Sweet Treats at the W Retreat & Spa – Maldives

After our brief stop in Singapore, K and I hopped aboard a Singapore Airlines flight to the Maldives. This second honeymoon destination was K’s choice (mine was South Africa), but I’m so glad that we were able to experience this beautiful part of the world. The W Retreat & Spa – Maldives is truly worthy of all the praise it receives online.

At the airport, about to board seaplane to the W’s island!

The Republic of the Maldives is an island nation just north of the Equator in the Indian Ocean. Most of the islands are teeny-tiny; of the nearly 1,200 islands that comprise the Maldives, just 200 are inhabited. And one of these islands is home to the W Retreat & Spa – Maldives.

As you can see from the photo above, the island itself is quite small… it took about 15 minutes to walk (at a leisurely pace) around the perimeter of the island. The island houses the hotel’s reception area, restaurants and shared pool areas, as well as a couple guest cottages. But the W owners built a long row of opulent over-water bungalows attached to the island by a long wooden walkway. K and I were lucky enough to score one of the bungalows towards the end of the walkway. This meant that we had a longer trek to get to the restaurants, but we woke up every morning to unobstructed water views that made us feel like we were the only two people in the world. Talk about a romantic honeymoon setting 🙂

But of all the special touches at the W Maldives, this was probably my favorite:

This hut may not look like much, but it brought out my inner “kid” every day. There were three of these special huts spread around the resort… one on the island and two along the wooden walkway out to the over-water bungalows.

A real island treasure chest

A selection of London Dairy ice cream cups (in Cookies and Cream and Double Chocolate flavors) and Natural Strawberry sundae cones, along with some Calippo ice lollies in Orange. My gluten intolerance meant I avoided the sundae cones and Cookies and Cream ice cream cups. K tried both during our stay, and he seemed to especially enjoy the cones (i.e. he ate multiple). The Double Chocolate ice cream was a great after-lunch or dinner dessert, with its rich dark chocolate base. But the “chocolate flakes” advertised on the package didn’t taste even remotely chocolaty to me… they tasted like pure wax! Luckily, the flakes were so thin and small that the overall taste of each spoonful was good. The Orange ice lollies ended up being my go-to treat… incredibly refreshing and intensely orange. While the packaging said the lollies contained 20% real orange juice, there was a lot of added sugar. These tasted more like frozen orange Slurpees than the orange juice popsicles my mom would make us during the summer (and sometimes allowed us to eat for breakfast!). So while I wouldn’t eat these every day at home, I ate one or two every day in the Maldives. Hey, they were complimentary!

These ice creams provided excellent (and convenient) fuel before our different activities, including snorkeling and deep-sea fishing.

I caught one! (But ultimately threw him back)

The W Retreat & Spa Maldives is an unforgettable place. If you’re looking for a romantic island getaway where the food, drinks and recreational experiences are only out-shined by the friendly and accommodating staff, the W Retreat & Spa – Maldives is for you. You can count on me returning one day… and not just for the free ice cream!

Review of “Ice Cream Magic” Maker: Too Good to Be True?

The temperatures may be freezing here in DC, but my ice-cream cravings know no season. Just this week, I finally got around to breaking out one of my favorite Christmas presents from my mom: Ice Cream Magic. You may have seen the commercial for this product on TV (perhaps many, many times), touting that Ice Cream Magic makes homemade ice cream in three minutes. While I tend to be skeptical of “As Seen On TV” products, I was excited to give this a shot. Heck, I figured, if Magic Ice Cream works, I could make single-servings of ice cream on weeknights (when I’m on my own with no one to share pints with).

Ice Cream Magic’s packaging is bright and cheery, enticing one to tear open the box and get into the fun…. Those kids in the pictures are having the time of their lives!

Inside the box, I found a small booklet with instructions and recipes for different ice-cream flavors. The formula was basically the same for each: some heavy or whipping cream, a dash of a flavor extract (usually vanilla), and some granulated sugar. If you’d like to add a mix in, you do so after shaking up the ice cream.

On this day, the Chocolate Chip Mint sounded great. I easily gathered the necessary ingredients around my kitchen:
– 1/4 cup whipping cream
– 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– chocolate chips

I measured out the ingredients into a mug and stuck it in the fridge (the booklet notes that ingredients should be very cold for best results) while I prepped the Ice Cream Magic contraption. After washing and drying the freezing bowl and ingredients lid (the parts which would touch the ice cream), I followed the instructions and filled the base with ice, four tablespoons salt, and four tablespoons of tap water. I then replaced the freezing bowl over the ice, poured in the chilled ingredients and secured the ingredients lid, and finally twisted the outside cover lid.

All parts assembled, I set my iPhone timer for three minutes and started shaking the Ice Cream Magic aggressively and continuously. And, wow, was it a good arm workout! But when my alarm went off, I shook the contraption for an extra minute for good measure. Then, I carefully unscrewed the cover and pulled off the ingredients lid…

That’s some sad-looking ice cream

The verdict? Ice Cream Magic is definitely NOT my idea of magic. Not only was it a fairly-tedious process to generate a measly half-cup of dessert, but the actual final product wasn’t even as thick as a milkshake — let alone real ice cream! I was disappointed, but I can’t say I was surprised. I advise any parents against purchasing Ice Cream Magic for your kids because — unless they like ice-cream soup — they will be sorely disappointed. Always the big kid, I was so frustrated with my lack of real ice cream that I pulled out my Cuisinart and made myself a full batch of mint chocolate chip ice cream. After the Magic Ice Cream fail, I nearly kissed my “big girl” ice-cream maker in gratitude.

The Stats:
Ice Cream Magic is sold online here and here

Frozen Yogurt’s Best Friend = Fran’s Caramel Sauce

Salted caramels. Candy-lovers across the country are praising the new salty/sweet trend.

Who started this salt + caramel craze? Many people point to Seattle’s premier chocolatier, Fran Bigelow, who has been pairing salt and caramel for years. Fran’s Chocolates gained notoriety in the other Washington (DC) thanks to President Obama, who is a big fan of Fran’s smoked salted caramels in milk chocolate. This signature Seattle confection is now being replicated by candy companies across the country. Even Trader Joe’s is getting in on the action.

I blame my constant cravings for Fran’s salted caramels on my boyfriend’s mother – who may just be a bigger chocolate fan than me (is that even possible?). The salt + caramel combo just didn’t call my name – until she bought me a fancy box of Fran’s smoked salt caramels in dark chocolate for Christmas. It was all over then. You simply can’t find fault with Fran’s salted caramels. The caramel is rich, buttery, and chewy. The dark chocolate is decadent – in that distinct “I know this isn’t Hershey’s” way. The sprinkle of premium smoked salt brings out the sweet in both. Hook, line, and sinker.

Last weekend, my boyfriend’s mother did it again:

Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce

I knew this spelled trouble. My boyfriend’s mom is a whiz at frozen yogurt making in her Cuisinart, so she whipped some up using Greek Gods Honey Yogurt and a couple giant spoonfuls of Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce.

But she wasn’t done yet. After 20 minutes of churning, she spooned frozen yogurt into bowls and topped them with generous globs of Fran’s Caramel and a sprinkle of sea salt. Fran would be proud.

Worthy of a President

The verdict? Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce is thick, slightly grainy, and a bit chewy. It comes out easily from the jar but isn’t too runny (i.e. can be eaten by the spoonful straight from the jar!). The sweetly decadent caramel fills me with nostalgia – memories of making caramel apples in my parents’ kitchen. I’m already imagining different ways I can put Fran’s sauce to use. Any ideas would be appreciated in the Comments section 🙂

The Stats:
Fran’s Chocolates
Retail stores in Downtown Seattle, University Village and Bellevue 
You can purchase Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce online here.