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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Prhat

Puerto Vallarta, My Home Away From Home

I only first experienced Puerto Vallarta last November when I was invited to stay at the Four Seasons in Punta Mita located in Riviera Nayarit. Being a guest at this gem of a property is a special way to experience Nayarit, and John O’Sullivan the energetic longtime GM, who's incredible sense of humour is a part of the experience covers miles a day to make sure all guests get an unforgettable experience. The Four Seasons hospitality was exceptional and it also gave me an opportunity to extend my trip and visit Puerto Vallarta, which quickly became my favourite place outside Toronto and my new home.

I was fortunate to have experienced the Four Seasons resort in Punta Mita both as a Guest and also as a Guest Chef. I spent time with two top chefs; Chef Jorge Gonzales and Chef Eduardo Zorilla. Seeing their passion for food and love for creating culinary experiences was incredibly inspiring and energizing, we had so much fun in this top of the line kitchen – a chef’s dream playground. I once again witnessed the old principle that says that “although most can follow a recipe, it takes an artist to create a masterpiece” in action. Chef Jorge’s artistry and knowledge, combined with my own excitement for good food and new experiences have fueled a friendly synergistic adventure. I loved learning more about this part of Mexico. The Chefs showcased an array of wonderful dips. The 3 dip tasting is sensational. To top it off I fell in love with the sophisticated taste of Tsi Kil Pak. This mouthwatering dip, made of roasted pumpkin seeds, habanero chillies (caution: it’s mucho caliente), cilantro, and roasted onions, is served with a thin crunchy flatbread called tlayuda, local to the Oaxaca (pronounced WaHaKA) region. At first all you taste is the delicious tlayuda but soon after comes the punch as the hot dip hits your mouth perfectly. Ironically, the solution to down the hot dip was usually yet another loaded tlayuda chip.

If you are in the area I recommend visiting Sayulita, (15 minutes from the Four Seasons), this little beach town is full of restaurants and tourist attractions. After 5 days of this beautiful luxury, it was time to hit the real world. Bye bye Nayaritt and hello Puerto!

Puerto Vallarta is in the adjacent state of Jalisco. Nestled on the beach, it is home for tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians that fell in love with this safe, welcoming and festive town. It is clear the secret is out as the town is growing, bustling with tourists, and starting to feature state of the art condo buildings that would fit perfectly in Toronto, San Francisco or Miami. PV is also the proud home of the proud community in Mexico, and is exceptionally LGBTQ friendly.

Back to food here… the downtown Saturday market in Cardenas Square, is an exciting venue. Fruits and vegetables that can rarely be imported to Toronto are brought in by the truckload. I became temporarily addicted to soursop and the endless supply of local mangos, pineapple and bananas. They are tree ripe and one can definitely taste the difference.

Good Morning Puerto Vallarta, can I get a light, yet exceptionally filling breakfast here? Ono’s Bowls to the rescue. You could easily miss this little nook on the shopping strip of Basillio Badillo Avenue, but if you don't, boy oh boy will you get the bowl of your life! Erica who is originally from Oregon, has about 6 signature smoothie bowls and each one is full of delicious ingredients, brimming with flavour, which are a work of art to look at. My personal favourite is the Acai Purple Rain.

Thanks to Happy Cow's load of suggestions I found Veggitalia! on my second day, the local Italian haven. Marco- the Owner and Chef of Veggitalia- who easily turns beautiful, traditional Italian dishes into delicious plant-based options without losing an ounce of flavour- is a pure delight. Veggitalia! became a favourite daily stop. I loved hearing Marco’s stories and learned that he makes Mozzarella cheese from coconut and why he was inspired to take this unique culinary route. Creating Vegan Italian delicacies miles away from the rolling hills of Italy. Mama Mia, what an experience!!

After a good dinner, it’s coffee time! Puerto Cafe is an excellent choice. The coffee is fantastic and I had multiple dairy free options to blend into my flat white. Along with that delicious coffee aroma, comes a special experience. Aldo and his team remember their guests and make sure to make them feel at home.The vibe is unique, imagine Spanish 70’s rock. It is called psychadellic cumbia, and it will bring to life your inner Dancer with rich tunes from Los Destellos and Sonido Gallo Negro. (They are now playing on repeat on my playlist)

The beach scene in PV is safe and bubbly. To end a day with the local vibe, catch the sunset on the beach (you might catch more than this as the whales make appearances in the season) and enjoy the breeze on the Malecon, the local boardwalk. The 2KM walk is bustling with families and tourists who are enjoying the local vendors' jewelry, restaurants, street shows and an impressive collection of sculptures and colourful displays all along the path. Family friendly, Vegan friendly, tourist friendly, LGBTQ very friendly, whoever you are, PV has a warm spot for you and I kept feeling this warmth quite a bit after I left this special little town. I am sure to go back.

Next stop is Dominican Republic, stay tuned!

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