Flavor Teller – Mazatlan Street Food Tours

 Flavor Teller – the original street food tour – has now launched The Mexican Kitchen Experience.

[Updated December 2019, by Sheila Madsen]

Flavor Teller Food Tours is approaching its third year mark and owner, Maaike Hoekstra, wanted something new and exciting to offer her clients – and more importantly, an event to dazzle her repeat customers. As with every boutique business Maaike needs to offer guests more innovative ideas – keeping it fresh is what Flavor Teller is all about. So let me tell you all about The Mexican Kitchen Experience.

Maaike spent the summer sourcing a restaurant/food stand in the Pino Suarez Centro market; it had to be on the ground floor and the owner had to be willing to share and show Mexican cooking techniques. Please meet Mrs. Yolanda of Tostadas El Tigre. From Monday to Saturday Yolanda wakes at 3 a.m. and is in the Centro market at 4 a.m. – she shops, she preps and Tostadas El Tigre is open at 8 a.m. Ceviche and seafood dishes are very popular and Yolanda has an assembly line of five workers to serve the hungry Mexicans clamoring for her dishes. On Sundays, she closes.

Maaike left, with Yolanda your guru ceviche chef and guide in the market.

But wait! She has happily agreed to open her stand for Flavor Teller and is delighted to share all of her secret sauces with guests from Flavor Teller. Maaike takes you shopping – the list is provided by Yolanda – you return to the restaurant and Yolanda puts you to work. You’ll be chopping, squeezing, peeling, mashing, mixing and learning how important carrots are in ceviche dishes. Yolanda smiles, points and gently corrects; she doesn’t speak English, but cooking tips need no translation and Maaike is there to reveal all of Yolanda’s family secrets. This is not a typical cooking class in someone’s posh kitchen; it’s right in the market and you are surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a real market experience. I think Flavor Teller has another first; it’s the only shop- and- cook event in a working market. Mexico has hundreds of marvellous markets [ah, Mexico City!] but none of them offer a shopping and cooking class experience. Did I mention “the class” sits down on typical round stools to eat all of the divine ceviches? – possibly a new taste sensation for many. If you would like to try The Mexican Kitchen experience all the details are here. Provecho!

[here’s a Mexican Kitchen review from TripAdvisor, January 2020:”Maaike took us to the Market to pick up the fresh ingredients and then we went to a small restaurant that is usually closed on Sundays. The owner was very nice to teach us how to make up a fabulous meal that we then enjoyed! This was definitely one of the highlights of our time in Mazatlan.We’ve experienced two other Flavor Teller tours previously . Both of them were wonderful as well. We will definitely do another Flavor Teller tour when we return to Mazatlan!” ]

or how about this unprompted rave review from M., February 2020:

Amazing immersion, delicious ceviches!

On Sunday February 2, 2020, I had the honour & privilege of sharing a kitchen with Mrs.Yolanda, owner of Tostadas El Tigre, food stall C-76 BIS located in the Mercado Pino Suarez. This Mexican Kitchen experience was expertly organized by Maaike Hoekstra, owner of Flavor Teller.

Our adventure started with a shopping trip to the Pino Suarez market where we bought our fresh ingredients. Maaike, a very knowledgeable & passionate guide taught us how to skillfully navigate the various fruit, fish & grocery stands. We purchased the exact portions we needed such as a ¼ cabbage. The fish vendor graciously ground our fresh mackerel, and had another fish vendor grind our carrots, celery & onion.

Each participant was assigned a task like squeezing limes, stir frying vegetables and breaking up marlin into smaller pieces. We observed Mrs. Yolanda work effortlessly and quickly while Maiike explained her steps. We prepared four yummy ceviches which accompanied our ToniCol, a naturally flavoured vanilla soft drink manufactured in Mexico.   Everything tasted scrumptious! I will try these recipes again when we entertain on our sailboat during our next season.

As a testament to Mrs. Yolanda’s popularity, many loyal customers eagerly interrupted the class, hoping that she was open for business. She politely told them that she was closed and instructing a cooking class. We were very fortunate and blessed! I highly recommend this class!

By Sheila Madsen [January 30, 2017]

This just in from Travel Age West: featuring Maaike Hoekstra’s Flavor Teller tour as part of the article “5 Ways to Experience Mazatlan’s Food Scene.” [April 2019].

[Here is a personal message from Maaike Hoekstra, owner of Flavor Teller on her two year anniversary [March 2019]:  “The Flavor Teller food tour recently celebrated its second anniversary. What started as a crazy idea, connecting travelers to local eateries, hit the nail on the head. Turns out I’m not the only person who is crazy about (street)food and culture.

The most rewarding thing about creating Flavor Teller is not only the #1 Tour rating on Trip Advisor or meeting wonderful people from all over the world (people who like food are instantly my friends!). What really fills my heart with most joy is when the vendors that I visit on the tours, proudly tell me that my guests have returned to their food stand. And let me tell you: these shops aren’t always easy to find! It’s equally impressive how some guests have shared how the Flavor Teller enriched their stay in Mazatlan. “I would have stayed in the Golden Zone and I would have missed out on all these amazing flavors.” “Now I feel confident enough to go out on my own and buy all the local specialties that I’ve become addicted to.”
Flavor Teller started as a dream to build bridges between people through food and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

If you have always wanted to taste the real flavors of Mazatlan street cuisine – but were concerned about possible health issues – then Flavor Teller, Maaike Hoekstra has a food tour for you. In fact, she has two. Maaike has spent ten years researching all the great and safe food stands and is now ready to connect you to the people who create culinary magic.

As she says, “real food, real stories, real people”. Maaike has carefully planned and tested a three to four hour food tour where you’ll not only experience wonderful new tastes but she’ll tell you about the history of the back streets, and the culture of Mazatlan. It’s the perfect marriage of food, history and culture. “I’ll take you to the best hidden gems in Mazatlan…you’ll visit families keeping Mexican traditions alive. Along the way I’ll entertain you with stories and insights into Mazatlan’s culture and history.”

maaik pixThis is not promotional fluff copy; I’ve been on the Flavor Teller tour with five others for the inauguration; we all learned fascinating new facts and sampled food that we never would have tried. At the end of the tour everyone commented “it’s about time Mazatlan has a food tour…this will be perfect for cruise ship passengers… ideal for my cousin who’s staying a week… it’s something different and I’ve never known which food carts to trust…” Maaike had thoughtfully brought on board the red truck/auriga a large cooler that was filled with bottled water and ice. Many of us bought fresh crab, shrimp, and smoked marlin at the different stands and were grateful to be able to store it on ice. You really can count on Maaike to track down the freshest street food.

There are two tours: Barrio Bites Tour – a guided tour through Mazatlan’s oldest neighbourhoods with seven mouthwatering stops; Mercado & More Tour – spend a morning meandering through the Pino Suarez mercado satisfying your curiosity and appetite; To choose your tour and to book, you’ll find all the details here.

The Flavor Teller speaks English, Spanish and Dutch. Maaike has lived in Mazatlan’s Centro Historico for 12 years, she’s married to a Mexican and they have two teenagers. She also writes for MazatlanLife [see her restaurant reviews and her entire section on Child’s Play and since 2005 she has sung in the local Angela Peralta opera choir. Maaike is professional and passionate about food – she’s fun too! With Flavor Teller you’re guaranteed to taste and experience a different side of Mazatlan.

From Trip Advisor, June 2019 – and there are way more reviews – ” We’ve had Maaike facilitate two tours for our family now over the past two years and we all agree that the tours she creates for us are the most memorable and best experiences of our trips (both my 11 year old and 6 year old agree!) Maaike is incredibly kind and extremely knowledgable – the tours are very well thought out; it’s a perfect amount of time and we feel perfectly satiated and educated at the end. What we love the most about these tours is that she brings us into the heart of Mazatlan via food, community and history and now, instead of being spectators of a fabulous city, we feel like participants – like we belong. We’ll continue to have Maaike take us around Mazatlan and experience the local secrets for as long as we continue to come back to this fabulous city.” ♦  “We were in Mazatlán during our cruise stop on November 27, 2018.  We booked the Barrio Bites Tour directly through Flavor Teller.  The correspondence right from the start was fast and easy.  We booked this tour because we had such a remarkable time in January 2018 on the Mercado & More tour.  Again, this was the highlight of our trip and our guide Maaike, did not disappoint. We ate sooo much great food.  The tour included several stops around the Mazatlán neighborhoods which gave us an opportunity to see the daily workings and lifestyle in the city. The information provided about the food we ate, the food history and local customs was very interesting and informative. The tour included interactions with the locals and a window into some of the day to day life in Mazatlán.  The meeting point was an easy walk from the port. The group was very small so the interaction with Maaike was very personal.  If you want to eat local real Mexican foods, learn about the Mazatlán and Mexican culture, you can’t go wrong with a tour from Flavor Teller.  Muchas Gracias Maaike!”[Yelp] ♦ If you are visiting Mazatlan and love food, this is a must do tour. Maaike knows the city and the local food extremely well. She took us to locations we would never have visited without having an expert to guide us. Maaike was able to show us the diversity of the local food and even made a stop at the only micro brewery in Mazatlan. I have done other tours in Mazatlan in the past, but this was by far the best! The others are not even a close second.” ♦ “I won’t repeat what the other reviewers are all saying, except that this is really a special experience. I went recently with my wife and two teen age daughters. We love Mexico (especially Mazatlan) and particularly appreciate getting a feel for the local culture and people. We’ve never been too adventurous about the food unfortunately due to fears of illness or just stumbling into the wrong place at the wrong time. Maaike erased those fears with her expertise, organization and warmth. This is clearly a labor of love for her: not just a business. You won’t need to stretch too far: no fish heads or fried scorpions on this tour! All are foods most American palates can handle, just lovingly and expertly prepared with new twists. (Never tried Stingray soup? you should) The locations are equally fascinating and while you won’t confuse them with Denny’s, you’ll never feel threatened or unwelcome. Do yourself a favor and give this a go.”