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Punta Cana dining experience

Many of you may already know that Christopher Fitzpatrick (my business partner) and I merged our catering business two years ago, and on 30 Sep 2023, we merged our lives as well.  We recently celebrated our honeymoon from February 1st through the 6th in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.   Three other couples accompanied us.

We stayed at Excellence El Carmen, a beautiful all-inclusive property. The property was stunning. The staff was kind, friendly, incredible, and on point. Overall, the level of service was epic, but the Food?

Well, that’s where they consistently dropped the ball.  Now I realize that even at an all-inclusive, the objective is to offer as much to the client as possible while still being smart about it and saving money where possible.  But WHY did they have to try to save money on food?

 

So, although Christopher and I are chefs, our friends always ask us if we are quick to analyze the cuisine when dining out.  And the answer is no for the most part.  If the food is phenomenal, then we are definitely in our happy place.  But if the food is nasty, you will think so as well.  We typically don’t complain because we realize there is more than one way to skin a cat (season/prepare a dish).   But honestly, folks, I would have been too embarrassed to put many of the dishes we were offered, in front of any client.

So, upon our arrival at the property at about 4 pm, we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  Perfect.  We went to check in, but our rooms were not yet ready, so the attendant suggested that we get a bite of lunch and return, and our rooms should be ready by then.

We took her up on her offer and went to one of the restaurants on the property.  After an early start to the day, flying and arriving late, we were excited about getting something in our bellies.

We went to the restaurant and ordered Crab Cakes and Calamari.  Pause…Deep Breath…  The crab cakes were as small and thin as a silver dollar coin.  We looked in amazement at the crab cakes and then at each other.  I then looked around the room to see if there were any hidden cameras because I thought perhaps we were getting punked.  No Cameras!

 

I picked up one of the two crab cakes, broke it in half to see what was inside, and guess what…No crab, not even imitation crab meat.  I believe it was chopped-up shrimp from the appearance, but it was not crab or even imitation crab meat.  I was so disappointed, but it was free (all-inclusive, remember…), so I pushed it aside and waited for my calamari.

Well, shortly after…the calamari came.  Folks, the calamari was not even breaded, which I was okay with, but I expected it to be breaded.  What was presented before me was a plate of three white rings that looked like rubber bands, accompanied by a little dipping sauce.  At this point, I’m thinking. There’s no way that this can be real.  But sadly, it was.

We wrote the entire dining experience off as a fluke, but surely the rest of the food on the property would be amazing.

Uh…No.

 

That evening, after everyone had settled in, we decided to meet up as a group and went to one of the restaurants on the property, “The Lobster House.”  We were anticipating an awesome experience at The Lobster House, so guess what most of us ordered?  You guessed it… lobster!

Mistake number one.  The lobster came out as two small lobster tails on the plate, and they were so overcooked they were just rubber.

I ordered a Lobster Bisque and was presented with a small bowl of seafood broth with a tiny piece of lobster (at least, I think it was lobster).  The disappointment was an understatement.  Christopher ordered the seafood soup and was delivered the same broth I received for my lobster bisque, but he had a piece of shrimp and some other chunks of seafood.   I was DONE.

I was looking forward to an excellent dining experience on this beautiful property.  The stay was not a disaster, as we found some good dining options, but those two experiences were probably the worst.

I was asked if I would return to this property, and you’d probably be surprised at my answer.  My answer would be yes.  Why? Now that I know where not to eat and where the good food is, I’d go again.  I would visit again because of the staff, the amenities, the grounds, and the service.  The entire staff treated us so well that they left a wonderful, lasting memory for me.  But I have to say that I was astonished that the resort of this caliber was not as food-forward as I had anticipated.

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