The Art of Cooking

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The specialty Japanese restaurant at Iberostar Cancun is one of four  specialty restaurants.
The specialty Japanese restaurant at Iberostar Cancun is one of four
specialty restaurants.

In 2006, tequila was named a World Heritage by UNESCO, and in 2010, UNESCO proclaimed traditional Mexican cooking an Intangible Cultural Heritage. No wonder Mexicans boastfully say, “In Mexico, cooking is an art.”

This is a country that likes to show off its culinary prowess. Whether it’s dinner at a gourmet restaurant in a colonial town, lunch at a beachside bar at one of the many all-inclusive resorts, or a quick bite to eat at a streetside taco stand in Mexico City, every meal pays homage to the country’s heritage. Imagine this…the first mole sauce in Puebla was made in 1681, and mole is still a staple of Puebla’s cuisine. In other words, it’s not just a meal—it’s a way of life, and no matter where your clients decide to vacation, their palate will be the better for it. Follow me on a culinary journey that gives you a taste of what your clients can expect.

the dish on hotels
Here’s a sprinkling of culinary offerings at hotels—from all-inclusive to boutique-style properties.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts, known for being the “gourmet-inclusive” brand, offers the year-round Jackson Family Wines Culinary Series at El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas Royale, A Spa Resort, by Karisma. The series, which will continue into 2016, takes place the first week of each month and spotlights notable chefs, restaurateurs, winemakers and sommeliers. Next up, Dec. 7-11, is Cristian Rebolledo, executive chef of Blue Haven and Beach House in Turks and Caicos, and Steve Heimoff, director of wine communications and education at Jackson Family Wines. The resort itself is home to seven restaurants, including Fuentes, where dishes are prepared in one of three open kitchens. Here, too, is the region’s largest greenhouse, measuring 75,000 sq. ft. and providing produce to
all of Karisma’s Mexican properties.

Take a detour over to the Iberostar Hotels & Resorts properties and you’ll find a long list of master chefs hailing from Spain preparing Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Cajun and Mediterranean cuisine. At Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso in the Riviera Maya, a top recommendation from Iberostar insiders is Tony’s Surf and Turf Restaurant, with panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. Of course, guests of Iberostar will also be able to sample local delicacies at one of the many onsite restaurants, including huachinango, a locally caught fish that’s wrapped in spinach and accompanied by a light cream of mushroom.

The All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels collection pays tribute to Mexico’s artistic history at the Frida restaurant, which can be found at the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun properties. Clients can expect traditional and spicy Mexican dishes—it’s a tip of the hat to one of Mexico’s most fiery artists, Frida Kahlo.

At the 8-room Meson Sacristia de la Compañia in Puebla, meanwhile, the Pueblan Cuisine package (available through Dec. 18 and starting at $1,300) is a 6-night feast that includes accommodations in a jr. suite for two; daily breakfast at the hotel; a guided tour of the city’s historic center; two local museum entries; three meals of your client’s choice—either lunch or dinner—at the hotel; a Talavera platter of regional sweets; and an in-depth course on basic Mexican cuisine.

True chocolate lovers will want to head to Merida, where they’ll find the boutique 17-room Rosas & Xocolate, which pays homage to the region’s long history of cacao use—the Mayan civilization started using cacao in the fourth century BC. The hotel even has a Xocolate Suite and handmade chocolate soap.

a sampling of mouth-watering local dishes
• In Baja California Sur, batter-fried scallops and seafood
• In Mexico City, spit-roasted on a grill marinated pork tacos
• In Oaxaca, regional moles
• In Puebla, stuffed chile in walnut sauce
• In Veracruz, fried fish quesadillas
• In Yucatan, annatto-marinated pork steamed in a banana leaf

feast your eyes on this
Here are three restaurants this editor can’t get enough of:

• Paxia in the San Angel neighborhood of Mexico City offers one of the most inventive dining experiences I’ve ever come across. The food is divine, but one almost doesn’t want to take a bite because each item on the menu is an art piece.
• Maia in Puerto Vallarta is a funky restaurant in the city’s Romantic Zone. It serves innovative and genuinely creative cuisine, and everything is recycled, even the coasters.
• Mi Casa in the center of historic San Jose del Cabo is a charming restaurant serving authentic Mexican cuisine. It spills over with character and feels more like an eclectic art gallery than a dining establishment, although the food is very tasty.

contact information
All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels:
Iberostar Hotels & Resorts:
Karisma Hotels & Resorts:
Meson Sacristia de la Compañia:
Mexico Tourism Board:
Rosas & Xocolate:



In Mexico, it’s no longer just about the beach destinations. U.S. travelers are discovering that this fascinating country offers a world that extends far beyond its golden shoreline—from colonial charmers to vibrant cosmopolitan cities. In fact, notes Richard Krieger, president, Isramworld Portfolio of Brands/Latour, “[today’s] travelers seek to have more authentic travel experiences, and colonial Mexico provides them with the most popular elements of experiential travel—food, wine, art, architecture and history.” To that end, Latour offers a Food, Wine & Tequila (by Private Car) itinerary that visits both Mexico City and colonial San Miguel de Allende.

“Mexico City is fast becoming one of the great culinary cities of the world,” points out Krieger. “Great chefs, both Mexican and international, are opening restaurants and eateries that present a wide array of great food experiences, from fine dining to the culture of street food. The small, charming and quite lovely city of San Miguel de Allende is big with gourmet offerings. Considered by many a rival to Mexico City when it comes to dining, this is a must experience stop for any food lover.”

The 6-day trip (rates start at  $3,861), with stays at the St. Regis Mexico City and the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, starts off in Mexico City, where guests enjoy a market tour, wine tasting, and a visit to a chocolatier. In San Miguel de Allende, there’s tequila tasting, a cooking class, and a visit to an
organic farm.

It makes perfect sense to have a culinary tour in Mexico, says Krieger, because “all you have to do is walk down any major street across the country and chances are you will see not one, but many Mexican restaurants. The wonderful thing about our programs is that they offer the chance not only to have what we know as Mexican food, but to delve into the traditional regional dishes of the country and to taste plates we may not be
familiar with.”

And if you are thinking of approaching your well-heeled baby boomer clients only, think again. Krieger says that although most guests for this tour are “over 35 years old, well traveled and highly educated, our program is geared to anyone seeking a wonderful food and cultural experience with all the services and accommodations of a luxury tour. We have many Gen-Xers booking with us and while we certainly have baby boomers, we are pleased to have a number of savvy millennials joining us.”