Simply Fish

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FACTS: Located at The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in Palm Beach, Aruba

WHAT I ORDERED:

Salt and Pepper Crisp Calamari

Grilled Branzini, Baked Potato, and Creamy Spinach

MY ANALYSIS:  

What a disappointment this place turned out to be!  Not only was our meal subpar, but we also found out that our fish had been flown in from Miami.  Miami?  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, we were beyond stunned.

For an appetizer, we shared an order of salt and pepper calamari.  Despite its savory taste, this dish was a non-event overall–unmemorable and nothing special to write home about.

Simply Fish offers a “$40 Fresh Fish of the Day Special,” which consists of choosing among five different fishes, six different preparations, and two sides.  I selected the grilled branzini, the baked potato, and the creamy spinach.  And, not surprisingly, my main course left only a slight impression, similar to that of my appetizer.

Although the beachfront property was lovely, the food was average at best.  Furthermore, recommending a Caribbean seafood restaurant that serves frozen fish flown in from the United States, of all places, seems almost incomprehensible.

QUICK TIDBIT: Dine elsewhere! 

The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba

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FACTS: Located in Palm Beach, Aruba; Opened in November 2013

MY ANALYSIS: 

We recently visited Aruba and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton.  Not only did we thoroughly enjoy our stay there, but the entire trip exceeded our expectations altogether.

For starters, we were upgraded to a beautiful Executive Suite, which was extremely spacious.  This suite included a double balcony with stunning ocean views.  From the gorgeous water to the perfectly groomed white sand beach, I thought that I’d died and gone to heaven.

Of course, my vacation wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the spa.  The facilities were beyond exquisite, and I really loved all of the various sugar scrubs to choose from, as well.

As for the food, it was quite tasty.  In fact, I ordered the black bean and quinoa wrap on two different occasions.  We also tried the breakfast buffet one morning and found it to be terrific.

When visiting Aruba, I highly, highly recommend staying at this hotel.

QUICK TIDBIT: Be sure to check out all of their worldwide locations:  http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Default.htm

Las Bugambilias

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FACTS: Located in Society Hill, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Queso Chihuahua Toluca: Toluca Chorizo in a Fondue of Queso Chihuahua, Nopales (Tender Cactus Leafs), Sauteed Onions, and Poblana Strips

Chilaquiles Verdes: Tortillas in Salsa Verde, Served with Shredded Chicken, Queso Fresco, and Crema Mexicana/Accompanied with Rice, Beans, and Avocado

MY ANALYSIS:  

This authentic Mexican restaurant, located in Society Hill, turned out to be quite the neighborhood find/gem.

We started off with a bowl of Queso Chihuahua Toluca, which is, by far, one of my all-time favorite appetizers.  Between the melted cheese and chorizo alone, what’s not to like?  Throw in some cactus leaves, sautéed onions, and poblana strips, and you’ve created the most amazing version ever.  Yes, ever!

I was first introduced to Chilaquiles during a visit to Puerto Vallarta, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  This is another one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes, and there’s only one word to describe the Chilaquiles Verdes at Las Bugambilias: Perfeccion!  Not only did this dish consist of the freshest ingredients possible, but it was also served with homemade tortilla chips. Yes, homemade tortilla chips!

I absolutely loved this restaurant and highly recommend it.  In fact, I cannot wait to return.

QUICK TIDBIT: Be sure to check out their delicious menu:  http://lasbugambiliasphilly.com/main/lb-home.asp?p=1

Homemade Taiwanese Cuisine, courtesy of Yu-Ling Lai

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Recently, we had the pleasure of dining at a friend’s house for dinner. We were treated to a seven-course Taiwanese meal, courtesy of her mom, Yu-Ling Lai. Based on the impressive level of both technique and skillset that I witnessed firsthand in the kitchen, I knew that this home-cooked meal was going to be nothing short of special or blog worthy (making it an exception to my rule).

Yu-Ling’s cooking rivals that of any top chef, and her pork buns alone could easily rival those of David Chang. In addition, each item was spiced to perfection and beautifully presented. My only suggestion is that she actually open up her own restaurant one day!

To date, I am still in awe at how incredible this meal was, and it will be forever etched in my mind. This was a four-star meal, accompanied by four-star service, and I couldn’t have asked for a more pleasurable evening.

Thank you again for your generosity, kindness, and hospitality!

Mixto

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FACTS:  Located in Washington Square West, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Plato Mixto:  Arepas, Empanadas, Chicharrones, Chorizo, Shrimp Ceviche, Tostones, Maduros, and Papa Rellena

Guacamole:  Cilantro, Tomato, Red Onion, and Jalapeño with Plantain Chips

Lomo Saltado:  Filet Mignon Tips sautéed with Onions, Tomatoes, Cilantro, Green and Red Peppers, Lime Juice, and Soy Sauce; Served with French Fries, Rice, and Beans

Paella Valenciana:  Saffron Broth, Rice, Whole Lobster, Chicken, Shrimp, Squid, Octopus, Mussels, Cuban Sausage, Scallops, and Clams

MY ANALYSIS:  

Mixto serves a variety of Cuban, Latin American, and Caribbean dishes to choose from, hence the name.  And, not surprisingly, the vibe was as effervescent as the food.

We started out with an assortment of appetizers.  This sampler platter was not only nicely plated, but it was also the perfect size for our party of four.  While I favored the empanadas, everyone else seemed to favor the chicharrones (which I missed out on).

As a courtesy, we were also served a bowl of guacamole.  It was fresh, tasty, and gone within minutes.

For my main course, I ordered the Peruvian steak dish.  Peruvian cuisine is one of my all-time favorites, but, unfortunately, I rarely come across it.  Therefore, it was mandatory that I seize this opportunity.  Overall, I liked this dish very much and found it to be both savory and flavorful.

Being the gluttons that we are, we decided to split an order of paella as well.  Realistically, we should’ve stopped while we were ahead, based on the fact that our eyes were much bigger than our stomachs.  Gluttony aside though, this hearty and generous-sized dish is a great option.

In summation, we really enjoyed our evening.  The ambience was energetic, the food was very good, and the location is in one of the best neighborhoods of Philadelphia.  In other words, what’s not to recommend?

QUICK TIDBIT:  Great for groups!

Pizza Brain

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FACTS:  Located in Fishtown, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Jane:  Mozzarella, Aged Provolone, Grana Padano, Fresh Basil

MY ANALYSIS:  

Since it was noted as being “The World’s First Pizza Museum,” I was in search of/expecting an actual museum.  However, ‘twas not to be the case since their vast collection of memorabilia is showcased throughout the restaurant itself.  More specifically, this hipster pizza joint contains wall-to-wall posters and album covers, along with shelves full of cute little knick-knacks, pertaining to all things “pizza,” of course.

Equally important was trying a pizza.  It was flavorful and crispy, and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite.  And, not surprisingly, their four-flake, house-made pepper blend was the perfect addition to my already delicious slice.  Yum!

If you’re looking for a hip, tasty, and fun experience, I recommend visiting this place.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out the fabulous mural, located at the back of the restaurant (outside).

Amish Country

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FACTS:  Located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

MY ANALYSIS:  

Between visiting The Amish Village and various farmers’ markets along the way, eating a homemade meal at Katie’s Kitchen, taking a train ride throughout the gorgeous countryside on the Strasburg Rail Road, and ending our journey at Lapp Valley Farm for ice cream, my Amish experience was complete.

I highly recommend taking a trip out to Lancaster County.  The fields are breathtaking, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious!