NORTH OF HERE IN LA MANZANILLA approximately 70 minutes of enjoyable driving live and work a most intriguing and adventurous pair. They are the Dutch couple of Leon Landsheer and Jolanda Hendriksen. (In the Netherlands married people may keep their original names.)
To say that they are unique is to say the Pacific might contain a little salt water! For example, in August 2000 leaving Leon with his computer software chores, Jolanda who at that point supervised a staff of nearly 150 professionals operating a disabled persons village took advantage of her earned 90 day vacation and commenced a three month backpacking trek of Viet Nam, Nepal and Thailand…alone.
Upon her return the couple re-visited the priorities of their life. They talked long, thought hard and decided decisively to sell all of their worldly possessions and commence on a protracted motorcycle adventure. Such sojourn commenced with a circuitous trip through Europe visiting family and friends and then began in earnest touring: Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, across the United States and then down into Mexico.
Just your basic three year drive through the country!
Our acquaintance with this adventurous duo commenced several years ago while shopping at Commercial during a special, large exhibition of Thai foods. Conversation ensued as Jolanda and I both keenly eyed the stack of canned Tom Yum an indescribably delicious hot and sour, lemongrass soup to which I became addicted while living in Bangkok. (To this base stock, I add fresh shrimp, mushrooms, baby corn, and an extra twist of fresh lemon grass, for a delectable dish of Tom Yum Goon Hot Shrimp Soup.)
Before long we had the opportunity to become more personally acquainted with this amazing couple through visiting their restaurant, which offers perhaps the most unique array of food on the western Mexico Pacific coast.
Upon arriving in La Manzanilla they realized the potential the beautiful, small community held. Here was a vibrant, growing area which at that time had but a very limitedselection of restaurants…now there are 38! Correctly, they accessed it as a potential mini Puerto Vallarta.
Our last early morning breakfast there consisted of Dutch Pancakes with bacon, topped with bananas and Belgian Waffles with fruit and whipped cream. Though I must admit I really considered the Indonesian Vegetable fried rice with egg!
For lunch or dinner, for instance, consider these tasty morsels from the international appetizer array of selections: Thai Fish Patties, Dutch Bitter Balls, Indonesian Rampah (meatballs), Beer Battered Mussels and Mushroom au Gratin.
Recently, her special was Hungarian Goulash a sure winner. But among the numerous, regular fare items, were a diversity of delightful choices ranging from Spanish Zarzuela made with white fish, mussels and shrimp in a tomato leek sauce, to a lentil burger with mangochutney. Or there was the tantalizing Thai yellow coconut cream curry with yourchoice of chicken, fish, shrimp or mixed seafood.
For those seeking cuisine of Europe, maybe Italian Lasagna Bolognese or Dutch Lekkerbekje (Fish and chips which we have had folks from Great Britain and Canada say surpasses any they have ever had before, anywhere!) Then, almost as an afterthought among the various choices one spies a variety of Asia Stir fry dishes or a wonderful Mexican Chicken Poblano with chilipoblano cream sauce. Desserts? Absolutely! But one is hard pressed to pass up her Dutch Apple Pie. Beyond that is the superlative selection of exotic sounding but “oh so delicious” home made jellies and jams for sale to include: mango jalapeño, mango-chocolate-vanilla, papaya-mango-chili, jalapeño-basil, banana-apple-cinnamon, banana-orange ginger and strawberry marguerites.
And in the trite and hackneyed phrase of many a television infomemercial “But wait, there’s more!” On Monday evenings the beach front location pulses with live music.
Lastly, for the ultimate dining experience, schedule well in advance as it fills up fast their Indonesian Rice Table of twenty different excellent dishes offered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
These two are restaurateurs of the highest order and humans par excellence whose mutual love, admiration and appreciation for each other is manifest in every action they share.
How does one find this great place? Drive off the highway going to Puerto Vallarta into La Manzanilla, passing over three topas and at the third “water run off ditch” in the road, turn left down the recently paved main street going two blocks. Almost immediately, on the right one will find Jolanda’s.
Trust us on this…the drive will be well worth it!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation – Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.