We've been to Pitillal once before while visiting Puerto Vallarta. We ended up having a little walk, a lite snack, and I had a delicious Michelada that was topped with shrimp. It was glorious. This time our trip to Pitillal was going to involve a food tour and we were going to get a taste of the local cuisine.
There are a few tour companies in Puerto Vallarta but the only one that offered a decent walking tour of Pitillal was Vallarta Food Tours. On the day of the tour, we were to meet at the Centro in Pitillal where we were waiting for our guide, Amanda. It was so hot in fact, my dad went to purchase refreshments; and by refreshments, I mean beer. But not just any beer but Sol con Clamato. One of the best damn beers you can get in Mexico (IMO).
It was a good thing that the tour was just about to start too because that beer started my appetite. Tacos, here I come!
First stop, Taco’s Neto where we are going to have our first taco. Carnitas! Carnitas are made by cooking pork shoulder in very hot lard and crisping the edges. Then you lower the heat and slow cook it for an extended period of time so the meat doesn’t dry out. Once the cooking process is complete, they chop the pork, put it in a corn tortilla and top it off with Pico de Gallo, Salsa Mexicana, pickled onions, or whatever salsas you enjoy.
As we learn about all the different types of tacos Taco’s Neto offers and the differences between them, we enjoy some Agua Frescas or refreshing water as it’s roughly translated. We were offered hibiscus iced tea, cranberry, or guava. As pointed out by our guide, the cranberry agua fresca goes well with vodka (but I already knew that).
Agua Frescas are pretty easy to make. The basic recipe is ¼ fresh fruit, ¾ water, sugar and ice. I’ll have to try making some and I’ll share the recipe with you. I do love a good agua fresca. My favorite is the citrus.
A staple restaurant for locals is a seafood favorite, Mariscos Pichi. We are tasting two items from their menu. The first is a shrimp broth made from the shells of the shrimp and various seasonings. It is their amuse-bouche, or welcome to their restaurant dish. After the soup, they brought ceviche on a tostada. The ceviche was made of octopus, shrimp, scallops, and topped with avocado and pico de gallo.
Growing up I wasn’t always a fan of tostadas simply because I always managed to break the crispy tortilla and my food would fall all over the place. We learned a trick that day though that changed my entire tostada life! The trick is you use a fork. While you hold one side of the tostada with your hand, you use your other hand and the fork on the opposite side for support. This way, your odds of breaking the entire tostada are lower. It’s a game-changer. Trust me.
La Dieta Tacos
Up next, tacos at an unusually named establishment called La Dieta Tacos, or the diet tacos. Now we’re talking! Do you know how many I can put away? Especially if they’re diet tacos! Haha!
We tried their carne asada tacos which were on a bed of beans and topped with onion and cilantro.
I never did get the reason why they were called diet tacos...maybe as a joke?
As the name indicates, we have arrived at a restaurant that specializes in birria. Birria is a dish that originated in the state of Jalisco. It was mainly used for celebratory occasions, and the sometimes necessary, hangover cure.
Traditional birria is made with lamb but it is now common to use beef or the more popular, goat. You start by placing the garlic, meat, the bones from the meat, guajillo chili, cacao seeds, bay leaves, cumin, and a few other spices into a clay pot and braise it overnight.
There are 4 different ways you can eat birria: One is by only eating the broth. Second, having it as a stew with the meat and broth. Third, with the meat in a (corn) tortilla, or last but certainly not least, as a taco dorado (fried taco).
The fried taco is simply meat and taco dipped in the broth and then pan-fried until crispy. As for toppings, you have shredded cabbage, onions, lime, and guajillo chili sauce.
This place. I don’t even know what to say about it except it was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I wanted the recipe but haven’t had any luck. Yet. I’m talking about Cochinita Pibil. Pork cooked in the Yucatan style and uses annatto, which is a spice from the achiote shrub. It is turned into a rub and marinade using dried chilis, vinegar, naranja agrias, or sour orange, aka Seville orange.
Cochinita Pibil was traditionally made with suckling pig but now, any pig will do. It is cooked in a pit with wood, stones, and covered with dirt and banana leaves. The pig is cooked by the smoke and the heat from the stones.
It’s served on a corn tortilla, bed of black beans, and pickled onions. The original Mayan recipe called for the toppings of onions, vinegar, habanero pepper & oregano. Habanero peppers originated in the Amazon but now the Yucatan is the largest producer of the pepper.
La Tia Anita
You can best describe La Tia Anita as a Mexican Diner. It was one of the first versions of a restaurant in Mexico. People opened their homes to sell food and they specialized in pozole, sopes, and tamales. Our guide described tamales as a maíz (corn) dumpling. It’s made with maíz dough, the filling, then you fold it over and wrap it in a corn husk or banana leaf then steam it.
One of the reasons these tamales stand out is because, during the masa making process, lard is whipped with ice to make it lighter and airy.
I have eaten a lot of tamales in my lifetime and I can honestly say, these were the best damn tamales I have ever had in my life. In all my time, I have had 2 bad tamale experiences. This was definitely not one of them.
As we finish up the food tour, we need a palate cleanser. No better place to do that than at a Paleteria, which is a Popsicle Shop. Here you can purchase paletas de agua (popsicles), paletas de leche (milk-based popsicles similar to ice cream). Paletas are all-natural made with fruit juices, fruit puree, and/or herbs.
My paleta of choice is the mango con chili. It’s just as it sounds. Mango with chili flavor and just delicious.
I was so full! Good thing the Pitillal Food Tour was coming to an end. I love food, especially love Mexican food and I was worried that I wouldn’t get enough food, but I did. Now all I wanted to do was get back to the resort and float in the pool.