Lol Ha, the best food in the Riviera Maya

Good morning, foodies!

Vegan week is over and I’m kind of sad. Last night I celebrated by eating a chicken sandwich and had some frozen yogurt, but I ended up feeling kind of guilty…weird. I can say that my week of being vegan definitely changed me. I felt lighter, never bloated, clean, healthy and energized. Although it was frustrating at times, for the most part, eating vegan made me realize it is possible. For now I will try to lead a well-balanced food life, switching between meat and meatless, dairy and dairy-less. If I can have a meat substitute or a soup without dairy, I know I will go for those options.

Now I can talk about other foods!

Lol-Ha

What: upscale Mexican and American

Where: Akumal, Mexico (Riviera Maya)

The best food south of Cancun. A 1.5 hour drive from the Cancun airport, rests a beautiful white sand beach town along the Riviera Maya called Akumal. A quaint quiet family town that was originally a coconut farm then a small yacht club, Akumal was founded in 1968 by Pablo Bush Romero, a businessman, diver, archaeologist, writer, historian, hunter, philanthropist, adventurer, you name it. When Romero founded the town, it was a great spot for scuba divers, as “Akumal” means place of the turtle.

Romero, who happens to have been my boyfriend Ryan’s grandfather, passed away when Ryan was still a young boy. An amazing man who seemed to have accomplished almost everything and anything in his lifetime, from discovering a shipwreck right off Akumal bay to going on safaris in Africa to writing several books, he left his legacy as well as the beautiful Akumal for all to enjoy. With it, the Hotel Akumal Caribe was born, which has been under the ownership of Ryan’s parents, Laura and David Wolfe for years and years.

Lol Ha, the main restaurant of the resort, is the most successful and delicious eatery in all of Akumal. Yes, you could call me biased, but I’m proud to say they truly do serve the best dishes. Lol Ha keeps up with the food trends in the U.S. and still stays true to the Mexican classics done right.

Before we start, I’d like to say my photos don’t do the food or drinks justice. I’ve eaten at Lol Ha more times than I could begin to count, and this is one of the first times I tried to take photos of the food. Because of the dim lighting and the night of sharing pizza, I didn’t get to snap photos of some of the dishes I enjoy every time I’m there. So I also took some from the Lol Ha Facebook page.

This is a photo of the original beach bar in 1974. This structure is actually still in place, with several other palapas surrounding it today.

This is the interior of the charming Lol Ha by night. There’s live music several days a week and gorgeous lighting that makes for a romantic setting.

One of my favorite Mexican classics: the queso fundido. A creamy, thicker version than the “queso” you may know of in Texas, this “queso” is thick enough to put in a taco and add chorizo or even seafood. I like it with chorizo, and the richness of the Oaxaca cheese makes for an overwhelmingly delicious appetizer. I’d recommend sharing with at least 2 others, otherwise you won’t have room for the main course.

My go-to dishes at Lol Ha are the tampiquena and the Chilean sea bass. The tampiquena is unlike any other–it’s made with beef tenderloin instead of flank steak. It makes a huge difference. The dish comes with rice, beans, guacamole (only the freshest), tortillas and a little quesadilla with salsa. You can eat the tenderloin alone or you can make tacos with all the fix-ins. I’m not much of a red meat eater anymore, but when I do eat it, I can’t resist the Lol Ha tampiquena.

Their sea bass comes resting on a bed of creamy fettucini with a bit of bacon, cherry tomatoes and arugula. The sea bass is a buttery texture that just melts in your mouth. So delicious, and a great option for a lighter meal.

As simple as it is, Lol Ha does their brownies right. They’re the perfect consistency, not too hard not too soft, and they have melty chocolate chips throughout the brownie. An impressive dessert list, Lol Ha offers everything from bread pudding topped with house made meringue to chocolate lava cake to homemade key lime pie, to everything in between. And unfortunately, it’s all good.

Their homemade key lime pie rocks. Not too tart and sweet, and a homemade crust. Yum.

The impressive chocolate mousse.

Not pictured are their awesome cocktails and an extensive beer list. Bar manager Sam will whip up any cocktail you can dream of and more. My favorites are their mojitos, caipirinhas and the new basil cucumber gin drink. Pick your poison, they’ll make something you’ll love.

So, if you’re ever in the Riviera Maya (i.e. somewhere between Cancun and Tulum) you must stop by Akumal even if it’s just for happy hour and a snack. If you can stay for dinner, even better. The atmosphere is unmatched, and there’s no better place to enjoy dinner than on the beautiful beach of Akumal.

Bon appétit,

ThatFoodieGirl

Riviera Maya Food, beach and back to reality

Today is a sad day. The day I had to wake up and not hear the waves crashing, and smell the ocean breeze along with my freshly squeezed orange juice, while staring out at the bright blue sky. Today I woke up to pouring rain in Dallas, Texas, only to realize I had a lot of work to catch up on before heading to class. Sad.

But, I do have some exciting things for you foodies and Foodie Girl readers! …after I walk you through a fun lunch we had in Tulum, Mexico.

Be Tulum

What: seafood + traditional Mexican

Where: Tulum

Before reaching the actual restaurant on the beach, we walked on stone steps through the jungle, passing by little tree house like bungalows each with their own private pools, shaded by palm trees. A wonderfully romantic spot, we kept walking, and were greeted by a trendy balcony bar with seaside decor, a nice sized infinity pool overlooking the beach, and a bunch of little wooden tables and chairs. On the actual beach sat big beds with brilliantly colored pillows, a perfect spot to relax and tan on the beach.

Sitting right on the beach for lunch, we got a perfect amount of shade and breeze. Pictured is my boyfriend on the left and our friend Spencer on the right. Only problem with dining in the sand is the uneven surface! Looks like they’re about to tip over!

We all started off with a Corona. Perfection. Then came the food.

I loved the details of this gorgeous boutique hotel. Especially at the table. The little shell shaped wicker basket made for a cute and fun way to display their house made tortilla chips. A little trio of different salsas came with it, including their delicious pico de gallo, which was amped up a bit with fresh lime juice. Mmm.

I had their caprese salad. As you can see, the tomatoes weren’t exactly bright and fresh, but it made for a refreshing beachside lunch. The walnut pesto was really light and delicious, pretty much making the whole dish.

Ryan had their flank steak tacos, filled with bell pepper, onion and a side of guac. He enjoyed them a lot, but there wasn’t anything too special about them.

Tulum is such a quaint little beach town filled with amazing boutique hotels and fun eco friendly restaurants. If you’re ever in the Riviera Maya area, definitely drive south to Tulum. It’s a not-to-be-missed kind of spot.

…and for my announcement:

THAT FOODIE GIRL GOES VEGAN! For a whole week (starting yesterday evening) I will be eating vegan, searching for the best Dallas vegan restaurants and will be letting you know lots of details like products I liked and things I missed the most. Stay tuned!

Bon appétit,

ThatFoodieGirl

Digg’s: The SMU hangout

We sat down the other day with Joey Milan, owner of Digg’s Taco Shop. SMU’s The Daily Campus news editor Meredith Carlton and I got to taste the new recipes and brainstorm some ideas that would greatly benefit SMU students.

Being SMU’s neighbor and new friend on the block, Digg’s has proven to be the convenient and delicious taco stop for both students and Highland Park residents.

Although sometimes it’s hard to veer away from your “regular” Digg’s choice (mine is the chicken burrito bowl), sometimes you’ll discover that almost every item at Digg’s is tasty. First, I tried the slow-cooked brisket taco. It was filled with flavor and even had some of their fresh “slaw,” but could have been a bit tenderer (yes, that is a word). I’m more of a chicken kind of girl, but I know you meat lovers would enjoy it.

Then, I tried their salad bowl. Going from iceberg lettuce to romaine and mixed greens definitely gets my attention. The greener, the better. The salad was large and in charge, filled with carrots, tomatoes, black beans, some roasted corn, cheese and a really yummy balsamic dressing. You can also add any meat to the salad and it makes for a much lighter lunch than the burrito bowl.

Next up, nachos. Mmmm so good. Crispy white corn tortillas with cheese, black beans, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos and a roasted pork I believe. I’m not much of a nacho fan, but when I tried these, I became a nacho fan. Not too greasy like you would expect nachos to be, and the meat on top was cooked to perfection.

Finally, I tried the grilled shrimp habanero tacos. If you love spicy food, you’ll love this taco complete with Digg’s own “amped-up sauce”. Wow my mouth was on fire.

Oh, and, Milan was so nice, he sent us home with their home baked crispy donut holes with a side of jelly. I know you’re thinking, donut holes at a taco shop? Just trust me. Try them.

And although Digg’s is the first store of its brand, Milan is no newcomer to the taco scene. He had several taquerias in Houston that did so well he sold them for an offer he couldn’t pass up.

Whether you’re new to SMU or you just haven’t gotten to try Digg’s yet, you’re in for a treat. Named “Digg’s” as a nickname for a “fun joint to hang out at,” they strive to keep students around. They care so much that they offer fun Thursday nights complete with live music and margarita specials. We were even let in on a little secret: there will be pitcher specials too.

And if that wasn’t enough, after 7pm on Thursdays you can show your SMU ID and get a free SMU Digg’s T-shirt.

Can you digg that?

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Bon appétit,

ThatFoodieGirl

What I Ate Wednesday Party

It’s that time of the week! Time for my second “What I Ate Wednesday” and a link party with hostess Peas & Crayons.

Yesterday was a very adventurous and exciting food day. But, it started out with this boring item:

Breakfast

I was running late to work, so it was the first thing I could grab. It’s Clif Bar’s “Crunch”– a granola bar that kind of reminds me of Nature Valley bars. Not my favorite, but it tied me over til lunch.

Lunch

Would you look at that bowl of goodness? This was my attempt at a creative way to use what I had in my fridge, and lucky for me, it turned out great. I sauteed the broccoli and red bell pepper with fresh garlic, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, I boiled some water, added the quinoa and cooked for about 10 minutes. I added the veggies on top of the quinoa, sprinkled in some feta, and drizzled a bit of Amy’s balsamic dressing. Best part about this lunch other than the fact that it filled me up? It’s extremely healthy.

Dinner

Dinner was the interesting part. I went to a tasting at Jorge’s Tex Mex to sample their old and new menus. We were seated in a private dining room at a table for 10–all for the food critics and socialites of Dallas.

We ate lots of food, and drank lots of margaritas. They brought us a margarita at the beginning, between each course and at the end for a “dessert”. My favorite was the brunch item– the chicken enchilada with an egg on top. I love breakfast food anytime of the day.

And that concludes my exciting day of food! Happy hump day everyone!

Bon appétit,

ThatFoodieGirl