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It was the best breakfast we've ever eaten in Mexico. The authentic Mexican food was prepared by Patricia Quintana, the country's most famous chef, and Alfredo Jiménez Arrizón, executive chef at Marival Emotions Resort.

Patricia Quintana and Alfredo Jimenez Arrizon
Patricia Quintana and Alfredo Jimenez Arrizon
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Located in Nuevo Vallarta, in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, the Marival Emotions Resort was a participant in the annual International Festival Gourmet. Chef Patricia Quintana was the culinary festival's guest chef at the resort's Omaggio restaurant.

What is almuerzo?

The meal was more a brunch than a breakfast. Chef Quintana defined almuerzo and provided its history.

"Mexican farmers traditionally had coffee, juice and bread before going out early to work in the fields. They came back to eat almuerzo, around 10 am, which was substantial enough to hold them until their main meal at 3 to 4 pm."

Breakfast menu

As we enjoyed some deliciously ripe strawberries, persimmons, tangerines, sweet pineapple and coconut slices, she described the authentic Mexican cuisine that we were about to enjoy.

The almuerzo included crunchy taquitos stuffed with panela cheese and served with a tasty tomatillo, serrano chile and onion salsa. More chiles highlighted the ingredients of a mouthwatering salsa roja, topped with chopped cilantro and red onions.

Grilled rat's tail chiles and green onions
Grilled rat's tail chiles and green onions
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Rat's-tail chiles

Although grilled green serrano chile toreados on a bed of coarse salt tempted our appetites, the grilled chile de árbol peppers were the most interesting.

"Because of their shape, these red peppers are also called chile cola de rata (rat's tail chiles)," said Paty Quintana. They were delectable, combined with the grilled green onions that encircled them.

Traditional Mexican foods

Subsequent courses were equally appetizing, including steamed duck tamales, neatly wrapped in banana leaf packets and held together with thin strips of banana leaves, tied into bows.

Frijoles de la olla (stewed beans in a pot)
Frijoles de la olla (stewed beans in a pot)
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

White-jacketed Marival Resort waiters served flavorful frijoles de la olla (stewed beans) from a hand-decorated glazed clay pot. They were delicious with the corn tortillas on the table.

A plate held two types of Mexican cheeses — panela (basket cheese), peppered with tiny holes, and queso fresco (fresh cheese), another soft, unaged cheese.

Huevos rancheros

Our main almuerzo dish was a hearty plate of huevos rancheros. The two soft-fried eggs were topped with red salsa and served with chilaquiles.

Pan dulce (Mexican sweet breads)
Pan dulce (Mexican sweet breads)
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

These delicious squares of fried corn tortillas were smothered in red salsa and garnished with chopped red onion, cilantro and crumbled queso fresco. Even though we were nearly full, we cleaned our plates.

Pan dulce

No breakfast in Mexico is complete without an assortment of pan dulce (Mexican sweet breads).

Some, called conchas, were seashell-shaped and flavored with chocolate and anise. Other small sweet rolls, called ojos de toro (bull's eyes), were sandwiched together with strawberry jam.

The most interesting were the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) made specifically to celebrate Mexico's Day of the Dead on November 2.

Piloncillo cone and shavings
Piloncillo cone and shavings
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

These sweet Mexican buns are often decorated with pieces of dough shaped to resemble bones and tears. The pan de muerto, at our table, were flavored with orange and sprinkled with sesame seeds and sugar.

Mexican coffee

What goes best with pan dulce? Hot chocolate or coffee. Our breakfast included superb coffee, brewed with cinnamon sticks and sweetened with piloncillo.

Patricia Quintana explained that this unrefined brown sugar, made from sugar cane, was a Nayarit food specialty.

She asked a waiter to bring out one of the hard cone-shaped mounds of piloncillo. We tasted some dark brown shavings. They had a rich caramel flavor.

It was a sweet ending to our Nuevo Vallarta almuerzo.


Riviera Nayarit

Marival Emotions Resort

Visit Mexico

More things to see & do in Riviera Nayarit:

Mexcaltitan, Riviera Nayarit - Seafood Restaurants and Mexican Culture

Sayulita - The Best Fish Tacos in Nayarit Mexico

Salsa Huichol - Hot Sauce from Nayarit Mexico

Riviera Nayarit Mexico Ecotours

Birding Tour in La Tovara - San Blas, Nayarit