Guest article by: Mary Luz Mejia
While the wet snow pelted winter weary Canadians mid-March, Cancun and the Mayan Riviera got caliente for their second annual Wine and Food Festival. With over 25 events spanning four days on the shores of turquoise blue Caribbean waters, the stellar line up of star chefs from around the globe as well as producers of wine and spirits, there was literally something for everyone.
This year’s highlight featured renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura who owns the much-lauded and San Pellegrino’s Top 50 award winner Osteria Francescana (#5 on that list) in Italy’s Modena. Bottura spoke the unspeakable- of modernizing Italian dishes because as he says, “it makes sense.” He says die-hards, of course, find this idea an abomination, while others applaud his culinary sense to move past what Bottura sees as outdated methods of cooking that no longer, rigidly apply.
It was at this Q&A that I had the opportunity to meet Montreal-based, Canadian entrepreneur David Amar, the president and founder of what he hopes becomes “the best food and wine festival in Latin America.” Amar says he saw similar events in Miami’s South Beach, in Aspen and beyond and decided, “We have a stunning setting here, great food, seafood and beautiful resources. This festival was a natural.”
He’s right and it doesn’t hurt that the Mayan Riviera is culturally rich- apart from the natural beauty of the location with its stunning beaches, natural parks and swaying palms, Mayan roots are not only intriguing, but equally breathtaking.
Some guests chose to attend culinary events at the stunning Xcaret Park featuring a star-chef prepared lunch, while others watched international stars like Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico City cook one of his signature dishes live. Mexican wine tastings, a gourmet tasting village featuring local talents (the fresh, Lion Fish ceviche and perfect for entertaining all year round- from local star Federico Lopez was outstanding), and a special lunch featuring Michelin-starred, Spanish chef Martin Berastegui at the stunning Paradisus hotel’s sanctuary of fine food “Tempo” were on tap during the four days.
Another highlight- lunch at Azul Senstaori resort’s Le Chique where Executive Chef Jonatan Luna regaled us with his innovative takes on classical Mexican dishes using modernist gastronomy touches. The croquettes disguised as black truffles were not only delicious and playful, they were lovely to behold.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to enjoy a “Mayan” dinner at the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach where a pyrotechnic show and traditional dance performance on the beach can be enjoyed by a couple or a group. The service at this hotel is outstanding with junior and master suits providing guests with pristine ocean views. Take advantage of the Seven Wonders of the World Gem Spa treatment where the impressive hydrotherapy pool alone is worth a visit to this oasis of tranquility.
At next year’s festival, the spotlight will pair The Americas with France. Montreal’s own top toque Normand Laprise will be one of the featured chefs as will Daniel Boulud who will fly in from NYC. Guests will also have access to other Mexican, French and Canadian luminaries to make taste buds soar at one of many events under a Caribbean inky black, star-studded night. Hope you enjoy the fiesta!–Mary Luz Mejia