I’m Back!

Hi! I’m finally back after a very busy couple of months (24 day honeymoon, CFA exam, house construction!) and am preparing to post a bunch of new content over the Summer!

Coming soon:

  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Paris, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Las Vegas
  • St. Thomas
  • Niagara Falls/Toronto

Our Honeymoon is Here!

After 21 months of planning (and 1 cancellation/rescheduling) our 3-week European honeymoon is finally here!

Follow us on Instagram (@excursioneverywhere) and Twitter (@excursionewhere) as we travel to:

  • Athens, Greece
  • Delphi & Meteora
  • Hydra, Poros, & Egina
  • Venice, Italy
  • Murano, Burano, Torcello
  • Florence, Italy
  • Cinque Terre
  • Tuscany
  • Rome, Italy
  • Naples, Sorrento, Capri & Pompeii
  • Paris, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Montserrat

Platos Restaurant: American-Puerto Rican Cuisine

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When we arrived at our hotel we were very hungry and asked the front desk person for a lunch suggestion. He suggested Platos Restaurant which was right across the street from the hotel. I had remembered reading online that it had excellent reviews, so we decided to take his suggestion!

I had two first impressions of the place. First, they have lots of interesting art work starting with the mural on the outside and masks on the walls inside. Second, it was completely dead inside. Of course, it was 2pm, so we figured we missed the lunchtime rush.

IMG_1570For lunch, we first ordered an appetizer of beef fritters (not pictured). They were actually IMG_1571my favorite thing that we ordered that day. It was basically fried beef ribs with a really good tangy orange sauce. For our main course, Brian and I ordered beef empanadas and a pork and plantain dish to share.  The empanadas were not as good as the beef fritters.  For one thing, the green chimichurri type of sauce on the empanadas was not nearly as good as the tangy orange sauce we had earlier. If I ordered them again, I’d ask to switch the sauces. Our pork dish was basically pulled pork sandwiched between two slices of friend plantain with melted cheese on top. It also came with a side of Puerto Rican rice. While it was fun to try new things, I can’t say this is a dish that I will be craving any time in the future.

My parents were dining with us and they selected two more American dishes. My mom IMG_1574ordered a pretty basic garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing while my dad selected a pasta dish that came with veggies and he added chicken.

Overall my impression of Platos was somewhat mixed. I felt it was a bit overpriced and that the food was edible but not the best that I’ve ever eaten. I would recommend it if you’re in the area of Isla Verde but don’t think it’s worth a special trip. I would also describe the menu as more of an American/ Puerto-Rican restaurant. If you’re looking for more authentic Puerto Rican food, then Metropol across the street is a good choice.

BBQ at the San Juan Smokehouse

1486784662226For our first night in San Juan, we decided to take a taxi from our hotel at Isla Verde to La Plazacita. If you ask your taxi driver for Jose Enrique, they’ll know where to go. We weren’t sure what we wanted to eat, but I knew there was supposed to be a lot of restaurants and music in the area, so our plan was to wander and find something.

The music in La Plazacita wasn’t quite what I expected. The music and the people enjoying it are right on the street! We would our way through the crowds and read menus at the restaurants as we decided where to eat. We were looking for something small because we ate a late lunch and weren’t especially hungry.

We eventually decided to try the San Juan Smokehouse and just get some things for the four of us to share. The San Juan Smokehouse has a tiny dining room and the entire front of the restaurant is 2 garage doors that open right onto the street. We were lucky to get the last 4 person table inside because it started to rain and everyone at the few tables outside got soaking wet. IMG_1579

We ended up ordering a sampler plate (see picture) that came with BBQ nachos, wings, and bacon. And then we also ordered a plate of brisket and a small order of Ribs. We even received CocaCola in cans that were bottled in Puerto Rico. One of the things I love about traveling is getting to see how different places put their own spin on things. First, the nachos. They were regular tortilla chips topped with pulled pork, cole slaw, beans, and bbq sauce. And what’s more, they were really good! The bacon was also interesting. It actually was really thick slabs of bacon cut into bite size chunks as an appetizer. I was less into that because the bacon was pretty fatty. The wings were also pretty small and maybe a bit overcooked, but they were fine. The other interesting things was that the brisket came with a side of saltine crackers. And the side for the ribs was a watermelon and feta salad which is just watermelon topped with feta cheese.

Overall our meal was really good. It was the perfect choice for people who wanted to share some small things. And I loved the Puerto Rican take on an American classic like BBQ.

Coyaba – Fine Dining in a Magical Garden

IMG_20170205_205535_219Brian and I actually stumbled across Coyaba and I am so glad that we did. When we were waiting to be seated at Coco Bistro a family that didn’t have reservations got sent down the street to Coyaba. And so that I got me curious. So after spending a rainy day inside our room at the Ocean Club Resort, I did some research on the internet and liked what I read, so I sent them an email and got reservations for that evening! If you are disappointed that you couldn’t get a reservation at Coco Bistro, I highly recommend Coyaba, it’s an excellent substitute, or even a great 1st choice for a nice dinner. Brian actually preferred Coyaba saying that his steak was better. I think it is a very, very tough decision to pick a favorite.

Coyaba has several beautiful seating areas in the garden. However, since we were there on a rainy day, we had seating inside. Even though it was inside, it was just as lovely. My only complaint is that their wrought iron garden chairs were a bit chipped (but it also kind of added to the charm).

To drink, Brian asked for a rum and coke with the locally made Bambarra Rum. It was great because he’s a rum drinker and had been wanting to try it before he bought a bottle and we were having a hard time finding a restaurant that had it on their shelf. If you are thinking about it, Brian recommended the Bambarra Reserve, he said it’s a very smooth dark rum.

One thing that set Coyaba apart from Coco Bistro was the number of courses: we had a pre-dish for every course! We started with a pre-appetizer of tomato soup (see picture of me with tiny tea-cup). I remember it being a bit cold, but it was good. Then for an appetizer, Brian and I ordered the gnocci and a caprese salad to share. The gnocci came smothered in gorgonzola cheese. It was delicious, but very heavy. I’m very glad that we shared it and had a lighter appetizer as well.

Before the main course, we were given a small sherbet to clean our palettes. For the main course, I was feeling adventurous and ordered the beef tenderloin that they described as a “deconstructed Wellington” while Brian ordered the New York striploin. My tenderloin was good, although I didn’t feel like the bread part was anything special. However, Brian loved his steak and thought it was even better than Coco Bistro. And the truffle fries that came with the steak were delicious! Luckily I convinced him to share those with me. 🙂 One nice thing about Coyaba is they have a few more dishes to choose from for people who don’t like seafood. So that made my decision more difficult, but I appreciated the choices.

Before dessert, Coyaba surprised us again by serving a pre-dessert! A tiny piece of chocolate. Then for dessert we shared the key lime pie which had toasted meringue on top!

All in all, we had a lovely evening at Coyaba. It’s comparable price-wise to Coco-Bistro ($200 for two people without wine), but they served extra courses which was fun. We highly recommend it! After eating dinner, it was still raining outside, so we wandered just down the road to check out the Casablanca Casino for a little while.

The Venetian’s Grand Lux Cafe

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The funny thing about the Grand Lux Cafe is that we would have never eaten there if it wasn’t for our $150 resort credit for the Venetian. It’s just not one of the ones on your radar for tourists, however, it ended up being my very favorite meal of the trip. In fact, when we go back in April I’m going to have a hard time deciding between going back to the Grand Lux and trying other new restaurants.

For one thing, the Grand Lux Cafe is a large restaurant and getting in wasn’t a problem at all. We showed up around 8:30 on a Friday night and got right in for a table for two. Second, the Grand Lux Cafe has a huge menu with tons of variety. Huge, the only restaurant that I know of with possibly a longer and more diverse menu is The Cheesecake Factory.

We started with an order of buffalo chicken won tons as an appetizer and shared an apple and walnut salad. I love everything buffalo so the won tons were a delicious Asian variation of a classic American appetizer! For our main courses, Brian ordered a steak and I ordered the chicken Parmesan. It was far and above the best chicken Parmesan that I have ever eaten. It was smothered in cheese. And it was a huge portion that could easily be shared. I could only eat about half of it and was bummed that I didn’t have any way to reheat and eat the leftovers. For dessert we ordered the box of chocolate chip cookies to-go and took them back to our room. They became our breakfast for the rest of the trip. 🙂

And for the very best part, since we had a resort credit, we didn’t really have a bill!

If you are in Vegas, in particular at the Venetian with a resort credit, I highly recommend giving the Grand Lux Cafe a try.

The Wonderland of the Wynn Buffet

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I really believe that anybody’s first trip to Las Vegas should include a visit to one of their many buffets. It’s one of the things that Vegas is known for. For my first trip to Vegas my tour guide (Brian, the self-proclaimed Vegas expert) recommended the Wynn Buffet. And even though it’s the only one I’ve been to so far, I have to say that I recommend it too. 🙂

First of all, I doubt that any other buffets have the beautiful scenery that can be found at the Wynn. The flower displays in the dining room are so colorful and unique, I loved them. And with the black and white checkered floor and plush chairs, I felt like I was on the set of Alice in Wonderland.

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One thing that surprised me about the Wynn is that you have to be seated by the hostess. Therefore if you are coming with a big party, you need to make reservations. Since we were just a group of two, our wait was only about 10 minutes. After being shown to our seats the waitress arrived to take our drink order. Then we were free to go straight to the buffet. And then that’s when things get difficult. There are a lot of choices.

Each station is topped with a brightly colored pink awning and they are neatly arranged by food type. To start, there’s a salad bar with adorable tiny salads. I tried a miniature feta and watermelon salad that was so cute! There was a cheese and lunch meat section with lots of fancy cheeses and dinner rolls. There was a comfort foods section with things like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, 20161112_204653prime rib (Brian’s favorite), and pizza. For the seafood lover, there was an entire section with mountains of crab legs. And then what I thought was really neat, there was a Korean kimchi pancake section (see picture of Brian waiting for his custom pancake) where you selected your own ingredients and another chef making custom tacos. My dad is a big time foodie, so we made him jealous by sending him a lot of pictures of our plates.

Lastly, right in the middle of the buffet there’s a room dedicated to desserts. The most colorful dessert display that I’ve ever seen.  It was really tempting to go straight to the dessert section, but I resisted. The ice cream and gelato wheel alone was so neat. Each dessert was miniature so I didn’t have a problem trying a handful of different ones. My personal favorite was the tiny mint chocolate cones! And Brian loved the tiny carrot cake! Probably my only disappointment was that the huge display of cake pops was only a display and they didn’t have any to eat!

After our dinner we went to see the show Le Reve which is also at the Wynn and another Vegas attraction that I highly recommend!

Coco Bistro: Dining Under the Palms

photogrid_1480212040021For our trip to Turks & Caicos, Coco Bistro was the one restaurant that we had reservations for and had planned to visit in advance. In fact, I had read online that they can fill up a month in advance, so that’s why we made reservations in October. We were there in the off-season (November) so I can’t really say if we could have gotten in or not. I do know that we showed up for dinner and they turned a family away that did not have reservations and said that they were booked solid for the night. So better safe than sorry!img_1014

I do have two helpful tips about making reservations. First, even though the website says that reservations can only be made by calling, we emailed and they were kind enough to help us out. We don’t have international calling on our cell phones and really appreciate that they were able to help us. Second, when making reservations make sure you get an email confirmation. The family that got turned away did not have an email confirmation, therefore the reservation that they thought they had wasn’t honored.img_1025

When we arrived at Coco Bistro they were expecting us and we were immediately shown to our seats. After going through a small enclosed bar area, you step out into the prettiest dining room. It was everything that a tropical restaurant should be. Small dining “rooms” were lined by palm trees and decorated with twinkly lights. It was magical.

img_1017We were immediately asked if we wanted sparkling or still water. And, pardon my small-town upbringing, even the still water came in a bottle and an ice bucket! That was a first for me. Even their liquor cabinet was decorated and lit up so that it looked like a wishing well. We ended up choosing a pina colada and the rum punch for cocktails, both were delicious!

After looking at the menu, I noticed img_1020immediately that the pork chop which I had seen online was not listed. That meant that the steak was really the only non-seafood option and I knew that’s what Brian would order. Since we like to try as many different things as possible, I confirmed with the waitress who noted that the menu had recently been updated. Therefore, if you’re like me and planning ahead, just note that the menu online may differ slightly from the menu when you arrive. If you’re a fan of seafood, they had at least a handful of different entrees, so I’m sure you would have found something that you enjoy.

Ultimately we ordered the lettuce wedge with chorizo and gorgonzola cheese to share for a starter. It was a img_1021delicious combination that we both really enjoyed. The chorizo, which sounds a bit unusual for a salad, actually paired really well with the smoky dressing. Brian even stated that he wished he’d have ordered a second plate instead of sharing. That’s high praise for a salad from my Texan!

Halfway through our appetizer it started to sprinkle. The waitstaff quickly passed out umbrellas which we thought was really fun. It img_1022takes more than a little rain to ruin our evenings. Bottom line, make your reservations and don’t worry about the weather. It’ll be a fun evening rain or shine!

For our main courses Brian ordered the steak and I initially ordered the tomato cream pasta in a vegetarian version. Surprisingly, the waitress asked me if I didn’t like to eat seafood and offered to add chicken to my pasta. So impressed with her insight and img_1024thoughtfulness! So another helpful tip, if you want the pasta, you can order it with chicken. And it was delicious! If there would have been a way to heat my food up, I could have easily made 2 meals of my pasta and I would have loved the leftovers. It was so good. I’m actually a little bummed that I only got to eat it at one meal!

Brian thought his steak was excellently prepared, and he especially loved the peppercorn sauce which he dipped his french fries in! I think it would have been really good on his steak, but my stubborn Texan insists that steak should be eaten plain. Oh well – he still enjoyed the sauce a ton!

img_1023For dessert, Brian couldn’t make up his mind and we ordered two desserts! First we selected the coconut cream pie, because as noted on the menu, it’s “famous”! And then Brian ordered the key lime dessert because he loves everything lemon and lime. Overall the dessert was good (all desserts are), but it wasn’t our favorite part of the meal. Both came beautifully prepared, However, the coconut cream pie was actually not as the coconut cream pie that my mom makes at Christmas. The key lime dessert was also good, but the lime taste was very strong. I think Brian enjoyed it, but he didn’t rave about it like he did the salad and the peppercorn sauce.

In all we had a great time at Coco Bistro and highly recommend it! It’s a bit pricey ($200+ for 2 people) but the food and the setting were perfect for two people on a romantic getaway together. 🙂