The beautiful buffets of Barcelo Maya

In a previous post, I reviewed La Brasserie, one of Barcelo Maya’s a la carte restaurants. Now it’s time to talk about where I spent most of my eating hours during our stay at the Palace , the buffets.

La Hacienda

La Hacienda

In addition to a grill (quicky food, or a place for a snack when the buffets were closed) and the a la carte restaurants are the two buffets, Mirador and La Hacienda. The buffets are next to each other and the food served is very similar, though La Hacienda has a greater focus on Mexican food while Mirador is geared to international foods. You can see the international flair with Eiffel Tower dessert table.

Barcelo Maya buffet

Barcelo Maya buffet

I sound like a glutton saying this, but the meals were highlights of my days. No guilt was involved the first three days we were there because it was cloudy, cool, and windy. Mealtime was a welcome break.

La Hacienda

La Hacienda

The selection was amazing. Though I did a decent job in the variety department, I was nowhere close to trying everything that the buffets had to offer. I’ve vowed that next time I’m at Barcelo Maya, I’ll try at least one new item every meal. It will be a gut-wrenching (not literally, hopefully) decision, bypassing so many good things to gamble on something new, but such is the life of the food adventurer. (There is a little sarcasm in there – I will not be showing up Andrew Zimmern anytime soon.

As a wild guess, for any given meal I would say there were between 50 and 75 different things to choose from. I thought about listing all the things they had, but that would get boring to do, and even more boring to read. But even you picky eaters – and you know who you are – will find something you like.

A typical plate

A typical plate

I salute you, teeny tiny chimichangas. Nary a meal went by without you, nor your amigos, los topopos (nacho chips). You were made all the better by the bottomless guacamole and salsa selection, from the mild pico de gayo, to the spicy verde. The tostadas were frequent visitors to my plate as well, and the fajita station – that rocked. Pollo, carne – it didn’t matter, they were both were my prey. And any time I saw some kind of pulled meat, whether it be barbacoa or pork, I knew I was in for something good.

You like fish? No worries, amigo. In addition to the various filets that were available at any meal (fish for breakfast? Yes), there was also a cook-while-you-wait station. The scallops were fantastic. Like steak? Of course you do. There was a grilling station to get your beef, burgers, and hot dogs, and I couldn’t leave out the pasta station with your choice of noodles and sauces. At breakfast, feel free to get yourself a made-to-order omelet, or if you don’t want to wait, there are small, pre-made omelets as well. One thing I noticed from our last visit three years ago was that the sushi station was gone. I had never been tempted to try raw fish in Mexico, so I didn’t miss that one.

Is tequila your thing? La Hacienda has three types of tequila – just turn the itty-bitty spigots and out it flows. The same table that holds the tequila also holds Mexican desserts in the evening, so you can partake in whatever guilty pleasure floats your boat. I had both and saved myself the decision.

Barcelo Maya tequila table

Barcelo Maya tequila table

There were also themed nights. This shot is from Italian night at Mirador. Our last night, Friday, was Mexican night at La Hacienda, where even more Mexican food was served than normal, and there were various desserts shaped like Mayan pyramids, something I definitely don’t see around Lansing.

Barcelo Maya buffet

Barcelo Maya buffet

We sat outside whenever we could, enjoying the OK weather at the beginning of the week, and the great weather at the end. In any case, listening to the waves was fantastic, and we were blessed with some amazing moonrises.

Writing this post has reminded me what a great time I had at Barcelo Maya. It was my fifth visit, and I’d go back again in a second. This is a food blog, so I’ve focused on that aspect, but the amazing beaches, pools, rooms, and things for the kids. So go, eat, drink, and get sunburned.

The nachos of Michigan Brewing Company, Lansing

I went for the beer, of course. But as a bonus, I got to hear live blues. It made me long for Buddy Guy’s Legends or Blue Chicago…

Michigan Brewing Company has two locations, one on Washington in Lansing and another in Webberville not far from I 96. I went to the former. My main intentions was beer, but then I saw the “MBC Nachos Supreme” on the menu, and my nacho fanaticism took control. Deciding that it wasn’t worth the risk for a half-order, since most half orders leave me hungry, I dove into the full.

MBC Nachos

MBC Nachos

I wasn’t thrilled that they were topped with chili, no matter that it was “Badass chili”. Chili make the tortilla chips soggy, and that is exactly what happened. The beef chili itself had a strong BBQ flavor. It grew on me as I ate more of it. Still, not as good as simple ground beef nachos.

The other toppings were well-proportioned. There was not an overwhelming and unwelcome amount of lettuce, and I have no complaints on anything else. My nachos came without black olives, because olives on nachos is some kind of horrible Michigan trend that I don’t understand and should be stamped out like a bug.

My conclusion on the nachos: OK, wouldn’t have them again, unless they switch to ground beef. It can be “Badass” ground beef, just something that doesn’t make the chips soggy. Next time, I’ll go for the beef and egg sandwich – that sounded interesting.

Onto the beer. I limited myself to two pints this time. First was the Beer of the Week, a spiced porter. Though I like MBC’s Peninsula Porter, the spiced version didn’t do anything for me. At the very least, it should be confined to the week before Halloween. My second brew was my MBC standard, the Nut Brown. A solid dark beer that goes down smooth. I don’t know how it comes up – luckily, I haven’t had that experience with the Nut Brown. If you have… keep it to yourself, I don’t want to know.

The Grand Woods Lounge, Grand Rapids

Downtown Grand Rapids has a plethora of restaurants, especially around Van Andel Arena. So many that it can be hard to choose if you haven’t thought about it ahead of time. Normally, I already know where I am going to eat, but I was clueless on my last visit to GR, and so I wandered about, and this was after my 5-mile run around town, so I was definitely hungry.

As an aside, I have loved the word “plethora” ever since seeing The Three Amigos in the 80’s.

I somehow ended up on Grandville Avenue and saw the welcoming sign of “The Grand Woods Lounge“. Interesting name, and it looked lively, so I figured it was a good choice. In I went.

The Grand Woods Lounge

The Grand Woods Lounge

The decor was rustic chic (I just made that up), and it reminded me of a favorite of mine around the Lansing area, Leo’s Spirits & Grub. I would have liked to sit on the patio, as it was an unseasonably pleasant March evening in Michigan, but dozens of people had already beaten me to it. Inside I went where I had a lovely view of the bar and, if I turned around, US 131. The music was sometimes blues, sometimes country, so I was sometimes happy with that. It’s up to you to figure out which I liked.

The Grand Woods Lounge

The Grand Woods Lounge

The waitress was right over to take my drink order. I only had a Coke, so nothing exciting.  Things didn’t move quickly after that, in either the order-taking or the food-bringing, but the waitress was nice and when she noticed me, kept the Coke refills coming. Good enough for me – I was in no hurry.

You will probably not spend a lot of time perusing the menu. It’s quite small, and all the items are listed on a paper placemat. No nachos, but they had some interesting burgers. The one that stood out was The Flying Dutchman, the reason being the roasted garlic mayo and gouda cheese. It was a good choice. Good-tasting patty and the garlic-gouda concoction they put on the burger gave it a unique taste. And it was juicy, too. I had to move my fries to keep then on dry ground. It was a messy meal, but a good kind of mess.

Flying Dutchman Burger

Flying Dutchman Burger

The fries I was desperate to save were sprinkled with salt and a mystery spice. They were cooked perfectly, a little crispy and very good. And there were lots of them, and between them and the large burger (oh, and the pickle slice – can’t forget that), I was pleasantly full, unlike the unpleasant fullness of eating may too much food at Cancun three days later.

If you find yourself wandering aimlessly on Grandville Avenue, The Grand Wood Lounge is a good spot to recover before you continue your wandering. May you have better luck in finding a spot outdoors.

The Thirsty Perch of the Blue Gill Grill, Haslett

A balmy evening in March took us to one of the three bars within two blocks of each other on Lake Lansing Road in Haslett. We sat on the Thirsty Perch, the upstairs, outdoor seating area atop the Blue Gill Grill that no one ever would have thought would have been open this early in the year. Yet, there we were, with a view of Lake Lansing and the park, as well as having a bird’s-eye view of who was coming and going in the parking spaces. Fascinating.

I’m going to start with the downside of the Thirsty Perch, which is you can’t get everything off the menu. Entrees were a no no, and there were a few other sections from the back of the menu that weren’t allowed. So if you are thirsting for some perching, be aware that not everything is available up there. Luckily for me, nachos were not on the banned list.

The full order of the Blue Gill Grill nachos are huge. The waitress warned me, but I had eaten the half-order before, and they weren’t enough for me – I needed more nacho goodness, so it was time to tackle the full. When it comes to nachos, I know no fear.

Blue Gill Grill Nachos

Blue Gill Grill Nachos

While they were large, the filler took up most of the plate. Lettuce, green peppers, and the accursed black olives covered the vital parts, and I burned a fair amount of calories just getting all that junk off so the nachos were edible for me. There were lots of chips left, but the dish was nowhere near the size that they started at.

Once I reached the chips, cheese, and beef, I was happy with their taste. Nothing fancy, but a solid dish, and I would have them again. I just need to remember, for the future, to request they leave off most of the veggies and only focus on the necessaries. If, however, you like a garden on your nachos, you will be content, perhaps even ecstatic, depending on your personality and / or medication level.

So you get an idea of what kind of damage I did to them, the “after” picture:

After

After

If you have a big appetite, definitely go for the full order. If you have a medium appetite, still go for the full, because most of the toppings you can save for your hamsters.

La Brasserie at Barcelo Maya

This week will be a special Barceló Maya edition of Michigan Foodies.

I’m sure there were desperate cries of “Where are my Michigan Foodies posts!” raised all last week. Well, I was in Mexico, so take that. Specifically, Barceló Maya Palace in Puerto Adventuras. There are  five resorts at Barceló Maya, the Palace being the most high end. It’s my fifth trip back to  Barceló Maya, having stayed at the Palace, Beach, and Caribe on separate occasions, even getting married there in 2005.

That is all the history you will get today, but a little Spanish lesson will be thrown in.

Besides being a beautiful resort with a mile-long beach, lots of pools, and enormous buffets,  Barceló Maya Palace also includes three “a la carte” restaurants. Today, we’ll be talking about La Brasserie. Brasserie is French for something, I’m sure. It looks French, it sounds French. I don’t speak French, though I can order McDonald’s by combo number, which is a skill I suggest you perfect for any trip to Paris. It came in handy.

La Brasserie

Entrance to La Brasserie

At La Brasserie, you can choose up to four courses. I, of course, chose all four. Well, four and a half – dinner starts with a selection of rolls and butter. Yes, there is a selection of butter. For the mantequilla (butter), I chose pepper and paprika. Neither had a strong flavor, so it really doesn’t matter what you pick. But are you like me and whenever you see “paprika”, you think of “Blue’s Clues”? As for the rolls, you can see I had a croissant, but the other roll, while appearing plain, hides a secret – it is filled with cream cheese. Maybe “filled” is too strong a word. Had a smattering of cream cheese. But in any case, it was bueno. If you only choose one roll for your dining experience at La Brasserie, choose the cream cheese roll.

La Brasserie rolls

La Brasserie rolls

For my appetizer, I went with the crab and caviar salad because it sounded like it would be the most expensive at a restaurant where I would have to pay. Luckily for me, most of the crab meat had already been extracted, because crab is one of Earth’s most annoying foods. I had a minor struggled trying to get some good stuff out of the claw, then gave up – I had three more courses coming. The crab meat was alright – it tasted like crab – and I can’t really comment on the caviar because there wasn’t much of it. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the lone olive. Way to represent.

La Brasserie appetizer

La Brasserie appetizer

Course dos was la sopa (soup), which just happens to be one of my daughter’s favorite words in Spanish, and I don’t know why. Probably because it’s easy to say, but that’s just speculation. I chose the lobster bisque, because again, it would probably have been the most expensive soup had I had to pay for it. The bisque was spicy, fishy, and chunky, which sounds disgusting, but was actually quite good. If you desire, you can even drink the soup like coffee, as it comes in a coffee cup. I didn’t do so, but knock yourself out, slob.

lobster bisque

Lobster bisque

My main course was filet mignon. I was surprised how good it was, to be honest. Very tender, very tasty, and had a nice, mild mystery sauce atop it. The zucchini side I didn’t like, and neither did I like the mushrooms, the latter of which I happily shoveled off to my daughter, and she happily ate them. Win-win.

Filet mignon

Filet mignon

And finally, the course you’ve all been waiting for. I went with the chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Neither was outstanding, both were good, and the ice cream came in a bowl of caramelized sugar. I like edible dishes – the feeling of cleaning my plate is very rewarding. And there was some fruit on my plate, but that was just filler.

Cake and ice cream

Cake and ice cream

The big disappointment of the night was that lack of Aztec Coffee, a flaming after-dinner drink that was a big hit on our last visit. But according to the waiter, once someone saw the Aztec Coffee being poured, everyone wanted it (rightly so), and that slowed down service too much. Too bad, but at least I have a video of it from my last trip.

Despite the downer of no potentially disastrous flaming beverages, it was a nice meal as a good pace in an elegant little restaurant. I recommend La Brasserie if you are staying at  Barceló Maya and choose to pull yourself away from the great buffets for a quieter dinner.

Xiao, Lansing

For once, I remembered Xiao. I say that because it’s easy to forget in that no man’s land of the Saginaw – Coolidge intersection. I mainly think if making the light when I think of that area at all, but occasionally (like my last birthday lunch, for instance), I do remember, happily, that Xiao is there. I mean, it’s got a big Buddha – what’s not to love?

This time around, we sat in the VIP section. Well, I don’t think it was really for VIPs, but there was a red velvet rope and it was removed from the main dining area by a low wall. So while we were separated from the lowly masses, our view was of a wall. And the party of women drinking Sushi Bombs at the table next to us.

It was a hard choice, but this visit I selected the Sesame Chicken. I wasn’t impressed by the portions when the plate arrived, but at the end of my meal, I was full, so appearances deceived me in this case. There were four pieces of broccoli, which was plenty. The rice looked like a big brown rice cake, but there was nothing rice cakey about it – the brown rice tasted like brown rice should. The chicken was tasty, and the sauce wasn’t overpowering or syrupy which can happen with dishes like orange, sesame, or General Tso’s chicken. It had a light breading, and the whole chicken – sauce – breading ensemble worked well.

To wash it all down, I had an Arcadia Java Porter draught and a bottle of Short’s Bellaire Brown Ale. Both were solid beer, my preference being the porter because a) it smelled slightly like chocolate and b) there was more beer, a 16 oz. draught being larger than a 12 oz. bottle. (Check out those math skills.)