By Ann Shepphird of GardenstoTables.com
Fresh Picks and Catches is a regular column by Ann Shepphird. Ann keeps our readers posted on restaurants around the world that are at the forefront of bringing the best local, seasonal and environmentally sustainable agriculture, meat and seafood to the table.
Puerto Vallarta is one of those cities that brings things together. It's where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sierra Madre and the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit come together. And of course, it's where the romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton bloomed during the filming of Night of the Iguana in the 1960s. Both fell in love with the city and bought homes there (in the aptly named Gringo Gulch neighborhood) and to this day, the city has a large US expat population.
All of this blending leads to a vibrant food scene that includes a “Festival Gourmet” each November and a wide variety of restaurants that take advantage of the local farm (and ocean)-to-table offerings. Here are three choices in a variety of settings for those looking to sample food that is truly local, fresh and seasonal:
Vallarta Botanical Garden
Located 12 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta along the Palms-to-Pines Highway is the Vallarta Botanical Garden, which features more than 3,000 different species of plants on its 20 acres of land in the Sierra Madre. The emphasis is on indigenous tropicals, such as orchids, agave, tree ferns and wildflowers, but the Garden has also hosts workshops with local producers, and provides a forum for them with its Hacienda de Oro restaurant, which is open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and features a brick pizza oven and Mexican favorites that include an amazing tortilla soup.
Blanca Blue Restaurant & Lounge
Located on the same spot where a beach club frequented by Burton and Taylor once stood, Blanca Blue Restaurant & Lounge was the first component of what is now the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa. Chef Francisco Ruano makes a point of sourcing as much as possible from local and organic farms that include Organic Chef (vegetables), Rancho el Tuito (dairy products) and Rancho Santa Helena (cheese) for dishes that include the “Banderas Garden”: seasonal organic vegetables over chickpea puree, shaved parmesan, herbs and toasted bread. The restaurant is also known for its extensive tequila collection, with more than 100 labels on the menu.
Marisma Fish Taco
If you’re like me, the first thing that comes to mind in a seaside town in Mexico is fish tacos. Ask any local in Puerto Vallarta for the best fish tacos and they’ll most likely send you to Marisma. It’s not a fancy restaurant but a (very clean) food stand in the Old Town section of downtown Puerto Vallarta -- and so popular, new stands are opening in other parts of Mexico. One of the reasons the tacos are so good is the corn tortillas are made fresh on site. Couple that with fresh fish (grilled or battered) and salsa, and you can see why it’s so popular. If you decide you’d like to wash the tacos down with some margaritas, take a walk down Basilio Badillo (the main street in Old Town) toward the beach past all the shops and galleries and you’ll find Margarita Grill, which offers pico de gallo and guacamole made tableside.
Photo Credits: Ann Shepphird and the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa