Food,  Travel

Eating solo in Mexico – Part 1

I’m back in rainy (and cold!) Vancouver. Sean was working a load-out when I landed, so my dad and step-mom came to fetch me at the airport at 1:30am. (Thank goodness for parents.) By the time I got home, Sean had just gotten home and it was almost 5am Central/PV time. Needless to say, I was tired.

While on this vacation, I had lots of ‘me’ time – no surprise since it was just me – ha. I came to (perhaps a re-) realization that eating out kinda sucks. (I used to feel the same way about cooking. For the most part, it’s way more fun when you are cooking for someone else or a big group.) You have no one to share your enthusiasm or – not in the case of this trip – disdain for a meal, or to share the food with. Food sharing is something I really missed my guy l for last week (along with the un-food related reason of him being the person to put lotion on my back).

When Sean and I go for dinner, we share an appetizer and dessert, and we try each others’ meals (which are never the same). It’s a win/win situation. But on your own in Mexico – and in general, you have to be choosy and recognize (like I did at Fajita Republic – to be documented soon) that you may need to get a doggie bag. Especially when every restaurant serves you the standard corn tortilla chips and salsa to keep you busy. (Tip: Have a couple chips so you can try the salsa, but if you have more, you won’t have room for anything else!)

I promised myself that I wouldn’t eat out every night while in Mexico, but I was on my own and didn’t want to be a hermit. And I love to people watch. Breakfast and lunch (other than El Arrayan) were made at the condo (there was a full kitchen) and eaten on the patio, but I only had a couple dinners at “home”. The rest of my dinners were out and I had some really good food.

Riviera (Paseo de los Cocoteros, 35 – Nuevo Vallarta) – I already wrote about this restaurant. It was my first meal out and I was feeling a bit self-consious, so I brought my Vanity Fair magazine with me to read while waiting for food, service, etc. The chicken mole was good and the margarita ended up being the best I had while I was down there. The prices are decent, as is the food. (If I’m being honest, I think I enjoyed the food better the first time I went with Sean, but the food was still good.)

My dinner companion for most of my meals out.
El Arrayan (Allende #344 El Centro – Puerto Vallarta) – This was actually a lunch, and I already wrote about it, but I had to take this opportunity to talk about the cooking lesson and meal, again. AMAZING day and restaurant.

El Dinamita (Paseo Cocoteros, lote 8 villa 8 – next to Fajita Republic, Nuevo Vallarta) – This is a cool little outdoor restaurant that opened a little while ago. It’s right down the street from the condo complex. The next time we go to Nuevo, I am so very excited to bring Sean to this restaurant. I ate there twice – quality food for a really decent price.

There are lanterns in all the trees and the decor is really simple. It’s a popular place that Pilar (the consierge who picked me up) recommended to me. I’m so glad that she did!

The first night, I still had my Vanity Fair but instead of feeling self-consious, the staff made me feel quite special, rearranging a table for me, and making sure I had lots of candles to add atmosphere to my meal. I met Alex and Jorge who, I think it’s safe to say, run the place. Alex was my waiter for most of the meal and he politely asked me if, since I was new to their place, if he could recommend a meal for me, and what did I like flavour wise?

I didn’t even look at the menu because what he recommended was the ahi tuna steak with garlic butter, steamed veggies, and mashed potatoes. Not Mexican, but hello, DONE. The steak was perfectly seared (ahi tuna is briefly seared on both sides on a really hot grill; the middle is meant to be nice and pink), the veggies were nicely steamed, the mashed potatoes were awesome, and the meal came came with two little pieces of garlic bread that were perfect for sopping up the last dregs of my garlic butter coma. YUM.

Perfectly done ahi tuna steak.
The second time I went, it was my last night in the country. I walked up and Alex greeted me by name and welcomed me back. He asked me if I had told my husband about the tuna steak yet (good memory – I had told him Sean makes an awesome tuna steak) and showed me to my table. Chips and salsa were brought, as was the mini jicama (hi-ka-MAH), orange, and pineapple salad. (Which you do get charged for, but it’s minimal.)

Mini jicama, orange, pineapple salad with ground chiles.
Some friends of my in-laws that have a place in the same condo complex where I stayed recommended that I try the fish tacos with chistorra (spicy sausage) if I were to go back. And so that is what I tried. (But this time, I also looked at the menu. So much to try when I go back!) I was given the choice of wheat or corn soft tortillas, and because wheat and I don’t really get along most of the time, I went with the corn. They are also super tasty and have a great texture.

Jorge welcomed me back as he flew by with someone’s order and I was brought my margarita. And then my trio of fresh tacos came in this neat, wavy stainless steal thing on a wood board. The presentation was beautiful. The meal came with containers of chopped chile sauce, sliced limes, and another chile sauce mixed with olive oil. It also came with a beautiful cilantro sauce, that I am beyond pleased that Alex gave me the recipe for. (I need to make it before I post it, but I promise to post it after that.)

Fish and chistorra tacos with cilantro sauce.
I have a new found appreciation for lime and cilantro. Not only are they good antibacterial agents in food, they also dumb down the heat in spicy food. Much to my gratitude, because despite my Jamaican heritage (my dad is from there), I cannot handle anything too spicy. I loaded up my tacos and I was a happy camper. YUM.

Deep fried ice cream.
Dessert on both nights was something I never thought I would try – deep fried ice cream. I couldn’t finish it both times, but oh my gosh, it was good stuff. But no wonder there is a large portion of the Mexican population that has diabetes. (Carmen was telling us about this at El Arrayan.) This is the country of caramel. That aside, the dessert was quite tasty. (But you can believe I went to the gym every morning.)

Both nights, my meal cost me less than just over $20 CAD. Dead serious. I nearly fell over when I checked my Visa statement when I got home. Each time: bottle of water, the jicama mini salad, margarita, entrée, dessert. For less than $25 CAD!

(General rule of thumb is that $1 CAD equals 10 Pesos. At the time, the Canadian dollar was worth 12-13 Pesos. Mexico is fairly cheap for it’s northern neighbours.)

Two more meals to document, but this post is long enough 😉 and I need to finish unpacking and prep meals for the week.

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