• 5 Not Unique But Delicious Costa Rican Snacks

    Delicious helado inthe streets of San Jose, Costa Rica

    Delicious helado inthe streets of San Jose, Costa Rica

    Costa Rican cuisine is very similar to other Spanish counterparts such as Cuban and Colombian. However, just like each country in the world has their own personal spin on life, this also holds true for the food!

    Yes, you may have experienced these delightful bites in another country, but no trip to Costa Rica is complete unless you check these off your food bucket list.

    1. Imperial Beer

    I am not much of beer drinking, however, Imperial Beer is where it was at for me. I loved drinking like a local and it really just hit the spot on humid days by the beach.

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    2. Tropical Fruits

    Islands and places near the equator are famous for their fresh fruits and Costa Rica was no exception. From their blood oranges to star fruit, everything tasted so flavorful that it was great! But the standout fruit snack was their pineapple. Better than Hawaii or the Philippines, Costa Rica is where I have had THE BEST pinapples of my life. It’s also their main food export, so I’m sure that means something. Don’t believe me? Go there and try it or come at me bruh! ;P

    3. Casado

    A casado is a fairly all encompasing meal in Costa Rica. It has rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional entrée that may include chicken, beef, pork, fish and so on and so forth. Get the picture? It’s their go to meal that you can mix and match to your heart’s desire. You can usually find these at small food outlets called sodas for a super cheap price, sometimes as low as $5 for a huge plate of food.

    Typical bistec casado

    Typical bistec casado

    4. Gallo Pinto

    Gallo pinto somewhat ties in to the casado except this is just a focus on rice and beans. I normally had more of this in the morning for breakfast versus the afternoon. If you aren’t down to eat a whole casado, sometimes just a portion of gallo pinto is all you need to get the tico (locals) experience.

    Examples of gallo pinto for breakfast along with some fresh fruit!

    Examples of gallo pinto for breakfast along with some fresh fruit!

    5. Plantains

    Last but ABSOLUTELY NOT least are plantains. They serve plantains with literally every meal. Breakfast.. lunch…dinner. Everything comes with plantains. You are meant to eat them as part of the main meal, however, I like to save the sweet flavor as dessert. Long story short, I ate them all the time, they were always delicious and I was part plantain by the time I left Costa Rica.

    TELL ME! Have you been to Costa Rica? What was your favorite food item or snack?

  • All Toll Roads Lead To Miami

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    When I planned my Florida escapade it was for the sole purpose of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! But after I realized how much time I had, I decided to explore what else the Sunshine Stae had to offer. Without a full minute’s thought, the first answer was Miami!!! So what if it was 3.5 hours away from where I was staying… so what if I could only be in the city for about 6 hours? It would be worth it right? RIGHT? Yes… and no.

    NO

    1. The 3.5 hour drive turned in to a 5 hour drive because of the terrible rain. And YES! It was my idea to power through the rain, but who knew it would be so scary?

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    2. TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS!!! Goodness gracious. Be prepared to pay at least $15 EACH WAY when driving from Orlando to Miami. Be prepared to pay toll roads in general when in south Florida. It was stupid how many there were and some even need exact change!! AHHHH! Be warned!
    3. If you’re not going for the party scene… arriving in the evening can be kinda underwhelming.. womp womp…actually arriving late in the evening was a bummer regardless because I didn’ even get t see the beach. *SIGH*

    YES

    1. I can say I’ve been to Miami and experienced Little Havana. (And see some of Calle Ocho street art.)
    2. Some of the food at Versaille’s Restaurant was underwhelming, but their Cuban Coffee (colada) and flan delivered!

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    3. I love looking at pretty houses and Miami and South Beach have a bunch of those!
    4. Even though I wasn’t there to party, it was a Friday night and you can totally get a feel for the vibe of the city! It’s definitely enough to make you want to give it another chance.
    5. I got to use my (limited) Spanish skills in Little Havana and felt totally local and boss.

    So overall… I have no opinion on Miami and that’s rare for me to say. I didn’t experience it long it enough to love it, hate it, or judge it. I think given more time and maybe better conditions (both weather and mental preparation of toll roads), I would have a clearer idea of what Miami is and what it has to offer.

    So tell me! Am I missing out on the Miami madness? Or did I dodge a bullet?

  • There and Back With Harry Potter Snacks

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart's Castle

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart’s Castle

    If anyone has ever seen a Harry Potter movie, you will know how beautiful they make the food look. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the UK and let me tell you, the food is not as magnificent as it looks in the Harry Potter movies.  BUT! At The WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, it’s a different story! The food looks.. well.. magical. Everything from the pot pies, Honeydukes candy , ice cream and butterbeer look delicious and look like something out of the movie itself.

    It can be overwhelming in a theme park, with so many (overpriced) food items, you want to make the right decision. Your tummy and wallet count on it! There are of course food items at the other areas of Universal and Islands of Adventure, but for this particular post, I will focus solely on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Alright…hop on your virtual Hogwarts Express and let’s go!

    Diagon Alley:

    This is on the Universal Side, technically the newer part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but also the smaller area.

    Florean Forescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

    Although this ice cream parlor has some rad flavor combos like chocolate chili , earl grey and lavender, strawberry and peanut-butter. All for the price of  $4.99in a cup or if you prefer a cone, $5.99. The true star for me (as you’ll see from this list) is the butterbeer soft serve. It’s not only my favorite way to enjoy butterbeer, but the creamy texture is devine on a warm, Florida day. You can also enjoy this treat for $4.99 in a cup or again, $5.99 in a cone.

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Leaky Cauldron

    I didn’t personally eat here, but I  hung around the restaurant and lurked enough people’s food plates and stared at the menu enough to have a solid idea about this place. If you’re looking for “real” food in Diagon Alley, this is your jam. You can have popular British items such as: Toad in the hole, Scotch Eggs and Guinness Stew. These items are going to be a little more expensive, at about $13 – $18 a plate, but you’ll find yourself full for much longer.

    That’s it for Diagon Alley, short and sweet, just like the place!

    Hogsmeade:

    Located within Islands of Adventure, and what is considered the “main park” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade will have more dining options overall.

    Butterbeer

    To be fair, butterbeer can be found in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but since I had all my butterbeer in Hogsmeade, that’s where it’s being categorized. You can have it hot (inside of the Three Broomsticks), soda style, or frozen. All versions have a marshmallow whip on top that really seal the deal on the flavor profile. You HAVE to try all three. My favorite liquid form was the frozen butterbeer. But any of them make a magical beverage. You can purchase the butterbeer for $7 regularly, or you can spend the extra money (which I did) and get the souvenir mug for $12. The mug is only for the frozen or soda since it’s not meant for hot beverages.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    Three Broomsticks

    Similar to how The Leaky Cauldron is the main food hub in Diagon Alley, The Three Broomsticks is the main dining option inside of Hogsmeade. The Three Broomsticks offers popular British and Harry Potter food staples such as: Cornish Pasties $9.99, Fish and Chips $13.99 and Shepherd’s Pie $12.49. This is a great place for a mid day break and to fuel up for the evening.

    Honeydukes

    I feel like if you’ve seen the movies, read the books, then you too have been dying to go to Honeydukes in Hogsmeade. The beauty of this store is… it truly looks like the movie! The walls are lined with candy. There are cockroach clusters (yum!), lemon drops, pumpkin pasties and the ever popular, Chocolate Frogs $12 and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans $11. No trip to Hogsmeade is complete until you buy or try those two. The price is a little steep for candy, but it’s really the experience you’re buying with that.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    Those are indeed the ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT, YOU BETTER DO IT, items from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that I believe are worth the time standing in line and the money it takes from your wallet. (See my other post, HARRY POTTER AND THE THEME PARK THAT TOOK ALL OF MY MONEY.)

    But there are some notable mentions to add to this list as well.

    If you have to’s:

    Pumpkin juice

    Similar to Butterbeer, the Pumpkin juice comes in different forms. The fancy bottle for $7 or Pumpkin Fizz (carbonated pumpkin juice) in a plastic cup for $5. The latter can be found in the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks. Now, it’s not a must have for me because I Loooove love pumpkin, and the drink did not taste like it. It was a little bitter but still super sweet. It’s worth a try if you have the time and money, but you’re experience at the park won’t be lost if you don’t try it. Just take pictures of the cool bottle.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Hog’s Head

    Personally, I’m sure this ends up on some people’s MUST DO list, but I’m not a big drinker so I’ll categorize this here. The Hog’s Head is connected to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It’s not a full bar area, just a bar. They have some custom beers on tap such as Wizard’s Brew $8 a pint and Dragon’s Scale for $8 a pint. Of course it’s fun to try a custom beer, but for the $16 it costs to try both, I would recommend trying a sip from a friend’s and using the money on souvenirs.

    Gillywater

    Last but not least on my if you have to’s… this is a seriously if you have to aka don’t bother. The bottle looks similar to a water bottle.. .yet it’s labeled Gillywater and is a shocking $8!! I wonder what it is? SPOILER ALERT: It’s an $8 bottle of water. Seriously save your money. They have water fountains.

    Needless to say, I was full and happy from my time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I hope you have a productive feasting. Let me know what snacks you enjoyed and what snacks you passed on.

     

     

  • Is Sweet

    Is Sweet in Las Vegas

    Is Sweet in Las Vegas

    There is a new dessert and coffee shop in Las Vegas and it IS SWEET. (See what I did there?!) That’s what it’s called and that’s what it is! A locally owned business, the shop is located right outside of Las Vegas Chinatown. It’s open daily from 11:00am until midnight which means it a great choice for many Las Vegas locals o=who work way past the hours of a 9am – 5pm job.

    Is Sweet menu

    Is Sweet menu

    Is Sweet has a few basic selections of espressos and coffees and classic treats like coffee cakes and tiramisus on their menu. However, the highlights of their menu are their Asian inspired desserts such as a green tea crepe cake, honey toast and assortment of milk teas in flavors like Thai tea, matcha green tea and taro!

    Is Sweet vanilla crepe cake.

    Is Sweet vanilla crepe cake.

    I had the chance to try my friend’s crepe cake (she opted for the vanilla instead of the green tea flavor) and it was light and delicious. It was served with berries that complimented the dish well. I could easily eat two of them in one sitting. If you are looking for something light, this is for you. If you are like myself and have a huge sweet tooth and a tummy to match…. then you may want to order another option… like the HONEY TOAST.

    Is Sweet honey toast.

    Is Sweet honey toast.

    Honey Toast. There are not enough words to describe how simple yet amazing this dessert is. Normally, it is just sweet white toast in the shape of a brick and is traditionally topped with honey and vanilla ice cream. Straight forward. No fuss. Very straight forward but still a comforting dessert. Now… flash forward to Is Sweet and they allow you to make your honey toast as plain as you would like or as fancy! You can choose the toppings, syrups and ice creams that go on top! Each topping ranges from 50 cents to a dollar 50 each, but the beauty is in the control. You can create the honey toast of your dreams and you can also come back multiple times and never have the same thing twice! For my first visit I opted for almonds, honey, condensed milk and green tea ice cream. It was perfect!

    Is Sweet taro milk tea.

    Is Sweet taro milk tea.

    Finally, my drink selection. To be honest, I love milk tea. I love all flavors of milk tea. I tried their iced taro milk tea. It was very rich and sweet and to some it might have been too much, but to me, it was milk tea nirvana. It paired nicely with my honey toast and I would definitely get it again. If you have never had taro…. the purple can seem very strange at first but it is similar in flavor to cookies and cream…although it’s a yam. Odd. I know. But try it!

    Is Sweet! Look for the sign.

    Is Sweet! Look for the sign.

    Overall, Is Sweet was amazing and I hope they do so well! The presentation on all their items is so adorable and the environment is so relaxed and homey. I honestly have no complaints. They have a loyal customer with me and if you are in Vegas or ever in the area, be sure to check them out! How about you? Where is your favorite coffee shop located? Do any of these treats appeal to you? I would love to know!

  • Sonoma Wine Tasting

    Walking through the vineyard. It's not the best idea to wear white to a red wine tasting, but it does look great in photos!

    Walking through the vineyard. It’s not the best idea to wear white to a red wine tasting, but it does look great in photos!

    If you like wine or know anything about wine, then I am sure you are familiar with the Napa and Sonoma area of Northern California. Known for their large quantities of vineyards and wineries, this area calls to the winos in us all. With over 600 different wineries and tasting rooms to choose from in the Napa and Sonoma area, it makes it almost impossible for a first time visitor to choose. So I decided not to!

    Sonoma, California

    Sonoma, California

    By that, I don’t mean I just aimless wandered around Sonoma until a kind stranger brought me to a vineyard! My big seester (Seester: Noun. Best friend who is like an older sister) signed us up for a wine tour with Terrific Tours . For the low, low price of $100 per person, we were able to sit in a comfy van and cruise from winery to winery. It really makes it easy for you to sit back, enjoy the wine and get a little bit wine wasted.  Terrific Tours focuses on boutique wineries, something off the beaten path that you may not find if you are just Googling “Sonoma, Wineries, Vineyards”.

    Christopher Creek Winery

    Christopher Creek Winery

    In total, we visited four different wineries. Each winery allowed us to taste anywhere from five to six different wines. (These glasses QUICKLY add up!). Overall, my two favorite wineries we visited were Kobler Estate Winery and Christoper Creek Winery. Both of these two wineries were beautiful and offered an excellent atmosphere to enjoy your excellent wine. Even though I was taking part of a wine tour, I never felt rushed. There was ample time spent at each location. Enough time to drink, talk and take plenty of pictures. I was fortunate to visit during a time of year when he grapes are stating to become their ripest and changing color. It’s called veraison and only happens during a small window in the year!!

    Sonoma vineyard grapes going through veraison.

    Sonoma vineyard grapes going through veraison.

    The tour lasted for about six hours from beginning to end. I enjoyed every minute of it! Up to my 20 minute nap in the van on the ride back ;). Sonoma is an area you can visit again and again and have a different experience each time. Each winery and vineyard has it’s own personality that there is always a reason to return. I enjoyed my time here thoroughly and I can’t wait to check out Napa some time soon. Very few things can make you feel fancier than walking barefoot through a vineyard with a glass of rose in your hand.

  • Lago

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago, is one of the newest restaurants in Las Vegas by James Beard Award-winning Chef Julian Serrano and is located within the Bellagio. When given the chance to dine at Lago (and ultimately review it) who wouldn’t be thrilled?! Lago is an Italian restaurant with small plate options of meat and seafood, vegetarian, desserts and cocktails! Not only that, but it has arguably, one of the best views of the Bellagio Fountains.

    PhotoGrid_1429074044468-1

    Patio views from Lago at the Bellagio

    Since Lago by Julian Serrano is all small plates, each plate is meant to be about 3 or 4 bites and the recommendation is that every person at the table order about 4 plates of food. However, if you have a large appetite, I would suggest to order 5 – 6 plates. The menu at Lago is large and diverse. I would venture to say that there is something for everyone. During an opening preview had the opportunity to try about 80% of the menu with my party, so I will fill you in on some of my favorites.

    Crostini & Pizzette (Toasted Bread & Small Pizza)

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Left to right: ‘NDUJA | spicy pork sausage | gorgonzola $10, MARGHERITA | tomato sauce | house made mozzarella | basil $14, BRUSCHETTA AL POMODORO | tomatoes | basil | garlic oil $7. If you only pick one bread item, my favorite was the Nduja. It was everything. Very flavorful. The texture and taste is very satisfying.

    Pesce (Seafood)

    In general, seafood is not one of the main items I like to order at a tapas style restaurant. But if YOU like seafood, these two are my main recommendations.

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    Seafood at Lago

    BRANZINO LIVORNESE | capers | olives | tomatoes $16, which was excellent. The fish was light and the skin was just the right amount of crispy. I may put this second to Dover Sole (which is my favorite.)

    The bottom is a seafood platter sample of the following: *CIOPPINO |white fish and clams, *TONNO | ahi tuna,*CAPASANTA | scallop, and *SALMONE | Skuna Bay salmon. The best one would be the salmon! The capers are always a good pairing.

     GNOCCHI! 

    No other word for it. No need for it’s specific classification. Just look for gnocchi on their menu. To the left, GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA | flat semolina gnocchi | blue cheese $14. The gnocchi alone is heavenly but if you order the dish to the right, 7 & 7 | potato gnocchi | lobster knuckles | salsa di crostacei $19 you will be able to leave the restaurant happy. I would come back just for those dishes..

    PhotoGrid_1429073667715

    Carne (Meat)

    Make sure you save room to try some of these meats! Left: POLPETTE DI CARNE | tomato braised beef meatballs $15            Top Right: SCALOPPINA DI VITELLO | veal piccata $20 Bottom Right: *BISTECCA | 1lb bone-in rib eye $50. I know the Bistecca seems a little pricey, but it can be shared easily with at least 3 – 4 people. More reason to order it, right?

    PhotoGrid_1429073784680Desserts!!

    Just like the gnocchi, the desserts need no introduction. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them were beyond amazing. As great as other dishes were, the desserts were still the best part in my opinion. 
    IMG_20150409_001246

    The canolis (bottom left) and the gelato mousse (bottom left) were two of my absolute favorites. The tiramisu (upper left) is a classic and is above and beyond the level of average. Lastly, the chocolate hazelnut dome (upper left) is any nuttella addict’s dream come true. Don’t judge me, but yes, I ate them all.


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    All in all, Lago is a spectacular edition to the Bellagio. An addition that they needed, if I’m being honest. When you are done enjoying the food of Julian Serrano, be sure to step out to the patio and catch some of the Bellagio Fountain show. It’s a view that is hard to come by, so enjoy it!

    I hope you enjoyed my review of Lago at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Leave a comment and let me know if you’e been to Lago and how you felt about it. Have a fabulous day!

  • Philippine Street Drinks

    Coconut2

    Similar to my previous post about street food in the Philippines, there is also of course street drinks that can be found all over the island! These were my favorite two that I had while I was on vacation.

    Energy Drink

    I love energy drinks, however, they are short supply in the Philippines. I was unable to locate the popular American brands that I am used to, such as Rockstar or Redbull, but I was able to find one. Sting!

    Sting

    It tasted more sugary than what I was used to, although it did the job just fine. But what is best about it is that it comes served in a plastic bag! Just like almost all soda products in the Philippines, they arrive in glass bottles that the store owners do not want to part with. So instead, they give the drink to you with a plastic bag and a straw.

    Sting2

    This is how it was 9 years ago when I was last in the Philippines and it’s nice to see that this hasn’t changed.

    Buko

    Or a whole freaking coconut. Cut open right in front of you this is the best way to enjoy the trendy coconut water that is sold at a ridiculous price in stores across the United States. At the cost of about 50 pesos per coconut, you not only get the juice inside but the awesome coconut meat inside! The whole thing is really a meal in itself.

    coconut

    So remember when you are in the Philippines, to #1, get a drink in a bag and #2, geat a coconut the size of your head.

    Enjoy!

    It takes two hands to hold up this coconut!

    It takes two hands to hold up this coconut!

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  • Root Beer Lover

    I’m not much of a die hard beer drinker (I’m a Root Beer Lover), but while I was in New Orleans I tried a locally brewed beer called Abita. It’s a company located just 30 miles from New Orleans with a variety of different beers in their line up. My favorite being Abita Purple Haze. It was rather tasty and became one of my preferred drinks.

    Now, flash forward from New Orleans to Old Town San Diego. They have a little store that sells jerky & root beer. I may not be into beers, but as mentioned, I do love root beer! When I drink soda, that’s my #1 choice! So you can see why this store was exciting.

    While Browsing through their wide selection, what would be sitting on their shelves but this!!

    Best Root Beer!

    Root Beer Lover loves Abita Root Beer. Best Root Beer!

    Abita! It was an Abita Root Beer. Can we say, instant purchase? It’s an old fashioned soda. Straight forward ingredients including spring water, herbs, vanilla and yucca (which creates foam). The kicker being that the sugar it’s sweetened with is pure Louisiana cane sugar. You really can’t beat a drink like this! If you see one, beer or especially a root beer, try it!