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!
Our Belizean Thanksgiving
Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Belize, many restaurants cater to the large number of American tourists and expats in the San Pedro area by preparing a special Thanksgiving meal. We examined the list of offerings and decided to dine at Elvi's Kitchen, a restaurant where we've had a couple of delicious meals before, in large part because they were offering a Thanksgiving lunch until 4pm, in addition to dinner later that night. We thought it would be nice to eat a late lunch as we often did in the US, rather than waiting so late to eat a big Thanksgiving feast. We invited David, who owns a house on the beach less than a mile north of us, to come along. David is from Virginia, and although he lives here on Ambergris Caye full-time now, like us, this was also his first Thanksgiving here.
We splurged by catching the water taxi into town rather than walking. It was nice to arrive in town and not be hot and sweaty as we are when we walk.
Unfortunately, when we were ready to order, the waitress told us that they were only going to be serving the Thanksgiving meal for dinner -- not lunchtime. We were disappointed as that was one of our main reasons for choosing Elvi's. She didn't give any reason for the change; perhaps they just didn't get enough people in for lunch to bother with it. After contemplating what to do for a few moments, we decided to enjoy drinks and appetizers instead, since we were all hungry, then come back at 5 pm for dinner.
After taking the edge off our appetites with some delicious conch ceviche and chips, chicken fingers, and empanadas, we left and strolled around town for awhile. David has been coming to San Pedro for decades so was able to point out some places that had been around for many years, and even took us into the town cemetery. It is right on the beach and surrounded by a high fence. He told us that the fence was added only after some of the graves washed into the sea. Oops! Like cemeteries we'd seen in the Florida Keys, this one also had the graves raised up above-ground since the water table is so high. Our "virtual" friends and soon-to-be San Pedro residents Bill and Debra did an interesting entry about this cemetery on their Taking Belize blog, with plenty of photos, since we didn't get any.
Eventually we ended up at the Hangover Bar at the Holiday Hotel, which Barry and I had never been to. David was a great guide as he knows all the good spots to go. Happy Hour had just started since it was a few minutes after 4pm, so we got some more local rum-n-juice drinks and headed to the nice outdoor seating right on the beach.
David was a great storyteller, sharing many experiences he had working for the Dept. of Social Services in Virginia, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Elvi's for our Thanksgiving dinner. And what a dinner it was! Just check out this menu:
We all chose the butternut squash soup as our appetizer. It was creamy and wonderfully flavored. The cran-apple relish added a delicious sweetness. I could have made a meal on this soup and the basket of delicious homemade rolls (wheat, white, and sweet potato) with chipotle butter. Yum!
Surprisingly, Barry decided to go with the lobster entree, while David and I stuck to the traditional turkey. This is the second time Barry has chosen a lobster dish recently, much to my surprise, but it was gorgeous and delicious as well. The turkey was wonderful, though, as tender as any I've ever had, and all the side dishes were yummy too. It was so much food that I brought back half my plate in a box for tonight. Lucky me!
For dessert, we all chose the pumpkin pudding, which was actually more like a moist cake with cream cheese frosting, but we weren't complaining. It was delicious! In fact, we'd already dived in before Barry remembered to take a photo!
After we'd paid the bill and rolled away from the table, we realized we had about a 45-minute wait until the next hourly water taxi north, so David suggested that we stop in at Cholo's sports bar for a nightcap. The water taxi terminal is just a stone's throw away from this open-air place that was filled with locals, so it was a good place to have one more libation (that we certainly didn't need!) before catching the taxi home. Barry and I had spent all the cash we'd brought, not expecting to eat lunch AND dinner out, so David kindly treated us.
While at Cholo's, we met "Fish Johnson", a well-known local who sells fish and shrimp from a cooler on his bike he rides up and down the beach, and we placed an order for two pounds of shrimp to be delivered this afternoon (Friday). As of 2 pm he has not yet shown up. He had definitely indulged in a few Belikins by the time we met him, but we did write our name in his little book, so we shall see. We had heard about him, and our neighbor Mike had purchased shrimp from him before, but we didn't know what he looked like -- now we do.
It was a clear night with a star-filled dark sky, a perfect evening to ride the water taxi back to the Grand Caribe dock. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are thankful to live in such a beautiful place, for new friends here on Ambergris Caye; and for old friends and loving, supportive families back in the US. We are truly blessed!