Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mexican Flavors Already in Your Pantry

Full of flavor, the sweet and nutty Mexican wedding cookie is easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry. A cousin of the traditional sugar cookie, the Mexican wedding cookie dates back to a Medieval Arab cuisine where sugar was a prominent ingredient in dessert-like foods. When the Moors immigrated into Southern Spain they brought along their sugary delights. Some centuries later, in the 1600s, the New World was discovered and the sugar cookie was introduced to today’s Mexico. With time, the Mexican sugar cookie reincarnated into a nutty and sugary treat that utilized the abundant Pecan nuts, called nuez, native to the New World. Today the Mexican wedding cookie’s simple ingredients make it perfect for any occasion.

Check out a Mexican wedding cookie recipe below:
Photo taken from

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans
4 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar for rolling

1.  Preheat oven to 325* 

2.  Cream butter in a bowl, gradually add confectioner’s sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add pecans and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually and mix well.

3.  Shape into balls using about 1 tsp for each cookie. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not brown. Cool slightly, then roll in the extra confectioner’s sugar, roll again when cooled. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Culture, History and Food in Puerto Vallarta

Whether it’s your first time to Puerto Vallarta or your tenth, the Vallarta Food Tour is a must!  Not only will you experience some of Vallarta’s amazing local food, but you will also learn about the culture and history of Puerto Vallarta. 

The tour starts at Mole Rosa, a locally owned restaurant located in the Zona Romantica, off of the south end of the Malecon. I never thought I liked mole before, but apparently I was wrong. The owner served up 3 different types of mole: the traditional mole which tastes a little like chocolate, a green mole that is made with pumpkin seeds, and their specially, mole rosa, which is a pink mole infused with red beets. They were all delicious! 

From there, we strolled around the Zona Romantico down a well-known street called Basilio Badillo to Robles taco stand. There are countless taco stands around Vallarta, and it is amazing how different one can be from the next.  A taco is just a taco right? Not the case! You can spend a week here eating only at taco stands & never have the same meal twice. Robles is one of the best, serving their taco “dorado” style, basically meaning fried. They are a little greasy, but SO tasty. 

Enjoying Robles's fried tacos. Yum.

Our third tasting included ceviche at Marisco’s El Guero. To ensure the best quality, the owner of this hidden treasure buys his seafood fresh daily, dorado (also called mahi-mahi), straight from the Banderas Bay. Served on a crisp tostada, it was one of the best ceviches I have ever eaten. 

Our next delicacy was at Cesar’s Coconut Stand. Family owned for 3 generations, Cesar’s stand serves over 1000 coconuts a week during busy season. Serving both coconut juice and coconut meat, this was clearly a popular spot as there were several drive-up customers in just the few moments we were there. 

Hot off the presses were fresh tortillas for our fifth stop. La Gloria Tortilla Factory provides tortillas for the majority of the local restaurants. If you think the tortillas are delicious with your meal, you will love them freshly made.

After strolling across a couple of swinging bridges and through the local flea market into El Centro, my personal favorite stop was La Revolucion. The history behind this local cantina is fascinating. Evidently, this spot was frequented by Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton back in the day. Witnesses say they had some of their best lover’s spats right at the bar. La Revolucion served up 3 scrumptious soups: black bean, tortilla and Florida Calabasas. This was accompanied by local tequila (which you are supposed to SIP, not down in one gulp). 

Meandering through El Centro, we stopped by one of the town’s icons, the church of our Lady Guadalupe, and then down the famous Malecon. Conception, one of the local’s favorite vendors, was on the Malecon & offered up a refreshing cup of tuba water - water made from fermented coconut with little pieces of yellow or red apple, chunks of nuts and a little sugar added. This unique combination makes the water more refreshing than soft drinks or other waters that are prepared with fruit.

The day ended on a sweet note at La Azteca’s candy store. Another family owned business, the owner of La Azteca started out as a street vendor. His candied nuts were so popular that he moved into a small store front, and his business expanded numerous times over 30 years. Owned now by his children, La Azteca now has 9 storefronts and offers a plethora of homemade candy treats.

We all left the tour pleasantly full with an enriched appreciation for the Mexican way of life. If it’s your first time to Puerto Vallarta, the Vallarta Food Tour is the best way to learn about the history of the area, experience some incredible local foods & learn your way around town. If you've been to Vallarta before, the Food Tour will show you tucked away treasures that you probably haven't yet experienced, adding to the rich culture that you already love so much. Don’t miss out!

For more information, 

-Stephanie Watts

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What our Destination Experts are saying about Cabo

Noelle and I spent a few days in Cabo San Lucas recently to tour some of our inventory and to learn more about the area so that we can be TRUE Destination Experts. If you were to ask me today, “What should we do while we’re in Cabo?” here are some ready responses for you:


Whether you want an all-inclusive hotel, condo or villa, we have inventory to suit all. One of my favorite hotels was Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. PB Pacifica is a tranquil retreat located about 5 minutes outside of downtown Cabo San Lucas, on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula. This full service property has 5 restaurants, 2 pools, an incredible spa and a secluded beach.  The rooms are top-notch and with a very professional staff. Our guide, Jesus, met us upon arrival with cool towels and a fresh glass of Jamaica (ha-MY-ka) juice. As we toured the guest rooms, we were greeted by a welcome message on the bed. We felt very special, but apparently ALL of their guests are treated the same way.

If you’re traveling with a family and need some more space, I’d recommend a condo at the Hacienda Beach Club in downtown Cabo San Lucas. Not only is the location convenient, but the property itself is exceptional. Situated on Medano Beach, Hacienda Beach Club is within walking distance to the marina and downtown. Our top choice, unit 501-C, is expansive with a gourmet kitchen, sizeable living space and terrace with three en-suite bedrooms. The property itself offers 5-star services including restaurants and room service, a top of the line spa including fitness center, fitness classes and an infinity pool overlooking Land’s End. Unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to try out the restaurant, but rumor has it, it’s one of the best in town.
Our villa options are plentiful and diverse, ranging in size, location & amenities. It really is hard to pick just one favorite, so I chose three:  Villa de los Suenos de Pedregal, Villa Gran Vista and Villa Turquesa. All of these properties are located in Pedregal, just outside of downtown Cabo San Lucas, and overlook the Pacific. Villa de los Suenos de Pedregal is a luxurious home offering up to 8 bedrooms. The vaulted ceilings and elegant furnishings make this home feel grand, yet extremely cozy. Villa Gran Vista is a true home away from home, offering comfortable living spaces, a gaming room with pool table, media room, office space and 7 en-suite bedrooms. Five of the bedrooms could be used as masters, so no need to fight over whom gets the best room in the house. Villa Turquesa sits on the hilltop with amazing views of the Pacific. This home has some flexibility to be rented as either a 4 or 9 bedroom home. Some fun features of Villa Turquesa include a putting green, theater room, indoor shuffleboard, and kid’s room with bunk beds and a jungle gym.


If you’re looking for some good, not too fancy, fun places to eat, here are a few of my favorites:
Baja Cantina- Located at the marina, the Baja Cantina has a really fun atmosphere. It is definitely a popular spot and always hopping with tourists and locals alike. If you’re looking for a place to watch your favorite sport (it was a must for me to watch the Ravens vs. Steelers game), this is the place.  As for food, I had the pizza and it was delicious!

Sharkey’s- Of the beaten path a little, Sharkey’s is located about 2 blocks from the marina. Looking for some great authentic Mexican food? This is the place. And if you happen to catch a fish while you’re in town, Sharkey’s can prepare it for you.
Baja Brewing Company- If you’re tired of drinking Corona, head to the Baja Brewing Company. They have 3 locations: at the marina in Cabo San Lucas, in the historic art district in San Jose and rooftop at the Cabo Villas Resort on Medano Beach.  The beer was great and you have to try the arrachera burger…yum!

Drinks at The Office- The Office is an icon! Right on Medano Beach, The Office is great place to hang out day or night. The buckets of beer are CHEAP and the people watching couldn’t be better.

Boat tour of the harbor- We took a tour around sunset for just about an hour and I’d highly recommend it. Take out a bottle of wine (or 2), enjoy the sunset, the skyline and the views of Land’s End.
Spend a day in San Jose- San Jose is the epitome of “quaint.”Get away from the hubbub of Cabo, walk around, do a little shopping and be sure to stop for a beer at the Baja Brewing Company in the Historic Art district.

These are just a few insider tips, but our knowledge of Cabo San Lucas is comprehensive. So feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to help you plan your next trip to the Baja Peninsula! To speak with a Destination Expert, call (844) 258-8144 or visit to plan your Cabo vacation!

- Stephanie W

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where’s the best place to stay in Cabo and what’s the deal with San José?!

Before I got the opportunity to really spend time in and around Cabo San Lucas, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the lay of the land. How far is San José from downtown Cabo? Which homes are located on swimmable beaches? Where are said beaches, in relation to downtown? What’s the difference between homes on the “Pacific side” vs. homes on the “Marina side?” What the heck is the “Corridor?” Sound familiar? Well, I’m happy to say I finally mastered Cabo’s layout and am here to share my newly-acquired knowledge. And, yes, it is all that it’s cracked up to be (just in case you were wondering)!

Okay, so let’s get started. When you fly into Cabo, you fly into Los Cabos International airport, which is about 20 minutes inland from the coast. You have two choices once you enter into the heart of San José: you can continue straight through the roundabout into oldtown San José, or turn right onto the coastal highway to make your way up the coast to Cabo San Lucas. If you choose the former you will enter into San José‘s Hotel Row (beautiful hotels and condos that line the SWIMMABLE beach in SJ). This area has a more authentic “Mexican” feel than downtown Cabo, so if you’re looking for that experience, you should stay on Hotel Row (ex. Costa Azul Resort or Las Mananitas condominium) or at least make a day trip from Cabo to check it out. If you choose to go straight ahead into Cabo you will pass through the area between San José and downtown Cabo: the “Corridor.” You won’t see many homes because they are hidden on either side of the highway, however, this is where most of the SWIMMABLE beaches are located. You can stay along the Corridor and be anywhere from 10-30 minutes from downtown Cabo. Beaches are the Corridor‘s main attraction and is a great area for those looking for quiet and privacy.

Continuing past the Corridor is downtown Cabo. Downtown is not very large, about a 20 min walk from end to end, but it's full of shopping, bars, restaurants, and hotels (Pueblo Bonito Rose & Pueblo Bonito Blanco and the 5 star Hacienda Cabo condominiums are just behind the beach and great for a central location). Medano beach is the place to be if you are looking for water sports, day drinking or maybe interested in the singles scene. Also, if you are staying in downtown Cabo, Medano is really your only option for a SWIMMABLE beach. In addition, it has the best vantage point for viewing The Arches – unless you take a boat out to see them, which I highly recommend!

Now, if you continue along the waterfront (Bay of Cabo San Lucas), you will enter the Marina. This is where the fishing boats, charters and boat slips are located. There are also several restaurants ranging from Ruth’s Chris to local fare. Most gringos dine here at night and have a few drinks before hitting the clubs (i.e. Giggling Marlin, El Squid Roe – all located just behind the Marina, downtown). The food is good and all restaurants have outdoor seating. Two blocks inland from the Marina is Pedregal; a gated hill community comprised mostly of homes owned by the local gringo population. The homes on the lower side of the hill are only a couple of blocks from downtown, making it convenient to walk into town.

Now, here’s where it can get confusing: Pedregal is a hill with homes located on all sides. It is split up into two areas the “Pacific side” or “Marina side.” If your home is on the west side of the hill, you are on the Pacific side; if your home is on the east side, you are on the Marina side. Homes on the Pacific side have expansive views of the ocean and tend to have light later in the day. Anything facing the Marina or the east has views of the Sea of Cortez. The Pacific Ocean is not swimmable in this area. Should you stay in Pedregal, it’s easiest to catch cabs to and from town unless you choose to rent a car for day excursions. There are a few hotels on the Pacific side, such as Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica and the Monte Cristo Estates. They are located just behind Pedregal and offer beautiful beach access (though not swimmable). This location is perfect for weddings, large groups or couples that wish to spend most days by the pool, enjoying one another’s company. The hotels are all full-service and the villas have private pools and kitchens, so the need to leave the premises is minimal. From here, you are about a 15 minute drive to downtown.

So, that pretty much sums it up, from San José to Cabo, the ins and outs. I hope that this was helpful!

- Noelle M