Well here I am guys, trying to get back in the swing of regular, full-time food blogging. I am pretty caught up with emails from all you lovely folks out there – thank you for all your well-wishes, they are much appreciated. I have been hanging out and catching up with my peeps on the forum – we have this month’s Royal Foodie Joust underway. The voting has started, and as always, it is our biggest competition yet. You have one more day to cast the vote for your favorite.
Some lucky winner will not only get their personalized apron, but also some Tupperware prizes from Ben at What’s Cooking,
who is not only sponsoring the Joust this month, but also hosting it in my stead. So big props to Ben. *woohoo*
Now on to the food, because that is why we are all here isn’t it? For the food? Well I am going to start at the end – the honeymoon and work my way back to the wedding food and the week before the wedding. I am still waiting on pictures from the wedding, so it kind of defeats the purpose to discuss lovely food without proper documentation. So alas, we start at the end of this adventure into marriage.
So on to Jamaica. In all truth, Jamaica is a food lover’s paradise. Everything is fresh and delicious, from the fruit (Papayas and Mangoes like you have never tasted), to fish and even some of the best tomatoes!Let’s not forget the Blue Mountain coffee and the Scotch Bonnet peppers. There was just so much to try it was great. I sampled things that I had always wanted to try, and tried some things I had never even heard of before. We drank coconut water straight from a green coconut. We snacked on raw sugar cane, refreshed ourselves with sour sop juice, which was not sour at all, but milky and tasting like a cross between banana and coconut with a bit of tang.
We enjoyed the national dish of Jamaica – Ackee with Salt fish – which is made up of Ackee fruit – that looks like scrambled eggs and tastes very rich, and Cod, which Jamaicans call salt fish. I thought it meant salted codfish, but it was uncured. I liked it, but I think the ackee was a little too rich for me.
But the story behind it is great. I arranged for a private beach dinner to surprise Roberto. His birthday was in March and with all the excitement of wedding planning it was not that inspired of a celebration, so I wanted to make sure that he was recognized. So they set up a private table for us on the beach, surrounded by tiki torches. There were tropical flowers on the table and the path that lead us out to the beach was lined with votive candles. We enjoyed a delicious 5 course dinner, full of treats. It started with …
“I’ve got a new love baby, a new love, oh, oh oh” …besides my new husband that is… and it is Smoked Marlin Ceviche. Now I don’t know how something they is already cooked can be a ceviche, but I am gonna let this one slide because it is so freaking good. There were many new tastes and delicious things to be eaten in Jamaica but I must say this little gem was my favorite and I ate it every chance I could get – in sushi, as an appetizer, over pan fried grouper as an entree. Hell, I would have eaten it for breakfast or dessert, if they had offered it. This stuff was addicting. So smoky in its under notes, yet incredibly citrus-y in the high notes. It was like nothing I ever had – but the best was when they served it that night with an ackee fruit and lemon aioli over a slice of pineapple. It was pure heaven. I can honestly say possibly the best thing I have ever eaten, ever.
Next was a Cream of Carrot, Seville Orange and Ginger soup – creamy, refreshing and delicious, served in a coconut bowl. Then the salad course, a green salad with nuts, cilantro, feta cheese and passion fruit vinaigrette.
Then the Entree – 2 huge pieces of fish – Pan Fried Grouper and Salmon, with Garlic Shrimp, over Mashed Potatoes in a Lemon Buerre Blanc with Capers. Talk about fresh. Everything just melted in your mouth like a symphony.
Dessert was a chef’s choice trio: Chocolate Espresso Tart, Tropical Fruit Compote with Coconut Brittle and some kind of citrus pie that I can’t remember… mind you all of this was served with copious amounts of champagne. So that is my excuse!
Irie! The food was amazing as I said, but the service was great. Jamaicans are some of the nicest people I have ever met – always ready to laugh and smile and at the same time, almost everyone we talked to was a philosopher. The first experience we had of this was with our waitress that night, Carlene. We talked a lot in between dishes about family, roots and doing the best you can with what you have. During this conversation, when we were talking about her working at the resort, I mentioned that I really wanted to try Ackee and Salt fish. She also works at one of the restaurants at the resort, and said if she was working there tomorrow, she would talk to the chef and see of he would make it. So the next morning, we go over there, and of course it was there. It was so sweet and heart warming that she did that for me. We saw her there and she gave me a big hug and made sure I knew the dish was available.
This is what I am talking about. There is a spirit to the people of Jamaica that Roberto and I really had an easy time relating to. People there have had a lot of adversity in their lives, but most of the people we met, had used that to learn something from. They have taken it and embraced it, and risen above it. People were proud of their country and happy to talk about all sorts of topics relating to Jamaica, its culture, history and food. They don’t worry about the small things, and value love above all. This is Roberto with one of our favorite bartenders, Fraser, who hopes to move to FL for work. He is the same age now, as Roberto was when he came to the US. So we wished him luck and told him to be sure to work somewhere that his enormous skill, talent and personality would be appreciated.
Always sinting deh yah fi nym (There is always some food here to eat). Other foods of note were Coco Bread which is a soft delicious bread that accompanies a lot of Jamaican dishes, like one of our lunch favorites, Snapper baked in foil with onions and peppers. Also good was the Jerk dishes – we had Jerk Chicken and even a Jerk Burger. It was great to try Jerk in Jamaica – it is so different than the “Jerk” stuff we get here in the US. So spicy, but yet with a bit of sweetness to it. Delicious stuff. Also a local green called Callaloo was a favorite. It is kind of like spinach, but often eaten for breakfast, which I loved. Roberto even had callaloo risotto with dinner one night. Roberto also enjoyed Jamaican pizza – he doesn’t know how they learned but he says the crust is perfect. He enjoyed it several times while we were there, even for breakfast. For me, I loved the use of Scotch Bonnet peppers in so much of the food. I love spicy foods and this was great. Like in this remoulade dressing for grilled romaine. YUM.
Wanga-guts for sure! Ya Mon! – oh yeah, did I mention that we also took a Patois (Jamaican dialect) class…
Really fun stuff!
Then of course there were the drinks – frozen, shaken and stirred. This was a resort, so we enjoyed as much rum as we could take (among other beverages like wine, and cordials, and martinis) and we certainly had more than enough, it will be a very long time until I crave another frozen rum drink.
But my favorites were the ones that contained Papaya and Blue Mountain coffee! YUM. Roberto liked the ones with Coconut the best.
Did I mention Jamaicans also like to cook a lot with Rum? Like Italians cook with wine, so do Jamaicans cook with rum. But we were well behaved, no bangarangs, I promise.
Although, there are incriminating photos, I will not put them here of Roberto dancing on stage during one of the resort shows, Roberto singing O Sole Mio! at the piano lounge and both of us with a big snake wrapped around our necks….ok, well I guess its not so bad, so here you go.
Next time we go to Jamaica – because there WILL be a next time, I would love to see more of it. We really didn’t do much besides snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and taking boat and catamaran trips. But it was what we needed this trip. It gave us a chance to really relax and connect with each other away from the world at large.
Luckily we were able to see the Southern most point of Jamaica and on the way, enjoy the Pirates Caves – caves in the ocean, that we were able to swim into and explore a bit. The water there was about 25-30 feet deep and still crystal clear.
It was a gorgeous place and certainly a highlight of our trip. While snorkeling and swimming we saw lots of sting rays, tropical fish, starfish, sea cucumbers, coral, and someone on our scuba trip even saw an eel.
Also a highlight were the beautiful sunsets! There is nothing more romantic and beautiful than sitting on a beautiful beach, under swaying palm trees, holding your new husband’s hand and watching the sun disappear behind the endless sea.
disclaimer: no starfish were harmed in the writing of this article.