My husband and I learned about using coconut milk for alfredo sauce from Jamaican Chef Brian Lumley, whom I interviewed for WestJet magazine’s April issue. At home, we make a thicker sauce for a more luxurious taste and texture. Using a whole can of coconut milk really brings an intense, rich flavor. This version is topped with jerk meatballs.
For the alfredo:
1 can coconut milk
1 large green bell pepper, sliced
1/3 stick of butter
1 tbsp. flour
Cook the pepper in a sauce pan until tender, then melt in the butter and stir in the coconut milk. Use the flour to thicken up the sauce.
Boil water in a pot and cook a box of fettuccine noodles in it until al dente (about 10 min.), then drain.
For the meatballs:
1 pack ground beef
jerk sauce and/or jerk powder (desired amount; I recommend a very generous amount)
salt (desired amount)
Hand mix the jerk and salt into the beef, shape into meatballs, and cook in a pan fully covered with oil at the bottom. Cover the pan to add the element of steam cooking as the beef fries; this ensures the meatballs will be thoroughly cooked.
Serve each dish by laying noodles on first, then the sauce, then the meatballs.
Strawberry Hill, owned by Chris Blackwell of Island Records fame, lies in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. It’s a luxury resort with a casual ambiance and music industry paraphernalia for decor, as to be expected. The property is isolated, with the draw being the dramatic view of the Blue Mountains.
My husband and I had lunch there last weekend. The meal was decent, but we didn’t consider it up to par for what’s considered a world-class property. We’ve also eaten at Bizot Bar at Chris Blackwell’s GoldenEye, situated on Ian Fleming’s estate, which, again, was a decent, though unimpressive meal for a luxury resort.
I ordered a burger, and my husband ordered oxtail at Strawberry Hill. The burger was tasty, but nothing special for the price (about $20). The oxtail was tough; it hadn’t been slow cooked for hours to get it tender. All in all an overpriced meal, but we were still glad we paid a visit to the property before we leave Jamaica for good.
On Good Friday, my husband and I went hiking around Robin’s Bay with a friend and his son. The goal was to hike to Kwame Falls. None of us had ever been there, so we didn’t know what to expect. Our friend anticipated a 20-25 min. hike, but we ended up hiking 90 min. each way. The uncertainty was well rewarded.
We hiked atop cliffs, with vistas opening up to the tropical ocean, the waves making dramatic splashes as they crashed into the rocks. Our hunger grew as the hike lengthened beyond what we expected, but the dramatic scenery paralleling the forest that held our trail urged us on.
After six stream crossings, we finally made it to our destination: a spectacular waterfall in the middle of the forest. We stripped to our bathing suits, waded in the water and climbed up a few rocks to get to the pool right underneath the waterfall. The water was cold and refreshing, washing off the grime of sweat and dirt from the hike. We had lunch on the rocks before heading back, gathering strength for the return.
At the end of the hike, we stopped for Red Stripes at the local chill spot. Tired and buzzed from the exercise, we drank our beers and chatted as the sun, which had been shining all day, cast a golden glow on the hills and ocean below.
Making pizza at home is easy, especially if you use prepackaged shells. It’s great for any night of the week; both a staple and a treat. Pizza allows for lots of creativity in terms of toppings. This one uses sausage for a big hit of flavor and arugula for freshness and color.
2 10-12″ pizza shells
2 fully cooked Italian sausages, ground in a food processor
1 onion, sliced
arugula (desired amount), chopped by hand
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2/3 package of block mozzarella, shredded
red sauce (desired amount)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute the onions and sausage in olive oil. Lay out the pizza shells on baking trays, brush the tops with olive oil, and spread on the red sauce. Add the arugula, then the sausage, then the mozzarella, and garnish with the tomato slices. Bake in oven for 10-12 min.
What to say about a great trip. It’s hard to articulate. That feeling of satisfaction that puts you into total relaxation, not just in the moment but every time you remember it. Such was my third journey to Cayman.
One of the reasons this trip resonates is because my husband and I had a friend’s lovely home in Grand Cayman as our base. We had the opportunity to house sit and take care of his three sweet dogs while he was away on his own vacation with his wife. For five days, we had a large, well-styled house on the water, complete with all mod cons, a jacuzzi hidden behind Shangri-La doors off the living room, and a standup paddleboard to explore the inlet to the ocean from the backyard.
We would wake up early to dive and would come back in the afternoon, proud, happy, and anticipating an excellent dinner of fresh lionfish that my husband would spear and collect at impressive lengths of a foot long on average. I would scale and gut the fish on our friend’s dock, and we would grill them with tomatoes, carrots, onion, oil, and butter in his thatch bar/grill overlooking the water. The dogs would get excited watching us cook. After dinner, we would settle in the great room with a night cap, the dogs at our feet, exhausted from the physical activity of the day and feeling vibrantly alive.
We awoke to the strong rays of early morning sunlight, eager to start our day. The plan was to drive to Parrottee Beach so that we could launch our kayak and paddle to Pelican Bar, situated on the water.
Breakfast was, again, a surprisingly good meal. We ordered the mackerel rundown, a local dish of fish stewed in coconut milk and served with ground provisions. It was a large meal, and we washed it down with strong, excellent Blue Mountain coffee. Then we packed our bags, checked out, and drove off to the last stop of our road trip.
Standing on the shore at Parrottee, which we reached in about half an hour, we could clearly see the Pelican Bar. To be honest, we were underwhelmed. The place looks likes a childish attempt at hut building, with crooked lines everywhere. But the novelty of it being in the middle of the water makes it unique and worth a visit just to say you’ve been there.
It only took about 10 min. to paddle out. We tied up to one of the foundational stilts and entered the bar, greeted with a local’s admiration for our method of arrival. We ordered Red Stripes and sat on the dock, watching a pair of big pufferfish swimming around. It was before lunchtime, so there was plenty of space. As the afternoon came, a crowd began to build. We snorkeled around the bar and warmed up in the sun with shots of rum, surrounded by the glittering crests of small ocean waves. It would be time to go soon, and we would be satisfied with a little more knowledge of Jamaica under our belt.
We had decided at Little Ochie that we would continue on to Treasure Beach and spend the night. After about a 45-minute drive, we got to the Treasure Beach area and spotted Jake’s, a boutique hotel on the cliffs by the ocean. We walked in and booked the only room they had left.
In general, we’ve been disappointed by hotels in Jamaica. They’re overpriced for the quality, and we’ve never truly been comfortable in any of the places we’ve stayed. There’s always something off. I can’t say Jake’s is perfect, but I can say it’s the best Jamaican hotel in which we’ve stayed. It’s still slightly overpriced for the room we got, but the boho chic vibe of the hotel drew me in. Yoga sessions are offered at the spa, holiday lights snake though the trees, local black and white photography hangs on the walls, and the colors–shades of blue, yellow, white and red–harmonize vibrantly throughout the property.
Our room was small but charming. No TV but WiFi, books on the shelf at the head of the bed, an iPhone dock for playing tunes, a “wet” bathroom with a pressed-tin door decorated with hearts, a firm queen bed, and a large Morrocan-style picture window with red shutters that opened out to a view of the beach.
After a delicious dinner of jerk chicken–which pleasantly surprised me with its subtle goodness–we sat in front of our room, watching the moonlit water ebb and flow and looking up at the stars, amazingly numerous with the little light pollution around. When we turned in, we kept the window open; the sound of the waves continuing as the backdrop for the night.