Marriott Cancun Collection

Sat. July 23, 2016 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Chris Calabrese, the Vice President and General Manager, for two Marriott Hotels in Cancun was happy, proud and eager to talk tequila during a mid-July trip to Chicago. He had three bottles of high-end tequila that he was sharing, and he was quick to flag his favorite.

The tequila was to be sipped, enjoyed and savored, he said – not slammed, as spring breakers have done for decades during liquor-filled festivities in Cancun.

But this tequila was quality, top-notch, tasty and smooth.

The properties that Calabrese represents are just the same as the fine tequila: five-star, high-end, ultimate-luxury hotels. The Marriott Cancun Collection features sister properties, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and the Casamagna Cancun Resort. They sit side by side on one of the world's most beautiful beaches, offering a relaxing vacation for all, including families, couples, groups, solo travelers and more. Including those from the LGBT community.

The Marriott Cancun Collection visited Chicago for a press introduction, filled with a spicy Mexican flair and flavor.

The tequila was offered at The Chopping Block (4747 N. Lincoln Ave.) as an appetizer, along with guacamole and flavored popcorn. Had to try both. In fact, had seconds of each – and I give thumbs-up to both.

Then it was time for the main course. Well, time to make the main course. And the dessert.

Half of the attendees went with one chef to prepare the chicken enchiladas, which was everything from slicing and shredding the chicken breasts to filling the mini tortillas with meat and cheese, covering with salsa, and more. The meal also included beans and rice – and they too had to be prepared, and thankfully the chefs had a plan for them too, so it wasn't just bland beans and rice.

I, on the other hand, was part of another team, along with Calabrese, in charge of preparing flan. Yes, flan.

My group had a chef too, but this was a flan first for me. I've eaten it, but certainly never made flan. Heck, I didn't even know what went into the sweet treat.

Flan is, of course, an open pastry, a sponge-like cake with savory filling. Often served round, flan has a sweet syrup and as a whole is similar to a custard tart. Eggs are prominent in the recipe, and we were cracking plenty for our flan.

Until I got traded, or stolen for the entrée team, that is. They needed an extra hand or two to prepare the enchiladas, so I brought my best Mexican food preparation skills.

The food and drinks – and not just the tequila – were exceptional. The Chopping Block is a great space for a group get-together, a team-building session, or as was the case when I visited, a perfect place to talk about an oh-so-perfect vacation destination.

Cancun ...heck, just the name brings a smile to my face. Sun, sand, beach ...sounds perfect to me, year round. Chicagoans can venture south to Cancun via direct flights on United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest (via Midway).

The Marriott Cancun Collections features five international restaurants that the two hotels share. And working off those added pounds from scrumptious meals in Cancun is easy. The JW's 35,000 square-foot spa features an amazing fitness center, plunge pools, an indoor lap pool and more.

Cheers to The Marriott Cancun Collection for its amazing, five-star look, an outgoing and overly-friendly crew that came to Chicago ...and tequila. Looking forward to experiencing all that JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and the Casamagna Cancun Resort have to offer in-person when I visit later this year, and then of course to then further enjoy tequila with Calabrese.