7 trips that put families in close contact with local wildlife

Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Fulfill your family’s ultimate once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure by taking a dip with whale sharks – the biggest (and most friendly) fish in the world! From May to September, families staying at sister properties CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa can embark by boat to snorkel alongside these magnificent gentle giants where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Though they measure up to 40 feet long and weigh in at 15 tons, whale sharks feed exclusively on plankton and are totally harmless to humans. Added perk: guests at the Cancun Marriott Resorts can check out a GoPro HER04 for the day to capture unbelievable underwater family photo ops.

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Explore the Costa Rican rainforest

For an unforgettable nature-filled vacation, families should head to Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, spread across 900 acres of natural rainforest reserve in Costa Rica’s northern region — an area responsible for 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity. With more than 500 species of local plant and wildlife on property, kiddos just might spot a coatimundis, toucans or howler monkeys. Families can have nearby animal encounters with activities like horseback riding, ziplining through the trees, rainforest tours and more. As an added bonus, the carbon neutral resort offers an eco-friendly environment that teaches kids about sustainability and how to protect the area’s natural resources.

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Swim with sea turtles in Barbados

SUP dude? For an unforgettable animal encounter, families will love Colony Club‘s stand-up paddle board (SUP) and turtle swim excursion. Starting out on the white, warm sands of Barbados’ renowned beach, families will paddle out to The Lone Star Restaurant, one of the local, turtle hangouts, and dive into the crystal blue waters to get up-close-and-personal with the island’s friendliest marine animals – the once-endangered population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles.


Hangout with reptiles in Curacao

Situated on a 27 acre plantation of rare natural preserve, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao offers an island-within-an-island feel with some of the most varied and exotic flora and fauna in the Caribbean. Through the resort’s eco-friendly, locally inspired Camp Arawak program, kids will love the chance to feed the resort’s resident iguanas. Plus, in between watersport adventures like snorkeling and paddleboarding, families can observe hawksbill turtles nesting along the resort’s private beach every July through September.

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Paddleboard with Dolphins in Jupiter, Florida

Hotel guests staying at the oceanfront resort can head to the nearby Blueline Surf & Paddle Co., and work up a sweat navigating the mangroves of the Intracoastal Waterways on a 90-minute paddleboard eco tour, where you might see manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Complimentary beach cruisers are also available for resort guests to get the heart pumping as they explore the charming, seaside town’s iconic landmarks, including the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Loggerhead Marine Life Center.  

Encounter sea lions, blue footed boobies and penguins galore in The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world, and Ecoventura’s fleet of eco-friendly cruises brings families face to face with daily excursions through the archipelago’s diverse islands. From swimming alongside sea lions (and plenty of curious sea lion pups) to watching the Blue Footed Boobies shake their feet in a mating dance, snorkeling with penguins off the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella. In a destination as pristine and protected as the Galapagos, wildlife wanders freely and fearlessly in the islands, meaning parents and kids are in for the trip of a lifetime.


Kayak through a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico

A kayaking tour through the mangrove forrest of the Laguna Grande takes families to a secret hideaway — Fajardo’s bioluminescent bay. A short drive from San Juan, the magical waters are filled with millions of prehistoric organisms that when touched, leave a breathtaking glow in the moonlight. The excursion, organized by the family friendly San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, invites families to learn the history and science behind the twinkling trail in the bio bay while enjoying a ride under the stars.

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Feed alpacas and llamas in Cusco

The colorful city of Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas is the perfect destination for adventurous families looking for a rich dose of culture. A short drive from the city center, Awana Kancha – a llama, alpaca and vicuña farm — brings families face to face with the region’s most loved furry animals in all shapes and colors. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the resident animals eagerly awaiting to be fed giant handfuls of grass. The interactive feedings are followed by textile weaving demonstrations by the local women keeping the tradition alive. After a day long day of adventure, families can relax in  the historic JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, a 16th century convent turned hotel whose lobby is frequented by alpacas and llamas.
~ Contributed by Julia Cavalieri, account coordinator at Diamond PR. Follow Julia on Twitter @diamondpr

6 Tricks to Get 86% More Chipotle Burrito (for free!)

It’s basically a universal truth that the only thing better than Chipotle is…more Chipotle. I’m no religious scholar, but I’m pretty sure heaven is just one big Chipotle restaurant where the guac and chips are ALWAYS free and hell is just some Taco Bell. So when one of my co-workers at Apartment List brought up the question of how to hack Chipotle to get the most burrito for your buck, I was intrigued. If ever there was a noble intern task, this was obviously it.

Through a lot of burrito research and even more company write-offs and office burrito donations, I’ve discovered these 6 tips that can increase the size of your burrito by 86% without spending any more money.

You’re welcome, world. Please send the Nobel Prize to my mom’s house.

The Experiment


So I took my geeky love of data and my black hole of a belly to Chipotle for several days and ordered 5 burritos each day (35 burritos total), then returned to the Apartment List office to meticulously separate out and weigh the ingredients. Finally, I combined all the best methods to confirm the total burrito size increase. Additional methodology footnotes are below, but for now – on to the meat of the experiment (pun intended).

Tip 1: Get a burrito bowl  with a tortilla on the side

Tip 1

At its onset, Chipotle introduced the innovative burrito bowl that combined its authentic Mexican cuisine with the ease of knife-and-fork dining. Burrito legend has it that the bowl’s lack of tortilla constraints influences servers to give burrito bowl customers huge portions in general. In my experiments, I found that this method alone gets 15% more ingredients across the board, without changing anything else about the order. Still craving that full burrito experience? No problem – you can easily ask for a tortilla on the side. Which leads to our next tip…

Tip 2: Double wrapping (asking for two tortillas)

Tip 2

This method of calling in tortilla reinforcements was initially introduced by Chipotle to save burritos that busted open their first tortilla, but Chipotle sometimes lets you ask for a double wrap for free, which adds another 4.25 ounce tortilla to your burrito (ask for the tortillas at the end, when the staff just wants you to go away). Congratulations, your burrito just became 25% bigger. Ordering tortillas on the side and wrapping it yourself may be a daunting task for some, but if you value the time it takes you to wrap the burrito at $0 per hour (hey, burritos are worth your time), then you should add this method to your burrito maximization arsenal.

Tip 3: Order both kinds of rice

Tip 3The next time your server asks if you want white or brown rice, request both types – you’ll get almost 93% more rice, at no extra cost. This carbo-loading method increases the overall weight of the burrito by 23%. As an ancient American proverb puts it: more burrito, more food, more happiness.

Tip 4: Order both types of beans

Tip 4Just like rice, there are two different types of beans we can choose from: black and pinto. If you really want to maximize burrito weight, asking for both kinds gets you 92% more beans (another note: we aren’t responsible for the gas you’ll be having afterwards). With this method, you get a 16% burrito weight increase.

Tip 5: Half/half meats

Tip 5

In theory, asking for half chicken, half steak should yield one full serving, but our tests showed that you actually get 54% more meat – basically 3/4 scoop of each. This increase in meat grows the burrito’s weight by around 9%. You must note, however, that you’ll be charged for the more expensive of the meats, but we’ve put the many finance and accounting degrees here at Apartment List to good use and determined that it’s still financially worth it.

Tip 6: Ask for fajita veggies and corn salsa

Tip 6

Hidden away and rarely mentioned by servers, the fajita vegetable mix and corn salsa are free to add, and taste good to boot. These underappreciated ingredients will cure any feeling you might have that your burrito might be lacking in terms of a balanced Food Pyramid. Grilled veggies and corn not only add more color and flavor to your burrito, but they also add around 2.55 ounces, increasing the weight by about 15% (vs. the standard burrito). Not only do you have more burrito, but you can also tell your friends and family that your burrito is totally 100% healthy.

Add it all together and you get….


Doing all the tricks together (you’ll have to double-wrap the burrito yourself) gets you a giant burrito that weighs almost 32 ounces, at no additional cost! You’re going to need a course to learn how to wrap all that. Don’t worry about finding one: we got you covered.

See below for the change in weight, by ingredient:

TableSo, in a nutshell:

There you have it. By using each of the six tricks I suggest, you may end up with a little less cheese and salsa (that comes at the end, when your bowl will already be pretty full), but you get a lot more rice, beans, and meat. My final burrito weighed 86% more than the control. Sounds like it’s time to go to Chipotle! 


I ordered a lot of burritos.

Every day for about two weeks, I, the intern, set off to the same Chipotle around 3 P.M. to order five of the same burritos from the same shift of workers. The control burrito I compared everything to was a white rice, black beans, chicken, mild salsa, and cheese burrito. I excluded guacamole and sour cream from all burritos so that separating ingredients wouldn’t be such a hellish nightmare that would make me cry into the burrito and mess up the data. The weights I use are an average across these five burritos. Yes, that does mean I ordered 35 burritos.

It’s okay, though, it was all a write off.



There was no need to worry about wasting food afterwards because after I was done with the burritos I left them on the office kitchen counter and they all mysteriously disappeared within a few minutes. For some, my five burritos per day offering didn’t fully satisfy, so some coworkers and I had a contest to see who could get the biggest burrito (that we’d get to eat). The winner didn’t even use Tip #1 and got a 30.25 ounce burrito!

Overall, I worked quite a few hours to gather all this data and consequently received funny looks from coworkers. It was then that it hit me how strange it was to be separating burritos at an apartment marketplace company. I have this irking feeling that my boss just didn’t know what to do with me and let me pursue my passion, but that would never happen to an intern. Though, with these astonishing results and all those dirty looks, I’d say it was totally worth it.

~ By guest blogger  at Apartment List. Click here to see original post. 

Five Reasons to Visit Merida

If you have visited the eastern part of Mexico, you may be familiar with the beach towns of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Inland the state of Yucatan, is a magical city called, Mérida. With a population of 828,000 (2010 census), Merida is the capital of Yucatán, and a cosmopolitan hub of the region. It is relatively easy to get to (only 2 hours from southeast US) and offers a very different vibe than the rest of Mexico.

Here are 5 reasons to go to Merida, right now…

1. Merida is the safest place in Mexico. The country has developed a negative reputation for safety, but just like any other place in the world, there are good and bad areas. The state of Yucatan is open to educated, wealthy, and open minded people. Merida has a very strong culture that has historically been cut off and well preserved. Therefore, the people have maintained integrity when it comes to neighborly friendliness.

2. It’s like Europe, only cheaper. The cobblestone streets of the old town are surrounded by Spanish architecture. Street artists, ongoing exhibitions, families walking in the park square, lovers dining al fresco listening to live music – all gives the feeling that you are in a romantic city in Europe. But you are just south of US, where the Mexican Peso goes a lot further than the Euro.


3. There’s lots of culture. The famous avenue, Paseo de Montejo, is dotted with sculptures that are commission to artists around the world. Walking down the street you will also pass by museums, restaurants, boutiques, theaters and lovely mansions. Jarana orchestras and vaquero dances can be enjoyed at some restaurants. Listen to Yucatan Symphony Orchestra, watch a live performance at Teatro José Peón Contreras, or spend an afternoon at Gran Museo del Mundo Maya. It is noted that there is at least one free cultural event happening every day in Merida and weekends are dedicated entirely to the enjoyment of arts.


Click here to see list of cultural events happening in Merida. 

4. This isn’t the Mexican food you know of. Yucatecan food is its own genre of cuisine and very different from what most people consider “Mexican” food. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, as well as Caribbean, Mexican, European and Middle Eastern cultures. Try local dishes such as Sopa de Lima, Queso Relleno, Poc-Chuc, Papadzules and Panuchos. In Merida, you can find traditional restaurant, hole in the wall taco joint, as well as international bars and restaurants.

Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion
Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion

Click here to read more about the food from Yucatan.

5. It is is saturated with Mayan history. Mérida has the highest percentage of indigenous persons of any large city in Mexico with approximately 60% of all inhabitants being of the Maya ethnicity. The ancient Mayas left behind many cities with buildings, pyramids, and temples, and new discoveries are being made all the time. Located nearby is Chichen Itzá, Mayan pyramid known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.


10 Essential Dishes of Yucatecan Cuisine

It is located in Southeastern Mexico, on the north part of the Yucatán Peninsula. Yucatecan food is its own unique style and is very different from what most people would consider Mexican food. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, as well as Caribbean, European (Spanish), (North) African, and Middle Eastern cultures, as well as from the cuisine of other parts of Mexico. Key ingredients in this area are farm raised turkey and pork, spices such as oregano, habanero and xcatik, corn tortillas. Here are the top 10 must try dishes when you visit Yucatan…

1. Sopa de Lima – Whole turkeys are simmered for hours to make a delicious broth. It is then seasoned with with garlic, onion, tomatoes and dried oregano and lots of lime juice. The result is a sour yet refreshing lime soup. It tastes especially good when topped with fried tortilla strips.

Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion
Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion

2. Panuchos – An appetizer of handmade corn tortillas topped with refried black beans and shredded chicken or turkey. The chicken is marinated in annatto past (peppery achiote seeds) dissolved in juice of sour orange. It looks colorful when garnished with pickled red onions, avocados and chopped lettuce.

3. Salbutes – Looks very similar to paunches, but in salbutes the tortillas are made of corn and flour combined, and are fried till crispy. They are topped with shredded chicken (like above), onions, tomatoes and avocados, and served as appetizers.

yucatan food salutes
Salbutes at Hotel Mayaland

4. Longaniza Asada – Spicy, long, skinny sausage is similar to the Spanish chorizo. In the Yucatan it has a darker color because of achiote and venison (deer meat) instead of pork. It is smoked on charcoal grill and served with beans, tortillas, white cheese and sour orange.

yucatan food longaniza
Longaniza at Restaurante La Tradicion

5. Cochinita Pibil – Shredded BBQ pork is one of the delicacies of the region and can be found at practically every restaurant. The pork loin is traditionally marinated in annatto paste and sour orange juice overnight, then wrapped in banana leaves and gently cooked over charcoal for hours. It is always served with refried black beans and pickled red onion relish. Alternatively, you can get it with chicken instead of pork.

6. Queso Relleno – Probably the most globally influenced dish in the Yucatan. A round block of Dutch Edam cheese is hollowed out and stuffed with ground pork cooked with onions, bell peppers, olives, raisins, capers, and almonds. Hardboiled eggs are added to the meat mixture before it makes its way into the cheese dome. The entire thing is wrapped with banana leaves, baked for 30 minutes, and served with tomato salsa and a cheese sauce. Despite the calories, it is to die for!

yucatan food queso rellenos
Queso Rellenos at Restaurante La Tradicion

7. Poc Chuc – Sounds like pork chop, and it basically is grilled fillet of pork loin. The meat is beaten till thin (Milanese style) and marinated in sour orange, salt and pepper, then grilled over charcoal.

yucatan food pork chuc
Pork Chuc at Hacienda Sotuta de Peón

8. Dulce de Papaya Con Queso – An interesting dessert recipe that can take 3 days to prepare. A whole green papaya is candied by leaving outside (only at night), soaked in lime water, then caramelized with sugar for few hours. The result is a sweet and gummy piece of fruit which is served with shredded Edam cheese.

9. Flan – A common dish found across Central and South America, and at practically every meal in the Yucatan. Flan is made with condensed and evaporated milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla. The carmel custard is delicious when light and creamy.

10. Xnipec – Roasted habaenro peppers are used to make all kinds of sauces that can taste anywhere from mild to burn your tongue hot! Xnipec is a fiery hot chunky salsa made with habanero chiles and Seville orange juice, eaten in small quantities.

Living With Art in the Yucatan

During my recent visit to the colonial city of Velladolid in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, I had the privilege of visiting John Venator at his home. Venator is a retired American executive who fell in love with Mexico few years ago. He visited the Yucatan area with his wife on vacation, and eventually made it home. In Velladolid, John and his wife, Dorianne purchased a home that was in ruins and renovated it for 10 years. They designed every feature of the house very carefully and then converted it into one of the largest private Mexican art collections in the world.

john venator

Casa de los Venados translating to House of the Deer, is an 18,000 square foot private home/ folk art museum located near the main square of Velladolid. An unassuming sign outside the main door doesn’t give away much to whats inside – over 3000 pieces of museum quality Mexican folk and contemporary art.

John shows me around the hallway, patio, bedrooms, kitchen, backyard and dining room, pointing out to several of his favorite pieces. Everywhere I look, there is a sculpture, painting, pottery or furniture that was either commissioned by the Venators or acquired from art shows, flea markets and competitions. There are no names or descriptions, but John himself remembers each artists, and goes on to tell several stories of how he brought them to his collection. The pieces are from all over Mexico and represent traditional Mexican elements such as wild animals, everyday people, skulls, devils, etc. There is even an entire guest suite dedicated to the famous legend, Frida Kahlo.

Below are some photos from Casa de los Venados… but truly, they don’t do justice to actually seeing the place in person.

casa de los venados casa 2 casa 3 casa 4 casa 5 casa 6

While the Venators continue to live in this house museum, they offer daily tours at 10am in English and Spanish for a $5 suggested donation, through which they support local charities. A visit to Casa de los Venados is not to be missed! Watch video of the home or visit their website for more information.

Driving Into Mexico, by Accident!

The beautiful city of San Diego, California is located only a few miles north of the Mexico border. In fact, I was driving on Interstate 5 and noticed highway signs that read “Mexico exit is coming up.” My plan was to drive to the end of the US border, park my car at San Ysidro and walk over to Mexico. It is much faster and convenient to go this way especially if you are doing a day trip. There is a pedestrian bridge that one can take into Tijuana, the first town, an important financial and industrial center of Mexico, and the largest city on the Baja California Peninsula. After arrival, buses and taxis are available that take you into the center of town which is bustling with shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, the exit on I-5 that I was suppose to take had no sign stating that “this is where you need to get off to park your car if you are going to Mexico” so, I accidently drove into the border.

I thought there must be a place to park at the border crossing, or at least I can turn around somewhere. But no, an unmanned check post said “Welcome to Mexico!” and there I was. Nobody checked for identification or stamped my passport but I’m sure there were cameras all around.

crossing US border into Mexico

The moment I crossed international borders, my GPS went out of service and cell phone switched to roaming. I didn’t bother to print any maps of Tijuana beforehand since I wasn’t planning to arrive there by car. I had not notified my car rental company that I was going to take it to Mexico. Neither did I have a phone number to call in case of an emergency.

Here I was in Tijuana, supposedly one of the most dangerous places in North America. People later warned me that its famous for kidnappings, gangs and drugs.

There were well maintained highways and people seemed to be following some laws. Exit names were nicely labelled, although very confusing and inconsistent. I wasn’t sure where I was suppose to go even though I wanted to see the city. So I just kept on driving wherever the roads took me, which in this case was to Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico.

Rosarito, located only 30 minutes south of Tijuana, seemed like a quiet beach town with lots of newly developed homes. There were margarita and taco shacks dotted all along the ocean which was waiting to alive once the sun went down. A few tacky souvenir shops sold shot-glasses, sombreros and t-shirts. It didn’t take very long to drive through the stretch of the main street, which was also heavily guarded by Mexican police.

Rosarito beach Baja California

I stopped at a gas station to pick up a map, only to realize I didn’t have any Mexican Pesos. The lady at the cash register accepted my US Dollars but returned the change back in Pesos. There was no prior understanding of the prevailing currency exchange rate as I got the “take it or leave it” look from her.

Thankfully, I was able to find my way back into the city (mostly through trial and error) and see the main attractions of Tijuana. By this time, I gained enough confidence to park my car and step out. I visited Tijuana Cultural Center, Avenida Revolucion, Amigos del Artes, churches, food markets, shops and plazas. Downtown area was overwhelming with lots of cars, pedestrians, street hawkers and everyone trying to sell me something. It didn’t feel unsafe, although someone who is not use to traveling in third world countries may perceive otherwise. In any case, Tijuana was not the sort of place I would like to spend more than a couple of hours at.

Amigos del Artes Tijuana

After paying the parking attendant with the rest of the Pesos I had, I made my way back north towards USA. The 6-lans drive-through immigration was perhaps the most chaotic border patrol I have ever seen. Separate lines for US citizens, permanent residents and visitors were non existent. There were no signs for wait times, documentation or anything whatsoever. The lanes kept shrinking, so we had to merge every few minutes. Then there were street hawkers who set up shop in the middle of the highway, making it a marketplace. It was easy to do so since we were virtually in a “parking lot” situation for many hours.

Mexico immigration crossing

The Mexican vendors walked around selling everything from souvenirs, furnishings, cold drinks, fast food to puppies and medicines. There were men wearing t-shirts identifying themselves as “pharmacy” who sold antibiotics without prescriptions, ladies taking orders for fresh tacos and burritos, handicapped citizens begging for money, young men washing cars without permission hoping for tips, and kids running around collecting anything American tourists would give them. It was a grave sight while I waited 2.5 hours in line to cross the border.

puppies sold at Mexico immigration crossing


medication sold at Mexico immigration crossing

Once I reached the immigration counter, the office asked me what I went to Mexico for, and I explained the whole situation of “driving there by accident.” He didn’t seem amused, as if this happens all the time. Truly, next time I will be careful not to blink while driving, or end up in Tijuana. The officer looked at my passport, inspected my car, asked a few questions and allowed me to re-enter California.

Difference between Spanish and Mexican paella

If you missed my presentation at Taste of Travel stage at the San Diego Travel Adventure Show, you didn’t get to taste my delicious paella. But all is not lost. You can still watch some clips from the show and follow along the recipe below.

Paella is a rice based dish that was invented in the mid 19th century around Lake Albufera, which is in the Valencia region in the East coast of Spain. Paella means a round “pan,” that is shallow, made of steel and has two handles. You can find paella pans at pretty much every kitchen equipment store, but a wok or flat deep dish would also do.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a national dish of Spain. In fact, most people in Spain don’t even eat paella unless it’s a special occasion. It has gained a lot of popularity around the world and still considered a delicious entree. There are mainly three types of paella – Valencia, seafood, mixed and others. Paella was traditionally cooked by men over open fire fueled by orange and pine branches and pine cones.

toasted rice on the bottom, called socrarrat, was considered a delicacy

Trivia: In 2001, Juan Galbis in Spain created the largest paella that served 110,000 people.

taste of travel san diego

The difference between Spanish and Mexican paella is that the Mexican version is spicier and soupier. It also does not have saffron, so you don’t need to worry about purchasing the most expensive spice in the world. Mexican paella is cooked using parboil rice. If you frown upon cooking with parboil rice, you must not know that it contains 80% of nutrients of brown rice (as it is rice with husk on boiled). This is how 50% of the world eats its rice. 

As the Mexican paella is spicy it uses Arbol (chile de arbol) in the recipe. Arbol is a small and potent red chili that is commonly used to decorate wreaths. It is also known as tree chile, bird’s beak or rat’s tail chile. If you cannot find Arbol, Cayenne is a good substitute.

Another difference is that we use white wine in the broth for Spanish paella, whereas beer is used in Mexican paella (preferable Mexican beer). Other ingredients include seafood (Clams/ shrimp/ mussels) that must be properly washed and spicy Mexican chorizo that is mashed up into the sauce as well. 

The Mexican paella is an easy dish to prepare and makes for a great one meal dinner. It can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature.

Here’s our easy and authentic Mexican paella recipe that you can try out at home.

Mexican Paella

Cinco de Mayo is over now but if you still have some craving for Mexican food, here is a very special recipe for you. Created by Chef Paulina Suarez from Solario restaurant at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, this dish is authentic to her homeland. It is very different from a Spanish paella, which you find more commonly at restaurants. The Mexican paella is cooked with parboil rice (made the day before), broth made with beer and leftover meats. It does not have saffron like the Spanish paella, is spicier and somewhat soupy. Try out the recipe for yourselves….

Arroz a la valenciana (Mexican Paella)


  • 1 cup parboil rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • pinch of dry Arbol peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 mussels
  • 6 cherry-stone clams
  • 1/4 cup Mexican beer
  • 2 links cooked chorizo
  • 7 shrimp (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas (thawed)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed)
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter

For the tomato broth: Blend tomatoes, onion, 1 garlic glove in a blender. Mix with the chicken stock and set aside.

For the rice: In a heavy bottom pot, heat half of the oil and butter. Add the rive and cook till it has a nice golden color. Add 2 cups of the tomato broth and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice absorb the leftover liquids.

To assemble the paella: In a large paella or saute pan, add garlic, butter and oil. Saute for 1 minute, then add clams and mussels. Add 1/4 cup beer and allows for the shells to open up. Add chorizo, rice and rest of the tomato broth. Use the peppers based on how much heat you like. Add the shrimp, corn and peas; salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook till the shrimp turns pink (if using raw). Garnish with sliced lime and green onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Gastronomo de Mexico

After it’s grand opening last weekend, everyone is talking about the newest hot spot in town. Located on Peachtree St, close to the Fox Theater, Escorpion Tequila Bar and Cantina is trendy, young and eclectic. The place where Escorpion houses now has seen a few change of hands over the years.

Owner Riccardo Ullio already has successes of Sotto Sotto and Fritti under his belt and a reputable name when it comes to serving good quality food. Although Escorpion offers a cuisine different from Riccardo’s Italian roots, the expectations are still high.

The cuisine at Escorpion can be described as “upscale regional Mexican.” If you are still debating to go, here is what a typical experience at the Escorpion would be like….

It will take you a few minutes to go through the extensive list of cocktails, tequilas and liquors on the drink menu. If you are an adventurous drinker, always looking for new concoctions, you won’t be disappointing. Try the El Chamuco with blackberry and ginger or Pueblo Unida, a spicy habanero salt rimmed lime margarita.

For starters order the chunky Guacamole or one of the many ceviches. The Tuna Ceviche is an interesting treat for the palate and the eyes. Cubed pieces of sushi grade tuna are lost against diced watermelon. Gently seasoned with sea salt and served in a glass, it is a perfect dish on a summer evening.

The cuisine here is described as “regionally authentic” and they truely live up to that. Even though the names would sound familiar, they are not your off-the-mill Tex-Mex dishes that you find at most restaurants in Atlanta. The Cheese Chili Rellenos is  nothing like you have tasted elsewhere. Spicy whole chilis are surrounded by a light fluffy egg meringues, melted Monterey Jack and Corija (Mexican) cheese and a savory tomato gravy. A tablespoon of the combination melts away as soon as it touches your tongue.

The Fish Tacos found here are not for the faint hearted. While the tilapia fillet is deep fried, it is drizzled with a spicy mayo made with poblano peppers that can serve as a nice compliment to one of the fruit infused tequilas.

Chicken Tamale with avocado sauce is just what it sounds like. While the Fish Tacos are on the spicy side, the tamales are bland. There is something for everyone here!

Desserts are not  strong suit here. Both the Flan and Tres Leches are nothing to rave about. Best to come here for a few drinks and enjoy some small plates to keep you nourished. The restaurant has a club feel after dark and is open till late every night (1am on weeknights, 2 am on weekends). There is a lively atmosphere with international music and festive crowds, so stay on and join the dance floor.

Escorpion Tequila Bar and Cantina

800 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

How to throw a Cinco de Mayo party

Having a Cinco de Mayo party at home can actually be quite fun. Whether you are hosting a few people or a large crowd, these easy to do ideas will make your event a big hit. As with any themed party, you must plan ahead of time to create the right mix of ambience, food and music. So decorate some Mexican flags, put some salsa music playing in the background and get your margarita glasses out.

Copyright Go Eat Give

Slice limes and keep some mint leaves on hand to decorate the cocktails. If you can afford to, always serve drinks in proper glasses, not disposables. Believe it or not, the presentation makes all the different in the flavor of the food!

For appetizers, serve tortilla chips with sour cream, few types of salsa, homemade guacamole, queso (melted cheese dip) and picco de gallo (salad of chopped tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cilantro).

Keep the entrée simple so that you are able to spend some quality time with your guests. Prepare a pot of yellow rice and black beans ahead of time to be served as sides. Present a make-your-own taco bar with fresh tortillas and fillings. You can have three or more options to appeal to everyone’s palate – one bowl of grilled vegetables (onions, red peppers, green peppers, tofu, etc.) for the vegetarians, second bowl of sliced cooked steak or chicken and third bowl of pre-cooked crawfish meat (available in seafood freezer section in grocery stores). Also buy readymade sauces such as a mole (if you can find it), chipotle steak sauce or a spicy seafood sauce to serve with the tacos. Serve them in nice bowls (not the original bottles) and they won’t know the difference! Refill the condiments (salsa, sour cream, etc.) as many people like to have them with their tacos as well.

For dessert, you can make a traditional flan, or upgrade to a caramel flavored cheesecake or dulce de leche gelato. Now go ahead and wear your long flowing skirts and sombreros and celebrate the rich tradition and culture of Mexico. Cheers!


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tsp. Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin powder
  • salt & pepper

 Peel the avocado & empty the pulp in a bowl. Chop it finely & add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.