Friday, February 28, 2014

Chef Surprise at Capella Pedregal in Los Cabos

The sun was once again shining on the Capella Pedregal resort in Cabo San Lucas and my friend Lynn and I were ready to take full advantage of it on our final day.  

We started off with a leisurely breakfast at Don Manuel’s Restaurant. Julieta Hernandez of the Los Cabos Tourism Board joined us and told me about some of the new hotels going up in the area. She also told me a bit about nearby La Paz and the whale shark tours.

I had known that as a Mexican playground for Hollywood stars Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo boasted many fine resorts, but I didn't realize until our conversation how many more there were in this area that were among the best in the world.

I promised Julieta I would return soon to check out more of the Baja Peninsula and then headed to enjoy my final pool day for a long while.

Even though my foot had just been stitched and I couldn’t go in the water, I enjoyed a few hours in front of Capella’s massive infinity pool under warm sunny skies.  Since I grew up (and spent most of my adult life) on Long Island I always found the view of the beach comforting. The advantage of this strip of sand not being a swimmable beach was peaceful with only the sounds of the waves.

The waiters were quick to bring us a bucket filled with ice cold water bottles and what had become my standard drink at this resort, a Watermelon Mojito.

One of the things that Capella Pedregal has available for its guests are cooking classes. Most chose the ceviche class, but considering Lynn and I are both allergic to seafood, that wasn’t an option. It worked out well, though, because I got to learn how to make one of my favorite foods, tamales.

Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz, a protégée of Thomas Keller who spent time with the famed chef in Napa, was ready for us in the private kitchen reserved for classes and chef’s dinners (something we were doing that evening).

He told us about the history of tamales and how the fillings are really optional. We talked a bit about how tamales of all kinds are sold on the streets and made as a cheap meal in Mexico. I had only previously had pork filled ones and sweet corn tamales, which were filled, for breakfast.

We made chicken tamales and vegetarian ones with peppers, tomatoes and onions. Chef Mucharraz also showed us how to make quick and easy tomatillo salsa and salsa ranchera to serve with them.

During the tamale cooking class, mixologist and head bartender Osvaldo brought us some drinks he had created just for us. We named one of them “Samantha” for our daughters at home who share the same name. We also happened to love the drink, a blend of gin, lavender syrup, plumb bitters, Domaine de Canton liqueur, basil and lychee.

After the cooking class, Lynn and I each went back to our rooms. The complimentary guacamole, chips and Corona was delivered as usual and I enjoyed the view from my balcony for a while before showering and dressing for dinner.

Before dinner we went down to check out the weekly cocktail party they have for guests. It was an intimate setting with maybe two dozen people and a guitarist in the background. We each had a glass of wine and toasted to what would be our final evening in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Chef Mucharraz had put together a private dinner for Lynn and I for our final night. It was paired with wines and cocktails for a memorable experience. I was even impressed with how the chef didn’t blink about making my rib eye steak well-done. And, it was delicious, served with a parsnip puree and morel mushrooms.

I didn’t have much room left to finish the meat as we had already finished a tasty heirloom beetroot salad and a ginger-spiced butternut squash soup.

I almost wasn’t able to make it to the dark chocolate ganache dessert, but anyone who knows me knows that I am always ready for anything that includes the words “chocolate ganache!”

It had been an unbelievable week in Los Cabos between the (mostly) beautiful weather, relaxation and great food. It had also taken a very different turn at one point as I was going home with an injury to my toe, foot and ankle. It kept me from swimming with the dolphins – or swimming at all – but it also gave me more reason to come back to Los Cabos soon. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day of Luxurious Fun at Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas

The sunrise from my balcony at Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was so beautiful I didn’t mind that I was up so early and had almost forgotten I was still in a wheelchair from my injury. I vowed to enjoy the day anyway and that didn’t seem hard at a place as beautiful as this.

Breakfast was outside at Don Manuel’s where we had a view of the ocean. My friend Lynn took a little of everything from the buffet and I just had some of their warm doughnuts with jam and a side of yogurt to start my day.

Adriana Silva, the resort’s Public Relation Coordinator, took us on a tour around the property after breakfast. We were far from the only ones who thought Capella Pedregal was incredible. It had been bestowed the rare AAA Five Diamond award.

The tour took us by golf cart in and out of the buildings, including one area that was reserved mostly for families.  It reminded me a bit of some of the resorts I had visited in Arizona with cacti between the casitas. Some of the buildings appeared to even be built right into the mountains.

As soon as we lay down in front of the infinity pool, a waiter came over with a bucket of ice containing bottled water and asked if we wanted anything else to drink. It was a bit early for me and I just got comfortable on the lounge with my foot up.

I would not be able to get my foot wet at all this trip. I knew if I rested it I would be able to cut down on the wheelchair use. I was a bit jealous as Lynn went into the water, but the scenery was so incredible and the free time so rare (thanks again, Los Cabos Tourism for building in so much relaxation in the itinerary) that I couldn’t complain.

Although the water in front of Capella Pedregal was too rough to swim in, it certainly looked beautiful from the pool, with the palm trees swaying in front of it.

Lynn wasn’t feeling well and headed back to the room for a bit while I had lunch poolside. It was a delicious steak sandwich accompanied by the scrumptious truffle fries I had the previous day and, of course, another watermelon margarita to wash it down with.

I stayed by the pool for a while and then went upstairs to change for our tequila tasting, something all guests at Capella Pedregal can arrange.

The mixologist and head bartender Osvaldo took us through the history, making and tasting of not only tequila, but also mezcal and sotol, which I had never had before. It is also made from an agave plant, but has more fruit and floral notes than its more known counterparts.

Fortunately, there was time for a nap between the tequila tasting and dinner at El Farron. This restaurant on the mountain cliff certainly brings romance to a new limit with all the candlelight and spectacular ocean views.

While Lynn and I didn’t exactly appreciate the romance and the regular menu of seafood we were both allergic to, we definitely enjoyed the ambiance and the food we could eat, including the soup, appetizers (which included tender lamb chops), steak and pineapple cake.

The steak was brought to the table on a grill filled with vegetables and potatoes.

Although we had talked about checking out the bar scene after dinner, we were both exhausted after the day in the sun sampling tequila. We each went back to our rooms and rested up for another day at Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Introduction to Capella Pedregal

We were up early for our last room service breakfast at Hotel El Ganzo. I hadn’t expected to be continuing my trip in a wheelchair, but an accident had left me resting a dislocated toe, torn ligament and deep cut a bit longer.

I was in Los Cabos, though, and determined not to let the injury keep me from enjoying it – especially since my friend Lynn and I were heading to one of the most acclaimed resorts in Mexico, Capella Pedregal.

I had heard so much about this hotel and had actually been trying for two years to plan a trip there. As much as I had looked forward to the other two hotels in Los Cabos, it was this one I had been waiting for.

The excitement began before we arrived as the driver took us through the private tunnel in the mountain that leads to the grand entrance at Capella Pedregal. 

We were a bit disappointed that it was raining, but since the weather had been beautiful all week (and looked to be again), we didn’t let it ruin our mood.

Adriana Silva, Public Relation Coordinator at Capella Pedregal, was there to greet us when we arrived and quickly made some changes to our plan to fit the current circumstances. Since it didn’t look like it would be much of a beach day, our spa appointments were moved to earlier. And, since I was wheelchair bound for at least another day and a large accessible suite was not available, we were each given our own rooms.

Each room was just incredible, with a huge bathroom that had a separate tub, a shower and even a couch! I also had a loveseat and infinity plunge pool on my balcony, which provided breathtaking views of the ocean and mountains.  

The refrigerator was stocked with bottled water and juice, while a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila was waiting for all guests. The manager had also sent a fruit, cheese and chocolate plate with a bottle of wine.

Lynn’s spa appointment was first and since I was not able to get my foot wet and enjoy the sauna, steam room and whirlpool facilities at Auriga Spa, I went ahead and had some lunch at the Beach Club Restaurant.  The club sandwich was good and the Truffle Fries heavenly. It was there I also got my first taste of Capella’s Watermelon Mojito.

After lunch, I headed to the spa. I was greeted with a cup of tea and led to the locker room to change before my welcome cleansing foot bath ritual. It is something everyone has before their treatment, using local herbs and a special beverage that is changed to be in harmony with the current phase of the moon.

I was then led to my pod jutting out on the water for a peaceful atmosphere to have the most heavenly one hour massage. I was more relaxed than I had been in months.

When I got back to my room I found what is a daily afternoon treat at Capella Pedregal, chips, guacamole and Corona Beer. I tried not to eat too much because I knew there was a big meal planned for the evening.

We had dinner at Don Manuel’s with Shirley Dunn Hanks, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Adriana Silva. They had made a special menu just for us, taking into account that Lynn and I both had seafood allergies.

The Poblano Risotto with pumpkin seeds, corn and wild mushrooms covered in smoked parmesan was a great appetizer and a lot more filling than I expected. The Heirloom Salad was also fresh and colorful with avocado and carrot with toasted fennel seeds.

The main courses all sounded wonderful. I really enjoyed the Crispy Suckling Pig with peanut marzipan and black sesame puree while Lynn made a good choice with the Short Ribs Barbacoa style.

The Cinnamon Meringue dessert was light and flavorful, but Estudio de Chocolate (Study of Chocolate) was a delicious selection of one of my favorite food items.

We finished up the evening toasting with Jose Cuervo’s Special Reserve Tequila. It had been a great first night at Capella Pedregal and I knew there were two more to come. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Beach Time in Los Cabos

I found one advantage to my injury on Day One at El Ganzo, the wheelchair put me in a position to do nothing all day but enjoy the glorious Los Cabos weather on the beach.

The original plan for the day had us starting swimming with the dolphins at the newly opened Dolphin Discovery. I was unable to get into the water so we had to cancel.

The manager at Hotel El Ganzo instead suggested that we spend the day on a canopy bed at their private beach club on the other side of the lake.  I get few (if any) full beach days on these trips and even though I had to stay dry, it still sounded like it might be fun.

Getting around wasn’t so easy so we started the day with a room service breakfast. The pancakes were very good and after some coffee and a bit more time than usual to get dressed I was ready to be wheeled to my adventure.

The staff was very helpful in getting me on to the boat that would take us over to Hotel El Ganzo’s man-made beach. We decided to have lunch when we arrived at Ganzo de Playa as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get back and forth to the sand.

I had been told that the cocktail selection was incredible, and I was in Mexico, after all, so I decided to forego the pain killers and enjoyed a few libations from the pages in the massive cocktail list.

I began with one of my favorite indulgences – a mudslide, followed by a refreshing mojito.

We actually closed down the beach, staying until the sun was ready to set. We sampled the gelato and a few more cocktails and then took the boat back to Hotel El Ganzo
I also decided it was a comfort food day and the burger with guacamole and fries fit the bill perfectly. Lynn went for the chicken tacos with a salad.

After we were done eating, the staff actually carried me in the wheelchair down to our beach bed! While it looked like a queen size bed, we were able to each raise and lower our head and I was even given some pillows to put my foot up.

Lynn enjoyed the clear, calm water and I made the best of relaxing and reading as that alone was something I rarely get to do. The sky was clear and the weather was warm. I made good use of the canopy to keep from getting too much sun.

I went back to the room to rest while Lynn decided to check out the rooftop Jacuzzi. I have to admit I was quite jealous I couldn’t join her, but was feeling the injury.

The original plan was to see a rooftop concert our last night at Hotel El Ganzo. I wasn’t feeling up to it and we opted for some tortilla soup and guacamole from room service and an early bedtime.

We would be off in the morning to our last stop, Capella Pedregal, for our final three days in Los Cabos, Mexico.