Fun in the Sun: Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic



Iron Chef Challenge

Photos by Amber Gibson

For the fifth year, Punta Mita, Mexico played host to an extravagant weekend of food, drink and golf debauchery. Co-hosted by the St. Regis and Four Seasons and sponsored by American Express, this beach party drew 500 guests from around the globe, along with sommeliers, mixologists, brewmasters and more than two dozen chefs to nourish and expand culinary horizons. The event raised more than a half million pesos for Mexican former professional golfer Lorena Ochoa’s foundation, which supports underprivileged children through education and sports programs.

More than 200 golfers played best ball and two-person scramble on the pair of 18-hole, par-72 golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. The most famous hole is an optional par-three 19th on the Pacifico Course, nicknamed “Tail of the Whale,” with the only natural island green in the world. Pacifico is the easier of the two courses, better suited for beginners, while Bahia is more challenging, with an incredible oceanfront view.

Non-golfers had a cornucopia of culinary activities to choose from, along with mezcal, beer and wine tastings, snorkeling and a cruise around Banderas Bay on a 40-foot catamaran with Panerai. Bottomless Veuve Clicquot, Patrón tequila, cocktails, Bocanegra and Cerveza Minerva beer and live music fueled the dance party well past midnight every night.

A gourmet highlight was Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo’s demonstration of pre-Columbian Mexican culinary traditions. Lugo prepared frogs legs, Nayarit shrimp and pan-fried softshell crabs coated in amaranth, chia and pumpkin seeds swimming in an herbaceous green michmole made with jalapeño, green tomatoes and watercress. Traditionally, you’d use a molcajete (Mexico’s traditional mortar and pestle) to make the sauce, but he sped things up with a blender.

“Indigenous Mexican cuisine is simple,” Chef Lugo says. “Pure ingredients, not a lot of fat and the most important thing is not the meat, it’s the sauce. Meat is just the vehicle for eating the sauce.” In the Michoacán region, where this recipe originated, frog is more popular than chicken or pork.

Adventurous foodies could try anything from escamoles, ant larvae, at a dinner with Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna, to beef tongue tacos at the opening night beach party. For the truly fearless, there was even a fear factor Iron Chef-like challenge with four chefs facing off preparing ants, grasshoppers, worms and whole baby crayfish delicacies while the audience tasted them all and voted on a winner. There were plenty of classic favorites too, including Chef Richard Sandoval’s BBQ lamb chops topped with a dollop of cucumber yogurt and Frankie’s signature Sicilian-style meatballs at the gala dinner on the St. Regis beach under the stars. Performance artist David Garibaldi mesmerized everyone by painting a vibrant portrait of Lorena Ochoa in a matter of minutes, which was promptly auctioned off with proceeds going to the Lorena Ochoa Foundation.

Sharpen your golf game and maybe go on a juice cleanse to get ready for next year’s event, which will take place December 3-6, 2016. An early bird package is available through the end of this year, at $1,515 per person for a three-night stay based on double occupancy. Reservations can be made by calling 877-250-8871 or emailing puntamita.butler@stregis.com. If the trend continues, this event will only become bigger and better.

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