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Foodophiles, My Big Important Opinions

La Fresa Francesa – Miami Restaurant Review

la fresa francesa I think this restaurant is adorable. It’s just lovely. From every thoughtfully placed doily to the curated French music playing, this restaurant takes the work of conjuring up a French bohemian atmosphere more seriously than you might think such a subject would warrant. La Fresa Francesa is not here to play games like some other restaurants that serve vaguely French food within the average white table cloth, dim lighting, and an otherwise style-less atmosphere. La Fresa’s decor shows such effort and attention to detail that even your boyfriend might actually notice.

La Fresa Francesala fresa francesaLa Fresa FrancesaWhat really made me want to shed light on this spot was that it’s not actually a traditional French restaurant; La Fresa Francesa bills itself as serving a hybrid of Cuban/French cuisine, and it’s located right in Hialeah on Okeechobee Road, no less. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to find out if someone was truly doing God’s work right in my own backyard and yes, La Fresa Francesa really is as amazing as it sounds.

la fresa francesaLa Fresa FrancesaLa Fresa Francesa First, let me state, I do have to take points off over their complete failure to offer vegan options. The only already vegan dish was one item from the sides menu: sautéed spinach. Listen, I am extremely lenient with who I levy this judgment against; I’m not about to go to a steakhouse and say the place sucks because there’s not a wealth of vegan dishes.

 That just isn’t the case with La Fresa Francesa. Crepes could not be an easier item to veganize; these type of substitutions are Veganism 101. Make a vegan crepe, add fruit + sugar + agave syrup – voila! You now have a completely vegan, stand-alone menu option. It really is that simple. Considering the owner and chef spent time studying and working in L.A., lack of exposure to the needs of vegan diners just isn’t an excuse. Y’all should know better. 

la fresa francesa  That being said, if you aren’t vegan, but vegetarian, or have no dietary restrictions, you’ll have a great experience. The menu is beautifully curated, taking a foundation of traditional French recipes and introducing traditional Cuban ingredients. It’s a wonderful formula that culminates in the type of addicting dish that makes you wonder whether these two cultures weren’t always meant to join: La Fresa Francesa’s Guava Creme crepe. Just the existence of this dish is an achievement in itself, but they manage to improve upon even this by sourcing their guava fruit locally; the guava they use in this recipe is grown right in Homestead, Florida.

La Fresa FrancesaLa Fresa Francesa They have a menu for savory crepes too, the Champignons dish was one that my sister loved and has ordered more than once. I would advise that you not waste your money on the bread. Two mistakes are made here when there should really only be one, at max. If you’re not offering a complimentary dish like bread, at least make the dish you’re charging for great. If you’re going to offer nearly inedible bread, then at least make that dish complimentary. La Fresa broke both of these rules. They will charge for what was arguably the worst bread I’ve ever tried to consume.

la fresa francesaLa Fresa Francesa✯✯✯✯ (4/5)

 Disappointing bread aside, every other item I tried from the menu was enjoyable. They have enough variety that you’ll want to come back several times just to try different dishes. If you’re a tea drinker, they have a great offer of an entire tea pot of two different tea varieties for only about $4.50 (my preference is the chamomile but only over the green ginger by a bit). Regardless of what you decide to try, let me repeat, they have a guava crepe…guayaba in a crepe. It’s impossible to go wrong.

la fresa francesala fresa francesa Have you been here before or are you planning to try it out soon? Comment and let me know!


Beauty, My Big Important Opinions

Review – TonyMoly Face Masks

TonyMoly face masks If you’re just venturing into the world of face masks, trying to pick a mask to begin with can have you wanting to quit before you start, with some masks reaching $30 for one sheet and touting ingredients you’d never think to put on your face. With Tony Moly’s face masks, you can put one foot in the Korean beauty world and another in the world of face masks simultaneously.

In this review, I’m giving you my overall impression of TonyMoly’s I’m Real face mask line so you can make an informed decision about where to start. With most skin care products, it’s generally best to try them for 2-4 weeks before coming to a conclusion, but I’m giving you my second (twice used) impression of their line. They have so many different face masks; some of them really stand out, others I would never use. I list my favorites and why below for you:

face masks Aloe Vera Moisturizing Mask – Smells good, subtly of aloe vera. My skin definitely doesn’t feel dry, and the mask leaves a nice glow without making your skin feel sticky or heavy.

face masks Rice Clear Skin Mask – No smell to the mask, but I wouldn’t expect much of a scent from rice so no surprise there. I’ve been using the whole I’m Real series about twice a week so far and have noticed that my skin has been much more clear and the zits I do get are smaller and fade quickly.

face masksAvocado Nutrition Mask – I love anything with avocados, so naturally I was psyched to put them on my face. Avocado is great for your skin, using it both from within and without.

face maskTea Tree Skin Soothing Mask – Tea tree is an important and versatile ingredient in skin care. This mask mixes tea tree and banana to calm irritated skin and it leaves you with dewy, refreshed skin, which is all I ask for in life. 

face masksRed Wine Pore Care Mask – This is one of my favorite masks so far because you’re immediately made aware of the rich grape smell it has. Though it smells more like grape juice than wine, it’s a pleasant accompaniment to the mask. Don’t expect it to minimize your pores; there’s no face mask currently available to my knowledge that can do that. Keeping your skin clear does help prevent enlarged pores, which I think this mask can help with. It also left my face looking brighter and more radiant.

face masks

These are the masks from Tony Moly’s I’m Real series that I’ll definitely be buying again. The masks are super reasonably priced and are worth it for the results they give. You can start trying them all out here. It’s so relaxing to come home and unwind while still doing something beneficial for your skin. These are the perfect face masks to create a habit of giving some extra love to your skin.

Have you tried any of the I’m Real face masks from TonyMoly? Let me know how you like them in the comments!

Salome Luna Gemme

Beauty, My Big Important Opinions

Mario Badescu Healing & Soothing Mask // Cucumber Tonic Mask Review

Mario Badescu MaskI’ve been wanting to get my hands on some of the face masks from the Mario Badescu line and finally found the right opportunity during Ulta Beauty’s 21 Days of Beauty sale, where I happily scooped up two masks at a comfortingly discounted price. The packaging is minimal with a very dermatologist grade style of labelling, similar to Kiehl’s. The top stays on tight, so no worrying about spills if you toss it in your luggage. 

cucumber tonic mask

Cucumber Tonic Mask

The first mask I tried and also the first of any Mario Badescu products was the Cucumber Tonic Mask.

Peeling back the seal, the first thing that strikes me is how liquid-y the mask is; it swirls around in the jar and could easily be poured out like a milkshake, a notable difference from the usual paste like masks I’ve encountered.

The scent is gentle but still fragrant, smelling more like a spa than cucumbers. You don’t need a lot of the product to throughly cover your face, so don’t be put off by the small sized jar. Within 5 minutes of applying the mask, you’ll feel it satisfyingly tightening on your skin. This Mario Badescu mask is made with cucumber extract to calm sensitive skin and clay, which is great for absorbing oil and keeping pores clear. Everyone should have a reliable go-to clay based mask in their arsenal.

The application instructions state you should apply a thin layer to clean skin and leave it on for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times a week. I apply it for 20 minutes, twice a week and my skin has been relatively clear since I’ve been using it. As with most skin care products, it’s hard to get a true sense of how useful a product is without using it for several months while not changing anything about your skin care routine, diet and location, as all these affect your skin. But a great sign is that I haven’t had any breakouts while using it.

 Rating: ✯✯✯✯ (4/5)

Healing And Soothing Mask

mario badescu maskThis Healing And Soothing Mask from Mario Badescu is great if your skin gets irritated or dry. The oatmeal in this mask helps to calm and heal skin while also moisturizing. There’s no noticeable scent that accompanies the mask, so if you prefer less fragrant products this would be more your style. The consistency of this mask is much more creamy and thick than the Cucumber Tonic Mask, though I found I needed a little more product to actually cover my face with it than I did using the other mask. There’s no tingling or tightening that follows application of the Healing And Soothing Mask, you’re more likely to forget you have it on once it dries.

I leave this mask on for 20 minutes and use it about 1-2 times a week. The Mario Badescu Healing And Soothing Mask definitely leaves your skin feeling moisturized and calmed. However, this mask is straight up difficult to take off, as it doesn’t just wash off. You really have to scrub it off with the help of a cleanser or use a wash cloth. I avoid products that more easily leave residue because it doesn’t matter how many miracles a mask works if it stays on your skin and clogs your pores. While I enjoy other aspects of this mask, I won’t be purchasing it again until Mario Badescu re-works their formula to make it less difficult to wash off.

Rating: ✯✯ (2/5)

 You can grab the Healing And Soothing Mask plus the Cucumber Tonic Mask from Amazon.

I’m really excited to try out more products from the Mario Badescu line because I’m fairly impressed so far. What the Healing And Soothing Mask lacks, the Cucumber Tonic Mask really made up for. Have any of you tried their masks before? Let me know how their products have worked for you or if you’re thinking about giving them a try soon in the comments!


Foodophiles, My Big Important Opinions

Kebab Indian Restaurant in Miami – Review

Miami in RestaurantMy version of comfort food is Indian cuisine that I don’t have to cook myself for a change. While Miami is a budding foodie haven, sit down Indian restaurants are not yet in abundance so I was thrilled to drive by Kebab Indian Restaurant and add it to my list of places to check out. A rarity in Miami, this spot has been around for over a quarter of a century, first opened 1976.Miami RestaurantMiami RestaurantThis is one restaurant in Miami you can feel comfortable eating at while wearing flip flops. While it’s a casual atmosphere, Kebab Indian Restaurant would still be a chill place for a family dinner. Opting only for older Indian songs played at a low volume, this place doesn’t push an overly stimulated atmosphere. Their decor is not overbearing but it also leaves a little to be desired.Miami RestaurantMiami RestaurantMiami RestaurantMiami RestaurantI’m all about the appetizer menu and so is Kebab Indian Restaurant. There’s a large, varied selection and vegans or vegetarians can easily eat well here. I went with vegetable samosas (how could you not?) and bhujia, which are spiced vegetable fritters. While the bhujia was underwhelming, the samosas were perfectly cooked to give them a crunchy, flaky exterior.
Of course the first thing I ordered when I stepped in the door was a cup of masala chai, but sadly I think this restaurant has curbed the spice of their dishes to fit the palate of their usual customer base. This isn’t really a bad thing if you prefer less spicy dishes or don’t usually eat Indian food, though you can probably just ask them beforehand to spice your food up.Miami RestaurantMiami Restaurant Miami RestaurantThe goal is to always order enough food to fill the entire table, which is never hard to do at a restaurant in Miami. I made sure it happened by ordering coconut vegetable curry with a side of vegetable rice plus aloo naan (bread stuffed with spiced potatoes) and my boyfriend had malai kofta which came with a side of rice. My dish was a little less flavorful than what I expected, but it was good and filling nonetheless. Both of our curries came in awesome portions and the aloo naan was soft and addicting. 

Recommended Dishes

  • Aloo Naan
  • Vegetable Samosa
  • Mushroom Bhajj
  • Malai Kofta
  • Gulab Jamun (little puffs of heaven really)

Miami RestaurantMiami RestaurantCan I just do dessert reviews? My favorite part of the meal is whatever comes from the dessert menu and Kebab Indian Restaurant delivered on the sweets. The kulfi (Indian ice cream) was traditional and great, but the gulab jamun was out of this world amazing. Sure, I’m probably completely biased because I really love this dish to begin with…but this restaurant served them with just the right sweetness and a soft, crisp but spongy texture that is so central to gulab jamun. If you’ve never actually had this dish, gulab jamun is a juicy, deep fried pastry with honey syrup and rosewater. It’s time to stop depriving yourself!Restaurant in Miami

✯✯✯ (3/5)

This is the type of restaurant you will leave satisfied from. It’s not overly decorated, there aren’t any fusion/novelty dishes but the food is good, the portions are large and it’s priced fairly. If you’ve yet to try Indian cuisine, this is the perfect restaurant in Miami to get acquainted with its goodness. If you regularly eat Indian dishes like me though, you’ll find their food lacking in the robust flavor we’re accustomed to. The service here was what good service should be – friendly, helpful waitstaff who are attentive. Kebab Indian Restaurant also does take out, which I’ll drive out of my way for on certain lazy occasions, but like I said, this is the best comfort food there is.


Foodophiles, My Big Important Opinions

Waffle-era Tea Room in San Juan – Review

Restaurant in San Juan

The first morning in a new city is purely a mission to find the perfect breakfast spot. Luckily Waffle-era Tea Room is a centrally located restaurant in San Juan so it was easy to find. This quaint brunch spot served as my go-to breakfast place for most of my time in San Juan so I had to share it with you guys!Restaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San JuanThe open floor plan in Waffle-era is welcoming and lends just the right amount of casual lightness that a brunch place ought to have. They have a neutral color scheme with an understated antique decor that doesn’t beg for attention and lets the food take center stage. Dishes are made from a kitchen with glass paneling that makes it easier to stare in anticipation while trying to guess whether that’s your order they just finished making. It’s okay, we all do it. 

Restaurant in San Juan

Salmon Breakfast: manchego cheese, smoked salmon, egg, cherry tomatoes & capers

Restaurant in San Juan

El Caneloide: pecans, cinnamon, cream cheese & maple syrup

Restaurant in San Juan

Pami’s Breakfast: yogurt, granola, cinnamon, honey (or maple syrup) & berries + added fruit

Restaurant in San Juan

Custom dish: smoked salmon, capers, manchego cheese, cherry tomatoes & chives

Waffle-era serves either half or whole waffles, encouraging you to order two different halves – which I happily obliged. Every dish I tried was delicious and showed an expertise in melding flavors together. I judge dishes topped with ingredients like bacon or cheese harshly; mistakes and lack of creativity can easily be hidden under heavy flavors and I’m not impressed by an otherwise ordinary dish smothered in cheese or bacon (not that I’d ever eat bacon). Both their savory and sweet waffles were creations a chef should be proud of, as well as meals that would have me back the next day. Dubbed the “foodie-schoolhouse” by its creators, Waffle-era gives you the option to build your waffle from scratch by experimenting with a large list of ingredients to choose from. It’s nearly impossible to make a bad waffle so you get to play chef without risking your meal! While not being the most vegan friendly restaurant, vegetarians won’t have much trouble here.

Restaurant in San Juan

Restaurant in San Juan

Ceylon Coconut Tea

Restaurant in San Juan

A truly great tea room is a rare find, and I definitely didn’t expect to find one that also happened to serve amazing waffles, but Waffle-era Tea Room is just that place. With over 30 organic whole leaf and herbal teas that can be ordered hot or cold, you’re bound to find something you love and something you’ve never ever heard of. I tried out their Ceylon Coconut, hot of course because I can’t have my tea any other way. This tea is a blend of Ceylon Black tea with coconut shavings added to the cup. It was perfectly brewed and had such a smooth flavour to it; I wish I could’ve taken it home with me! Restaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San JuanRestaurant in San Juan

✯✯✯✯ (4/5)

This is one restaurant I do and don’t wish I lived a block away from. It’s probably best for my waistline this restaurant in San Juan is not next door to me because I would have no self control…plus they’re just a bit on the pricey side. But whenever I’m back in Puerto Rico I know exactly where I’ll be having my breakfast.


Wanderlust, My Big Important Opinions

Hotel El Convento in San Juan – Review

San Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelThere’s no missing Hotel El Convento. This San Juan Hotel was first opened as a monastery in 1651, El Convento was, as it’s name suggests, a convent. 252 years later the nuns left and the location began operating as a hotel in 1962. As you enter the hotel and follow the classic black and white tiled hallway further, the courtyard appears before you like a serene and verdant oasis. The open-air hallways on every floor offer a view of the flourishing níspero fruit tree from Spain that’s been growing in their courtyard for 300 years. If it wasn’t a hotel, El Convento would definitely have been on your list of museums to visit; it’s actually the oldest member of Historic Hotels of America. Hotel El Convento has preserved the aesthetic of Old San Juan so that you can live it for yourself…“with all the luxuries of today,” as their motto goes.Hotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoThe decor in Hotel El Convento deserves a 5 star review of it’s own. Keeping in line with the Spanish colonial architecture of Old San Juan, El Convento is adorned with mahogany beams, handcrafted decorative tiles that lead you up stairs, luscious tropical plants, dangling vines and richly colored Andalusian tile floors that emanate the comfort of home most hotels lack. For art lovers, the hotel can serve as a miniature gallery where unique pieces remind you of it’s history and one floor to ceiling mural will have you craning your neck around to observe its details. It was refreshing to see one of my personal peeves about the sanitized art often used in hotels fully blown away.Floral Pattern DressHotel El ConventoSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelI try to keep my surroundings as green as possible, despite my history as a serial plant killer. Hotel El Convento keeps it effortlessly tropical, with plants lining their many paths. I love greenery, but they take it to a whole different level with their in-house herb garden. Located on the second floor, you can wander through the open patio full of aromatic herbs destined for one of the hotel’s three restaurants. Also a prime insta-photo spot; you’re welcome!
Hotel El Convento is the perfect look out tower for Old San Juan and the bay. While their pool is not one you’ll be doing laps in (it’s a plunge pool), it and the jacuzzi are nestled amongst bright yellow flowers and thick shrubbery on a sizable terrace that offers memorable views of the city and San Juan Bay. Without a doubt, this was my favorite place to lounge around. Make sure you take a camera and watch the sunset; it’s a gorgeous sight. San Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan Hotel

When you travel often, there are a few basic things you need in a hotel room: a comfortable bed, complete silence, and soft towels. Hotel El Convento gave me all of that and way more. The rooms are intricately decorated with handcrafted furniture, marble bathrooms and every room has classic Spanish louver doors that open to Juliet balconies giving a view of either the San Juan bay, the charming city streets or the lively town square. The hotel retains much of it’s original architecture and effortlessly blends modernity into this antique atmosphere. A heavy wooden door opens up to your room, but a second see-through, soundproof door transforms the room into a peaceful and intimate abode, still allowing for the night owls among us (myself included) to hang out in the cozy sitting areas in front of each room on the open air hallway. I can only speak for the “Queen Deluxe” room, but hopefully Hotel El Convento will invite me back to expose the splendor of their Gloria Vanderbilt Suite. Hotel El ConventoSan Juan HotelSan Juan Hotel

✯✯✯✯✯ (5/5)

I’m always looking for gemmes to share with you guys, and Hotel El Convento is definitely one. Not satisfied with simply being included, El Convento was named the premier Small Luxury Hotel in all of Puerto Rico and I doubt any of it’s visitors would disagree. There are many details that make up the perfect trip and where we recuperate from all day exploration and reflect on the experiences we’ve had is an important one. Hotel El Convento not only provides a place to unwind from a trip but actually offers an experience in itself to add to your trip. Check them out; this is the type of hotel you remember, mainly because you’ll be eagerly thinking about the next time you can return.


Foodophiles, My Big Important Opinions

Kabul Restaurant in Prague – Review

Restaurant in Prague

As usual I was late. It was already 10pm and I was getting food-angry looking for a restaurant in Prague to have dinner at. I finally ended up at Kabul because they were basically the only place in Staré Město with a kitchen that hadn’t closed 5 minutes before I walked in. Kabul’s hours are a dream: 11:30am to 11pm, 7 days a week.

Let’s start out with my initial thought when I remember Kabul; “I can’t wait to go back.” 

Restaurant in Prague

The Atmosphere

An easy to find location, Restaurant Kabul greets you with a modest entryway over which a creative sign made to look like an Afghan rug lets you know you’ve found the right place. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the bottom of the narrow staircase that leads you into the restaurant but by this time I didn’t care as long as they were serving great food. Stairs have a way of making surprises that much more surprising and the effort and attention to detail that’s been put into Kabul Restaurant’s dining area was a pleasant one. They’ve crafted a warm, friendly and particularly unique atmosphere with richly patterned cushions and layers of famous afghan rugs throughout the restaurant. It’s great to see a culture expressed without becoming kitsch about the decor as some restaurants do. Plus the servers are helpful and actually seem to enjoy interacting with customers, which is always nice right?Restaurant in PragueRestaurant in PragueRestaurant in Prague

The Food

The owner’s wife is the chef at Kabul, and she really adds the comforting sense of a home cooked meal to every dish, something that’s very welcomed when you’ve been traveling a while. Restaurant Kabul’s sign offers you kebabs and pizza; there’s no pizza on the menu but there are plenty of kebabs. This isn’t the quicky kebab stand on the corner though, Kabul is more upscale than not and probably left the pizza but not the sign behind at their previous, smaller location.
Portions are fair, the food is served very quickly and is moderately priced ($$/$$$$). It’s not like you’ve had much Afghan food anyways so give this restaurant in Prague a try; Kabul offers a good variety of main courses and plenty of delicious side dishes. Definitely vegetarian friendly, vegans will struggle a bit but can also eat here with a little negotiating of the menu. 

Check out the full menu here.

Recommended Dishes

  • Mains: Bolani, Dal, Roast Zucchini
  • Sides: Roasted Potatoes (with yogurt dressing), Chalau, Afghani bread
  • Dessert: Ferni (it’s A+)
Restaurant in Prague

Ferni and Baglawa

Restaurant in Prague

Dal and Chalau (spiced Basmati rice)

Restaurant Kabul: ✯✯✯✯ (4/5)

With some restaurants you can feel the pride and effort their owner has put in and it makes for a genuinely enjoyable dining experience. Kabul is that restaurant and I hope it’s around for a long, long time. Like I said, I can’t wait to go back.  Give Prague’s only Afghan restaurant a try and drop your own mini review in the comments for me.