Spicy Food Hunt in the Grand Cayman Island

I had an amazing time on my spicy food hunt in the Grand Cayman island. There were so many great places that I think you should try when you find yourself craving spicy food. I planned a short birthday weekend getaway with my sisters and while the sea, sun, and sand was the main purpose, hunting for spicy food is always on the agenda!

Sea, Sun & Sand

This was my first time visiting the island and chose it after hearing so many great things about it. The white sand beach and blue waters of Seven Mile beach was a huge selling point! For someone that loves the ocean, the beach was key in my decision.

The Westin Cayman beach view

Finding a destination not affected by the sargassum seaweed problem affecting mostly all of the Caribbean islands was a challenge. If the beach is important to you, do a bit of research before you go. While each island is doing their best to clean up the beaches, you can’t swim in those waters and the seaweed smells.

The Westin Cayman pool view

I decided to celebrate at the beautiful Westin hotel since the beaches on the west side of Grand Cayman haven’t been affected. This was definitely one of the best beaches I’ve visited in the Caribbean. The sunset views were gorgeous, the water was clear blue, calm enough to swim and the food was amazing!

Cayman Sunset

I immediately started on my spicy foods hunt and realized I didn’t have to do much searching. Most of the restaurants I tried served a spicy item or two which is perfect when your party doesn’t care for much spicy foods. I ordered the fried calamari and a rum punch at the Westin’s poolside grill and watched the beautiful sunset on the beach! The calamari were perfectly cooked tender and while not spicy, the batter did have a nice kick. I also tried the crab cakes were a much spicier choice so order those while you’re at it.

fried calamari on the beach watching the sunset

 

cocktail on the beach watching the sunset

The Restaurants

We spent most of our time on the west side of the island and took the public bus right in front of the Westin  down to Camana Bay. The bay is a lively shopping and dinning area. We dined at the well reviewed The Brooklyn , a pasta & pizza restaurant. We didn’t try any of the pizza, go figure, but we did try a few of their pasta and seafood dishes. Their penne & sausage dish was unexpectedly spicy and the pasta cooked to perfection. The dish made me tear up a bit so that’s always a plus! You can also sit outside to feel the nice bay freeze and a bit of people watching.

spicy penne pasta & sausage

Another Great lunch spot you must visit near the cruise ship port in Georgetown neighborhood is Da Fish Shack. I asked around and it appears this is a popular spot with the locals as well. This place has a nice vibe, great waterfront views, and food that tastes home made. We arrived for a late afternoon lunch to an almost empty place that quickly filled up. I ordered the escovitch snapper for my spicy fix. The snapper was well seasoned, fried to a crisp and topped with spicy, tangy pickled vegetables. I can still remember the flavor! It was mouth watering, flaky, tender and served with a potato au-gratin to balance out the acidity of the fish. Just one of those dishes you’ll remember, it was so good.

escovitch snapper at Da Fish Shack

Next spot was Bacaro – a great hangout spot for nightlife but only on Thursday nights I believe. One thing about the Grand Cayman is that it’s a sleepy town. Everything shuts down early, about 11pm or midnight, and there isn’t much of a nightlife. If you know of places please mention them in the comments, I’d love to here about them for my next visit. 😉

Entrance to Bacaro restaurant in Grand Cayman

We shared a few dishes and all were very good but one to try is the fried lobster bites with scotch bonnet and paprika aioli. I normally have lobster with melted butter and would never think of frying it but these bites were tender and juicy. The bites weren’t as spicy as I would have liked, especially with scotch bonnet mentioned in the description, but the citrus flavor of the pepper came across really well. Go ahead and order the lobster bites, you will not be disappointed.

fried lobster bites with scotch bonnet aioli

Another favorite was the tuna tartare with mango salsa. The tuna had a mild citrus flavor and barely any heat at all but the salsa had a nice kick. I had the mango salsa on the side since my sister is allergic to mangoes. This is a great restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. I wouldn’t go here for spicy foods but again, most places in the Cayman Islands will have a couple of dishes to satisfy that spicy craving.

tuna tartare and avocado

Have you been to Grand Cayman island? Let me know in the comments which are your favorite spicy food places or where you go for nightlife. I wish I had more time there to experience the rest of the island. Where do you go for your spicy food fix?

 

Crossing the Lake District in Patagonia to Bariloche

We left Puerto Varas, Chile early one morning to begin our full day journey through the Andes mountains to get over to the Argentinian side. I was hoping to stay in Puerto Varas for a couple more days to really enjoy this beautiful village. I guess this means I’ll have to come back! There was still so much more to see and do but all I kept repeating in my head was “three boats and four buses”! That was our mantra leading to this day. It was going to take us three catamaran boats and four tour buses to get to Bariloche, the chocolate haven and ski town in Argentina, and all in one day!

Boat on the lake

We took a tour bus to the Lago Todos Los Santos to board our first catamaran. It was a nice leisurely two hour trip through the massive lakes filled with the melting snow and glaciers of the Patagonia. These areas are very popular for fishing salmon and trout, fly fishing, boating and hiking. Its a place you visit to relax and take in the sights. When we departed I caught this photo of a man teaching, I’m guessing, his 4 or 5 year old son how to steer the boat! Hey, you have to start training them young.

Man and child on boat

The gorgeous views made me forget how much further we needed to travel.

lake crossing

lake crossing

Beautiful clear day out for boating, we couldn’t have asked for better weather!

Lake crossing route

We arrived in Puerto Peulla, population 120, just in time for lunch and walked about 10 minutes to the Natura Hotel

Puella sign

House by Peulla river

Natura Hotel

The Chileans, similar to Europe and Caribbean cultures, have their biggest meal of the day during lunch time. It’s quite an adjustment when you’re used to having sandwiches, soups or salads for lunch but we didn’t protest and dove right in. Besides, we were in the middle of nowhere, between mountains and in the wilderness so any other food options we’d have to catch it ourselves! If you take this tour route its more than likely that you’ll stop at this hotel’s restaurant and if you do, you’ll be pleased with mostly anything on the menu. I didn’t see any spicy dishes on the menu so opted for the salmon and got a side of spicy salsa. The salmon was perfectly cooked and the cut was very generous.

Salmon lunch at Natura

My sister ordered the fried Merluza. This fried fish was crispy and so tender and flaky that if it wasn’t for the crust you’d never know it was fried. Just perfection and super spicy too! I felt bad for my sister, she actually yelled out as soon as she bit into one, so of course I had to come to the rescue and handle those for her! Note to management, you probably want to warn folks about the blazing hot rings of fire on the plate!

Spicy fried fish

Delicious a dulce de leche custard.

Dulce de leche custard

With bellies full we boarded the tour bus and headed towards the Tronador mountain to begin the second leg of our trip.

Tronador sign

This mountain was given the name Tronador because of the thunderous sounds the glaciers make when they’re breaking off…an unfortunate result of global warming. If you look to the upper right area of photo below you can see two of the glaciers. They actually look like black ice. Tronador mountain

Here’s a closer look…

Tronado glacier

We traveled up the mountain and through the steep and winding roads of the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park which is in Chile to the border of Argentina where we entered the Nahuel Haupi National Park.

Argentinian Border sign

After going through customs at the border crossing we boarded yet another catamaran at Puerto Frias. I was playing with the camera settings on this one and love how the boat looks like a little toy. The boat could probably fit about 50 people comfortably so there was plenty of room to move around. One thing that’s great about crossing the lakes with a tour company is that you don’t have to worry about lugging all your baggage. You can easily board the boats quickly and enjoy your trip stress and worry free.Catamaran in Puerto Frias

The water in lake Frias is so bright and green from the mineral deposits released when the glaciers crash down the mountain. It’s a beautiful site to see. It was so cold out I was only able to stay out for about five minutes at a time even though it was the beginning of Spring. I can just imagine how magnificent it would be to visit during the summer months. Yes, the water is this blue! The locals call it Emerald Lake because of the color but it looked more like turquoise to me.

Lake Frias

We boarded the third catamaran at Puerto Blest for the last leg of our tour before reaching Puerto Panuelos, then it was a quick bus ride to Bariloche.

Catamaran_tour

We finally make it to our destination for the next few days and immediately zeroed in on a parillada, a grill house, for a taste of what the locals eat. Actually, a parillada is a platter of grilled meats and most include various cuts of beef, chicken and pork, with some offal as well. I settled for a tender steak, my first in Argentina and it’s as delicious as rumored. Try Alberto’s in Bariloche for great food and great wine, this bottle of Don David Malbec was a very good medium bodied wine and complimented the steak very well.

Don David Malbec at Alberto's

grilled meats

Melted cheese

steak dinner at Alberto's

The next day we took ski lifts up to the top of Cerro Campanario for a spectacular view of Bariloche and surrounding towns.

mountain top

It was so cold up there so I enjoyed the view from inside with delicious hot chocolate.

hot cocoa

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Cerro Campanario ski lift

We headed back to town and stopped at Don Molina’s for lunch, another great place spot for amazing food. Argentina isn’t just known for it’s wonderful steak, you can find exceptional Italian, French, German and Swiss food as well.

condiments

Pasta puttanesca, spicy and al dente!

spicy pasta puttanesca

You’ll find several gelato shops, bakeries, chocolate shops a few blocks from Don Molina if you want to take a walk before getting dessert. These were on the way back to our hotel, the Nahuel Huapi, so the walk was quite nice after such a huge meal.

gelato

By the way, the cake below is signed “Happy Birthday Fatty”! A term of endearment I’m sure!

bakery sweets

Well hola Russia! Mamuschka is a very popular chocolate shop in the heart of Bariloche. Seems like every third door on this street will have a chocolatier. Walk into any of them and the staff will be more than happy to give you free samples.

Mamuschka Chocolates

Before we left Bariloche I had to try the fondue at Marmite, a little pricy for fondue but I was craving it!

Fondue at Marmite's

Bariloche is one of those towns that you can spend several days exploring. It’s known as the central hub for the Patagonia area with the nearest airport about 40 minutes away. It’s Springtime now and there are plenty of adventures to be had and amazing food as well. Next time I’ll come during the summer months and try wind surfing or kayaking and rock climbing. If you’re here during the winter months, expect lots of snow, I hear the mountains can easily get up to 2 meters of snow, so bring your ski gear!

NOLA on my mind

Traveled to one of my favorite places recently for a spicy foodie run and took in some great drinks, music and a little southern hospitality. New Orleans is one of those places that remains with you long after you’ve visited and have settled into your daily routine. The people are warm and inviting, the food is spicy and incredibly flavorful, the vibe there is unlike any other place I’ve visited and that’s a recipe for good times!

There is always something new to discover in New Orleans, LA and many landmarks and well established eateries that will keep you coming back. For me it’s one of those places, other than my birthplace of Dominican Republic, that calls me. Who knows, maybe I’m meant to live there for a while but that verdict is still out. I’m already looking forward to my next visit! Is there a place you visit that makes you feel the same?

Here’s a little tour of my NOLA. Bourbon St is like the Vegas of New Orleans. The music is always blaring and the drinks are always flowing but there are also many hidden gems.

There is beautiful architecture everywhere, with it’s French cottage style homes, Spanish wrought ironwork in balconies and railings,  the “shotgun” homes on stilts in Treme, to the classic, grand mansions on St Charles. You’d think this was my first trip from all the pictures I took but really wanted to share with you all this wonderful place. There’s so much to see and do in NOLA. That house below on right got my attention quickly. It’s almost like the architect wasn’t sure which style to use and decided to go with all! It’s got a European castle like tower, Spanish iron railing, classic Greek columns which makes it beautiful and unique! These are places you’ll stumble upon just walking around the city and you’ll be doing plenty of walking, just be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

One stop you MUST make when visiting New Orleans is K-Pauls restaurant in the French Quarter, hands down the best meal I had while there! You’ll sample various traditional dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp creole and the list goes on and on. This is the only picture I took during dinner because I felt a bit awkward snapping pictures. For me its about being respectful of the diners around you and gauging the crowd and restaurant type first before taking a photo. I did have to share this photo though, this dish was so good I wanted to lick this plate! This was a pan fried breaded flounder with shrimp and a spicy remoulade sauce on top. The fish was flaky and the sauce was divine. Everything I had was delicious and wanted to savor every bite . You must also try the gumbo and the bread pudding.

Always something to see on St Charles and the Garden District area. Check out the doggie art! Those bead dogs were all over the city and each with a different design, the one below was honoring the Saints football team. These installations are part of an LA-SPCA awareness campaign to help raise money for the organization and their adopt abandoned pets program. If you plan to visit NOLA before end of September here’s a map of where you can find them, they’re also for sale.

Audubon Park in the Garden District.

Tree face art on St Charles, pretty clever huh?!

Another spot I checked out was John Besh’s new seafood restaurant Borgne inside the Hyatt hotel. This is another restaurant you must try. Every single dish we had was amazing. The food was fresh, light, flavorful, spicy and definitely a great casual spot for a groups or any celebration. The place is definitely lively with a wonderful wait staff as well. I couldn’t get enough of those deconstructed duck, jalapeno and bacon poppers below or that white shrimp and squid ink cavatelli. I had to ask the waiter for extra french bread to sop up that sauce!

So after you have huge meals like that the best thing to do it walk it off or dance it off and I did just that. Walking on Decatur and Magazine Streets you’ll find many shops for all budgets and tastes. While walking around I saw this cute vintage tray. Louisiana is the home of the ubiquitous Tabasco sauce so you’ll also find many varieties that aren’t available in your local stores. I found this great chipotle raspberry sauce which I never got to try because airport security confiscated since it was an ounce over limit! Boo to you TSA!

Hot sauce heaven…some very unique names here and some just too vulgar to even mention. *wink*

Another “must” of many food spots in NOLA is Cafe du Monde or Cafe Beignet. You can’t visit without a having some coffee and beignets!

I also visited the Lower Nine to see the progress being made after Katrina and quite a few homes have be built which is fantastic. Also stopped by Treme to see one of the oldest Africian American neighborhoods in the country and considered to be the birthplace of Jazz.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and get inspired to visit this beautiful city. New Orleans is a city rich in culture and has a little something for everyone, it’s a magical place with some of the friendliest people around.

Mexico on my mind: Bright Inspirations

I’ve been meaning to make it down to Mexico for a while now and been wanting to visit Oaxaca, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and Frida Kahlo’s old stomping grounds. I day dream of the sights, the sounds, the food, the blazing sun on my back, the drinks…a girl can daydream no? I could just book a trip and be really irresponsible but I have so much work to do here before I can really getaway. So right now I’ll just settle for my little web-escapes….Pinterest, Trip Advisor, Food Gawker! ha!

So here are my fresh finds…things that remind me of my previous trips to Mexico and things that just make me want to go back…

I want to sip my morning cup of Joe here, with a little milk, cinnamon and nutmeg please! Love the bright colors and gorgeous view…ok, go book your trip! This one here is the Villa Mandarinas in Puerto Vallarta, photo from Around the World Villas

These gorgeous flags always transport me to Mexico and this lovely Etsy shop, Ay Mujer, has really taken it to the next level! They personalize them!

Are these awesome cookie designs or what? Love the details and colors inspired by Dia de Los Muertos! You can get these and many other Mexican inspired cookies at Sweet Sugarbelle

The colors and patterns remind me of Mexican textiles…just follow link for instructions on how to make your own friendship bracelet from Honestly WTF.

I gotta have this Opal Clutch from Mar y Sol! Love the thin gold thread and the wooden closure…the stripes remind me of a burst of sunshine…perfect for a vacation.

Last but not least, we have to have a little spice and thought I’d share this great recipe for hot sauce. This one is made with habanero peppers so it’s quite hot. Seed your peppers and remove the membranes if you want more flavor than heat. This one is from Lottie and Doof.

Hope you were able to escape with me, if only for a little while. This just makes me want to pack a bag but instead I’ll do the next best thing and make you something spicy and inspired by Mexico! As I mentioned in my last post, this month is all about Mexico!