Monday, May 16, 2011

A Foodie's Survival Guide for All-Inclusives

The idea of staying at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico sounded about as fun to me as being strapped to a chair for a four day Real Housewives of Orange County marathon while being force-fed an endless supply of Taco Bell gorditas. Fun for some, perhaps, but not for me.

But true friendship means sometimes doing things you’d never normally do, like spending five days at the all-inclusive resort Le Blanc, in Cancun, Mexico to witness the nuptials of two dear friends. It turns out I not only survived but also thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Le Blanc was beautifully appointed, well staffed with some of the best service I’ve ever received, and the food was edible at worst and good, if never quite great, at best.

There may be a time and place when even the most hardened food snob will find herself in such an all-inclusive food situation. Based on my first truly positive all-inclusive resort experience I’ve compiled a few tips for future foodie travelers.

1. The Resort Matters

Le Blanc, part of Palace Resorts, is a AAA Five Diamond award winner and it shows. The service is beyond gracious with no hidden motives as gratuity is also included in the price. Servers stealthily appeared to carry full plates from the breakfast buffet back to my table, to refill my iced tea while I did work in the lounge, hunt down a better Sauvignon Blanc than the one stocked in the bar, or set up an ice bucket with bottled water by my pool chair. Service with a smile and the near ubiquitous “my pleasure” will always make the food taste better.

2. Order the Entire Menu

More than one morning I awoke to find four plates of half-eaten food slowly congealing in the morning light, clearly ordered from room service in the middle of the night. Even at 2 am after a few margaritas my roommates and I knew, why order one dish when you could order four? There is a good chance you won’t like at least half of what you ordered so better to hedge the bets and order the whole menu, it doesn’t cost you anything more than you’ve already paid.

3. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Even if tequila was part of the agenda the night before, resist the urge to sleep through breakfast as this will probably be the best meal of your day. It is hard to screw up eggs, hash browns, waffles and bacon. Add a selection of tropical fruits, fresh baked breads, and a short order cook whipping up omelets to order and eggs over easy one might even leave full enough to avoid ordering food again until dinner.

4. If you find something you like, order double.

This is similar to number two in that finding food you like might be a challenge and there is at best a 50/50 chance you won’t like what you order. So if you find something you like, such as the nachos covered in fake cheese that where oh-so-good for my hangover the day after the wedding, go ahead and order double. Or quadruple in my case as fellow recoveries picked up on the deliciousness of neon yellow cheese sauce and pico de gallo on tortilla chips, the salt and fat slowly melting away our tequila-induced headaches.

5. When All Else Fails, Drink

All-inclusive means all is included. A few top shelf cocktails and you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth. Plus a liquid diet never hurt anyone on vacation.

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