of what we paid at the hotel. Breakfast was usually at a place called Caesars on the main road into town.

    Huevos con Chorizo
    Image

    Huevos Moutleneos
    Image

    These are huevos rancheros with ham and peas, covered in melted cheese.

    ----------

    The best dinner I had the whole time I was in P.V. was at Tino’s, a little seafood shack in Pitiyal, a town located just inland from Puerto Vallarta proper. This town is off the beaten tourist track and is where I saw Pollo Campero.

    Tino’s was evocative of Las Islas Marias in nearly every way, with the exception being that the fish they offer was caught the same day and could be cooked over an open wood fire. The meal started out with tostadas and a selection of 3 salsas.

    Tino’s Table Salsas
    Image

    There was a pretty straight forward pico de gallo, a slasa verde, made with jalapenos and a black chile oil that was toasted in much the same way as GWiv’s chile oil but with a huge hit of garlic. The garlic chile oil was a particular favorite of the Chow Poodle, who single handedly finished off the whole thing.

    For her main course, she ordered some extra large camarones cooked with oil and garlic.

    Tino’s Camarones
    Image

    I ordered pescado zarandeado, which is a whole snapper that has been filleted so that you get the two filets, but the backbone portion is included as well. The fish is coated with a chile/achiote marinade and then cooked over an open fire. This was the single most delicious dish I had all week. Even the Chow Poodle agreed. We made a pact to return to Tino’s before the week was out, but we never made it back. If you find yourself going to Puerto Vallarta, Tino’s is a must try!

    Tino’s Pescado Zarandeado
    Image

    We finished dinner with an order of flan, which was very good, but a bit overcooked, and our entire bill, including all the food, 3 beers, a bottle of water and coffee came to under $50. This is the deal of the century.

    Image

    ----------

    We heard about a place called El Arrayán that serves very traditional Mexican food from the region. We chose our last night in town to go there. Dinner started off with an appetizer of plantain empanadas filled with black beans and cheese.

    Plantain Empanada
    Image

    The Chow Poodle had a Mahi-Mahi filet in a sort of ranchero sauce served with grapefruit and rice.

    El Arrayán Fish Filet
    Image

    I had the duck carnitas, known elsewhere as duck confeit. The duck was served over a mole-like sauce that, I was told, was not a true mole because it didn’t contain nuts. The duck itself had been completely de-boned except for the leg bone and was a very large portion. This was not the stellar knockout I was hoping for, but it was more than good enough, and I enjoyed the meaty duck with the accompanying corn tortillas and the garlic infused potatoes that were served along side.

    El Arrayán Duck Carnitas
    Image

    In a nutshell, we ate real good and had a great, relaxing time on this trip. All in all, Puerto Vallarta was a great destination with a much greater selection of food than I had hoped for. I’ll definitely be going back as soon as I can swing it.

    Image
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - December 3rd, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Post #4 - December 3rd, 2006, 10:34 pm Post #4 - December 3rd, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Great post about your trip Steve . I'm going to have to visit both costs of Mexico now. Sounds like a delectable time of grazing.

    I was all ready planning a trip based on Mike G's How to be a playa in Playa del Carmen, Mexico post.

    I wish I had taken more Spanish classes besides the 2 in 5th and 6th grade.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #5 - December 4th, 2006, 1:02 am
    Post #5 - December 4th, 2006, 1:02 am Post #5 - December 4th, 2006, 1:02 am
    Great posts, Steve. I've stayed at the same hotel and enjoyed it very much. Did not get away nearly as much, however. There's a lot to like about PV, Acapulco and the places between, both the cosmopolitan, tourist-oriented things and the local flavors. Did you rent a car?

    Interesting that you made it to a Nayarit-style seafood place, which is precisely what Las Islas Marias is. The fish sarandeado style is terrific at the original Grand Ave. LIM, where they used hardwoods and probably still do. (I know the Clark location used a gas/wood combo grill.) The filet/bones presentation is the same as what you've pictured. It's a great way to cook fish, and easy too do at home.
  • Post #6 - December 4th, 2006, 7:32 am
    Post #6 - December 4th, 2006, 7:32 am Post #6 - December 4th, 2006, 7:32 am
    JeffB wrote:Great posts, Steve. I've stayed at the same hotel and enjoyed it very much. Did not get away nearly as much, however. There's a lot to like about PV, Acapulco and the places between, both the cosmopolitan, tourist-oriented things and the local flavors. Did you rent a car?


    No car. Taxis are dirt cheap...and we did a ton of walking and exploring. It wasn't that unusual to find a Nayarit style fish place since, although it is in Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is just a few miles from the Nayarit border. In fact, there's a 2nd Tino's location up the coast in Punta de Mita, which is in Nayarit, where a lot of the new development is happening.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - December 4th, 2006, 8:07 am
    Post #7 - December 4th, 2006, 8:07 am Post #7 - December 4th, 2006, 8:07 am
    Gosh, that really makes me want to go! Great post(s).

    As an aside, on Islas Marias, on their menu at the new, very spiffy, Islas Marias on Grand/near Brickyard Mall, it seems to indicate that Islas Marias actually started in Mexico, moved on to California and since to Chicago and Texas. I did not know this was such an operation.

    PS
    The pink mole seems like something very intriguing and totally new.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #8 - December 4th, 2006, 9:20 am
    Post #8 - December 4th, 2006, 9:20 am Post #8 - December 4th, 2006, 9:20 am
    Wow, Steve. Beautiful pictures. That is the first time I have seen chile oil in a Mexican context. Like VI, I am also drawn to the pink mole. What else was in it besides beets? The snapper and the crab stuffed poblano also look tasty. What was the cream sauce on that Chile Relleno?
  • Post #9 - December 4th, 2006, 9:36 am
    Post #9 - December 4th, 2006, 9:36 am Post #9 - December 4th, 2006, 9:36 am
    d4v3 wrote:Wow, Steve. Beautiful pictures. That is the first time I have seen chile oil in a Mexican context. Like VI, I am also drawn to the pink mole. What else was in it besides beets? The snapper and the crab stuffed poblano also look tasty. What was the cream sauce on that Chile Relleno?


    Like I said earlier, most of my notes were lost so the details are a bit fuzzy. The pink mole had a slight acidic hit to it, which was a nice foil to the earthiness of the beets. We didn't order anything that was served with pink mole, so I'm not real clear on what types of dishes it is meant to accompany. The cream sauce was actually a very mild cheese sauce, made with queso fresca, IIRC. It was not overpowering at all and in fact had little cheese taste. It did add a nice bit of creaminess to the crab stuffing, though.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - December 4th, 2006, 9:39 am
    Post #10 - December 4th, 2006, 9:39 am Post #10 - December 4th, 2006, 9:39 am
    Vital Information wrote:As an aside, on Islas Marias, on their menu at the new, very spiffy, Islas Marias on Grand/near Brickyard Mall, it seems to indicate that Islas Marias actually started in Mexico, moved on to California and since to Chicago and Texas. I did not know this was such an operation.


    Rob,

    It doesn't surprise me too much that LIM started in Mexico. It is so similar to Tino's that it is quite evident they are true to their roots. Have you been to the new LIM? The Grand and Cicero location has been my standby since you turned me on to it. I have freshness issues with the Clark Street location. How does the Brickyard location compare?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #11 - December 4th, 2006, 9:47 am
    Post #11 - December 4th, 2006, 9:47 am Post #11 - December 4th, 2006, 9:47 am
    Great report and pics, a man after my own heart, which is to say, someone who recognizes that the main appeal of a trip to Mexico is to walk around the grocery store, gawking at what they have in tubs. (And sitting on the beach, if you must.)

    Thanks.
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  • Post #12 - December 4th, 2006, 10:58 am
    Post #12 - December 4th, 2006, 10:58 am Post #12 - December 4th, 2006, 10:58 am
    Great post Steve.

    This thread, a search of the hotel on tripadvisor.com, and of greatest impact, your post below in the "One Thing" thread, has convinced me to make this trip.

    stevez wrote:Ceviche and fish tacos with a freshly squeezed limeade pool/oceanside in Puerta Vallarta.

    Image



    I've already priced things out and am convincing the wife that we should make the trip in late Jan or early Feb as an escape from the Chicago winter.

    The hotel gets terrific reviews and as the weather deteriorates, ceviche by that pool sounds increasingly enticing.

    Thanks again.
  • Post #13 - December 4th, 2006, 11:18 am
    Post #13 - December 4th, 2006, 11:18 am Post #13 - December 4th, 2006, 11:18 am
    Ralph Wiggum wrote:I've already priced things out and am convincing the wife that we should make the trip in late Jan or early Feb as an escape from the Chicago winter.

    The hotel gets terrific reviews and as the weather deteriorates, ceviche by that pool sounds increasingly enticing.

    Thanks again.


    You won't be sorry. The Marriott is in a great location. Some of the other resorts are much farther (some closer) to town. Although the hotel is very nice, don't forget to go into town to really explore what P.V. has to offer. Tino's in Pitiyal in particular shouldn't be missed...and have some fish tacos by the pool for me!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #14 - December 4th, 2006, 12:05 pm
    Post #14 - December 4th, 2006, 12:05 pm Post #14 - December 4th, 2006, 12:05 pm
    How did you get to Tino's? Did you rent a car?
  • Post #15 - December 4th, 2006, 12:18 pm
    Post #15 - December 4th, 2006, 12:18 pm Post #15 - December 4th, 2006, 12:18 pm
    Steve,

    The Lovely Donna and I spent a week in P.V. a few years ago, and also dined at both La Palapa and Tino's.

    We actually went to Tino's twice. Both of us fell in love with that dark, murky table salsa (which I find close in flavor to one of El Barco's three salsas).

    In addition to the mesquite grilled snapper, grilled shrimp, and bacon wrapped-cheese stuffed shrimp, we especially enjoyed their seafood cocktail, which included sweet, creamy raw baby scallops, some with attached roes. Just like scallop flavored jellybeans.

    :twisted:
  • Post #16 - December 4th, 2006, 1:50 pm
    Post #16 - December 4th, 2006, 1:50 pm Post #16 - December 4th, 2006, 1:50 pm
    Thanks Steve!!! We've got less than 6 weeks before our annual trip to Mexico and have been considering PV and Nuevo Vallarta for future trips. You just gave more reasons for us to try a new place!

    This year's excursion is a return to Zihuatenajo for two weeks. I get so caught up in my food that I forget to take pictures (or we leave the camera at the hotel). I'll try to do a decent trip report in Feb after we return.
  • Post #17 - December 4th, 2006, 2:04 pm
    Post #17 - December 4th, 2006, 2:04 pm Post #17 - December 4th, 2006, 2:04 pm
    Ralph Wiggum wrote:How did you get to Tino's? Did you rent a car?


    $4.00 cab ride
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #18 - December 4th, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Post #18 - December 4th, 2006, 2:25 pm Post #18 - December 4th, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Mike G wrote:Great report and pics, a man after my own heart, which is to say, someone who recognizes that the main appeal of a trip to Mexico is to walk around the grocery store, gawking at what they have in tubs. (And sitting on the beach, if you must.)

    Thanks.


    I would like to humbly submit myself for membership in the grocery tourist club. That's one of my all-time favorite things to do when travelling.

    This spring we were in Playa del Carmen and made a couple of trips to the relatively new "Mega" store, which is more or less like a super Target or maybe even a Wal-mart (I'll admit I've never entered a Wal-mart.) They had a truly astonishing bakery area, really beautiful creations.

    The visit was only marred by an extremely hard sell from the store manager, who happened to also be a stringer for a time share resort. He did just the right amount of small talk and pleasantries before revealing his ulterior motives, and alas, my spouse and I are too polite to really shake someone like that easily.
    Joe G.

    "Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Post #19 - December 4th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Post #19 - December 4th, 2006, 3:06 pm Post #19 - December 4th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Excellent post and pics. My wife and I had an enjoyable trip to Puerto Vallarta in 2005. We weren't nearly as adventurous, and, primarily for budgeting reasonas, opted to stay at an "all inclusive" which -- although not as bad as it sounds -- I wouldn't necessarily recommend (the food was edible). However, we enjoyed a fabulous meal at a very upscale Mexican restaurant called Los Xitomates (which I'd read about somewhere -- I don't remember where). Although not cheap or off the beaten path, I'd highly recommend Los Xitomates to anyone traveling to that region.
  • Post #20 - December 5th, 2006, 5:39 am
    Post #20 - December 5th, 2006, 5:39 am Post #20 - December 5th, 2006, 5:39 am
    stevez wrote:I ordered pescado zarandeado, which is a whole snapper that has been filleted so that you get the two filets, but the backbone portion is included as well. The fish is coated with a chile/achiote marinade and then cooked over an open fire. This was the single most delicious dish I had all week.

    Steve,

    Terrific post makes me what to hop a plane to PV, the ceviche pool pic should be the cover of a magazine.

    Your butterfly bone-in skin-on snapper has fully captured my attention, I haven't looked so closely at a picture since [moderator edit]. I noticed slight marks/depressions signaling the use of a grill basket, I've never seen the need, I typically cook whole fish or skin-on fillets on the grill/smoker, but with a delicate/fragile setup such as the zarandeado I can see the benefit. I think I'll buy a fish basket and experiment.

    Pink mole, interesting, and the black chili oil looked terrific. Both, as has been said, El Barco and Casa de Samuel have something that looks similar.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - December 5th, 2006, 8:15 am
    Post #21 - December 5th, 2006, 8:15 am Post #21 - December 5th, 2006, 8:15 am
    Ron A. wrote:Excellent post and pics. My wife and I had an enjoyable trip to Puerto Vallarta in 2005. We weren't nearly as adventurous, and, primarily for budgeting reasonas, opted to stay at an "all inclusive" which -- although not as bad as it sounds -- I wouldn't necessarily recommend (the food was edible). However, we enjoyed a fabulous meal at a very upscale Mexican restaurant called Los Xitomates (which I'd read about somewhere -- I don't remember where). Although not cheap or off the beaten path, I'd highly recommend Los Xitomates to anyone traveling to that region.


    I ran into some people in the public market that were staying at an all inclusive. The husband was ecstatic because he could get as drunk on tequila as he wanted and had the scars on his arm and face to prove it. The wife was not as happy, saying that the food sucked and that hubby wouldn't spring any extra pesos for eating out. Los Xitomates is another place we wanted to try and ran out of eating opportunities before we could get there (there was at least another whole vacation's worth of places like this).

    G Wiv wrote:Your butterfly bone-in skin-on snapper has fully captured my attention, I haven't looked so closely at a picture since [moderator edit]. I noticed slight marks/depressions signaling the use of a grill basket, I've never seen the need, I typically cook whole fish or skin-on fillets on the grill/smoker, but with a delicate/fragile setup such as the zarandeado I can see the benefit. I think I'll buy a fish basket and experiment.


    Yes, the fish is coked over live coals in a basket. The technique is to cook the fish for a couple of minutes, then flip the basket and baste with a ladle or two of clarified butter. the fish is flipped 3 - 4 times during the cooking process.

    Here's a not very good picture showing the basket on the grill.

    Image
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #22 - December 5th, 2006, 8:20 am
    Post #22 - December 5th, 2006, 8:20 am Post #22 - December 5th, 2006, 8:20 am
    The "soupy pinto beans" ("beams") you describe sound like charros -- or "cowboy beans" -- which are offered locally at La Quebrada (usually onion, garlic, gloves, chilis and bacon in a clear liquor).

    Fabulous pix, stevez.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #23 - December 5th, 2006, 8:42 am
    Post #23 - December 5th, 2006, 8:42 am Post #23 - December 5th, 2006, 8:42 am
    David Hammond wrote:The "soupy pinto beans" ("beams") you describe sound like charros -- or "cowboy beans" -- which are offered locally at La Quebrada (usually onion, garlic, gloves, chilis and bacon in a clear liquor).

    Fabulous pix, stevez.

    Hammond


    David,

    The "beams" were a little more bare bones than typical charros. They were mostly plain beans in a liquid that had probably been salted, but had little else added.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #24 - December 5th, 2006, 9:19 am
    Post #24 - December 5th, 2006, 9:19 am Post #24 - December 5th, 2006, 9:19 am
    The 'beams' were surely just frijoles de olla, plain boiled beans.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #25 - December 5th, 2006, 11:30 am
    Post #25 - December 5th, 2006, 11:30 am Post #25 - December 5th, 2006, 11:30 am
    Con epazote, quisas.
  • Post #26 - December 5th, 2006, 11:35 am
    Post #26 - December 5th, 2006, 11:35 am Post #26 - December 5th, 2006, 11:35 am
    JeffB wrote:Con epazote, quisas.


    Claro que si.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #27 - December 5th, 2006, 8:27 pm
    Post #27 - December 5th, 2006, 8:27 pm Post #27 - December 5th, 2006, 8:27 pm
    JeffB wrote:The fish sarandeado style is terrific at the original Grand Ave. LIM, where they used hardwoods and probably still do. (I know the Clark location used a gas/wood combo grill.)

    Jeff,

    I'm 97.3% certain* the Grand/Cicero Las Islas Marias uses a straight up gas grill, not hardwood/lump charcoal or any type of combination, same with the new Las Islas Marias on Fullerton.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    *Never got a kitchen tour, but have peeked/squinted through the slats and viewed the gas grill. I've also inquired as to what type of fuel they use and the answer was gas, not wood or charcoal.

    Las Islas Marias
    4770 W Grand Ave
    Chicago, IL 60639
    773-637-8233

    Las Islas Marias
    6550 W Fullerton Ave
    Chicago, IL 60707
    773-637-8233
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #28 - December 5th, 2006, 9:24 pm
    Post #28 - December 5th, 2006, 9:24 pm Post #28 - December 5th, 2006, 9:24 pm
    That's too bad. I thought that on my first visit (admittedly, a long time ago) it was wood or possibly wood and gas from both the looks and smells of things. By the way, I understand that the proper wood is mangrove, which is quite a popular grilling wood in the tropics from Jamaica to SE Asia but not very environmentally sound.
  • Post #29 - September 27th, 2007, 12:06 pm
    Post #29 - September 27th, 2007, 12:06 pm Post #29 - September 27th, 2007, 12:06 pm
    We ate at Si Senor last night for dinner. While the food was very good we found the extremely chain like vibe of the service and surroundings to be irritating at best. With a name like that we didn't expect to see any authentic Latino's eating there and we didn't. Packed with guero's. We were hustled by the band while we were ordering which we all found rather ballsy, and I have a soft spot for musicians. The t shirts were prominently displayed for sale and we couldn't keep our plates on the table for there were numerous attempts from all sides to relieve us of them, sometimes twice a minute. I finally told them not to approach the table again until asked.

    Now the good. The relleno stuffed with crab was a highlight, the peanut mole was also good, reminicent of a Thai rendition. We also shared a combo plate that included said relleno, carne asada con nopales, chicken enchilada with dark mole, concita de pibil (excellent), a saute of poblanos and fresh corn, some excellent dark refried beans with obvious lard undertones and a nice guacamole. The salsa's were all good with the warm chipotle being my favorite.

    So far the best meal has been at Tapas Barcelona, but we're on the Tino's train tonite so this may well be a bit premature.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #30 - September 30th, 2007, 11:37 am
    Post #30 - September 30th, 2007, 11:37 am Post #30 - September 30th, 2007, 11:37 am
    With my sister and girlfriend in tow, our last nite in PV was saved for Tino's. Once again, I'm indebted to SteveZ. Unlike our experience at Si Senor, from the start, we liked this place. The salsas were very good but the chile oil was fantastic. I asked for and got the recipe which is basically dried Chile de Arbol chopped and moistened with a browned garlic oil, salt and pepper. It was fantastic served with excellent crisp corn tortillas rounds, not chips. I also added it to my Oyster cocktail and it was superb.

    Besides that we had the ceviche tostada and the marlin tacos for appetizers. I like strong tasting fish so I enjoyed the marlin, but my girlfriend opted out after one bite. The tostadas were also quite nice, though not a revelation. Then on to the what I'd say is the best thing I put in my mouth while in PV. The up thread deservedly lauded Pescado Zarandeado. This is the star. Do not come to this city and not eat this. A whole fresh snapper butterflied but with backbone in for optimum flavor, marinated with chilies, achiote, tomato and garlic and grilled in a basket over mesquite, it was truly wonderful. When I asked what Zarandeado meant, I was told it means to turn over, which is why it's put in the basket, to be able to turn the large fish over and over. It was easily 18" long and spatulas would not suffice. Fantastico. We also had the shrimp wrapped with bacon and stuffed with queso fresco with an excellent creamy pineapple sauce. One more entree was a sole of some type stuffed with seafood with a spinach sauce, also very good. I believe it was called Pescado Relleno ala Popeye. The influence of American culture is everywhere. We drank and excellent Mexican Chard which had tasting notes more towards a Riesling that was perfect with the spices. Flan for dessert and we were delirious in our good fortune.

    By in large the food on this trip was good to very good. I found most of the fish though to be overcooked for my taste, excluding the Zarandeado which was cooked to perfection. Same for the meat, save for the crispy porky goodness of the street vendors Taco al Pastor crowned with Pineapple and the Carne Asada from Si Senor.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata

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