Saturday, November 15, 2008

Puerto Vallarta: Fish Tacos in Paradise

Oh friends, when I started writing this post early this morning, I felt a little longing to go back to the paradise dreamworld that is Puerto Vallarta, if only to escape my life here for a little bit longer. But now, back from a coffee then brunch with a steady stream of awesome laughter over stupid/amazing jokes on a perfect sunny-in-November LA day where all the friends seemed especially ebullient, I feel completely satisfied where I am (more on that later).

But that doesn't take away from the deliciousness of the trip. You see, whenever I'm asked the question "if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose?" I always have the same response: somewhere beachy and Spanish-speaking.

I think I found it.

In the depths of crazy overtime and 6-day work weeks, I sneaked away for five days, with some of my favorite cousins, to Mexico. Our hotel pool was 4 steps away from its own beach, the water was turqoise and clear, warm like a bathtub, with mellow waves that might rock you to sleep. I indulged on my own airy and bright room, and lying in that crisp white bed, lulled to sleep by waves hitting the shore outside my window, was more relaxation that I could have asked for.

Our food choices on the trip were fairly simple. We spent the majority of our trip splayed out by the pool, so we ate many 'meals' at the bar, sitting on the tile stools inside the pool. Big fresh tortilla chips and ample mounds of creamy guacamole (simple and perfect: avocado, sweet onion, lime, salt. the end.) were our daily bread. I had my share of margaritas -- really the drink that makes me happiest in the world -- but I mixed it up now and then with a michelada, a Mexican specialty that makes beer into what I can only describe as a savory beer-garita.

To make a michelada, they salt the rim of a beer stein, then squeeze in lime juice, and add Worcestershire and Maggi seasoning. Add ice, pour in beer, stick in a straw. A little odd, but cool and satisfying in a somewhat bloody-mary sort of way.

Hmm, what else can I tell you about the food? Well, breakfast was amazing: mild, delicious coffee with cream that's actually cream-colored, a plate of fresh cut fruit, granola, luscious yogurt, and on good days, a basket filled with a variety of pan dulce. The first day I was there, a Sunday, I got a special treat: a sweet bread specked with whole cloves, baked special for the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday when people celebrate the lives of loved ones they've lost.

I was in Mexico, and I was on the coast, so of course there were fish tacos and ceviche. Both were made with what Guillermo, the bar guy, called 'blanco de basa', which he translated as mahi-mahi (though I have my doubts). Both were delicious. The tacos weren't the deep-fried, cabbagy baja monstrosities we see here, but rather big cubes of fish lightly sauteed with onions and peppers over corn tortillas, served of course, with copious amounts of guacamole. The ceviche tasted fresh and citrusy -- which is to say, just right.

We did manage to venture into town for a short stint: my cousin Sam and I left the others to bronze all day and hopped on the bright green Mismaloya bus. Between admiring the awesome public art every few steps down the malecon -- Puerto Vallarta's beach boardwalk -- and freaking out over extremely perilous street performances involving swinging upside-down on a rope hanging from a spinning pole hundreds of feet high and precariously close to a stone wall, while playing a tiny flute and drum at the same time, we encountered marvels like the McDonald's 'pay de queso': take your familiar apple pie and swap out the filling with sweet creamy cheese. Globalization-licious! We also stopped at a street cart for some heavily-pierced kid to sell us a giant coconut macaroon. He had two varieties: one was the the pale color we're used to here, but we opted for the one that a much darker brown, I'm guessing due either to caramelizing the sugar, or using piloncillo, or something along those lines. It had a deep burnt-sugar flavor, and as soon as we inhaled the thing, we regretted not getting two.

There was probably much more of the city we could have explored, foodwise and otherwise, but this particular trip was all about blissful vegetating. And besides, knowing how much more there is to see just means I'll have revisit Puerto Vallarta, my own little 'somewhere beachy and Spanish-speaking'. Sadly, said revisit can not happen tomorrow. Que lástima.


  1. Hi Tannaz,

    Those Fish Tacos look ridiculously delicious! :) (And you're right, they look like nothing I've seen in So Cal.)

    The clear beach waters looked amazing (/envious). And was that message written in the sand meant for you? (If so, a belated Happy Birthday to you! :)

  2. Not that Puerto Vallarta's guac and ceviche isn't amazing but I'm ready for the brunch post already.

  3. This post could only be made better with a picture of the famous Sam.

  4. oh, exile kiss, i should have clarified -- the birthday message was not at all for me. the guys by the pool, if you asked them nicely, would write those messages, just by scuffling their feet through the sand. cool, huh?

    brad -- patience is a virtue.

    and seriously tsp, be careful what you wish for. do we really want to subject the world to that?

  5. great article next time YOu should try to catch Your own fish to eat fish is always best fresh out of the ocean

  6. Wow what a great blog, i really enjoyed reading this, good luck in your work

    Fishing Vallarta