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Puerto Vallarta Redux

Some raicilla, an engorged tick, and an awkward encounter.

Skylar Renslow
Skylar Renslow
5 min read

Grog Readers!

I’ve been back in Puerto Vallarta for the last week, and it’s been an eventful few days! The day after I arrived, I visited the mountains and forests of Cabo Corrientes to see some raicilla tabernas and talk to some raicilleros. I’ll get into all this in a future newsletter, but for now, know that raicilla is a type of mezcal local to Jalisco and Nayarit. I’ve been trying to get to one of these tabernas for a while, but it never worked out for one reason or another. But this time, success!

I was honored to meet and chat with these two raicilla masters:

Raicillero Adrián
Raicillero Don Lupe

I posted some initial photos and commentary in Substack Chat, so if you’re curious, check it out and feel free to ask questions. I’m hoping there’s a place for Substack’s Chat feature or at least some kind of chat space that’s a more informal way to talk shop. Travel recs? Gear recs? Behind-the-scenes commentary? Come hang out.

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Anyway, while the tabernas were beautiful and all, a few days later, I woke up and found an engorged tick on my body. Without knowing what it was (nor quite fully awake), I ignored the first rule of ticks and yanked that bastard out immediately. Fortunately, upon examination, the head was still attached to its body (and alive!), so I guess I got lucky (is that lucky?).

The next problem was that I couldn’t really identify what kind of tick it was—a Deer tick? An American Dog Tick? A Lone Star Tick? It had been on me for a couple of days (ew), so I went to a doctor and got some antibiotics to be safe.*

This is what I put my body through for you, dear readers.

So now “finding tick on body” holds a place on my running list of Least Favorite Ways to Wake Up, a list that also includes items like “before 7 am” and “by fire alarm.”

So yes, it was an eventful few days!

But my main story comes from an awkward chef encounter. These days, whenever I travel, I usually reach out to local chefs, makers, distillers, brewers, etc., who would be interesting to talk to. It doesn’t always work out, but occasionally, I’ll get to meet some really fascinating people who provide some perspective on the city or country.

While planning this trip to Vallarta, raicilla was going to be the main focus, but I also surveyed some of the restaurants and chefs to see if anyone else was up to something interesting. After a quick search, I found a chef and sent them a message on Instagram.

A few days later, I got a response from their assistant, who basically asked,* “Uh, hi, what do you want?” Which was a totally reasonable and expected response. So I tried to explain a little more about what I do and sent some examples of previous work - my way of saying, “Hey, look, I’m not a total schmuck.” 

A few days pass, so I follow up. They said they talked to the chef, and he wanted more information about how I collaborate and what I want in exchange. So I clarified that I don’t want a free meal or anything like that, I’m just hoping for an hour to pick the chef’s brain about a few topics - no quid pro quo shenanigans. And I can work around his schedule.

Another few days passed, and still no response, so I figured I’d follow up one last time. They replied said if I made a reservation, the chef would come by the table and chat for a few minutes. At this point, I’m thinking that’s fine because I already had a reservation, and if that’s all I can get, I’ll take it. So I responded and told them my reservation date. Unfortunately, the chef would be out of town that weekend, and the day he returned was when I left the city.

Oh well, I gave it a shot, and that’s just how it goes sometimes — no big deal.

Fast-forward a few days, and the man who took me to the raicilla tabernas, Arturo, invited me to his wife’s birthday party at their new bar, Chiro, a raicilla bar in the Versalles neighborhood. Obviously, I accepted the invite — who wouldn’t?


Apparently, Arturo and his wife are good friends with the chef. Of course they are, I’m thinking. “Skylar, don’t you have a reservation at his restaurant?” Arturo asked while he introduced us.

Yes, yes I do.

I’m not sure if the chef really knew or had any clue — probably not? I doubt he gave it a second thought. But on the other hand, how many weird gringos named Skylar talking to people about food and drink could there be in Puerto Vallarta right now? But he didn’t say anything, nor did I.

A few seconds later, the chef asked when my reservation was and proceeded to take out his Open Table app and scribble something down. That was essentially the extent of our interaction for the night.

I guess the birthday party meant out of town? It could’ve been in my head, but the small interaction did feel awkward.

The next day, I was heading to the reservation, wondering what his scribblings meant. It turns out he gave me the wine pairing gratis*, which was a very generous and kind thing to do.

This was a really delicious pork and Otoro taco paired with a Crémant de Loire.

Traveling At The Speed Of The Soul — This piece has been making the rounds in the pensive traveler circle the last few weeks, and for good reason. The author, Nick Hunt, wrestles with his body and soul returning from a long journey - does the soul travel at the speed of walking? There are so many good tidbits in there, but this one was great:

At a travel event some years ago, I met a computer programmer who wanted to design an app — I don’t know whether she ever did — that worked as a soul-tracker. You plot your origin and destination on a map before getting on a plane, and when you land, a tiny dot will be inching toward your new location: your displaced soul, patiently plodding after your body. If you stay where you are, it will eventually catch you up, but if you jet off somewhere else, it will have to keep chasing; presumably, if you kept on moving, it might never catch you. The idea was meant to be entertaining, but I found it haunting. In the age of mass transit, our restless world must be thick with ceaselessly roving souls, wandering imagined maps with no hope of reunification.

I’m only including one link this time around because that piece is just too good, and I want you to read it.

Alright, that’s it for this week, folks. I’m in Guadalajara for a week, and it’s hot as hell - 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit the entire time I’m here. Wish me luck.


*I learned they have these places called Farmacias Similares in Mexico, which are pharmacies with a doctor on site. You can just show up and consult with the doctor (the one I went to spoke some English) and he can write you a prescription if needed. All told the visit cost was 55 pesos (~ $3.30) plus the prescription. Not bad!

*I’m paraphrasing the convo, of course.

*I just added the cost of the wine pairing to the tip.


Skylar Renslow

I mostly walk around, take pictures, and write things.


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