For the third year in a row, the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival delighted guests with incredible cuisine and culinary experiences from some of the best chefs in the Americas. Chat Chow TV was invited for the ride and here are some of our highlights. We had the true pleasure of staying at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort. It is Palace Resort’s signature property and the largest hotel in Cancun. The all-inclusive resort boasts 14 restaurants, 11 bars, 7 swimming pools, a nightclub, a Dolphinarium, FlowRider wave simulator (we weren’t that daring) and 72-par gold course. Our room was luxurious, offered Chi bath products, liquor dispensers with brand name labels of whisky, rum, tequila and vodka and our favorite part, the in-room double whirlpool tub. The welcome dinner was hosted at Lumiere, a French-fusion restaurant located at Le Blanc Spa Resort. The seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings included Salmon Tartar on phyllo w/ artichoke, black truffle oil, dill cream, kalamata powder; Duck Breast w/ butter ice cream and finishing off a dessert of Coconut Cardamom Creme Brûlée w/ cinnamon cookie, pineapple chutney. The next day, we attended the Future of Cuisine conference at Secrets The Vine where celebrity Chef Daniel Boulud, Chef Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain and Chef Normand Laprise spoke. This year’s festival and theme was “Europe Meets the Americas.” Voted best chef in Canada, Normand Laprise of Toqué!, shared an exquisite video of behind the scenes images of his kitchen and discussed his philosophy: cooking from scraps, yes scraps not scratch. His “motto” is about being respectful, creative and sensible with the ingredients, to use every part, even the trimmings. Chef Laprise showcased a diagram on how he recycles 100 percent of a tomato. At Toqué! the idea is to use everything by being creative all the while serving high-end gastronomy. Mexican Chef Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain was up next and walked us through his mini empire of restaurants (composed of Pangea, Embassy, Bistrot Bardot, ChinoLatino and The Felix) in Northeast Mexico. The renowned chef whose restaurant Pangea is considered one of the best in Latin America, discussed creating his very own Mexican wine Mariatinto and recently overseeing the creation of his first brew Bocanegra.
Last and certainly not least, chef Daniel Bouloud took to the stage. He also walked us through all his restaurant concepts, but to our delight, shared design secrets behind his restaurants. For example, how the copper pots at DBGB were gifted by fellow culinary camaraderies including Chef Ferran Adria of el bulli, and how the images on the walls at Bar Bouloud in NY are representations of splattered wine on napkins from his late night wine approval tastings. In regard to the future of cuisine, chef Bouloud shared this.
After the conference we were transferred to NIZUC Resort and Spa positioned in the secluded enclave of Punta Nizuc. We dined at restaurant Romana, which serves a contemporary interpretation of traditional Mexican food in a spectacular setting overlooking the beach. Our meal was special, the pairings and progression were stellar and everything came full circle. Standouts included Baby Roasted Artichokes Salad w/ ashed goat cheese, spicy apricot jam, lemon sorbet, tomato confit; Green Bean Soup infused w/ papantla vanilla and Chilean Sea Bass w/ sweet potato puree, green mole emulsion. That night we attended the “Taste the New World: Star Chefs of the Americas Dinner and Culinary” at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral. More than 20 chefs from all over the world including Canada, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Peru and more, prepared signature dishes as we sipped on some of the best wines of the region. We were greeted with a glass of champagne and were given a passport to help guide us through the culinary journey. One of our favorite dishes came from Basilic Restaurant who served a Duck Confit Chausson and Cafe Des Artistes’ Escargot Crip w/ garlic potato flan, parsley butter, carrot puree and ginger. The following day was special. We were transported to Xcaret Park, Cancun & Riviera Maya’s top eco archaeological park, for a Mayan culinary journey. The park is a beautiful place full of culture and nature and is filled with the magic of a thousand-year-old civilization. We made chocolate, discovered authentic Yucatan food and drink at stations within a traditional Mexican Hacienda and (as if all that wasn’t enough–we weren’t complaining) were taken to their underground cellar on a gastronomic journey through the history of Mexican wine guided by the expert Sommelier Carlos Miramontes, paired with dishes that Chef Orlando Trejo created. Above all, these people were passionate and more genuine than one can imagine. The experience literally brought tears to my eyes. The final day before our departure was spent at the Gourmet Tasting Village sampling dishes prepared by some of the top-rated resorts and chefs in Mexico. These are just a few of our favorite eats. During our journey through Mexico, we learned a lot — ate even more — and got to experience first hand the beautiful history of their culture. It was a trip we’ll never forget and well worth all the dieting we’ve been since!