By Micaela Myers and Allison Hata
As Southern Californians, we love our Mexican food—and with quick flights available from local airports to Mexico, going to sample south-of-the-border cuisine has never been more convenient. Here, we highlight three vacations that allow your taste buds to take top priority.
In sunny Los Cabos, visitors don’t have to stray too far from their hotel or resort to enjoy fine dining and local flavors. Located on 28 acres overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort, Los Cabos recently relaunched its De Cortez Mezquite Grill, one of two Five Star Diamond Award-winning restaurants on the property. The restaurant’s executive chef, Jose Salvador Campuzano, worked closely with the resort’s executive chef, Manuel de Luca, to compile a new menu rooted in fresh, local ingredients.
“I wanted to continue honoring the established Mediterranean concept of the restaurant while aiming to create innovative dishes to advance its gastronomy,” Manuel explains.
The resort is also home to several bars as well as Pitahayas Restaurant for wine and delicious Pacific Rim cuisine, Girasoles de la Hacienda for authentic Mexican fare and Tomatoes Restaurant for Mediterranean-inspired offerings. The selection of flavors allows guests to enjoy a variety of options—as well as awesome views—without ever leaving the property.
Not far away at The Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, guests will appreciate the stunning architecture of Juan Sordo Madaleno. His interpretation of El Arco (the arch) frames the sea at this expansive resort. Amenities include three pools, beach cabanas, a spa and putting green, as well as four restaurants and three bars.
The crown jewel of the property is the fine dining restaurant Arrecifes, where guests can enjoy hilltop views of the sea and creative cuisine such as tuna tartare with chipotle aioli, or duck breast with mashed plantain and mole from Oaxaca paired with sommelier-selected wines.
Great views also are served at El Ciruelo, which offers contemporary cuisine for lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, the resort’s La Cascada provides a hearty breakfast buffet before you hit the sea for sailing, fishing, diving, surfing or skimboarding, and also offers an extensive wine list and regionally inspired dishes for refueling later in the day. Should you choose to stay poolside, stop by La Playa for shrimp, octopus or even a hamburger (but only after a margarita, of course).
Be sure to leave the resort at least once for a trip to charming San Jose del Cabo. After wandering the streets and hunting for local artisan souvenirs, visit the recently opened Rock & Brews to sample microbrews from breweries such as nearby Baja Brewing Co.
If you’re visiting Mexico City, you’ll want to stay and dine at the St. Regis—it’s the best, as the doormen say. And while they may be slightly biased, it’s difficult to resist the hotel’s top-notch accommodations, amenities and gourmet eateries.
Located in the heart of the capital city, with views of the fountain of Diana the Huntress, the Angel of Independence monument and Chapultepec Castle from its Diana Restaurant terrace, the St. Regis is also a center for fine dining in the Distrito Federal (or El D.F., as it’s known to locals) with two premier restaurants.
On the first floor, a multitude of international flavors are available at the hotel’s newest restaurant, J&G Grill. In a concept developed by star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in partnership with the St. Regis, Chef de Cuisine Maycoll Calderon and sous chef Jose Luis Sanchez Ronquillo lead the young staff in creating dishes inspired by local ingredients while staying true to Vongerichten’s vision.
It’s clear within minutes of glancing over the menu that avocado is the true star of this kitchen. The avocado pizza is a signature starter, but also could be enjoyed as a delightfully light meal. Atop a crispy, thin crust, sliced avocados are layered with lime, cilantro, caramelized onion and diced fresh jalapeno with seeds removed for a milder flavor.
“We try to make simple things with simple techniques,” says Jose, who has a background in cooking in the south of the city. “The menu has a lot of surprises.”
Arguably one of the best dishes on the menu is a salmon sashimi with crispy rice. Served warm, its crunchy shell gives way to a soft blend of flavors that melts in your mouth. If there’s room for a main course, the short rib glazed with riesling—a stark departure from traditional red sauces—is complemented by hints of thyme and slices of shaved green apple, and pairs perfectly with a dry Mexican shiraz wine. Save space for dessert because the chef’s sweet corn biscuit incorporates two local traditions: corn and mescal. The sweet but not overpowering pastry is plated with a small scoop of mescal ice cream, accented by a few pieces of toffee popcorn for textural variation.
If J&G Grill is famous for its decadent dinner flavors, Diana Restaurant on the third floor is equally renowned for its Sunday brunch. Offering a true taste of contemporary Mexico City cuisine, Diana’s dishes are listed on an iPad for easy viewing and ordering. Chilaquiles served with fried egg or chicken—or both—are just one of the local specialties on the menu, but even the scrambled eggs provide an authentic taste with seasoned tomato and beans in a crisp tortilla shell. Those indulging in brunch can take advantage of flaky pastries and a spread of desserts that rivals the city’s best.
Outside the hotel, the trendy and fashionable wine and dine in the chic Condesa neighborhood, where Azul Condesa is the piece de resistance. At the intimate eatery, chefs specialize in regional cuisine and deliver a different featured menu each month. Once seated on a lush terrace flooded with natural light and greenery, begin by sipping one of the restaurant’s famed margaritas, which range from traditional and fruit-flavored varieties to more authentic flavors like tamarind, or bite into a ginger-salted orange before indulging in one of Mexico City’s most beloved traditions: a shot of smoky mescal.
For lunch or dinner, sample local options like the grasshopper guacamole paired with a slightly sweet shredded pork pibil taco, which arrives topped with colorful pink onions and wrapped in a fresh tortilla made at the front of the restaurant. Meat eaters will be in awe of the hearty filet mignon or skirt steaks served with a spicy chipotle sauce—the perfect amount of heat to add flavor to a simple cut of meat. For dessert, guanabana triangles with a rich, dark berry sauce are a popular local option with a flavor comparable to a panna cotta cheese dish.
Wherever your taste buds lead you—be it Mexico City’s high-end restaurants or a small taqueria on the street corner—El D.F. won’t steer you wrong.
If the words “all-inclusive” have you imagining lackluster buffets, fishbowls of beer and tequila administered through a dispenser, think again. At El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort by Karisma in Riviera Maya, it’s “gourmet-inclusive” with a focus on high-quality, fresh cuisine. The property is home to seven restaurants, including a culinary theater where dishes are prepared in one of five open kitchens alongside huge screens that broadcast the culinary process. Fifteen on-site bars and lounges—including a bar specializing in martinis, bars with swings, beach bars and nine swim-up bars—serve a broad range of premium alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile, farm-to-table takes on new meaning within the resort’s 100,000-square-foot greenhouse, which yields an impressive 120 tons of crops.
Because of its foodie focus, it makes sense that El Dorado Royale launched an ongoing food and wine week program last year for guests wanting even more culinary- and beverage-themed experiences. In partnership with Jackson Family Wines, The Jackson Family Wines Culinary Series, by Karisma, is a monthly food and wine program spotlighting top chefs and wine masters from around the world.
Each weeklong event showcases a noteworthy chef and winemaker who work in conjunction with the Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ team of chefs and sommeliers to provide guests with interactive epicurean experiences, including access and insight into highly sought-after wines, vertical tastings, educational classes with sommeliers and winemakers, cooking courses, special pairings and an exclusive guest chef and winemaker dinner.
Included in Condé Nast Traveler’s listing of the top 100 hotels in the world, the AAA Four Diamond resort is located on more than a mile of sandy beachfront along the Riviera Maya’s shoreline. A variety of stellar accommodations and amenities on the property include in-room Jacuzzi tubs and swim-up plunge pools on the terrace that connect via a lazy river to one of the resort’s 13 swimming pools. If you prefer to forego the traditional pools, simply head for the sand to enjoy a dip in the ocean. While El Dorado Royale is designed for adults only, Karisma’s expansive portfolio includes a total of 11 hotels throughout the Riviera Maya area; the nearby Azul hotels (also gourmet-inclusive) are kid-friendly and even provide toys, strollers and more for the little ones.
Whether you’re seeking authentic local fare or global gourmet, Mexico offers top culinary destinations from the Sea of Cortez to the Caribbean Sea served alongside a stunning coastline, warm weather and homegrown hospitality. LBM