Saturday, November 5, 2011

November Romance in Hopkins Belize

November in Belize has it's advantages. It reminds me of springtime in Alaska, something you look forward to all winter long. Here in Belize, November brings the start of the tourist season, but it is a slow and gradual increase in pace, not a floodgate opening, thank god we are still a little off the beaten path for that. Yes November brings the end to the Hurricane and wet season, which really isn't much of a rainy season here in Hopkins. We enjoy moderate rainfall most summers, with a lot of night rains and stomach echoing thunderstorms, which I enjoy. But this morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and felt very lucky to be here as I walked out onto the dock and watched the sun come up on a deserted beach. There are few guests in the other resorts nearby, and we have a couple of rooms right now, and the ability to pay attention to each guest is something that is enjoyable for Angela and i and , hopefully the clients as well. I am already planning the 4 course chef's tasting dinner for one couple, here on a 5 day romance package. I've arranged a sunset trip up the Sittee River to Anderson lagoon, which is alive with phosphorescent plankton in the dark nights of November. Then they will return to sit out on the dock, torches aglow, and enjoy a first course of Indian Lamb curry, with a glass of Bolla Soave. Then on to smoked lobster stuffed raviolis with sun dried tomato cream sauce, a rocket salad of my baby greens grown off the back porch, and a little intermezzo with a glass of Melbac. Then, a simple lemon-garlic grouper fillet served over zucchini latkes and my wife has made a white chocolate-cherry cheesecake with dark cherries. We'll let them take their time. Let them savor and converse. let them enjoy the acquiescence of a warm, November evening in Belize. Let them take their time, there is no one waiting for their table. We left those days behind in Alaska, where we needed to do 300 dinners in a week-end in order to make the $4500 a month payment on the restaurant there. We've been there and done that. Hell, let ME savor the acquiescence of cooking a great meal for a handful of people, to take my time and be sure the seafood is cooked to the ultimate perfection. To visit with them over a bottle of wine after dinner. Let me savor the sunrise this morning and wax poetic over it in the blog...........Good Morning Belize.....You'd better Belize it!

Savor: The Food; The view, The Ambiance

Monday, October 10, 2011

A story from Alaska

Well, it's October and I just celebrated my 50th birthday. We stayed down in Belize this year for the entire summer season, closing only in June when we had the roof torn off the main building, our home. we've now remodeled our entire place, the guest roomns first and now our home is finished (last , as usual). The season gave way to a more intimate type of cooking for guests, sometimes we would close to the public and cook just for our guests, buying just enough fresh fish for a few people. It was a way to really get to know the culinary expectations of them.

Often, a four couse dinner, eaten out on the dock with a great wine and the waves breathing the music for the night, it's a very special time, and one that may onlyu have existed at our place this summer of 2011, and we really enjoyed it as we hoped our guests did as well. Many of them left as lifelong friends. We had some folks from Fairbanks down this summer who remembered our restaurant there, Two Rivers lodge and mentioned that I used to write a local food column, flavored with some of the Alaskan local characters. We sat reminiscing about the land of the Midnight Sun and a wonderful likfe we lived there, raising 3 kids, living off the grid at the edge of wilderness while we ran a very busy 125 seat restaurant.

I though folks might enjoy a re-run of one of those articles printed in The Daily Newsminer in the early 2000's. My column ran for 4 years before I got a little too busy to keep writing.


“Looks like one-half inch,” I said authoritatively.
“It’s nine-sixteenths, you moron,” said my mechanic friend, looking at the nut on top of my pepper grinder.
And so the weakness of my masculine façade became evident , even to me.

My friends were always hovering over 350 turbos in the driveway, able to discern a 350 from a 302 at a glance, admiring things like 5:1 gear ratios, posi-traction and forged pistons. They were always naming sizes of bolts, whether metric or not, always talking in code about FPS and PSI, while my area of expertise never left the kitchen.
“Looks like one-half teaspoon,” I said, thinking of bread pudding and the amount of nutmeg in it. I only hoped I didn’t say it out loud, for I do make an effort to learn manly things like nut and bolt sizes.
Once, at a gathering with some leather clad, heavily tattooed Harley-riding friends who were discussing flatheads, panheads, knuckleheads and evo’s, I blurted out, “Oh, yeah, well there’s nothing like a pinch of caraway added to pureed beets to bring out the best in my borscht.”
The room grew silent as Jake the Snake stood and walked toward me, big black boots echoing across the cement floor of the garage.
“Say,” he said, “what I really want to know is do you add the sherry to your French onion soup before you sauté the onions or right before you put the croutons and cheese on it?”
“My secret,” I confided, “is to sprinkle the sherry on the floating croutons just before adding the cheese, that way the croutons soak up the flavor.”
“I told you, man,” laughed long, tall Rich, a guy who looked like he belonged in ZZ Top.
And so is the life of a chef—hanging out with mechanics and bikers, carpenters and welders, trying my best to fit into testosterone-driven situations. Yet I ended up being myself, turning the conversati0on about Yamaha’s new four-cylinder, faster-than-fast snow machine into a debate about the difference between copper and all-clad cookware.
After being caught in the charade of trying to fit in, I have decided to stick to areas in which I am an expert: gardening, cooking, wine, and, of course, eating. Finally, I became comfortable with my forte, and realized that although I may be envious of the mechanic who can fix an engine or the carpenter who can dovetail any joint, those experts appreciate the skill of making the perfect soufflé or cooking a romantic dinner for a spouse.
Nothing made this clearer than the summer of 1999, when we were remodeling our kitchen, putting in a wood-burning Tuscan-style oven. This required daily visits from carpenters installing cabinets, a welder forging the frame for the oven, concrete workers, tile men, carpet layers—a veritable bevy of those steeped in their manly careers.
As I went from worker to worker asking how I could help, they gave me menial tasks just to get me out of the way of any power tool capable of de-limbing me (or them).
“Take this jigsaw, and go cut this tin along the lines I drew,” said one worker.
I gleefully went outside with the jigsaw, placed the tin between sawhorses and began to cut. The result sounded like a cross between fingernails on a chalkboard and a thunderstorm. The entire contracting team stampeded out the door to see what the commotion was.
“Who gave him the power tool?” yelled the foreman, watching me vibrate with tin and saw like a cartoon character clashed between cymbals.
“Go make some lunch!” shouted the worker responsible for sending me to near death as he snatched the jigsaw from my hands.
“This New York Steak Diane is seared to perfection,” the foreman said at lunch, “How far from the coals did you cook them?”
“Looks like one-half inch,” I said, glancing at the frill, “one-half inch.”

End..........From Alaska to Belize, at least I won't freeze! Good Cooking!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lobster deliciouso

The Belize barrier reef, the world's second largest barrier reef next to Australia's, is apparent in it's fisheries regulations, which state that no lobster can be taken during the closed season from February 15 through June 15th. It is also unlawful to possess or sell, even frozen lobsters, during this closed season.

We fill in our menu with lots of shrimp and fish dishes, but hey, lobster is lobster so we're glad to be including these denizens of the deep back into our reperatoir of foodie fare.

This is the first summer season that we have kept the Barracuda Bar and Grill open, largely because it is such a chef driven restaurant, I won't let anyone else come and cook there or attempt to keep the restaurant open in my usual summer absence. This summer we stayed on to complete our 5 year renovation plans, fianally getting our own home above the restaurant in order. I must say that even summer now is bringing the tourist trade and alot of people coming to look at real estate in thier desire to retire in paradise, so the Bartracuda Bar and Grill has been open and though not hopping, it has been a pleasurable pace to cook at , and of course leaves a little time for culinary experimentation and personalized serrvice of our guests like 6 course tasting dinners filled with fresh veggies, seafood and the Italian-Caribbean blend of fusion cooking that we call Mediteribbean.

Avacados are in abundance right now and one of our little Tapas items for the tasting dinners has been a simple lobster and avacado salad, laced with fresh tomatoes, garlic, firm but ripe avacados, fresh basil and tiny slivers of crispy roasted garlic on top to give a crunchy, slightly bitter aspect to the freshness of the dish.
The lobster fisherman are bringing the fresh lobsters right to our dock on an everyother day basis, so keeping fresh lobsters on hand for Lobster Bisque, Lobster Thermidor, Lobster Coconut curry, Lobster Scampi, and even just plain lobster baked with garlic butter and lots of fresh limes for squeezing. Another great dish we prpare using all of our fresh available seafood is a uniquely Mediteribbean dish we call Mediteribbean Seafood Stew. It's somewhere halfway between Boulabaisse and Ciopino, incorperating seafood stock, marinara almost equally, add lots of our fresh chopped herb mix of Thyme, Marjoram, Basil and Oregeno, grown right here on the second story herb garden, lots of garlic and a splash of white wine. We simmer the seafood just until done, adding the larger peices first and the smaller, faster cooking things like shrimp last so that none of the seafood becomes overcooked, a personal complaint of mine. There is nothing worse than someone overcooking seafood, especially of the shellfish variety. So I always pay special attention to cooking times in mixed shellfish ingredient dishes.
If you make it down to Hopkins this summer, be sure to stop into the Barracuda Bar and Grill at Beaches and Dreams.