Friday, November 17, 2006

Punta Cana Vacation Part Ten
There was always something to eat at the Iberostar Bavaro. Even if you are a picky eater, you will find something you will enjoy devouring.

That's me and my better half, the love of my life, sitting inside the Star Rock Cafe. They say its a sports bar/restaurant. Television screens everywhere you look.........sports memorabilia on display.......musical instruments on display.........rock and roll art on the walls.......foosball table.....pool table........and all in a semi-1950s decor. No reservation was needed here and most importantly, this place is air-conditioned.

The service was very good and the food was excellent and presented well. The smiles tell the story. We would have had no problem eating here again and again.

Inside the Star Rock Cafe is this old Pontiac. Not many restaurants have a car inside. There are several restaurants on the premises and all but two require reservations. Personally, I figure this is paradise, why would you want to put yourself on a schedule? Other than one evening at the Star Rock Cafe, we chose to eat at the Haitises Buffet Restaurant for dinner.

Here are some of the Chesapeake Medical Staffing entourage settling down before stuffing themselves with the fantastic food at the buffet.

Between the dining area and the room where all of the food is on display and prepared, is yet another water garden. Lush vegetation, lots of fish, and this big statue of a naked man. I don't know about this.........maybe the women find the statue stimulating the appetite. Personally, I would rather see a naked woman statue.......after all......this whole resort is about "beauty"....hehehe.

The dining room was very large and the staff was very attentive to your needs. They bring you water, coffee, wine.....whatever you ask for. They quickly clean up the tables and reset them for more diners. I must tell you that every one of the staff that I observed were constantly on the go......and each of them did their jobs with an enthusiam that I hardly ever see here in Baltimore.

Inside the buffet area it was very orderly and the various foods were professionally displayed. If you are a food freak, you would take great delight in how the foods were presented here. This is no ordinary, typical buffet. Notice the wall mural and the whale skeleton hung from the ceiling. From exotic fruit to delicious desserts.........seafood, meat, pasta and salads........all looked as good as it tasted. Everything was very freshly prepared.

This is Hilario. I have a story about Hilario to tell you. I met Hilario when he prepared some pasta for me. His station at the buffet was where he would prepare pasta "made to order", however you like it. He would heat up the pasta, and while that would be going, he would ask you what you want him to put in the pan..........there were bowls of garlic, celery, green peppers, cheese, bacon, ham and onions. He would then saute your choice of ingredients in some olive oil and then ask if you want the meat sauce or the white sauce. My choice was the meat sauce. He would then ladle some of the meat sauce into the pan with the other ingredients, add the pasta and mix it all together by flipping the pan up and down. He then takes your plate and fills it up completely. The aroma alone was enough to get you going. He did all of this with a big smile and I could see that Hilario took pride in what he was doing. Everything was done quickly so there were no long waits for anything.

I took the plate back to my seat and took the first bite of the pasta..............UNBELIEVABLE! was soooo good. It was so good, that I had to have it every night I was there. In particular was that meat sauce. It wasn't tomato based and I wondered how it was made. To my good fortune, on one of the nights while dining, Hilario and another food staff member named Angel came out to the dining room and were greeting guests at their tables. They were asking if guests enjoyed their meals. Needless to say, I doubt that they got any complaints. This is where the story about Hilario gets better. Hilario doesn't speak English. Angel accompanies him during the greet for translation purposes. They came to our table and I asked about that meat sauce. I wanted to know how it was made.....what was in it. Hilario appeared excited that someone had such an interest in his meat sauce and he began telling us about his recipe. Most of the explanation got lost in translation but I did get a pretty good idea of the process and ingredients. The key to it all was the usage of chicken broth instead of tomato sauce. Hilario had Angel inform me that he would fix me a plate of the pasta "especially" for me the next evening. He seemed so very happy for the attention to his work.

Well, as it was, the next evening I gathered up a sampling of assorted food from the buffet and as I passed by Hilario's food station he shouted out something in Spanish to me. He looked very excited to see me and from what I could understand, he told me that he would come out to my table with a plate of food that he would make special for me. I would not have to wait in line....I would get the royal treatment.....Hilario himself would deliver his creation. I was impressed. I sat down to eat and within ten minutes Hilario shows up at my table with this large plate of his pasta. It was fantastic. I thanked him and decided to give him a tip. I guess most people ordinarily tip the staff, whether its a bartender, a busboy or busgirl, or a maid. But I would bet NOBODY ever thinks to tip the cooks. I know I never saw it done while I was there so I gave Hilario five dollars. He was delighted! This is where the story gets even better..............Hilario then tells me (via his translator) that he would prepare something very special for us when we come back the next evening. I thought....okay......we will be having some more pasta tomorrow night. The next evening, we sat down at our table and while retrieving some food from the buffet, Hilario spotted us and asked where we were sitting. I told him and he indicated that he would be there momentarily. He was busy preparing pasta for a line of guests. I figured he would be busy for a while. I sat down in the dining room and began to eat and Hilario shows up with a tray with a giant plate of fried plantains and a gigantic serving bowl full of something I had no idea what it was supposed to be. He said "especial for you". We thanked him and he went back into the buffet. We were stunned at the amount of food he brought us, and the fact that it was made specially for us......nobody else in the restaurant had the good fortune to have such a meal brought before them. UNBELIEVABLY FANTASTIC! I do not know the official name of the concoction that Hilario served us, but I guess you could say it was sort of a lobster newburg. It was to die for. Huge portions of lobster meat and delicious flavor. It turned out that Hilario wasn't just a pasta cook....he was the head chef of the restaurant! There was so much of the food that we could not eat it all. We decided to share our good fortune with some others in the Chesapeake Medical Staffing entourage. "How did you get that?", was the big question we got. They absolutely loved it, too! We told them we had a connection.........hehehe. After the meal, we went in to see Hilario before we left to thank him again and tell him how fantastic the meal was. He was very grateful to recieve our personal thanks and he hugged all of us. Like I said before, it is obvious that Hilario and his staff take great pride in what they do. Giving some recognition for that work goes a long way. They are very appreciative. Hilario was thrilled to get a small hoop of recognition and we benefitted from it. I promised Hilario that we would not forget him and that I would tell the world about him via the internet. We took his picture and he posed with some of us. He was so grateful. I don't know how much money he makes.....whatever it is.....the Iberostar should know that he is one asset that they can not afford to be without. He deserves a raise.

Here are a few of the other cooks in the buffet. Each of them were extremely polite and more than willing to serve you. Each of them smiling and singing........that's right.......often they all start breaking out in song! The Dominican people seem to live for their music. It is part of their's who they are. Miguel Tejada, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop, is a Dominican. He is known for being a dynamo....always energetic.....always very into the game. I understand why he is that way now. It is his culture.

This one cooks up pork chops and steaks to your liking. Very enthusiatic dude. He practically got all excited at the opportunity to cook something up for you to eat. He was one happy dude.

This cook offered up fish and king prawns. The aroma was mesmerizing.

Notice how they have no problem stopping in their tracks to pose for the camera? Like I said, they are very appreciative. I bet I couldn't get more than one employee in any restaurant here in Baltimore to jump at the opportunity for a photo to be taken of them. It was such a joy to see people so happy.

Yep, that's a roasted pig. I didn't have any of that. Hey, I like food, but I have a problem with getting a few slices while the animal is staring right at you.

"Meester!..........Look at my beautiful fruit........I fix some special for you". There was just about every kind of fruit you can think of here. So I said "Okay.......I would like some watermelon".

And he did...............I said "I just want a little bit" and he got out his knife and a chunk of watermelon and got busy........carving away at the portion of watermelon......and he was very happy to do this for me.

Gosh.....all this for a hunk of watermelon! The end result was a true work of art. I made sure I tipped him before I left.

I know this doesn't look very appealing, but this was one of the pasta dinners made specially for me by Hilario. Forget how it looks, it was damn good stuff.

Hilario's "translator" Angel was talented in his own right. He made this plate of fruit for us and brought it to out table one evening. We didn't even ask for it.....he just did it anyway. A work of art.....and very fresh. Angel got a tip as well. Speaking with Angel, he told us that he works there at the buffet in the evening every night. During the day, he is a barber in a nearby town. He works two jobs to support his family. He told us that the tip we gave him goes directly to his family. He was very thankful for the tip and I had wished it could have been more. He is a very hard worker. I hope the management at the Iberostar Bavaro realizes that while the resort is paradise, their most important assets are staff members such as Hilario and Angel. They could raise the room rates a dollar each and give it to them.

I just cannot say enough about how we were treated by the staff. Service with a big smile. I cannot remember all of their names, but each of them play an important role in making the Iberostar Bavaro vacation a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone. If you ever happen to visit the Bavaro, you will understand what I am getting at.

Stay tuned.........Part Eleven is next........The Beach!

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