Our bright yellow 4×4 grinds higher up into the Sierra Madre Mountains. The high peaks rise like jagged green jewels above Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
Under a canvas canopy cover I cling to my vinyl seat, inhale sharp mountain air and wonder about lunch.
Already my appetite is wetted by mini food stops.
First, a small Panaderia where freshly made buns, stuffed with either chocolate or vanilla, get baked in an oven build onto a large rock.
Continuing up the mountain to the baker’s home, his wife makes blue corn tortillas from scratch, filling them with homemade cheese and salsa. Later, we are told, our lunch will be in a river. Eyebrows rise. Our guide, Armando Cruz, grins and says no more.
Lunch. In a river. Really?
The canopy truck rolls to a stop at Villa Azalea, an elegant inn and organic farm high in a breathtaking mountain setting.
A complete outdoor kitchen sits next to a gently flowing river. Guests can take a cooking class for $95 each and pick their food choices from the garden. Eat at tables under shade trees or in the river.
Today the crew for our Vallarta Advenures “Hidden Mexico” day trip are the chefs. They have cooked us a buffet of authentic Mexican food including the best refried beans I’ve ever had.
Before cruising the buffet table, I take off my shoes. Then, with a full plate of food I wade in ankle deep water over to a canopy-covered picnic table firmly embedded in the riverbed and sit down.
Every bite tastes exquisite to me. I have written about Puerto Vallarta food and art at my blog but this meal takes me to a whole new zip code.
The river flows by. Little fish nibble at my feet. Place and food blend together to take lunch from ordinary to extraordinary.