Sun.. Sand.. and Shrimp Gorditas??
On a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico I decided to leave the cozy confines of my All-Inclusive resort and do something a little different. Thanks to Traveling Spoon, I was treated to a five-course dinner prepared at a local Gourmet Chef’s apartment. Lets take a closer look at my experience and if it was worth the price.
THE SETUP: Traveling Spoon is like the airbnb of eating. Instead of staying at a Host’s house, you are invited inside for a home-cooked meal. In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico it cost $32 dollar per person to have an in-home meal prepared. You can also choose to add on a market visit or cooking experience to your time with the host. Alas, due to time constraints I had to settle on “just” the eating part.
Chef Manu marinating some tortillas.
THE KITCHEN: We were warmly invited into the cozy apartment of our host, Chef Manu, near downtown Puerto Vallarta. Inside we had a birds-eye view of his kitchen and preparation for a five-course meal. There was a table in the corner that we sat in as Manu regaled us with stories about his cooking experience (Norway sounds like a fun place to be a chef).
Onto the good stuff — the dinner!
*WARNING: If you are hungry please consider returning after eating.
COURSE 1: Mexican Tuna Poke
The first appetizer on our culinary journey was Mexican Tuna Poke. It included: Yellow-fin tuna, avocado, yellow sweet chili and soy sauce.
To quote my brother Jon, the best word to describe the poke was “fresh”. The tuna tasted as if it had just been caught hours earlier (perhaps true as Puerto Vallarta is so close to the Ocean).
The yellow sweet chili, known as “chiles gueros”, gave it a Mexican touch that made it unique to any Poke I have ever tasted.
The Tostada also added a Mexican flavor to the dish instead of the usual white rice.
Another broken Tostada for me :).
COURSE 2: Seabass Ceviche
Sometimes simple is the best. The Seabass Ceviche was presented with onions, cucumbers, and some black pepper.
Like the Tuna Poke, the Seabass was fresh and not overwhelmingly sour (like I have had in Peru). It was the perfect balance of flavors with the Tostado again adding a nice crunchy complement to the dish.
COURSE 3: Shrimp Gorditas
Chef Manu garnishing the Shrimp Gorditas.
Winner. Winner. Shrimp Gorditas Dinner??
This was by far my favorite dish of the night. From the marinated tortilla to the delicately seasoned shrimp every bite had me savoring the taste. Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and cotja cheese just added to the medley on each tortilla.
COURSE 4: Octopus al Ajillo
A little taste anyone..
I admit it. When I heard we were eating octopus in the beginning – I thought to myself, “meh”. My experience with Octopus usually boils down to it being TOO: fishy, squishy, or downright chewy. I’m glad Chef Manu showed me the light.
The octopus al Ajillo was first and foremost fresh. That’s a word I have been using a lot to describe the food we ate, but its the first thing that comes to mind. I know it wasn’t frozen or packaged for days. Props to living by the ocean. The blend of chili guajillo, garlic, and even some Brandy enhanced the flavor of the octopus and gave it some spice in true Mexican fashion.
Whose ready for dessert?
COURSE 5: Smoked-Milk Ice Cream
No five-course meal would be complete without some ice-cream. We were treated to vanilla smoked milk ice cream, complemented with Hibiscus syrup and a blossom chip. The blossom was edible and tasty! The ice-cream was a nice blend of smokey and creamy. A perfect ending to what turned out to be an epic meal.
After finishing the meal and bidding farewell to Chef Manu, I quietly dreaded returning to the All-Inclusive resort. This may have been one of my most memorable meals in Mexico. I tip my cap to the Chef.
Now when I say the meal was memorable, I don’t just mean the food. It was a unique experience through and through. Having a chef cooking for you in his kitchen and explaining why he chose certain local ingredients brings the taste and flavor to life. Suddenly a gourmet restaurant dinner became an intimate and special dining experience.
I thank traveling spoon and Chef Manu for allowing my brother and I the privilege of trying their service out. Check out their website: travelingspoon.com for similar memorable eating opportunities in cities all over the world.
Tell me in the comments what looked like the most appetizing food from the five-course meal!