Just got home and wanted to report on things before I forgot about what I did!
We had a glorious two weeks in Aruba and it always feels like home more and more each time we return. The weather was glorious with only one partial day of cloud/rain that we chose to leave the beach.
With regards to restaurants, we hit the usual spots we love Anna Maria's, Yemanja Woodfired Grill, Barefoot, Blossoms, El Gaucho and Wacky Wahoos. We went to the new restaurant Quinta del Carmen and it was wonderful and beautiful, highly recommend it. Very happy for Luc and his business partner from Barefoot who are taking the restaurant scene in Aruba by storm by having two excellent restaurants. Both of his restaurants are very different in ambience but equally excellent in their menu.
For some of the interesting "tid bits" to our trip: After reading on the BB about the wine tasting I decided to book it for our family of 7. I made arrangements in April for a Dec. wine tasting and then booked my other dinners around it. We reconnected in November to go over wine preference and tapas and thought we were good to go for our evening. We arrived at Orange Plaza for our 9pm wine tasting to find everything closed and number posted on door was out of service. I emailed the owner and he "forgot" about our date. We then spoke over the phone and while he was very apologetic, I couldn't really get a true or straight answer about what had happened to his missing our scheduled evening. While he appeared sincere in his apparent missed appointment, he tried to make it up to us by trying to reschedule or do a tasting at our hotel. We were leaving in a few days and had already made dinner plans so this was not going to happen. He dropped off a bottle of red wine and a sparkling wine with a note of apology (which was a nice touch) however, if that was the red wine and dessert wine he was going to use at his wine tasting, we were not impressed. Both wines were a $10 bottle with the red only given a 3* star rating and the sparkling wine was no dessert wine (he mentioned that he had bought the dessert wine for us). Anyway, whatever way you cut it, it just doesn't bode well for a business for this to happen. We won't be doing this again!
El Gaucho dinner was pretty good but I should mention, that one member of our party ordered a steak medium rare and it took 4 steaks to get it right. The manager should have been called over immediately but was not until the end and then the steak was finally prepared properly.
Wacky Wahoos was fantastic but kept running out of Wahoo, apparently this year it is difficult to catch.
Carte Blanche was another outstanding experience. It stands on a class of its own. Not a regular restaurant and an expensive evening but it is just fantastic.
We did the kooku kanuko as a private evening of 20 people and we had a blast. We did it as a surprise to all our our "kids" which were all late teens to early 20's and we became the cool parents!! lol
As a precaution, I want to mention a situation that happened to friends of ours who rented two weeks from a "reputable" realty company who services Aruba rentals regularly. My friend noticed about a week before he left that he actually only had a confirmation number for week 51 but not week 52 (he was only provided with an id number). He contacted the realty company and they assured him that when he arrived in Aruba this would all be sorted out. Having thought this to be true, he was not worried. When he told this to a group of us upon his arrival we knew this was not good and wondered what was going to happen so we waited to see the end result. Two days before the end of his first week, he finally finds out that he doesn't have a second week as he had bought and paid for. The Marriott worked with this realty company and were able to help him out for the next five days (he was actually only going to be using the 5 of 7 days of week 52). They did a scattering of additional few nights in a 2 bedroom, with a few nights in two studios and one night in a studio at SC and the other half of the family of 6 had to stay at the Holiday Inn. Buyer beware.... they were told that the party that the realty company bought the unit from was the issue and it was someone that they had dealt with for many years with no previous issues. We also heard (but I cannot substantiate this) that there were many families that this company had similar issues with this year due to the same person(s) whose units didn't materialize.
This same company advertised some units for sale and the price caught our eye. We called them to follow up and they admitted that somehow the wrong price was advertised. While they said they were aware of the incorrect price, that price remained in the Aruba newspaper for the entire two weeks we were there.
Here are more details on my dinners:
Barefoot was New Year's Eve and we sat outside. Getting our table was a little slower than usual but once we sat down dinner went smoothly. Food was outstanding as usual. Most of us had their tomotoe soup, which was delicious and one person had the crab cakes which I tasted. They had curry in them and I thought I wouldn't like but they were very good. Main courses were everything from lamb to all sorts of fish. Everyone loved their food. This year they have changed their lamb from a lamb medley to rack of lamb, which I am told by my two sons is better.
We went to Wacky Wahoos three times, two with a reservation and one without. On Christmas Eve we decided to "wing it" and their were tables. Without a doubt the best fish, imo. Their biggest issue is that they don't answer the phone and don't have email access. I definitely think this place needs to get into the 21st century. My friends had a reservation for 8 people and were trying to get hold of them for days to tell them they only needed the reservation for 4 but couldn't get them to answer. As stated, they didn't have Wahoo on many nights which was disappointing but we had barracuda, scallops, grouper and swordfish during our visits. DH didn't love his swordfish but he is very particular on the fish he likes. One negative I will share is that on one night we ordered both soups (black bean and corn chowder) and they were watered down that night. Some friends went on the same night and said the same thing. That was our last visit on this trip there but our friends went back and the soup was "regular" again. Perhaps that night they thought they might run out and watered it down? Unfortunately, with no email I can't contact them.
Anna Maria's, we went there twice and we have never seen them so busy!! Food was amazing and we had all sorts of delicious pastas. Prices have gone up this year but we noticed that most of the restaurants have increased their prices too. We were large groups both nights so service was a bit slower than usual. Favourite Italian on the island.
Blossoms Japanese was excellent. We love going there for a fun, fast dinner. We also wanted to support the owner who has had a rough time with the new owners of the building. It was nice seeing more people in the restaurant and I hope his business will thrive again.
Yemanja Woodfired Grill was excellent. We sat outside and we had a variety of soups, which we all loved. For dinners we had fish with a few meat dishes (2 sons won't eat fish) and we all loved the food. My only "negative" is they had a truffle risotto with a few of the dishes which I found too over powering. I could only eat a small amount of the risotto as I found it too rich. The waiter did agree with me on this. Next time I would ask for it to be substituted.
Quinta Del Carmen was a delite! You arrive at this beautiful mansion with bright lights shining on the name while soft lighting on the lawn. You enter this beautiful old house and walk through to a lovely outside garden with soft little lights above the seating area. Reminiscent of Madame Janettes but without the tables on top of each other. The other area has lighting and interesting triangle canopies. Very beautiful outside. There is seating inside but more limited. We sat in a private dinning room that hold 12 people and it was very nice. There is another private dinning room that hold 24, I believe. Also very nice. Food was delicious. Their dishes are different but somewhat similar to Barefoot. They tried some specials at Barefoot for months to see what people liked so they would know what to add to this restaurant's menu. I had shrimp with pineapple with coconut sauce and it was excellent. Once again, we had just about everything on the menu between the 12 people dining. Everyone loved their food.
Hope this helps with people's restaurant decisions. Couldn't get to all of our places every visit. We want to try restaurant at Tierra del Sol again. Based on Cindy and Rob's recommendation. We have gone on and off over the years with some years good and some not so much. Beautiful place so we are hoping that this will be a great restaurant to add to our repertoire.
On New year’s Eve, after Barefoot we returned to Palm Beach Marriott area. We have never seen Moomba so packed. More on that later...
The Marriott did a beautiful job with their fireworks on a barge on the ocean. They did that two years ago and it was amazing. This was the most spectacular fireworks we have ever seen Marriott do!!! Also, with the fireworks being on the water it was breathtaking. Kudos to the Marriott.
Moomba, apparently there was a young "punk tourist" who thought it was funny to throw firecrackers at people. Friends daughter got one singed in her hair. Her father went over to the kid and he apologized and then he saw the kid do it to other people. Father went to security to get the kid thrown out. Some altercation developed... was not there but this was told to me by friend. When we saw the huge crowd at Moomba we stayed away as we figured no good would happen there.