The Great Holiday of “Day of the Dead”

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Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is cause for celebration, a time when families pay tribute to beloved members of their families that have passed away.  Taking place over two days – November 1st and 2nd – families congregate, create altars in homage and make ofrendas, or offerings to their deceased. It is not spooky or macabre, but rather reverential – a time when the spirit of the deceased is thought to pay visit to those family members that have been left behind.

Anticipating the Day of the Dead, families clear a section of their home to install an altar comprising of appropriate offerings that reflect both the tradition and the deceased’s individual likes. Offerings could include candles to help light the path, soap to aid the traveling spirit’s clean-up, photos, a favorite beverage such as tequila or beer, food and welcoming flowers.

Among the most popular ofrendas are sugar skulls – colorful sugar skulls hailing from Central and Southern Mexico. The skulls are prepared from a sugar mixture that is pressed into molds and later dried. After the drying, they are decorated with both edible and non-edible decorations.

Pan de Muertos, Bread of the Dead, is a sugary, sweet bread that is eaten by the families of the deceased and sometimes placed on the altar. The bread is molded into a loaf with the top being twisted to resemble bones. The bread is then baked, glazed and covered with colorful sugar.

Another dish, is candied pumpkins made from fresh pumpkin slices that are glazed with piloncillo, made from pure, unrefined sugar that is similar to brown sugar with a molasses flavor. All of this sweetness pairs up perfectly with atole, a warm cup of corn and masa that is meant to nourish and warm the living and the dead.

The festivities continue outside of the families’ homes with a pilgrimage to the cemetery to decorate and clean up gravesites.  Day of the Dead is a fitting celebration of their loved ones that have passed on- a wonderful tribute.
Here in Puerto Vallarta, you will find some of these dishes in the main square by Guadalupe church and  El Arrayan is having a special Dia de los Muertos menu from now until November 3.  Also, Happy Halloween!!

Celebrate Mexican Independence in Puerto Vallarta

September 16th, Mexican Independence Day, is a day of celebration, cultural pride and overall revelry.  The celebration officially kicks off a bit before midnight on September 15th with the grito, or cry, ushering in the festivities.  Meant to symbolize the moment in 1810 that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, declared independence from Spain in Dolores, Guanajuato (now Dolores de Hidalgo), the grito is now reenacted by municipal, state or federal officials throughout Mexico.  President Peña Nieto will do the honors at the Zócalo in Mexico City.

Mexican Independece September 16

Mexican Independence September 16

Here in Puerto Vallarta, the festivities begin on the 15th with various events taking place at the main plaza, including an morning salute of the flag.  The traditional grito takes place before midnight in the main plaza and is followed by fireworks and a street party enjoyed by all!  The following day, the 16th, a civic parade takes place with military and local school bands participating in the patriotic display. 

chiles en nogadaOne of Vallarta Food Tours’s favorite ways to celebrate is do our own Vallarta city walking food tour and hit one of the many local restaurants featuring Mexico’s exquisite cuisine.

We can start with The Red Cabbage for its menu inspired by Frida Kahlo for some delicious chiles en nogada. Then off for some amazing tortilla soup at Gaby’s Restaurant and No Way José for some one-of-a-kind tamales. We can finish it off with one of our favorites, El Arrayán, for some delicious duck carnitas and enjoy a jalapeño margarita. Happy Independence to everyone and VIVA MEXICO! 

Fourth of July in Puerto Vallarta!

Don’t get us wrong, we here at Vallarta Food Tours are absolutely head over heels with Mexico and her exquisite cuisine (none better, if you ask us!), but when American Independence Day rolls around our taste buds start hankering for something a bit more “red, white and blue”. In the United States, July 4th marks not only the country’s hard-fought freedom but a time for families and friends to get together and feast. For us that have the pleasure to live in Puerto Vallarta, we get together with fellow compatriots and head over to some of our favorite spots.

joe jacksWhat could be more American than a juicy burger and mac-and-cheese? Few do it as well as Joe Jack’s Fish Shack. We would be happy with the gravity-defying burger and the creamy, cheesy goodness of their mac-and-cheese, but as if to say “we love you more than all the stars in the sky”, Joe Jack’s offers up a 50% discount, only on July 4th, to all who are privy to two special words: “Tio Sam”. With those two code words, your check is cut in half!





Los Muertos Brewing Company, Puerto Vallarta’s only brew pub, is owned by a lovely American couple who know how to celebrate the 4th in style. Not only do they boast one of the area’s best pizzas, but they brew their own beers to great success. Their pizza is wood-fired and deliciously crispy. Their burger is another favorite that you should give a try. This Friday, July 4th, they welcome us and all their esteemed customers to partake in some amazing food and good times. With a hat tip to 1776, year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Los Muertos offers specials including $17 peso pints! And $76 peso house favorites!
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Cinco de Mayo in Vallarta

In the minds of many non-Mexicans, Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) signals a day to bust out the sombreros, head out to your local Mexican joint and enjoy some “adult beverages”, namely tequila and cerveza.  Why not? Celebrating Mexican Independence is important and signals to this warm country that they respect and honor their sovereignty.  One small problem… Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence, the September 16th is. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla.  In this battle, an overmatched Mexican army defeated the French, who had invaded the country.  Though its strategic value in terms of war is arguable, the Battle of Puebla symbolized a David vs Goliath moment in the Mexican consciousness.  It became a rallying cry of the strength and ganas (chutzpah) of the Mexican people.
Who doesn’t love it when the underdog wins?  We know we will be celebrating this example of prowess and determination.  We may have a well-crafted Margarita or Mexito (Mojito with tequila) at Fish Shack. Maybe we will saunter beach-front to enjoy a mezcal cucumber concoction at Barracuda’s.  Or maybe we’ll have a frosty Pacífico or the Agave Maria at Los Muertos Brewing.   For some of the best Mexican food head, over to El Arrayán. With this much to celebrate, the possibilities are plentiful in our beautiful Puerto Vallarta. If you decide to celebrate in your home why not do some margaritas popsicles? So many things to do, and too many reasons to celebrate!

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St. Patrick’s in Puerto Vallarta

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching and the inevitable hankering for Guinness and corned beef and cabbage, we got to thinking of our plans, things to do in Puerto Vallarta on St. Patty’s Day.  Living in Puerto Vallarta, it may not seem like the obvious place to celebrate but then again, how fun is obvious?

My father is of Irish descent and my mother is Mexican. These two cultures certainly don’t seem similar at a glance, but a closer look shows that Irish and Mexicans may have more in common than we thought.  Of course, both are traditionally Catholic countries, have tightly-knit families, are passionate about regional music and let’s just say that maybe they enjoy their adult beverages. Surprisingly for many, they also share a war.

In the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, there was an infantry and artillery unit of Irishmen, headed by John Riley, also know by the Mexican Army as Juan Reley.  Riley formed the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, known to Mexican soldiers as Los Colorados Valientes (The Valiant Reds) and later, Los San Patricios (The Saint Patricks).  Initially, Los San Patricios was made up of 175 soldiers, chiefly Irish, German, English, French immigrants and escaped African slaves.  Soon, the brigade swelled to over 700 men, mostly from Ireland who grew disatisfied with the United States Army.  It is speculated that among the factors leading toward desertion were the mistreatment of immigrant soldiers, a bias against the practice of Catholicism, overall alienation and the lure of higher wages and promise of land.  They also saw their mistreatment mirrored in the behavior of factions of the US occupying forces, including some commanding officers of the Texas Rangers who robbed, raped and murdered.  In addition, they were offended by the Rangers’ desecration of Catholic Churches in Mexico.

San Patricios

Riley held firm that the U.S. reason for war was one of conquest, while Mexico’s was one of defense against foreign intrusion.  Los San Patricios were viewed as traitors by the US and treated as such.  Upon their capture, 72 soldiers were court-martialed and though they were never given representation, were sentenced to death by hanging.  In Mexico, Los San Patricios were and are looked on as heroes and still honored in places like Mexico City that has a street named Martires Irlandeses (Irish Martyrs), Monterrey that has a street named Batallon de San Patricio (Battalion of Saint Patrick) and even a town bearing the name San Patricio, Jalisco.

This St. Patrick’s Day, we may raise a glass to Riley and his battalion for their service to Mexico. We will saunter up to Murphy’s Irish Pub on the Malecón, ask the owner Jon Murphy for a pint, look across our beautiful bay and toast.  Later, we will continue the revelry at the always-hopping St. Patrick’s Day party at Shamrocks in Bucerías.  This event is always packed, always fun and shouldn’t be missed.  In keeping with mixing the two cultures, we will ask for a delicious baked potato at Carboncito with pastor toppings, of course.