Once again I am in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, one of my favorite towns to visit. My son, Rob, and his wife, Amy came down with me to enjoy some sunny weather, and it has been a delight to be able to wear shorts, t-shirts and sandals again.
One day, Rob rented a car and the three of us drove up to a little town called Sayulita. That town is one of the Pueblos Magicos, a designation given by the government to certain villages that are unique in their culture, their pride in their community, and has some history or traditions, legends, that set the village apart from others. A village with that designation receives money from the government to make improvements where needed and to promote tourism.
Personally, I think the town has gone overboard on the tourism part of the agreement, for the little village was so crowded it was not fun for me to be there. At any rate, it is a pretty little town, on the beach, with apparently some of the best surfing waves of that northern side of Nayarit.
The waves are not very high at this point, but some amateur surfers were going to ride the little waves, if they could.
The meals were delicious. After lunch on the beach, we walked around the little town for a short time, but it was just too crowded with tour groups and other tourists to be enjoyable.
After we got back to our hotel, Rob told me that he did not ever want to drive in Mexico again, but I thought he did a good job. We had only driven a little over an hour each way, but I would not have wanted to drive, either.
Yesterday, we stayed in Puerto Vallarta. We went into town, and had cooking lessons at one of the restaurants there, called Gaby’s. Now that was an activity that I enjoyed immensely.
Chef Julio Cesar met us at 9:00 a.m. After preliminary introductions, he gave each of us and apron and a shopping bag, then led us on a trip through part of Old Town Vallarta to the mercato, where we bought fresh fruit, vegetables, dried chilies. While we were shopping Chef Julio told us about the food as well as some of the culture of Puerto Vallarta.
Chef Julio picked out some fresh peppers. Oh, yes, he did throw in some of those orange and green habanero peppers. I am certainly glad that Julio knew what he needed from this array.
After buying the produce we needed, Julio took us to a tortilleria, where we bought fresh masa. The ladies that ran this shop make everything from scratch. They soak the dried corn in lime water, then grind it into flour and make the masa. They also make tortillas to sell by the dozen, and the shop was quite busy that morning.
Back at the restaurant, we really got down to business. We made our tortillas from the fresh masa. That was an experience to remember, for as easy as it looks to make those little things, all sorts of things can go wrong. We did get a few that were not torn, but the nice thing about working with masa is that it is like Play Dough…if at first, they don’t turn out well, just roll the dough up into a ball again and do it over.
Chef Julio instructed me on making the strawberry masa for sweet tamales. Those were certainly different. We put the masa on the corn husks, then added fresh pineapple and raisins, rolled them up and they steamed while we made the rest of our dinner.
Our luncheon went on and on and on. We had chilies rellenos, mole chicken enchiladas, ceviche, swordfish empanadas, five or six different salsas, then our sweet tamales.
We left the restaurant after six hours of shopping, cooking and eating. We were all stuffed, but I must say, it was a wonderful day. I loved having this hands-on cooking experience.
After the class was finished, Chef Julio gave us a tour of the restaurant. It is a family-owned business, started by his mother and father many years ago. The family home was turned into the restaurant, and now they are expanding it. His mother was at the cash register yesterday and his grandmother was having lunch in the restaurant.
Chef Julio is going to email the recipes to us. I might be brave enough to try some of these at home. I might have to look hard to find some of the ingredients, but as much as I love to cook, that will be another pleasant, fun experience.
If you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta, and want to take a cooking class, I highly recommend Gaby’s. The restaurant is just 2 blocks up the street from the Church of Guadalupe, the main cathedral in Puerto Vallarta.
Now we are relaxing at the hotel, for tonight we are going on another cultural experience called “Rhythm of the Nights”. I will have to tell you about that tomorrow. (If you want, you can look up my blog posts from January, 2017 and August, 2017, for I had taken that tour on both those dates. ).
Adios for now.