Ahead of the Gourmet Festival, taking place in Puerto Vallarta next week November 11-20, we dined at Café des Artistes, met the charismatic chef Thierry Blouet and some in our Puerto Vallarta Press Trip group discovered those were not mushrooms when, after taking a bite, delighted I exclaimed “escargots”!
Tucked away on a narrow street up from the Malecon, Café des Artistes rings true to its name the moment you step foot inside. Art is everywhere, owing in part to chef Thierry Blouet’s wife Rosé who is an accomplished jewelry maker.
The art that comes on the plate, however, has the signature of chef Blouet who combines his French background and home-of-25-years Puerto Vallarta in the restaurant’s gastronomy: French and Mexican flavors, techniques and ingredients mingle comfortably in artful culinary creations.
From the salmon crudo with guacachile (yes, guacamole with chili) to the duck confit with an intense mole under a crisp Hoja Santa leaf, Mexico meets France particularly outspoken in the snail dish. Wrapped in pastry and fried crisp, the “spring roll” stuffed with escargots balances on a tender-soft, flavorful tamale, this one too with escargots, all brought together with a green bean sauce hollandaise and roasted poblano.
Dessert showcases once more that art and food go hand in hand in this little gem of a restaurant: plated on a mirror tray out comes a colorful array of macaroons, crème brulée, chocolate mousse, sundae and more, including an intricate balancing sugar sculpture to finish off the visual.
That Chef Blouet is a proponent of gourmet food in the region is evident from more than what comes out of his own kitchen: he is one of two founding chefs (along with chef Heinz Reize of Coco Tropical Restaurant and Beach Club) of the annual International Gourmet Festival held in Puerto Vallarta for the 22nd year this November.
Born from a mission to strengthen the gastronomy of Puerto Vallarta’s region, the inaugural festival took place in 1995. Six hotels and six independent restaurants participated in that first festival and each venue invited a guest chef from elsewhere in the world. In 2000 the founding duo found a third partner-in-gourmet in chef Roland Menetrey who has chosen Puerto Vallarta as a home for the winter since he first visited in 1959. Over the years the festival grew as each year more restaurants participated and the range of the festival expanded to include the Riviera Nayarit and Tepic, both in the vicinity of Puerto Vallarta. “It is always different, exciting and complicated,” said chef Blouet. “Already more than 500 guest chefs came to Puerto Vallarta!”
The initial format still rules: each of the participating restaurants invites a guest chef for the duration of the festival. For the festivalgoer to the 2016 festival it means a unique opportunity to try a wide range of gastronomy from over 27 participating restaurants. Think also wine pairings, cooking classes and chef-led workshops and you have a 10-day gourmet feast of unique flavors, tastings, encounters and ambiance. The location isn’t too shabby either: Puerto Vallarta has a beautiful setting on a sparkling blue ocean ringed by the forested mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
The 22nd edition of the International Gourmet Festival takes place in Puerto Vallarta November 11-20 when local and international guest chefs, hotels and restaurants put up a gastronomic feast that includes events such as Gourmet Breakfast, Dine Around, Avant-Garde Progressive Dinner, Theme Nights, Fiesta del Mar and a choice of workshops. For more information visit www.festivalgourmet.com