Entries in ‘Restaurants and Dining’ Journal

Cancun Wine & Food Fest Celebrates Mexico

Friday April 18, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 3 Comments

"wine & food festival" cancun, riviera mayaAs a food and wine lover from Northern California, I’ve eaten and drank my way through Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, Livermore and Temecula Valley wine country. I’ve discovered the culinary delights of Bellingham, Washington and noshed my way through Oregon wine country. When I was asked to attend the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival 2014 I willingly joined in to see Mexico’s take on culinary cuisine. What I’m about to share with fellow foodies may surprise you.

California wine country

Living less than an hour from California wine country has its advantages. There is never a lack of things to do in Napa, California. However, there is a downside to this convenience – I call it “California palate fatigue.” My taste buds have become accustomed to Northern California wines and, to be honest, that’s how I decide if I like a particular wine. This is not a fair way to taste wine. In fact, this approach to wine tasting is limiting my horizons rather than expanding them. I needed the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya to broaden my horizons.
 

La Cetto, "Guadalupe valley"

Wine from North Mexico’s Baja Guadalupe Valley

Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley

When I checked into my hotel room at the all-suite Secrets the Vine Cancun, I was not surprised to see a bottle of wine waiting for me. Upon closer examination I saw that the wine was produced in North Mexico’s Baja Guadalupe Valley. Grapes are grown in Baja California? Why, yes, is the answer to that question and they are producing mighty tasty wines, thank you very much!

I tasted quite a few Mexican wines in the Gourmet Tasting Village during the annual Wine & Food Festival held at the Moon Palace Arena. In addition to wine & spirits tastings and celebrity dinners taking place during Cancun Wine & Food Fest, the Gourmet Tasting Village offers guests a chance to sample small plates from a wide array of Cancun and Riviera Maya’s top Mexican restaurants.
 

Chef Daniel Boulud, Cancun Wine & Food Fest

Chef Daniel Boulud, Cancun Wine & Food Fest

Cancun Wine & Food Fest celebrity dinners

Like Auction Napa Valley, the Cancun Wine & Food Festival attracts world famous celebrity chefs such as New York’s Daniel Boulud, Mexico’s Guillermo González Beristain, Federico Lopez and Aquiles Chávez, in addition to Canada’s Daniel Vezina and Normand Laprise. The final dinner is a veritable who’s who in the culinary food and wine world, accompanied with excellent food and wine.
 

Insider Tip

Several hotel’s in Cancun – Riviera Maya partner with the Wine & Food Festival. I stayed at Secrets the Vine Cancun as this all-inclusive, adult only resort has a wine focus and seemed a perfect match for the festival.

cornbread, "Cancun Wine & Food Fest"

Cornbread at Cancun Wine & Food Festival

Festival attendees are able to purchase multi-day tickets to the festival or individual event tickets, depending on availabililty. Check the website for details. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Fest @crmwinefoodfest on Twitter.

If You Go:

Wine and Food Festival Cancun-Riviera Maya

Article and photos by Food & Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Fest. All opinions are my own.

Review: Secrets the Vine, Cancun, Mexico

Friday April 11, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 12 Comments

champagne, "Secrets The Vine"

Guests receive champagne upon arrival at Secrets The Vine Cancun

Wine tasting in Mexico? Yes, ma’am. While most people associate Tequila, Corona and guacamole with Mexico, I’m going to let you in on a secret – Mexico makes some good wines. Mexico is staking a claim in the vineyards of Baja California. I learned about the wines of Mexico will staying at Secrets the Vine Cancun, an adults-only resort with a wine theme woven throughout the luxury property.
 
 

 
Secrets the Vine – honeymooners to baby boomers

"Secrets the Vine" pool

Fan coral designed by Artist Jan Hendrix blends into the hotel facade at Secrets The Vine Cancun, Mexico.

From jet-setters to baby boomers, Secrets the Vine Cancun caters to a wide range of travelers. I couldn’t help notice the honeymoon and birthday banners draped across the doors of a select few hotel rooms. This 495 room all-suite property appeals not only to special occasion celebrations, it’s also for the art and wine lover.

 
Secrets the Vine wine theme

Secrets the Vine Cancun features contemporary design elements from the fan coral by Artist Jan Hendrix in the hotel’s exterior facade, to murals painted by Marta Ramirez and wine art on display throughout the hotel.

A bottle of Mexico’s tinto vino (red wine) was waiting for me when I checked into my Junior Suite in Cancun. Don’t miss Secrets The Vine Bar. Outside the 4,500 bottle wine cellar is where Master Sommeliers lead daily complimentary wine tastings at 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. If you wait until 5:00 p.m. the price moved from free to $20.

 

"Secrets the Vine Cancun" Vine bar

4,500 bottle Vine Bar at Secrets The Vine Cancun

 

Secrets the Vine Preferred Club status

For a luxury vacation, it’s a good idea to upgrade to Preferred Club status.  It’s not much more expensive and offers a good return on investment including access to Concierge service, daily continental breakfast, cold and hot hors d’oeuvres and private bar in the private lounge level and your own butler.

All rooms are ocean view, offering Caribbean Sea or Nichupte lagoon vistas. Sunsets are best viewed from the Hard Rock Hotel side, while more shade is available on the balcony next to Sandals resort. My Preferred Junior Suite #2618 looked out to the ocean and lagoon and rented for $700 per night during March. Check the website for current hotel rates.

While I’m not a big drinker, I do love the fact that I have access to the mini bar and won’t be charged for a small tin of Pringles chips or small bag of peanut M&M’s. The mini fridge is loaded with beer, juice, soda and water. Of course, your butler will stock it with all your favorite goodies if you ask.

More perks, free phone calls to the United States and Canada when placed from your hotel room. Insider tip – make sure to call to a land line, as calls to mobile phones are charged at higher rates. All rooms offer free WiFi and preferred guests receive two complimentary items ironed, unpacking and packing service and complimentary shoe shine is available.

 

"Secrets the Vine" junior suite

Secrets The Vine Cancun Preferred Junior Suite

 

Secrets Spa by Pevonia

What beach vacation is complete without a trip to the spa? A day pass to Secrets Spa by Pevonia is $75 if you feel tired and jet-lagged from travel. If money is no object, indulge in a wine therapy treatment. Arrive early to your spa appointment and soak in the hydrotheraphy pool after steaming in the sauna. Follow this with a Pinot Noir Escape exfoliation ($105) d’vine wine massage ($175) and d’vine wine facial ($99) Heaven!

"Secrets Spa by Pevonia" spa

Relax at Secrets Spa by Pevonia

Secrets the Vine dining

If beach and pool time trump spa time, there are several pools and hot tubs to keep you happy, as well as seven restaurants at Secrets The Vine. I sampled crab rangoon, spring rolls and shrimp pad Thai at Dragons Oriental Dining, an Asian fusion restaurant. Bluewater Grill is popular with steak lovers (try the shortbread cookie with caramel filling and ice cream for dessert.) Olio features Mediterranean cuisine and is open to all resort guests for lunch, while dinner is reserved for preferred club level guests. For the seafood lovers and those wanting a bite poolside, Sea Salt Grill offers a tasty shrimp cocktail with a view of the ocean.

"Sea Salt Grill" shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail at Sea Salt Grill Secrets The Vine

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

Insider tip

While all-inclusive resorts are not necessarily known for fine dining, Secrets the Vine is an exception to the rule. If you find yourself in Cancun in March don’t miss the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow SecretsTheVine on Twitter.
If You Go:

Secrets The Vine Cancun +52 (998) 848-9400

Cancun, Qintana Ro

Mexico 77500

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Secrets the Vine Cancun. All opinions are my own.

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American Airlines Airplanes Fly California to NY

Friday March 21, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 0 Comments

American Airlines, airbus, airplane

American Airlines A321 Airbus in San Francisco

In 1953 American Airlines was one of the leaders in transcontinental airline service flying from Idlewild, New York to Los Angeles, California. Remember the days when you dressed up to board an airplane and lobster was on the menu in coach? American Airlines airplanes fly California to New York, non-stop, in an attempt to bring back the golden age of flying.

I had a chance to tour American Airlines new Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft, currently flying from New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport (formerly Idlewild Airport) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From lie-flat seats to W-Fi through the airplane, the golden age of flying is returning to California and New York.
 


 

Luxury inflight travel

With the majority of in-flight travelers opting to carry on luggage rather than check baggage, I appreciate American Airlines large overhead luggage bins on the A321 airplane. While the airline will ask passengers to check their surfboard and golf clubs at the oversize luggage counter, the luggage bins on the new Airbus A321 are certainly roomy. As a vertically-challenged passenger (a.k.a. short) I love the added step rail, as well as the grab bars. No more stepping on airline seats to reach the overhead luggage bins.
 

lie-flat seats, "American Airlines"

American Airlines fully lie-flat seats

American Airlines inflight entertainment

Travelers hoping to pass the time while they fly will appreciate the in-flight entertainment system available in each seat; from coach to business and first class. Seats offer individual power ports and USB ports, as well as a cable for streaming video. Kids will like the tv, games, audio and movies available on board the airplane. For the road warriors, American offers Gogo’s upgraded air-to-ground technology (ATG-4) Wi-Fi throughout the airplane.
 

Flying first class

As a freelance writer on a bare bones budget, I don’t have the luxury of flying one particular airline. My airline selection is based strictly on price. Rarely do I fly business or first class. But if I were to fly business or first class, I’d want to travel on American Airlines A321. The lie-flat seats are comfortable and private – first class passengers have an aisle to themselves – a pod of their own, if you will.
 

"Nancy Brown" airplane

Travel writer Nancy D. Brown in front of A321 Airbus engine

Dining first and business class has its own privileges. First class and business class customers traveling on the A321 have the ability to reserve an entree in advance of their flight.
 
“With our dining experience, you can tailor your own meal service,” explains American Airlines flight attendant Jeff Ramsden.
 

Insider Tip

Did you know that American Airlines serves ice cream sundaes to their first class flyers? For the caffeine lovers on board, the A321T has its own cappuccino and espresso machine in first class.
 
For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @AmericanAir on Twitter.

If You Go:

American Airlines

You might also like Learn to fly flight lessons with Let’s Go Flying.

Article, video and photos by airplane geek Nancy D. Brown