Eighty degrees and 80% humidity seems even farther away than the 2000 miles it is from the dry 22 degrees outside my door tonight, and three weeks ago feels more like months. It’s a good thing we took some photos or I might have a hard time even remembering what we ate.
Our first meal was at a Pollo Feliz, chosen because we were starving and deliriously tired after a super-early flight out of Redmond meant we had started our day at least 12 hours earlier. Rather than happy chicken though, we chose arrachera, quesadillas, and cerveza. Despite its obvious fast-food leanings Pollo Feliz has good food, including some of the best tortillas we had all week. Our strength restored, we braved Gutierrez Rizo, the grocery store, where we picked up the staples: tostados, stuff for guacamole and pico de gallo, jicama, limes, a pineapple, Squirt, beer and tequila, some coffee and some whole milk to go in it, and some yogurt. Some really, really good yogurt. Lordy indeed.
The next day we wandered around old Vallarta and then sat on the Playa de los Muertos, slowly drinking beers in the sun until we decided it was time for margaritas. We made our way back to the Burros Bar, a favorite of Jeff’s parents, beach vendors, and loud tourists. Also, home of very large margaritas. Jeff wants everyone to know that mine is the one in the front. What can I say, it was hot (also, stronger than I expected.) We took the bus back to our hotel and, after spending all day in town, decided to eat in the restaurant there rather than venture back out. Apparently a captive audience doesn’t make for much of a dining experience. It was a mistake we didn’t make again.
The next few days are kind of a blur of street food and groceries. We managed to find the birria stand we’d stumbled upon on our last trip to PV, ate elote con todo on the Malecon, and bussed it up to Soriana (where I managed to buy parsley instead of cilantro, something I’m careful to avoid at home.)
Monday night we tried El Brujo, a place that people love to recommend. Jeff went with the fajitas, no doubt their best seller. I was excited to find huitlacoche on the menu, a corn fungus that I’d read about and was curious to try. It was mixed in a cream sauce served over some kind of shrimp-stuffed fish, so rich I barely put a dent in it. I took it home, but I’m sure our waiter thought I didn’t like it which wasn’t the case. It is weird-looking stuff, I won’t deny it, but it had an earthy, mushroomy taste that I really liked. I’m sure I would have finished it later in the week, if my stomach hadn’t taken a turn for the worse…
Yes, that’s right, my adventurous eating caught up with me on this trip. I’m still not sure what the culprit was, though I suspect it might have been the shrimp tostado I let myself get talked into at this slightly shady beach bar we hit in Bucerias. Hard to know since Jeff ate from the same plate of food and suffered no ill effects. Could have been the chicken we picked up on the way home (this time we went for pollo at Pollo Feliz,) but again, Jeff was eating the same thing. At any rate I woke up feeling like I’d been doing sit-ups. Uh oh. I made it, fueled only by crackers, water, and a can of Coke, through a day of buses, water taxis, and a hike up a burro trail to a waterfall. I thought I’d dodged a bullet. And then we went out for the best dinner of our entire trip and my stomach staged a full-scale revolt.
I’d noticed Casa Naranjo on our first trip to PV, but it wasn’t in our budget. This time we had money set aside for a nice dinner out and I was looking forward to a celebratory last night in Mexico. Our waiter, Mario, was fantastic, bringing us a smoked marlin appetizer and recommending a perfect glass of wine (and he complimented my Spanish, *blush*.) I knew as soon as I read the description of the crab bisque with pumpkin, tequila, and a spinach flan that I had to try it and it was as delicious as it sounds. It was also very rich which, in retrospect, might have made it a poor decision. By the time our entrees arrived I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat much of my seafood linguine. I kept drinking more and more water, had a bite of Jeff’s giant, magnificent pork chop, and swirled my pasta around in the bowl. Mario boxed up our leftovers (that pork chop was so big that Jeff couldn’t even finish it) and brought us the dessert menu. I thought maybe some mild sweet thing might help settle my stomach and considered sorbet, but settled on a cup of camomile tea. Apparently this was the last straw. I drank some of it and realized I had to go outside. Now.
I’ll end my story there; thankfully, I recovered quickly and was feeling pretty ok by the time we got back to our room (this was the only time the whole week we took a cab. The cab driver also complimented my Spanish, though I realized later I didn’t actually say anything to him in Spanish. Hmmm.) I want to stress that Casa Naranjo’s food was not to blame–I even managed to eat my leftover pasta, mussels and all, for lunch the next day!
By the time we came home we wanted to eat anything but Mexican food, but even that wore off pretty quickly. Now we’re back to dreaming of ripe, red tomatoes, Negro Modelo, tortillas hot off the comal, and lime and chile on everything. Oh, and Lordy yogurt. That was some damn fine yogurt.
More pictures of our trip on Flickr.
*** Huge thanks to Joe and Joan, Jeff’s parents, who gave us this trip as an incredibly generous wedding gift.***