In December of 2014, I was invited to discover the gastronomy of Mexican Chef Xavier Perez Stone at the Laurie Raphaël restaurant in Quebec City. It was an evening where travel agents from Quebec -and a few journalists- were invited by the Grand Velas Riviera Maya all-inclusive resort to experience a taste of their gastronomy. We were fed a six-course meal through which the flavours transported our palates to the heart of Mexico.
During that evening, there was talk of food and how the Grand Velas’ gastronomic experience transcends traditional flavours of the Yucatán peninsula with true Mayan and Aztec heritage and Basque influences. Unfortunately, and even though Chef Perez Stone managed to wow me, most ingredients he would have normally used in Mexico were not available/allowed here in Quebec City. He thus adapted his menu with a Quebec twist in which he proved himself of great culinary talent. But, if the Grand Velas was going to wow me as «one of the foodiest destinations in Mexico», I would have to live it to believe it.
That’s when I decided to have a taste of Mexico and bring my very conservative mother along for the ride. When it comes to food, she is my complete opposite. She doesn’t travel for food, nor does she cook with exotic flavours. My mother Pauline would thus be my perfectly objective reference for the Grand Velas foodie experience.
We left on a direct flight with Air Transat from Quebec City to Cancun on January 24th, 2015.
A week in a magazine
I left my snow-covered bungalow in Charlesbourg for a week in 30-degree Celsius weather for the most sumptuous resort I have ever vacationed at. The cleanest, friendliest and most amicable customer service experience of all resorts my mother and I have ever saw. Together, we’ve travelled to Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic and now Mexico for all-inclusive vacations and none have offered the service quality we’ve witnessed at the Grand Velas.
The Grand Velas Riviera Maya is part of the Leading Hotels of the World, the largest luxury hotel collection. Their standards are high and the experience is extravagant. Lavish hospitality is their norm. It is exactly what I want my hard-earned money to give me all while taking me away from my daily mundane. Everybody deserves this kind of greatness.
We stayed in the Grand Class section of the resort, an 18+ environment with a private beach, pool and dedicated service. We had our very own beach butler to tend to all our needs: food, drinks, towels, shade or sun. The Grand Class is a very quiet sector of the resort with no kids in sight and where beach beds lay one next to the other. Parasols are always available for shade (especially for a sensitive skin like mine) and an impressive alcohol/cocktail menu to keep our bodies well hydrated. I recommend the fresh strawberry daiquiri.
Greatness is the least of words to describe the culinary experience of the seven different restaurants of the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Whether at the bistro, the buffet or their five-diamond Cocina de Autor, I have tasted some of the best traditional Mexican ingredients: cactus, huitlacoche, salsa verde, corn tortilla, papaya, avocado, etc. At the end of this post, you’ll find a plethora of pictures that will help you witness the beauty of the flavours that have touched my palate and forever shifted my tastebuds. I finally have an authentic reference point for Mexican authentic cuisine.
The first thing I noticed was the heat subtlety in spicy foods. Unfortunately, North America is fond of Tex-Mex which has nothing to do with traditional Mexican cuisine. Whoever decided that the boldness Tex-Mex would become the «Mexican norm» in cuisine is completely off track. Traditional Mexican cuisine is all about the quality of their landscape’s ingredients (corn, tomato, zucchini, peppers, seafood, chocolate) that embrace Spanish influences (poultry, pork, veal, rice). Subtlety in flavours is their forte.
Tradition in the midst of modernity
The gastronomy of the Grand Velas is a blend of traditions, influences and modernity. It is neither too bold (cascabels, poblano, guindillas) unless otherwise requested (habaneros, jalapeño, chiles de arbol) and very authentic (moles, chile morita, huitlacoche, tortas, tacos). I ate gruper, mojarr, chistora, pacharan, tamarine, amarante, tlayuda, pipicha, chile morita, tacos, tostadas, tortas, cactus, zucchini, huevos rancheros-revueltos-divorciados, chilaquiles, guacamole, etc. All of Mexico’s abundant variety of flavours and ingredients are found under the Grand Velas’ roof.
I left Riviera Maya with a very touristic approach to Mexcico’s cuisine, but with an authentic experience. I also leave Mexico with a much better comprehension of their cuisine, especially it’s potential for grandiose. The Cocina de Autor, Chef Xavier Perez Stone and Chef Naom playground is what left the best impression on my palate (and on my mother’s!) Can you imagine that my mother tasted every ingredient during our week-long stay? I am so proud of her!
It’s hard to stay in your comfort zone when it comes to foodie experiences like that of the Grand Velas. It’s environment is so impeccable that you want to indulge in all of its flavours and scents. When I left the travel Clinique in Quebec City, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Mexico’s cuisine. The nurse almost made me change my mind about this trip! But in the end, I left Mexico having tasted it all, with prudence, but great confidence in the resort. The exact experience that a worry-free, all-inclusive foodiecation vacation is.
For extra behind-the-scene footage of my experience at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, check out my youtube channel!
Thank you to the Grand Velas Riviera Maya for this amazing foodiecation. A very special thank you to Air Transat for having offered the Option Plus package. My mother and I enjoyed the kind of vacation everyone should have the right to, including not having to wait in line at the airport, mini bottles of Prosecco to enjoy on the plane and an extra 10kg to bring back authentic mexican tequila! Cheers 😉