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

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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

Gardening Fun!

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Out of both Raj and me, Raj definitely has the greener thumb. Every spring and summer, he grows a different variety of organic produce. I thought I would do a brief blog post to show you all what he is growing this year. I cannot wait to try the fruits of his labour!

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I will be sure to keep you all posted on the progress of his garden throughout the summer!

XOXO,

Addy

Raddy Recipe: “Cuckoo for Coconut” Salad

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Now that it is finally warmer and sunnier in Toronto, I have been craving fresh salads and coconut water lately. So I wanted to create a coconut-based salad to complement a nice, cold, refreshing glass of coconut water. I came up with this “Cuckoo for Coconut” salad and it was delicious! This vegan salad is high in fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

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“Cuckoo for Coconut” Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons creamed coconut, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut chips
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 baby bok choy, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

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  1. Mix everything together.
  2. Let set for 5 minutes to allow all the flavours to mix and mingle.
  3. Enjoy!

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We packaged this salad in Mason jars and brought them with us to Scarborough Bluffs Park. The salad tasted even better with the beautiful view of Lake Ontario and with some coconut water on the side. I hope you get to try this recipe and enjoy it outdoors in the beautiful weather this summer!

XOXO,

Addy

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Raddy Recipe: Raj’s Mom Shows How to Cook Jackfruit Seeds!

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Both my dad and Raj’s dad LOVE jackfruit and would list it as one of their favourite fruits. Thus, Raj and I both grew up eating this fruit and we love it too. To me, this sweet and fleshy fruit tastes like something between a mango and a lychee. While my family would devour the tasty flesh of this fruit and toss away the seeds, Raj’s family would save the seeds and make delicious dishes with them. With jackfruit season upon us, I thought I would share one of Raj’s mom’s delicious jackfruit seed recipes.

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Recently, my parents bought some beautifully ripe jackfruit for Raj and his parents. When his mom told me she was going to save the seeds and cook with them, I was skeptical at first, because the seeds tasted so bitter and unpleasant in their raw state. However, when she cooked them in a simple stir-fry, they tasted delicious (similar to a cooked potato)! Not only are these seeds edible and tasty when cooked, but they are also a good source of vegan protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals, and some B vitamins! I will never toss out the seeds from a jackfruit again! Here is Raj’s mom’s simple stir-fry recipe for jackfruit seeds (sorry for the lack of precise measurements, but like many mothers who cook a lot, Raj’s mom usually just “eyeballs” her measurements and goes by taste)…

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Raj’s Mom’s “Do-NOT-Throw-Away-The-Jackfruit-Seeds” Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh jackfruit seeds, each one cut in half
  • water to boil the jackfruit seeds
  • 1/2 cup frozen “Chinese potato” pieces (found in Indian grocery stores)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • chili powder to taste
  • salt to taste
  • few cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

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  1. Boil the fresh jackfruit seeds for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Then, drain and set them aside.
  2. In a pan on medium high heat, sauté the diced red onion with coconut oil until the onion pieces turn slightly brown and caramelize a bit.
  3. Add the halved jackfruit seeds and “Chinese potato” pieces into the pan and sauté them until everything is heated through.
  4. Add chili powder and salt to taste.
  5. Transfer stir-fry to a serving dish and serve immediately or garnish with a few cilantro leaves just before serving. Enjoy!

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The next time you eat jackfruit, I hope you save the seeds and try cooking with them! They are so delicious and nutritious!

XOXO,

Addy

Raddy Recipe: 1 Larabar = 8 Deliciously Healthy Cookies!

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Larabar Fruit and Nut Energy Bars are simple (contain no more than nine whole-food ingredients), gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, low-sodium, and vegan. They are delicious right out of the wrapper, but since they are made with only such few pure and raw ingredients, I thought to myself, “Why not bake with them?” So I experimented with that thought and managed to turn one Larabar into eight delicious and nutritious cookies! It works with all the Larabar flavours, but I will be showing you how with my favourite flavour, Coconut Cream.

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The Coconut Cream flavour contains ONLY dates, unsweetened coconut, almonds, cashews, and extra virgin coconut oil.

1. Select your favourite Larabar flavour (mine is Coconut Cream) and preheat the oven to 150°F.

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2. Cut the Larabar into eight equally sized pieces (cut the bar into halves and then, cut each half into quarters).

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3. With the palms of your hands, flatten each piece as much as possible into thin, round cookies.

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4. Bake the cookies for about 30 minutes or until crispy.

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5. Let the cookies cool down completely to get even more crispy and then, enjoy!

These cookies are so delicious and nutritious (high in fibre and healthy fats) since the only ingredient is Larabar. Also, this recipe, which makes eight bite-sized cookies from one Larabar, is great for portion control. So the next time you are craving cookies, try this out!

XOXO,

Addy

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!