Written for Daily Hive by travel writer Bianca Bujan
“I’m not going to grab your head, pour tequila down your throat, and shake it around. This isn’t that kind of tasting,” begins Audrey Formisano, the resident tequila sommelier at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, as she passes around our first tequila sample: a small pour of a Blanco served in a champagne glass.
Like many, I’ve come equipped with my share of tequila-swigging horror stories of the past. A mess of mango margaritas mixed with watered-down, tainted tequila and rows of overflowing shots chased with dares to “swallow the worm” at the bottom of the bottle are just some that come to mind when the word “tequila” is muttered. But this isn’t that kind of party. No, this is a classy tasting led by a certified tequila sommelier, and as I learn more about the history of the spirit stuck with a sour rep, I gain a new appreciation for the bevy.
This tequila tasting is just one of the stops on my foodie tour of Puerto Vallarta. As I drink and dine my way through town, I not only discover some delicious new bites and brands, but I also connect with the culture and the significance of each experience I enjoy along the way.
From a backroad taco tour through the secret spots in Old Town to new, upscale ways to nosh on traditional classics, these four food and drink experiences will give you a true taste of Puerto Vallarta.
Savour street eats on this local-led food tour
We kicked off our visit to Puerto Vallarta with the 3.5-hour walking “Signature Taco Tour” through Old Town, led by Vallarta Eats Food Tours. More than a walking/talking taco trek, this tour took us off the touristy trails to the secret street eats stands loved by locals. We chewed on craveable carnitas in the morning (yes, locals love noshing on pork tacos for breakfast), bit into birria taco dorados (crispy but chewy fried taco shells filled with slow-stewed beef, chicken, or goat meat), sampled seafood chile relleno (green chili peppers stuffed with seafood and cheese), and satisfied our sweet tooth with Mexican paletas (frozen treats) and handmade candies–all while meeting the people behind the plates who run the city’s most beloved, family-run food stands.
Along the way, we were also given a behind-the-scenes look at the local bakery, where buns and breads are baked fresh at the crack of dawn. We stopped in at the butcher shop where meats are cured and cut in-house and visited the town’s tortilla factory, where we sampled steaming hot tortillas fresh off the press while hearing fun facts and sentimental stories about the culture and history of the foods we sampled throughout the day.
Get hands-on with a chef-guided cooking class
Back at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta, we learned how to make a traditional Mexican dish alongside an esteemed chef. Through this private chef-guided cooking class, we visited the Mercado (farmers’ market) in town, escorted by Chef Luis Novaro, who showed us how to pick red snapper (it’s all in the eyes), sample Oaxaca cheese, smell fresh guava, and touch jumbo prawns to make the best selections. Then we took our purchases back to the chef’s kitchen, where we got hands-on, making chicken enchiladas and a mahi-mahi dish based on one of Chef’s grandmother’s recipes, all of which we consumed for lunch once complete.
Master the art of sipping with a certified tequila sommelier
You don’t have to be a guest at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta to enjoy a private tasting with their on-site tequila sommelier. Audrey Formisano loves educating the public on why tequila is a spirit to savour (not shoot) and the cultural importance of the beloved drink. Through food pairings and careful curation, Audrey ensures that guests have an enjoyable sipping experience–without getting sloshed. I went in feeling hesitant, convinced that I didn’t like tequila, and left the tasting with a more mature appreciation for the spirit and its significance to Mexican culture.
Elevate your senses with an exclusive dining experience
We wrapped up our food-focused festivities with a private, open-air dinner in the Herb Garden, found on the property of the Marriot Puerto Vallarta. There, we sampled a brand new, elevated, five-course multi-sensory menu (think: smoking octopus served in a wooden box and tuna crusted with Mexican chiles and chocolate, served in a glass suspended over bubbling turquoise liquid to mimic the sights and sounds of the sea). Each dish was carefully designed to connect the diner with the region through touch, sound, sight, smell, and of course, taste. Anyone can enjoy this special menu, part of the Gourmet Moments dinner series, by booking a private al fresco dinner on-site–the perfect way to round out your stay.