food

Unleash Your Inner Foodie at the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival

Here at CheapCaribbean.com, we like to think of ourselves as “The Beach Experts.” And one of the important characteristics of having this title is knowing what type of food & drinks you should try when you’re at the beach. This past weekend, we had the opportunity to attend the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival to stay true to this claim and we can safely say the inner foodie in us was definitely unleashed.

Over three days, we attended over 10 events all hosted at different resorts in Cancun & Riviera Maya, Mexico. The events ranged from presentations by world-renowned chefs as they shared their philosophy on food to social soirees where we tasted signature dishes paired with the perfect wine, all created by chefs and sommeliers from all over the world. We were truly honored to be a part of the action and here’s a quick highlight of some of our favorite moments:

Day 1: Star Chefs of the Americas Dinner and Culinary Journey – “Taste of The New World”

Hosted at Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach Cancun, Friday night kicked off the festival with a bang. Over 20 chefs from all over Canada, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Peru and many more prepared their signature dishes for us as we sipped on some of the best wines of the region and chatted with the guests of honor about all things foodie.

Cancun Wine & Food Festival - CheapCaribbean.com

We started off the night with a little sip of champagne and collected a passport to help guide us through the culinary journey.

One of our favorite dishes came from Chef Sumito Estévez, Director of the Culinary Institute of Tourism and the Caribbean. We enjoyed Seafood Cebiche with Squid Chicharrones (right) & Avocado and Cilantro Gazpacho with Rocas Bean (left). So delicious! And this was just the beginning of the evening.

Sumito Estevez Dish - Cancun Wine & Food Festival - CheapCaribbean.com

Prepared by Chef Sumito Estévez

After sipping on many different wines from all over the Americas, we found a favorite. Our personal preference came to us from the Valle de Guadalupe, which is one of the newer (but delicious) wine regions in Mexico. Called Mariatinto, it was named as an ode to Mexican women and founded by Master Sommelier, Humberto Falcón and restaurateur & chef, Guillermo González Beristaín. Along with the many other wines we tried this evening, Mariatinto is available for purchase at Vino From Mexico.

Mariatinto Wine - Cancun Wine & Food Festival - CheapCaribbean.com

“A lot of people know Mexico for the food, beer and tequila. Wine is up and coming in Mexico.” – Humberto Falcón
Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment with Mexican red wines!

Day 2: Cooking Challenge featuring Chef Nelson Méndez vs. Chef Ricardo Zárate

Saturday, we attended our first of many cooking challenges. The festival’s world-renowned chefs were set to go head to head preparing dishes on the fly with only the ingredients provided.

Cooking Challenges - Cancun Wine & Food Fest 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

Chef Nelson Méndez, Venezuelan chef with a long list of accolades and educations went head to head with Chef Ricardo Zárate, Peruvian chef with 2 award-winning restaurants in Los Angeles.

Cooking Challenges - Cancun Wine & Food Festival 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

We listened as Chef Mendez talked about the importance of respecting your ingredients with Chef Zarate prepared a beautiful Peruvian fish dish.

Day 3: Gourmet Tasting Village

This was another one of our favorite days. All of Sunday was spent tasting dishes prepared by some of the top-rated resorts and chefs in Mexico, as well as washing it all down with many different Mexican wines & beers. We were in foodie heaven and these are just a few of our favorite eats from the Gourmet Tasting Village.

Secrets The Vine Festival Display - Cancun Wine & Food Festival 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

Secrets The Vine, one of the festival hosts, had scrumptious cheeses, crackers and appetizers, as well as plenty of great Mexican wine that can be found in the resort's wine cellar.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya - Cancun Wine & Food Festival 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

This tostada with fresh scallops and avocado cream from Grand Velas was AMAZING!

Boca Negra Beer - Cancun Wine & Food Festival 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

Boca Negra Beer is a pioneer in the Mexican craft beer world. Not to mention, it's tasty!

Palace Resorts Food - Cancun Wine & Food Festival 2014 - CheapCaribbean.com

Prepared by Palace Resorts' Chefs, both this bacon mango scallop & pork nacho with avocado cream were our favorites by far of the day.

So as you can imagine, if these are just some of the highlights from the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival, then the weekend was beyond a blast and the perfect foodie experience. We've got so much to share with all of you and this is just the beginning. We'll be hosting our Foodie Faves Twitter Party on 3/25 from 1-2pm CST where we'll highlight more of our learnings, as well as talk about all things foodie. So if your mouth is watering (like ours) from our adventures, we suggest you tune in! We'll even have some foodie-inspired prizes up for grabs. Stay tuned - all the details are coming soon!

Brittany Innes is Manager of Social Media at CheapCaribbean.com. She's a travel junkie with a passion for trying new things and being spontaneous. 

In Honor of National Guacamole Day, How Do YOU Guac?

September 16th is National Guacamole Day. In a few short days we’ll be mashing all of our avocados to make the best version of guacamole in honor of this festive occasion. We’re suggesting you do the same. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly celebrate National Guacamole Day.

National Guacamole Day - Guacamole Recipe - CheapCaribbean.com

The first suggestion is fairly obvious – eat some guacamole. Grab a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and whip up your favorite guacamole recipe. This holiday is all about celebrating what the avocado can truly become, so it wouldn’t be a celebration without doing so. If you’re in need of a delish recipe, let us recommend our version of classic guacamole:

  • 3 hass avocadoes, halved, seeded & peeled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl combine the avocado halves and lime juice, toss to coat. You can drain the lime juice and save for later. Using spoons, potato masher or pestle from your molcajete, add salt, cumin, cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. And enjoy!

For more of our favorite guacamole recipes, check out our other guacamole recipes.

Of course, the ideal National Guacamole Day should be spent on a beach as the waves crash in and the sun bronzes your body. But don’t worry, while you may not be able to instantly jet set to a tropical paradise for this important holiday, you can start thinking about where you’ll head on your next planned vacation. A few resorts known for their delicious guacamole, among other many other signature dishes are:

Secrets The Vine Cancun: This adults-only paradise boasts menus ranging from authentic Mexican food, steaks, fresh seafood and pizza to Tunisian and Moroccan cuisine. If you’re into trying lots of different types of cuisine, be sure to take advantage of the Sip, Savor & See Dining Experience that allows you eat at all of the Secrets resorts close by.

Secrets The Vine Cancun - Foodie Vacation - CheapCaribbean.com

Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun: If you’re looking to take the whole fam on a fabulous foodie getaway, then Fiesta Americana Condesa in Cancun is a great option. This family-friendly resort offers four restaurants, all offering a different type of cuisine, two bars, including a tapas spot, and a slew of activities to keep everyone entertained.

THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen: If delicious food and ultimate luxury is more what you had in mind, then THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen is for you. Enjoy the premium cocktails and signature dishes at one of the eight restaurants and three bars. Or walk through the iconic 5th Avenue and try some local fare at the restaurants and bars that line this shopping hotspot.

THE ROYAL - Playa del Carmen Vacations - CheapCaribbean.com

Now that you’ve got your vacation planned and some delicious guacamole made, it’s time to show Cheap Caribbean how YOU’RE celebrating this coveted day. On September 16th, log on to one of Cheap Caribbean’s social channels and share a photo or video that illustrates how you’re celebrating National Guacamole Day. Simply include the hashtag #HowDoYouGuac on your photo and share with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

National Guacamole Day - How Do You Guac - CheapCaribbean.com

3 lucky winners – 1 from Facebook, 1 from Twitter & 1 from Instagram, will win a trip to Grand Oasis Palm in Cancun, Mexico, where they can celebrate National Guacamole Day in style. Look for posts on our social channels explaining all the details on Monday, September 16th.

So hurry! You’ve only got a few days to think about your own festivities. But one things for sure, if National Guacamole Day means as much to you as it does to us, we know your celebrations will go unmatched. We can’t wait to see how you celebrate. A wise man once said, “Keep calm and guac on!”

Unleash Your Inner Foodie: The Best Food at the Beach

When you’re busy planning all the things you’re going to do on your next vacation, there’s a good chance you’re going to include R&R, fun in the sun, delicious drinks and of course, you're hoping for even better food. If you’re looking for recommendations on where to go for some delicious dishes at the Beach, here’s what we recommend:

The first of our favorites is a resort that promotes health-friendly food options, while still not sacrificing on any flavor or taste. Any of the Zoetry brand resorts are great for the health-conscious foodie in us all. This chain of resorts strives to promote health and wellness throughout each individual hotel, so you can expect to see dining options that are just as tasty as they are healthy.

For instance, Zoetry Casa del Mar in Los Cabos has an on-site nutrition expert to guide you on your dining options at any of the resort’s three restaurants. You should only expect the best at this resort with award-winning gourmet and organic dining options, as well as amazing wine collections. This resort also offers Unlimited-Luxury (R), which includes all of your meals and beverages, including international premium alcohol brands, a fresh bottle of champagne and seasonal fruit daily, a welcome bottle of tequila and even a relaxing 20-min massage per guest per stay.

Foodie Vacation at Zoetry Casa del Mar in Cabo from Cheapcaribbean.com

Organic and gourmet dining options can be found at nearly every restaurant at Zoetry Casa del Mar in Los Cabos.

Voted by Conde Nast Traveler readers as one of the "Top 100 Hotels in the World," you can bet that El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort, by Karisma is another absolute foodie must. This is an adult-only retreat that offers a gourmet all-inclusive plan that pampers your palate while you swim in AAA Four Diamond Luxury.

Spend your days bouncing between the resort’s 12 freshwater pools, as well as scoot over to a swim up bar for a cold, refreshing cocktail. Don’t worry; with 10 in-pool bars you’ll hardly ever go thirsty. After a body scrub or beachfront sky massage, you can head to your Infinity Pool Swim-up Casita Suite to get ready for the night’s adventures.

Foodie Vacation at El Dorado Royale in Riviera Maya from Cheapcaribbean.com

With options like fondue, gourmet Mexican, wood-fired pizza, just to name a few, it's likely you'll never go hungry here.

Seven gourmet restaurants tempt your taste buds with selections like lobster lasagna from five-star D’Italia or Pacific Rim cuisine from Kampai. With no reservations needed, you can venture over to Fuentes Culinary Theatre, where flat screens give you're a sneak peek into your food being prepared by Michelin-trained chefs. And as the night comes to close, sip on a martini while enjoying live music at Las Guacamayas.

Another award winning hotel option is Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. This resort was also voted one of the “Top 20 Hotels in Mexico” by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, in addition to receiving the AAA’s Four Diamond Award. Fully equipped with a white-sand beach, three magnificent heated, fresh water pools and even a swim up bar, Dreams Puerto Vallarta isn’t just for self-proclaimed foodies.

Foodie Vacations at Dreams Puerto Vallarta from Cheapcaribbean.com

Enjoy a stunning ocean view while dining at Seaside Grill at Dreams Puerto Vallarta

You’ll also find the Unlimited Luxury ® Options that are part of the Zoetry brand. This means premium brand drinks, gourmet dining options and amentity-filled rooms and suites. And since we’re just as big of foodies as you, there are six restaurants including a beachside Seaside Grill, the adults-only Portofino and the saltwater delicacies of Oceana. Oh, and we can’t forget to remind you to stop into to El Patio, one of six bars on resort, and sample one of the 60 tequilas here.

If food that will leave your taste buds asking for more is just as important as white-sandy beaches and some quality spent by the pool, we recommend these options. If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect foodie destination, check out a few more of our favorites here. So it’s official. You have our permission to let our your inner foodie. What are you waiting for?

Fall in to Flip Flops: All About Holiday Travel

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Saturday marked the first day of fall. We’re on the horizon of changing leaves and cooling temperatures. That means that it’s time to start thinking about your winter or holiday vacation. The next few months will be full of big holidays and busy schedules, which is all the more reason to sail away to a quiet, sandy beach.

Private Luxury Meets Family Fun: Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun & Dreams Puerto Aventura Resort & Spa

Riviera Maya is the perfect destination to jet away to, when looking for a getaway that’s secluded but offers something for everyone. Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun is the perfect illustration of this mentality. This 4 ½ star resort is a Mexican paradise. Nestled on 5,000 feet of the whitest sands and bluest waters in the Caribbean, Now Sapphire offers Unlimited-Luxury®, which takes your private oasis to the next level.

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Truly escape reality with the luxury that comes standard at Now Sapphire.

With Unlimited-Luxury®, guests can indulge at one of the seven five-star gourmet restaurants or lounge on a beachside Bali bed or thatched-roof palapa. Kids can have a vacation of their own at the resort’s on-site kids and teen clubs. There are also four glittering pools, with an adults-only option where mom and dad can swim right up to the bar and order their favorite concoctions. This Unlimited-Luxury® comes standard to all hotel guests, in an effort to really take you away from the hustle and bustle that is the holiday season.

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Spend your days juggling luxury and fun at Now Sapphire.

If you’re looking to kick your vacation up a notch to the utmost level of service and luxury, you’ll want to take advantage of Now Sapphire’s Preferred Club option, which adds some additional amenities. As a Preferred Club member, you’ll have personalized check-in and checkout with concierge services and access to the Preferred Club lounge and pool, among other things. Make sure to take advantage of the pillow menu that comes with this option.

Don’t Settle at Dreams Puerto Aventura Resort & Spa

Another of Riviera Maya, Mexico’s finest resorts, Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa, is a fine option when looking for a vacation with a little bit of everything. Offering the same Unlimited-Luxury® option, there’s no denying that Dreams Puerto Aventura won’t disappoint either.

Looking for a little ocean adventure? Dreams Puerto Aventuras is home to the world’s leading scuba-diving training organization. The Dreams Puerto Aventuras PADI dive center is the perfect place to learn to dive or take a dive into the world’s second-largest coral reef, if you’re more experienced. Also, spend a little time sprawling on the ocean trampoline or fall freely from the Euro bungee. This Dreams resort is the perfect water enthusiast’s getaway.

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Add a miraculous dive into the depths of the crystal clear waters to your vacation itinerary at Dreams Puerto Aventura.

After you’ve submersed yourself in the Caribbean Sea life, spend a day lounging on a comfy beach chair or take a dip in the pool. Be sure to stop by the swim-up bar for a premium concoction that’s impossible to resist. And, adults can stop by the adults-only 30-person Jacuzzi for a relaxing soak. The kids have access to the Explorer’s Club. It’s packed full of fun, engaging activities for all ages. After these fun-filled days, you’ll want to grab the family and stop by one of seven restaurants or four lounges. This Riviera Maya private oasis is the perfect combination of Unlimited-Luxury® and adventure.

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These crystal clear waters are calling your name. Answer that call.

The Dominican Republic Welcomes Your Majesty

The Majestic Colonial Punta Cana is exactly what it’s name says – majestic. This 4-star resort is located on Bavaro Beach and is home to powder white sand and sparkling blue Caribbean seas and packed full of activity for the whole family.

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The Majestic Colonial got it’s all-inclusive title from all the amenities, food and activities that come standard.

For the adults, grab some free snorkel gear and head out to shallow waters to explore what’s on the ocean floor. Be sure to take advantage of the free introductory scuba class for those interested. With access to kayaks, water-polo and a full 18-hole golf course just 200m from the resort, you can see how Majestic Colonial earned it’s name.

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Caribbean waters and their complimentary sports and activities should be included in your prescription for a perfect vacation.

When you’re looking to just chill out pool or beach side, slide into the free-form, lagoon-style pool that twists and turns throughout the entire property. The beach is also home to comfy loungers for your enjoyment. Finish up the day by perusing one of the seven gourmet restaurants or catching some live entertainment at one of the 10 bars or lounges. The Majestic Colonial Punta Cana is the ideal compliment to winter blues and your pocketbook, so there’s almost no reason to say no. So say yes.

Holiday and winter travel doesn’t just have to mean extended weekend trips to relatives. Why not take the whole gang and head to the sunny, warm beaches of the Caribbean? There’s no doubt you work hard for your family and it’s about time it paid off. A Caribbean vacation at a great deal is really the only option. Why not reward yourself this season?

Fabulous Foodie Destinations

How the Beach and Foodies Go Together

There’s no doubt that vacation isn’t just about the beach. You want your trip to have it all – a great resort, good company, and of course, delicious food. Depending on your destination there are plenty of signature style cuisines you want to be sure to try. Whether you’re a professional or self-proclaimed foodie, these destinations are sure to offer up a full stomach and dishes you can’t stop raving about.

Mexico’s Authentic Cuisine: Fresh & Fire

If you’re a fan of fresh vegetables and sizzling chilies and spices, Mexico is a heavenly destination pick. There, you’ll find plenty of menu options incorporating tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans and signature spices. One example you’ll want to try is Seafood Veracruz or Pescado a la Veracruzana. Typically, a fresh cut of fish or another type of seafood is topped with the Veracruz sauce, which is made with tomatoes, onions, lime, olives, capers, garlic and Mexican spices like canela and marjoram.

Cancun is a perfect place to see some of these signature ingredients incorporated into Mexican dishes. Secrets The Vine Cancun is a new property that features seven different restaurants with something to satisfy every palette. Everyone that stays at this Secrets resort can enjoy Unlimited-Luxury®, which gives you access to a total of 60 gourmet dining options through the Sip, Savor & See Dining Experience at the other Secrets & Dreams Resorts in the Cancun area. During the day, lounge by one of their three free form pools or the sandy white beach. Don’t worry, there’s a full cabana staff that’s ready to assist your every need too.

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This resort is a beach lover’s paradise with ice cold cocktails and delicious Mexican fare that won’t disappoint.

Puerto Rico’s Cocina Criolla

Among its rich culture and vivid history, Puerto Rico is another destination that’s perfect for foodies. Puerto Rico locals call their cuisine “cocina criolla” and has a significant amount of Spanish and African influences. You can expect to taste a lot of tropical fruits like plantains, as well as stews and rice dishes. The signature dish of Puerto Rico is Mofongo – a fried dish where fried green plantains are mashed together with broth, garlic, olive oil and bacon. It’s then filled with vegetables, chicken, crab, shrimp or beef and it served with fried meat and chicken broth soup - a delicious Puerto Rican tradition you don’t want to miss.

If you’re looking for top-of-the-line Puerto Rican cuisine, the InterContinental San Juan Resort, Spa & Casino

is the perfect place to indulge in food native to the culture, as well as some delicious classic dishes. Located on Isla Verde Beach, the InterContinental San Juan is only five minutes away from the airport and offers a beachfront vacation in the middle of the city. Built in the late 1950s by Morris Lapidus the AAA, Four-Diamond resort has been renovated and is a hotspot for a Puerto Rican vacation.

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Take a break by the lagoon-style pool and contemplate which one of the five restaurants you’re going to try next.

While lounging by the waves or hanging by the waterfalls in the cove pool, you can start pondering which of the four restaurants where you’ll have dinner. With options like Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Alfredo’s Restaurant all in the hotel, you’ll never go hungry.  Choose to tempt Lady Luck in the resort’s casino or venture to one of San Juan’s authentic restaurants or bars down the street from the hotel.

Conch & Crab Lovers Unite in the Bahamas

It’s probably no surprise that the Bahamas are known for fresh, great tasting seafood. More specifically, the conch and crab are the Bahamas claim to fame. Conch is a mollusk that is firm and white and can be prepared a number of different ways. Some great dishes to try are conch chowder, conch fritters or conch salad. You’ll also see a generous amount of menu items made with crab or other types of seafood. Fish and grits, for example, is another Bahamian dish you’ll definitely want to try.

A great way to experience all that the Bahamas have to offer is a stay at Atlantis Paradise Island Beach Tower. The Atlantis resort is an iconic part of a trip to the Bahamas and can easily satisfy your inner foodie, as well as everything else.  Enter a food lover’s paradise at Atlantis Paradise Island Beach Tower, with 28 food and beverage options, including Bobby Flay’s award-winning Mesa Grill. Twelve bars ensure that guests are always near a watering hole after dark, while live entertainment, including famous musician and a two-story nightclub, keeps the night going.

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Stop in to one of 11 restaurants for some Bahamian conch fritters or guava duff, a traditional island dessert.

When you're not busy sampling all the different menus, soak up the rays on one of three large beaches, or one of the 11 spacious swimming pools with a lazy river connecting you to multiple waterways and lagoons. Stop in for a swim with the friendly Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins at Dolphin Cay or run around Aquaventure, the 141-acre water park. Watch a video highlighting all this Atlantis resort has to offer here.

Submerse yourself in all things destinational and try these foodie favorites. Whether you’re traveling just for the food or for the whole package, generous servings of island cuisine is a must.