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Holbox, Mexico (September, 2012)
The first Holbox Gastronomic Festival was a huge success as hundreds of locals and tourists flocked to the small, picturesque Mexican island just north of Cancun between August 30 and September 3 to celebrate the region’s best chefs and culinary delights.
More than 25 distinguished chefs participated in a grand tasting of the island, featuring their tempting – and unique – specialty dishes, including lobster pozole and chilpachole (traditional Mexican stews with a twist), crust pastor mushroom casserole, and stuffed squid. A panel of celebrity chefs, journalists and food and wine connoisseurs judged the dishes, and awarded 12 Golden Forks based on several criteria such as presentation and creativity.
Hotels reported an extraordinary 90 percent occupancy rate thanks to the festival, which was organized by the Island of Holbox Restaurant Association in an effort to showcase the island, and some of the finest restaurants along the coast with diversified culinary options from Mexican to International fare. A usually peaceful, charming destination, Holbox featured more Caribbean flair than ever over the four-day period, as locals and tourists jammed to salsa music while strolling down sandy streets to sample the island´s traditional dishes.
“It was so wonderful to share a taste of the island with so many people from all over the world at the first Holbox Gastronomic Festival,” said Denisse de Kalafe, president of the I.H. Restaurant Association. “I’m glad we were able to capture the attention of visitors looking for gastronomical offerings in paradise.”
Chef Dana Fernandez of Casa Sandra took home the “Golden Fork Award” in the Excellence Category – or the best in show – for her flavorful and locally-inspired pairing of a lobster and yucca salad with a mojito and rum-infused fish filet entrée. After a lifetime of cooking for her loved ones in Cuba, Fernandez moved to Mexico in 2009 to study cuisine. A year later she became the top chef at Casa Sandra in Holbox.
The cuisine was so delicious that judges had a hard time choosing the winners, which is why some categories featured a three-way tie.
The winners included:
Among participating judges: Marta Chapa, a prominent Mexican artist and author of several celebrated cookbooks; Deby Beard, an icon in the wine business and well-renowned life and style journalist; and Suzanne Tracht, a notable chef highlighted by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the “Best New Chefs of the Year” in 2002. Other judges included Mexican television show producer and on-air personality Oscar Cadena; and Marco Beteta, a local artist and entrepreneur regarded as the go-to person to learn about the best in Mexican food and travel.
Just 26 miles long and separated from the mainland of Mexico by a shallow lagoon, Holbox is considered a paradise unspoiled by tourism, featuring white-sand beaches and calm, crystalline waters that blend with the horizon and populated by exotic species of flora and fauna. Holbox is also perfectly situated near three islands: Yalahau, Passion Island; and Bird Island or Isla Morena.
Most of the people of Holbox make their living from fishing and you’ll often see fishermen walking through the village carrying nets with their catch of the day, which is part of what makes seafood such a specialty on the island.
Festival goers received hotel accommodations, airport transfers, lunch and dinner at any of the 25 participating restaurants, a boat tour of the three islands and the Yalahao cenote, and a 30-minute massage with full ocean view with their ticket purchase. Tourists who purchased individual packages with any of the agencies promoting the festival received a delicious lunch and three-course dinner, including a dessert, at any of the 25 participating restaurants for just $36.
Stay tuned for information on the 2013 Holbox Gastronomic Festival, which is expected to be even better as it will be six days long instead of four days and will feature local wine sommeliers, too. Visit www.holboxgastronomia.com for the latest information on next year’s taste of the Island of Holbox.
Cancun is located in the northern part of the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is Mexico’s number one tourist destination and is known all over the world for its spectacular beaches, unique beauty and breathtaking turquoise waters.
Cancun’s shoreline recently underwent a $71 Million Dollar makeover, that featured 1.3 billion gallons of sand to renovating the Hotel Zone’s seashore. The most popular tourism destination in Mexico and Latin America has also added to its sun, beach, and nightlife, by creating a unique five-day route that will offer visitors a chance to experience adventure and interaction with nature. Cancun and the Treasures of the Caribbean invite travelers to discover the vast natural, cultural and gastronomical cultures of Puerto Morelos, and the four islands of the Mexican Caribbean: Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Contoy and Cozumel. Cancun is a multifaceted destination that combines nature, historical Mayan Culture, glamour, luxury and world class tourism with the seduction for adventure, the passion for paradisiacal nature and the enchantment of gastronomical magic.
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