Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Vacation Blog! Oasis Tulum, Mexico!

Oasis Tulum 
Riviera Maya, Mexico 

Mexico is the location of choice for this vacation! Oasis Tulum is located in Riviera Maya, 1.5hrs away from the Cancun airport or 2hrs if you get stuck in traffic. Ugh. Upon arrival, we learned that there are actually 2 resorts there, Oasis Tulum and Oasis Tulum Grand. We were at the Oasis Tulum. The Grand side is a little shinier and there are a few more perks, but we were quite happy with the Oasis Tulum. In fact, almost every resort we dropped people off at was a tiered resort. 

There are other restaurants on the Grand side, but if you're not staying over there, you can pay to try them out.  

The beach was fantastic. There was ample shade and sun. There were 2 hot tubs near the beach bar that kids enjoyed. I recommend water shoes. It's not overly rocky, but there's enough coral there to cut your foot if you're not careful. 

The room was great! Big bed, big bathroom and a nice balcony. Not that you'll spend much time there anyway! 

The nightly shows were impressive. These weren't your usual daily entertainment people do all the shows. These were pros; they were brought in for these shows and hosted by the daily entertainment crew. The disco is in the same place and it's pretty good. Lots of space, American and Spanish music pounding through a killer sound system. 

There are a lot of tours that are reasonably priced, if you want the whole day trip($120 or so per person, per tour). To go to the ruins at Coba(not too far from the hotel), admission is 59 pesos($6 US). You can grab a guide there to take you through(for a fee) or go through yourself. We went with the tour through Sunwing. You can climb the ruins at Coba, but not at Chichen Itza. We did both tours, so feel free to ask if you have any questions about either. I HIGHLY recommend is going to a cenote. It's the North American equivalent of swimming in an aquifer. Mexico has no rivers, everything is underground and you can swim in the caves of beautiful, fresh water. Just makes you feel good! 

When they bring you to a souvenir store run by Mayans, BUY THERE. They are SO much cheaper than at the hotel or at Playa del Carmen. We didn't make it to Playa del Carmen even though our hotel offered a free trip there. We didn't hear a good thing about it. The people we met at our hotel went, but they all complained. People were very pushy, yelling at them and everything was expensive. The souvenirs weren't the only expensive sales there, apparently the restaurants were no deal either. Just what I heard! 

Food Time! 

Buffet 
I loved the buffet. Who the hell says that? Mexican food is wonderful and we got our fill. Some things were poorly labeled, but it was amusing. The staff were very welcoming and fast.  

We hit the buffet on our first couple days for all of our meals while we got a feel for the place. There wasn't much difference between breakfast and left except that the omelette guy was cooking something more lunchy. A lot of heavy foods were served at breakfast, but that's how they roll! There was your traditional foods there as well, so no worries.  

For lunch/dinner, they had a good variety of food, chicken, beef and veggie dishes were all plentiful. At lunch, they serve pre-made sandwiches. I was hooked. Fresh bread and mini-croissants. Yes and yes. They had rich cheeses, bean sprouts, salmon, chicken, etc. I think I ate them everyday. 

I was happy there and didn't really mind of we ate anywhere else! 

The leftovers were brought next door to Dos Lunas for late night snackers. 

Dos Lunas - Italian 

We heard that this was the same as the buffet. As we headed to dinner, my man suggested we go to the buffet at Dos Lunas for a change of scenery. We walk up and they tell us they serve Italian food and no reservations required! No dress code really, men just need to wear sleeves.  

Excited, we were seated and checked out the menu. The manager, Joaquin, greeted us. He was fantastic. He seemed to pop up at any a la carte restaurant we were at. Very customer focused and so sweet. Oasis Tulum is lucky to have him.  

While we browed the menu, we were brought focaccia to dip in balsamic and olive oil with shredded parmesan. Pretty sure, this alone, was the reason I had to hit the gym so hard when I got back. 

The menu was not translated into English, only in Spanish. They had just opened as an Italian restaurant, so we didn't hold it against them. Our server's English wasn't great, but we figured it out, kinda. My man ordered the Bolognese every time. It wasn't over saucy, but it was very tasty. Instead of a heavy tomato/meat sauce, it was flavoured with spices. We were impressed.  

I went with a good ol' Hawaiian pizza. The pizza is great! Made fresh in a real pizza oven, it was delicious. Ample toppings and the perfect size for one person. The thin crust was nice since I had just ate a ton of focaccia. Recommended! 

On another visit, I ordered pasta, but the translation wasn't clear and I didn't ask the right questions....like, is it spicy? Oops. HOLY CRAP. I'm not a spicy gal and this was a bit much for me. I know, I know, I was in Mexico, but still. I feel like that detail was kind of important to this pasty, red-faced and sweating Canadian. 

They stayed open during power outage during a storm, lit by candles, they could still make pizza! 

Love this place! We went there every chance we had! 

Al Sur 
   

This was the a la carte restaurant you went to on the Grand side, the only restaurant you need a reservation for. They served Mediterranean food and it was beautiful. You could eat inside or outside overlooking the beach.  

It was a 4 course meal. We started with salads, he picked the Watermelon Salad and I chose the Warm Goat Cheese & Walnut Salad. I won that round. The warm salad was DELICIOUS. My man was mad he didn't get it. Lots of goat cheese crumbled over large leafy greens with walnuts and a balsamic dressing. He didn't the Watermelon Salad, nor did the table next to us. Me: 1, Jay: 0. 

Course #2. I selected the Eggplant Parmesan and he went with the Sausage Penne. The sauce on the eggplant parm was plain and it was mushy, overcooked. My man and the table next to us devoured the sausage penne like they had never seen food before. I was able to snag a bite and it was pretty good! Creamy sauce with sausage out of the casing throughout. Me: 1, Jay: 1. 

To the main course... I went with the chicken and he went with the steak. Our previous experiences with beef in foreign countries hasn't been good, but he took a chance. The chicken was juicy and delicious, but it was no match for the steak! I couldn't get a bite, he wouldn't give it up! All I heard were moaning sounds from across the table. Apparently, it was tender, well seasoned and cooked perfectly. I wouldn't know, he wouldn't let me taste! Me: 1, Jay: 2. 

Dessert time! Our experiences with cryptic, badly translated desserts hasn't been great. I went with Tiramisu and he went with the custard. The 'custard' was CRÈME BRULEE! (If you haven't read my other blogs, I'm a crème brulee addict) I was so mad. Crunchy sugar and custard, I'm surprised he didn't lick the bowl! I was pretty good considering I'd never had it in a foreign country. The Tiramisu was surprisingly good. Hell, even Italian places in Canada don't get it right, but this place was pretty close. Me: 1, Jay: 3. 

The service was great, food was great. Don't miss out on this a la carte! 

Sushi 

Yes, they had sushi and it was on the beach. Was I worried about sushi in the heat? Yes. It took me 5 days to get up the nerve to eat it. I HAD to try it though; everyone said it was good and it was! They keep everything in refrigerators and out of the sun to ensure the food doesn't spoil.  

They had a decent variety and some special rolls as well. They were in reasonable quantities as well. My man doesn't eat sushi, so I was happy that what I wanted came in 4 pieces. 

Patio 

In between the buffet and the sushi bar, there was an outdoor restaurant and we didn't know until 2 days before leaving! We thought people from the buffet were just eating outside. 

They had nachos, club sandwiches and things like that. The nachos were good, simple and very cheesy. We got a couple orders of them. The quesadilla was great! It was small, cheesy and fresh. The club was pretty good as well and it was very popular. The service was a bit slow sometimes, but it was worth the wait. 

Mexican 

There was musical entertainment each night at the Mexican restaurant and it was great. It's located by the pool and is a bar during the day. We almost missed it! 

Lime Soup. Sound weird? Don't be afraid; I hope you love it as much as I did! It was like sunshine in a bowl. Lime with a little veggies in broth with strips of crunchy tortilla. Yum! 

Our mains weren't as good. Everyone said they enjoyed this place, so I'm sad we didn't go back to try something else. I got the Fish Tacos. There were 2 tacos cut in half, amounting to 4 bites. Very small portion. My man had the Mole; something everyone that goes to Mexico has to try. It's their dish and it's pretty good. Don't be scared when they tell you it's chocolate sauce. There IS chocolate in the sauce, but it's a sweet spice. Not bad! 

Happy Chicken 

Loving the pool? Don't want to go far for eats? You don't have to; Happy Chicken saves the day! We tried many items on this menu. I recommend the chicken burger, chicken strips, chicken wings and fries. The service is pleasant and the food is very fresh. Like something? Keep ordering it; they'll keep bringing it. The ketchup isn't very good; no Heinz, but you'll live. The chicken nuggets weren't very good and my man didn't really like the hamburger. We went there a few times as the portions are not huge, but you can order more of something you like and not waste much if you don't like it. 

While were at this resort, there was a plane load of Italian vacationers. Oasis Tulum really catered to them. We couldn't eat at the Italian place one night, because it was Italians only that night. There was specific Italian entertainment people on the beach everyday. We felt excluded. We were never invited for games or volleyball. They had an Italian show at the disco every night. There was only one entertainment person from the hotel that would interact with the English speaking people. Ricardo was great. He would get us involved and even have lunch with guests!  

All in all a decent vacation, not our favourite, but there was nothing wrong with the resort, rooms or food. We'd like it if they were a bit more social with us English speaking people, but that's it! A great place for yummy food and beautiful beaches. 

Lisa

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Delicious Food Show - The Food Coma

I wish I could've been at this show all weekend. You almost need the whole weekend to really experience everything. I did get a 'taste' of almost everything! Here's my summary of Sunday. 

Now, when I say taste, I mean TASTE! You could not walk 2 feet without getting a sample. EVERYONE had samples as well as reasonable prices. My Aunt and I stopped at numerous booths and spoke to many business owners. It was fantastic to talk to so many people who are so passionate about what they do! The people of VG Meats, Rise Kombucha and the Mad Mexican all took time to talk to us and express their passion. 

Being a foodie but not a cook put me at a disadvantage coming to this show....so I brought my own chef! My Aunt has been a chef for 15 years and I'm very glad I brought her. There was a lot I would've missed had she not pointed it out. Her chef world is quite delicious; I've been missing out! There are many booths I wouldn't have given a second glance, but wildly enjoyed and learned something! I learned that Cacao Barry Chocolate is THE chocolate for baking. I learned that Kombucha is very good for you and I should be drinking it. AND Serrano Ham, where have you been all my life?  


I also learned that Ontario has a lot more growing/being produced than I thought! The booth had it's own area, but it was impressive. Samples of all kinds made locally. The fruits, the meats, the honey, the syrup, the cheese, oh my. I made my way ALL the way around that booth. I can't wait to pick up some of the cheeses and meats at my local grocery store. Chocolate Goat Cheese. I know what you're thinking; I thought the same thing. Just try it. If they can mix it with cream cheese, goat cheese does it better! 

Now for the entertainment and there was a lot of it! We were able to catch Roger Mooking on the Food Network Celebrity Stage. What a great show! Not too far off, there was an oyster shucking lesson in the Sub Zero Wolf Hands-On Classroom. A little after that was an Eat St. demo in the Chef's Kitchen. In the midst of all this, there are chef authors doing book signings! AHH!! There wasn't one event on the schedule I didn't want to see. So much to do; so little time! It seemed every hour had something to do. This was absolutely the most entertaining tradeshow I've been to; I almost feel I can't call it a tradeshow. I could've spent the whole weekend there. There was so much to see, do and taste that we couldn't fit it all in!  

Next year, I will take the WHOLE weekend. It's just not possible to take it all in in just one day. I'm already counting down and you should, too! If you didn't get to attend this year's Delicious Food Show, make a point to going to it next year; I know I will!  

Now to watch some Food Network while I sip on some Rise Mint Kombucha. 

Lisa