Playa Del Carmen – Passion by Martín Berasategui

With such a hilarious Michael Jackson show in the day prior, we couldn’t pass up seeing the Aladdin show playing in the Paradisus La Perla theater. We had an 8:00 reservation for dinner and Aladdin started at 7:30 so we were only able to catch the first 30 minutes of the nostalgia generating performance! Between the costumes, the semi-coordinated dancing and lip syncing, all the music from my favorite Disney movie, and two glasses of wine, we were very entertained.

After we got our Aladdin fix, it was time for dinner at the world-renowned restaurant, Passion by Martín Berasategui. Berasategui has several Michelin Stars from other restaurants and launched a fancy resultant at our hotel. Even though this dinner was not included in our all-inclusive, we decided to give it a go – and boy were we glad!

We got dressed up and entered the fanciest restaurant on the grounds. Our white-gloved waiter greeted us and presented us with a selection of waters from across the world. I have never been offered a water selection… it was so lux. We decided on bottled water from Playa Del Carmen and it was poured over a rose petal in our water glasses.

We were then presented with two amuse-bouches dishes first that were totally to-die-for! The first featured balsamic watermelon, beef and caper tartar over a wonton crisp, parmesan cheese puffs, a grapefruit puree, and another puff of some kind. It was an off-the-menu surprise of a first course into an excellent meal.

The second amuse-bouche was a light calamari salad with a lemon drizzle.

After we finished with the first two courses, our tasting menu began. Our waiter set down a marble block with 5 different butters that were to be paired with a different bread over the next 5 courses. I have to say, the butter was one of my favorite dishes of the meal! From truffle, to citrus zest, to Italian herb, the butters were so creamy and paired so well with each bread variety that I had no butter left by the end of the meal. I was in calorie heaven! Our first butter was accompanied by thin slices of tri tip steak over foie gras royal.

Next up was organic egg yolk with liquid salad, red tubers and smoked cheese. I typically do not like any type of egg unless it is scrambled, but when this infused, red egg yolk was popped and mixed with the other flavors, the egg was taken to an entirely different flavor level.

Next up was a dashi and mushroom broth over liquid cheese spheres with dewlap and crispy quinoa. The broth was poured over the dish and added an interesting mushroom flavor. Additionally, there have only been two different instances in my life where I have eaten and tolerated raw tomatoes. Note, I love sun-dried tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce, and salsa, but I just cannot stand raw tomatoes! Outside of the tomato dish at Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, this is the only other time I have eaten tomatoes and not died inside – it was that good!

The 4th course was totoba with false shiitake mushroom risotto and creamy rice. It was good but was probably the least remarkable dish of the night. I did like the crispy skin on the fish though.

Our waiter delivered our 5th course of picanha with truffled tubers and olives and then rolled over a cart of salts. We picked some salt flavors and then added a dash to each bite of the steak as we enjoyed the dish. I tried a volcanic  and grasshopper salts and, wouldn’t you know, they were both delicious.

After a quick palette cleanser, my favorite dish of the night of lemon ice cream with basil essence, green bean and almond was served. The lemon was actually a cold, white chocolate shell that contained an incredible lemony cream inside. I cracked it open with my spoon and the cream picked up pieces of the dark chocolate crunch underneath, making for one of the most scrumptious bites of food I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. On the other side of the plate was mint infused ice. The cool sensation of the ice ,when enhanced by the lemon and chocolate still lingering from prior bites, was simple and exquisite. I would eat this every day of my life if I could.

The last dessert on the official menu was a chocolate Bailey’s ice cream with vanilla and coffee toffee and it was then followed up by a “chef’s treat” of other various mini-desserts and jellies. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed after a total of 11 dishes (plus all of those yummy butters and breads!).

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Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Two years ago, we went to Cancun and booked all our excursions thorough the ME Cancun. While we had an amazing time with those tours, they were with lots of other people and we paid a lot more than if we had booked online. This time around, we researched tours on TripAdvisor before we left and booked a Snorkel & Sea Turtle Adventure with Edventure Tours which had a 5-star rating and over a 1.4K reviews! With that amount of reviews, it had to be good and the price was just right.

Our shuttle for the tour picked us up at 7 AM so it was another early morning. The bus was very clean and comfortable and our driver was very friendly. We picked up another couple along the 50-minute drive to Tulum and arrived around 8 AM. The took us to Edventure Tour’s HQ, a little shop on the outskirts of the Tulum Ruins park, and we met Eddy the owner. He was so nice and gave us free passes to the Tulum Ruins since the four-other people who were joining us on our snorkel and sea turtle adventure were rock climbing first. He also gave us a free bottle of organic sun screen to use instead of the stuff we brought that had chemicals harmful to the sea life. Super nice!

It was quite sunny out and Ryan didn’t have a hat so we stopped at one of the shops on the way to the Tulum Ruins.  He tried on all sorts of fedoras, cowboy hats, bonnets, and finally settled on a giant straw one. It was super goofy but, after rocking his Peruvian “adventure hat” for so long, we had to make sure he had a worthy replacement!

Adventure hats are the best hats! Tulum, Mexico

A guide walked us to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, gave us our free tickets, and said we had about an hour to gallivant around. Since it was so early, there were not a ton of people there, so we had free reign of the Ruins. While they were not quite as impressive as Chichen Itza, the view from the cliffs, combined with the 1,300-year-old ruins, were very impressive.

There were even iguanas running around everywhere. The only downside was that my flip-flops meant for our day at the beach gave me a huge blister. Word to the wise, wear walking sandals on all excursions just in case!

The ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The ruins took about 30 minutes to go through and, while it was only about 75 degrees, it was humid so we were ready for refreshment. We wandered through the market shops outside of the ruins and found a little restaurant to grab a michelada, or what they call Rojo Ojo. It was so good! We walked back to the Edventures area and our guide, George, packed our snorkel gear and gave us some snacks for the bus ride to Eddy’s private property.

Eddy has 10 hectares (24 acres) of forest that had cenotes, a zip line park, and rock climbing on it. Once we got there, George had us hop in a camouflage ATV and we drove fast over 4 miles of rocky path through the forest to get to the cenotes! Cenotes are flooded underground caves with stalagmites and stalactites. There are three different kinds, once that are completely under grounds, ones that have caved in and are partially exposed, and then ones that are totally open. Our first stop was the underground variety.

We walked down this 5-foot-wide hole in the group to an underground paradise. It was completely dark so we were given flashlights to see in the water as we swam. The water was so blue and the perfect temperature. We could see perfectly way down to the bottom and there were little fish swimming around us. It was so cool to swim through the cave and see the bats hanging from the ceiling crevasse. I loved every second of it!

After the cave cenote, we walked to the open air one. It have to say, it was quite nice only having 6 people and two guides to our group. It made for a very exclusive feel without overcrowding. Anyway, this cave had a jumping platform where we could jump into the deep water.

There were also tons of cool structures in the depths of the water and ominous dark caves to go scuba diving in.

Exploring the waters of a cenote in Tulum, Mexico

We swam around and explored the cenote for about 45 minutes before heading to a Palapa for a lunch of pork and chicken tacos. Lunch was pretty good and, after we filled up, Ryan was given the keys to our ATV and drove us back to the van area. He loved every second of it (and we made it back without crashing – always a plus!)

We met the other 4 in our group, hopped in a van, and drove 15 minutes to Akumal Bay where the sea turtles are! Apparently over the past year or so, sea turtle tours were banned by the government due to huge tour groups disrupting the turtles. Two weeks before our vacation, 30 tour groups were re-granted permits out of the 300 or so that had permits the year before. Edventure tours had been working with the turtles and very involved in the environmental protection of the area for 30+ years and were grated a tour, so we were able to go!

The beach was totally packed with people and we were given special wristbands to snorkel out to the turtles. As we got further from the beach, the water got much clearer and you could see green seaweed growing from the sand. Apparently, this was the sea turtle’s favorite food and, within 4-5 minutes of being out there, we saw our first turtle!

We all floated around it and, eventually it had to come up to air. It spun around while rising and came within one foot of my face (see below)! The turtle was so huge and cute and I was in awe that I was so close to such a magical creature! It is amazing how encounters with such majestic animals can make for some of the coolest moments of our lives.

Getting up close and personal with a sea turtle in Mexico

We saw a bit further and I spotted another turtle with two huge fish on it! They were sucker fish and were eating the stuff on the turtle’s shell. So cool! We watched that turtle for a while and then were off to explore the reef.

The reef had tons of beautiful fish, much better than our snorkeling in Thailand, and we even saw a king fish! King fish are one of the deadliest fish we can encounter in reefs, but they are so cool looking!

A school of purple fish in the reefs in Mexico

We snorkeled for another 30 minutes or so throughout the reef and ended up back on the beach. We hopped back in the van and drove about 10 minutes down the road to a lagoon to do some more snorkeling. The lagoon was in a nature park with cool sculptures everywhere and we had to walk through a forest path to get to the lagoon. It was beautiful and full of amazing fish that flourished in the nutrient rich stream water hitting that of the sea.

Lounging by the lagoon in Mexico

We snorkeled there for about an hour. The top two feet of the water was hard to see through as the salt and sea water mixed, but visibility got much better with a quick dive down.

Snorkeling in a lagoon in Mexico

Eventually, all the activities of the day and early morning got to us, and we hopped out of the lagoon to relax on the rocky edges until the group was gathered and we took the hour-long ride home to get ready for our extravagant dinner at the Passion restaurant.