Sometimes Mother Nature’s Beautiful Creations Need to be Shared…

Cenote Palomitas - one of Mother Nature's beautiful creations.

Cenote Palomitas – one of Mother Nature’s beautiful creations.

Canada’s national “Organic Week” is right around the corner (September 19th-27th this year). During this week especially, I take the time to appreciate everything Mother Nature offers us naturally and organically. Today, I stumbled across these recent pictures of one of Mother Nature’s beautiful creations, Cenote Palomitas, and thought I just had to share them to kickoff Organic Week.

"Cenote Palomitas - crystal waters turquoise color, depth 45 metres, 50 meters diameter, 25 degrees Celsius, access: stone steps." It looked sketchy in the middle of nowhere, so I was nervous to enter!

Cenote Palomitas – crystal waters turquoise color, depth 45 metres, 50 meters diameter, 25 degrees Celsius, access: stone steps.” It looked sketchy in the middle of nowhere, so I was definitely nervous to enter.

Cenotes are natural sinkholes created by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. The beautifully clear turquoise waters are the result of the natural filtration that fresh water undergoes as it flows through the porous limestone.

The steps leading down to this cenote were steep!

The steps leading down to this cenote were steep!

This cenote called Cenote Palomitas is located in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. It is 45 metres deep and 50 metres in diameter with a comfortable temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. Raj swam in it and loved every minute of it. The view was magical. We highly recommend visiting a cenote at least once in your life! Mother Nature is a beautiful thing.

XOXO,

Addy

P.S. – Raj and I are kicking off our Organic Week with CHFA East this weekend. To those attending too, hope to see you there! Look out for some new posts these upcoming weeks! 🙂

The view was magical.

The view was magical.

Sea Fun and Seafood at Frutos Del Mar (in Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal)!

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Being by the sea at a beach near the Mayan ruins of Tulum had me dreaming of all the seafood that was going to be offered for dinner that night at the Frutos Del Mar restaurant.

After Raj and I celebrated our one-year anniversary at Maiko restaurant, it was time for his sister and her husband to celebrate their ten-year wedding anniversary there the following night. While they were enjoying dinner at Maiko, Raj, his parents, and I took their kids (Raj’s niece and nephew) to dinner at Frutos Del Mar. It was great that this was a seafood restaurant, because we all were craving seafood after spending the day by the sea at a beautiful beach near the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Seafood can be a great source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals. If you are a big fan of seafood and are staying at the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort, then you definitely must check out the Frutos Del Mar restaurant. Here is a recap/review of my dining experience there…

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I loved the nautical decor of the restaurant.

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The apéritif was a refreshing and lightly sweet cocktail. I cannot remember what was in it, but it tasted like a light and fruity dessert wine. Also, I loved the star fruit garnish, which reminded me of a starfish.

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The appetizer menu and a portion of the main course menu. For the appetizer, you could choose one of the starters or one of the soups or their seafood buffet. Since I prefer plated service over buffets, I opted for a starter (as did Raj and his parents), while his niece and nephew chose the seafood buffet to start.

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Look at the incredible variety of seafood dishes at the appetizer buffet! Some highlights include various ceviches (scallop/salmon/tuna), slices of seared tuna steak, prawns, crab legs, and a variety of caviar! As wonderful as this seafood buffet was, I was glad I opted for a plated starter for my appetizer instead, because I would have been so overwhelmed with all the choices! I would have tried a bit of everything and spoiled my appetite for the main course. This spread was beyond an appetizer buffet. You could have just ordered this alone and been more than satisfied.

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Raj’s niece and nephew ordered the buffet for their appetizer. I found it so funny that the first item his nephew eagerly reached for was a fruit salad amidst all the succulent seafood options! Ha ha ha. The kids loved all the fresh fruits that were available in Mexico at this time of the year and I cannot blame them.

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“Sea Scallops Carpaccio – with Porcini mushroom duxelle, mustard vinaigrette, Piquillo pepper and tangerine foam.” The scallops were succulent and fresh and I loved the flavourful minced mushrooms underneath. The mustard vinaigrette and tangerine foam did not overpower the delicate flavours of the scallop carpaccio. Instead, the condiments highlighted the flavours of the scallop carpaccio beautifully. I also ordered a glass of semi-dry sparkling white wine to pair with my seafood courses since I ordered very light seafood dishes.

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The other portion of the main course menu and the dessert menu.

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“Whisky Shrimp – with vegetables macédonie and celery cream.” I ordered this dish without the celery cream and I still loved it! The shrimps were large, juicy, and perfectly cooked. I especially loved the crispy beet chips (those red string-like things on my plate). I wanted an entire plate of those beet chips! My only criticism was that the portion was too small for a main course. It was essentially only six pieces of shrimp with two pieces of asparagus. On a positive note, this was the perfect excuse to order dessert and not feel guilty!

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“Impossible Cake – Kahlúa sponge cake and cottage cheese crème caramel.” When you order a very light appetizer and a very light main course, I think you are entitled to order whatever your heart desires on the dessert menu! This dessert was highly recommended by our server, so I ordered it. Although I loved it, it was too heavy and decadent for me. I only managed two bites with the fruit and chocolate garnishes. If you enjoy rich desserts and love coffee and caramel, you would definitely love this dessert!

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I thought I would share and end with this cute picture. After our dinner at Frutos Del Mar, we bumped into Daffy Duck and Donald Duck! They were both super nice. 😉

All in all, the food was great and everyone had a blast that night. The quality of the seafood was exceptional. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves seafood. I also highly recommend visiting the beaches by the Mayan ruins of Tulum, if you are in the area. The water, sand, and views are spectacular!

XOXO,

Addy

Our One-Year Anniversary Dinner at Maiko Japanese Restaurant (in Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an)!

Maiko was my favourite restaurant at the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya!

Maiko was my favourite restaurant at the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya!

After a family night dinner at Le Gourmet and a girls’ night dinner at Arlequin, it was time for Raj and I to have a just-“Raddy” dinner together, celebrating our one-year anniversary. Since Japanese cuisine is my favourite kind of cuisine, Raj (the thoughtful boyfriend) made reservations at Maiko, one of the only two Japanese restaurants on the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort. Unlike Mikado (the other Japanese restaurant), Maiko is located in the Sian Ka’an area, which is my favourite area on the resort and adult-only. This dinner at Maiko ended up being my absolute favourite dining experience on this trip! It had the best menu selection, the best food, the best apéritif cocktail, and the best service. Raj did a fantastic job at selecting a restaurant for our one-year anniversary dinner. Here is a recap/review of my special dining experience at Maiko

When Raj made the dinner reservation, he informed them that it was our one-year anniversary celebratory dinner. When we arrived, they surprised us with the best window seats in the restaurant and rose petals all over our table! What fabulous service! We were definitely impressed.

When Raj made the dinner reservation, he informed them that it was our one-year anniversary celebratory dinner. When we arrived, they surprised us with the best window seats in the restaurant and rose petals all over our table! What fabulous service! We were definitely impressed.

They also surprised us with a complimentary bottle of sparkling white wine! This Chatonier Brut sparkling white wine from Spain, which was only 10% alcohol, tasted drier than what I normally prefer, but it was not too dry for me. It arrived chilled in an ice bucket and our server popped open the bottle for us. What a nice, festive surprise! Thank you, Maiko!

They also surprised us with a complimentary bottle of sparkling white wine! This Chatonier Brut sparkling white wine from Spain, which was only 10% alcohol, tasted drier than what I normally prefer, but it was not too dry for me. It arrived chilled in an ice bucket and our server popped open the bottle for us. What a nice, festive surprise! Thank you, Maiko!

I was so excited to look at their menu and see what kind of Japanese cuisine would be offered at a Japanese restaurant in Mexico. I was distracted for a bit by all the beautifully scattered rose petals on our table. Ha ha ha.

I was so excited to look at their menu and see what kind of Japanese cuisine would be offered at a Japanese restaurant in Mexico. I was distracted for a bit by all the beautifully scattered rose petals on our table. Ha ha ha.

Before we could open our menu, we were surprised once again with a complimentary apéritif. This cocktail was called "Shanghai" and it was THE BEST cocktail we had on the trip! Unfortunately, no other bar on the resort managed to recreate this cocktail exactly during the remainder of our trip. :( This cocktail tasted like a delightful blend of tropical fruit juices in your mouth. We absolutely loved it!

Before we could open our menu, we were surprised once again with a complimentary apéritif. This cocktail was called “Shanghai” and it was THE BEST cocktail we had on the trip! Unfortunately, no other bar on the resort managed to recreate this cocktail exactly during the remainder of our trip. 😦 This cocktail tasted like a delightful blend of tropical fruit juices in your mouth. We absolutely loved it!

The appetizer menu.

The appetizer menu.

Before any food came out, we were each given this assortment of condiments to accompany all our savoury courses. From left to right: a sweet sesame sauce, soy sauce, and a spicy mayonnaise sauce. The sweet sesame sauce tasted like a lightly sweetened tahini sauce and it was my hands-down favourite of all three condiments! I added some to every course except dessert. The soy sauce was definitely sushi-grade and not the lower quality cooking-grade. The spicy mayonnaise sauce was just a mixture of Sriracha chili sauce and mayonnaise, so it was not anything unique or spectacular.

Before any food came out, we were each given this assortment of condiments to accompany all our savoury courses. From left to right: a sweet sesame sauce, soy sauce, and a spicy mayonnaise sauce. The sweet sesame sauce tasted like a lightly sweetened tahini sauce and it was my hands-down favourite of all three condiments! I added some to every course except dessert. The soy sauce was definitely sushi-grade and not the lower quality cooking-grade. The spicy mayonnaise sauce was just a mixture of Sriracha chili sauce and mayonnaise, so it was not anything unique or spectacular.

After placing our orders from the menu, they surprised us yet again with a complimentary amuse-bouche. I loved this palate teaser! These thin, bite-sized slices of tuna steak were seared to perfection (thin cooked crust on outside, but still completely raw on inside). The outer cooked crust was so flavourful and it tasted like it was seasoned with shichimi tōgarashi (the Japanese seven-flavour chili pepper spice mixture). The tuna was so fresh and not fishy at all. Also, the presentation was beautiful! I am not sure what the three drizzled sauces were, but when you coat the tuna slices in all three sauces and then put it in your mouth, it was such a wonderfully balanced mixture of salty, sweet, and spicy flavours!

After placing our orders from the menu, they surprised us yet again with a complimentary amuse-bouche. I loved this palate teaser! These thin, bite-sized slices of tuna steak were seared to perfection (thin cooked crust on the outside, but still completely raw on the inside). The outer cooked crust was so flavourful and it tasted like it was seasoned with shichimi tōgarashi (the Japanese seven-flavour chili pepper spice mixture). The tuna was so fresh and not fishy at all. Also, the presentation was beautiful! I am not sure what the three drizzled sauces were, but when you coat the tuna slices in all three sauces and then put them in your mouth, it was such a wonderfully balanced mixture of salty, sweet, and spicy flavours!

For the first course, I ordered a vegan version of the "California Sushi". I am not vegan by any means, but that is what I felt like having that night. So instead of having "tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, and sesame" in my maki roll, they just put fresh cucumber and blanched carrots in my roll and then they topped it off with thin mango slices. As a self-proclaimed "sushi snob", this does not make my top-five-vegan-maki-rolls list, but it was definitely better than what I was expecting for sushi in Mexico. I enjoyed the nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in this roll, which I had with soy sauce and the sweet sesame sauce, of course.

For the first course, I ordered a vegan version of the “California Sushi”. I am not vegan by any means, but that was what I felt like having that night. So instead of having “tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, and sesame” in my maki roll, they just put fresh cucumber and blanched carrots in my roll and then they topped it off with thin mango slices. As a self-proclaimed “sushi snob”, this does not make my top-five-vegan-maki-rolls list, but it was definitely better than what I was expecting for sushi in Mexico. I enjoyed the nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in this roll, which I had with soy sauce and the sweet sesame sauce, of course.

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“Misoshiro Soup – with tofu cheese, seaweed wakame, scallions, and Somen pasta.” The “tofu cheese” was just plain tofu pieces and completely dairy-free. This miso soup was not anything spectacular, but it was good. It was not too salty and contained a good amount of tofu pieces and seaweed. I was glad that there were only a few strands of Somen noodles, because that kept this dish nice and light for an appetizer.

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The menu for the teppanyaki, main course, and dessert. You could order a teppanyaki dish along with your main course before dessert, but Raj and I opted to order just a main course and dessert since we did not want to overindulge.

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“Seafood with Curry – sauce made with eggplant and onion confit.” My main course was absolutely delicious! The coconut-milk-based curry sauce was so creamy and flavourful. Also, there was a generous amount of seafood (mussel, shrimp, scallop, fish, etc.) and it was all so fresh! This seafood curry was served with a small bowl of short-grain white rice and the rice was perfectly cooked. My only criticism is that I wish this dish was spicy, because I like my curries quite spicy! I would reorder this dish as is though. It was just so aromatic and tasty!

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“Halo-halo – tapioca and lychee with coconut cream.” Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert that is mainly shaved ice and evaporated milk topped off with fruits, sweetened boiled beans, jello, and/or other sweets. That was what I was expecting, but instead, this halo-halo was more like a Thai coconut tapioca pudding. This dessert was mainly made of small tapioca pearls that were suspended in thick, sweetened coconut milk. I could not taste any lychee. Although this was not your traditional Filipino halo-halo, I enjoyed this gluten-free dessert, especially with the scoop of coconut ice cream on the side.

I ended up having only a small bite or two of that halo-halo dessert since I wanted to save my sweet-tooth splurge for the Sian Ka'an bar lounge next door. It is all about moderation. At the Sian Ka'an bar lounge, I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and ended my fabulous night with a Cosmopolitan and some dancing. What a fun night!

I ended up having only a small bite or two of that halo-halo dessert since I wanted to save my sweet-tooth splurge for the Sian Ka’an bar lounge next door. It is all about moderation. At the Sian Ka’an bar lounge, I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and ended my fabulous night with a Cosmopolitan and some dancing. What a fun night!

If you are visiting the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort and are at least 18 years of age with no kids (or have someone to babysit the kids), I highly recommend having dinner at Maiko and then hitting the Sian Ka’an bar lounge afterwards for post-dinner drinks. This night out was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Thank you, Maiko (and Sian Ka’an)!

XOXO,

Addy

Girls’ Night at the Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal: Arlequin Restaurant Review

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Excited for a girls’ night dinner at the Arlequin!

For our second dinner dining experience (if you have not seen the first one, go here), the men (Raj, his dad, his brother-in-law, his brother-in-law’s dad, and his nephew) went to La Gran Tortuga-Rodizio restaurant to indulge in a buffet of Brazilian grilled meats. Meanwhile, the ladies (Raj’s mom, his sister, his sister’s mother-in-law, and his niece) and I went to the Arlequin restaurant for fancy French cuisine. I loved this restaurant and this meal was one of my favourites during the trip! All of my courses were very flavourful, well presented, and perfectly portioned. I will recap of one of my favourite dining experiences on this trip, but first, I cannot resist sharing the little bit of monkey fun I had during this trip…

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Some monkey fun before dinner!

After some monkey business, the ladies and I were finally ready to head out for a girls’ night dinner…

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From left to right: Raj’s sister’s mother-in-law, his sister, his mom, and me. On our way to get ready for our girls’ night French dinner!

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From left to right: me, Raj’s mom, his sister, his niece, and his sister’s mother-in-law. Gorgeous ladies!

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The appetizer menu.

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The complimentary apéritif. I did not get a chance to jot down what was in it, but it tasted like a light sparkling dessert wine, which I absolutely loved! The maraschino cherry added a pretty and festive touch.

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The complimentary amuse-bouche. This was a bite-sized rice cracker that was made in-house and topped off with some kind of sauce. Although the presentation was beautiful, the taste and flavours were not very memorable. It was okay.

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“Smoked Salmon Paupiettes – with mushroom duxelle and caviar trio vinaigrette.” Although the smoked salmon was not of great quality (you can even tell by the pale pink colour and lack of marbling), the pile of sautéed minced mushrooms underneath made up for it. The mushrooms were so flavourful and hearty that the smoked salmon could have been omitted from this dish.

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“Lobster Velouté – with shrimp and sea bass quenelle” (before pouring).

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“Lobster Velouté – with shrimp and sea bass quenelle” (after pouring). I LOVED this soup even though there were no actual lobster pieces, the shrimp was mediocre in quality, and the sea bass quenelle was just alright. The creamy and extremely flavourful broth tasted like lobster and prawns and it was perfectly seasoned! I am not ashamed to say that I was literally licking my bowl afterwards.

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The main course menu.

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“Sea Bass Supreme – with sautéed vegetables instead of creamy rice, mushroom confit, and gravy.” While the seafood in the appetizers (the smoked salmon in the salad and the shrimp in the soup) were not great, the sea bass fillet in this main course was spectacular! It was super moist and flaky. Also, the sautéed vegetables were perfectly cooked al dente. Not only was this dish super tasty, but it was also super healthy and paleo-friendly!

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The dessert menu. Macarons are my favourite dessert. Since Arlequin is a French restaurant, when I saw stuffed “macaroons” (cookies of Italian origin made with desiccated coconut) on the menu, I knew that it was a typo and that they were actually referring to “macarons” (the French cookie sandwich). I did not even bother asking if it was a typo and just ordered the “Trilogy of Macaroons stuffed with Mocha and Salted Caramel Ice Cream”.

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“Trilogy of Macaroons stuffed with Mocha and Salted Caramel Ice Cream.” I was right! “Macaroons” was a typo and they were really referring to “macarons”, which are my favourite dessert! I was so thrilled! The macarons tasted heavenly! The meringue cookie parts were perfectly made and the filling was divine. The macarons were so wonderfully made that I did not even touch the ice cream, because I did not want to ruin what was on my palate with anything else.

I enjoyed dinner at the Arlequin more than dinner at Le Gourmet the previous night. My favourite dinner on the trip, however, took place the following night at a Japanese restaurant. Not only was it Raj’s and my one-year anniversary dinner, but that restaurant had the best food and service! I will share that dining experience in the next post, so stay tuned!

XOXO,

Addy

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