If, like me, you plan all your travel trips based on food (um... who doesn't?) then step up to the plate Mexico, in particular the windswept sun soaked Pacific coast, who's culinary prowess, for me, has remained unmatched.
Mexico's Pacific Coast really lucked out in the food stakes, largely due to its handy geography. Bounded by the warm currents of the Gulf of California that yields the likes of snapper, grouper, lobster (oh so good), the blue shrimp that are famous to the area and swordfish. Couple that with the acres of coconut plantations, the fresh grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables that grow in the region and you'll get some fine dishes, so I discovered. Here's what not to miss...
First and foremost fish tacos are nigh on perfect on the Pacific Coast. The only tough part will be working out which fish taco you want to go for, with options such as marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tuna and amberjack on the menu. Then there's the choice between corn and flour tortillas, mmmm. Throw in some shredded cabbage, pickled jalapenos, spicy salsa and a healthy dollop of sour cream and a squidge of zesty lime juice and your epicurean life will never be the same again.
Seafood really is the order of the day on Mexico's Pacific Coast and so fresh you'll be able to see the fisherman coming in with the catch of the day. Manzanilla, just north of Puerto Vallarta is particularly known for its seafood dishes. Try the seafood soups and stews, grilled crayfish and the mouth-wateringly delicious garlic fried lobster. Crab tacos, tostadas and empanadas are always a winner...
One of the best things about being this close to fresh fish is the ceviche, and I got to gets hands-on and take part in a ceviche-making class. I decide to make seabass and tuna ceviche, and dice each of the fish up very small, seasoning them well with rock salt and pepper and marinating them in lime and lemon juice, which essentially 'cooks them', while they chill in the fridge for four hours. It's worth the wait as I get them out and toss them with juicy tomatoes, red onion, coriander and some jalapeno peppers. Delicious.
One of the most famous dishes of Mexico's Pacific Coast hails from nearby Guadalajara, which, has been described as the region's 'cultural and gastronomic centre', is birria. Birria is actually translated 'a mess' although this delicious slow cooked spicy stew is anything but. Usually made with goat or mutton meat, it has a rich tomatillo broth and lashings of spices like ginger, cinnamon, cumin and some fiery Serrano chile. Tuck into it with floury tortillas and lime wedges.
The world's best margarita
There is quite literally nothing better than watching the waves tumble up the palm-strewn shores of Sayulita with a margarita in hand as the sun goes down. This hippy surf town has some of the best spots for a tequila tipple along the coast (not least because tequila's origin is just a few hours drive inland). Sip tongue tingling refreshing basil and pineapple margaritas from La Esperanza or sit out on the street listening to live music with your tequila cocktail at Monchis. For the best margaritas and ocean views in town make a beeline for Don Pedro's, it's a local favourite.