Story by: Bill Nestor
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It’s no wonder the Gourmet & Golf Classic takes place in Punta Mita. The location with two charming hotel resorts and pair of Jack Nicklaus golf courses nestled in a secluded and gated 1500-acre peninsular reserve on the Pacific Ocean surrounded by white sand beaches is perfect for such an extravaganza.
The second annual Gourmet Golf event was replete with wonderful weather, fabulous flavors, great golfing and joyful times with friends. The four-day party in paradise featured gourmet meals prepared by distinguished chefs from Mexico and around the world, a succession of wine and tequila tasting, and festive gatherings at the luxurious St. Regis and Four Seasons Punta Mita golf, beach and spa resorts; and the Punta Mita Cup, a two-day tournament on Pacifico (1999) and Bahia (2008) routings that wend their way through lush tropical grounds and along the coast.
Punta Mita is the southwest gateway to Riviera Nayarit. Fonatur, Mexico’s National Tourism Development Foundation, is creating the country’s newest tourism initiative. The project brings additional resorts, boutique hotels, spas, and golf courses to Riviera Nayarit, a territory that runs along more than 100 miles of pristine shoreline from Punta Mita north to San Blas. The region abounds in authentic culture and customs in coastal towns and villages under a backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Riviera Nayarit is a vision of brilliant sunsets, white sand beaches, resident and migratory wildlife, unspoiled fishing communities and a history dating back to the Aztecs.
The luxurious Four Seasons Resort occupies an entrancing piece of the cape and has set the standard for excellence at Punta Mita since opening in 1999. Its setting, understated elegance, dining experiences, exceptional service and spectacular sunsets have created one of the most desirable destinations in the world. The Resort has been selected on Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List from 2005 – 2012. (www.fourseasons.com/puntamita/)
The St. Regis Resort opened ten years later and has enhanced the destination’s prominence as an upscale luxury paradise. The spacious guest suites with delightful terraces and captivating ocean views, housed in charming tile-roofed casitas with rustic Mexican décor and handcrafted furnishings create a relaxingly seductive tranquility. Outdoor stone showers and a 24-hour butler highlight St. Regis’ focus on maximizing comfort and service. St. Regis Punta Mita Resort achieved Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List status in 2012. (www.stregis.com/puntamita)
Punta Mita Golf
The Pacifico course has provided pleasant and challenging rounds since opening in 1999 adjacent to the Four Seasons. Its eight ocean-side holes include the Tail of the Whale, hole 3B that plays from the water’s edge to a natural island green. Being able to hit to 3B green depends on the tide.
The par-72 layout offers options with five sets of tees, playing 7,014 yards from the tips (72.7/131) to 4,974-yard (68.1/114) at the forward tees. It delivers a lovely scenic routing over 200 acres of undulating terrain with ample fairways and approach shots that will test your skills. “You would be hard-pressed to ask for a more beautiful backdrop for a golf course than Punta Mita,” said Jack Nicklaus.
Bahia was ready for play in 2008 making Punta Mita, “that much more of a golfer’s destination,” said director of golf Phillip Ferrari. It includes six ocean holes and lush, wide and rolling fairways. The larger and more undulating greens, guarded by deeper and more traps help to make this layout more challenging than Pacifico. Bahia meanders near to St. Regis Resort. Players can choose from four sets of tees- 5,088 yards (70.1/121) to 7,035 yards (74.0/135).
“To be given spectacular oceanfront land as a canvas not once, but twice, here at Punta Mita is exciting for a designer. I’m confident people are going to enjoy the challenge and beauty of this golf course (Bahia), as well as the incredible scenery,” said Nicklaus.
Pacifico and Bahia present enticing and appealing fields of golf play as part of the Gourmet Golf Classic. They are an impressive duo adding to the mystique and attraction of an already magical destination. Play is reserved for Punta Mita homeowners and guests at the St. Regis and Four Seasons. The Punta Mita Golf Club is owned by DINE, Mexico’s premier real estate developer and operated by the Four Seasons under the direction of Phillip Ferrari. (http://puntamita.com/jack-nicklaus-golf/)
Dining in Paradise- Food, Chefs, & Restaurants
Punta Mita is gastronomically ablaze with palate pleasing culinary creations that reflect distinctive regional tastes and original international fusion cuisine. Something quite incredible is happening here. Talented, passionate chefs are creating a variety of unique and flavorful dishes infused with exotic aromas and zesty seasonings. The local availability and abundance of fruits, vegetables, spices, seasonings and variety of fish guarantees that food is fresh, ripe and interesting while the chefs insure an array of inspired palate pleasing plates.
World-renowned Mexican born Chef Richard Sandoval, a recognized leader in the modern Latin cuisine movement, consults and contributes to the culinary direction with Executive Chef Philipe Piel at Four Seasons Punta Mita. His contribution advances a tradition of unique epicurean adventures at the resort.
It was a special time, interacting with a star-studded lineup of resident and guest superstar chefs and tasting the parade of culinary artistry during outdoor receptions, parties, lunches and dinners at Four Seasons’ Ketsi, Bahia, Aramara and St. Regis’ Carolina, Seabreeze and Las Mariatas restaurants.
Resident Four Seasons chefs: Jose Salas Duarte, Ramon Bramasco, Claudia Fossa, Executive Chef Philipe Piel; and resident St Regis chefs: Sergio Chavez, Mickael Fournier, Daniele Tonin, Executive Chef Sylvain Debois along with guest chefs: Andrew Ormsby, Abraham Salum, Bernard Casavant, Michael Mina, Patricia Quintana, Richard Sandoval, Kaz Ochoki, David Varley, Celestino Drago. Ian Gresik, Brendan Collins, Montse Estruch, Thierry Blouet, and Luis Acuna treated all to a smorgasbord of delectable tastes during Gourmet Golf II. Each and every dish tasted was remarkable to extraordinary.
Aramara translated from local Huichol Indian language means “a sacred place by the ocean.” The Four Seasons Aramara restaurant occupies such a spot overlooking the Pacific. The peaceful and picturesque setting, scrumptious meal, and excellent service delivered a luscious al fresco dining experience at sunset.
Resident Chef Claudia Fossa and featured guest Chef Kaz Ochoki of Sushi Bistro in Washington, DC hosted a six-course pairing Chef’s Table dinner at Aramara. The multi-faceted culinary escapade was nothing short of brilliant, each course deliciously light, yet substantially satisfying.
First up was Flounder Carpaccio served with tofu, asparagus, oysters and a sweet soy and jalapeno, ginger-glaze sauce paired with Pina Chile Margarita.
A lobster sashimi gazpacho followed. Celeste Blanco, Humberto Falcon, (Baja California, Mexico 2011) was an exceptional light, white wine selection.
Red Snapper Yuan Yaki with crispy Brussels sprouts and seaweed cauliflower was next, paired with a chilled red -Sang Bleu, Humberto Falcon (France 2009).
Rib Eye with sweet potato-carrot puree went well with Mariatinto, Humberto Falcon (Baja California 2010), a blended red wine also served chilled.
Chirashi Sushi, a dish of vinegary sushi rice topped with slices of raw tuna, was served with a Calpico Skyy Vodka Martini. The tasty dish and unique creamy thick and spicy drink was a psychedelic gastronomic trek.
The finale was Lychee Panna Cotta; a dense jellied vanilla pudding with a curly cue cracker stick on top, paired with Anejo Espolon Tequila provided a demonstrative crescendo to this amazing treat.
Another dazzling spectrum of tastes was had at St. Regis’ Seabreeze, a relaxed bistro scene featuring contemporary cuisine with Italian influences. The warm night, gentle wind, swaying palms, patio dining overlooking the beach and an amazing sunset with green-flash covered the ambiance.
Resident Chef Daniele Tonin fashioned a marvelous spread beginning with some off-menu tasty samplings that had us clamoring for more–Freshly made egg yolk and pepper fettuccini style pasta and side of shrimp; Spicy Tagliolini pasta w/shrimp, asparagus, cherry tomatoes with a touch of red and yellow chili de arbol; Scrumptious gnocchi with basil, Parmesan and tomato sauce.
Caesar salad- crispy lettuce hearts with Reggiano parmesan cheese and traditional anchovies dressing came next, followed by a dish of shrimp, scallops, red snapper, and mussels sautéed with herbs and spices, black risotto and a lobster sauce mirror.
The pizza couldn’t be resisted: Quattro Formaggi (Four cheese)- mozzarella, smoked provolone, manchego, blue cheese; and a Achiote style shrimp, mozzarella, manchego and cilantro pie both were done to perfection.
The Gran Reserva, Casa Grande Chardonnay from Mexico’s Casa Madero winery (oldest in the Americas, founded 1597) went beautifully with each serving.
The impeccable service, friendly and relaxed ambiance and delicious food was a perfect restaurant trifecta.
Chef Tonin may be new to the St. Regis but no stranger to creating culinary magic for discriminating tastes at luxury resorts. His resume includes an impressive list of fine restaurants in Shanghi, Cabos San Lucas, Cozumel and Mexico City.
“I left home in Venice at fifteen to travel the world, taste different cuisines and after learning more about different cooking got a feel for my personal style,” said Tonin. He cooked his way through France, Germany, Puerto Rico, Australia and China. Tonin learned by doing and built on a passion for cooking he gleaned from cooking with his mother and grandmother.
This alluring slice of paradise has me smitten. I adore the magic of Punta Mita, its enchanting setting, understated elegance, mesmerizing tranquility and the way the sun slides so effortlessly into the sea each night, assuring me that this old earth is still spinning round. Frankly, I can’t get enough of playing golf at sunrise on Bahia or Pacifico and sunset dining at Four Seasons or St. Regis restaurants. Gourmet & Golf is a special celebration of Punta Mita’s rhythms, pristine nature, regional customs, golf and mystical culinary creations. Gourmet & Golf III is slated for April 11-14 2013.
Bill Nestor writes about global travel, golf, food, nature and lifestyle from his home in Vermont.
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