Showing posts with label tequila. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tequila. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another Chicago Food, Wine and Spirits Getaway

It was time for another trip to Chicago and I had no problem finding new things to check out. This time I brought my friend Cortney along for the adventure, which started at the InterContinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue.

We had quite a welcome as the hotel manager left us a beautiful spread of fruit, cheese and wine. We nibbled a little as we dressed, but saved our appetites for our first stop of the night – Eno Wine Bar.

The Eno Wine Bar is located downstairs at the InterContinental Chicago. It’s not very large, which makes it a cozy spot for a quiet date, or catch up with girlfriends. There is a good size wine selection and wines are available by the glass, in flights or by the bottle. The waiter was quite knowledgeable and helped us make decisions on what to get.

Courtney and I enjoyed a start with the Jean-Louis Denois Brut Blanc de Blanc before switching to a wonderful house branded sauvignon blanc-riesling blend from Washington. Wine isn’t the only thing Eno has with their own label on it, there’s also a delectable set of chocolates, of which the Black Truffle Sea Salt was my favorite.

The chocolate, as well as cheeses, are paired with wines. You can also order a la carte and include some of their tasty flatbreads, which change seasonally.

After our aperitif at Eno, we hopped into a cab and headed to Zocalo Restaurant & Tequila Bar for dinner. Zocalo features flights of a different kind, either tequilas or cocktails. The tequila selection is like none I’ve ever seen and while I was tempted to start comparing, we both decided to stick with the cocktails.

I absolutely loved the Chile Mango Margarita, made with Agave Loco Pepper-cured Reposado Tequila, triple sec, mango passion juice and lime, then rimmed with chili. It was fruity and spicy, a combination that suits me.

The food at Zocalo also has a Yucatan influence, using more fruit and varied spices than most of the Mexican restaurants do. The Trio de Guacamole showed this off, especially in the Fruita, an excellent mix of avocado, mango, guava and habanero.

For a main course, I was more than satisfied with my Chile Relleno, fire roasted and stuffed with a blend of three cheeses and then baked in a puff pastry covered with ranchero sauce. Courtney went for the Carne Asada and said the tequila skirt steak was the best she’s ever had.

We had a tough time deciding on dessert, especially with a selection of dessert martinis and after dinner drinks available. We finally decided that we preferred to eat the sweets and shared samplings of the Pay de Queso, Crepas de Cajeta and Churros y Champurado. I’d have to say the crepes, filled with apple, topped with caramel sauce and served with dulce de leche ice cream, were my favorite.

After dinner we decided to walk off some food on our way back to the Intercontinental. We needed time to rest and digest before our big lunch the next day at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exploring London with Beefeater

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip was getting a view of Olympic Stadium in London. Unfortunately, I was having sinus problems and the weather (for a boat ride) was not cooperating. I instead spent the morning resting up at the Duke’s Hotel, which left me with more energy for a full afternoon and evening.

When I finally left the hotel, I walked down to St. James park and then on to Buckingham Palace. My last two trips to London had been filled with no time for sightseeing so I hadn’t seen the palace since I was a teenager. It is more regal than I remembered, and the gardens (displaying tulips when I was there) were immaculate. I walked around the grounds so I could see it all from all angles.

As I started walking away through St. James Park’s Birdcage Walk, I noticed that there was a clearing an area of the road. I saw the guards at attention in front of a crowd at St. James Palace just before a car with Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, came out. The brief glimpse at the Duchess of Cornwall was probably the closest I will get to royalty!

I went back to the hotel in time to dress for an evening filled with activities. Our first stop was at the infamous and elegant American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.  It was quite an experience as we split up into the small tables and I enjoyed The Royal Tribute (Beefeater gin, champagne, cherries and Chartreuse) with Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne and Guilt Taste Editor Jennifer Pelka.

After drinking cocktails we went on to making them at HIX Restaurant, where we met with infamous London mixologist Nick Strangeway. He led us through punch making, specifically the making of the Diamond Jubilee Punch for Queen Elizabeth II. The punch contained Beefeater gin, cassis, raspberry liqueur, cherry brandy, bitters, Twining’s Earl Grey Tea, lemon juice, sparkling wine and a black currant garnish. I also got to make another Strangeway created punch with British cassis, rhubarb, champagne and Compari. Both were delicious.

We stayed at HIX for a dinner in our own private room. During the meal I talked a bit with Beefeater Ambassador Seb Hamilton-Mudge about surfing and the many areas of England I had yet to explore.

Dinner started with a plate of Senorio Iberico Bellota Ham with grilled Catalan tomato bread, which was sweet and tasty. We then had a filet of Hereford beef on the bone (which I topped with a terrific Béarnaise sauce) accompanied by incredible Jersey Royal potatoes. Dessert was a chocolate mousse made to perfection, deep in cocoa flavor, but not too sweet. We were also given some decadent Julian Temperley chocolate truffles.

For after dinner drinks we headed to Novikovs, a very popular London club. It was noisy and crowded and we were all very happy to see we had a large table reserved. The staff brought out martinis (Beefeater, of course) in an absinthe-like pitcher, as well as bottles of the gin and an assortment of mixers. I played it safe with my usual gin and tonic, but there were some passing shots of Avion Tequila before we left at 1:00 am to go back to Duke's Hotel.

We had a very busy next day ahead of us as we were leaving early in the morning and heading to Plymouth. There we would see the spot the Mayflower left from on its journey to the United States, and learn more about the gin that bears the city’s name.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spa Life Among The Boulders

I had been battling a cold and sinus infection all week. I spent lots of time in the spa at the Arizona Biltmore and Sanctuary at Camelback in steam rooms filled with eucalyptus. I was finally starting to feel a bit better at The Boulders, and I it was a good thing because I got to really enjoy one most incredible spas I have ever seen.

It’s hard to explain The Boulders to a person who has never been. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe the sprawling grounds, filled with natural boulders, more types of cacti than you have ever seen, and just about anything you could need in this miniature city on the mountain.

My day began just as it should in a place like this – with sunrise yoga. I practice yoga all the time, but there’s something about a setting like this that made the class amazing. I wished I had been feeling better and could also experience the other classes offered on the fitness side in this huge Golden Door Spa.

The spa at The Boulders is 33,000 square feet and has 24 treatment rooms, the gym, a movement studio, the Labryinth (“a path to tranquility”), Watsu and a beauty salon. In addition, there are relaxation areas, a tea room, huge locker rooms, steam rooms, saunas, Japanese soaking baths, a Golden Door Café and an outdoor swimming pool with whirlpool. It’s a place you could easily stay in for a day (or even a week) in full relaxation without ever being bored – and I came close to doing that.

After my yoga class I had breakfast in the spa’s café. The menu was inviting and healthy, and I settled on some tea with an egg white omelet, filled with asparagus and goat cheese and served with tomato sauce and fruit. With it came an absolutely delicious banana nut muffin. It was still warm from the oven and turned out to be lowfat and gluten free!

My roommate and fellow writer Susan did a morning hike and we met up back at the room for a while before heading to the spa together for a meeting with Debi Bridges, the public relations rep for the resort. It was lunchtime by then and I had no problem with another meal at the Spa Café. I had a chicken & wild rice soup, spinach artichoke dip with pita and a smoothie. It couldn’t have been a more perfect lunch in a beautiful setting overlooking the mountains.

After lunch we took a tour of the property in a golf cart and I saw so many scenic trails I wished I had more time to explore, but I was anxious to get back to the spa as relaxation seemed to be the best way for me to get healthy. I went for a short swim in the outdoor pool and then got comfortable in the tea room with some apple cider tea and a book.

I had chosen a Lavender Zen Treatment and it combined everything I loved. Using lavender-scented products, I first had a scrub, followed by a warm towel wipe down. Then, hot rose quartz stones were placed around my body before I was massaged with warm oil. We finished the 90 minute treatment with me wrapped in warm towels while my feet and scalp were rubbed with oil! I would recommend visiting The Boulders for this treatment alone.

I stayed in the spa a bit more for a steam room and shower before walking back to the room for a nap. We dressed for dinner and then sat on our patio with a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato (yum) to celebrate our final night in the Phoenix area.

Dinner was at Palo Verde. The comfortable Southwestern décor was in contrast to the International menu. It was filled with small plates so we had a chance to sample quite a bit. David, or waiter, was very helpful and brought out a feast of interesting creations that were all wonderful:

Arancini Sicilian Risotto Croquettes with leeks and mushrooms;
Crispy Polenta Cake with red peppers, onions and goat cheese;
Duck Quesadilla with asatero cheese in a pineapple chipotle salsa;
Spicy Cannelloni;
and Linguini with Meatballs.

Throughout the meal, Brad, the restaurant manager, brought over some Arizona wines for me to try. (Susan was more than happy with her Frozen Mango Margaritas). I really enjoyed the Pillsbury Wild Child White Blend, a combination of chenin blanc and riesling made in the high appellations of Southwest Arizona, and the 2009 Nache Red Blend, a combination of petite syrah, Grenache and syrah which was very fruit filled, with notes of dark raspberries and blueberries.

After a decadent Bailey’s Irish Cream Chocolate cake with a rich fudge frosting, Brad brought Cameron over to talk to us a bit about Tequila Herudera, the tequila that he helped pick for The Boulders. They bought the barrel and keep going back for more as it has become the bestselling tequila in Arizona. I couldn’t disagree as it was very smooth with lots of vanilla.

We ended up closing out the restaurant for our last night of this amazing trip. Susan and I talked quite a bit about our favorite resort and it was unanimous that there wasn’t one. We loved the executive lounge and formal grounds of the Arizona Biltmore; the spacious casita and restaurant views of the Sanctuary at Camelback; and the magnificent spa (with café and pool area) at The Boulders. We also agreed that we were so glad we got to stay and enjoy all three.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tequila to Tequila in Riviera Maya

I came to Riviera Maya for a food, wine and tequila tour, but we hadn’t gotten to the tequila. That all changed on the third day as we finished our Tulum tour with a tequila tasting at Hacienda Tres Rios Resort.

The Food and Beverage Manager of Hacienda Tres Rios, Oscar Orbe Quiroz, led our tasting seminar. It wasn’t just something he did for us, but a course the resort’s guests get to take each week. I have to say it was one of the best I’ve had for any spirit. He explained the basics about tequila being made from the blue agave plant grown in Jailisco, and the difference between the kinds of tequila – white, silver, resposado, anejo and aged.

We started with Don Julio White, a sweet and mild spirit. Next, it was 1800 Silver, with a hint of color and a touch of green apple in the taste.  The Sausa Reposado showed caramel and vanilla from the toasted barrels and the Sausa Tequila Anejo had the taste of both wood and aging, making it almost like Scotch Whisky. As someone who tends to favor the white spirits the first was my favorite, but I certainly appreciated the complexity of the reposado tequila.

The tasting finished with a lesson on making (and tasting) Sagrita, a Mexican mixer that is made of orange, lime and tomato juices; salt, pepper, soy sauce, worschestire sauce and Tabasco. It is not mixed with the tequila, but drank after it. Before we left we got to sample an expensive, aged tequila, Herradura Seleccion Suprema, full of sweetness and oak, and smooth as can be.

After we toured the Tres Rios Resort, which is on a 326-acre nature park, we headed back to Grand Velas Riviera Maya for some work time before dinner. It was a quiet dinner for myself and three of the other writers, David Hammond, Kristine Hanson and Anna Cavaliere, at Piaf, a wonderful French restaurant at Gran Velas Riviera Maya.  Chef Michel Mustiere’s presentation was beautiful throughout, but the Crème Tricolore was magnificent. It was a trio of soups – Pumpkin, Pea and Tomato – in one bowl, divided in thirds. The chef suggested I try each individually, then tasting a mixing by swirling from the middle, where there was Mushroom Duxelle Crocant Scented with Thyme Blossoms! I don’t use the word magnificent often to refer to food, but this certainly was.

After I got a  good night’s sleep, I walked to the main resort to check out the buffet breakfast for the first time. I enjoyed the display of every kind of fruit imaginable, with some yogurt and a croissant.  I spent the morning writing and organizing my photos while most of the group was at Xcaret. I also had an hour at the infinity pool, looking out at the beach and enjoying the quiet before the Riviera Maya Tourism van picked myself and the rest of the group up to go to The Tides, a  nearby resort that’s about to have a huge expansion.

I should clarify that statement as “huge” is not an appropriate description of this boutique property that will only have 41 villas when renovations are complete. I met up with the group for a tequila and ceviche tasting. It was a bit more informal than the one the previous day, with a focus more on eating (for those of us not allergic to seafood). I heard the ceviche was excellent and I enjoyed the Caprese Salad with Pesto and the Macacita (rolled tortilla filled with cheese) with Caramel Sauce. Marcos, The Tides’ restaurant supervisor who teaches these classes to hotel guests, also introduced us to a Green Sangrita, which I highly recommend. This drink is made from green tomato and pineapple juices; chili sauce and salt.  It was a perfect combination of sweet and salty to highlight the tequila.

Fortunately, we had a few hours before we were to eat again because there was a big meal planned for the whole group. It was our farewell dinner at Grand Velas' Frida, before most of the writers would head home and I would be off to Secrets Maroma.