Cruisin’ in the Caribbean
Since Hillary started her post with such a beautiful picture, I was inspired to do the same. The picture above was taken at Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas. It has been named one of the top ten beaches in the world and it lived up to every expectation: white sands, blue, calm water, hot sun and even a few lizards lounging around! In my haste to get things in order before my departure, I don’t think I mentioned that I was going on a cruise for a week. But I have gone and come back and had the most wonderful time.
Anyone who has ever been on a cruise knows that food is a big deal. Our enormous ship boasted three or four buffets, a pizza counter, ice cream counter, hot dog stand and European bistro and that’s not even mentioning the formal dining rooms and specialty dining rooms! No one goes hungry on cruises.
We opted for the later seating in the formal dining room and were treated with elegant multi-course meals and wonderfully entertaining company each night. Like Hillary, I took a picture of nearly everything that I put in my mouth, but of all the dishes I tried, there were a few outstanding ones that I must share:
1. Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffle – this first course dish was rich and creamy, but because it was a souffle, the texture was light and airy. Absolute heaven. (I’m thinking of trying this recipe to replicate it.)
2. Loveboat Dream – as corny as the title is, this dessert was perfection. It was a hard chocolate shell that surrounded smooth chocolate mousse with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
3. King Crab Legs – a real treat for a Midwestern kosher girl such as myself, because not only do we rarely see such fantastic seafood without paying a pretty penny for it, but it’s an indulgence I try to limit given the laws of kashrut. Let me tell you they were totally worth it. Sweet, meaty and tasty, they were certainly the biggest crab legs I’ve ever seen.
Truth be told, “cruising” isn’t my ideal method of travel. I like to get to a new city, be on my own and conquer the town, map in hand. I like to eat at the local restaurants off the beaten path and I try to avoid tour groups if possible. But seeings as the main purpose of this trip was to get away, relax and flee the frigid Chicago temperatures, it worked out just fine. We even managed to sneak in some local eating while on the island of St. Lucia.
We took a gorgeous hike into the rain forest to a crisp, cool waterfall pouring out of a mountain-side. And after a refreshing (read: freezing) dip in the water, we were treated to a snack of local fruits picked right from the trees around us. Below is a picture of the spread, but unfortunately I couldn’t hold up the line to get a close-up of each dish. From left to right you will see pink grapefruit, white grapefruit, orange segments, sugar cane and coconut. The bottles you see in the background are banana ketchup and have the astonishingly distinct flavors of both banana and tomato ketchup. (Imagine that!)
Perhaps the most interesting fruit we tasted (and unfortunately is not pictured) was the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans grow in large orange pods and hang down from cocoa trees. The pods are then picked, and sliced open on top to reveal the beans, which are fairly large – about one inch – white, slimy beans that look nothing like you would expect! We were instructed to suck on the bean and then spit it out and we were not to bite into it as the raw cocoa inside is extremely bitter. Surprisingly, the flavor was citrus-y without the sour bite and it held its flavor for about a minute as it slid around the corners of my mouth. It was truly a unique experience!
Thank you for reliving my gluttonous vacation with me, it was wonderful to be away but it always feels good coming home – especially when there was a New Year’s dinner to plan. More on that next week – stay tuned!