Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Eve Dinner at Gary's

It was an evening of fun with people I don't see often.. I haven't seen my cousin Mike Guingona in a zillion years though he thinks it's just been a million. He and his wife Jackie and sister in law Niña and husband Steve brought  a big platter of delicious Paella which Niña made. My only complaint was I had to peel the shrimps.

I arrived at Gary's house early as usual. Only Ramon was there cooking the prime rib while everyone else was at the 5:30 p.m. vigil mass. I brought some chicken wings from Wing Stop which everyone loved. Aside from the usual cheese and crackers, Milena, bless her heart....brought a jar of the Black Truffle Pate which we all bought when we were in Paris. Her supply was long gone so she had purchased more in Hong Kong. There was Poke served in individual dishes, noodles, Salmon which Liz made, Mussels, and numerous desserts. The food is ALWAYS very good. Filipinos really take pride in their food and enjoy eating more than the average species.

I was first to leave the party at 11 p.m. as I had to drive home by myself. The party went on till 3 a.m. Christmas Eve at Gary's seem to come sooner and faster.  They say the older you get, the faster time flies and it sure is flying by on to the next year!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Island Princess Cruise Line

It was my first Princess Cruise ever. We were invited to travel through the Panama Canal with our friends who are elite members. Sandi and I thought it was a great deal for 19 days. It was a fun and very relaxing trip traveling and getting off sea ports in Huatulco, and Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, Puerto Questal in Guatemala, Puntarenas in Costa Rica where we actually fed Capucin monkeys and did a river cruise and saw the biggest crocodile ever which ate a whole calf. We also went to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and Manzanillo, Mexico on the way back. We did not get off the Panama Canal; we merely had the scenic cruising.

There is no doubt that the Island Princess is a nice ship. It has an indoor pool with a big skylight so it almost feels you're outside but protected from the sun and wind. The couple traveling with us made the trip a lot of fun as we played numerous card games. Watching a movie a night under the stars was magical especially as we munched on popcorn. The nightly shows were entertaining. The dancing was not so good as there were no men to dance with so Sandi and I danced together; neither of us are good leaders so we just did our own thing. I was not aware that the Princess Cruise Line was home to the "Love Boat", the famous television show in the 70's. Naturally, they had 1 episode a day all day playing in our state room. We had 3 formal night where the 4 of us had to get spiffy and that was fun.

The places we visited were interesting and pretty (not all but most). The excursions were very expensive so we ended up getting our own when we landed in the ports. There were lots of excursions which you are able to make deals and most of the time they were better than the ones arranged by the cruise lines.

The food was mediocre at best. There were a few nights when the food was actually very good. I must say they cooked lobster tails and shrimps perfectly. The steaks were a different story; often they were not tender. Most of the food lacked flavor. I don't know if this is because they cater to an older crowd who are probably on meds for high blood pressure, therefore on a low salt diet. The desserts were all very beautiful but tasteless. In the Provence dining room where we often dined for dinner, a server named Anna was outstanding. She was professional, speedy and had the biggest smile all the time. She was the main reason we dined there.  Her boss the manager, Idalecio Silva was a riot. He made us laugh constantly. We all thought he should have been the cruise director as he was always interacting with the passengers.

The couple traveling with us don't drink alcohol so when they got an invitation to a wine tasting event, they happily accompanied us to the room and they explained that since they don't drink, they wanted us to go on their behalf. Believe it or not, they declined their request. The four of us were appalled. That would not have cost them anymore. It would have made everyone happy including the 2 new passengers who were potential repeat passengers. Another time, as we dined in the main "cafeteria buffet", one of the managers approached us and told us they just received word that Princess won some award and because of this, they were celebrating and they invited us. He further told us they would be serving Dom Perignon champagne. I said: "That's very nice,,," I later found out that the invitation included a fee. I am sure that we probably would have just gotten a "sip" of the good champagne and the rest of it not so good. In fact, they had some reception for free one afternoon in which they served champagne. Sandi and I had a glass and we both looked at each other as the champagne was horrible, almost undrinkable.

Our friends who have been on multiple cruises with Princess agreed that the food on the "Island Princess" was not up to par. They have had better food. As for me and Sandi, I think this was our first and last cruise with any Princess. We are looking forward to a cruise with Oceania Cruise Line where Jacques Pépin has a restaurant. Some people may not understand that the biggest part of traveling is the food. Without good food, you might as well stay home!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Golfer's Lounge at Trump National Golf Club

Five of us went for Happy Hour at the Golfer's Lounge at the Trump National Golf Club last night. We ordered our drinks from the Happy Hour Menu and tried to decide what to order. We had to decide if we wanted to order from that menu or the Seafood Buffet for $39.00. They didn't have fresh oysters but had mussels and clams. When I saw the poached salmon with caviar which I have had before, I quickly decided to have the buffet.  Everyone followed suit except Sandi who decided on the burger. Lucky for me that I was seated next to her since her burger came with an abundance of crispy tasty fries!

I was proud of Piero who normally dislikes anything raw but he thought he would be adventurous and try the sashimi; although I think the real reason was that he saw the succulent shrimps, salad and pasta. Everything was fresh and delicious.

Sugar aka Lydia loved the pasta with shrimps and pesto sauce. The clams and mussels were good but not anywhere as good as if you ordered their mussels on the menu with lots of the wonderful sauce.

Dessert was apple pie and brownie squares which were almost like fudge.

I have to mention that we were all disappointed with the service. There were only a few people till almost the end of our meal, yet there were several servers and they were mostly just talking among themselves. We literally had to flag them down to ask for something. On the buffet table, there were serving spoons missing, the cocktail sauce and the salad dressing didn't have any spoons. I was really surprised. Lydia commented that maybe it was because we were not in the main dining room. That could be; though that's a poor excuse because we didn't see anyone in the main dining room at the time.

When it came down to paying, we handed the server 2 credit cards. It took a long time for us to get the bill. Their computer went down and they had to do everything by hand. After we've signed the credit card bill, Sugar discovered that they charged her bill to mine and mine to her card. The server had an expression of confusion. Luckily, the manager came by and he guided our server away from us probably to give him lessons in Math 101.

It was still a fun evening in spite of mediocre service. On our way out, we were able to view the supermoon which was a nice way to end the evening.