Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hacienda on the Lake – Food with a

Atmosphere is one of the number one reasons I like to dine out.  Whether is a romantic dinner for two of a gathering of friends it is the location and atmosphere which makes the event so special. 

Hacienda by the Lake is located on the Lake of Mission Viejo.  The outside dinning area has spectacular views and is comfortable on a winter night.  It is enclosed with heaters and I mean enclosed not just by various curtains strong up to make it warm but actual stucco and windows. 

The menu is supposed to be upscale Mexican with a California twist.  The restaurant is 8,000 square feet with large bar area which has live music but only on certain nights they have not gotten the live music schedule down yet.  The next live performance is on January 24, 2014, and as of yet no other performances for the month of January.  The hours of operation are also a little strange.  They only stay open till 11:00 pm on Saturday night. 

Enchiladas de Langosta is stuffed with lobster, pasilla peppers, onion, and tomato and smothered in their own Hacienda sauce.  The Lobster was cooked to perfection which I was surprised as it is so easy to overcook.  The Hacienda sauce was too light it definitely needed more because it was really the star of the dish.  It was sweet with just a kick of spice.  I could have eaten a bowl of it. 

Camarones a la Diablo is one of the restaurants specialties.  Shrimp simmered in a spicy red sauce.  To be honest the shrimp were better seasoned and prepared than the one I had in Cancun which where overcooked.  The sauce again was spectacular.  Very spicy full of flavor that just dissolved in my mouth.  My senses were all a tingle.  However, once again for the price there should have been more shrimp I counted 5.  The dish was served with a side of Spanish rice and refried beans.  I would have paired it with rice and grilled vegetables.  This dish deserved more California flare then to be coupled with the old stand by rice and beans. 

The location is fabulous the prices are high.  The food was tasty but over priced and I just cannot see paying that much for meal that leaves you still hungry.  Unless of course you want to fill up on the carbs (rice and beans) which are waste of calories if you ask me.  This place rates 2.5 forks because it does need some work.  However, I do see promise and hopefully by the summer time it will work out its kinks.

Hacienda on the Lake
 27792 Vista Del Lago
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
(949) 472-8100

Thursday, January 9, 2014

CANCUN – Play like you are young again.

Where else can you lye on white sandy beaches and be waited on hand and foot?  Cancun is the destination and relaxation is what is expected of you.  But if that sounds too hard for you then feel free to take a day trip to one of the Mayan Ruins such as the 7th Wonder of the World CHICHEN ITZA.
A week stay only wants one wanting more a few extra days on the sandy white beach.  December and January are not crowded but the prices of the resorts and hotels can be higher as many vacationers from colder climates come to enjoy the 80 degree weather.  The evenings are cooler but not by much.  You are still able to enjoy the pool or the beach.  The heat of the sun is quenched by the smooth Pina Coladas and Mai Tai’s served directly to you by the resort staff.  The beaches are public so I caution you of the merchants selling you their goods. 

Sun Palace Resort is an adult’s only resort you will not find children running around.  There are no play areas or gyms.   If you think you will be surrounded by quite that I found out the hard way was not the case.  The resort is beautiful but the walls are paper thin.  People are up at all hours of the night and many of times my wonderful sleep that I found so relaxing was interrupted by slamming of doors throughout the corridors. 

The food was good and in some instances great but if I have to eat another buffet I will cry.  The breakfast and lunch is always buffet style so the menu never changes.  I was craving a sandwich by the end of my stay.   Dinner was much better as I had a choice of Mexican, Italian and Oriental.  The sushi was fresh and I highly recommend giving it a try just to say you did.  The Italian was exceptional I don’t know how they did it but they made me wanting more.  The Mexican was passé.  I do not recommend the Mexican Restaurant.  You will find more authentic food in the heart of Cancun and that’s the direction I would go.  The Sun Palace Resort’s interpretation of Mexican food was to dumb it down for the guests.  Coming from California us Californians know Mexican food when we find it and I did not find it at the resort. 

The Sun Palace Resort beach was one of the best. Guests from Moon Palace would come to the Sun Palace just to enjoy the beach.  In my travels it was hands down or should I say thumbs up one of the best and that’s from Tahiti to Maui so look out!

Of all the Mayan Ruins I toured my favorite was Coba.  Although Chichen Itza is one of the 7 Wonders it does not compare to the ethnicity of Coba.   At Chichen Itza I felt like I was visiting Disneyland it was disappointing.  The vendors were all over the ruins in Chichen Itza.  The area was well manicured and left little to the imagination.  You can no longer climb the temple steps.

Coba now we are talking!  It was located right in the middle of the Mayan Jungle.  Many of the ruins were overrun with vines and trees.  You can still walk to the top of the largest temple and look down at the forest below.  No vendors to accost you as you walk freely through the jungle.  You are drawn back in time to when the Mayans ruled the area.  Close your eyes and you can feel villagers brush up against.  You can smell the burning fires for cooking and heat.  The dampness of the jungle surrounds you everywhere you turn.  Even though it rained I still made it to the top after all you don’t want a missed opportunity!

Tulum Ruins are a must see on your check list.  The natives go there just to use the beautiful beaches.  It is situated right on the coast and from temples you have a view of the sandy white beach.  There is a pathway down to the beach to cool yourself off after you walk through the area.  Tulum is supposed to be the coolest breeze wise of the Mayan Ruins built on the Mayan Coast.  I am not sure about as it was one of the hottest areas of my visits.

One thing I should mention is that Cancun is not Cancun.  Most visitors stay on Hotel Row where hundreds of resorts are located.  Cancun is actually 10 miles from Hotel Row.  It really does not make a different but if you want to know exactly where you are you are there.  Market 28 is located in downtown Cancun.  It is one of several flea markets.  Be aware that many of the local vendors will tell you that they work in your hotel as you walk by that’s just a ploy as they see your resort bracelet and that’s how they know where you came from.  So be aware they will act like they know you and you will not know any better.   But there are many deals you can obtain at the flea markets more so than in the shops around your resort.   Do not be shy to bargain your price down.  They will let you know when you have hit their bottom price.

The people in Cancun and the surrounding areas are nice and pleasant.  If you want to know anything they are only too happy to assist you.  They are extremely accommodating and lovely people.   The culture and bright and friendly so there is nothing to be scared of these people enjoy your company.  Your friends might fell you full of horror stories but honestly ask them “have you ever been there?”  The answer will be a shocking “no”.  I can assure that the Mayan areas surrounding the resorts and safe, fun and friendly.  Yes there are many families that visit Cancun as part of their holiday. 

If you looking for more an adult area than Playa de Carmen will be more suited for your liking and will next on my list.  But for now if you want to experience a place where you can relax and change it up a bit with a ruin tour than I highly recommend Cancun.

Cancun receives 4 Forks Up.  The price for all inclusive is fabulous.  The food and people make it what it is relaxing and enjoyable.  The food in town is great doing not go the chain restaurants you came to Cancun to experience the local fair not to go to Chilies or the Hard Rock Café.  I will not go back to the Sun Palace as the food was ok but I just cannot due another buffet.  The beach is spectacular but as soon as I landed they wanted me to go to their sister resort Moon Palace to take a tour – must be part of a time share.  So Sun Palace gets a 2.5 star.