Double Delicious Dinners
Lucky us! Last weekend we enjoyed two of our favorite San Pedro eateries on back to back nights. We enjoyed the casual beachside setting of Caliente for their half-price margarita Friday taco night special and the more upscale, urban feel of Red Ginger for artful cuisine on Saturday evening. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.
After our meal and three margaritas each (!!!), we were craving ice cream, so we walked over to Mannelly's for a treat. Believe it or not, Barry had to have TWO separate servings. Yep -- he ordered two scoops, and after finishing those, went back for two more! I don't know how he does it! We get ice cream so rarely in Belize (since it would melt if we tried to bring it home on our bicycles), it's a rare treat, and we really had an appetite for it this night!
We've only eaten at Red Ginger a couple of times because it's rather pricey, but it's absolutely scrumptious, and service is top-notch. We were not disappointed this time either. Once again, the service and food were perfect, and the atmosphere so tranquilo, it helps you forget any worries or stress you might be experiencing. When you want the best San Pedro has to offer, this is the perfect place for that special meal -- birthday, anniversary, or just because!
Instead of bread, your meal comes with complimentary plantain chips and a spicy chipotle aoli that is rather addictive.
Of course we couldn't resist their very special desserts. We shared a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a tart key lime pie. Both were irresistible, and just look how beautiful!
I may never cook again.... :)
We hadn't eaten dinner at Wild Mangos, one of San Pedro's most popular restaurants, in quite awhile, only lunch. It was time to ride our bikes to town and enjoy the delicious creations of well-known Chef Amy Knox once again. Since we had reservations, we got a primo table!
We started by sharing a tasty black bean gordas appetizer. Barry enjoyed a Pantyripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice), and I went with SanPedroScoop's favorite here -- Caipirinha (not on the menu, but delish and reasonably priced at $8 BZD).
For our entrees, I tried the Budin Azteca ("Layers of tortillas, beans, sauteed veggies, mole negro, cheese, and garlic white sauce (Mexican lasagna-ish), side salad with chili-raisin vinaigrette.") Both the Azteca and the salad were super flavorful and great to look at, too. I just love creative, healthy food!
Barry went with the Conchita Pibil ("Mayan spiced shredded pork, rice, black beans, plantains, pickled onions, and corn tortillas"). He loved that it was served with an assortment of salsas, from hot to inferno level, just like in Mexico!
We've always had a soft spot in our hearts for Mangos' desserts, though we do miss the molten chocolate cake that used to be served hot in a coffee cup. (Just putting in a plug for it's return!) We decided to try two of the desserts we hadn't had before, and they were both absolutely wonderful choices -- and good together, too, since of course we shared.
This Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake would whet any chocolate-lover's appetite. Moist, rich, simple dark chocolatey perfection!
Every bit as good was this Mexican Margarita Cay Lime Cold Cake, described as a "local dessert made of a creamy lime filling, biscuit layers, tequila, with a guava sauce". It was truly a thing of beauty, and we loved it's tart creaminess.
The perfect way to end a perfect meal is a ride back home on our bikes with our headlamps. It's so much fun to ride under the stars with a cool breeze and less traffic than during the day. It's one of our very favorite things to do here on Ambergris Caye.
Not quite a year ago we met a future Belizean expat, Debbie, and her family for a nice lunch at Aji. They are building a condo on north Ambergris, which due to some initial problems with the development that is now back on track, has been in progress for several years. This month she and her family were visiting Ambergris Caye again, and they were kind enough to invite us out for lunch. This time we chose Blue Water Grill and had an absolutely beautiful day for it. Joining us were Debbie's husband Tom, son Justin, and friend JW.
The food was almost as good as the conversation. We all shared this gorgeous coconut shrimp appetizer that Justin ordered.
I got the delicious shrimp po-boy, and Barry tried the jerk chicken wrap. Excellent!
It was great to catch up with the "Wags", and since I know Debbie will be reading the blog at some point, I'll say thank you once again for your generosity. We truly enjoyed spending time with all of you!
The town has been widening parts of the unpaved road in the Tres Cocos area of Ambergris Caye this past week, as we showed in some photos in a previous blog entry (Ch-ch-changes north of the bridge). In some areas, this involved plowing down vegetation and relocating fences that were apparently encroaching into the town right-of-way. In other areas, it is swampy or low near the road on the lagoon side, so fill had to be brought in. The fill consisted of a mixture of tree branches, stumps, vegetation, and dirt (probably gleaned from early-week plowing). Yesterday, the dozer was at work again flattening it all out. This is the area right across the road from Lazy Croc BBQ.
Looks like the low concrete walls that demarcate the driveway for this home/bed & breakfast (to right in photo above) are going to have to be torn out as they extend into the right of way, which I believe runs right up to the power pole.
We snapped the photos above on our way to Lazy Croc with Chunky and Ruthie. We had barely seen them since they arrived back on the island in November as they've been having nearly continuous visits from family or friends. It was great to catch up with them again. They are always so much fun to hang out with and full of laughs.
And speaking of crocs, there was the obligatory sighting in the pond below.
We had a great meal as always, but must haven been distracted by the lively conversation as we totally forgot the traditional food photos. Sorry about that!
After lunch as Ruthie and Chunky prepared to head back south on their bicycles, Paisley brought a toy over as she was sure that they couldn't resist playing. She knows as well as we do that they are good peeps!
It worked out to be very good timing having our lunch yesterday, as it was the last in a series of beautiful days. A cold front passed through last night bringing overnight rain, cool weather (72 this morning - brrrr!) and a general gloom to the island. Sounds like it will be quite windy and cool for the next few days, a real bummer for the tourists.
A Perfect Christmas Potluck
We attended Bob and Helaine's (which I probably spelled wrong -- my apologies) annual Christmas potluck yesterday afternoon, and it was a great time! I had gone last year as well, but Barry had a bad cold and had to stay home. I was glad that he could attend this year and enjoy the food, friends, and festivities.
I transported the casserole I'd made down the beach in my bike basket. It was a fun way to get to a party on a warm, breezy Christmas Day on the island.
There was a great crowd and lots of new people (and several pooches!) to meet, plus some familiar faces. The second floor porch catches wonderful breezes and is a great place to hang out and chat. The chicken wing I'm chowing down on here was made by Cheri of Lazy Croc, so you know it had to be good!
There were plenty of appetizers to munch on while the final dinner preparations were being made indoors. I was saving my appetite for the meal so only tried the one chicken wing.
Jean made some excellent "Island Sangria" which of course I had to try. I love sangria, and this was fruity and delicious!
Here's the dish I made -- my own creation. I was inspired by a recipe for a similar dish with spinach and bulgur wheat. I substituted chaya leaves (which I'd never heard of until moving to Belize) for the spinach, brown rice for the bulgur, and added feta, oregano, and the tomatoes on top for a "Christmasy" look.
The entire spread was awe-inspiring! Plenty of a variety of delicious homemade treats to go around, including turkey, stuffing, gravy, and plenty of side dishes. There was also a huge crockpot full of mashed potatoes (not shown in this photo).
Our groaning plates...
It got strangely quiet about this time. I do believe that everyone was enjoying their Christmas dinner!
Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, the desserts came out. My favorite part!
Here I am with Helaine, a tiny and incredibly fit lady who can kick my butt in yoga...she's amazing. We really appreciated the invitation to this excellent potluck. Gatherings like this help so much when you're far from family during the the holidays.
Time to head home and get Paisley out on a walk!
Return of the Croc!
One of Ambergris Caye's much-beloved restaurants re-opened the day after Thanksgiving, and -- of course -- we were there. Ens and Cheri are our neighbors, and not only that, they really know how to do barbeque right. Although we don't eat a lot of meat under normal circumstances, when we want to indulge our inner carnivores, nothing but the Lazy Croc will do.
This is a sign we weren't sure we'd ever see again:
They're starting out simple with their basic menu of pulled pork, ribs, chicken, and a few sides. Prices are the same as before, and there is a choice of four sides with your meal. A limited drink menu is included but no desserts. They told us they might add to the menu again over time, but wanted to begin again with the basics. Makes sense to us! Prices are in Belize dollars (divide by two for USD), and only cash is accepted.
They're reserving their rear deck on the pond for private bookings, but they do have tables out front, or you can carry out.
Barry had a nice chat with Ens by the smoker -- where the magic happens.
While I talked to Cheri manning the kitchen. She's a stellar cook!
Since we live right next door, we just brought our grub (note my "cowboy lingo"!) back home. Barry got the Smoky Joe pulled chicken sandwich (on the left), and I got the Juicy Lucy pulled pork with coleslaw. We both ordered BBQ baked beans for our side dish.
Let me be the first to say, they haven't missed a beat. It was absolutely delicious, and I even broke my "no white bread" rule and ate every bit of it, just this once!
Here are the Croc's days and hours of business. We'll definitely be back...often!
This year Thanksgiving "went to the dogs" as Fido's, an ever-popular San Pedro restaurant, bar, and live music venue, teamed up with Saga Humane Society for a fundraiser featuring singer-songwriter Kelly McGuire. Fido's and Kelly are both such Ambergris Caye traditions that I am embarrassed to admit we've never experienced either, so we were looking forward to a good time for a good cause, and we were amply rewarded with a unique and fun Thanksgiving evening. I'd been asked to take photos for the Saga website, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone by doing our own blog of the event as well.
We left home on our bikes a bit early so we could eat dinner before the Saga event really got cranking at 6pm. Barry got our steeds safely locked to one of the huge anchors right outside Fido's on the ocean front. Fortunately, his pinched nerve and upper back issue has finally healed up, or most of the way, and he can ride his bike again. We're both very happy about that!
We got a table right by the sea and started with a special drink of the evening -- vodka with watermelon juice. Yum!
Here's the menu for the special Thanksgiving dinner. The Cochinita Pibil was tempting, but we both ordered the traditional turkey dinner, which was $40 BZ ($20 US) and also included dessert (and a rum punch, as it turned out) -- neither of which were mentioned on the menu. So it was quite a good deal.
The dinner was delicious. The Candied Plantains tasted very similar to candied sweet potatoes, which I love. It was also nice to get real mashed potatoes with lumps!
These two cute felines were making the rounds and became our best friends while we were eating our dinner. I gave them a small taste of turkey. Some kids at the next table gave them quite a nice portion of turkey a little later, so I think they made out pretty well for the night!
As I mentioned above, the menu didn't say that a rum punch was included with our Thanksgiving special, so we drank it between the entree and dessert. Not a problem!
Dessert was a version of Key Lime Pie that had the texture of frozen Cool Whip with added lime juice and green food coloring. Not our favorite interpretation of the traditional island dessert, but we managed to choke it down!
After dinner, I spoke to the Saga board members and volunteers at the event, and Barry and I both started taking more photos.
Kelly McGuire was great! Although his music had a lot of country in it (and I'm not normally a country music fan), it had an islandy flare I really liked, reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet. Lots of songs of sailing and boats, which we appreciated given our past (we used to own a 30' sailboat), and songs mentioning Belize. Kelly lives in Texas but is much loved here and comes to the island frequently enough that a lot of the folks in the audience knew all the words to his songs. It's obvious that he loves Ambergris Caye as much as it loves him. Some of his songs were upbeat and fun, and some were more touching. The one about daddies and daughters definitely wet my eyes -- and his too, he said. He did two great sets and spent plenty of time talking to the audience, promoting Saga, and drawing raffle tickets for great prizes.
A lot of Kelly CDs and merchandise was being sold to audience members, with a portion of the proceeds going to Saga!
Ari was working the crowd and selling lots of Saga raffle tickets.
Kelly auctioned off one of his "Boats in Belize" bags with CDs and a Boats in Belize shirt to the highest bidder. There were several bidders, and the bag brought a high bid of $140 US, all of which Kelly donated to Saga. Awesome!
Here are the winning bidders in the auction with Kelly!
Kelly invited all the dads with daughters in the house to get up and dance when he sang his sentimental daddies and daughters song. Not all of these are daddies with daughters, but a few were. There was one really young girl dancing with her mom and dad, but they were just to the right of this photo. Really sweet!
Two of our building neighbors put in an appearance, which is pretty impressive considering that they are the only others from our building on the island right now!
And just a few more random shots from the night...
As Kelly was finishing up his second set, we took off. It was almost 9pm after all, and these two old farts have to get their beauty sleep! But first, a bike ride back to our condo (with our headlamps). The taxi and golf cart traffic north of the bridge was the worst we've ever experienced heading home after a dinner out. Maybe because it was Thanksgiving, or maybe the whole Mayan calendar fascination brought extra folks to the island, but it wasn't as much fun a ride home as usual. Oh well, we still had a fine Thanksgiving night on the island, and Saga raised a lot of money to help the dogs and cats of San Pedro. It's all good!
Hope all our friends and family in the US had a very Happy Thanksgiving. We miss you!
Aji opening day - redux
You know you've been in a place for awhile when you start repeating yourselves! Like this time last year, we enjoyed a fine opening day lunch at Aji, one of our neighborhood restaurants, but since we forgot our camera last year, this time we came prepared to snap some photos of the great setting and delicious food prepared by Chef Hugo.
Unlike last year, when heavy rain forced us to eat at the bar, this time around we had a lovely table outside in the trees, with a beautiful beach-side view.
Like last year, they offered a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert for a very reasonable $25 BZ ($12.50 US) and drink specials as well. I rarely get to indulge in wine here because of the high prices, but at $10 BZ ($5 US) a glass, this Sauvignon Blanc was a welcome treat!
We decided to order different things for each course so we could taste as many dishes as possible. For our appetizers, I ordered the Seafood Fritters, while Barry ordered the Hummus with veggies and chips. Both were fresh and delicious, and the fritters were HOT. Perfect!
For our entrees, I got the grouper and Barry the vegetable pasta. Again, delish! As I told Barry, I wish folks down here didn't make that high-carb white rice taste SO delicious by cooking it so perfectly in coconut milk, because I know it's not good for me...but I can't resist it cooked Belizean style! Mmmmmmmm.... And the fish was perfectly cooked.
We ordered one of each dessert, the Chocolate Rum Cake and the Caye Lime Pie. Both were yummy and attractive, but I think we both agreed that the tartness of the pie with its delicious lime glaze was the top choice. I wanted to lick the beautiful plate and would have if I'd been at home!
Right before our desserts arrived, our good friends and snowbirds Ruthie and Chunky, just back on the island from their six months in Minnesota, arrived on Forrest Jones' Hobie Cat from south of town. It was funny because I'd noticed the Hobie sailing up and wondered how they had enough wind as we could feel almost none from our table, sheltered by trees. Apparently they had plenty of wind out on the water. We were surprised to discover that the very boat we'd been watching was "crewed" by our friends. We greeted them with hugs and were truly delighted to see them!
After meeting Forrest and saying our goodbyes to Ruthie and Chunky, who should we run onto on our way out but Ben and Joanna Popik, island friends who run Island Films here on Ambergris Caye. We hadn't even seen them in the foliage of the restaurant. We all noticed that an extremely large black cloud was forming behind us to the north, and since they had farther to walk than we did, Joanna suggested that they better walk fast once they passed our building.
I'm afraid they didn't make it home without getting wet, because not long after we got safely inside our condo, the rain came fast and hard. Wow! We were imagining the folks at the restaurant having to scramble to get everyone sitting outside the palapa, and their food, safely under cover. We were so lucky that we had had perfect timing today!
Here is what it looked like just five minutes after we got home:
Once the storm had passed, we saw the Hobie heading south right outside our windows. With wind out of the north, they should be pushed right home. We waved from our dock, but I don't think they ever saw us.
Last Thursday night in San Pedro, Karen Waldrup, an up-and-coming country singer/songwriter, performed at Wet Willies as a fundraiser for the Mama Vilma's family home charity. We missed it, but San Pedro Scoop and Tacogirl both did excellent write-ups. Fortunately, for me and for Mama Vilma's House, Cowboy Doug came to the the rescue and quickly set up a second fundraiser at Grand Caribe for Sunday afternoon. I wouldn't miss this one -- it was right next door, and Cowboy always throws a great party in the perfect setting that Grand Caribe offers. Check it out:
Everyone was right -- Karen is a real talent! Country music is not my favorite genre, but I would classify her as more of a folk musician than what I think of as "country". And actually, reading her bio, she considers herself an eclectic mix of "folk, rock, country and blues". Yes, much more my taste! Karen has a sweet, soulful voice, and is one of those singers who could sing the phone book and make it sound good. When she's mega-famous one day, I can say that I actually shook her hand (thanks to Laurie for introducing me to her!) I have no photo evidence, but let me tell you -- this sweet, feminine, southern charmer has a firm handshake. She means business!
Thanks to "Carbunkle/Scoop Productions" for encouraging Karen to come to our little island of Ambergris Caye -- it was a real treat for all who had the opportunity to hear her play and sing. And it was very generous of her to give her time for this fundraiser.
In addition to music, there was plenty of time for fun at the pool. The kids, canines, and big kids too, were all having a blast on a gorgeous day with wall-to-wall sunshine. The little taste of rainy season/autumn I blogged about last week was very short-lived.
Raffle tickets were sold to benefit Mama Vilma's House, with several local businesses donating bar tabs and other goodies. I bought some tickets but, as usual, did not win anything. Jean bought a ton of tickets and won two raffles. All for a great cause, of course!
One of the unexpected surprises of the day was a performance by Barrett Schmidt. This adorable twelve-year old has the sweetest voice and can really play the guitar! He took the stage after Karen finished her set, and the minute he started strumming and crooning, everyone looked up and started whispering "Wow, this kid is GOOD." He really is. Listening to his angelic voice took me back to my childhood, swooning over Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman.
I chatted with his dad for a couple of minutes and found out that Barrett has his own web site (I guess everyone does these days): Barrett Acoustic. His family lives in San Pedro, and he is currently performing at Fido's on Friday nights at 8pm. So check him out if you are visiting. And seriously, this kid needs to enter American Idol when he's old enough if the family happens to be living in the US at that time. He's also got two younger brothers, I hear, so perhaps a modern-day version of the Osmonds or the Jacksons could be coming along in the future if they share his gift for music!
Cowboy suggested I accompany him up to the third floor of the "H" building for some photo-ops, so I was able to get some views of the entire scene from up high.
It was a fine party planned on only a couple of days notice, and I feel so fortunate that I got to enjoy the music of two talented musicians. It's a special treat when music and fundraising come together with sunshine and a festive setting. Win-win-win!
For more on Karen Waldrup, check out her website and Bravo TV's Platinum Hit.
A literary lunch break
Today I had the opportunity to meet a fellow expat and blogger who lives on Caye Caulker for lunch in San Pedro. I'm not saying her name or including any photos of her as her employer doesn't know she lives in Belize. As long as she is still able to do her job effectively, I can't imagine they'd even care, but I completely respect her desire to keep her identity private. So mum's the word from me!
She'd come to town to have her hair done at one of my favorite funky, dual-identity spots on the island, the Aquarius book shop and hair salon. I've exchanged books at Aquarius several times and always enjoy going in to see what I can find. I had several books to exchange, so while my friend sat in the stylist's chair, I had time to check all the shelves for juicy murder mysteries, one of my favorite genres and one of the easiest to find wherever I go.
We decided to eat at Hemingway's on Middle Street, in keeping with the bookish theme. I don't know how this restaurant got its name, because it seems a bit unlikely for a locally owned spot. But local it is, and during slow season, I know how hard it can be for businesses to keep their doors open, so I like to give my business to places less frequented by tourists. I'd never eaten here before, but our friends Debra and Bill liked it, so I was looking forward to checking it out.
My friend and I had an excellent conversation about our respective islands -- things we liked, things that concerned us, and the many changes we'd seen over just the past year. All in all, a great time, and well worth a trip to town on this very hot day. I hope we can do it again one of these days!