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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Posts Tagged ‘taste of playa’

Nibble Your Way Through Mexico…at Taste of Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 16, 2010

Sex on the BarHow would you like to eat and drink at dozens of different restaurants and bars…all in one afternoon? No, you don’t have to race around town from place to place ordering meals and beverages until you burst. Instead, you can spend the day enjoying the special tasting menus offered by 40 restaurants and bars at the 2010 Taste of Playa food and drink festival.

The Taste of Playa
This year’s annual Taste of Playa culinary festival has gathered together some of the most popular and critically acclaimed eateries and bars in all the Riviera Maya. From 3-9 pm this coming Sunday, November 21, 2010, they will be offering incredible samples of some of their signature dishes and drinks to the hungry public. This year among those offering a taste of their best will be our own Luna Blue Bar!

As most regular readers of our blog know, in addition to operating one of the Mayan Rivera’s favorite hotels, we also run our own little bit of “Margaritaville”-style paradise called the Luna Blue Bar. We designed “The Blue” (as we affectionately call it) to reflect our dream of what a tropical bar should be.

The Luna Blue Hotel Bar
We have swings instead of stools around the bar, a palm-thatched roof overhead and a deck overlooking our cenote/waterfall garden. We have local musicians play in the bar a couple of nights a week, and play satellite radio (Caliente Latin, Reggae and Radio Margaritaville) the rest of the time. Occasionally we will have fresh bunches of bananas and coconuts from our garden piled up for people to enjoy. And hanging from the rafters are dozens of thongs and g-strings…traded by lady visitors for a shot of tequila and the chance to leave a little of themselves behind at “The Blue.” It makes quite the sight.

Like any great tropical bar we have our own versions of some of the most popular “umbrella drinks”…like Papa T’s Margarita and the Playa Colada. We also have our own special recipes that stand out as something unique and different. We will be offering tastes of two of the most popular of those signature drinks this Sunday at Taste of Playa: The “Sarita-B-Careful” margarita and the “Sex on the Bar” cocktail.

The Sarita B Careful Margarita
When we first moved to Mexico and met our dear friend (more like a daughter) Sarah, she would entertain us with her stories of partying late into the night and dancing on the bars around town. The only problem was that after a drink or two our girl would be too tipsy to keep her balance and would invariably tumble off the bar with resulting scrapes and bruises. We were always telling her…”Sarita, be careful!”

We remembered those stories when we came up with our very first signature drink and decided to name it in honor of our sweet but clumsy friend. The Sarita B Careful is a sugar rimmed margarita on the rocks featuring pomegranate infused tequila. It is tart, with just the perfect balance of sweetness. Sarah, by the way, has retired from bar dancing, is happily married to a wonderful guy and has a beautiful new daughter. If you come to the Taste of Playa this Sunday you can taste the drink named for her.

Sex on the Bar–the cocktail
When our bartender Jorge first came up with this new drink recipe, we had some taste testing at the bar to see what people thought. Everyone raved about it, and one guest laughingly proclaimed, “This is better than sex!” With that kind of inspiration, it didn’t take us long to come up with a name. The drink is as good as the name promises… a combination of sweet tropical fruit juices, hibiscus flower-infused tequila, and almond-flavored liqueur. It may not be better than sex…but it’s darn close.

When we thought about how to promote this “sexy” drink, our good friend Renata came to mind. Renata is often a featured guest at our holiday parties where she appears in brightly colored bikinis to help serve drinks, hand out gifts and pose for pictures. She is always a hit with the crowd. So we asked her to help us advertise our new cocktail. The result is a series of “Sex on the Bar” posters which will be available for purchase at our Taste of Playa booth. Stop by for a taste, and then take a little “Sex on the Bar” home with you.

The 2010 Taste of Playa is a not-to-be-missed event and will be held at Parque Fundadores (5th Avenue and Juarez) between 3 pm and 9 pm on Sunday November 21. VIP pass holders will be allowed entrance at 2 pm. “Playa Pesos” will be on sale at the event for 10 pesos each and will be used to purchase “tastes” from each restaurant and bar, with most costing either 1 or 2 Playa Pesos. You will be amazed at the array of foods and drinks which will be offered for tasting. And make sure to stop by the Luna Blue Bar booth to say hi and try one of our special cocktails. See you there!

A special note: Yesterday morning there was a terrible incident here in Playa when a gas explosion at a large resort outside of town killed several people and injured several more. At this time authorities are investigating possible causes, including the build up of natural gas under the building or perhaps a faulty gas tank. Many people who love Playa are already offering condolences and prayers to those, both visitors and locals, who were victims of this event.

Sadly, some people are using this tragedy as an excuse to once again denigrate Mexico and warn people not to visit here. Such comments now circulating around the internet are simply the result of ignorance and/or bigotry. We urge you to condemn such stupid remarks and to join us in offering our prayers and best wishes to the victims and there families. All of us in Playa are greatly saddened by this tragic accident. We hope the injured recover quickly and that the families of those who died will find some peace.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Thanksgiving and more…on the beach

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 5, 2010

Can you believe it? November is already here. Only seven weeks until Christmas and a week more to a whole new year. The whirlwind of the holiday season is almost upon us. Here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this time of year brings some of the familiar activities we remember from the United States and some uniquely different ones.

Bye Bye Hurricane SeasonBye Bye Hurricane Season
When November shows up on the calendar the first thing that happens is that those of us living in the tropics begin to relax a little about the weather. The hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean officially runs from June 1st through December 1st. However the final month of November sees water temperatures drop, and the chance of a major storm is almost zero. This storm season has been very good for us here along the Mayan Riviera. While there were many named storms, including a large number of hurricanes, they never made landfall or even threatened this part of the Caribbean. In fact, we didn’t even have much in the way of normal rainfall. It was a great summer for hitting the beach down here in Mexico.

November in Playa also means getting ready for the “snowbirds,” the masses of tourists who come each year escaping the cold winds of winter in the north. Just after Halloween when temperatures drop up in the States, people start thinking about time in the sun. Around town you see businesses putting on a new coat of paint, sprucing up and making improvements in anticipation of our yearly winter migration of tourists.

Turkey Day
The first influx of the tourist season will happen around the time of the US Thanksgiving day. More and more people see that long four-day weekend as a chance to get away and get a tan before the snow starts falling back home. In response, many businesses in Playa del Carmen have adopted the holiday as its own. When we first moved to Playa many years ago we couldn’t even find a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. How things have changed.

Happy ThanksgivingThis morning on our weekly shopping trip to Sam’s Club we saw not only frozen turkeys but all sorts of holiday dinner paraphernalia like Thanksgiving platters, napkins, cooking utensils, and decorations. The stores here in Playa del Carmen now stock cranberries, stuffing mix and canned gravy this time of year. We even found pumpkin pie mix!! So if you are here in town and have a room with cooking facilities (like the Luna Blue’s Garden View Deluxe rooms with full kitchen) you can prepare a holiday meal just like back home…only with warmer weather.

Don’t Wanna Cook?
And if you think being on vacation means a break from cooking, you can still enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast. Many restaurants have special menus on Thanksgiving. Last year you could have had a gourmet turkey dinner with all the trimmings at Wicky’s or John Gray’s Place. Or you could have opted for a feast on the beach with buffets at Zenzi or Bad Boys beach clubs. Great multi-course Thanksgiving meals were also served at Cocina 38, Off the Vine, El Bistro and Ajua Maya among others. We expect an even larger list of restaurants serving turkey dinners this year. So instead of slaving over the stove all day, you can head for the beach, swim in the Caribbean sea and then go to dinner where someone else did all the work (and will wash the dishes afterwards).

The Game
Another Thanksgiving Day tradition you will find here in Mexico…Football! For many red blooded American men and women, Turkey Day just isn’t complete without seeing “the game.” That is no problem here where satellite TV will beam the broadcast into several popular sports bars in town. Our personal favorite is PG’s Sandbox which has several big screen TVs, good drinks and plenty of things to snack on (in case you are still hungry after dinner!). PG’s is just down the street from the Luna Blue Hotel at the corner of Calle 26 and 1st Avenue.

Fun Local Charity Events
Of course there is a lot to do down here during November in Playa del Carmen besides overeat on Thanksgiving day. This month there will be a fun charity event with which we are proud to be associated.

The Peanut Pet Shelter “Feed a Friend” Drive. People donating a $25 bag of food to the Peanut Pet Shelter are entered in a drawing to win a free vacation in Playa del Carmen including a week’s stay at our own Luna Blue Hotel. The party for drawing the winner will be held at the Luna Blue Bar on November 9, 2010. Click here for more details.

For Foodies & Jazz Buffs
November is also when Playa hosts two wonderful annual events, Taste of Playa and the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival.

Try the Luna Blue's newest drink, 'Sex on the Bar' at Taste of PlayaThe Taste of Playa, held on Sunday, November 21, is a food and beverage festival featuring tasting menus and samples from 40 of the best restaurants and bars in the area. This year, our own Luna Blue Bar will be participating this year, offering tastes of some of our finest cocktails including the legendary “Sarita B Careful” margarita and the new wonderfully wicked “Sex on the Bar.” Our booth will be a replica of our bar with Jorge serving the drinks and with some of the infamous “tangas” (thongs) hanging from the ceiling. Please stop by and see us if you come to the festival.

In addition, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival will take place November 25-28 at Mamita’s Beach Club and will feature jazz musicians from around the world. Personally we are really looking forward to hearing the Manhattan Transfer vocal group. Mamita’s is on Calle 28th just a few blocks from the Luna Blue Hotel. Regular blog readers already know that guests of the Luna Blue receive free use of chairs and umbrellas at Mamita’s. But now our guests will also get 10% off of their food and beverage purchases at Mamita’s. So now you can spend the day at the beach for free while eating and drinking for some of the lowest prices on the sand.

For more details on both the Taste of Playa and the Riviera Jazz Festival see our previous blog entry here.

Now’s the Time to Visit
As you can see there is a lot going on in our lives and in Playa del Carmen this month. It really is a great time to visit. The weather is still warm and the beautiful beaches are not yet crowded with visitors. And you can save money by staying with us at the Luna Blue Hotel. We still have a few rooms available for the week of November 21st (Thanksgiving week), and if you reserve and pay in full at the time of your reservation you can still take advantage of our 10% discount. Please visit our website for more details.

And remember whenever you are traveling in this area to stop on by and say hello. We love to meet the folks who read our blog.

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings, News & Politics, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

We Tasted Playa…and Not a Taco in Sight!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 6, 2009

The coconut shrimp from Zenzi--our favorite 'taste'Today was the first of what we hope will be an annual food festival here in Playa Del Carmen…the Taste of Playa! The Luna Blue Hotel and Bar was proud to be an early supporter of the Taste of Playa and was an Executive Sponsor of this wonderful and unique event.

The Taste of Playa brought together over twenty-five restaurants in one lovely outdoor setting to showcase the amazing variety and quality of foods available to locals and visitors alike. In the Parque Fundadores overlooking the Playa Del Carmen beach and the blue, blue Caribbean Sea, crisp white tents sheltered some of the region’s finest chefs as they prepared sampler “tastes” of their best cuisine.

Guests wandered from tent to tent and counter to counter tasting cucumber martinis, salmon and spinach salads, roast beef sandwiches, chicken in peanut sauce, raviolis, ceviche, sausages, shrimp skewers, steamed mussels, and dozens and dozens of other dishes and recipes. Visitors could purchase a “VIP Passport,” allowing them to sample the foods of every participating restaurant, or purchase individual tastes from specific restaurants. Most restaurants prepared from one to five different samples and would allow you to sample each one if you asked. Some restaurants changed their dishes throughout the day, so earlier arrivers tried different dishes than those who arrived later in the day.

We arrived as the festival opened at two o’clock and ate our way through half of the offerings, went home, took a nap and returned for the second half of the festival offerings this evening. (After sampling at ten different tables, we were stuffed!) We tried almost everything and it was all good. One of our favorites was the coconut shrimp from Zenzi Beach Club and restaurant. They were fantastic, and everyone was talking about them—definitely the best coconut shrimp we have ever tasted. And since we saw almost everyone carrying around plates full of them, it seemed like others shared our opinion.

We also enjoyed a dish from one of our favorite restaurants, Kalaka. They offered a shrimp cocktail with avocado in a sweet cream sauce. We also really liked the Thai coconut soup from Babes and the crème brulee from La Route des Vines. We finished off with chocolate and lime gelato from Ciao Gelato and incredible crepes with nutella and strawberries from a new restaurant, D’Light, which is very conveniently located near the Luna Blue Hotel (and which we definitely plan on checking out in the near future).

It was a great day for all. Most of the ex pat community showed up so it gave all of us locals a chance to see each other. Out of town visitors came and were able to truly experience the wide range of foods offered by Playa Del Carmen. We saw many of our own guests from the hotel happily munching away on delicacies. It was very hot, but there was plenty of shade and lots of cool beverages, which made the event even more enjoyable.

We often hear from people that they worry about the food on a visit south of the border. They wonder if they will have nothing but long lines at a buffet table at one extreme or tacos from a street cart at the other. One of the reasons we chose to sponsor this wonderful food festival was that it showed Playa has a large and diverse culinary community that can offer something for any taste or preference. The Taste of Playa festival showed positive proof that Playa has become a culinary capital of the Caribbean.

We can’t wait until next year!

Logos of the sponsors like the Luna Blue were on display

Our dear friend Michele Kinnon, one of the organizers of the event, looking stylish as always

Pretty girls from the Tequila Barrel making margaritas

A chef preparing his samplings

Popular restaurant Yaxche’s table

The chef from D’Light making us a nutella and strawberry crepe. Mmmmmmm.

Samplings from Kalaka and Chicago Don Jose

The chef from La Route des Vins caramelizing creme brulee

Our good friend Rick, wandering around in a food daze

The view from the festival

The Zenzi Beach Club & Restaurant sample table

The display at Zabor’s table

Samplings from El Bistro

The girls of the Dirty Martini making cucumber martinis

Preparing shrimp ceviche for Cafe Tropical. Notice the cool carved watermelon!

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Luna Blue Hotel & Bar Proudly Sponsors Taste of Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 1, 2009

Taste of Playa 2009We at the Luna Blue Hotel & Luna Blue Bar are proud to be Executive Sponsors of a new community culinary event happening this coming Saturday September 5, Taste of Playa. Taste of Playa promises to be a world-class culinary event. Top level chefs from the best restaurants in the area will be creating samples of their best dishes for the public to try at very reasonable prices. Local select food vendors will also be selling their specialty food products. And local bars will be showcasing some fine wines and tequilas, as well.

This is the first time we’ve put our sponsorship behind any major commercial event in Playa, but this one spoke to us on a couple of different levels. First off, Taste of Playa is a community focused event. When we asked one of the organizers why this event isn’t being held in high season, but rather one of the slowest times in the tourist year, the answer was, “We wanted the focus to be on the community, not on the tourists.” As most of you probably know, Mexico has been hard hit this year with tales of drug wars and most recently, the overblown media hype called swine flu. Our little part of Mexico has seen a huge decline in tourism since May, as scared tourists stayed away. While swine flu was never a problem in this area, the resulting drop is tourism has been a tough blow for many locals. Many small businesses have closed for the season and some permanently. Many, many local people have lost their jobs and are struggling just to feed their families. We liked the idea of supporting an event with a focus on the people of Playa. We felt that such a unique event would draw many people to Playa, and the more people who come to Playa and spend tourist dollars, the more the locals are able to get back to their normal lives. In addition, a portion of the proceeds from this year’s Taste of Playa will be used to provide a year’s worth of safe drinking water to a local school.

The other reason we wanted to support Taste of Playa is purely personal. Having come from San Francisco, a food-lover’s paradise, we both love to eat. One of the great things about living in Playa del Carmen is that Playa has become a place to find fantastic food. Some of the high end restaurants in Playa easily equal those we’ve come to love in San Francisco. Even many of the mid range restaurants have some amazing food. And we believe that some of the best food one could ever have can be found at the cheap off-the-beaten-path eateries just a few blocks outside the main tourist zone. We figured if all of this came together in one spot, how great would that be??

“VIP Passports” to Taste of Playa are currently being sold at only two venues: at our hotel, the Luna Blue, on Calle 26 between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue and Tropical Casablanca Hotel, on Avenida 1 between Calles 10 and 12. VIP passports cost $400 pesos each and entitle the bearer to one “taste” from each table/restaurant. Only a limited number of passports will be sold, so if you’re going to be in town and plan on being hungry Saturday afternoon, you may want to pick one up ahead of time. The event will be held at Parque Fundadores, the gorgeous little park down near the Cozumel ferry at the south end of town, from 3-9 pm. However, VIP Passport holders will be allowed entrance at 2 pm. If you have limited time or money, Taste of Playa “Pesos” will also be sold at the cost of $10 pesos each. Each “taste” will cost either 1 or 2 “Pesos,” or about $.80 to $1.60 US–a very reasonable price. A list of participating restaurants can be found here.

The event will also feature music and other surprises. If you’re in town and love to eat, don’t miss it. If you’re not in town, you might think about a last minute trip. We think Taste of Playa will be one of the best events of the year, and we’re proud to be associated with it.

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »