Mango and Garlic: A Marriage of Flavours

It is raining mangos at River Cafe!

Well, not quite, but Chef Bruce Angel and Owners Eva Sanchez and Margarito Latió have come up with a special and exciting menu for their food festival called “for the love of garlic and mango” from June 11 to July 31.  They will again be celebrating the happy union of mangos and garlic, which they have done for the last 10 years to the delight of their guests. I had a sneak preview of this year’s menu last Tuesday evening and can tell you that you are in for a treat!

Though now extremely plentiful in Mexico, mangos originated in India and Southeast Asia. Mango season in Mexico is from May to September and importers report this year’s crop from Mexico to be of excellent quality. Both green and ripe they offer a wonderful array of flavours, from sweet to sour. Add to that the healthy benefits of garlic and you have a perfect marriage.

On my visit last Tuesday evening the first dish served by my well-informed and attentive waiter was a roasted head of garlic accompanied by a mango chutney prepared with ripe mango, cilantro, red bell pepper and served with jalapeño crostini. The roasted garlic was smooth and mild and the chutney had a slight heat and hint of cilantro that offset the delicate sweetness of the mango.  In total the dish was not picante but left a nice warmth in the mouth, a delightful amuse bouche to start off the meal.

The shrimp salad that followed was made of a variety of fresh, delicate greens (lechugas mixtas) and sautéed shrimp, (camerones salteados) all tossed in a fine herbed vinaigrette made with fennel, basil and parsley, and two fine mustards, Dijon and Antigua.  The dish was then beautifully adorned with mango vinaigrette that added a complimentary sweetness to its savory counterpart.

The main course was a grilled adobado chicken breast served on a bed of quinoa and delicate baby vegetables cooked al dente. Adobado is made with guajillo chile, garlic, onion and spices.  It is ground in house to assure perfection. The meat was topped with a mango sauce, mango chutney, cilantro and tomatoes.  The slightly spicy adobado set off the mango very nicely.

As if that was not enough, along came the dessert of mango and coconut mousse, a delicate toasted coconut crust, smooth mango cream with a sweet mango topping, adorned with a cherry, mint leaf and mango sauce.

Doña Eva has a long history with fine food in Puerto Vallarta. She spent years at Le Bistro with Chef Thierry Blouet and moved with him to Cafe des Artistes.  She then opened the River Cafe in 1996. This is a woman who is devoted to her staff and the public and is paid back in kind.  As many times as my guests and family have dined at River Cafe, they have never been let down.  On the contrary, all have been thrilled.

Chef Bruce is a charming young man who started as assistant chef 16 years ago and has become an excellent executive chef.  Guest gourmet chefs from the Yucatán, Peru, Canada and USA have been an inspiration along with his own creative imagination.

The owners of River Cafe have always been supporters of music in our area and often have live music for the enjoyment of their patrons.  Currently, one can count on well-loved troubadour Raul Simental performing with his invited guests including maestro Oscar Terrazas on soprano sax who joins him on Friday evenings.

I can’t think of a better way to spend the hot summer nights than at River Cafe, located on Isla Cuale just off Ignacio Vallarta, with the river flowing gently by and the tropical vegetation cooling the air.  Add to that the refreshing mango and garlic menu they have waiting for you and you have a perfect evening.

By Christie Seeley of Vallartasounds.com

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