Blue Diamond Resorts Is Hosting The First Annual Food + Drink Experience This September in Cancun

As if you didn’t need another excuse to head to Cancun, Blue Diamond Resorts will be hosting the first Food + Drink Experience featuring more than a dozen well-known, international chefs. And it all takes place at the luxurious Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun, September 19-26, 2021.

Curated by Blue Diamond Resorts, sixteen renowned chefs, such as Aarón Sánchez and Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, will lead the week-long culinary festival showcasing mouthwatering cuisine and mixology demonstrations.

All week long there will be interactive experiences and entertainment including cooking exhibitions from Chef Cesar Castañeda and Chef Jorge Valencia, a beach barbecue with Freddy Chi, a signature barbecue pairing hosted by Chefs Ted Reader and Ray Lampe, Chocolate and Mezcal pairings with Chef Benjamin Nava, the first ever Mexican Caribbean Tiki Mixology Competition, and much more.

Food + Drink Experience Schedule Highlights 

Sunday, September 19

  • Inaugural party 
  • First round of the Mixology Competition 

Monday, September 20

Tuesday, September 21 

  • Culinary Demonstration of Cauliflower with Chef Cesar Castaneda
  • Baja California Wood Fire BBQ with Chef Alfredo Romero
  • Foam Party
  • Tequila Tasting
  • Mixology Session with David Araya 
  • Culinary Demonstration of duck tamales and roasted peach coulis with Chef Jorge Valencia
  • Signature Paring Dinner with Chefs Rick Moonen and Bernard Guillas

Wednesday, September 22

  • Culinary Demonstration of Octopus with Longaniza Powder with Chef Federico Lopez
  • Beach BBQ Taco Party with Chef Tim Grandinetti
  • Chocolate and Mezcal Paring with Mezcalero Benamin Nava
  • Mixology Session with Eliu Salazar
  • Culinary Demonstration of Fish Tea with Chef Dean Max
  • Signature Pairing Dinner with Chefs Reyna Garcia and Cindy Hutson

Thursday, September 23

  • Culinary Demonstration of plant-based meatballs with Chef Zaraida Fernandez
  • Riviera Mayan BBQ with Chef Freddy Chi
  • Wine tasting and seminar 
  • Culinary Demonstration of lobster tacos with Chef Aaron Sanchez
  • Signature BBQ Paring Dinner with Chefs Ted Reader and Ray Lampe
  • Heineken and XX after party 

Friday, September 24 

  • Culinary Demonstration of Tikin Xic with Chef Reyna Garcia
  • Classic American BBQ with Celebrity Pit Master Dr. BBQ
  • Tequila tasting 
  • Chillout Jazz Lounge
  • Mixology session with Federico Moreno
  • Culinary Demonstration of lobster gazpacho with Chef Rick Moonen
  • Signature pairing dinner with Chefs Federico Lopez and Tim Grandinetti

Saturday, September 

  • South American BBQ with Chef Carlo Magno
  • Foam Party
  • Wine tasting and seminar 
  • Mixology Session with Alejandro Perez
  • Culinary Demonstration with Chef Cindy Hutson
  • Signature paring dinner with Chefs Aaron Sanchez and Jorge Valencia

Sunday, September 26 

  • Farewell Brunch

With Safety Always in Mind

As the second largest travel market in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun is the most recognized Mexican tourist destination in the world and currently the most connected. Its picturesque surroundings, authentic Mexican culture, and approach to safe travel is the reason why Cancun was selected as the inaugural destination for a festival of this size. Since reopening to international guests June of 2020, proper health and safety protocols continue to be in place to ensure a safe travel experience. That includes COVID-19 and antigen testing for guests returning to North American locales, advanced procedures at the resort level, and more.

September 20 #WorldPaellaDay! Celebrate This Classic Spanish Dish!

Moncho Riquelme de Casa Riquelme con su paella alicantina.

Paella, that wonderful Spanish rice dish made with rice and a host of ingredients, is one of the traditional dishes of the Valencia region of Spain .

Paella from Don Quijote in Valparaiso, Indiana

Writing in Saveur magazine, David Rosengarten, an American chef, author and television personality who also has hosted or co-hosted more than 2500 television shows on the Food Network from 1994 to 2001, explains that “the earliest kinds of paella were products of purely local ingredients and eating habits.

“The dish exists because of rice, and rice has existed in Valencia and its environs ever since the Moors planted it there more than 1,300 years ago, in a lagoon called Albufera, where the grain is still grown today. Saffron, that precious and earthy spice, brought to Spain by Arab traders in the tenth century, was the Moors’ preferred seasoning for rice, and it remains a traditional paella ingredient. Local game like rabbit, and foraged foods like snails, as well as various legumes and vegetables, found their way into rice dishes during the Moorish occupation of Spain, but pork (which was prohibited under Muslim dietary laws) and shellfish did not.”

The earliest paella was made with all local ingredients and eating traditions. It’s main ingredient is rice and Valencia is known for their rice, planted by the Moors over 1,300 years ago in a lagoon called the Albufera, now national park where the grain still grows today.

“Saffron, that precious and earthy spice, brought to Spain by Arab traders in the tenth century, was the Moors’ preferred seasoning for rice, and it remains a traditional paella ingredient,” writes Rosengarten. “Local game like rabbit, and foraged foods like snails, as well as various legumes and vegetables, found their way into rice dishes during the Moorish occupation of Spain, but pork (which was prohibited under Muslim dietary laws) and shellfish did not. “

That certainly has changed today when many think of paella as being a seafood dish with sausages as an added ingredient.

Casa Lola desde el Grao de Castellón con su arroz negro con gamba roja
— at Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

While the Moors vacated Spain in 1492, the passion for rice dishes remained. What the Valencians ate during the reign of the Moors and afterwards for almost four centuries isn’t exactly known, but one of the first printed recipes we have dates back to 1840 and calls for such ingredients as rabbit, snails, beans and saffron cooked in a shallow pan called a paella. It was typically prepared over open fire composed of dried vines and branches from orange trees,

Miquel Barrera del Restaurante Cal Paradis desde Vall D’Alba con su “Arrocito de Castellón”
— at Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

According to Rosengarten, paella remained a regional food for a good long while. Back when that original paella recipe was first published, Spain wasn’t a popular destination on the tourist track, and its cuisine was little known beyond its borders. But the 20th century—the century of Picasso, Dali, Buñuel—saw a burgeoning interest around the world in all things español. Epicures were eager to discover the country’s rich, rustic flavors; in 1950, Elizabeth David, the cookbook writer who delivered England from its wartime gastro-dreariness, published A Book of Mediterranean Food (John Lehmann), which included a recipe for paella containing the hitherto non-traditional combination of chicken and shrimp. (Before long, gourmands in England, America, and beyond were serving all kinds of variants of the dish out of brightly colored Dansk paella pans along with goblets of sangria.

The Seafood Paella at The Grove in New Buffalo, Michigan

For those who want to make the dish to celebrate World Paella Day, buy a bottle or two of wine from the Ribera del Duero and Rueda Wine Regions of Spain and try the recipe below courtesy of James Beard Award-winning chef Jamie Bissonnette of Toro restaurants in NYC and Boston.

But first a little about wines from Ribera del Duero or Rueda (follow the links to find out more).

All About Rueda

Spain’s most popular white grape is Verdejo, and it is native to the region of Rueda in Castilla y Leon.

Tempranillo: Ribera del Duero’s Prized Grape

Full-bodied without going Godzilla-overboard, Ribera del Duero tempranillos are about as food-friendly as red wines get.

Teresa Roig con sus Paellas con Arte dando el toque creativo del evento
— at Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Toro Paella Mixta, serves 4-5

2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup Spanish onions, diced and sautéed in a generous amount of olive oil
1/2 cup scallions, white parts only, diced
1 cup sliced Spanish chorizo
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup chicken breast or thigh meat
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 cups Calasparra or Bomba rice
10 threads of saffron
Canned Spanish seafood conserva (optional)
1 1/2 cups lobster stock (any combination of chicken, vegetable, lobster or shrimp stock will work)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
6 to 10 top neck or count neck clams
18 mussels
4 to 5 shrimp
1/2 cup English peas
Olive oil, 1/4 cup sliced scallion tops, and lemon wedges for garnish

Combine garlic, sautéed onions, white scallions, chorizo, red pepper, salt and black pepper to taste in a 17-18″ paella pan and sauté over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. If you don’t have a paella pan, use a shallow copper or enamel coated steel pan (important to create the socarrat — or crust of crispy rice that develops on the bottom of the pan).

Add the chicken, tomato paste, rice and saffron, and stir, making sure to evenly coat the rice. Toast for 4 to 5 minutes. Add a can of conserva, if using. Evenly distribute and flatten out rice in pan.

Add all stocks. This should be the last time you stir the paella. Once boiling, add the clams and cook 5 to 10 minutes, until they open and rice grains are clearly visible.

Add mussels, and reduce heat to medium. Once the mussels open, add shrimp and peas. Cook over medium heat until shrimp and rice are cooked and have created a crispy bottom called “socarrat,” watching and smelling closely for burning.

Add small amounts of stock as necessary during cooking if all the liquid has evaporated and paella looks dry. Start to finish cooking time is approximately 30 minutes, 20 minutes to cook after adding stocks to chicken/rice mixture. Texture of rice when done should be soft on the outside but retain some bite/texture in the center. The rice on the bottom will be crispier (socarrat) from sitting on the bottom of the pan. Let the dish rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with olive oil, scallion tops, and lemon slices.

Pair with an unoaked Rueda Verdejo or a fruit-forward Ribera del Duero Joven.




Don Quijote Restaurant in Valparaiso Benefit Dinner to raise $20,000 to support VNA Porter County Meals on Wheels program; Curbside pickup August 16

Porter County, IN – The community is invited to participate in Don Quijote Benefit Dinner to raise $20,000 to support VNA Porter County Meals on Wheels program.

Since mid-March, Meals on Wheels has seen a 57% increase in need and anticipates it will only continue to rise. In an effort to meet the need a new walk-in refrigerator is necessary to help maintain proper food prep standards for client meals.

“This is just one of the many critical needs in our community,” said Kim Olesker, president & CEO of United Way of Porter County. “We can’t thank Carlos and his team enough for helping us to raise support for homebound seniors.”

The program currently serves 300 seniors daily help maintain their nutritional well-being and is a partnership between VNA of Northwest Indiana, Pines Village Retirement Communities and United Way of Porter County.

Don Quijote’s Benefit Dinner menu will feature Chef Carlos Rivero’s signature paella with appetizer, salad, dessert and bottle of red, white or rosé wine. Traditional and vegetarian paella available.

Single and dinner for two packages available. Single dinners are $65 and dinner for two are $125. Bottle of wine option only included in dinner for two package. Dinner will be curbside pickup only on August 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. Order deadline by noon on Saturday, August 15. To purchase a dinner package, visit

Photos courtesy of Don Quijote Restaurante.

United Way of Porter County works to lead community collaboration, unite residents and inspire action to improve lives in Northwest Indiana. United Way of Porter County annually provides more than $2.3 million to support a network of education, health, disaster and basic needs services. To learn more, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.