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FESTIVAL GOURMET PUERTO VALLARTA, RIVIERA NAYARIT AND TEPIC

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Guests serve themselves appetizers at the Grand Gourmet Village buffet.
Guests serve themselves appetizers at the Grand Gourmet Village buffet.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Buy tickets for Mexico's Festival Gourmet early, because culinary events sell out quickly. Held annually for 10 days every November, the gourmet food festival is located in Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit and Tepic.

The 2017 dates for the Festival Gourmet International are November 10 to 19. If you think Mexican food is just fajitas, burritos and fish tacos, the scheduled events will change your mind.

Top restaurants

Cocktail parties, progressive dinners, cooking demonstrations, theme nights and gourmet buffets take place in the region's best restaurants, including Café des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta, Nicksan in Nuevo Vallarta and Emiliano in Tepic.

If you can't decide where to eat, book tickets for a Gourmet Safari. The progressive dinner includes transportation between restaurants for each course, with paired wines and drinks.

Dine-arounds

In addition, restaurants and luxury hotels feature à la carte dine-around dinners with wine pairings. For example, the Festival Gourmet menu at the Sea Breeze restaurant at The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort began with an amuse-bouche of confit foie gras with cranberry jelly and figs.

Sea scallop tartar with capers, chili and goat cheese. Salmon gravlax with dill on cucumber slices. Emiliano Restaurante in Tepic, Nayarit.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Chef Hugo Gutiérrez's appetizer was a trio of cod fritters enhanced with a glass of smoked mussels cappuccino. The exquisite main course consisted of lamb tenderloin accented with cardamom and star anise, carrot purée with ginger, shaved asparagus and green peas with mint emulsion.

The floating islands dessert was infused with hibiscus flowers, coconut milk, fruit and caramelized pistachios. Haute cuisine, yes, but hardly what most visitors expect when they come to Mexico.

Celebrity chefs

Every year, several Festival Gourmet restaurants feature international chefs from Europe, the USA, Canada, South America and other countries. Other participating restaurants focus on guest chefs from Mexico, such as Patricia Quintana.

China Nao lobster with saffron, aioli, white wine cream and cempasuchil powder. Patricia Quintana chef's table. Marival Residences & World Spa, Luxury Resort. Nuevo Vallarta.
China Nao lobster with saffron, aioli, white wine cream and cempasuchil powder. Patricia Quintana chef's table. Marival Residences & World Spa, Luxury Resort. Nuevo Vallarta.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The owner of Izote Restaurant in Mexico City, Chef Quintana has published more than two dozen books, including Mexico's Feasts of Life and The Taste of Mexico, based on years of researching regional Mexican cuisine.

Consider just two of the 17 delicious Nayarit dishes from her Festival Gourmet menu: sea bass and mango ceviche with shallots and Huichol Sauce, China Nao lobster with saffron aioli, infused white wine cream and cempasuchil (Mexican marigold) powder. Each scrumptious course was matched with an excellent Mexican wine from Casa Madero.

Wine pairing

International Gourmet Festival events feature Mexican wines at wine-tastings and winemakers' nights, combined with chefs' tables at different Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta restaurants. Participants learn that there are good Mexican wines.

Waiter pours wine for Vineyards of Baja wine tasting at Emiliano Restaurante, Tepic.
Waiter pours wine for Vineyards of Baja wine tasting at Emiliano Restaurante, Tepic.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Some of our favorite Mexican white wines were L.A. Cetto Chardonnay from Guadalupe Valley in Baja California and Casa Grande Chardonnay from Valle de Parras.

Two of the best Mexican red wines that we tasted were Casa Madero Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, from Valle de Parra, and Casa Madero 3V Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Tempranillo, also from Valle de Parras in Mexico.

You can also book wine and cheese, beer and chocolate tastings during Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta's Festival Gourmet.

Cooking demonstrations

Tasting so many mouthwatering foods motivates attendees of the culinary festival to re-create some of the dishes. Festival Gourmet chefs and founders, Thierry Blouet, Heinz Reiz and Roland Menetrey and their guest chefs conduct gourmet cooking demonstrations. Tickets to these events include recipes, culinary secrets and a tasty meal.

It's a special privilege to be able to interact with international and Mexican chefs in their kitchens. You feel like you're on the set of a Food Network TV show, but you're the one who can ask questions and take photos of the celebrity chef.

Chef Betty Vazquez garnishes shrimp salad with parsley and serrano vinaigrette. Hotel Garza Canela, San Blas, Nayarit.
Chef Betty Vazquez garnishes shrimp salad with parsley and serrano vinaigrette. Hotel Garza Canela, San Blas, Nayarit.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Regional cuisine

A highlight for us was meeting Chef Betty Vázquez, the best chef in Riviera Nayarit and a judge on the MasterChef Mexico TV series. Chef at El Delfin restaurant at Hotel Garza Canela in San Blas, she is an expert on regional foods.

Like Patricia Quintana, Betty Vázquez praises the freshness of Nayarit fish, seafood, fruits and vegetables. She emphasizes the importance of local foods, seasonal produce and slow-cooking.

Hotel Garza Canela Chef Betty Vazquez serves fish ceviche in San Blas, Nayarit.
Hotel Garza Canela Chef Betty Vazquez serves fish ceviche in San Blas, Nayarit.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Chef Vázquez works with local fishermen and farmers to buy the best fresh shrimp and chiles. She uses yerba buena (Mexican mint) instead of cilantro in ceviche, lychees from Hotel Garza Canela's orchard for sauces and Mexican chocolate in a cake that alone would justify a trip back to El Delfin in San Blas.

"I believe the future of tourism in Nayarit is tied to gastronomy," she says. "People travel to a place because it's beautiful, but if they don't eat well, they won't come back."

Considering that 2017 will be the 23rd Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta Festival Gourmet, people are eating well and coming back to enjoy the region's Mexican cuisine, restaurants and hotels.

To make reservations and buy tickets for International Gourmet Festival dine-arounds, chef's tables, gourmet safaris, winemakers' nights and other culinary events, visit the food festival's website. It also lists the program of events, guest chefs and participating restaurants and hotels.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Festival Gourmet International

Riviera Nayarit

Visit Mexico

More things to see & do in Riviera Nayarit:

Mexcaltitan, Riviera Nayarit - Seafood Restaurants and Mexican Culture

Jala Nayarit Mexico - Pueblo Magico (Magic Town)

Riviera Nayarit Ecotours