"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The eating update

Just a quick update of some good and/or tasty things I have consumed recently:

  • medium rare burger with blue cheese and bacon, plus sweet potato fries, for lunch today
  • marinated and grilled leg of lamb with greek yogurt-garlic-mint sauce
  • lemon layer cake with buttercream icing
  • lime tartlets with frangipane filling and lime-flavored glaze
  • amaretto sours back in season
  • ginger martini
  • a large amount of Niman Ranch bacon
  • mandelbrot

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bacon in Jamaica, Part 3

By Day 3 we had really settled into the swing of things, and had our sleeping, swimming, sunning, eating and drinking routine down pat. I went for a morning walk with Pam up the hill before it got too hot, and that was lovely, plus, you know, justification for the eating to come. We got back for breakfast, which included more of the delicious sliced fruit, fried plantains, assorted breads, pancakes (very good ones, with nice crispy edges) with maple syrup, BACON, and scrambled eggs. Coffee, of course, and lots of it.

We then hit the beach, and were delighted to find that we were the only ones on it. After all the sunning and novel-reading we could stand, we headed back to the house for lunch. On the terrace we enjoyed a delicious tuna salad with sweet and hot peppers, which had a terrific bite, served with green salad with balsamic dressing and breads and rolls. With that we had more of the strong iced tea with lime and for dessert the leftover birthday cake from our first night, which was still fantastic.

After more sunbathing and napping we headed up to the Great House for afternoon tea. Not a spectacular spread, but we had little sandwiches and cookies and a cup of tea, and then checked out the wares in the gallery featuring local arts and crafts. After that, well, it was time for a drink, so we made it to the Beach Bar just before closing and got another pina colada under our belts (or Red Stripe, or strawberry daquiri, whatever your pleasure). It was a beautiful setting, and we walked out on a pier to the gazebo and looked back at the beach and the house, with a view up to Montego Bay.

Once we were back at the house it was, you guessed it, time for more eating. We fixed ourselves cocktails (I had local overproof rum with diet Pepsi -- in a small glass bottle, and why does soda always taste better from a small glass bottle? -- and lime) and Rhon served us some hors d'oeuvres of leftover jerk pork and vegetable wraps cut into rounds. So glad that pork did not go to waste! We watched a really spectacular sunset from the terrace. Eventually we moved onto dinner, which was spicy vegetable soup, salad with Caesar dressing, and a Thai-influenced spicy shrimp dish over fettuccine. The shrimp were really nicely cooked. Wine, of course. For dessert we had coconut creme brulee, which wasn't the chef's most accomplished dish -- it was a bit runny -- but tasty. We rolled ourselves to the living room, where Meg and I were the last ones standing. It reminded me of when we were kids and would stay up at sleepovers chatting half the night.

* * *
The next morning felt a little bittersweet, because our ride to the airport was scheduled for about 2pm, and time was running out. To fortify ourselves, we had a hearty breakfast following coffee on the terrace. This time we started with a platter of sauteed callaloo and tomatoes, plus fried plantains, and a platter of sliced fruit. As we were eating that and the plate of BACON, Rhon came around to take orders for eggs. I asked for a poached egg, and ended up creating a sort of Caribbean eggs Florentine by layering toast with the tomato and callaloo and topping with the egg, which was a fabulous combination.

We organized our packing and then headed to the beach for one last time. I floated around in the water and tried to memorize the exact feeling of being there surrounded by the warmth and the water and the sound of the waves. But all things have to come to an end, and so it was time to head back to the villa for lunch. It's hard for me to admit that this was my favorite of all our meals, but loyal Cookiestuffs readers won't really be surprised. Rhon laid out a nice big salad with Greek dressing and then brought out a big platter of crispy, spicy fried chicken fingers and more of those fantastic fries we'd had previously. I cut the chicken into bites and incorporated it into the salad, and it was so tasty and filling. With that we had more iced tea with lime, and it is possible that a few last Red Stripes were consumed.

And that was it. We got our ride to the airport, hoping for a quick check-in (it was the off-season, after all) only to find the departures hall crammed with travelers and some fans lackadaisically stirring the humid air. To entertain ourselves, we tried to figure out the significance of a sign in the line-up area stating PLANE HELPFUL with an arrow pointing nowhere. In the concourse I got myself a final ginger beer and Meg bought some Blue Mountain coffee. The flight itself was uneventful, save for an attack of hysterics when the nice flight attendant came by with dinner, repeatedly asking "Will you have chicken for dinner? We're out of fish." And if you don't see why this is funny, you can't come with us next time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bacon in Jamaica, Day 2

The spot where I found Nirvana

A smattering of drinks

Massages in progress

Lunch is served on the terrace

Day 2 began in about as perfect a manner as I can imagine. We got up at our leisure (none of us is constitutionally capable of sleeping late, due to children and dogs getting us up routinely early) and wandered, or should I say staggered out to the terrace. One of the glass-topped tables was set for breakfast, complete with carafes of coffee at the ready. We filled our cups and sat in one of the conversation areas on the terrace just taking in the beauty of it all.

When breakfast was ready, the little bell rang and called us to the table. On a sideboard were assorted cereals and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Rhon came out and served us delicious, chewy French toast with maple syrup, and a stunning platter of fruits, including drop-dead succulent juicy mango. As if this weren't enough, a second course arrived, consisting of an omelette with sweet peppers and a platter of bacon and Canadian bacon. This made two consecutive meals featuring pork products, a very good start to the vacation.

We spent the morning on the beach, sunning and chatting, reading books and swimming in the crystal clear, warm water. Anne and I spent some quality time out on one of the giant trampoline-floats, talking and jumping around.

And then it was time to eat again!

Lunch on the terrace was chicken club sandwiches, very well seasoned, with a big bowl of perfectly crispy French fries, and a pitcher of very strong iced tea served with lime. This prepared us for our next taxing activity: massages out on the terrace of the villa's west wing, overlooking the turquoise water. We went in twos, and those of us not being massaged at that moment enjoyed another platter of fresh fruit.

Following my massage I spent one of the most blissed-out hours of my life. I threw on a sundress and plunked myself on a chaise under a tree at the back of the villa, steps away from the water. With Great Big Sea singing drinking songs and sea chanteys (Newfoundland Celtic folk-rock is a strangely nice fit in the Caribbean, and less obvious than the incessant Bob Marley, not that there's anything wrong with that) on my iPod, and a Red Stripe in my hand, the waves gently lapping on the shore, the afternoon sun on my legs and the warm breeze flowing over me, my mind was perfectly at peace, my body felt like jelly, and I could have stayed like that forever.

But forever is a long time, and we had drinking to do! So we put ourselves together (we clean up nice!) and headed in the golf cart up to the Great House for cocktails. Hors d'oeuvres were advertised, but this turned out to be a few pieces of sausage bites. Not to worry, we enjoyed our drinks (I had a dark rum with ginger beer and lime) and the sunset, and then headed back to the villa for dinner.

We began with pea (bean) soup, then a salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The main course, served buffet style, was a chicken breast stuffed with tropical vegetables and fruits -- probably callalloo, plantains, papaya, and mango, with a nicely spiced citrus sauce, and served with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. Of course we had wine, and of course we brought the rest of the bottle out to the living room, where we chit chatted and gossiped until bedtime.

Just another day in Jamaica.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bacon in Jamaica, Day 1

The Beach Bar

View from the Terrace

View from the Beach

First of all, thanks to Meg for the title.

Due to my friend Pam's excellent foresight in choosing a spouse, My friends Pam, Meg, Anne and I had access to a stunning and luxurious villa in Jamaica for a long weekend to celebrate an upcoming Very Special Birthday. I will not go into any greater detail on that matter.

Having departed New York at the crack of dawn, we arrived at the villa in time for lunch. We didn't have much settling in to do, because the excellent staff took care of all that. First, Pam sat down with the house staff to discuss menus for our visit. Pork products were stressed. Then we changed into light clothing and headed to the beach cafe. We started with a round of Ting soda, sort of a sugary Fresca, just to get the blood sugar flowing. I had a salad with papaya and curried shrimp that immediately got me into the Caribbean mood. Anne had the same, Pam had an Asian chicken salad, and Meg had a terrific looking club sandwich that not only contained bacon but also a fried egg, with fries.

After that, we hit the beach. And here I can say I wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Caribbean in the off-season. The beach and the resort's bars and restaurants were quiet, but not entirely empty, so there was no jockeying for a lounge chair or a table. It was pure, unadulterated relaxation. One morning we had the beach all to ourselves. It was bliss. That afternoon we enjoyed frozen drinks at the beach bar -- your pina colada, your strawberry daquiri, your gin rickey. I will simply say that the bartenders did not pour with a light hand.
We followed this with Red Stripe on the terrace at the villa while dinner was being prepared.
After relaxing at the villa's pool, we heard for the first time the sound that we came to know and love so well during our time there -- the sound of the bell calling us to the table.
Dinner began with conch soup, which was creamy but had a nice spicy bite. We then had a simple salad served with a homemade ranch dressing. I'm not usually a ranch fan, but this was all natural and thus didn't taste like sour glue with a few herbs in it. Next, the main course was laid out buffet-style -- a fabulously juicy and spicy jerk pork tenderloin, with carrots, stringbeans, rice and beans, and fried plantains. I'm sure we had red wine with this, because I don't think we ever turned down red wine. After we'd done major damage to the jerk pork, we were surprised with a birthday cake arranged by Pam's mother-in-law, served with champagne. The cake was strongly flavored with vanilla, and tasted sweet and warm and just like a birthday cake should.
After dinner we collapsed in the open-air living room, leafed through magazines, finished our drinks, and gabbed. We've been friends since forever, and what's really nice about that is (1) you never run out of things to talk about and (2) if you do, nobody minds just sitting silently and companionably until it's time to talk again.
Then we slept the sleep of the just, while our husbands took care of the kids and/or our fathers looked after our dogs.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thought of the Day

Anchovies are the bacon of the sea.