Lionfish in Port Antonio, Jamaica

lionfishAsh Wednesday is a holiday in Jamaica. My husband and I spent the day diving in Port Antonio, on the northeast coast, with friends. It’s a good place to spear lionfish. We caught three big ones and a few smaller ones and handed them over to a local who has become our cook on the Blue Lagoon beach–yes, it’s the beach in the titular film–when we visit.

Lionfish, an invasive species outside of Asia, makes for an excellent seafood dish. This time, our cook grilled the fish with a dressing of margarine, scotch bonnett, and green pepper. The morning was cloudy, but, as usual in Jamaica, the sun came out and made the green of the land and the blue of the ocean pop. We sat on the shore and dug into our dishes, warming up from the dives and enjoying the bounty of the day.

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

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Kayaking Goat Islands, Jamaica

Kayaking Goat Islands, JamaicaThe Goat Islands seem remote because you have to drive through narrow dirt roads and sugar cane fields to get there. It’s a scenic country drive once you get off the main drag.

The site has become a battleground of sorts because China Harbour Engineering plans to build a megaport on the islands, which are part of the Portland Bight. The land is uninhabited, except for iguanas that are considered endangered. Jamaica is badly in need of something to jump start economic growth, so the government has been loathe to say no to a big port project. But some locals, including fishermen, and environmentalists are not keen on having the pristine area transformed into something unrecognizable.

For now, the Goat Islands remain in their natural state, bordered by mangroves. It’s a great place to explore by kayak. Depending on where you paddle, you can find clearings that open up into internal bodies of water, and eventually a river.

When my husband and I drove back from our first kayak trip there, we stopped by a chill spot, what the locals call roadside bars, on the road through the agro fields towards Spanish Town. We drank Red Stripes and gazed out at the horizon, absorbing the discoveries and efforts of the day.

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

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Bob Marley’s 70th Birthday Bash

Reuters_Bob Marley 70th birthday bashReggae legend Bob Marley would have been 70 on Friday, February 6, 2015. Jamaicans celebrate the birthday of their native son every year, including festivities at the Bob Marley Museum. This year, the museum, which sits on the property of Marley’s former home, hosted an afternoon/evening concert, featuring big reggae names in JA, such as Chronixx and Kabaka Pyramid.

I attended the Friday concert, and Reuters, for which I freelance in Jamaica, used one of my photos of the event. The turnout was good, and the characters were colorful. Rastas all around, and ganja always in the air, just like in Marley’s day.

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Jamaican Chef Brian Lumley

Chef Brian Lumley

I interviewed Chef Brian Lumley at his restaurant, 689, in Kingston, Jamaica, for a travel magazine. Being a foodie, I had been wanting to talk with him for a while and was glad to have an excuse.

Lumley is in his late 20s and is a rising star of Jamaica’s culinary scene. 689 is where he showcases his ambition. He can’t do everything he wants because Jamaicans tend to like their traditional fare as it is, but he certainly adds his own touches to Caribbean dishes.

I recommend his oxtail lasagna and jerk alfredo pasta dishes. Lumley uses coconut milk for his alfredo, an idea that my husband and I have now incorporated into our homemade alfredo. It will easily continue to be a part of our culinary repertoire, even when we’ve moved on from Jamaica.

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

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Medusa–Kingston, Jamaica

Medusa, Kingston, JamaicaMy husband and I rarely go out to eat in Jamaica. When we do, Medusa, a bar and grill on Old Hope Rd. in Kingston, is on our list. Open-air seating allows you to enjoy the very pleasant cool winter evenings in JA, and if you arrive early evening, you won’t have to endure the usual long wait for your food to arrive.

Friday is steak night. The hunks of beef satisfy large appetites, and the price is right. For about $20 USD, you get a big steak and all the sides you want on one plate. I recommend the filet mignon; they’ve got the marinade down so that the flavor seeps well into the meat.

A tip: Always order meat well done in Jamaica. Your stomach will thank you.

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

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Charcuterie

CharcuterieI love charcuterie platters. They’re elemental, rustic, hearty, and beautiful. A quick and classy meal, good for any time of day. Ideally, you plate a variety of flavors and textures to create a balanced dish.

Ingredients:

1/2 soppressata package
aged white cheddar, sliced (desired amount)
2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
crackers (desired amount)
cashews (desired amount)
olives (desired amount)
5 cornichons, sliced in half vertically

Arrange and serve on a large wooden cutting board. Feel free to get creative and add/substitute ingredients (for example: dates, brie, camembert, pâté).

Enjoy!

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Bacon Omelet Sandwich

Bacon OmeletOmelets are a classic breakfast or brunch dish. Incorporating bacon adds substantial umami. Serve this as an open-face sandwich, and you’ve got a lovely meal.

Ingredients:

2 bacon strips, chopped into small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
2 slices of bread (your choice whether to toast)
4 lettuce leaves

Heat up canola oil in a small pan and saute the bacon. Add the beaten egg and make sure it surrounds all the bacon pieces. When the bottom of the omelet is firm, flip up one half of the omelet and fold it over the other half. Turn off the heat and let the ambient heat finish cooking the omelet.

Fold 2 lettuce leaves so that they fit over 1 sandwich slice. Do the same for the other slice. Cut the omelet in two, and top the lettuce with the omelet halves.

Enjoy!

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