As a chef there is always that little bit of excitement that builds inside when there is opportunity to get away from the stove, to step outside and explore new foods, people and places. It is these adventures that bring inspiration to my food and help strengthen the foundation of my cooking.
A recent family Spring Break trip south of the border provided me with the perfect opportunity to finally experience one particular Mexican culture first hand. Even better yet was a new friend and local chef, Saul, would be leading today’s excursion into Sayulita, Mexico.
The 30-minute drive from Punta Mita allowed for us to talk about and for me to better understand the history of the area, the food, and the lifestyle in this part of Mexico. Sayulita is fishing village that gained popularity with surfers in the late 1960’s as a hidden gem because of its unique surf break. Today it is filled with traveling craftsmen, art galleries and an abundance of fresh fish, produce and street food stands.
The narrow cobblestone streets filled with locals, tourists and more chickens than I could count provided a great visual and feeling as we entered the town. The goal for today would be to shop for dinner and of course EAT!
The first and most important purchase for today and our dinner tonight is the fish. So as we make our way through the streets one can’t help but notice there are no delivery trucks, everything is moving by foot or vintage motorcycles piled high with baskets or weathered milk crates overflowing with produce.
As we approach the fishmonger’s storefront, Saul explains that there are no worries about the fish being fresh because as he points out, less than a NYC block away is the beach and a swarm of fishing boats pulling in with the mornings catch. The same goes for the produce, the local farmers arrive and set up their stands with fruits and vegetables that more than likely were still growing less than 24 hours ago.
The experience is somewhat surreal. It is very friendly and casual, with each of the vendors we leave our purchases behind to pick up later, this makes wondering the streets and our adventure simple and even more enjoyable.
El Ringoncito – Tacos & Mariscos is the first stop to squash the growing hunger pains. Best known for their fish and shrimp tacos, of course that is what our order has to be. Throw in a couple cold SOL cerveza’s and we are good to go! It is the simplicity of the tacos, the freshness of the ingredients that make these good. But, there is something different here, watching the ladies cook you feel like your standing in their kitchen at home. The tacos are assembled with ingredients from plastic Tupperware containers, hot sauce, homemade salsas; pickled vegetables fill various bowls on the plastic curbside tables. The first bite, awesome! There is nothing to do but smile, enjoy the moment and it is this culinary memory that makes this GREAT!
As I think back about this day and our adventure, now I feel just a little like Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations.