Contest Closed: Congratulations to our winner, Darrin Chung.
After last weekend’s beautiful weather, I wanted to do something special to help Torontonians come out of hibernation after what seemed like “the longest winter of all time”. In order to help get you out of the house and back into the world, I have decided to give away a ticket to the upcoming Italian Supper Club Event hosted by the awesome ladies at Hip and Urban Girl.
The co-ed event, which takes place on May 12th will allow guests to enjoy a 7-course family-style dinner with new friends over a couple bottles of OPEN wine . Ask Chef Massimo Bruno any questions you have about cooking Italian food, making pasta from scratch and watch the whole process from start to finish.
Tickets for this co-ed event are limited to thirty and they are selling out quickly. Here’s your chance to win a seat and be part of the fun.
Write “I’m coming out of hibernation” on the wall.
That’s it, you’re entered.
Already a member of the page? No problem, just write on the wall to complete your entry.
Wait! Would you like to increase your chance of winning? Be sure to follow me on Twitter @urbanthirties as well for an extra entry into the draw. You’ll just need to indicate your @twitter name when you post on the Facebook Page so I can verify the extra entry.
You will have from April 26-May 2 to enter; I will draw and announce the winner* on May 3, through the Urban Thirty Something Facebook and Twitter Pages.
*Contest winners must be able to provide an email address in order to receive their e.ticket to the event.
Last Saturday night, I had a fierce craving for margaritas and Mexican food and posed the question on Facebook: Does anyone have a recommendation for great Mexican food in Toronto? The response was overwhelming, perhaps my most commented on status ever. How had “I”, the one who blogs about places to go in Toronto not heard of half of these places? Okay, so I am the first to admit that we all need a little help from our friends. Plus, since I love making Mexican at home, we just don’t explore this cuisine very much in Toronto.
The recommendation that came up the most was Milagro Restaurant, there are three locations in Toronto, we chose to head to Queen West. I was hungry and dying for some top-notch, authentic food and Milagro did not disappoint.
Upon arrival, we were taken to the second floor of the restaurant and seated at a simple wood table with a glowing candle. As I looked around, I noticed the fabulous textured and satin-like red wallpaper and simple, yet colourful décor. Within minutes, our server Ian arrived with menus and a friendly greeting. To start, we’d have margaritas both classic (Margarita Clasica) and one with a splash of Mexican tamarind (Tamarindo).
The options on the menu were both amazing and a little overwhelming. We were as you might say, spoiled for choice. To help tide us over during the ordering process we started with the delicious house made guacamole, salsa and some very tasty chips from La Tortilleria in Kensington Market.
After some recommendations from our fantastic server, decisions for our entrées were finally made. I decided on the Tacos La Perla, fish tacos made with red snapper in a beer batter topped with Caribbean slaw. My dinner companion chose, Cochinita Pibil, pulled pork in a achiote and orange marinade, served with pickled habanero onions and soft corn tortillas.
Everything was fresh, flavourful and positively delicious. The beer batter on the fish tacos was light and crisp, the fish fresh and the level of spice was just right. I also tried some of the pork and it was melt in your mouth amazing. Insert yummy noises here…
I am not sure how we found room after the generous sized entrées we had just consumed but we managed to share Natilla de Cajeta, a wonderful dessert made from reduced goats milk, topped with caramelized sugar – like crème brûléewith an amazing twist. Yes, you can insert more yummy noises here…
Dinner for two with: appetizers, two small and two large margaritas, two entrées and dessert with tax and tip was $135.
Photo Credit: Erin Helcl using Hipstamatic for iPhone
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t spent time and money in Roatán exploring the culinary offerings near our resort and in West End Village. West End feels like a true beach town complete with a beautiful beach and a dirt road lined with dive shops, hotels, restaurants and bars. You can get to West End via water taxi from West Bay Beach for $3 US per person – a return ride after dark will cost about $10 US by car.
We left the resort almost every night to take a break from the buffet and dine outside while watching the incredible sunsets and enjoying the warm, breezy Caribbean weather.
If you are looking to experience some food in Roatán, there are a few restaurants that I would highly recommend.
Cannibals offers a very relaxed environment for dining with a rooftop patio to enjoy. Everything is made fresh in house, including the tortillas and chips and the menu is very reasonably priced. Dinner for two, including appetizers, entrées, a few frozen margaritas and tip was $45 US.
The Argentinean Grill offers very attentive service and a menu that provides much variety. You can order everything from fresh grilled seafood, prime rib, mushroom chicken, pasta and much more. Dinner for two with appetizers, beer, entrées, a bottle of wine and dessert was $85 US.
Besos, located right across the street from the beach in West End offers a little something for everyone. The menu which favours fresh, local ingredients offers light, healthy meal options as well as larger entrees for those who bring their appetite after a day of snorkeling or scuba diving. Some of the highlights of the meal were: frozen margaritas made with Jose Cuervo 1800, the best mojitos we’ve had in a long time, shrimp and fish tacos and mango flambé plus, very friendly and attentive service. Dinner for two with a few drinks, appetizers, entrées, dessert and tip was $115 US.
Vintage Pearl and Wine Cellar – Fine dining, menu changes daily based on availability of fresh ingredients. Located in West Bay at the Bananarama Hotel.
The chef at The Vintage Pearl changes her menu daily, grows her own herbs and really works to offer the freshest of local ingredients. Sitting on the outdoor patio with our shoes left at the front door, overlooking the beach and palm trees, the scene for a romantic evening was set. Some highlights of the night were: the friendly and knowledgeable service, fresh tuna carpaccio, a wonderful Pinot Noir from Oregon, luxurious main courses of steak, garlic mashed potatoes and phyllo pastry stuffed with pear, mozzarella and chicken and followed with bread pudding topped with a rum spiced guava sauce. Dinner for two with appetizer, soup, entrées, wine, dessert and tip was $145 US.
If a cocktail on the beach while enjoying a magnificent sunset is what you are after, then Sundowners is the place for you. Friendly service and patrons plus direct access to the beach, this bar is the perfect place to unwind after an already relaxing day, meet other travelers while enjoying bevy or a snack on the beach.
Roatán offers many options for cocktails, meals and nightlife, we only able to scratch the surface during our first two visits. I may even skip the all-inclusive option for our next vacation, rent a villa, make our own breakfast and lunch and enjoy our suppers “out on the town”.
While I returned home from vacation in Roatán over a week ago, the transition back to my regular routine and responsibilities has been more difficult this time than any other that I can remember. I am lucky enough to have traveled somewhere tropical every year for the past six or seven years, after I first caught the travel bug on a trip to Cuba.
Roatán, which is one of three Bay Islands off the coast of mainland Honduras is surrounded by the world’s second largest coral reef system, and is a destination that offers amazing opportunity for both adventure and relaxation. This recent vacation was our second visit to the island and will not be our last. In fact, I am already planning our next trip.
What is it about Roatán that keeps us coming back? Well, it really is a combination of a several elements, including: beautiful beaches, truly amazing snorkeling and diving, lush vegetation, friendly residents (both Honduran and Expat), the most incredible sunsets you can imagine and an authentic experience that other more touristy destinations may not offer. For food lovers, there are great options for both delicious, inexpensive meals and fine dining.
We chose to stay at the Henry Morgan Resort, in West Bay during both our visits to the island. Located on one of the most beautiful beaches in Roatán, Henry Morgan offers a low-key and relaxed atmosphere that also offers activities for those who want to get off the beach lounger. The entertainment staff will keep you engaged with beach volleyball and soccer, guided walks, dance lessons, water aerobics in the ocean and nightly shows.
With dense tropical gardens, rooms that remind me of a casual stay at a well kept cottage, all-inclusive food and drinks and incredibly friendly and entertaining staff, both at the resort and the five-star PADI dive center – TGI Diving, I would return here in a heartbeat. After a quick walk down the beach and short swim, you will find yourself snorkeling over the coral reef with some incredible sea life. If that’s not enough, then there are many options for scuba lessons or dives. I recommend Henry Morgan for travelers looking for a quiet and relaxed vacation on an amazing beach with the possibility for adventure nearby.
Stay tuned for a post later this week about our culinary adventures on the island.
Is it just me or was this winter much longer and snowier than last year? I feel like summer is a distant memory in which I can barely remember barbeques with friends, after-dinner walks, drinks on patios, or going outside without a coat on.
Now, please don’t take this post as a rant about the weather, I am just setting the tone so you can understand how I rationalized my upcoming trip to Roatan, Honduras as a Birthday present to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I did what I could this winter to fight the blahs of the snowy season. I started this blog in November, kept busy enjoying the great city of Toronto, attending our monthly Supper Club with friends, dining in fabulous restaurants and embarking on romantic weekend getaways. And yet… Somewhere near the end of February those winter blahs were really beginning to set in. I’ve been spoiled over the last few years with the time and resources to take a trip down south and this year I was missing it.
So… I rationalized and then enlisted the help of my friends and co-workers to help me further rationalize booking an all-inclusive trip somewhere relaxing, beautiful, warm and sunny. Here’s something I know about myself, I need to have something to look forward to, work toward or know what exactly I want to strive for and if I don’t, I get down. What can I say; the status quo bores the life out of me.
So far, since booking this vacation I have lost five pounds, started regularly exercising and planning healthy meals again. I do wish, that I that I had the consistent intrinsic motivation to maintain these great behaviours but it seems that right now, I need an external motivating factor to make it happen.
I know, that a trip on a beautiful beach as a break and escape from the everyday doesn’t replace the ability to live in the moment and find peace with where you are in life. After all, we come back to life in whatever state we left it in. I do, however think that we all need to take time to recharge our batteries. So, in the wee morning hours after my official birthday I’ll be heading to the exact beach pictured above.
When I return, I’ll be sure to share the highlights but promise not to make you look at more than ten vacations photos. Deal?
What advice do you have for finding peace and being able to recharge everyday?