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  1. Explore Mexico
January 3, 2013updated Feb 11, 2013

Your Guide to the Very Best Mexican Food

By Chris Boyle

food

Imagine sipping an expertly-mixed margarita, made with premium tequila, while admiring the sun and surf.

Or picture yourself enjoying rich French fare in a celeb-tested eatery in the heart of a city center. From laidback to ultra-luxurious, there’s a dining experience in Mexico to please every palate. To plan your elite culinary tour, read on.

Celebrated Chefs in Mexico

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With easy access to an abundance of fresh, locally-sourced produce and seafood—not to mention a vibrant and diverse range of traditional recipes—Mexico has become a culinary playground for star chefs and foodies from across the globe.

The owner of four hit restaurants and one bar/lounge, all located throughout the Riviera Maya, superstar chef John Gray is known for serving up delicious, seasonal American cuisine—the product of Gray’s total of 20 years experience in kitchens around the world. John Gray’s Kitchen in Puerto Morelos was the first to open in 2002, and, following its success, was quickly succeeded by John Gray’s Place in Playa del Carmen in 2004. You’ll love the most recent addition to Gray’s portfolio, The Den at John Gray’s Place, a charming bar offering an extensive wine list and tempting appetizers. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting a table over from international glitterati.

If you’re looking to learn more about the nation’s culinary heritage, acclaimed chefs with a background in Mexican cuisine have designed special food-focused vacation experiences. Restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Rick Bayless leads one such cooking and cultural tour, taking one lucky couple along each year when he and his team take their annual staff trip to Mexico. Not fortunate enough to have secured an invite? Every spring, Bayless heads back to Mexico to offer cooking classes as part of a week-long program organized by Marilyn Tasend of Culinary Adventures, Inc. Having opened Frontera Grill, Chicago’s hugely successful Mexican restaurant, Bayless now also teaches Mexican cooking across the U.S. Visit www. rickbayless.com to learn more.

Chef Ana Garcia—once referred to as “the Mexican Rachael Ray”—has been featured on the Food Network and in publications like Bon Appétit for her La Villa Bonita Mexican Culinary Vacation. With her vivacious persona and background in authentic Mexican fare, Chef Ana acts as your personal guide into the intricacies of the country’s cooking and culture. Originated in 2000, with her husband Robb Anderson, these four- and seven-night culinary vacation packages take place in the couple’s specially-designed boutique resort in the breathtaking mountain village of Tepoztlan, Morelos. In addition to an amazing vacation, you’ll earn bragging rights when you can prepare perfect salsa for friends and family upon your return. Visit www.lavillabonita.com to plan your once-in-a-lifetime gourmet journey.

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A Taste of Home in Mexico

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While Mexican cuisine continues to be embraced stateside, some of America’s most established restaurants are cropping up across Mexico as well—for whenever you crave a taste of home while in Mexico.

Many luxury hotels offer an unforgettable dining experience in their on-site restaurants— The Palm Mexico City, located in the Presidente InterContinental brings their signature steaks and other classic American fare to Mexico. Executive chef Luis del Sordo presents incredible dishes in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere. Another celebrated steakhouse chain, Ruth’s Chris, has restaurants in Cancun and Los Cabos, proving there’s a high-end eatery here to suit your every craving.

Ultimate Gourmet Destinations

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With nearly 1,000 restaurants, a restaurant week and both food and wine festivals, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s hottest culinary destinations, and a must-visit as you explore the country’s cuisine.

From May 15 to 31, during Puerto Vallarta’s Restaurant Week, several dozen of the region’s best restaurants offer special prix fixe options so you can experience the best of what’s on the menu at any given spot. This is a great opportunity to test out a new restaurant or indulge in a three-course tasting experience at one of your old favorites. In previous years, participating restaurants given spot. This is a great opportunity to test out a new restaurant or indulge in a three-course tasting experience at one of your old favorites. In previous years, participating restaurants have included such hotspots as Cafe des Artistes, a chic eatery run by star chef Thierry Blouet—be sure to make your reservations early on in the week.

If you’re planning a visit in November, the International Gourmet Festival is ten days of fine dining in some of Puerto Vallarta’s most exclusive eateries (taking place from November 11 to 21). Chefs from all over the world collaborate with local restaurants to produce exciting new menus. Visit www.festivalgourmet.com to see what they’re serving up this year.

S lated for February 2011, the third annual Vallarta Wine Fest will celebrate the region’s vino offerings with five days of events—including wine tastings, wine pairings in local restaurants and conferences. Visit www.vallartawinefest.com to learn more.

This cosmopolitan city is home to a thriving culinary scene and some of the country’s best in fine dining. Here, star chefs like Patricia Quintana serve up authentic flavors in settings chic enough to impress even the most discerning travelers.

Y our trip to the capital isn’t complete without a visit to Quintana’s signature venue Izote, which offers Mexican haute cuisine that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Each dish is a combination of traditional indigenous ingredients—yucca flower and cactus among them—prepared with a modern twist. Standouts include Oaxacan mole, a lamb dish that’s barbecued in a banana leaf, and decadent desserts like the Tarta Zaachila, a chocolate pastry filled with nuts. With only 19 tables, and a stellar location in the Polanco District on Mexico’s answer to Rodeo Drive, reservations are a must—even for lunch. Make yours before you go to avoid disappointment.

Solea, the W Mexico City’s signature restaurant, boasts a contemporary steak and seafood menu with a uniquely Mexican flavor, thanks to star Executive Chef Eduardo Osuna’s special touch. The sleek, sophisticated atmosphere has made this eatery a favorite of both visitors and locals: Choose from open terrace seating or dine inside at the special communal table. Postdinner head to one of the onsite nightspots, The Terrace and The Whiskey, for cocktails, DJs and stylish ambiance.

Hungry? Head to www.visitmexico.com to start planning your next elite culinary adventure.

Mexico’s Ultimate Hotels and Resorts for Dining

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No matter where you go in Mexico, an exceptional dining experience awaits. Book a stay in one of the hotels and resorts below— all are foodie favorites for their wide range of world-class dining options.

Aqua Cancun

This resort is a hotbed of haute dining, with offerings like Siete—headed up by “Mexico’s Best Chef” of 2007, Marta Ortiz—and Azur, a Mediterranean eatery from noted Milanese chef Franco Maddalozzo. www.aquacancunresort.com

grand velas riviera maya

Also in Cancun, Grand Velas offers you a bounty of sumptuous options: Choose Sen Lin for Asian cuisine, Frida for a true taste of Mexico, Piaf for the finest French fare or Cocina de Autor to savor unique Spanish dishes. www.rivieramaya.grandvelas.com

four seasons punta mita

A stay at this resort isn’t complete without dining at acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval’s Ketsi restaurant, where you’ll enjoy bold regional flavors with an innovative twist. Three other restaurants and three lounges also await. www.fourseasons.com/puntamita

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