Anguilla

This is Rendezvous Bay

Rendezvous Bay HotelIt’s becoming increasingly difficult to write posts like this considering everything that’s going on in the world today.  Fires in Australia, mayhem in Iran, Hong Kong, impeachment, and this dude is writing about some beach in Anguilla.  But this is a place worth writing about.  And as I get older and wiser its becoming more and more clear that in this fragile world, a beach and even looking at pictures of a beach (which I dont do enough) has crazy healing powers.  Numerous recent studies suggest the same.  There’s a reason why Hawaii is the happiest state in the US year after year, an its not Poke Bowls.

There’s another reason I hesitate to post this one.  I’m not exactly anxious for the world to know about this place.  Its a cliche, I know.  But only once you spend a week here you’ll understand.  In fact I met some nice folks there who asked me in a nice half-kidding kind of way to refrain from writing about it.  With that said, sharing is caring as my mama used to say.  And I do hope, for the same selfish reasons, this place I’m about to mention (the main reason for the post) stays in business long enough.

IMG_2282Rendezvous Bay (special shutout to the person who invented copy and paste) simply put is the perfect beach.  Just like most such beaches, you may not find it at its best behavior when you first see it.  The winds can get too strong, and sometimes it may feel deserted for a reason.  When we first saw it four years ago we werent impressed.  But after spending a week at what looks like its best side, we understood.  It’s one of the most walkable, most swimmable, and most perfect size beaches we’ve seen. But most of all, its almost empty!  From my vantage point, best seat in the theater, one person walking by every 20 minutes.  It’s one of the best sheer beauty to people ratio in the Caribbean.

Just to give you an idea how empty this place is.  One day I was in the water and noticed from a distance a figure, most likely a man with absolutely no one around him for a good mile.  The man pulled down his trunks, bent over and proceeded to either shake the trunks or look for something inside them for a good minute.  It wasn’t clear what exactly he was doing, but there he was doing it.  If he was looking for his keys, there was only one place left to look for them.  His bum can be the symbol of Rendezvous Bay in billboards everywhere with the caption “You can do this here”.

Another big plus is that Rendezvous Bay has arguably the best beach shack in the Caribbean, Sunshine Shack.  Garvey and crew will not rest until you are happy.  Expertly grilled BBQ chicken, ribs, lobster and crawfish when available is pretty much the entire menu, but thats all you need (well, except if you are vegetarian).  Its colorful, inviting, with a bit of a party atmosphere for a change of pace.  Booze, games, and comfortable beach lounges allow you to hang out for as long as you want.  This is the definition of a beach shack if there was ever one.

IMG_2243One of the cool things about this bay is the lack of hotels.  You got CuisinArt in the west as the lone major resort, and a few boutique hotels.  One of which is the reason for the post. Rendezvous Bay Hotel.  Its the oldest hotel in Anguilla, and today for some mysterious reasons, shockingly underrated.  It was 😍😍😍 at first sight for us.  I think I gave the biggest tip ever for just showing me the room.  We loved everything about this place.  From the breakfast burritos, the humongous bed (forget king, more like emperor), the balcony, room size, everything.  I can’t think of another place where I wanted to spend so much time in.  I even loved that we had three keys and for the life of me I have no idea what the other two were for.

But most of all it was the proximity (20 feet) to what seemed like the best and calmest part of Rendezvous Bay.  CuisinArt got the short end of the stick looks like, perhaps because RBH was there first.  We had a safety net, a car, that would take us to any beach we want (and there are 33 of them, many of which stunning).  But every other beach we visited felt like a downgrade.  Its perfectly isolated.  You are not far from some of the best dining in Anguilla, and the public ferry.  Fantastic value (under $300) to boot especially considering what you’ll find 20 feet away.  How often do I write about a hotel.  Not very.

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anguilla – Top 7 Dishes 2019

IMG_2335

First order of business of this trip was to mimic some of the previous experiences including eating the top dishes.  So I’ll start with that.  This is the list I made for Anguilla-Beaches in 2016.  Sarjais has sadly closed since then.  We didnt make it to Straw Hat this time, and Mango’s snapper wasnt a special.  But as for the rest… Chicken at Jacala, Steamed Red Snapper at Johnno’s, Fish Salad at Tasty’s, and the Smoked Fish Trio at Hibernia, all still outstanding.

Partly due to craving the above, it was a little tougher finding excellence this time around.  It was a slightly shorter trip (6 days), and some clunkers at the beginning of the trip didnt help.  And really, most of the stellar dishes came at three places, Hibernia, Ember, and Jacala.  No surprise the three amigos are on the list again this year…

Wahoo Carpaccio at Mango’s

Leave it to the fish experts at Mango’s to take care of your seafood needs.  Perhaps a handful of pink peppercorns shy from being spectacular, this Wahoo was silky smooth, with just the right amount of ‘salsa’ to elevate.  These guys just know how to get the freshest stuff.  Sunday however, is a conundrum.  Like going to a museum on a rainy day.  Many places are closed which means Mango’s is packed much more than usual, and the fish sizes were noticeably smaller than last time.  Mango's - Wahoo

Seafood Pasta at Falcon Nest

We travel for pasta (Italy), and we travel for seafood (more Italy).  So naturally when I see pasta with seafood on the menu, I start unbuckling that belt. Its not a particularly complex dish.  Just loads of fresh chunky fresh fish and shellfish that was flash fried before mixed with the creamy goodness and plenty of veggies.  The good news, not overly creamy.  You may want to toy with their hot sauces midway if you get bored.

Falcon Nest Seafood PastaSpaghetti alle Vongole at Trattoria Tramonto

See above for the pasta/seafood love affair.  But this was a tip I got from iron chef Marc Forgione who owns three restaurants in NYC.  Its a simple dish, but not so simple to pull off.  I can think of only one Spaghetti with clams in Taormina that topped this.  Its well balanced, garlicky, and plenty of delectable clams hidden under that mountain.  Perfect pairing to a hot summer afternoon facing the empty but mesmerizing Shoal Bay West.

IMG_2317Tuna Tartare at Jacala

I didnt think anything can top that Chicken but turns out chef Alain Laurent (the “ala” in Jacala) got more goodies up his sleeve.  Its quite possibly the best Tuna Tartare I ever had.  It may have been because they just received the fish a day prior (Tuesday).  But this is superb stuff, with every morsel resulting in slightly different flavors and texture, with angels singing in the background.  I eventually asked them to lower the volume as there’s just so much this Jew can take.Jacala Tuna Tartare

Foie Gras at Hibernia

This hidden gem called Hibernia is like a dream.  The setting makes familiar flavors taste unfamiliar.  But the homemade Foie Gras was uncharted territory for this Foie lover (soon to be Foie desperate seeker as it becomes illegal in NY).  It comes with this fresh mango & old rum chutney, a syringe that gently sprays Cognac (I can use that during Hockey season), and home-made toasted walnut bread.  Pure ecstasy with every bite.  Top picture.

Pizza at Artisan

I love pizza!  I eat a lot of pizza.  This is good pizza.  Maybe the best in Caribbean in fact.  But its not for everyone.  This is extreme Neapolitan.  Ultra thin and spongy in the middle, not meant to slice but eaten with a knife and fork.  The more ingredients you add the more the dough simply blends in with the rest of them without showing any texture.  The menu features an impressive arsenal of imported ingredients like ‘nduja, a particular Calabrian spicy sausage spread.  All that’s needed is a certificate Pizzaiolo, and a world class pizza oven.  Check!Artisan Pizza Anguilla

White Chocolate Bread Pudding at Ember

I could have easily chosen the excellent roasted beets, or the Foie Gras here, but lets go with the Bread Pudding to finish on a sweet note.  NYC, the food capital of the world is sort of bread pudding deprived, and we have to get our fix at NOLA sometimes.  This was Bread Pudding perfection with just the right texture/flavor combination.  Not much white chocolate flavor which is a good thing.  Desserts often satisfy, but rarely excite.  This one did.  Problem is I dont have a good picture of it.  Natalie, help 😉IMG_2304

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ember – Anguilla’s Newest Epicurean Jewel

EmberI’ve come to realize that I’m not much of a beach reader these days.  The heat, the glare, the turquoise water, way too many distractions out there.  But what’s my excuse at home?  Dont know.  But at the beach I prefer long walks, listening to music, and sometimes just aimless staring while getting lost in random thoughts.  Albert Einstein got much of his ideas from aimless wandering.  I’m getting there.  The best I came up with in 6 days is “What the heck is a Post Malone”, and “How do you spell Rendezvous, anyway”.  Silent Zs just seem so annoyingly wasteful, especially these days for some New Yorkers (Verrazzano is missing a Z in all 96 road signs and business names).

Another thought that popped was how such a small island where a human walks every 20 minutes from my vantage point has such great dining depth.  In busier Providenciales (Turks and Caicos) where its now about 20 humans per 20 minutes from my favorite spot, I can think of only two very solid sure bets for dinner.  Ember in Anguilla now makes it three, joining Jacala, and Hibernia.  And there are island old timers I still havent tried, like Blanchards.Ember Beets

One year old Ember is the dream of Marc Alvarez who is sort of an island legend.  If you are not aware of that by the time you get there, his long time friend and manager(?) Michelle will make sure you are.  This kind of confidence can backfire if not followed by matching results.  It did.  And its always good to know who’s at the helm, what’s his/er story, and most importantly is that person in the kitchen every night.  Its a yes for Ember.

The space is comfortable and inviting.  There’s a wood burning oven in the kitchen that looks like a pizzaiolo wet dream.  The menu features a New York-like “Snacks” column that makes ordering more interesting here.  Alvarez did spend some time with Union Square Hospitality in NYC.  A smaller plate section is also a risk as one can spend much less for a full meal.  It took a while to come up with a game plan here.  I had to interview 27% of the very full staff to finalize my order.  Nice French leaning wine menu, just like the rest of the island pretty much.  I lean Italian, but managed.

Started with the Snap Peas, the only miss for me as the spices too mild to make any sort of impact.  But the buttery Pretzel, perhaps his homage to NY, was a nice kickstarter in more ways than one.  It comes with sharp Dijon that brushes against your sinuses, but can do more damage if not too careful.  Like hockey players sniffing ammonia-laced salt in order to wake up.  Perhaps that’s the idea here.

The roasted beets was the first sign of that Alvarez brilliance.  They looked like tomatoes, and tasted like meat.  We are the rare breed of beet haters who like to order beets at places like this.  The Foie gras terrine & duck prosciutto was the second sign and perhaps dish of the trip nominee.  Prosciutto was more like Jamon or lardo that melts in the mouth without the chewiness.  The combination of the Foie with port cherry on toast was like ecstasy in your mouth.

The red snapper fillet dish was a beautiful chaos of various ingredients, and perhaps best piece of fish on this trip.  And the baked gnocchi was rich and spot on.  Large fresh gnocchi as such tend to get all mushy sometimes but these were sturdy and spectacular, with bright, tangy tomato sauce and just enough cheese.  The white chocolate bread pudding to finish was NOLA-ish bread pudding perfection.  Not much white choc flavor which is a good thing.

There are meals (like the night before Ember) where I politely say no to dessert and ready to leave.  And then there are the self inflicted marathon meals where I want to stay longer, visit the kitchen and kiss the chef on the lips!  In this case I settled for a hand shake (I think he’s from the Bronx!).  An epic meal from start to finish.

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Anguilla Random

IMG_2365Its that time of the year.  The time we look back, reflect, and look forward.  The time we argue about the spelling of Hanukkah, and wonder how impeachment works exactly.  The time we look back at the wonderful things we ate during the year all over the world.  The time to call your mom, and watch vacation pictures.  In that order.  Yes, call you mom, and buy her something meaningful this time.  A puppy, a food tour, a trip to Anguilla.  Something that will change her life.

To all the people I met during the last years years, wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a blessed Festivus

The Ziggys

(PS, click on any of the pictures below to view)

 

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Hibernia {Anguilla} – The Umami of Dining Experiences

Eating With Ziggy

Anguilla Hibernia 3

December 17, 2019 Update

Another epic meal at one of my Caribbean faves.  Its a timeless menu in a timeless setting.  We went for lunch again to mimic the previous experience and ordered pretty much the same dishes.  The one addition was a grilled Mahi seasoned with turmeric and other gingers.  Its worth getting it just for the accompanied butternut squash, bok choy and shiitake gratin.  It’s a sum-of-all-parts kind of dish with the mild seasoning letting the fresh fish do the talking.  The trio of smoked fish and and the outrageous Foie Gras are still the strongest stuff on the menu.  Impeccable attention to detail throughout.  This is a major go for lunch or dinner!

December 27, 2015 post

While we were wrapping up another gruesome beach day on Anguilla (someone has to do it), we noticed something peculiar happening next door.  A private table for two was being set…

View original post 903 more words

Categories: Anguilla | Leave a comment

A Week in Anguilla

IMG_7600Oh Anguilla, AngWilla, what took yer so long to call my name.  I was more than Willa! to check ya out Anguilla, oh yeah!  Ok, I don’t know what it means about my musical writing abilities but whenever I try to write something, I sound like sir Justin Bieber….who visited Anguilla a week ago or so btw.  I’m jealous of Justin I must say.  The dude is 21, and goes to Anguila on a whim, just like that.  While I needed about 21 years to get convinced.  “The beaches are not better than TCI”, “you need a full day of suffering to get there”, “you need to take a high speed ferry where even the seagulls throw up”.  Turns out all the motivation I needed is United Airlines making it much tougher to get to TCI these days.

Anywho, let me tell you about Anguilla.  But instead of boring you with a bunch restaurant reviews this time, I will bore you with a giant post about everything and anything Anguilla.  Its the Everything Bagel of trip reports!  Or something like that…

Getting there

I think the notion that one gets over time about the complexities of travelling to this island makes it seem more complicated than it actually is.  Getting off the plane in St. Martin you are faced with a bunny ranch like lineup of high speed semi-private ferry representatives trying to lure you into their service… a $65 ride straight from the airport (a 5 minute ride to the docks) with the caveat that you need to reserve in advance (giving CC info online) or risk a full boat.  The most popular and cheaper option however is a $20 public ferry ride which leaves at the same frequency as the privates, but requires a $20 taxi ride to Marigot that could take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on traffic (I always thought this ride is much longer).  We opted for the public ferry there and back, and will do so again next time.  Hard for me to justify the costs and efforts of the other options, especially considering we got to Anguilla before everyone else.  If this would have been Amazing Race, we would have kicked some serious tuches.  There’s also the air travel option between the islands which we briefly considered.IMG_7674

Car

You need a car here.  Sure you can manage without one, but in order to take advantage of what the island has to offer, a car is necessary.  Although many people happily do so, this is not the place to linger at the same place for a week like in Provo.  Ronnie Bryan, a local celebrity, makes the entire rental process as smooth as can be through Bryan Car Rental.  Pay from home securely via email, pick up car at the ferry terminal, drop the car at the ferry terminal.  Other than driving to the great Hibernia for lunch, a map was not needed for us.  Fairly easy to get around!

Beaches

Since Turks spoiled us big time with one of the best beaches in the world, this was not the time to settle.  But we sort of did, but in a good way.  Shoal Bay East is arguably Anguilla’s best beach.  But besides a few shacks and some dining options there’s not a whole lot going on there dining wise, which is not necessarily a bad thing for many.  Meads Bay was the perfect match for us.  Although one of the busiest beaches (relatively speaking), flanked by two behemoth resorts (Viceroy, Malliouhana) we found it quite serene and underdeveloped enough, with the water spectacular at times.  Not to mention close to many dining options.  Then you have the option of Maundays Bay, aka Cap Juluca-ville where the serenity level takes on another meaning.  You can request a tour of Cap Juluca while you there, and enjoy the beach by its main building.  Or you can Rendezvous at Rendezvous Bay with a visit to the world  famous Garvey’s Sunshine Shack.  The shack alone is worth going.  The most underrated beach however is perhaps Shoal Bay West.  Tranquil, green, with some interesting wildlife around to boot on arrival.  There are some more beaches, but I believe I covered the best ones.  This is why you need to rent a car here.IMG_7599

Hotels

With one hotel stay under my belt, I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert.  I dont quite get the bloggers who write about a destination like a travel concierge, even though they’ve just been there for four days.  But here’s what I know.  Shoal Bay Villas is the popular option on the east end as far affordable accommodations go, while on Meads you have Turtle’s Nest (with actual turtles acting as security) and Carimar showing exceptional value.  The latter is the better looking building, but the former has a slightly better beach front.  The newly refurbished Rendezvous Bay Hotel on Rendezvous Bay is gaining a lot of traction on the boards as of late.  Then you have the Viceroy and Malliouhana, the behemoths flanking Meads Bay where I would personally not consider staying, but visit for a drink instead (Viceroy owns the best sunsets).  For more intimate feel, there’s the world famous Cap Juluca, and to a lesser degree CuisinArt.  Frangipani was a good match for us.  Small, personable, attractive, even sexy (which is why we felt at home!) boutique hotel smack in the middle of Meads.IMG_7614

Dining

This is where things get interesting.  We knew Anguilla has good food, but research elevated expectations even more (“Some of the best in the Caribbean”).  I’ve already discussed some here, and here, and listed my favorite dishes here.   While the end result was a successful one, the trip needed a proper finish in order to call it as such.  There were some misses early on, but for the purpose of this post and the possibilities of the often off days, I will only touch on the highlights.

Sarjai’s – This turned out to be the best of the “Local” spots we tried.  Not much of an atmosphere but the food more than makes up for it.  Try the Creole Snapper with the addictive coconut sweet potato dumplings, or the scrumptious stewed goat.  The crayfish here were the best of the trip.  And while I didnt have it, the steak is an award winner.

Blanchard Beach Shack – One of many beach shacks on the island.  Order, pick a picnic table and enjoy the marvelous views with your pager.  Although they have various items on the menu, this is a nice choice for a healthier “fast food” type lunch.  Try the Rice bowl with shrimp or Mahi.IMG_7619

Dolce Vita – Possibly the best Italian on the island, though it helps if owner Abbi is there to guide you with your order.  The Gnocchi Gorgonzola and the Lasagna are the specialties.  The latter is actually the reason for opening a restaurant in the first place.

Johnno’s – One of the coolest things about Anguilla is its music scene, especially on Sunday (“Funday”) afternoon.  And deciding where to go on each Funday is not easy.  But beating this venue with this musical lineup and the steamed snapper with Fungi combination at Johnno’s I imagine is not so easy.  Note we only had one item here to eat, and it was that good.

Sunshine shack – The definition of a beach shack.  You got the reggae, the beach (Rendezvous Bay), the man (Garvey), the grill, what else do you need.  An absolute must!

IMG_7797Jacala’s – One of the biggest gems of the trip.  Two Frenchmen, one in the kitchen, one on the floor, making all sorts of magic right on the beach.  Its open for lunch, but I wouldn’t miss dinner.  Great soups, heavenly Tuna Tartare, Risotto like no other (nice middle course to share).  Table side prepared Steak tartare is oddly a main course but very popular.  Not to mention the chicken of dreams, and the Panna Cotta.  Go!

B&D’s BBQ – Essentially a popup on the side of the road.  Very solid BBQ.. chicken, ribs, lobster, snapper, all served with Johnny cakes and sides. The slaw in particular was noteworthy.  Very popular with the locals, and even restaurant owners (Tasty’s below) which is a big endorsement

Straw Hat – Great drinks, beautiful setting overlooking Meads.  Nice Lobster Mac & Cheese, fish sandwich, tuna flatbread (in that order).  Since we stayed next door, we spent most of our breakfasts here.  And after cheating on a few other places, we concluded there’s no point to go anywhere else really.

IMG_7845

Tasty’s – Quite a Tasty local spot by one of the islands best ambassadors, Dale Carty who is sent on critical missions oversees to promote island food from time to time.  The signature item is the magnificent seafood salad.  Other than a rather robbery lobster, everything was quite good here

Mango’s – I normally like to keep one night open and let the island sort of guide me to the right place.  Based on conversations with locals, Trips Advisor forumites, and even local cooks, it became clear that Mango’s got the freshest fish on the island.  You approach this one like you approach a Trattoria in Italy.  Go with whats’s fresh, and what’s on special.  Best snapper of the trip

Hibernia – If you are a foodie, and for some crazy, bizarre reason you’ve come to trust good ol’ Ziggy over the years…  Go to Hibernia for lunch!

Stay hungry my friends!

IMG_7692 IMG_7718 IMG_7802 IMG_7863 Anguilla Hibernia 2

 

 

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Anguilla – Top Seven Dishes

IMG_7713

It wasnt easy this time to come up with 7, so I included a bonus dish.  You can find it on the excellent Anguilla-Beaches site which is as official as it can get for the island’s site.

http://www.anguilla-beaches.com/eating-with-ziggy.html

Also, much respect and love to the one and only Ziggy, Ziggy Stardust.  RIP!  You will never be forgotten

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Most Memorable Meals of 2015

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Pulker’s Heuriger

And just like that, its over Johnny.  2015 was yet another year of great eats, great drinks, and yes great chicken wings.  I’m grateful!  Grateful for living in the greatest food city in the world.  Grateful for living with someone who not only supports this addiction but also willing to sleep with that thing.  Grateful for the kids who will eat anything as long as its not made by mom and dad.  Grateful for the friends and family.  What will 2016 bring?  Sicily!  Other than that who knows.  Most likely more chicken wings.  Here are the most memorable meals of 2016…

Momofuku Ko (NYC) – Quite possibly the best meal we ever had in NYC was at this new Ko 2.0 location.  An 18 courser, counter sitting, feast for all senses extravaganza.  Perhaps the best, most unique dining experience NY has to offer at the moment

Momofuku Ko Venison

Bruno Pizza (NYC) – The best meal with the most unassuming name.  While there wasnt anything earth shattering food wise, the entire meal from start to finish was just brilliant.  And before Danny Meyer made the news with his no tipping policy, there was Bruno implementing its own spin on the controversy.

Bruno Pizza Eggplant

Aquavit (NYC) – Emma Bengtsson’s Chef’s tasting menu is quite possibly the most underrated tasting menu in town.  The kicker here is that not only you are presented with tasty opulence coming out one after another, but you also got the anticipation and the arrival of one of the most Instagrammed desserts on the planet

Aquavit sorbet

Caicos Cafe (Turks and Caicos) – An odd mention considering we’ve been here over a dozen times, but still very much memorable in my mind.  Two meals on every visit is our ritual these days, and both meals this past year featured all our favorites and then some. It just gets better and better.

Caicos Cafe - Tagliolini

La Taqueria (SF) – Strange for me to choose this one over the great meals we had at Cockscomb and NOPA.  But this rather hectic light lunch was the one that gave me food envy like no other.  I’ve been eating tacos and burritos for many years, but the carnitas tacos and Carne Asada Burrito here was like eating this stuff for the very first time.  Cliche, but true.

La Taqueria food

Pulker’s Heuriger (Rührsdorf, Austria) – Our first foray into the Austrian Heuriger scene was memorable to say the least.  A wine grower’s wine tavern that serves menuless, fresh, local homemade food.  This one is right by the Danube, in the picturesque Wachau Valley.  This is why you rent a car

Pulker's Heuriger

Hibernia (Anguilla) – Still fresh in our minds, we are still awestruck by this one.  A 30 minute drive East brings you to this foodie paradise.  Brilliantly executed Asian inspired food with a French flair in an absolute stunner of a setting, surrounded by essentially an art gallery.  A dining experience like no other

Anguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio

Categories: Anguilla, Austria/Czech Republic, California, New York City, Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hibernia {Anguilla} – The Umami of Dining Experiences

Anguilla Hibernia 3

December 17, 2019 Update

Another epic meal at one of my Caribbean faves.  Its a timeless menu in a timeless setting.  We went for lunch again to mimic the previous experience and ordered pretty much the same dishes.  The one addition was a grilled Mahi seasoned with turmeric and other gingers.  Its worth getting it just for the accompanied butternut squash, bok choy and shiitake gratin.  It’s a sum-of-all-parts kind of dish with the mild seasoning letting the fresh fish do the talking.  The trio of smoked fish and and the outrageous Foie Gras are still the strongest stuff on the menu.  Impeccable attention to detail throughout.  This is a major go for lunch or dinner!

December 27, 2015 post

While we were wrapping up another gruesome beach day on Anguilla (someone has to do it), we noticed something peculiar happening next door.  A private table for two was being set up right on the beach.  Toes in the sand, under the stars, with soothing gentle waves just steps away.  Just you and the person you love.  Oh how lovely, how beautiful, how romantic… say other people.  For us however its the equivalent of being locked in an apartment for four days with only one channel showing Full House nonstop.  Lets forget the fact that you are potentially wasting a meal on an island known for some of the best food in the Caribbean.  Potentially!  I’m sure there are excellent private caterers somewhere out there.  The entire experience simply sounds torturous to us.  The sand flies, the darkness, the isolation, wind blowing sand.  Other people passing by going awwwwwe, taking pictures of you.  Toes in the sand.. pretty sure can cause a fungus.  And yes we’ve done it before, when we were younger.  Not our cup of tea.  Even the requirement of being close to the ocean during dinner faded for us over time.

Anguilla Hibernia 9On the other end of that spectrum, was our private lunch the next day at Hibernia.  If “private” means alone, than I suppose this was private, but not in the usual Private Dining sense.  Regardless, when we sit there and start bringing up our most memorable alone meals like at a small Portuguese wine making Quinta overlooking the Douro river, we are essentially in the midst of one of those meals.  But when we start talking about some of our most memorable meals ever, perhaps we are in the middle of something more special than that.  Describing the Hibernia experience requires me to dig into my emergency vocabulary vault and blow the dust of words like Umami, Mystical, Gorgeous, Divine, and Unicorns!  At some point during the meal I thought the only thing missing from this experience is a unicorn or a beautiful little yellow bird.  Moments later the latter shows up.

Hibernia is like one of those Thai temples I stumbled upon in my 20’s while drunk on the streets of Chinatown.  Except with a setting that would require me to be clinically Manischewitzed to stumble upon one of those here.  Pictures dont do this place justice, partly because its missing the sounds of silence, water, and wind chimes that work together like an orchestra.  Perhaps a video would have been more fitting in this case.  Mary-Pat who hails from Hibernia (ancient Greek for Ireland) & life partner Raoul have something special going on on the eastern end of the island.  A 30 minute trek for most folks here feels like a pilgrimage, and to the rest that we met… “Hibernia who?”  Its only one of the finest dining in the CaribbeanAnguilla Hibernia 7

Anguilla Hibernia 6But none of this would have matter – the setting, the sounds, the serenity, if the food didn’t feature the same kind of wow factor.  I’m not one that can be bought or lured into a cloudy judgment by things and friendly faces.  So when I asked Mary-Pat for some recommendations, I got the best answer food obsessed individuals could possibly get.  A puzzled look!  The look of “This is not your average big menu tourist spot.  If it wouldn’t be great, it wouldn’t be on the menu”.  I saw that look at Jacala as well earlier that week.  Here the menu consists of creative Asian inspired delicacies with a French mastery flair.  “Fusion” is the most misunderstood F word in the culinary world.  When its done right, it can be a beautiful thing.

You could not have written a better start to this script.  One bite of that silky smooth homemade Foie Gras Terrine and its angels singing time.  The accompanied red wine infused basil seeds was like a newly invented exotic fruit, the perfect compliment.  A syringe gently sprinkling some sort of alcohol, like IV for alcoholics was the icing on this cake.  There’s your Michelin Star right there.  The trio of smoked fish was another revelation of sorts.  And I’m just talking about the little salad in the middle of all that expertly prepared sea butter.  It tasted like a crazy cross between smoked white fish salad and cream cheese.  The lovely Mary-pat from Hibernia (sounds more mystical hence fitting) says its ginger infused cream cheese with horseradish, picking up some of the fishy smokiness.  Holy smokes this dish was good.IMG_7937

After those apps, the basil coconut milk with rice noodles was more like familiar flavors in a time and place that made them brand new, if it makes any sense (makes perfect sense in my head).  I eat a lot more Thai food than Mrs Z who enjoyed this tremendously.  Though I failed to find anything wrong there other than the crayfish (did I mention the crayfish) in that broth getting a little mushy by the end.  But that’s minor quibbling.  Various fillets of fish in a perfectly spiced Thai style broth was another winner. Wonderfully lemongrassy and pleasantly spicy even on a hot Anguilla afternoon.

Rum raisin ice cream to a rum raisin freak like me was like eating it for the very first time.  It’s the freshness and the rum stupid, that delivers an initial punch and makes you wonder what the fu#$ have I been eating all those years.  Chocolate covered brandy infused prunes with chestnut ice cream was another solid finisher.  (I was toying with the idea of bathroom joke here but I’m too much of a pro for this)

“This Raoul dude is a keeper” I whispered to Mary-Pat from Hibernia before leaving with the kind of satisfaction we very rarely experience.  The kind that adds that much more fuel to travel addictionsAnguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio Anguilla Hibernia Fish in Thai Broth Anguilla Hibernia Prunes Anguilla Hibernia Rum Raisin Anguilla Hibernia Anguilla Hibernia 8 Anguilla Hibernia 5 Anguilla Hibernia 4 Anguilla Hibernia 2IMG_7959

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sarjai’s – Anguilla Idol

Sarjai's Staff“It’s not Sanjaya, it’s called Sarjai’s” I kept telling her all week.  “You are thinking of American Idol”.  It didn’t matter as she wouldn’t budge.  Brains are on vacation too.  By the 4th day I said good morning at 8 pm, to a cactus, without anything to drink of significance.  And by the 6th I was calling it Sanjaya too.  We needed to be on the same page to survive this brain freeze.  We talked about Sarjai’s often partly because I wanted to break our #1 rule.  But she wouldn’t go for it.  First trip to foodie powerhouse Anguilla and you want to eat at the same place twice?  That stands against everything our ancestors stand for.  Our ancestors been to Anguilla?

Sarjai's ConnorsOn our first dinner in Anguilla I was like a 9 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Forget the appetizers… the Caesars, the Capreses, the Crispy “anything but the F word, fri@#d” Calamari are just the warm-up acts that no one cares about.  Bring me the Bieberlicious!  4 Mains, nothing less!  “Oh thats just Meshugenah.  My Xanax from the flight hasnt even fully kicked in yet”.  3 Mains!  The fourth was the infamous Steak au Poivre, the most delicious thing on this vacation I haven’t had.  After all, it comes with something called Aunty Joan’s Home-made Curried Fries.  And if there’s one thing I learned during my travels is that anything with the word Aunty in it is a must get.  Think about it.  Have you ever had something that made you say, “this is great, but that aunty side suggests this Aunty needs a stint or two at Le Cordon Blue.  Get rid of her”.  Most likely never.

My first wife and travel companion believes there was a Welcome to Anguilla sign at the ferry entrance, and she has pictures to prove it.  My eyes meanwhile were fixated on an Anguillan goat.  That was my Welcome to Anguilla sign.  That same night, the stewed goat at Sarjai’s was spot on.  Tender, succulent, fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother in law.Sarjai's - Goat

The perfectly flaky creole snapper could have come just a perfectly flaky creole snapper with some rice and peas as in so many places like this, but not here.  It arrives with delicious curried cabbage (buried under that fish – oh what fun) and coconut sweet potato dumplings that chef Darren’s grandma makes. Those dumplings grew on us in a hurry, and next thing you know we can’t get enough of them.  A brilliant dish that set the bar nicely for many more snappers to come

And our first foray into the Anguillan Crayfish was quite a success. Crayfish in Anguilla is essentially spotted spiny lobster and has no resemblance to the sea roaches of New Orleans.  At Sarjai’s they come plentiful, sweet and buttery even without the help of the butter on the side. Not overcooked at all unlike some of the Crayfish we enjoyed the rest of the week.Sarjai's Snapper

I enjoyed the warm coconut pie, especially since the wife wouldnt touch the stuff. When she tries anything with bits of coconut in it, her face turns into Robert de Niro and she starts spitting profusely. She did enjoy her passion fruit cheesecake.

Sarjai’s, named after chef Darren Connor’s daughter, delivered the kind of vacation debut I can only wet dream about.  Chef Connor, like a true Anguillan idol, represents Anguilla from time to time in cooking competitions.  Fresh from his trip to NY and Omaha where he learned more about the art of beef, shows the kind of passion and skill you dont normally see in places like this.  Places without a sommelier or dedicated stool for your man’s purse.  Its the kind of place you are free to run around like a two year old, and talk to the chef like an old friend.  I need more friends like this.  Ok, one will do for now.Sarjai's Crayfish Sarjai's Dessert Sarjai's

 

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.