Yes, I’m here again. This is my 3rd trip to Puerto Vallarta over President’s Day weekend in a row, so it may be time to start calling it “annual.” I usually do a pre-departure entry but ran out of time and wasn’t sure I had that much to say since my Sedona blog six weeks ago.
I will say this: The year is off to a fabulous start. Things are great at work with our new leader, and there is finally progress on the Sacramento real estate project. If all goes well we will break ground in May. I’m thinking about doing a blog for that process so more to come on that front.
I had a 6 AM flight Thursday morning and landed at 1 PM Puerto Vallarta time. A gratefully uneventful trip. I got out of the airport and through customs in less than an hour which was significantly better than last year. Jon picked me up from the airport and took me to my hotel. I’m staying at Porto Allegro, on the same street – Hidalgo – as the place I stayed the last two years but a few blocks closer to the center of everything.￼
I had a couple of hours to kill before my food tour so I just went walking around.
As one does in PV I ended up near the water pretty quickly. Completely unplanned I walked on the pier, laid down on a bench there and fell asleep listening to the water. There was a nice breeze blowing and it felt great. I actually slept about 30 minutes which is highly unusual for me. But I didn’t get much sleep the night before which is not unusual before a trip so clearly I needed it.￼￼
The first year I was here I had done a tour with Vallarta Food Tours and really enjoyed it. I didn’t think about it last year but a few months ago I got an email from them and it reminded me that I would enjoy another.
The tour I decided on was described as “an evening taco adventure.” Hard to pass that up.
The meeting time was 5:15 at Mariscos El Guero, corner of Madero and Constitution. The tour guide was Manuel, originally from Guadalajara. Addy joined him as a trainee in this tour, and there were only 2 other visitors, a gay couple from Portland. So a nice small group.
The first bite was a good start: a breaded Mahi mahi taco. The dressings were rich and flavorful. At each stop Manuel did a wonderful job explaining each sauce and salsa, each with their own profile and personality. I won’t try to duplicate that here.
This was Memo’s Grill, on Basilio Badillo at Aguacate . Manuel explained here a little about taco stand culture. The city has not issued any new permits in 35 years. So each one you see is at least that old and is a permanent structure. The permits are handed down from generation to generation, or sublet, because they are highly valued. At several of the places we stopped, the business had started as a taco stand and grew into a restaurant later. Each caters to customer preference: sometimes you want a nice sit down experience, other times to go is best. One place had grown into 3 stands and 2 restaurants. There is a lot of family history and pride in the taco stand culture. ￼
This was called a volcano. Think tostada. A super crispy tortilla layered with carne asada, beans, lettuce. You add your own salsas. This stand also had a bowl of pickled radishes and beets.
The full menu. Several of them had hamburgers! Would be interesting to try one some time.
Next was Mariscos Cisneros, also on Aguacate. This was on the tour I took before. Owned by 3 siblings, it started as a taco stand which still operates in front. I still remember the bite from the last time: A fried jalapeño-stuffed-with-shrimp taco. ￼This bite was completely new to me: smoked marlin. That’s it on the left, beautifully seasoned and eaten with chips. Excellent.
El Chulo was also on Aguacate. The same family has been operating this for 49 years.￼Notice “cabeza.” Everything here is from the cows head: brains, eyes, cheeks. ￼We came here for cheeks – which is what I had above. The smell was amazing as was the flavor. Just onion and cilantro, no other dressing, because the meat is the main event. The other couple on the tour tried the eyes and said it was the best bite of the evening for them. It wasn’t the actual eyeballs it’s all of the tissue behind it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.￼
Next was Vallarta Chocolate Factory, on Libertad and a block away from my hotel. This was on my last tour as well. Last time I had the chocolate covered coffee bean. This time I had a milk chocolate covered wafer with toasted coconut, and a milk chocolate covered cocoa bean. One of the other guys on the tour had never really thought about where chocolate came from and was quite surprised to learn about the beans, the roasting, etc.￼￼
From there we took a bus ride to the other side of downtown for the last 3 stops. The first here was La Tia Mariscos in Honduras.
The feature here again was smoked marlin, carmelized in soy sauce, garlic and other things. Manuel explained this is a true Baja style taco, that many years ago Baja became inhabited with many from Asia and the flavors started to fuse. This was incredible and my favorite bite of the evening.
This was El Carboncito also on Honduras. Manuel explained here the fusion of people from Lebanon who settled in Mexico and brought with them the shawarma style of rotisserie. This is the Mexican version of that, with pork instead of lamb and of course Mexican seasoning. Wonderful.
The final bite of the tour was churros. Fresh, warm, with a perfect crispness. A great way to end.
The whole tour was about 3 hours and I took my time walking back to my hotel along the Malecon.
There is an art display of hearts painted in a variety of ways, I assume because of Valentine’s Day. This was about 8:30 in the evening and I was shocked to see that I could actually get a photo of the Puerto Vallarta sign without anybody in front of it. That didn’t last for long as you can tell behind me in the required selfie of the day￼￼.
Today is the “extreme” version of the zipline tour I did last year. You will have to come back tomorrow to see what that means.