Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal: Le Gourmet Restaurant Review

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“Raddy” is back! Raj and I recently returned from our one-week vacation at the Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. We had a blast with his family and we managed to dine at five of the several à-la-carte restaurants there. Although this resort seems very popular (I have several colleagues who have visited this resort and we met many fellow Torontonians there along with many other Canadians, Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Australians), there were not many recent online reviews of the à-la-carte restaurants and their menus to help us decide which restaurants would best accommodate everyone’s dietary restrictions and preferences. So Raj booked all the dinner reservations blindly prior to the trip, hoping there would be something for everyone on the menus.
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While I was there, I made sure to take pictures of all the menus and of everything I ordered at the à-la-carte restaurants, so I could share them restaurant-by-restaurant on this blog to help future visitors with specific dietary restrictions and preferences decide with which restaurants to book dinner reservations. Let us start with the French restaurant, Le Gourmet

Wonderful ambiance.

Wonderful ambiance.

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Menu for the first two courses.

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The apéritif was lightly sweet and refreshing. It was a great way to prep the palate for all the food that followed. I cannot remember what was in it exactly, but it was alcoholic. There was a non-alcoholic version, which was also sweet and refreshing.

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Like the apéritif, the amuse-bouche was also a pleasant surprise and not on the menu. The salad and sauces were refreshing and tasty, but the gelée was too bland.

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“Fresh Salmon Salad – with a crown of shrimp in a citric vinaigrette, caper mousse and a mango emulsion.” This was not what I was expecting based on the description. I was expecting a bed of leafy greens with either slices of smoked salmon or chunks of freshly cooked salmon. Instead, there were no leafy greens and the salmon tasted like canned salmon flakes mixed with mayonnaise. The salmon and mayonnaise mixture was sandwiched between slices of avocado and then topped with shrimp. I found this “salad” to be too creamy and heavy for a first course.

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“Cream of Almond Soup – with a Serrano ham brunoise.” Raj’s mom and I ordered this, because we have never heard of an almond soup before and we were so curious. It was very tasty and smooth. It almost tasted like a cream of cauliflower soup with fine granules of almond throughout. Although I enjoyed it, I regretted not ordering the Shellfish Bisque soup like Raj did. I tried his and it was way tastier. His bisque tasted like a very flavourful prawn broth with a richer consistency and texture. I made him swap bowls with me for a bit, because his bisque was just that good!

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Main course menu.

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“Garden Vegetable Millefeuille – vegetables layered in thin leaves of pastry with fresh coriander and a smooth tomato coulis.” Once again, Raj’s mom and I ordered the same menu item, because we both were not in the mood for meat that day. We were both very disappointed in this dish, because we were expecting much more pastry for a “millefeuille”, which translates to “a thousand layers” in English. Instead, there were just two small triangular sheets of phyllo. However, the vegetables were perfectly cooked (al dente) and the tomato coulis added a nice touch of tangy sweetness.

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I forgot to take a picture of the separate dessert menu, but I ordered the papaya tart. It was layers of very thin papaya slices, which were lightly soaked in some kind of sweet syrup. The papaya slices were layered over a very thin pie crust and this was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I did not have any of the vanilla ice cream, but the papaya tart was decent.

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My supplementation protocol was very different in Mexico. Instead of vitamin D being my must-have supplement as I was out under the sun so much, digestive enzymes were my must-have supplement with all the delicious food on the resort.

Even though I indulged more than usual at the resort, it was a vacation after all and, as you will see, I kept all my dinners at the à-la-carte restaurants on the lighter side. Digestive enzyme supplements were definitely crucial to surviving this vacation, but at least I got the majority of my vitamin D during this trip via sunlight instead of supplementation. 😛

Stay tuned for the other four à-la-carte restaurant reviews!

XOXO,

Addy

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How to Survive Wedding Gluttony!

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With the weather in Toronto getting warmer and with summer right around the corner, more and more weddings are taking place. My family receives about one wedding invite per year. Raj’s family, on the other hand, receives numerous wedding invites every year, especially during the spring and summer. Although all these wedding reception parties will differ in number of guests, catering, decor, time schedule and/or venue, one thing remains constant… There is always an excessive amount of indulgent foods! The first wedding of the year that Raj and I attended this past Saturday at Whistle Bear Golf Club was certainly no exception! Here are some tips I used to keep the eating at a wedding party clean and lean:

1. Have a healthy breakfast and a light lunch beforehand in order to not fill up on hors d’oeuvres and to avoid the fried and unhealthy ones.

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Greasy hors d’oeuvres I avoided (from top left, clockwise): samosas, breaded and deep fried calamari, deep fried risotto balls, beef satay.

 

2. Inform your server well beforehand of any food allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, and/or avoidances you may have. Bring digestive enzymes if you are concerned about cross-contamination. I informed my server that I was lactose intolerant, so all of my courses and beverages were dairy-free. For instance, my salad came without any cheese, my soup was dairy-free, and my coffee was served with almond milk. I also got a healthier fruit sorbet for dessert instead of the cheesecake. Just in case though, I brought and took some digestive enzymes containing lactase before dinner commenced.

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Dairy-free menu options that were offered due to my lactose intolerance (from top left, clockwise): potato and leek soup with crispy potatoes and truffle oil, fruit sorbet with fresh berries, coffee with almond milk, young kale and arugula salad with currants, roasted almonds, and lemon vinaigrette (no parmesan).

 

3. Four your main course, opt for a lean protein with complex carbohydrates and lightly prepared vegetables. I chose the baked chicken breast instead of the prime rib, the roasted potatoes (with the skin on) instead of the potato gratin, and lightly sautéed seasonal vegetables.

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Instead of the roast prime rib entrée with yukon and sweet potato gratin, seasonal vegetables, and red wine jus, I chose the baked chicken breast entrée with skin-on roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables and truffle jus.

 

4. Nine times out of ten, these weddings will have open bar service. I definitely enjoy this, but I enjoy in moderation. I use the open bar service at wedding receptions as an opportunity to try a variety of drinks without having to drink all of everything. For instance, I ordered four different drinks throughout the night, but I only drank about a quarter glass of each drink.

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I only drank about a quarter or less of each glass. So I got to taste everything I wanted without going overboard!

 

5. After dinner and dancing at wedding receptions, there is almost always a late-night snack table. If you are hungry then, choose the lighter and healthier menu options. It should not be too hard to resist the indulgent foods, if you had a well-balanced, healthy dinner earlier. At this wedding reception in particular, the late-night snack table had an assortment of fresh cookies, sliders, a make-your-own-poutine station, and a variety of fresh fruit. Figuring out which one of these four options was the healthiest was not rocket science.

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I passed on the sliders, the make-your-own-poutine station, and cookies. Instead, I went straight for the fresh fruit at the late-night snack table! Tip: fresh pineapple contains the protease enzyme, bromelain, which helps you to digest protein!

 

If you get invited to a lot of weddings like Raj and his family, I hope these tips help you enjoy and get through wedding season healthfully!

XOXO,

Addy

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What a blast at our first wedding of 2015!

 

Quick Tip Thursday: Long, Luscious Hair with Argan Oil!

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Argan oil, which is extracted from the kernels of argan fruit trees, is high in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants. I use this nutrient-rich oil as a hair treatment at least once every month to help grow and maintain long, luscious, healthy hair! I love the New Roots Herbal Argan Oil, because it is pure, organic, cold-pressed, non-GMO, hand-sourced from Morocco, and very affordable (usually around $16 CAD for a 50-ml glass bottle). Here is how I use it as a hair treatment at least once every month for long, healthy hair:

Pure argan oil like this one has an earthy and slightly nutty scent. I am not fond of the scent, but it will not keep me from doing this hair treatment at least once each month!

Pure argan oil like this one has an earthy and slightly nutty scent. I am not fond of the scent, but it will not keep me from doing this hair treatment at least once every month!

  1. Pick a day when your hair does not need to look great (i.e. an uneventful day-off or a work day with no important meetings).
  2. In the morning, apply a generous amount of argan oil all over your hair. (For my hair length, I use about 5 full droppers.)
  3. Massage the argan oil well into your hair and then, tie your hair up in a bun.
  4. Let the argan oil sit in your hair for the entire day (at least 8 hours).
  5. Shampoo your hair once or twice (no need to condition it afterwards) and let it air-dry.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 at least once every month and enjoy your beautiful hair!
Your hair will look greasy during this all-day hair treatment. That is why I tie my hair up in a bun. Another nice alternative is to braid your hair in a ponytail.

Your hair will look greasy during this all-day hair treatment. That is why I tie my hair up in a bun. Another nice alternative is to braid your hair in a ponytail.

If you complement this at-least-monthly hair treatment with minimal to no use of hair-styling products and heat, a healthy diet, and minimal stress, get ready to watch your hair grow in length and volume!

XOXO,

Addy

I cannot stop playing with my hair every time after I do this hair treatment! It just feels extra soft and silky!

I cannot stop playing with my hair every time after I do this hair treatment! It just feels extra soft and silky!

How to Eat Like a Skinny Socialite at Events…

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In a busy city like Toronto, there are always numerous social events going on. I always find that at such events, the catering is quite calorie-laden (i.e. high-fat and/or high-sugar) for the most part with few to no light options. ‎Last Thursday, Raj and I were invited to a grand opening event and the catering at this event was no exception. There was a cornucopia of indulgent foods and drinks that was served buffet-style. I know some people who would starve themselves the whole day before such events and then overindulge at the event. That is a very unhealthy and ineffective way to enjoy social events without packing on the pounds. So how do skinny socialites do it? If they do it healthily, this is how they do it…

#11. Eat a small meal before you go. Don’t go hungry! There is nothing worse than arriving at an event hungry and wanting to devour everything in sight, especially when most of the food is unhealthy. Going to an event when you are somewhere in between hungry and full helps you determine what foods and/or drinks you truly want to have. For instance, at the event last Thursday, we were greeted at the guestlist check-in with freshly popped popcorn. If I arrived hungry, I would have eaten all the popcorn in that bag without even having checked out how extensive the catering menu would be. On the other hand, since I did not arrive hungry, I did not find the popcorn appealing and I passed on it.

 

 

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2. Check out all the menu items first. Then, pick out a few items that you want to try the most and try a bit of each. The dessert buffet table at the event last Thursday was HUGE! There were cannoli, a variety of mini dessert tarts, cupcakes, macaroons, brownies, a white chocolate and caramel fountain with fresh fruit, mini cupcakes, freshly baked cookies (chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and white chocolate macadamia), chocolate bars, a make-your-own-hot-chocolate station with marshmallows, a variety of macarons, and much more! With my sweet tooth, I had to narrow all that down to just a few items that I wanted to try the most. It was not too hard in this case, because macarons are my favourite dessert! There were four flavours (chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, and passion fruit). I took one of each, ate half of each, and took home the rest in a popcorn bag from the guestlist check-in. The leftover halves were just as delicious the next day! My favourite flavour was definitely the vanilla.

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3. Engage in other festivities, socialize, and/or network. Do not make the event just about the food. Even though I am a huge foodie, I do not make social events revolve around the food. I make sure to engage in all the other festivities going on and converse with great company. At this most recent event, Raj and I had a lot of silly fun in the photo booth, enjoyed all the live performances, and took time to take in all the beautiful decor. The food was only one of several highlights that night.

 

 

#44. Limit yourself to a maximum of two drinks. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, sugary drinks are simply empty calories. The calories that they contain provide minimal to no hydration, vitamins, or minerals. However, if you enjoy drinking at events, feel free to indulge as long as you can keep it at two drinks per day maximum. Also, size DOES matter! For instance, although there was an open bar at the event for white wine, red wine, and Cosmopolitan cocktails, there was more than eight ounces of wine in each wine glass! That is a lot of wine for one serving! A glass of wine should only be around five ounces. I love white wine, but if I had drank that entire glass, I would have reached my daily drink limit with that one glass. Instead, I drank half that glass of white wine and enjoyed a Cosmopolitan after.

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5. Practice mindful eating like the Buddhists do amid all the commotion. At social events, I always see people eating while standing up and while talking and/or listening to multiple people. I, on the other hand, take a timeout from all the mixing and mingling to eat mindfully and to savour every bite. Mindful eating helps you feel satiated with smaller portions and helps prevent bingeing and overeating. For instance, at the oyster bar at the event, I zoned out all the commotion to garnish my oyster and mindfully eat it. As a result, I was satisfied and happy with just two oysters. Mindful eating should definitely be practiced at every meal.

 

I really hope you all found these tips helpful. Although I do not personally know any real skinny socialites like Paris Hilton, I do know that following these tips would definitely be the healthy way to maintain a title like that! Who says you can’t have your cake (or macaron, in my case) and eat it too?

XOXO,

Addy

 

Quick Tip Thursday #1!

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Welcome to this new “Quick Tip Thursday” series on our blog where we’ll be sharing a quick health tip every Thursday! Our first “Quick Tip Thursday” is about how to build muscle and stay fit without a gym and with a busy life. Although I have a free gym membership through my mom’s work benefits, I hardly visit the gym in the winter due to the cold commute. I try to stay in shape and build muscle throughout the day by:

  • Repeatedly contracting and relaxing my abdominal muscles every now and then during work. (This is similar to doing kegel exercises throughout the day to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This stationary exercise, which you can do while sitting or standing, helps to strengthen your core muscles.)
  • Taking public transit. (Taking the bus/subway instead of driving is not only better for the environment, but it involves more walking and just more muscle activity in general. In the winter, taking public transit also boosts your metabolism since your metabolic rate needs to increase to cope with the greater exposure to the cold weather and to maintain your body’s homeostasis.)
  • Taking the stairs instead of escalators/elevators whenever possible. (Work those leg muscles and get that cardio in when you can!)

These are just a few simple activities you can incorporate into your daily life to help stay fit. I hope they helped! See you all next Thursday for another quick health tip!

XOXO,

Addy

Making Raj Keep the Cold and Flu Away Naturally… with Oil of Oregano!

Despite the ugly facial expressions I always make after taking oil of oregano, I love taking this stuff daily to ward off the cold and flu! I haven't been sick yet this year! *Knocks on wood.*

Despite the ugly facial expressions I always make after taking oil of oregano, I love taking this stuff daily to ward off the cold and flu! I haven’t been sick yet this year! *Knocks on wood.*

With a lot of stuff coming up for Raj and me and with many people getting sick around us, we both really need to take preventative measures against the cold and flu. So I introduced Raj to oil of oregano, which is a great, natural antimicrobial for warding off illnesses. This immune-supporting oil is usually made by extracting the essential oil from oregano leaves via distillation and then, diluting the extracted oil with olive oil (usually in a 1:3 ratio, respectively).

The one we use by St. Francis is one of the more potent ones out there; the essential oil from oregano leaves is diluted with olive oil in a 1:1 ratio, respectively. Thus, ours tastes very strongly of oregano with a strong, lingering aftertaste. It also gives a slight burning sensation in the mouth. For these reasons, Raj hates taking it, but I still make him. He’ll thank me later.

Yes, oil of oregano has a strong, unpleasant taste and it slightly burns the mouth, but it's good for your immune system, Raj! I'm just glad this M.D. is open to my more natural and holistic health remedies.

Yes, oil of oregano has a strong, unpleasant taste and it slightly burns the mouth, but it’s good for your immune system, Raj! I’m just glad this M.D. is open to my more natural and holistic health remedies.

Oil of oregano doesn’t just have to be taken orally to reap the benefits of its active ingredients (carvacrol, thymol, terpenes, rosmarinic acid, and naringin). Here are some other uses for oil of oregano:
  • Do a steam inhalation with oil of oregano to combat respiratory infections. Fill a glass bowl with steaming water and add a few drops of the oil into the water. Place your head over the bowl and cover the back of your head with a towel to trap the steam. Breathe in the oil-of-oregano-infused steam.
  • Make a moisturizing hand sanitizer with oil of oregano. Add several drops of the oil to every 100 grams of coconut oil, shea butter, or your favourite natural moisturizer. Mix well and use as needed to moisturize and sanitize your hands.
  • Make a mild household surface cleaner with oil of oregano. Add a full dropper of oil of oregano to two cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray onto hard surfaces for everyday cleaning.
  • Use oil of oregano as a spot treatment for the skin. In addition to the oil’s antimicrobial properties, oil of oregano also has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it great for spot treating pimples, blemishes, acne breakouts, and rosacea. You can use it directly on affected areas. However, if direct application is too strong, you can dilute it with some aloe gel.
The oil of oregano that we use is the St. Francis Oréganum Plus 1:1. It's one of the most potent ones out there (one part essential oil of oregano leaves to one part olive oil).

The oil of oregano that we use is the St. Francis Oréganum Plus 1:1. It’s one of the more potent ones out there (one part essential oil of oregano leaves to one part olive oil).

These are just my top uses for oil of oregano, but I’m sure there are many others. It’s a great supplement to have on hand, especially during the cold and flu season. When taking it orally, the recommended dosage is usually a few drops daily under the tongue or mixed with water. We, however, take a full dropper daily under the tongue. Once you get used to it, it’s really not that bad (although Raj would probably beg to differ). In the pictures above, we took a full dropper just before heading off to a farmers’ market. What a fun day that was! We will share our adventure at the farmers’ market that day in our next blog post, so stay tuned!
XOXO,
Addy

Healthy Asian Dining with Raj and My Parents

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Trying to order healthy at Asian restaurants can be hard, especially when their menus are typically very extensive and overwhelming. However, I’ve come up with a few tips that help me stay on the healthy track. A few days ago, Raj, my parents, and I went to a Chinese restaurant called Asian Legend. Their menu was very large, but I managed to pick out some healthy dishes for everyone using these guidelines:

1. When it comes to vegetable dishes, opt for minimally cooked ones that are lightly dressed with light sauces. Raw, pickled, blanched, steamed, and lightly stir-fried vegetables are more nutrient-dense than stewed, boiled, and deep fried ones. Just make sure they’re not drenched in sauces. We ordered their “Sweet and Spicy Cucumber” salad (slices of raw cucumber lightly dressed in a light sweet and spicy sauce). So good & refreshing!

"Sweet and Spicy Cucumber" salad - This is my new favourite Chinese vegetable dish! The raw and perfectly marinated cucumber slices are such a nice change from the usual  stir-fried vegetables at Chinese restaurants. So refreshing!

“Sweet and Spicy Cucumber” salad – This is my new favourite Chinese vegetable dish! The raw and perfectly marinated cucumber slices are such a nice change from the usual stir-fried vegetables at Chinese restaurants. So refreshing!

2. Request for less oil, less salt, less soy sauce (low-sodium soy sauce, if possible), and no monosodium glutamate (MSG) in your dishes. If you like your food spicy, kick up the flavour with extra spice instead! For instance, we ordered the “Steamed California Bass” with chillies, less soy sauce, less oil, and no MSG. It was still full of flavour and it turned out to be my favourite dish!

"Steamed California Bass" - One of my favourite Chinese dishes that my dad makes is actually a very similar variation of this. It tasted just as delicious as my dad's version, so it ended up being my favourite dish that day! The fish was perfectly cooked!

“Steamed California Bass” – My dad actually makes a very similar variation of this that is one of my favourite childhood dishes. It tasted just as delicious as my dad’s version, so it ended up being my favourite dish that day! The fish was perfectly cooked!

3. Opt for lean proteins that are prepared in light sauces and not battered. My dad was craving their battered, deep fried, and sugar-laden “Sweet and Sour Chicken” that day, but instead, we ordered the “Jellyfish Salad” along with the steamed fish. After our meal, he was glad we went with the lean seafood dishes that are high in protein and healthy fatty acids, because he didn’t feel heavy or weighed down afterwards.

"Jellyfish Salad" - It was our first time trying jellyfish. Like tofu, it doesn't have much flavour on its own and relies on marinades/dressings for flavour. Also, it has a very unique texture that is somewhat similar to that of seaweed salad. I liked it and would reorder this dish.

“Jellyfish Salad” – It was our first time trying jellyfish. Like tofu, it doesn’t have much flavour on its own and relies on marinades/dressings for flavour. Also, it has a very unique texture that is somewhat similar to that of seaweed salad. I liked it and would reorder this dish.

4. Rice is a staple in the Asian diet. So if you must have rice with your meal, opt for plain steamed rice instead of fried rice.

5. Watch out for the condiments! If you are using soy sauce as a condiment, be aware of how much you are using and ask if a low-sodium soy sauce is available. Also, the chili sauce condiment that Asian restaurants provide are typically heavily oil-based. Ask if a vinegar-based chili sauce or red chili flakes are available instead.

6. Stick with water or tea for drinks. Avoid the sugary beverages, which are full of empty calories and inhibit optimal digestion.

7. If you’re sensitive or allergic to gluten, avoid mock meat as it’s likely made of wheat gluten.

8. Soups at Asian restaurants are generally high in sodium and may contain MSG. Since they are prepared ahead of time, chefs cannot reduce the salt content or remove the MSG that they may contain. Thus, if having soup, enjoy in moderarion (perhaps as a small appetizer).

Everyone digging in and Raj impressing my parents with his chopstick skills!

Everyone digging in and Raj impressing my parents with his chopstick skills! I devoured most of that fish!

These tips were written with Asian restaurants specifically in mind, but they can be applied to any kind of restaurant. We had a wonderful time at Asian Legend and the food was amazing! Thanks to my parents for selecting that place for Raj and me. Hopefully, you found at least some of these pointers helpful. Happy dining!

XOXO,

Addy