Archive for September, 2010

Wine Tasting at Off the Vine

If you thought you only could drink tequila and beer in Playa, think again! At the Off the Vine Store and Bar you can get wines (and liquors) from all over the world and if they don’t have it they can order it for you or even better, make a suggestion for a similar or comparable wine. I suggest you try a Mexican wine – you’re in Mexico after all – and they have some fantastic wines here. Both the owner and staff are knowledgeable (much more than me), friendly and have customer service on top of their list.

Off the Vine is not just a wine store with a great selection of wines, they also do home delivery, organize wine tastings, wine courses, and participate in food and drink related events like Taste of Playa. If that’s all too much or too complicated, you can also have a glass of wine on the lovely terrace in front of the store.

Off the Vine – Wine Tasting – Thursday’s 8 PM

Last week I participated in one of the wine tastings with some friends and we had a wonderful evening. We tasted several reds and one white from Spain (they highlight a different country every week) and it is a good thing dinner is part of the tasting because my idea of tasting includes drinking the wine, not spitting it out (and I wasn’t the only one). The dinner was lovely, 3 courses which included a starter of some very nice Spanish Serrano ham and a variety of cheeses. The ambiance is informal and casual, so you can dress up but you don’t have to. Ricardo, the owner, explained about the wines we drank, where they were from, and what made them special. It is great to listen to someone talk about what they love while sipping on a good glass of wine. There is limited seating so it is a good idea to make a reservation before you go. The wine tastings are every Thursday at 8 PM, the cost is 35 USD (what a deal) and a 3 course dinner is included.

Wines and liquors from all over the world

Off the Vine is located on 1st Avenue between Calle 26 and 28, for reservations or delivery call 984 803 5244 or send them an email through the Off the Vine website.

Written and submitted by Monica Hartlief, Restaurant Chairperson for Taste of Playa 2010 and owner of Latido de Mexico, a local property management and vacation rental company.


Riviera Maya Gears Up for Second Annual Culinary Event

Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya’s international culinary event, has once again attracted the attention of the region’s many talented chefs and restaurateurs. The day-long festival, scheduled for November 21, 2010 in Playa del Carmen’s Parque Fundadores, is set to feature 40 restaurants and beverage providers coming from as far north as Puerto Morelos and as far south as Tulum. Over the past decade, this area — commonly referred to as the Mayan Riviera — has become home to hundreds of chefs from around the world and is Mexico’s up-and-coming travel destinations for savvy epicures.

Returning for the second season are Playa del Carmen favorites such as Babe’s Noodles and Bar, Zenzi Beach Club, Zabor, Diablito Cha Cha Cha, Los Aguachiles, Fusion and El Bistro at La Tortuga. Chefs from Wicky’s Restaurant and Beach Club will be entertaining special guests, VIP pass-holders and corporate sponsors in the glamorous new VIP lounge. Off the Vine, the Dirty Martini Lounge and the Tequila Barrel will once again provide signature cocktails and other beverages to a crowd that is anticipated to exceed 5,000 attendees.

A number of restaurants, bars and specialty stores are joining the festivities for the first time this year. Lol Ha Restaurant and Turtle Bay Bakery will be bringing fresh flavors up from Akumal. Playa del Carmen’s Casona de los Vinos, La Casa del Agua, Canibal Royal, Ula Gula, Carboncitos and Sapori di Casa are all new to Taste of Playa.

Several key 2009 supporters will take on a more active role in the 2010 event, including Luna Blue Hotel and Bar and Bar Ranita, both offering popular specialty drinks. Chef John Gray, who represented Mexico earlier this year at the 2010 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, will be presenting signature dishes from his culinary repertoire.

Taste of Playa is a community-oriented culinary event that celebrates the creativity and diverse cultural influences of chefs throughout the Riviera Maya. Taste of Playa 2010 will take place on November 21, 2010, in Playa del Carmen’s Parque Fundadores, just south of Cancun. The event is open to the public, with tickets and all-inclusive VIP passes available for sale on the official event website . Proceeds from the event will go to a food education program initiated by the Rotary Club in Playa del Carmen that will directly benefit the children and families of the Riviera Maya.

Chili Verde for Meatless Monday

Fall weather is nearly upon us and it’s time to start thinking about warm, comforting soups and stews. Here is a great recipe for Chili Verde published on

For a real celebration of green, serve this over spinach rotini and top with a guacamole garnish! Fresh tomatillos look like small green tomatoes in papery husks. They have a slightly tart flavor, and are available in most supermarkets.

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 pound green tomatoes, chopped
* 1 pound tomatillos, husked and chopped
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1-1/2 cups water
* 3 cups cooked Great Northern beans (or other white beans), rinsed and drained
* 2 4-ounce cans diced green chiles, drained
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large chili pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and tomatoes. Cover, and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, oregano, cumin, and sugar. Lower the heat, add the water, and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cooked beans and chiles, and simmer 10 minutes longer, adding water if necessary to keep the chili from becoming too dry. Top with the chopped cilantro for garnish.

Serves 4-6 people

Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery in Akumal

As the restaurants’ chairperson for the Taste of Playa executive committee I feel it is my duty to get to know all of our participating restaurants. And I take my job very seriously. Which I why I asked my fellow Taste of Playa foodie Michele Kinnon to join me on a fact finding mission to Akumal. This year we have 2 participating restaurants from this beautiful resort village overlooking the Akumal Bay, Lol-ha Restaurant and Turtle Bay Cafe. Michele wrote a very nice post about Lol-ha Restaurant just yesterday so it is up to me to talk to you about the Turtle Bay Café and Bakery.

Talking about The Turtle Bay Café and Bakery is something I do gladly because I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at the café, the location, the decor but most of all the food! The menu is huge, we were talking to Bart, he owns the café with his wife Jennifer, and he told us he kept trying to take things off the menu but then repeat clients would come to visit and they would make him put it back on the menu, so he now just leaves it on.

The Turtle Bay Café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner (from November) but since it is also a bakery they have lots of delicious looking fresh baked goods as well. I’m pretty sure there is something for everyone here. There was for us because Michele and I both had a salad, and they were huge and fresh and tasty and wonderful. I had a mandarin coconut shrimp salad with rice noodles, fresh mandarin, almonds and of course coconut shrimp. Not just one or 2 little shrimp but many large and delicious coconut shrimp. Oh my, when I think about the coconut shrimp now, I want to jump into my car a drive to Akumal for more. Michele’s salad had the Arrachera and blue cheese piled on so high I thought she’s never get through it. But, thankfully I didn’t bring an amateur with me to have lunch in Akumal.

Mandarin Coconut Shrimp Salad

Black & Bleu Salad

I couldn’t be happier that the Turtle Bay Café and Bakery is part of Taste of Playa 2010 and will showing be off its culinary expertise on November 21st.

Turtle Bay Café and Bakery is located in Akumal (beach side) on the left side of the public parking area. It is slightly hidden behind the trees so just take the path and after a few steps you’ll see the café.

Written by Monica Hartlief, Restaurant Chairperson for Taste of Playa 2010 and owner of Latido de Mexico. Originally published on her blog, September 13, 2010.

Good Wine is “Hard Labor: 6 – Picking and Sorting”

To make good wine, you have to start with good grapes. Bedell Cellar’s new winemaker, John Levenberg, explains the meticulous picking and sorting process as he puts Wine Spectator’s Eric Arnold to work during harvest on Long Island.

White Corn and Tomato Salad

Here’s a fresh, easy salad that anyone can put together in just a few minutes. You can easily add or swap out your own favorite veggies and fresh herbs to suit your taste or the season. Not a fan of tofu? Add a can of rinsed black beans to the corn mix making a perfect protein for an ideal Meatless Monday meal!

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Reducing meat consumption by 15% (the equivalent of one day a week) lessens the risk of chronic preventable illness and has a strong positive impact on the environment.

Chilaquiles for Foodie Friday!

Spice up your weekend with a classic Mexican breakfast treat, Chilaquiles!

Ticket Sales for the 2010 Event

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