The Original Cornish Pasty in Puerto Vallarta

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I really never expected to find proper English pies here! [My mum is English, so we grew up with her home-made ones] But, you can and they are excellent. The Leek and Thistle Pie Company has been around here since 2006 and their popularity is growing.
As Mark Hughes tells the tale; the idea for his business came about while having a few pints with a friend – I also have had a few schemes hatched that way – only his worked. So after many pastry trials, he developed a flaky and delicious crust to hold all of his marvelous fillings. And since he is making English pies, these include meat and fruit offerings.
Leek-and-Thistle (13 of 13)
The pies are truly hand-made – no hi tech dough sheeters here; each and every crush is rolled and pinched by Mark along with the lattice crusts, are cut individually. This process is repeated on average, 150 times a day. Add to this, he makes all the amazing fillings; Chicken with a creamy Leek and Mushrooms, Steak –marinated in Guinness – with Carrots Onions and Thyme, a Fisherman’s Pie – no pastry –  but topped with Parslied-creamy Mashed Potatoes. While many of the pies have simple ingredients, they are so comforting to enjoy. To me that is the essence of very good food – nourishing to both the body and the soul.
The day I was there, he was crafting a selection of fruit pies, Blackberries and Apples, Cranberries and Peach. The fruit is the main star here – chunks of the fruit with a bit of sugar and spice to compliment it. Each pie has it’s own mark on the top to help you identify it – cool! Mark has readied his English holiday mincemeat for the upcoming season. He has a very limited supply of the very best true mincemeat I have had since my mum used to make it – soaked in liquor and containing suet and beef. Charles Dickens would be satisfied, as I was taken back to my own childhood memories of holidays past by the filling’s aroma and taste.

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The Leek and Thistle also makes a selection of Savoury Quiches – I had a Camembert and Leek variety. Wonderfully creamy and perfectly ripe cheese accented by the slightly sweet sautéed Leeks. Simply delicious. In addition, they are working on a gluten free version of their pies – using local corn – which should be readied in the near future.

The chalkboard with with the days selection.

The chalkboard with with the days selection.

Hot, fresh and ready to go!

Hot, fresh and ready to go!

Mark is at the Farmer’s Market every weekend and at his shop on Hamburgo Street in the Colonia Versailles district of Vallarta.

Delicious Sausage Rolls - a great walk around snack.

Delicious Sausage Rolls – a great walk around snack.

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My Saturday Ritual in Vallarta

Squash Flowers

Squash Flowers

Saturdays are very busy in PV.  Local shops are bustling, buses fill quickly with families heading off to the beaches and several city blocks become home to the weekly Farmers Market.  There are actually two separate markets; One is in the Paradise Community Centre in the Zona Romantica and the other market is in the Colonial Emiliano Zapata section of town, (This market is located on Basilio Badillo,  Pino Suarez streets and the neighborhood Kindergarten School) only a few blocks away each other.

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Angela’s – Delicous tacos

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Sandra of Mamma Jamma Preserves

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Cloud Coffee – Local, Organic, micro producer – a few cups a day for me please!

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Lorene, owner and creator of Artisan Bread Co.

Artisans and craftsmen offer up selections from glass work, intricate embroidery, jewelry, soaps and clothing accessories.  Everything here is locally made or grown – with 50 km of Vallarta and you are meeting the producers directly – it does not get any better.  And then there is the FOOD!!  Breads, pies, quiches, tacos, pastries, jams, fruits, meats, fresh cheeses and coffee lure you.  Bring a big bag and savour them all.  I personally grab a couple of loaves of bread, a few pieces of Queso Fresco every week along with my weekly supply of locally produced rich coffee, some fresh produce and few cigars.  [I am still using my jar of Papaya Jam I picked up a couple of weeks ago – but I don’t think I’ll be able to bring it back through customs]  The Kindergarten school has a number of eateries in the courtyard – excellent food and great prices.  In the Paradise center there are also eateries and many, many baked goods!Saturday-Famers-Market (1 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (22 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (26 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (29 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (38 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (40 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (39 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (42 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (50 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (52 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (56 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (57 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (59 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (55 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (49 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (47 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (6 of 36)

It is best to arrive early, as the season progresses the crowds are getting much larger.  By early afternoon many of the vendors are getting low on supplies.  But they will be back next week, just like me.

Walking and Eating on the Street in Vallarta

Once you settle in to your villa and go out to eat in one of the many great restaurants in town, it is now time to go try the other culinary treasures that abound in Vallarta. The Taquerias. They are the little food carts that are on every street, almost everywhere! So, make this your day three agenda in Vallarta. But which ones do you choose from? There are a couple of tour guides that offer a service, but I chose Vallarta Eats to come to the rescue. [Based on Trip Advisor and Eric is a fellow Philadelphian]
We met up and set off to eat! [Do not have breakfast on the day you go –you really eat on this tour!] I believe a good food tour is not only about sampling really good food, it should also be about the culture you are experiencing. [Full disclosure here – I was a professional Chef for over 20 years] Within the time it took us to get tour first destination – I learned that the State of Jalisco is the number two producer of Tequila, Vallarta is the second most important gourmet destination in Mexico and the unofficial name for the Isle de Cuale is Isle de Gatos!
On our first stop we sampled Birra – a stew from either Beef or Pork, cooked in a large clay pot. Besides the taco made from the meat, the broth is an essential element to easing the remnants of the night before. Even without the hangover – get a cup of the broth.Vallarta-Eats (2 of 29)


A bit later on we stopped at shop that only makes carnitas – by the whole hog. We sampled a bit of the carnitas – specifically the cheek. If you are offered this – sample it; so moist, crispy and tender. Delicious! And so we continued, visiting fabulous small eateries – stops at a local market, [the one I shop at], a bakery, a couple of great little restaurants and a tortilla factory. [Once you sample a hot fresh white corn tortilla – there is nothing quite like it] Tastings include shrimp, fish, pork, octopus and a variety of salsas and guacamoles – each were slightly different at each venue. In addition to all the food samples, we tasted a number of Auga Frescas. Memo – our guide did a marvelous job of both entertaining and informing us of local eating customs.

The kettles for the carnitas

The kettles for the carnitas

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Handmade tortilla!

Handmade tortilla!

Fried jalepeno filled with seafood

Fried jalepeno filled with seafood


Several hours later and with bellies and spirits full we set off to our final destination; a traditional Mexican dulceria. But first we had to navigate the small suspension bridges that cross the Cuale River; these can be most entertaining! But as we round the corner, the smell of the dulceria hits you – sugar, caramel and toasting pecans! And what better way to finish an eating expedition than with chocolate –dark, spicy with a hint of almond.

Memo our Guide!

Memo our Guide!

That is correct - a kilo [2.2 lbs] for $.69!

That is correct – a kilo [2.2 lbs] for $.69!

A Trip to Coffee Country

The “highway” to La Estancia climbs over 4000 feet up the mountains. Winding and very narrow at times, I am glad I am not driving. The bus makes various stops along the way, not only to pick-up and discharge passengers, but also to act as rural package delivery transport and school bus. When I do get off, La Estancia is a very small town on the highway to Mascota and Talpa.

The view from town Square in La Estancia

The view from town Square in La Estancia

Joe Thompson [Manager of the hacienda] picked me up and off to San Sebastian we went. We climbed a bit more and finally arrived at Hacienda Jalisco, San Sebastian del Oeste. The house sits in a valley surrounded high peaks with remains of its history everywhere. La-Hacienda-San-Sebastian (36 of 36)La-Hacienda-San-Sebastian (12 of 36)La-Hacienda-San-Sebastian (27 of 36)The hacienda was built in the 1700’s by the Spanish to be the headquarters for its mining operations [in this region]; specifically Lead, Pyrite, Gold and Silver.
In the mine’s heyday, over 180 people lived and worked here along with many others who were responsible for the transportation and operation of the estate. At the height of the mines operation, over ten tons of silver a day were produced. Today, Maguey Cactus and Coffee are the crops of choice.
Stepping into the house, the sense of its history is palpable. The original art de’ toile is still on the walls along with much of the original flooring and beams. Additionally you notice the three foot thick walls, the large table piled with impressive ledgers and several rooms containing a variety of artifacts from the Hacienda’s almost 300 year history. Joe led me through the house, pointing out both its long past and more recent Hollywood connection. [John Houston spent quite a bit of time here] The quietness of the surroundings allows you to sit undisturbed on the chairs of the house’s wrap around veranda. The house does not have electricity, but relies on oil lamps for evening light, along with fireplaces to take the high altitude chill off.

The large hall.

The large hall.

The original wall painting detail

The original wall painting detail

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John Huston's bedroom

John Huston’s bedroom

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We continued outside to look over the remains of the foundries, stables and workers quarters. Then it was on to the reason for the trip – Coffee! There in the shade of oak and pine trees are the coffee plants. When I went almost all the berries were green; we did find a few turning red and I sampled them. The pods popped open under pressure and yielded a couple of beans each; I chewed on the pods and found them sweet and slightly flowery. The coffee from this region is mostly all organically produced and when roasted becomes richly flavoured, but with a low acidity. Roasting was to occur later in the day [approximately 15 kilos for the farmers market the next day], but I had to leave and catch the bus back to Vallarta. La-Hacienda-San-Sebastian (29 of 36)

the dried green coffee beans, ready for roasting.

the dried green coffee beans, ready for roasting.

A couple of ripe berries

A couple of ripe berries

The trip up to Hacienda Jalisco, San Sebastian del Oeste illuminated an almost forgotten Mexico, which influenced my photography choices. I felt I just had to capture much of the house in Monochrome; from the chairs that came centuries ago from Spain, and the containers that held the mercury [brought from Europe] for the refining of silver, to the death mask of a forgotten worker. It was a side excursion I will not soon forget.

The Spanish chairs

The Spanish chairs

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Mercury containers

Mercury containers

Piloncillo moulds -the traditional hard brown sugar of Mexico

Piloncillo moulds -the traditional hard brown sugar of Mexico

Unknown workers death mask

Unknown workers death mask

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Child's toy and mule pelvic bone

Child’s toy and mule pelvic bone

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Handmade copper bed detail.

Handmade copper bed detail.

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Rare Aztec Lily

Rare Aztec Lily

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Sunday in Sayulita

We took the bus today from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita.  It is about a 45 minute ride that cost 25 pesos.  You head north along MEX 200 highway, leaving the coast briefly and head through hilly jungle to reappear back along the coast and the town of Sayulita.   This Pacific coastal town really does remind me of Southern California and Woodstock of the 60-70’s.  Sun, surf, spas, yoga studios and galleries blend together with traditional Mexican families to create this vibrant community.

If you arrive by bus [they runabout every 20-30 minutes and operate until about 9 pm], the downtown area is a short 5 minute walk.  Boutique shops and eateries abound, along with a local market selling jewelry, blankets and pottery.ImageImageImageImage

Sayulita is known for its surfing, snorkeling and the beautiful beach.  We spent the day enjoying the warm ocean and sound of the waves; however the waves were a bit light this day, so not as many surfers were in the water.   But there were plenty of families and boogie boards in the water.

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We stopped for lunch at a street-side Fish taco stand.  They were great!!  Fresh Mahi-Mahi and locally caught Shrimp.  Fresh and perfectly cooked, these some of the very best we have had.  And at thirty pesos each, they were a real bargain!

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Before returning back to PV, we toured several very nice galleries and did a bit of shopping.  I did have to stop at Coco Express juice.  Literally, a hole is punched into the coconut and a straw is inserted.  Simple, quick and it was so refreshing on a hot afternoon.  Plus, it’s a fun little stand!  We also picked up three pineapples – who could pass on that bargain – several Mandarin Oranges and got back on the bus for the ride back.

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Very nice gallery on Delfin Street, Saulita

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageSayulita was a great day trip, away from the bustle of Puerto Vallarta.

Sunday Morning, Puerto Vallarta!

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A very relaxing morning, a lovely café [Café Cafesto]; with excellent Chai, very good Cappuccino and one of my favourites – Chilaquiles; Eggs atop tortillas stewed in green sauce with a bit of onions and cheese. Those, along with yoghurt … Continue reading