Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ultimate Barefoot Luxury!!

We are back in the Maldives and just reconfirming that this has got to be the most beautiful place on earth!! Our first resort we visited was Alila Villa It takes so long to get to but it's ultimately worth it. Arriving in Male from Singapore we had to take another short domestic flight to a tiny little Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean where the resort picked us up from there for another transfer via speedboat to Alila. All of the resorts in the Maldives are on their own Island so each one has representatives that pick you up at the airport and handle all the logistics for you. Sitting in the speedboat on our way to Alila I couldn't get over how amazing the air smelled. It was like fresh cut flowers and we were in the middle of the Ocean? I wish I could bottle that scent!!

Upon arrival you are met at the Jetty by a team of representatives to grab your luggage and whisk you into a golf cart to transport you to your villa.

The Island is absolutely breathtaking and the villas were so beautiful! Island contemporary chic is the best way I can think to describe it. We had a beach villa right on the lagoon with a small infinity pool decked out with all the luxury amenities such as vaulted ceilings, canopy draped bed, ipod docking station, bose surround sound system, espresso machine, flat screen TV etc.

We were so tired that we just dropped into bed right away. It took us a few days to recuperate from all the travelling as we had major jet lag. It rained the first few days and we didn't mind one bit as we just took the time to relax. The tropical monsoon rain was really cozy and bounced off our pool. It was so warm we still walked to breakfast, lunch and dinner with bare feet. I think that was one of my favorite things is that we were literally barefoot all week!

What an incredible feeling walking in sand that is pristinely white and more like icing sugar than sand with the clear turquoise lagoon. It's an ultra sensory experience. The only time we put on shoes was to go to the gym...

Speaking of the gym, it was a necessity due to the amount of absolutely incredible food we were feasting on. Last year when we first came to the Maldives we were pleasantly surprised to find the quality of the food at the resorts was amazing! We have had some of the most incredible meals ever here and Alila was no exception. Chef was awesome and came to our table every night to make sure everything was perfect (and it was) and address any needs etc. He even gave me the recipe of the most amazing pasta dish ever!! Even rivals my Italian mother in laws amazing homemade pasta dishes!! Sorry Mom :) It was called Tagliatelle Prawn Thermidor and was to die for! I even took a picture. I haven't made it yet as we are still in the Maldives but if it turns out as incredible as it was there I will post the recipe later...

Indulging like this daily we were bursting at the seams in no time. Our amazing villa host Hussein shocked my husband and I one night as he asked if we would like a scale in our room to weight ourselves. Angelo had just said to me that morning that he wished we had one in the room so when Hussein asked us we thought he was either psychic or there was a bug in our room! In hindsight I realize our rapidly expanding girth may have prompted his question. When we finally stood on the scale we were shocked again and were at the gym every day after that :) We even brought the scale to the gym with us to see if it was correct by putting one of the free weights on it. LOL Unfortunately, it seemed to be right but it's a glowing testament to the food at Alila. We are huge foodies (read gluttons) and amazing food is majorly important to us on holidays.

The Island itself is very small (you can walk around the entire thing on the beach in about 1/2 an hour) and intimate. Basically the resort had everything covered. Incredible villas, awesome food, the spa was amazing as well and we indulged in several treatments that were heavenly. Also most resorts in the Maldives are as environmentally friendly as possible as they have to be but Alila Villas Hadahaa is the first resort in the Maldives to adhere to the standards for Green Globe certification in the construction stage and resort operations.

The house reef is one of the best we have ever seen!! We didn't even feel the need to go scuba diving as the snorkeling was so beautiful. I have never seen that many fish in my life and the colors were crazy!! The coral reef was stunningly gorgeous too and we went out everyday just in complete awe. I felt like I was in "Finding Nemo"...

The guys at the dive center said many guests see sharks, manta rays, dolphins & turtles but we didn't see any during our stay. The fish were so amazing though it didn't really matter as it was like being in a giant aquarium.

Another one of our favorite things was the service!! The General Manager Greg and his team made sure that we felt right at home and were pampered. From Kamal and everyone in the restaurants to Raj in the lounge where we would have an amazingly delicious concoction while swinging in the comfy lounges and watching the sunset with warm ocean breezes.

Our villa host Hussein was incredible and he absolutely made our stay. His courteous professionalism, warmth and positive happy, attitude was so nice and we felt so relaxed and taken care of. Hussein even performed a wedding ceremony on the beach that was beautiful for a couple from Germany with traditional dancers and drummers.

Everyone there really takes pride in their work and goes out of the way to make sure you are happy and blissed out!! Mission accomplished guys!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wonderful Won Ton!!

Nothing says love like a huge bowl of won ton soup! In my quest for the perfect won ton soup I've started making it at home and it's been a huge hit with all who have tried it! I thought I would post the recipe as so many people ask for it. I make it so often my hubby is getting sick of it but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and sometimes do :)

For the chicken broth I make it just like my normal chicken broth but add some pork too for extra flavor. You can substitute your favorite chicken broth recipe of course...
 I prefer to use pre-roasted chicken from the store to save time and use some of the meat for adding to soup later or sandwiches etc. You can use raw chicken as well but if just gives a more subtle less rich flavor.
1 roasted chicken 1/2 meat removed if desired 
1-2 lbs. pork bones with meat on them
1 onion peeled & quartered
3 carrots peeled and cut in half
2 celery stalks cut in half
2 bay leaves
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 beef bouillon cube
 3 or 4 canned Italian tomatoes (optional but adds nice flavor)

Always use cold water to make soup (and cook with in general) as it's fresh and hasn't been sitting in a water heater. Fill large stock pot with water and add roasting chicken & pork bones. Bring water to simmer as you don't want to boil the soup because it can make it cloudy. Simmer for approximately 1/2 an hour and remove foam as it comes to the top with a spoon. Once foam begins to subside and liquid is clear add vegetables and rest of ingredients. Simmer broth for several hours until desired intensity is achieved. I like making this 1 day ahead and letting sit overnight with meat and veggies and it tends to intensify the flavours as most soups & stews tend to taste better the next day. You can then strain the soup for immediate use or freeze it once it's cool for soup any time of the day or night. I like having frozen broth in my freezer all the time as you never know when you are going to want or need it for a recipe etc.

Wontons (aka pillows of perfection)
1 package of wonton wrappers
1 lb. ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
2 egg yolks
3-4 green onions chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Take several wonton wrappers and lay them out on your surface. Using two spoons put approximately one level tsp. of meat in the middle of each wrapper. You don't want to put too much as when you are folding them the meat will come to the edge and won't allow for a proper seal. Have a small bowl of water ready and with your finger brush two edges with water. Bring two opposite corners together to make a triangle around the filling. Press the edges firmly together to form a seal and make sure the seal is good otherwise they will open when you are cooking them. Hold with the short side of the triangle facing down, moisten one of the long corners with the water and bring other long corner to meet and press together to make a seal gently pushing down on middle if necessary. There are several ways you can fold wontons and this is just one way. They look like little tortellinis this way. For other ways to fold them and video demonstrations search "folding wontons" on you tube. Continue on with rest of package and this recipe tends to be enough filling to do one whole package of wrappers. It's makes about 70 or so depending on the amount in the package and you can freeze whatever you don't use for future use. I place them in the freezer flat on a cutting board until they are frozen so they don't stick together and then put them in zip lock freezer bag in portions. You can also half the recipe if you like and just freeze whatever wrappers you don't use...

Boil fresh wontons for 4-5 minutes in salted water and frozen 7-8 minutes. You can remove one and cut it in half to make sure they are cooked through and there is no pinkness left. Add wontons to broth and enjoy! You can also add chopped green onions, spinach, broccoli, reserved chicken meat or whatever you desire to the soup. The best thing about this recipe is you can do whatever you want! You can substitute the ground turkey for ground pork if you like and sometimes I add shrimp too but our favorite variation is the turkey.

P.S. I've seen some recipes say to cook the wontons in the broth but the cornstarch from the wontons which keeps them from sticking together makes the broth cloudy so I don't recommend doing it this way...

recipe adapted from