Search This Blog

A Bit More

Saturday, April 21, 2007

ROSA MEXICANO--Palm Beach Gardens

The Art and Culture brochure we pick up at the Palm Beach Shores Resort’s Activities Desk includes an invitation to Celebrate Spring 2007 at Rosa Mexicano Restaurant. This is the second recommendation in so many days, so Rob and I are off. Rosa Mexicano is located in Downtown at the Gardens--yes that's the name of the upscale shopping mall in Palm Spring Gardens. In addition to the beautiful, modern layout, valet parking, Whole Foods Market and wireless internet throughout the center, there's a great Florida atmosphere--almost a party atmosphere. But many of the drivers riding up and down in their sleek cars are baby boomers!

Rosa Mexicano is right there, sparkling like a jewel. Their Celebrate Spring festival offers a three-course pre-fixe dinner menu for only $20.07. How good is that?!

The restaurant is modern and daring in blue and orange. Lighted masks decorate the walls. Although we sit in a booth, the chairs at the tables are woven in bright orange. The ceilings are high and techno--but the pipes and the lighting give everything the blue tones that match the full wall blue waterfall, Rosa Mexicano’s signature decoration. Beautiful. Unique. There are candles on the tables, but the restaurant lighting is muted. If it is a bit noisy, it is not overbearing. There’s a great atmosphere.

We expect to stay a while, and Rob orders a pitcher of sangria. It's a tasty concoction of fruit, wine, triple sec, brandy and soda. When Rob encounters a piece of fruit he cannot immediately identify, we learn from Amanda, our waitress, that this unusual ingredient is cucumber. It’s incredibly tasty. Who woulda thunk? The sangria is perfect.

Our dinners are spectacular. They’re colorful, presented beautifully, and served with care.

We begin with the restaurant's signature appetizer, Guacamole en Molcajete. (BTW, “signature” seems to be the buzz word; everyplace we go has one! ;-) ) A chef appears at our table with his cart full of ingredients and preparatory implements, heightening our pleasure and, certainly, as it is prepared, heightening our expectations. We are not disappointed. Our chef skillfully adds each ingredient, cuts the fresh avocado, taps the pit skillfully with a knife so it splits and is easily removed, uses a scoop to release the green flesh and mixes it to the right consistency, not too chunky, not too smooth. The finished dish is placed before us in an attractive bowl. The guacamole is served with fresh, warm corn tortillas, tortilla chips, a tomatilla dip and a spicy, smooth dip. It's a meal in itself, really, but it is our first course. This may be the best guacamole we’ve ever tasted! It's chunkier, and while there is a blending of flavors, there is also the distinctive taste of the avocado ready to be savored.

Rob and I choose the same entree, Enchiladas Mestizas, two chipotle beef-filled enchiladas topped with Mexican cheese and cilantro and served with a rich and spicy sauce of chipotle chilies, tomatillos and tomatoes. The enchiladas are accompanied by rice and black beans. These dishes are attractive and tantalizing. Delicious!

As we finish the sangria, Amanda reminds us that we still have our dessert. She describes our two choices. Rob asks her which one she recommends, but hedging ever so slightly, she suggests we each choose one and share. Good suggestion.

Tres Leches de la Casa is three milk cake inadequately described as a rich, white cake, vaguely reminiscent of a sponge cake, covered with a perfect meringue and served with lime natilla, mango salsa. Need I say more? Our other choice, Paraiso de Chocolate, is described on the menu as a warm chocolate soufflé cake. Again, I can inadequately describe it as a marvelous tasting richly chocolate thicker than brownie cake with a warm, soft chocolate filling. It is served with a sweet tomatillo dipping sauce and vanilla ice cream. Need I say more? These are desserts one dreams of. They're masterpieces finished with a nice, hot cup of coffee.

You don't have to come to south Florida to enjoy Rosa Mexicano's wonderful food. This selective chain opened its first restaurant in NYC in 1984, and there are two Rosas in Manhattan. In the Washington DC area, there's a Rosas as there are in several other cities. Visit their
website for locations convenient to you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Florida is wonderful. We come down for the sun! It feels so good away from our New York winter. We’re staying at the Palm Beach Shores Resort. This resort operates as both hotel and time share. We're here on a time share exchange. I want to keep telling you about the time shares we use because this works well for us and might for you too. Additionally, since we use RCI to exchange and book, the resorts I tell you about are open to all people with RCI access.

Hotel rack rates for our room are $309.00 nightly although we found the hotel on Travelocity for $289.00 nightly. However, the view from Travelocity’s room would not be our ocean view balcony; it would be a parking lot view, and for us that ocean view balcony is important; we love to sit on the balcony listening to the surf hitting the shore and watching the whitecaps. It's all part of the experience—the escape from winter. This resort is Gold Crown, a rating RCI uses for its premier properties often based on service and amenities as well as on location.

Our suite is nice and comfortable:
one bedroom with a king-size bed and TV, a safe in the closet, a huge beautiful bathroom with a separate shower, double sinks, mirrored walls, plenty of shelves and storage space, a fully stocked kitchen with a combination convection oven/microwave, dining area with seating for four, and sitting area with couch (a convertible), a big comfy easy chair, a coffee table with drawers to store all our books, travel materials, games etc., a TV armoire with a radio, cd , dvd, and additional drawers, and a second table with internet connection for our laptop. We bring our own power strip to accommodate the assortment of mechanical devices--cell phone, iPods, Palms, etc. There is internet connection for Rob's laptop, and that's good for getting driving directions and for periodically checking our email. The TV offers 38 channels including the resort's own which enables us to access the daily activity schedule. That is very handy because it helps in day planning. We are, as you know, normally not joiners, but there are walks and talks offered along with the usual crafts and games and evening activities including movies. This is a nice suite for a family of two adults and no more than two younger children. It would be do-able but cramped for two adult couples. Rob complains, for instance that there is not an abundance of drawer space, but we are totally unpacked and comfortable.

We have daily "towel" service--fresh towels, waste removal, replacement of paper supplies. Once during the week we have full service and cleaning. That works fine, but one major difference between a hotel and a time share is that we actually have to make our own bed!

We have a balcony with a partial view of the ocean, and Rob is out there bright and early with his morning coffee. With his binoculars, he can look way up beach and check the flags, letting us know how amenable the ocean is to tourists! The ocean is a warm and inviting sea foam green and teal. There are always vessels far offshore to catch our interest. We also watch the palm leaves swaying in the soft ocean breeze--an overall relaxing atmosphere. It’s always amazing how much there is to see on the beach.

The pool is very nice, but we are here for the beach and do not spend one minute of our two weeks poolside. There is music by the pool, and it is live entertainment for much of the day--a combination of Jimmy Buffeti-ish and easy-listening reggae. Nice. We did use the spa on several occasions, and it was nice and hot! We also stopped once at the palm-frond topped poolside bar, but as I said, we’re really here for the beach and the ocean.

The beach is just a hop, skip, and a jump past the pool, bar, and spa, just over the dune on a wooden boardwalk. It’s wide and beautiful and uncrowded. There's a hut just over the dune where cabana boys set you up, offer all kinds of tours and activities like parasailing and wave runner rentals. They also walk the beach taking orders from the restaurant and bar. I like that although we don’t use their services. It’s just nice to know they’re available. We simply set up our chairs and get comfy—books, lunch, bottled water. Isn’t that all one needs?

Some of the other hotel amenities include a nicely equipped exercise room and a salon offering massages, seaweed wraps and the expected host of services. They also offer sunburn treatment. Hmmmmmm There’s an activities desk where we can make arrangements for tours, get driving directions, brochures, etc. The staff is friendly and helpful. If we wish, there is valet parking.

There are bicycles and scooters for rent, and there is a trolley
that runs from early in the morning to late at night to and from the Sailfish Marina, a stone’s throw across Singer Island where we can catch water taxis, fishing boats, and tours or simply feed the fish and enjoy a good meal in the Sailfish restaurant.

They are re-building the resort’s restaurant, so it is unfinished, but we do have a meal there and it is good. The restaurant is promising but I cannot review it for you.

One of the nice "extras" here is the location. So close to West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Juno and Jupiter and an easy drive to Ft. Lauderdale and Boca Raton, there's no way you can be bored. The most difficult task we face is whether we want to leave the beach at all! We always travel with that Plan B, and this vacation's list has eleven possibilities. As it turns out, we only do four. Guess we’ll just have to return.

There is only one complaint we have with the resort. When we checked out we were handed a bill with a daily charge for the room safe ($1.00) and parking ($6.00). It came as a surprise to us although when we did sign in, we initialed that we knew about the charge. Frankly we didn’t read the fine print (caveat emptor), and so we were surprised. Not that we could have done anything about the charges anyway, but it is the sneaky way it came to us that is offensive.

I recommend the resort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up there again!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse

The most miraculously beautiful fiction is always true. Great authors have an uncanny insight into the human experience; no matter the frame, the picture is true. We readers reach a sentence, close our eyes and recognize insightful genius has put the essence of our feelings into words--unearthing a bond we may not have known existing between us and all humanity. Look at this description of reading: " that when he looked was not to see anything; it was to pin down some thought more exactly. That done, his mind flew back again and he plunged into his reading." Marvelous. Isn't that a reader's experience?

The joy of discovering what that quotation represents—the joy of reading—is repeated over and over again in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, a novel so intuitive and true that it moves me with its powerfully charged visions of the way we live our lives--both singularly and as part of the whole. It is uplifting and positive despite the fact that we understand life is filled with rough seas one must navigate on the way to the Lighthouse.

The novel is divided into three intense sections. The first, "The Window" introduces us to a range of characters and their thoughts presented as stream of consciousness, one character's feelings colliding and bouncing off another's. We're introduced not only to the many people vacationing at the Ramsay's summer home off the coast of Scotland but also to the symbols--the lighthouse and Lily Briscoe's painting, for instance. The intellectual clashes between emotional and scientific responses, the divergent approaches to life by men and women and by generations, and other glimpses into the human experience appear.

The second section is entitled "Time Passes," and it does. Inevitably. Time and nature wear on the house and on the people. Things expected and unexpected occur as time marches forward, yet in many ways, things remain the same. Don't they, though?

The last section, "The Lighthouse" profoundly ties together all the strands and fills in the spaces that separate people from one another. The shining beam that stretches out to offer the goal of safe harbor is in the sight of each of us. This revelation is eye-opening and potentially life-altering.
All of this occurs as characters quest for a kind of immortality--through creating memorable moments, through work, or through art. What is the answer?

Virginia Woolf was a mover and shaker in her own time, but what she has to say is timeless.

To the Lighthouse is a perfect vacation companion. I found some of her sentences so breathtakingly beautiful, I had to close my eyes and let the words swirl in my brain allowing myself to take the moment to enjoy them. It's not often that life gives us enough time to breathe deeply like that.


“This is going to be an ADVENTURE!” we declared as we decided to try Amtrak’s Auto Train to Florida. In 1996, I’d taken a glorious train trip out west with Michael and my mother—great lounge car, great dining car and service—so reminiscent of the movie Holiday Inn that I forced my reluctant and totally embarrassed family to sing “Snow” in the dining car!

Anyway, the Auto Train begins its journey in Lorton, VA, right off the
I-95 just 20 minutes or so south of Washington DC. Check in is a cinch for the car and then for us. At check in, we book our dinner reservations for 7 o’clock. The station’s waiting room is spacious and comfortable. We explore a bit and read our books. The train is scheduled to leave at 4 PM, but we leave early because everyone is on board.

Our seats are in the Lower Level, a spacious car with no pass through from car to car. It seats 12, unlike the regular seating and pass-throughs upstairs, but there are only eight of us, four traveling together. Lavatories are right outside the door to the car, and the folks upstairs have to come down to them. They do that without disturbing us.

Seats are spacious, close to first class airline seats with plenty of leg room, footrests and leg-rests, a nice recline, pillows and blankets. I make myself comfortable, and within five minutes of leaving the station, I’m asleep. When I wake up at 5 PM, we’re leaving Richmond, VA. Rob gets glasses and ice from the lounge car and pours Jack; our companions bring down drinks and free bowls of snacks from the lounge car, and we get to know these people from Lancaster, PA and Columbus, Ohio. The man from Columbus originally hailed from Washington Heights. Me too. We laughingly recall Orchard Beach, Krums, Alexanders, Loew’s Paradise and Dykman Street. Small world, isn’t it?

The sun slowly sets in the west. There are houses we pass with big wrap-around porches and columns—southern homes silhouetted against the sun. It is a miniature scene from Gone With The Wind. As we pass under an overpass, I wave to a boy and girl standing on the side of the tracks. Rob laughs. “Ulysses,” I say, from The Human Comedy.

Scenes change as the sun sinks lower. How different from driving to Florida! I am relaxed; there is the gentle chug of the train’s wheels creating a hypnotic effect in tune with the sun. I enjoy my sippin’ whiskey. Life is good.

At 7 o’clock we head to the dining car and sit with Rob and Mary who actually live within an hour of us. They left their truck and trailer in Lorton and are taking their Honda Gold Wing for a ten day ride in Florida. The couple is our age and assures us it’s never too late to get a motorcycle. Hmmmmm….

Dinner is tasty—we both select short ribs, mashed potatoes, green
beans, wine and apple pie à la mode. Unlike my prior trip with linens and china service, here the tablecloth is vinyl and the dishes are disposable. Only the cloth napkins remain. No one sings “Snow.” I’m told that the service I remember is available in the special dining car for those who booked sleepers.

We skip the evening movie in the lounge, preferring our car where we plug into our iPods (Rob’s is bluegrass; mine is very different) and make ourselves comfortable. I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, getting deep into other people’s thoughts through her stream of consciousness. The train’s chugging music becomes part of my own rhythm. We’re in North Carolina when I look out the window to see the thick blackness broken horridly by a huge fire. A house is consumed in vivid oranges, reds, and yellows. I can even see the jet streams of water coming from the fire truck’s hoses. I crane my neck, pressing against the window to see life’s drama from afar as we pass protected.

There’s a real treat this evening—a lunar eclipse. We watch its stages. We’ve the time to keep checking. It’s something else a bit special for everyone in the car, and it offers lots of opportunities for discussion.

Gradually the train’s hum becomes a lullaby blending with my iPod’s sweet music. Next thing I know, it’s morning; my battery is dead! But I wake up to palm trees! For me that’s the biggest thrill in Florida. We’re late getting into Sanford, Florida, trip’s end outside Orlando, but we agree this is definitely a good way to come south.

At the station we are met by Hugh and Carol. Hugh is a friend from high school. He inadvertently caught up with me some years ago via the internet; he was playing chess with my cousin! Well, this meeting is very special. We have not seen each other in 42 years!!!!!! The four of us have breakfast together and spend a terrific time trying to catch up and learn about one another. I think we hit it off rather well, and I expect that we will see them again ASAP. What’s 42 years anyway—just a blip. But how great is that a way to end the trip? See, it is an adventure!

Please see my travel tips for hints on using the Auto Train.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Max & Eddie’s Cucina
2441 Beach Ct.
West Palm Beach, FL
(561) 842-5200

Once again we lucked out, finding this wonderful local Zagat rated restaurant tucked away in a corner without flashy signs announcing its very formidable presence. We read about Max & Eddie's in one of the Palm Beach area brochures, but hadn't even noticed it as we drove by. We did check the restaurant online where it is labeled a “don't miss.” How right those reviewers are!

In the middle of the week Rob and I didn't think reservations are necessary, but we are wrong! Walking from Palm Beach Shores Resort, we find benches outside this lovely little bistro filled with waiting customers. We wait with some New Jersey vacationers, and have a nice conversation. Then we are in, and every table is filled.

Decor is not Max & Eddie's strong point, but the wooden lattice on the walls and the Florida and cooking-themed oil paintings do create an interesting ambiance. Faux tiffany lamps as well as candlelight do help to create an atmosphere, but believe me, this is a restaurant people go to for the food--and wine. In its Guide to the Best Wine Restaurants in the World, the prestigious Wine Spectator gives Max and Eddie's Cucina an Award of Excellence. That reward has been repeated for several years.

Dinners at Max and Eddie's are hearty, beautiful, and magnificently delicious. We begin with hot, fresh focaccia. A waiter grates fresh parmesan and mixes it with olive oil. That's our dip, and it is great--so different and so much better than the usual olive oil or olive oil with spices.

Next, the salad, a big fresh mixture of greens, red onions, and other goodies with just the right amount of house dressing. All this is topped with crumbled gorgonzola cheese. (Pam would love this!)

Our entrees are superb. Rob orders Veal Calabrese, lightly breaded scaloppini sautéed and topped with spinach, mushrooms and three Italian cheeses. It is accompanied by a combination of summer squash, zucchini, and a side dish of linguini with tomato sauce. The presentation is beautiful, and Rob loves it. The cheese combination makes the taste unique.

I order Veal Parmigiano, focaccia-crusted and topped with mozzarella and marinara. It is so tender, it does not require a knife. It is delicious and served with the squash medley and linguini.

Service is excellent too--friendly and efficient. We are not rushed, and it is a thoroughly pleasant meal. In fact, it is so nice that the following evening when my cousin Phyllis and Michael come to our suite, we order pizza from Max and Eddie’s. This sausage and pepper pizza is also excellent. We order that pizza 40 minutes before it was ready to be picked up.

Max and Eddie's knows how to do it all, and with very little advertising and long waits (although if we were to go again we'd know enough to make reservations). If you're anywhere in Palm Beach County when you're in Florida, Max and Eddie's Cucina on Singer Island is worth the trip.


Oprah chooses a book and it becomes a best seller! What power she has. I’ve enjoyed many of the Oprah picks, so when Michael called and said he’d heard about Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and that I might be interested, I decided to take a chance. I’m not sorry I did.

Are you skeptical about self-help books? Generally I am, yet the two fallbacks are Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese. These two books are life-altering, but I cannot say the same about The Secret despite its cachet.

On the other hand, sifting through the pop-psychology, I came back to the basic idea that thinking positively is the only way to approach life and that many of our defeats are caused by our own negative attitudes. Both Byrnes and Peale begin with the idea that you must believe in your goal and you must believe in your capability of making that goal happen. Without those feelings, you are doomed to defeat. Hard to argue. If you think you can’t, you can’t. Then there is The Little Engine that Could. This basic philosophy is hard to dispute; you may not achieve all your goals, but you have no chance without the knowledge that you can. Even the lottery says, You’ve gotta be in it to win it!

The point of The Secret is the law of attraction. Think. Believe. These positive thoughts attract like thoughts; the result is success. Where I begin to have problems is that those successes are not always coming from you. The law of attraction brings outsiders into your world as well; the right outsiders are drawn to you by your thoughts. I don’t know….

There are some really good ideas in The Secret. Sometimes it’s just good to read something to remind you how to look at the world and that reminder is enough to get you back on track. Down in Florida, I spent several days getting buffeted and knocked down by the waves and undertow each time I came out of the ocean. I kept insisting that I could not walk out of the water, and I pointed to others who were in a similar position to mine. I finished reading The Secret on the beach, and I went in to the ocean with an entirely different outlook. I walked out. To prove to myself that it wasn’t an anomaly, I went in a second time, and I walked out a second time. Don’t think the ocean had changed; others were still struggling.

The Secret is a quick and easy read; cull from it what you will. For me, it was worthwhile, and perhaps it will be for you too.


We had a very good experience on the Auto Train. Both going to and coming from Florida, we shared the car with seasoned regulars. From them and from us, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Book early and ask for a Lower Level Coach Seat unless you’re booking a sleeper. See my article on the Auto Train for reasons. You will have to go upstairs to the lounge and dining cars, but the privacy and small number of passengers on the Lower Level make up for that.

2. Get to the station early. Boarding begins at 11:30. We arrived at 1 o’clock in Lorton. We had eaten lunch near the station. When you check in, you are assigned seats and you book your dinner reservations—5, 7, 9—and we wanted that 7 o’clock seating. If we came too late, we would have had to take what was left.

3. Have lunch before you board. There’s coffee available as well as snacks, but if you’re a nosher, bring your own. We also brought our own bottled water. Bring a book, an iPod, games, cards or anything else you might want to occupy your time. A good book helps a lot in the station.

4. Don’t count on the Auto Train’s schedule. Amtrak rents the tracks, and so the Auto Train often stops to let freight trains go by. We left a bit early heading to Florida and arrived about a half hour late. On the way back, we were about 45 minutes late. It didn’t matter to us. One of our fellow passengers spoke about once being six hours late. He also told a horror story of someone who missed a cruise because she counted on the train schedule. Take this into account. Don’t use the auto train if your time schedule isn’t flexible.

5. Another thing to consider is getting your car at your destination. They do not come off the train in any particular order, so you may have a wait. I reiterate, if impatient, or on a schedule, this is not the way to travel because you won’t enjoy it.

6. You don’t have to book round trip. Some couples we met were going down via Auto Train and meandering back north, touring other parts of Florida, or stopping in Savannah for a few days. Sometimes it’s good to get out of the round trip mentality.