January 24, 2012
The Cheltenham Cheese Pudding was so good, whoops, forgot to take a picture of it…
From Monday, January 23rd thru Friday, January 27th, 2012, Chef Emily Watkins is visiting Stratford Chefs School as a ‘Resident Celebrity Chef’ for her first. Emily and her husband own and run a small and recently refurbished English country inn, restaurant and bar called ‘The Kingham Plough’ (www.thekinghamplough.co.uk). The inn is located in the romantic Cotswold region of England, and we cannot wait to visit and stay there, as their establishment looks quite charming, rustic yet refined. In short, staying at The Kingham Plough would be a welcome escape from the larks of London!
We are looking forward to seeing what Chef Watkins and S.C.S. students cook up in the kitchens of the Old Prune the remainder of this week. To see her acclaimed British dinner menus, please visit S.C.S.’s website:
What a brilliant way to end one’s culinary visit to Stratford Chefs School. Pictures above say enough.
Thanks for visiting us, Paolo. Enjoy Niagara Falls later today, and we wish you safe journey back to Siena!
This week, January 16th thru 20th, 2012, Chef Paolo Lopriore is once again visiting Stratford Chefs School as an honoured ‘Resident Celebrity Chef’ (www.stratfordchef.com).
Paolo’s cookery is definitely progressive in some degrees, yet, thoroughly grounded in classical Tuscan and Italian culinary roots. He runs the kitchens of an acclaimed modern restaurant, Il Canto (www.certosadimaggiano.com/eng/the-art-of-the-table-at-the-restaurant-il-canto-in-siena.aspx). The intimate, wonderfully designed and decorated restaurant is located just outside Siena, Italy, inside a historic country hotel that was once a monastery, Certosa di Maggiano (www.certosadimaggiano.com).
Stratford is so fortunate to have Paolo visiting and sharing his passion and vision for Italian cookery with all of us. I cannot wait to see what he prepares with S.C.S. students this evening!
(P.S.: Il Canto is included in San Pellegrino’s ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list, www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners/il-canto.)
January 11, 2012
Visits: December 22, 2011, thru January 5, 2012.
What follows is a list of restaurants visited in Puerto Vallarta (P.V.), establishments we think are worth mentioning and recommending to others. There are many restaurants in P.V. (with many tourist traps). All in all, P.V. is what it is, Mexico’s most economically important tourist destination, with a sea of dining choices for all budgets, tastes and expectations. We appreciated the following establishments, in alphabetical order:
EL ARRAYAN (www.elarrayan.com.mx)
Allende 344, El Centro (north of the river), P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 71 95
Excellent authentic and enlightened Mexican cuisine in a fun, brightly coloured and festive dining room. We recommend walking to this eatery, a polite trek on foot, yet, doable. Over dinner we liked: appetizers = duck tostadas, plantain empanadas; main dishes = beef barbacoa, and lamb birria; desserts = we skipped dessert, but, the selection of homemade ice cream and sorbet sounded best. Service is professional, yet, still friendly and Mexican to the core. Wine list is nicely put together and affordable, favourite pick = ‘La Linda’ Malbec from winery Luigi Bosca in Mendoza. Dinner only; closed Tuesday. Reservation required. Credit cards accepted. One can make a quick and secure reservation at this establishment using Open Table (www.opentable.com/el-arrayan).
EL BACALAO [No website.]
Basilio Badillo 200, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 31 31
No nonsense casual eatery. Reservation not required. We dined here one evening outside on their patio that is filled with retro (and surprisingly comfortable) orange-reddish plastic chairs with tables. This is a fun people-watching street side venue at night, with many characters walking by in all directions to clubs, bars and so on. Over dinner we liked: stick to their selection of seafood tacos, served in stainless steel and sleek custom-made taco stands. We advise not straying from the tacos. Wine is generic, “white or red?” was the question, so, cerveza was ordered right away. Service is timely enough, in relaxed jeans and a ripped t-shirt, no fuss, no worries. As close to street taco stands as we wished to get!
EL DORADO (www.eldoradopv.com)
Pulpito 102, Playa de los Muertos, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 41 24
One of our favourite hip restaurants set upon Playa de los Muertos. We admired the minimal and Mediterranean-inspired design of this establishment; even the table layout is sophisticated and calculated with an eye for design. Design and Mexico do not always go together, but, here is an exception to the norm. In our opinion, we liked this place for a late breakfast, or, even better for a relaxed luncheon when everybody is lounging in front on the beach, making for a great people-watching venue. Not being beach bums, we liked their more comfortable dining room tables that are well shaded from the sun, elevated nicely from the sand on a nicely constructed wooden deck. At breakfast we liked: a glass of fresh orange juice, with a glass of jugo verde (i.e., green juice, a pureed mixture of fresh cucumber, celery, mint, coriander, and so on, really healthy plus refreshing), a small fresh fruit plate, as well as nicely done huevos rancheros, and espresso to finish. Over lunch we liked: margaritas made here are very accomplished, perfect to start with some guacamole and tortilla chips. This was followed by our favourite item on their luncheon menu, fish chicharrones, served with a simple salsa Mexicana and a stack of steamed soft tortilla to wrap the crispy fried fish in, along with a blazingly spicy yet earthy roasted chili sauce to drizzle over top to taste. Wine list is a tad bit small, so, we tended to order cervesa more often. Service is professional and timely. Reservation not required. Credit cards accepted. We seem to remember they’re open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
LA LECHE (www.lalecherestaurant.com)
Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio (right in front of Hotel Fiesta Americana), Nuevo Vallarta
Tel.: 01 (322) 293 09 00
This was the only restaurant in Puerto Vallarta that we actually dressed up for, and after the meal we were glad we did. The interiors are very modern with everything white-washed in sight; chic guests filled the dining room as the night went on. The contemporary design, surprisingly refined cuisine, combined with confident service (at times deliberately quirky to raise eyebrows and generate chuckles) was definitely noteworthy. There were really no other restaurants like La Leche we experienced in town. They even served amuse bouche, another surprise course of some kind, plus a sorbet refresher nearing the end, equalling all wonderful little added touches. Toasts served in crisp white paper bags was odd yet whimsical. Over dinner we liked: appetizer = swordfish tartar; main dish = arrachera (grilled flank steak, beautifully cooked); dessert = too full, as usual we skipped sweets… Wine list is large: affordable to very expensive bottles on offer. Dinner only (they might be closed on one day of the week, but, we are not sure). Reservation required. Credit cards accepted. If staying in Zona Romantica, we recommend taking a taxi to and from this establishment.
LA PALAPA (www.lapalapapv.com)
Pulpito 103, Playa de los Muertos, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 52 25
Like El Dorado next door, La Palapa is one of a few of our favourite sophisticated restaurants we liked frequenting on the beach of Playa de los Muertos. Most restaurants set on the beach in that area are best walked past… We thoroughly recommend this establishment for a nice leisurely luncheon, as it is a another great establishment to get a sense of the busy beach scene, especially, if you really do not want to be right in it! Over lunch we liked: their traditional margaritas on the rocks were the best in P.V., served with a complimentary selection of light and crispy homemade plantain and sweet potato chips, all beautifully fried and presented served with interesting sauces to dabble in; appetizers = shrimp sopes, and sopa Azteca; main dishes = selection of grilled seafood, as well as arrachera with black beans, guacamole and salsa Mexicana; dessert = again, counting calories, we skipped this course. The service was flawless, another best for us in P.V. They have one of the largest wine lists in town, too, with many selections in all price points, our pick = chilled Pinot Noir from Luis Filipe Edwards winery in Chile. Credit cards accepted. Reservation recommended, yet, not required. Similar to El Arrayan, one can make a quick and secure reservation at La Palapa, using Open Table (www.opentable.com/la-palapa-restaurant-and-lounge).
NO WAY JOSE! (www.nowayjosemx.com)
5 de Febrero 260, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 223 2853
Yet another great authentic Mexican restaurant to visit. Best to make a reservation, yet, not required. Over dinner we liked: appetizer = sopa Azteca; main dish = enchilada; dessert = too full, no dessert ordered, but that said, their mango sorbet sounded nice. Service was professional yet very casual and playful at times, as we laughed with our waiter quite a bit. Wine list has enough to be interesting, and very affordable, with our favourite pick = chilled Pinot Noir from William Cole vineyards in Chile. Closed Monday, they serve dinner every other night of the week. Cash only.
RED CABBAGE (www.redcabbagepv.com)
Calle Rivera del Rio 204, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 223 04 11
Another gem of a place to experience authentic Mexican cuisine in P.V. It would have been a little hard to find, if, we were not being guided by a friend knowing this location well: like El Arrayan, the walk here is longer than most restaurant jaunts in town, but, well worth the effort. At dinner we liked: appetizer = soft tacos with a potato filling, and some with a fresh cheese filling; main dishes = pork in a green tomatillo sauce, and “Frida’s Dinner”, a set menu featuring a selection of Mexican favourites including the wonderfully over-the-top national dish, chiles en nogada; dessert = you may have noticed by now that we do not tend to order desserts in Mexico, thus, not many recommendations! Wine list is very affordable. Best to make a reservation, yet, not required. Dinner is served seven days a week. Cash only.
LOOKING TO COOK + ENTERTAIN NICELY IN P.V.? Check the following spots…
Pollo Feliz (www.pollofeliztepic.com/_html/intro.htm)
Honduras 171 (north of river), P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 51 59
Does this translate into happy chicken? This is a convenient B.B.Q. chicken take-out shop where one can order a quarter, half, or, whole chicken. (It is also a fast-food like restaurant.) If ordering a whole chicken, they throw in little extras like a grilled jalapeño and green bell pepper, plus, some nice fresh homemade tomato sauce. Open daily, 11:00 a.m. onwards.
Dee’s Coffee Company (www.facebook.com/deescoffeecompany)
Rodolfo Gómez 120, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 11 97
Good organic dark roasted Mexican coffee beans can be purchased here, and they will grind to your specifications. This is quite a social scene during mornings and afternoons, and a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to what’s new with the expats and tourists alike. Open daily.
Xocodiva Artisan Chocolates (www.xocodiva.com)
Rodolfo Gómez 118, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 113 03 52
Just down the street from Dee’s. Excellent selection of chocolates to choose from and all made in-house using good quality ingredients. We liked pairing iced coffee with their chocolates for an elegant end of a meal. If going out on a shopping trip, best to stop here on the way back to your accommodation (that said, they do have ice packs available to keep the chocolates from melting, just ask). Open daily, we seem to remember they accept cash only.
Mercado ‘5 de Diciembre’ (www.vallartablog.com/puerto-vallartas-best-mercado)
San Salvador (north of river), P.V.
Best local market in Puerto Vallarta, with excellent produce and fresh seafood vendors. There is a very busy and popular tortilleria on site, where one can stock up on all sorts of tortilla, soft, baked and/or fried. Best to take a taxi to this market, ask your driver to wait, so you can do your shopping, and then get dropped off back at your pad. Also, we recommend visiting this market earlier rather than later, arriving around 9:00 a.m., before the road traffic becomes too congested in town and the sun rises higher and hotter. Our favourite fishmongers are at ‘Pescaderia La Morena’, where one can purchase excellent fresh whole red snapper, black sea bream, and so on, as well as fresh shrimps and prawns of all sizes.
Old Town Farmers Market- Tianguis Cultural (www.oldtownfm.com)
Pino Suarez (between B. Badillo and V. Carranza), Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 205 33 84
An excellent farmer’s market that takes place every Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Members of the local Slow Food Convivium for the Banderas Bay started this relatively new market a year or two ago. There are all sorts of vendors here, featuring many local growers, to artisan food makers selling homemade breads, tamales, empanadas, pies, B.B.Q. meats, dairy products, pickles, preserves, and so on.
Cork + Bottle (www.facebook.com/pages/Cork-Bottle/183029958388229)
Aquiles Serdan 265, Zona Romantica, P.V.
Tel.: 52 (322) 222 28 06
Temperature controlled wine shop where you can purchase higher quality wines than what is available in all supermarkets and liquor stores around town. (We heard the La Europa in Marinia Vallarta is quite good, but, we did not get a chance to visit that wine shop well north of the river.) Most of Cork + Bottle’s portfolio features wines from Mexico, Argentina, and Chile, with a decent collection of Champagne, Prosecco and other festive sparkling wines to celebrate occasions. This wine shop is located in the swanky ‘Los Mercados’ gourmet shopping gallery that houses a nice butcher shop, bakery, and produce section, all temperature controlled, in a squeaky clean and sanitized shopping environment. If salt-of-the-earth local markets are not you’re thing, then, definitely shop here. Open Monday thru Saturday.
Useful Websites for Gastronomes Visiting P.V.: