A Travellerspoint blog

Anguilla, Stage 1: A Marvelous Night for a Swoondance

You have probably heard of the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- which some psychologists believe can be used to describe the feelings you may experience when a loved one passes. On our most recent trip to Anguilla, we discovered that these same stages can also apply to your Anguilla vacation.

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1. Denial. The first stage of your Anguilla vacation often begins with denial, which is the brain's way of dealing with the unexpected. Denial typically begins as soon as you arrive at your hotel or villa. Common thoughts or exclamations may include, "I can't believe we're actually here!" "Check out that water -- it doesn't look real!" and "I don't believe that anyone could make a cheeseburger this good without crack."

2. Anger. During this stage, lashing out at your own stupidity is to be expected. "Why the hell don't I live here?!" "That guy on the beach cleans fish guts for a living -- some people have all the luck!" and "Why didn't I become a deckhand instead of going to law school?! Idiot!!"

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3. Bargaining. Bargaining may be done with the higher power of your choice, or with your spouse. "Please please PLEASE can't we move here???" "I promise I'll give up drinking/smoking/spending all our money on Lotto tickets/flossing my teeth in front of you if you just let me stay here forever." and "I will never nag you to clean the garage again if you just buy me this beach house (because it doesn't have one)."

4. Depression. This stage usually sets in on the morning of your last full day, with peak sadness reached when you arrive at the airport or ferry terminal. Symptoms include agitation, feelings of hopelessness, weight gain, and excessive drinking (the literature notes a marked preference for rum-based libations).

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5. Acceptance. The majority of people manage to put off entering this last stage for as long as possible. For most, acceptance is achieved with a defeated sigh when the plane door closes or the ferry departs, though in some cases acceptance may be delayed until disembarkment in St. Martin or San Juan. In rare cases, acceptance is achieved only when the grieving vacationers attempt to maneuver their car into their driveway, which is covered in three feet of snow.

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For our third visit in thirteen months (said the spoiled brat), the stages began as scheduled. We arrived on island and made the short drive from the airport to Moondance Villa, a stunning new property near Long Pond Bay, where we immediately entered the denial phase: We don't really get to stay here, do we?!

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That's because, when we weren't even looking, this gorgeous villa fell right into our laps. It was brand-new, had a view to die for . . . and was not yet on the rental market. Since no one had stayed in it before, the villa manager (the lovely Catherine at Anguilla Villa Company) asked if we'd mind reporting any issues or problems, no matter how insignificant, so they could be rectified before high season started. In other words, we were to be the Moondance guinea pigs.

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Well, it sure beats selling your plasma.

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We thought it might be hard to top that view, but the interior of the house was just as lovely. Wraparound sliders provided unobstructed views, lots of light, and let in a constant cool breeze. The furnishings were covered in luxurious fabrics in tropical shades of coral and turquoise. And there was so much space that we could have done cartwheels through the main living area, if we both weren't at the age where breaking a hip is our second-greatest fear. (Number one is that Ferryboat Inn will take out a restraining order against us.)

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Indeed, the house seemed to be tailor-made for two New Yorkers: It was private and remote, with huge closets, huge bathrooms, and a huge kitchen that we'd never, ever use.

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At the back of the house was TV room with cushy, oversized couches, which were perfect for relaxing after a long day of lying in a lounge chair.

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We don't usually watch TV on vacation, but one night after dinner we decided to start binge-watching "Making a Murderer." We made it through two episodes before Angel determined that me screaming at the screen so vehemently had only two possible outcomes -- me suffering death by heart attack, or the TV suffering death by flip-flop -- and put a stop to it.

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And did I mention the jewelry drawer in the master suite? Swoooon.

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After a quick tour of our digs, we dropped our luggage upstairs and immediately set out to stock the place, which meant a couple of cans of Pringles, a liter of rum punch mix from the smoothie shop at SeaSpray Boutique, and an oil drum full of rum to get us through the week.

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Most of the wares at SeaSpray are hand-made, and as usual, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the charming shop picking out an assortment of magnets, seashells, soaps, jewelry, and items depicting all manner of goats.

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Pam at SeaSpray took great care of us, even throwing in a few free limes and some nutmeg to go with our punch.

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On every trip we've made to Anguilla since 1997, we've dropped our luggage inside the front door as soon as we arrive, stripped off our clothes and changed into swimsuits, and raced headlong to the beach for an arrival day swim. But Moondance was already exerting its inexplicable hold on us, as we arrived back at the house to drop off our supplies . . . and decided not to leave.

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Instead, we noshed on the generous platter of cheese, crackers, nuts, and grapes that Catherine had kindly left for us, sipped our homemade rum punches, and simply gazed in silence at the wild sea crashing against the rocks at Long Pond Bay. (As the villa's designated guinea pigs, we also tried to come up with a single negative that we could report back to Catherine, but failed miserably.)

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That evening we realized that we'd have to leave the house if wanted anything more substantial than crackers for dinner, so we headed off for Picante in the West End.

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Picante is one of those feel-good places that isn't going to win any awards for its nouvelle cuisine, isn't going to fold your napkin into the shape of a swan while you're powdering your nose in the ladies' room, and isn't going to offer your handbag its own little stool for the evening.

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But they also aren't going to require you to auction off a kidney to pay the bill, make you feel guilty for polishing off an entire casserole dish full of melted cheese, or raise a not-so-subtle eyebrow when you order that third margarita, and those things count for more than any fancy-pants finger bowl ever could.

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One of the specials that night was a basil mojito, which our server promised he would take back if it wasn't to our liking.

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Eventually we did ask him to take it back . . . and refill the empty glass with another one. (Ditto for that strawberry margarita I had.)

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As usual, I ordered the seafood enchiladas, which are filled with tender chunks of crab, prawn, and lobster, and come smothered in so much melted cheese that there could be a rolled-up Mexican flag under there instead of an enchilada and I'd eat it anyway.

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Angel has always shied away from the enchiladas, presumably because he knows that when I can't stop raving about a particular dish, it is sure to be filled with enough fat and cholesterol to strike him dead on the spot. But on this night he came over to the dark side and ordered them, too.

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When we returned to Moondance after dinner, we discovered what hadn't been completely apparent in the daylight: The house stood virtually alone under blanket of stars. There didn't seem to be another soul around for as far as the eye could see; the only sound to be heard was the crashing of the surf in the distance. Although we found the isolation a bit unnerving that first night, we quickly fell in love with the seclusion of our own little slice of moonlit heaven.

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The next morning we packed up our beach bag and headed over to Rendezvous Bay. RBH has a special place in our hearts since it's the first place we ever stayed on island, and although we've spent many late afternoons lounging on one of the daybeds at The Place, it had never made our list for lunch.

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We dropped our things on "our" daybed, then settled in at a table on the deck for lunch.

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It only took Angel two days to realize that I'd been color-coordinating our attire. Tee-hee.

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For lunch, we kept things simple with a couple of blackened fish sandwiches and a round of frosty piña coladas swirled with fresh nutmeg.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent alternating between lounging in the shade on the couch, bobbing in the turquoise water, and playing coconut football on the beach.

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Of course, we didn't really toss around that coconut. That would be too much like exercise.

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Back at the house, we rinsed off the salt with a quick dip in the pool, then cleaned up for dinner at Sarjai's.

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Housed in the old Lucy's space, I was admittedly skeptical that anything at Sarjai's could top Lucy's deliciously crunchy fried snapper filets.

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Still, the steak au poivre with curry fries sounded delicious, so a Pinot Noir by the glass on the menu caught my eye and I asked for a little taste.

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A very little taste.

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We began our meal with the spicy tuna tartare drizzled with soy sauce and olive oil, followed by the aforementioned steak for me and the much-touted coconut shrimp with Malibu pineapple sauce for Angel.

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So many things in life don't live up to the hype -- New Coke, Y2K, 99.9% of storms called "Snowmaggedon" -- but happily, Sarjai's coconut shrimp is not one of them.

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Back at the villa, we took another dip in the moonlit pool before calling it a day.

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And that's when I knew we'd transitioned out of the denial phase. We really were back on our favorite little chunk of limestone, Moondance really was a little piece of paradise, and we really did have seven more days of eating, drinking, and lazing around in front of us. That's at least 33 more meals!
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Click here to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 05:35 Archived in Anguilla Tagged seaspray picante rendezvous_bay moondance_villa the_place sarjais Comments (14)

Anguilla, Stage 2: There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

The next day, we awoke in the comfortable cloud of our king-sized bed, having slept more hours in the past night that we typically sleep in an entire week. We flung open the drapes and were greeted by another picture-perfect day.

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We listened to the waves crash on the beach. We watched the clouds settle on St. Martin's mountaintops in the distance. We luxuriated in the solitude of just a handful of neighbors. (In New York City, a place without neighbors is called Connecticut.)

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We showered -- in an open glass shower large enough to hold our NYC apartment in its entirety -- then floated downstairs to lounge by the pool while lazily batting ideas back and forth as to how to spend the day. (Okay, you know that's a little white lie. Our agenda had been planned, in daily 15-minute increments, for at least the past 8 months.)

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As we contemplated nothing more strenuous for the day than deciding who would get up to fetch the next round of rum punches, the next stage of Anguilla Vacation Grief, anger, began to worm its way in: What kind of suckers were we anyway, with our stupid jobs and our stupid mortgages and our stupid student loans? Why on earth have we tethered ourselves to those annoying iPhones and iPads? Who even needs material goods, when you could live in a shack on the beach and scavenge for your dinner every night? This is how we were meant to be living, dammit: Jobless, homeless, and almost certainly dinner-less. Where had we gone wrong?!?

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We pondered these unanswerable questions as we made the short drive over to Elodia's on Shoal Bay East.

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There, we sprinted for the loungers at the farthest end of the beach, away from the madding crowds.

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For lunch, I feasted on chicken nuggets, while Angel ordered off the adult menu.

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Some people like to bring their own salad dressing when they go out to eat. I like to bring my own nutmeg.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon in deep contemplation of our pathetic workaday existences.

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Back at the villa, we cleaned up for dinner, hoping to drown our sorrows with a round of sunset cocktails at the Viceroy (now the Four Seasons) beforehand.

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The Sunset Lounge is modern and sophisticated, with a cocktail list to match.

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Our bartender muddled the limes for Angel's ginger-vanilla mojito and my caipiroska with gusto, and when I admired her handiwork, she invited me behind the bar to hang out and take some pictures.

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Obviously I was too busy stuffing limes and liquor bottles into my pockets to really focus on the photos.

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For dinner, we had reservations at Veya, a sexy tropical treehouse perched among swaying palm fronds.

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We'd carefully planned the day and time of our reservation to finally catch Omari Banks' acoustic set. Earlier that week, however, we learned that Omari was going to be in Trinidad for a benefit concert, and so we would miss him yet again.

Upon arrival, we were led to a table at the front of the restaurant, overlooking the Mezze lounge and the empty stage.

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Accustomed to being tucked away at one of the tables at the back of the restaurant where I can snap photos with relative abandon, we quickly realized that if we remained up front, we weren't going to see Omari, but we likely were going to see the disapproving stares of the surrounding diners when I started shooting. Not wanting to annoy anyone with the camera, Angel found Jerry and discreetly asked if we could be moved to a more isolated table in the back instead.

Have you ever opened your mouth and stuck not only your foot in it, but most of your calf, too? It turns out that Jerry, who is familiar with this blog(!), knew we'd be taking lots of photos and gave us the best seats in the house on purpose so we'd have a front-row seat for Omari, who had unexpectedly arrived back on island just in time to perform that evening.

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Open mouth, insert entire leg.

And while it's open, you might as well also toss in Veya's mind-blowing banana bread and Johnny cakes.

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We devoured the bread basket in short order, which was a big mistake since we then had nothing to dunk in the extraordinary yellow-pepper soup that the chef presented as an amuse-bouche.

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We couldn't decide between the Vietnamese-style fried calamari with nuoc cham and the conch fritters with a chili-lime aioli . . . so we didn't.

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Angel picked an old favorite for his main course, the grilled jerk tuna with a rum-coffee glaze, caramelized pineapple, and fried plantains.

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I went with something more unusual, at least for me: The tagine mahi-mahi with mashed plantains and cilantro-almond pesto. That might not sound so unusual, but I am one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap. (Fun fact: Most cilantro-haters possess a shared group of olfactory receptor genes that pick up on the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which are found in both cilantro . . . and soap. Translation: We're not crazy!) But this is Veya, where the magician in the kitchen, Jerry's lovely wife Carrie, can make even an ingredient that I normally loathe taste so good that not only can I tolerate it . . . I will choose it and happily devour it. (God only knows what that woman could do with a beet.)

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The evening was absolutely perfect: Fantastic food, great company, and a front-row seat for Omari's performance.

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And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Jerry stopped by our table to chat, and to deliver this:

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That is a dragon fruit, fresh from the garden of one of Veya's servers. Indigenous to Central America, dragon fruit comes from several cactus species, and its succulent stem provides the fruit with moisture in the arid climates where it grows -- like Anguilla.

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Despite its Technicolor flesh, the fruit is extremely mild and reminiscent of kiwi.

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There might also have been a bottle of Champagne for dessert. You know how those restaurant people roll.

The next morning we awoke feeling great, which is not normally the case after Champagne, but can be the case if you accompany that bottle with enough food to create a sizable stomach-sponge.

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It was another day of glorious weather, so we decided to spend it at Ocean Echo on Meads Bay.

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It was well before noon and we had the place to ourselves, so we dropped our things on the nearest loungers and jumped straight into the water.

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Eventually the smell of food wafted our way, so we dragged ourselves up the beach for lunch, which turned out to be the excellent coconut curry shrimp with pineapple, along with the Asian stir fry with jasmine rice.

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After lunch we decided to fight it out over who'd get the last sip of the Ocean Sand Lemonade.

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Obviously, I won.

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Back at the villa, I took a quick shower, threw my hair into a messy bun, sprinted to the car, and gunned it over to my favorite spot on the island, Ferryboat Inn. As you can see, I was just a tiny bit excited about the burger bacchanal to come.

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Now, I have raved about the FBI cheeseburger in numerous posts on this blog, have waxed poetic about it on various online forums, and have even published handy how-to instructions for newbies here. But what I have not done is compose a proper Ode to The Ferryboat Cheeseburger. I think it might be time.

Oh Ferryboat burger, how do I love thee
With a rum punch in hand and a view of the sea.

Other burgers abound, but you are The One
Ground beefy perfection on a sesame-seed bun.

You're juicy and cheesy and too good to share
Ask for a bite? Angel won't even dare.

Delightful Marjorie and Christian preside over the place
Just don't interrupt me while I'm stuffing my face.

Oh Ferryboat burger, nothing in this world is so fine
If you
still haven't had one, you're no friend of mine.

Obviously, this can be set to music as well. There's even an awkward happy dance.

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Ferryboat had undergone a mini-renovation since our last visit, with new tables and chairs and fresh coat of cheery, lime-green paint.

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After admiring their freshened-up digs, we got caught up with Marjorie and Christian at the bar while waiting for our burgers to arrive.

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As soon as they did, it was like one of those raucous party scenes in a movie where the parents come home and, all of a sudden, everything comes to a screeching halt and the room goes totally silent except for one drunk guy burping just off-camera.

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We'd no sooner finished our burgers and were heading home when -- irony of ironies -- we happened upon these two.

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I would have sworn it was just a coincidence . . . until I heard the big one say, "Hey, lady! Stop looking at my kid like that."
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Click here to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 06:03 Archived in Anguilla Tagged viceroy ferryboat_inn elodias ocean_echo moondance veya omari_banks Comments (13)

Anguilla, Stage 3: Pick Your Poison

The next morning I bounded out of bed at 5:20 a.m., a feat that I could accomplish back home only if the house was on fire (and even then it is doubtful). Naturally, Angel was still asleep, so I tiptoed to the other bedroom to take in the glorious sunrise.

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5:30 a.m.: Maybe I'll head outside to poke around in the gardens for a bit.

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5:45 a.m.: Time to lift up Angel's eyelids to see if he's awake yet. No dice.

5:50 a.m.: Back to the balcony to soak up the sea breeze.

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5:58 a.m.: Doing nothing is boring. Happily, it suddenly occurred to me that the balcony would be the perfect spot for Angel to enjoy a cup of coffee when he woke up. And so I headed downstairs to do battle with that coffee-making contraption I'd seen earlier.

I don't drink coffee, so I don't really know how to work a coffee maker. But how hard could it be? I confirmed that I had coffee, sugar, and cream, then added the grounds to the filter, filled the chamber with water, and flipped the switch.

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After a few short minutes, success! The machine began to gurgle, and out came what looked and smelled like coffee. I triumphantly patted myself on the back as I poured a cup for Angel and delivered it to him in bed.

He was delighted by the coffee (though less so by the 6:15 a.m. wake-up call), and spent the rest of the morning sipping his coffee poolside as we discussed our plans for the day.

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We decided to do a little shopping that morning, with stops at Irie Life and a new favorite, Limin' Boutique.

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Ken and his cute-as-a-button wife Renee run Limin', while Renee pulls double duty by also modeling the bright, beachy wares that line the walls.

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After our spree, we drove up to Island Harbour to have lunch at Elite, which is not new but was new to us. We'd heard good things, and even if we hadn't, you know I'd drive to the ends of the earth for some gnocchi.

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It turns out that Elite is sweet and secluded and makes a mean focaccia, too.

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If that isn't enough to get you up to Island Harbour, then maybe the view is.

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We began the meal by sharing the shrimp panzanella salad, which came with croutons made from more of that fabulous focaccia, then moved on to the penne arrabiata in a spicy red pepper sauce for Angel (with just a smidgen of cheese), and the gnocchi for me.

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After lunch we lazed around for a bit, then decided to head over to Scilly Cay, since it had been 19 years since we'd last been there.

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Nineteen years, and I am pretty sure we are still nursing a hangover from that visit, courtesy of Eudoxie's deadly rum punch.

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Nineteen years, and we discovered that we've actually grown up a bit since then. What used to be great fun -- drunk folks lolling about in the water, awkwardly attempting to slap each other five and yelling, "WOOOO!" -- was now annoying to our old-folks sensibilities. And so we stole away to a couple of hidden loungers, sipped our rum punches, took a quick dip in the water, and caught the next boat back to Island Harbour, all before you could drunkenly holler, "Dude . . . watch this!"

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When we returned to Moondance that evening, Angel wasn't feeling well, and we racked our brains to see if he'd eaten something that I hadn't. (Not that it would have mattered much -- my stomach is made of cast iron.) But we'd shared an appetizer and tried each other's entrees at lunch, had ordered all the same drinks at both Elite and Scilly Cay, so we were stumped as to the cause.

That's because by that time, I'd forgotten all about that coffee I'd made for Angel earlier that morning, and of course so had he. In fact, it wasn't until his insides revolted with such vehemence that they couldn't even pick just one orifice from which to expel that coffee (and everything else in his stomach) that I realized what I'd done: Without even thinking, I'd filled the coffee pot that morning with tap water. And not just your run-of-the-mill Caribbean tap water, but tap water that had been languishing in the pipes of a house that had been unoccupied for weeks prior to our stay.

Looking back, I guess I should have known that something was amiss . . .

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At least he knew I didn't do it on purpose. There's no way I'd poison him in Anguilla and ruin my vacation.

By the time our dinner reservation at Straw Hat rolled around, Angel was in full-blown digestive distress, and it was clear that he was in no shape to go out. I picked up the phone to cancel, but before I could get through, Angel hauled himself off the sofa and insisted that he could make it. (I didn't believe him, of course, and when he actually volunteered to pose for some photos, I knew he'd gone plum delirious.)

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If you are new to the island and wondering if you should add Straw Hat to your list of dinner reservations, consider this: If you are suffering from all five symptoms in a Pepto-Bismol commercial at the same time and still want to go out to dinner because "It's Straw Hat!!," that's a pretty good sign that this place is worth your while.

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He staggered into the place like a man on his last legs and slumped into his seat at the table, where he looked like this . . .

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. . . but probably felt like this.

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Our table was ridiculously romantic: Right on the edge of the sea, illuminated by string lights and candles, with the sound of the surf and some reggae music floating on the light breeze.

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I didn't think Angel would be able to eat much, but that didn't mean his half would go to waste. And so we ordered up the lobster spring rolls to "share," followed by the lobster mac & cheese with gruyere and parmesan sauce for me, along with a mild-sounding melon-mojito snapper for Patient Zero.

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Angel took approximately two bites of that snapper before he turned green, and so we explained to our server, as politely and discreetly as we could, that we'd be taking the meal to go (though not before I inhaled that entire order of spring rolls as an act of good faith).

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The lovely Doris quickly noticed that we were leaving early and inquired as to whether everything was okay. We assured her that both the food and the setting were perfect, but unfortunately Angel hadn't been feeling well. At that she sprang into action, filling a to-go container with bitters and seeing us off with the utmost care and concern.

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For his part, Angel was the consummate professional, still shouting out photography tips as he crawled to the car gripping his belly.

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We got him home, tucked him into bed, and made sure he was on the side closest to the bathroom. And that's when I realized I'd entered Stage 3 of Anguilla Vacation Grief: Bargaining.

Dear Lord, please let him feel better so I can work in a second cheeseburger.
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Click here to read Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 05:21 Archived in Anguilla Tagged elite irie_life straw_hat moondance scilly_cay limin_boutique Comments (12)

Anguilla, Stage 4: Doing a Little Moonlighting

Another day, another spectacular sunrise. Angel was still sick, so I let him sleep until 6:30 this time.

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We spent most of the morning at the pool, not wanting to head off to the beach until we could judge Angel's condition.

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Here he is praying for one more cheeseburger.

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We had to share the pool with a visitor, but he didn't drink much, so we didn't mind.

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Unfortunately Angel still wasn't feeling well as the morning progressed, and neither Pepto-Bismol, nor ginger-ale, nor bitters, and nor even rum had done the trick. We figured we had nothing to lose by getting him a big bowl of rice to soak up the remaining poison, so we set off for Ocean Echo for some stir-fry.

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There, Angel managed to smile his way through a swim at Mead's, but when the water looks like this, you'd probably find yourself beaming even if the grim reaper was standing on shore just waiting for you to get pruney.

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Our man Delacroix took great care of us, making sure my glass of boozy lemonade remained filled and chilled.

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The rice helped settle Angel's stomach a bit, and we both managed a short but sublime period of pure, unadulterated joy.

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By that evening, however, Angel was back to feeling pretty awful, and Stage 4 of Anguilla Vacation Grief, depression, was starting to set in. Not only did we have just three days left, but at the rate we were going, we were going to spend all three of them not at the beach, but in bed (Angel) or at the pharmacy (me). Worse still, we were going to spend all three of them cheeseburger-less. (You know things are bad when the person who is dying of dysentery is actually less upset than the one who didn't get her second cheeseburger.)

That night we stayed in for dinner, since Angel wasn't eating much anyway and resting up would do him some good.

We agreed that I would set the table and prepare the wine while Angel made a quick run over to CeBlue to pick up a couple of pizzas. (Yes, we sent poor, sick Angel out instead of me. Do you really think that pizza would actually make it back to the house if I picked it up?)

We'd had lunch at CeBlue on our previous trip, and the brick-oven pizzas had been divine -- charred, chewy dough with bubbly, blistered edges and a variety of fresh toppings.

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This time, however, we were disappointed: Instead of brick-oven pizza, we ended up with two rounds of cardboard topped with some sauce. Luckily we still had enough lobster from that Straw Hat mac & cheese to salvage them.

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The pizza might have a been a letdown, but the evening itself was positively magical: A full moon danced off the nearby waves, bathing the pool and patio in shimmering moonlight. We soaked up the spectacular surroundings, trying to imprint them on our memories forever, as we sipped our wine, dangled our feet in the pool, gazed at the glowing moon, and counted our many blessings.

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By the next morning, I was getting desperate to make sure Angel enjoyed his last few days of our vacation, despite the fact that he probably should have been enjoying a stay at Princess Alexandra. And so we set off for a morning swim at his favorite beach, Maundays Bay.

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I continued my campaign ("Make Angel Great Again") by then whisking him off to CuisinArt, where I figured that if his favorite drink on the island couldn't cure him, nothing could.

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We kept our lunches on the light side to avoid riling up Angel's insides any more than necessary.

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We spent the rest of the day back at the villa, Angel alternating between napping in the cool AC and joining me at the pool.

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Happily, by that evening Angel felt well enough to go out again, and so we got dressed and popped over one of our favorite spots on the island, E's Oven.

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Have you been to Anguilla more than a few times, but still haven't been to E's? Look, I know you love dining on the water. It's breezy and beachy and romantic. But you can't see the waves at night anyway, and even if you could, there is no sight -- day or night -- more glorious than E's coconut-crusted grouper with banana-rum sauce atop a bed of curried beans.

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The grilled red hind amuse-bouche and spiny lobster spring rolls with orange-chili sauce are no slouches, either.

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And because Angel wasn't feeling well enough to finish his grouper, somebody got to have the leftovers.

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We still have 36 hours left, and that's plenty of time for meatballs, BBQ, lobster pasta, chicken roti, and even some old-school guavaberry coladas. Click here to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 04:44 Archived in Anguilla Tagged cuisinart cap_juluca e's_oven moondance_villa ocean_echo Comments (7)

Anguilla, Stage 5: Accept the Things You Cannot Change

The next day Angel was feeling even better than the night before -- well enough, in fact, to re-heat the last of his E's Oven leftovers and swat me away when I volunteered to act as his royal taster to make sure he wasn't being poisoned (again).

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It was our last full day on island, so we set a brisk pace to make sure we could include everything we wanted to do.

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As you can see.

As lunchtime drew near, we set off for Tropical Sunsets, where we knew they'd make us an off-the-menu guavaberry colada. Both the color and the taste of a guavaberry colada are a bit reminiscent of Pepto-Bismol, and Tropical Sunsets has comfy loungers, so we decided that this visit was actually part of Angel's treatment plan: He would take his "medicine" and spend the day resting.

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Angel ordered a simple turkey club, while I decided that if I wasn't going to get another Ferryboat cheeseburger on this trip, then I was going to drown my sorrows in BBQ sauce.

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Incredibly, even though Angel was feeling better than he had in days, he still managed to have a near brush with death, this time thanks to a stealthy toothpick hidden in his sandwich, which he almost swallowed.

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The rest of the day passed much as the ones before it: Swim, rest, repeat.

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I even managed to get some exercise, walking all the way down to Gwen's for one of her super-sized rum punches.

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It was our final night on island, and we were going to Dolce Vita, come hell or high water or hospitalization.

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It was Dolce Vita's last night before closing for the season, and while Angel had warned me that they would probably be out of many of their regular menu items, I was secretly hoping that in an effort to get rid of every single thing in the kitchen, we'd be asked to "pitch in" and devour plate after plate of gnocchi and lasagna and risotto until it was all gone.

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We settled in at our usual table (is there any bigger thrill than being able to say you have a "regular" table at Dolce Vita?!), then put in an order for two glasses of wine and the tuna tartare.

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Angel was feeling better, but still not 100%, so he ordered a side of meatballs as his entrée. I've taught him well, y'all.

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As it turns out, Angel was right about the menu, so I had to settle for the lobster pasta in pink sauce being served with shrimp instead. Oh, the sacrifices.

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Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until early afternoon, so the next morning we found time for one last swim at Shoal Bay before packing our bags.

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As we bobbed in the water and buried our feet in the powdery sand, I felt the evil tentacles of Stage 5 of Anguilla Vacation Grief, acceptance, begin to wrap themselves around me. The clock was ticking, and soon -- whether we accepted it or not -- we'd have to board the plane and head home. And so we made the most of our last few minutes.

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(Did you know there is actually a word for this? We can thank our German friends for torschlusspanik, which refers to that panicky sensation of time running out.)

When we arrived at the airport, we learned that our flight was delayed by an hour, giving us time for a quick lunch and postponing the acceptance process by another 60 minutes. The Roti Hut is just down the road, so it seemed like the perfect spot to grab a bite and still make it back to the airport in time for our flight.

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Now, I don't know if it's because I am dressed in street clothes, or because the breeze inexplicably dies down, or because the temperature somehow shoots up by 25 degrees, but every time we head to the airport after a trip to the tropics, it is always the hottest day of the entire trip, unbearably hot, and I invariably develop a bad case of THTDH ("The Heat is Too Damn Hot"). (Angel suspects that I fake overheating just to avoid carrying my own luggage. I don't, but I will keep that idea in my back pocket for when it's time to do laundry or take out the trash.) And so it was at the Roti Hut -- a place with less air circulation than a hermetically sealed space capsule -- that a most severe case of THTDH set in and I nearly passed out in a pool of my own sweat.

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I fanned myself with the menu. Angel pursed his lips and blew cool air on me. Finally I gave up and chugged a bottle of Heineken, then ordered a second one to serve as a cold compress for my sweaty forehead.

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Right as I was on the verge of heatstroke, the roti arrived and I managed to perk back up. That's because what Roti Hut lacks in ambiance and AC, it makes up for with the roti: They were soft, pillowy, just-spicy-enough, and loaded with perfectly fork-tender chicken and veggies.

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Too soon, it was time to head back to the airport. As we unloaded our bags from the trunk and bid farewell to our sand-covered rental car, I began to accept my fate and allowed Angel to drag me to the gate.

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It wasn't easy, but chugging that Heinie at the Roti Hut definitely helped.

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Angel recovered from his stomach bug; I recovered from my heatstroke right after Angel carried my luggage into the airport; and soon it was on to the next trip! Come along for a butterball turkey bomb in the Hudson Valley, a "best of" tour of the City of Gluttony Love, a freaky-tiki good time on Anna Maria Island, a fritter-eating contest in the Conch Republic (the smart money's on yours truly!), and one very hoppin' hula hut in the Hamptons. Oh, and that luggage-less trip to Anguilla! Click here to subscribe and you'll receive an email from Travellerspoint when a new post goes up.

Can't wait that long? Follow me on Instagram @thewayfaringfoodie to see what we're eating and drinking in the meantime!

Posted by TraceyG 07:08 Archived in Anguilla Tagged dolce_vita shoal_bay roti-hut tropical_sunsets Comments (6)

Labor Day in Key West. Literally.

In the great annals of First World Problems, it's hard to top, "I'm going to miss Labor Day in the Hamptons because I have to spend the weekend in Key West." I know. I knowww. But a new tenant was moving into our condo in Casa Marina, and because we are what some people call "fastidious" and others call "on the spectrum," we decided to fly down to ensure that the place would be ready. (Sure, we could have hired someone to inspect the place and make sure it was up to snuff, but have you ever seen my meticulous husband clean something? You'd think we let Ebola patients lick our plates.) And so we hopped a quick flight to Key West for what was shaping up to be a charmed visit indeed.

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Well, at least until we arrived. Because sweet baby Jesus, it was hot. And lord, it was stifling. It was like being waterboarded by a sopping wet towel fresh out of a hot dryer, which doesn't even make any sense. That's how hot it was.

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We cabbed it over to the condo, where we were mercifully greeted by the shady tropical gardens and inviting pool.

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There's a man in New York City named Jimmy McMillan who turns up every four years to run for mayor. McMillan's political party is called, "The Rent is Too Damn High," a phrase that also happens to be his entire political platform. A reporter might ask about his position on, say, the treatment of carriage horses in New York, and McMillan will respond, "Ain't no money to be takin' carriage rides, because THE RENT . . . IS TOO DAMN HIGH!" Or a debate moderator will ask what McMillan proposes to do about the city's broken educational system, to which he will respond, "All I learned in school is that THE RENT . . . IS TOO DAMN HIGH!"

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I was the Jimmy McMillan of Key West. No matter what anyone said to me, my response was the same. "Where do you want to go for lunch?" Angel would ask, to which I would respond, "Who cares? I'll be dead before we get there because THE HEAT . . . IS TOO DAMN HOT!" "Do you want to ride down Duval or Simonton?" he'd press. "What does it matter? The asphalt's melted clean off of both of them, because THE HEAT . . . IS TOO DAMN HOT!" Everywhere we went, I muttered this phrase over and over under my breath, while the sweat collected in the crooks of my elbows and my hair swelled to angora-rabbit proportions.

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But before we could go oozing around town, we first had to take inventory of our supplies.

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We had a handful of cleaning products, but a closet full of coat hangers. Priorities.

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After a short discussion, we decided that Angel should start working while I rode to the store to pick up the items we still needed.

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I idiotically thought I'd gotten the sweeter end of the deal, until I stepped outside and beads of perspiration popped out of my pores with an audible zoink, like a nervous cartoon character in the face of an oncoming freight train.

But the alternative was scrubbing the walls with a toothbrush, or cleaning in between the hardwood floorboards with a pair of tweezers, or whatever other painstaking projects Angel had invented for himself, so I soldiered on. Despite the disorienting heat, I still managed to remember the most important items on my list: Potato chips and piña coladas.

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Now, Angel has a lot of great qualities, but unfortunately being lazy isn't one of them. When there is a task at hand, he absolutely refuses to slack off or take a break until the task is completed, thoroughly and perfectly. Which is great when the task is buying me a birthday present, but not so great when that task is scrubbing grout.

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Even the Rain Man of Household Chores has to eat, though, and so I dragged him off to Southernmost for nachos and key lime coladas.

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The three-minute bike ride from Southernmost back to our condo was a sickeningly sticky affair, so as soon as we arrived back home, I pulled my bike inside the gate, dropped it to the ground, and sprinted headlong into the pool fully-clothed, crying out, "SWEET RELIEF!!!!" as the pool overflowed with gallons of my sweat.

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That night, Angel calculated that he'd lost approximately 82 minutes and 45 seconds of work thanks to that lunch at Southernmost, so for dinner he suggested that we stay in and order pizza.

The weather outside was an actual pizza oven anway, so it did make sense. Plus, I'd lost approximately 15 lbs. of water weight that day and needed to bulk up. Who needs one of those plastic sweat suits when you've got summer in Key West?

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The next day we woke early to squeeze in a bike ride before the day got too hot.

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We lasted about 20 minutes before calling in for reinforcements.

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Soon it was time for lunch, so this time I dragged Angel to one of our go-to spots, Agave 308.

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We settled in at our usual table in the window and ordered up our favorite drinks on the island: A sweet-tart Paloma made with strawberry-infused tequila, grapefruit juice, and muddled strawberries for me, and a Mexican Mule with ginger syrup, fresh lime, and a skewer of candied ginger for Angel.

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As, er, side dishes, we split an order of chips and salsa, then enjoyed the island gazpacho topped with blue crab salad and the roast pork tacos with spicy slaw.

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Later, the bartender brought us an experimental freebie: A "Samoa" cookie with house-made vanilla tequila, coconut, and dark chocolate. Or as Angel called it, a Girl Scout with a driver's license.

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We worked nonstop the rest of the day, and that evening my furtive texts for help were finally answered when our friends Mark and Steve invited us over for dinner. Angel reluctantly put aside his latest project (I think he was perfecting the trim in the kitchen with an eyeliner brush) and we pedaled over, making a quick stop at funky Vino's on Duval to pick up some wine.

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Mark runs the fabulous Key West Food and Wine Festival, which is a great event if you like food, wine, and seeing how much your liver can take before it cries "uncle." It soon became apparent that Mark had decided to do a dry-run for the fest that evening, serving up everything from grilled lobster and shrimp to steak, corn on the cob, asparagus, and melon and prosciutto skewers, along with roughly 6 bottles of wine . . . per person.

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We enjoyed great food and good, if rather opinionated, company.

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For dessert, Mark's friend Joey, a pastry chef extraordinaire, brought some coconut cake. If you've ever seen an episode of "When Animals Attack," then you know how the cake came to look like this after about 30 seconds.

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The next day we gathered up anyone who wasn't still passed out from the night before and hoofed it over to Santiago's Bodega for a little hair of the dog.

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The fire was just to make sure everyone was fully awake.

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That afternoon we divided up the remaining tasks at the condo: Angel spent the afternoon using one of those CSI-style ultraviolet lights to ferret out invisible stains on the plantation shutters, while I lounged in the pool with a key lime colada.

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After a few hours we assessed our progress and decided that the house was probably clean enough to pass inspection by the folks who sterilize hospital burn units, which meant that Angel was somewhat pleased with our work thusfar. We decided to celebrate at Kelly's happy hour, because nothing says a job well done like a bowl full of melted cheese.

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The key lime margaritas at Kelly's turned into dark rum pina coladas at Louie's, and at that point there was no turning back: It was time to get down with our bad selves, as well as any poor unsuspecting bystanders, at the Green Parrot.

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I decided to take the next morning's sluggish pace as a sign that Angel was due for a break and, more importantly, I was due for a burger. And so we headed off to Frita's Cuban Burgers, where the menu promised an explosion of flavor on a freshly-baked Cuban roll.

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Frita's manages to squeeze an impressive amount of tropical bric-a-brac, homages to Cuba, and even bartender roulette into its charming little space.

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If you need to eat-a-Frita on the fly, there's also a food truck outside.

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We grabbed two seats at the tiny bar inside and ordered up a round of the house special, sangria slushies.

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We both had to try the signature frita, a beef and pork patty seasoned with garlic and Spanish spices, then topped with spicy ketchup and crispy shoestring fries.

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To that we added cheese arepas, freshly-baked empanadas, and a plate of rice 'n' beans that put all others to shame: Coconut-ginger jasmine rice with black beans, sweet plantains, and salsa verde, all smothered in melted cheese.

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And a cute little flan for Angel.

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The next day was our last full day of work, and it was sure to be a long one. We decided to fuel up with egg white omelets and fresh juice.

Just kidding! We had cheesesteak spring rolls.

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In addition to the Breakfast of Champions, the Rum Barrel on Front Street also has some healthy options, like fresh green salads and grilled fish.

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Along with that "juice" I mentioned earlier.

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It was our last evening on island, so we met up with friends for dinner at Azur to take advantage of their locals'-only summer special.

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All food and wine was half-off, so we decided that the best way to get our money's worth was to order everything on the menu and let the savages fight it out.

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I don't know who thought it would be funny to pile up all those wine glasses in front of me for this photo, but the joke's on you if you think you're getting your glass back afterwards.

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On our last day, our writer/blogger/photographer friend Claudia drove down to Key West for a planned stay on nearby Sunset Key, and invited us over to the island for lunch. Although our flight home was scheduled for that afternoon, the timing seemed doable, so I agreed.

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I knew, however, that Angel would consider every possible scenario, and a whole bunch of impossible ones, before ultimately deciding that it would be way too risky to make the 10-minute boat ride over to Sunset Key on the same day that our flight was to depart. What if the boat breaks down? What if it sinks? What if it is torpedoed by a wayward Navy jet, or destroyed by a large mechanical shark? The variables were many, and thus my chances of getting Angel to agree were slim.

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Or so I thought. Turns out, inhaling all those cleaning-product fumes was good for something.

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As fate would have it, we ended up on the same boat over as Claudia, which gave us a little extra time to get caught up before lunch.

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Or, you know, to post a quick Snapchat.

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A cruise ship was in port as we departed, and while cruises are not my cup of tea, it's hard not to marvel at how man can design 150,000 tons of steel to stay afloat, but cannot invent a pair of pantyhose that doesn't run within 20 minutes of putting them on.

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Upon arrival, we asked for a table indoors so we could eat in air-conditioned comfort, which is really a crime at a place as lovely as Latitudes. Still, it beat branding my forearm on one of those wrought-iron chairs baking outside in the sun.

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After settling in, we ordered up an assortment of libations and then got down to the serious business of food styling.

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Next up, a photogenic tuna tartare with miso-yuzu aioli, a perfectly posed lobster and crab cake with grilled corn salsa, and a casually candid fish sammich with key lime tartar sauce.

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Our lunch was over all too quickly, and soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Key West to catch our flight.

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As usual, we skidded into the airport with just minutes to spare, worn out and exhausted, and even though the airport was nice and cool, I found myself again thinking of Jimmy McMillan's catchphrase, but tweaked just a bit.

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"THIS VISIT . . . WAS TOO DAMN SHORT!"
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What's up next? A marvelous Moondance in Anguilla, death-defying feats of stupidity in the Hudson Valley, a boozy "swingers" weekend in Philadelphia, and a rockin' New Year's Eve at an old folks home on Anna Maria Island. Check back soon or click here to subscribe and you'll receive an email when a new post goes up!

Just want more Key West? Come on vacation, leave on probation.

Posted by TraceyG 04:51 Archived in USA Tagged key_west santiago's green_parrot key_west_food_and_wine_festival southernmost_beach_cafe Comments (9)

A Weekend in East Hampton: Fancy That

One of the things I enjoy most about writing a travel blog is all the interesting people I've met as a result. Well, that and all the free food.

And so, when I received an email from Carol -- the manager and resident den mother at East Hampton's posh Huntting Inn and the former co-owner of Mango's Seaside Grill in Anguilla -- inviting me and Angel to be her guests at the Huntting Inn for a weekend, I jumped at the chance. Because what could I possibly enjoy more than some lively conversation about two of my favorite places?

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Well, anyway.

East Hampton is believed to be the first English settlement in the state of New York, built on land purchased from the Montaukett Indians in 1639. Through strict zoning and preservation laws, the town retains much of its colonial history today.

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It also maintains a little bit of its natural beauty, too.

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The Huntting Inn is the quintessential country inn and the place to stay in East Hampton.

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Occupying a prime spot on the village's chi-chi Main Street, the Inn was built in 1699 for the second Presbyterian minister of East Hampton, Reverend Nathaniel Huntting, who raised 10 children there with his wife Mary, who presumably died of exhaustion.

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Today, the Inn has the comfortable, worn-in feel of your grandma's country house, with beach chairs and umbrellas lining the halls, magazines and restaurant menus piled high near the cozy couches and on the covered porches, and board games resting on the hearth of the centuries-old stone fireplace, awaiting the occasional rainy day.

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A bright breakfast room serves up fruit, pastries, and fresh-squeezed juices in the morning.

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Outside, the manicured grounds are dotted with inviting benches and other places to enjoy the sunshine.

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I just wish someone had told us to bring the Rolls or the Bentley.

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The rooms are spacious, done up in soothing shades of sea and sky and sand, with large ensuite baths and plenty of thoughtful touches, like fresh-cut flowers from the Inn's garden, and dark-colored towels for removing makeup.

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We typically drive out to the Hamptons after work on Thursday or Friday and return to the city late on Sunday, so the drive takes about an hour and a half each way. But on this particular weekend we departed mid-afternoon, and apparently so did all eight million people who live in this city, since the normally 90-minute drive took a whopping 240 minutes. I'm no mathematician, but that's 15 miles an hour . . . for FOUR HOURS.

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If that isn't enough to drive you to drink, I don't know what is. And so you can probably understand why we needed to make a pit stop in Bridgehampton before continuing on at our snails-are-passing-us pace.

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One of our year-round favorites, Almond restaurant in Bridgehampton boasts 100-year-old tin ceilings, classic white subway tile, and on-trend "bottled" cocktails, which allow the mixologist to fine-tune a particular concoction and bottle it, ensuring that it's perfect every time.

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Though a lemongrass-infused Cosmo with house-made cranberry syrup is pretty much perfect all the time.

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Of course, you couldn't really blame anyone for wanting to be in the Hamptons that weekend. It was late September, that heavenly sliver of time between summer and fall when the ocean is at its warmest, temperatures hover in the low 80s, and the sky turns a deep cobalt blue. Late-harvest tomatoes compete with pumpkins and squash for bin space at the farm stands, red and gold mums start popping up in window boxes, and in the villages, shop windows gradually transition from sundresses and espadrilles to chunky sweaters and cashmere wraps.

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After checking in with Carol and settling in to our room, it was soon time for dinner, so we made the short walk down Main Street to the 1770 House.

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The 1770 House actually dates back to 1663, when it was built as a private home; over 100 years later, in 1770, it was converted to an inn. Today, the inn is known for its famous "Tavern Meatloaf," which East Hampton's Ina Garten, also known as the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa, has been raving about on TV for almost as long as I've been raving about cheeseburgers on this blog.

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But this isn't just any pub grub, and so the Tavern -- located, speakeasy-style, down a dimly-lit, narrow flight of stairs -- is guarded by a gate, and an always-full reservations book.

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Seating is in a cozy, low-ceilinged room with comfy, pillow-strewn banquettes.

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We started off with a salad of local heirloom tomatoes, then moved on to the main event -- the famous meatloaf with garlic sauce for me, and the succulent short ribs for Angel, which you know are good when they can distract me from a meatloaf.

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For dessert, we couldn't resist the local berry crumble.

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The next morning we decided to walk off last night's meaty excesses along the East Hampton Village Nature Trail, which is just steps from the Inn.

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The Nature Trail ended not far from the Huntting Inn, but the day was so gorgeous that we decided to keep walking, past famed Further Lane and the other wide, tree-lined streets near the beach.

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Of course, when you're part of the one percent, massive hedges aren't enough; you're going to need a guard dog, too.

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But not just any dog.

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Or even just any dog.

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We finished our walk by making a wide loop toward the ocean.

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East Hampton: Where the huge mailboxes are sized proportionately to the bills deposited into them.

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We'd worked up quite an appetite after all that walking and stalking, so we made the short walk over to Cittanuova in the village for lunch. Blending sleek European style with a beachy Hamptons vibe, Cittanuova's glass pocket doors merge the airy indoor space with the shaded garden out back.

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We settled in at a cozy table near the soothing fountain, then tucked into two orders of the panzanella, which turned out to be the best I've ever had . . . including the ones I've had in Tuscany.

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Then it was on to a simple but satisfying spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and basil for me, and the panini with prosciutto San Daniele, stracchino cheese, arugula, tomato, and white truffle oil for the Ange.

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After lunch we milled around the village for a bit, taking in the sights.

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By late afternoon the sun was hot and our wallets were empty, so we decided to stop by Main Beach for a bit, using the beach passes provided by the Inn.

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While there are an unlimited number of beach passes for those lucky enough to own property in East Hampton, for non-residents -- those who can bear to part with upwards of $900,000 to rent a house for the summer -- the town issues only 2,900 coveted permits each season. And so stories of bribery, threats, tears, and extortion abound, involving everyone from federal judges and Congressmen to actors and hedge-fund moguls.

Which is why, for just the briefest of moments, I giddily contemplated auctioning that beach pass on eBay.

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The ocean breeze made us thirsty, so we headed off to Bay Kitchen Bar, which overlooks East Hampton's Three Mile Harbor.

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I'd heard that Bay Kitchen Bar had added juleps to their cocktail list, so we snagged two water-view seats on the upper level patio and ordered up a Blackberry Julep with muddled mint, blackberries, bourbon, agave, and lime, and a Root Beer Float Julep with vanilla vodka, root beer, bourbon, and vanilla extract.

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We moved down to the Adirondacks on the lawn as the sun began to go down.

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There, we were joined by this friendly speckled chicken? miniature turkey? No wonder the locals call us citiots.

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That evening we had reservations to take Carol to dinner at the Huntting Inn's Palm steakhouse.

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The place was packed, and even with all of Carol's pull, we still ended up waiting over an hour for our table to be ready.

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That turned out to be a lucky break, as it gave us plenty of time for chatting and laughing and wine-drinking, and although I had brought my camera along, I respected our lovely hostess's protestations that she was feeling somewhat camera-shy.

What I can tell you is that Carol has lived enough life for at least two or three people, and she recounted much of it in hilarious detail, regaling us with stories of her former life as a nun, her years of being relentlessly pursued by her eventual ex-husband, the late Mango Dave, and her stint operating one of Anguilla's best-loved restaurants, Mango's (including through Hurricane Luis, which destroyed the restaurant shortly after it opened).

Finally, our table was ready, and we wasted no time in ordering up a feast of steakhouse favorites: Fried calamari, veal parmigiana, filet Oscar, macaroni & cheese, creamed spinach, and cheesecake for dessert.

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Best of all, we didn't have far to go to crawl into bed afterwards.

The next morning we stopped by Round Swamp Farm, which you might recognize as the market where celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Eric Ripert, and Geoffrey Zakarian like to get their produce when they're out east.

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But of course I wasn't there for the celebrities, and I definitely wasn't there for the veggies. I was there for the fried chicken.

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And maybe some other stuff, too.

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Soon it was time for lunch, and again the day's weather dictated that we spend it outside. So we decided to make the short hop over to Montauk for lunch at the Montauket.

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Perched high on a bluff overlooking Fort Pond Bay, the Montauket is one of the last holdouts of the old fishing-village era of Montauk, which is unfortunately being rapidly replaced by a trendy young crowd looking to expand ever eastward from the Hamptons. (One can only hope that they eventually keep going and fall into the ocean end up on Block Island.)

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The Montauket's vibe and décor are genuinely old-school, which provides a nice change from all the hipster spots in Montauk that have spent thousands of dollars and hired teams of architects, designers, and consultants in an attempt to look . . . genuinely old-school. But despite those efforts, I doubt any of them have one of these:

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Lunch was good, but it couldn't compete with the fantastic view.

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After lunch we headed over to one of my favorite spots to while away a sunny afternoon, the Montauk Yacht Club on Star Island.

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Originally built in 1929, MYC underwent an extensive renovation a few years ago and now boasts everything from a surf camp and sailing lessons to nightly bonfires and S'mores during the summer. Done up in spiffy navy and white for the boating set, it's the perfect spot to take in the view while enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine.

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Or some truffle fries covered in flurry of Parmigiano-Reggiano slivers.

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The afternoon passed in a happy haze of sun and sea.

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Before we knew it, it was time to head over to Montauk Harbor, where we planned to take a private sunset cruise.

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The captain had told us we could bring our own beverages, so we made a pit stop at Lynn's Hula Hut for a couple of Hula Juices to bring aboard, then grabbed some sweatshirts from the stash we keep in the trunk, just in case. (It's the Hamptons: You never know when you might find yourself at an evening clam bake, a bonfire on the beach, or frozen out by an air conditioner set to 60 degrees because some socialite showed up to dinner in a fur . . . in July).

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Montauk Harbor is actually the northern part of Lake Montauk; a cut allows boaters to access Block Island Sound and, beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean.

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Although it was early evening when we set off, the cloud-speckled sky was already giving us an inkling that that night's sunset was going to be a good one.

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As the sky turned a rosy pink, we plied the waters of Montauk Harbor and were treated to the sight of the fishing boats returning with the day's catch.

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And as predicted, the sunset was spectacular.

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Soon it was time to head home, but not before a pit stop at one of our favorite Mexican dives, La Superica in Sag Harbor.

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Of course, because this is the Hamptons, that dive has a water view and plays host to sailors from the Breakwater Yacht Club after their Wednesday night races, but you know us: We're not too picky.

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Besides, is there any better way to end the weekend than with frozen margaritas and overflowing platters of enchiladas?

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I don't think so, either.

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Want more Hamptons? Click here for my A to Z rundown of everything to gobble, guzzle, and gaze at on my favorite little strip of sand!

Posted by TraceyG 10:44 Archived in USA Tagged montauk hamptons sag_harbor east_hampton cittanuova 1770_house bay_kitchen_bar the_palm huntting_inn montauket round_swamp_farm la_superica Comments (9)

March Madness, Part 1: Miami Vice(s)

It was supposed to be five days of rest, relaxation, and respite from that annual 30-day preview of hell, also known as March. We'd hop a quick, 2.5 hour flight to Miami, then spend our days lounging poolside with mojitos and chilled ceviche. Come evening, we'd enjoy a round of cocktails on a swanky rooftop overlooking the city, dine on Floribbean cuisine in trendy South Beach, then retire to our Art Deco-inspired bungalow for a night swim in our private pool. Sip, swim, rinse, repeat.

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It didn't quite turn out that way.

First, our friends Ellen and Brian got wind of our plans, and though we were thrilled and flattered that they were going to fly in from California to join us for a few days, we were not expecting them to do so on such short notice. ("Short notice" to people like me and Angel being anything less than a year.) And so plans were rearranged, reservations were revised, and nightclubs somehow found their way onto the agenda. Plans to sleep in were replaced with plans to sleep when we were dead.

Second, there was the city of Miami itself, which I hadn't properly visited since the turn of the Millennium. True to its nickname as the "Manhattan of the South," the city was a maddening mix of the gorgeous and the gaudy, the sophisticated and the seedy, the effortless and the exhausting. By the end of our trip I couldn't decide whether to put a down payment on a beachfront condo or punch the mayor in the gut.

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And I might have leaned toward the former, but for the third unexpected hitch in our plans: ULTRA.

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Have you heard of this thing? If, like me, you last set foot in a nightclub when Bill Clinton was still in office, you can be forgiven if the answer is no. The Ultra Music Festival, as it's formally known, is a three-day-long EDM bacchanal during which tens of thousands of twenty-somethings converge on the city to hear a bunch of DJs with names like Knife Party, Carnage, Jackal, and Destroid. (Thank god Laidback Luke and Marshmello were there to chill things out.)

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(By the way, did you have to look up what EDM stands for? If you thought it was some type of defibrillator that you might need when all those flashing lights cause you to have a seizure, then we are on the same page.)

Ultra is how I discovered that I am not the type of person who parties at a velvet-rope nightclub until 5am. I am that person's mother. But this is Miami, where the clubs don't get interesting until well past midnight and the pool parties go until 8 the next morning. And so we did our best to adapt to the half-naked hordes and people with tattoos. . . on their faces.

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But before we could immerse ourselves into the throbbing throngs of Ultra-goers, we had to pick up our rental car. Incredulous that we'd shown up even after learning that our visit would coincide with Ultra, the rental agent blurted out, "But this is the worst weekend . . . OF ALL TIME!!!" The "for old people like you" at the end of that sentence was implied, or at least I thought it was . . . until the agent "upgraded" us to that sexy Buick Lacrosse.

Anyway.

We jumped in our hot ride and made a beeline for Sunset Place, an outdoor mall in South Miami. That neighborhood is home to several local universities, and therefore where I knew I'd find the mecca for stoned college students everywhere: the Mellow Mushroom.

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It also happens to be the mecca for people who love pizza as much as I do, which is to say, enough to break down this door if I have to.

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Then again, I think we all know what my first love is. Even Mellow Mushroom knows it.

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Still, coming in second-place on my list of foods that I love more than Angel is not too shabby.

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Like all Mellow Mushroom locations, the one in South Miami is groovy and psychedelic.

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They even had green beer in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Either that, or the mushrooms on Angel's Holy Shiitake pie started to kick in.

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I went with a simple pepperoni pie, since just the thought of pizza makes me crazy enough already.

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After lunch we headed north to Miami Shores, a pretty, tree-lined enclave that we picked for its proximity to Wynwood, Brickell, and other neighborhoods we planned to explore.

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You know you're in a fancy zip code when instead of stray cats, stray peacocks roam the streets.

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Among all this ostentatious opulence, we'd rented a cozy bungalow with a carport and a private pool, both of which were life-savers on a weekend where $50 cash-only valets, $500-a-lounger pool parties, and reservation-only rooftops were the norm.

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That evening we decided to go retro for Happy Hour at the 1950s-era Vagabond Motel in Miami's hip MiMo district, an acronym for Miami Modern -- or, in the case of the Vagabond, Midcentury Modern.

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The bartenders take their mojitos seriously here, and I take my hot bartenders seriously, so it was a win-win.

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Plus there were cushy day beds for post-mojito napping.

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And little red wagons to haul around your beach towels or sunscreen or vodka.

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And thrones! With their own ottoman. Yessss.

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As the sun began to set, we sunk deeper into our daybeds and found ourselves zoning out to the house music provided by the DJ. Yes, actual music, as opposed to the Morse Code we'd been hearing elsewhere.

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Indeed, we were having such a good time at the Vagabond that we repeatedly pushed back our dinner reservations at nearby Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill by 15-minute increments, ultimately arriving about 10 minutes late for our "current" reservation, and over an hour past our original one.

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But we found everyone in Miami to be so friendly and accommodating that, when we finally showed up and had to wait approximately three minutes to be seated, the hostess apologized to us for the wait. (In New York they would just stab you in the neck with a rusty fork before informing you that the next available table is at 4:30pm three Tuesdays from now.)

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As it turns out, though, Sugarcane would have been worth any wait. From the creative cocktails (the Tobacco Rum Old Fashioned with homemade cigar bitters was a standout, as was the Louisiana Purchase, made with Four Roses bourbon, vanilla syrup, Scrappy’s chocolate bitters, and a local brown ale) to the scallop crudo with black truffle, lime, and jalapeno, to the American Wagyu sliders topped with a Japanese-inspired tonkatsu sauce and fried quail eggs, everything we ordered was absolutely fantastic, and served quickly and with a smile, even though the place was packed.

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As a fitting end to our first full day in Miami, we arrived back at the bungalow full of burgers and bourbon and ready for a night swim . . . in our flamingo-pink pool.

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The next day we had lunch reservations at one of the city's Art Deco landmarks, The Raleigh in South Beach.

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No, we didn't bike there, but we should have. It really is the worst weekend of all time when you have to beg some guy in an empty, overgrown lot to let you park your car for 1.5 hours for anything less than a Benjamin.

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We'd planned to spend the day sipping cocktails at the Raleigh's chic pool, but thanks to Ultra, the loungers that usually rent for $25 a day were suddenly $250, and accompanied by an all-day lineup of DJs playing a bunch of songs that sounded like R2D2 when he's trying to tell C3PO something really important.

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Still, the food at the Raleigh, like everywhere else we went in Miami, was excellent, and the gorgeous garden was right up my alley.

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Plus, more thrones. I'm really liking this whole Tropical Westeros thing Miami's got going on.

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Lunch started off with a couple of cocktails: A hashtagged affair called the #belegendary, with Grey Goose Le Melon, St. Germaine, Champagne, and fresh cantaloupe, and the Rosey Ginger, made with vodka, rosemary sugar, ginger beer, fresh grapefruit, and lime.

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We then moved on to the panzanella salad for me, the blackened mahi sandwich with guacamole for Angel, and the absolute best truffle fries I've ever had, which were supposed to be for both of us, but you already know how that story goes.

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After lunch we set off for the Savoy Hotel, which has a lovely beachfront pool, a small bar that serves tasty frozen drinks, and music set at a level for anyone over 40 who doesn't yet need a hearing aid. Best of all, we could park easily nearby without auctioning off one of our kidneys.

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That evening we headed down to Brickell, with plans to have cocktails at the rooftop pool bar at the Viceroy.

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Serving as the financial district of Miami, we felt right at home in Brickell amid the skyscrapers and taxicabs.

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When we pulled up at the Viceroy, however, a valet once again tried to extort $50 from us to park our car for an hour. But this time when we balked, he admitted, "Yeah, I wouldn't do it, either!" and directed us around the corner to the cheap-by-comparison metered parking.

Parking woes aside, the view from the 15th floor pool deck was lovely, and there were lots of comfy seating options around, and even in, the pool.

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We settled on a rail-side table and ordered up a couple of cocktails.

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As day drew to a close, the city lit up, making a good view even better.

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Back inside, we took in the Alice-in-Wonderland décor that the Viceroy hotels are known for.

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After a quick nap on this nice bed/throne (more thrones!), it was on to dinner at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne.

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It was a clear, gorgeous night, with a perfect view of the Miami skyline from our waterside table.

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The inside of the restaurant was just as inviting, with floor-to-ceiling windows and an enormous wine "cellar."

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Dinner at the Rusty Pelican starts with a generous loaf of insanely addictive cornbread, served with parmesan-chili butter topped with paprika and onion salt. I admit that sounds a bit weird, but the overall effect is spicy, buttery, cheesy, and sweet, which I think encompasses at least three of the four food groups.

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I started off with the salmon tartare with crispy jicama and an Asian pear and avocado salad in a soy-yuzu dressing, while Angel went with the coconut and shrimp bisque with roasted corn and grilled peppers.

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For mains, I decided on the lobster risotto, which -- lucky me! -- was actually a huge lobster tail with risotto.

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Angel went with the Patagonian toothfish, which is what folks used to call it before marketers decided that "Chilean sea bass" (which isn't even bass, but cod) sounded much more appetizing. The toothfish was served with a smoked sweet plantain mash, grilled Anaheim peppers, and an exotic mango-papaya salsa, and was so delicious that you can call it Blobfish for all I care.

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After dinner, we finished the last of our bottle of Albariño around one of the Pelican's many waterside fire pits.

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On the way out, we were reminded once again that we were in Miami . . . and this time, it wasn't just because they charged us for valet.

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Ellen and Brian arrived the next morning on a redeye from LA, so we'd planned nothing more strenuous than renting a couple of private cabanas at the Palms Hotel in South Beach.

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Equipped with WiFi, DirecTV, an iPod docking station, two loungers inside the cabana (for shade), and two more right outside (for sun), we parked ourselves on the loungers, where Brian promptly fell asleep, Ellen worked on her tan, Angel checked baseball scores on his phone, and I spent the afternoon dipping French fries into Ranch dressing (don't knock it till you've tried it).

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A private "butler" attended each cabana, delivering pink lemonades spiked with citrus-infused vodka, hummus platters, and the aforementioned fries, along with anything else we might want to eat, drink, or lick off of postage stamps (I'm kidding about that last one! Then again, it was Ultra weekend).

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It was a lovely afternoon, made even better by the little gifts Ellen brought me: kitty socks, pineapple socks, and body lotion . . . in an owl jar.

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That evening, Angel and I decided to check out the new 1Hotel, which was the Gansevoort before a $500 million renovation to "green" the place up. Those efforts include lobby ceilings made of wood reclaimed from water towers in Alaska, furniture crafted from fallen trees from South American rainforests, and hallways accented with wood from trees felled by mountain pine beetles. The overall effect is, well, woodsy.

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The use of natural materials continued upstairs on the main pool deck, with the addition of bamboo, muslin, and lots of sand.

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We ordered up a couple of drinks and some tostones at the Sand Box while waiting for Ellen and Brian to arrive.

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Ellen and Brian soon joined us, and we decided to head up to the roof deck, which boasts the largest oceanfront rooftop pool in Miami. Assured when we'd called earlier that the rooftop would not be hosting any private Ultra events that evening, we headed to the elevator that would take us to the rooftop, and that's where things got tricky.

Apparently the elevator attendant had been instructed to manage the rooftop crowd, but had not been instructed as to how to do that. And so our attempts to access the rooftop elevator (in varying combinations of the four of us) were met with increasingly fantastical reasons as to why we couldn't do so, including (Attempt 1) "There are too many people up there and it's a fire emergency," (Attempt 2) "The cover charge is $250 per person," (Attempt 3) "It's a special event; drinks are $250 each," and (Attempt 4) "You can't go up there because there are wild elephants." Fine, I made that last one up, but I am sure that was coming next if we hadn't finally executed the Jedi Mind Trick and said, "Yes, a $250 cocktail sounds perfect," at which point the poor guy just gave up and let us on the elevator.

The irony? The rooftop was dead. And they were serving only one drink at the bar -- yes, one -- which was reasonable enough at $15, though not for what amounted to a gussied-up pina colada.

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Still, the views were incredible, the gussied-up coladas weren't half bad, and I didn't hear anyone mutter, "Who let Grandma in here, and why isn't she at home watching 'Matlock'?" so we stayed for a bit before heading off to dinner at Dolce.

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Dolce, which won Bravo TV's "Best New Restaurant" competition last year, is a popular spot at the Gale Hotel on bustling on Collins Avenue in South Beach.

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There, we feasted on meatballs over polenta, spaghetti alla chitarra, straccetti alla Bolognese, and lobster mezzelune.

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It had been a long day, and by the time we finished eating ourselves into a carb coma, Ellen and Brian were understandably exhausted. And so they headed back to their hotel, while Angel and I made our way back to the 1Hotel, where we'd left the car for the evening.

While Angel waited for the valet, I popped into the lobby to take some photos, and unexpectedly encountered what has to be the chillest scene in Miami: A duo (with bongos!) was playing Latin-inspired covers of laid-back pop songs, while well-dressed couples lounged on the sprawling lobby's various beds and couches, barefoot, sipping Champagne.

I'd finally found my people.

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I spun on my high heel and dashed through the lobby, hoping to catch Angel before the valet brought the car around. (As I sprinted, a man called out, "Miss, be careful! You almost stepped on a frog!" Which either means that the 1Hotel is so green that there are actual frogs here, or that was the worst pick-up line ever. Either way, only in Miami.)

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We ordered up a couple of cocktails, kicked off our shoes, and enjoyed the band until their last set.

It had been a long night, and we still had fritas to gobble, free Champagne to guzzle, art to ogle, and a party to crash. Click here for Part 2!
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Posted by TraceyG 04:58 Archived in USA Tagged miami raleigh vagabond dolce south_beach sugarcane mellow_mushroom brickell morenos_cuba Comments (0)

March Madness, Part 2: I Heart Wynwood

The next day, our friends Ellen and Brian decided to take it easy and grab lunch at their hotel, leaving me and Angel to swing by Moreno's Cuba in South Beach for some fritas.

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With its imported Cuban floor tiles, reclaimed wood, and selection of Cuban-style cigars, Moreno's is modeled after the Havana speakeasy the owner's uncle operated during the Cuban revolution, while the menu recalls the legendary restaurant at Cuba's famed Hotel Nacional, which the owner's grandfather ran. (All to be confirmed when we visit Havana in November 2017!)

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For the uninitiated, a frita is a thin beef and pork patty spiced up with cumin, paprika, and pepper, then topped with cheese and a mound of shoestring fries.

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Moreno's fritas were non-traditional -- the patty was thick, and served with regular fries on the side -- but when the burger looks like this, who am I to complain?

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After lunch we headed back to the bungalow, where I ordered my cabana boy to clean the pool . . . but not before bringing me a glass of wine.

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That evening we met up with Ellen and Brian for dinner at Bazi, a sexy, modern Asian spot at the historic Marlin Hotel.

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As we waited for our food, we realized that we didn't have any pictures of the four of us, so we made up for lost time.

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Though for some of these, we should have just lost the camera.

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We ordered an assortment of appetizers and fish dishes, including one with a mysterious pink sauce that looked scary but tasted delicious. Which brings to mind the first person who ever spied a lobster and thought, This thing's got five pairs of legs, enormous claws, a couple of hideously long antennae, and looks like a gigantic red cockroach. LET'S EAT IT!

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After dinner, we decided to have a nightcap at the Broken Shaker, a James Beard Award-winner that is widely regarded as Miami's best cocktail bar.

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And it is, if you appreciate concoctions like a Morning Routine with cachaca, blueberry yogurt, and granola (which I kind of did!), or the Voncey Cobbler, made with Appleton rum, ruby port, spiced pear, strawberry, lemon, and bitters.

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As we sipped our fancy cocktails, a bachelorette party dropped off some extra shots that they couldn't finish. That kind of behavior would have gotten you dragged out of Ellen's bachelorette party by your ear, but I digress.

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While Angel and Ellen secured our seats at the bar, Brian and I decided to have a look around.

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The building behind the pool was hosting a private party, so Brian and I hung around near the velvet rope at the base of the stairs to see if we could figure out what was going on. And because we are both so incredibly good-looking, the bouncer noticed us and asked, "Are you here for the Galore magazine party?" Why, yes. Yes, we are. And so we slipped on a couple of wristbands, donned a bevy of glow necklaces, and headed on up.

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The party was in full swing, with free punch (which was good), deafening hip-hop (which was not) and even a sighting of former Giants tight-end Jeremy Shockey (which was fine, but would have been way better if it had been Cam Newton CALL ME).

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Ellen and Brian departed the next morning, so Angel and I headed off to lunch at Lulu in the Grove, a trendy Coconut Grove tapas spot with an expansive outdoor patio.

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Though we'd had perfect weather since we'd arrived in Miami, that particular day was on the chilly side (74°!), so we opted to sit in the funky, industrial-inspired dining room instead.

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Once seated, we ordered up an assortment of tapas, including mac & cheese with manchego and fontina, ahi tuna tartare, truffle fries, pork tacos slow-braised in banana leaves & spices, and fish tacos with scallion vinaigrette.

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Oh, and cheesecake in a jar.

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In fact, we ordered so much food that the restaurant brought us a free round of Champagne to make up for the "wait."

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I think they just wanted to see if we'd down that, too.

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After lunch we decided to head over to Miami's up-and-coming Wynwood neighborhood. If South Beach is ground zero for club kids, then Wynwood is where their cooler, edgier counterparts go to get their art on.

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Admittedly, however, Wynwood didn't make much of a first impression.

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And so we did our best to blend in.

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But as we walked from the seedy outskirts to the heart of the neighborhood, it stole my heart completely: The talent on display was breathtaking.

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And knowing from Angel the skill involved in working with spray paint and markers, the sheer size and scale of many of the works was truly awe-inspiring.

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Other murals were fun and funky and colorful.

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And no paintable surface was exempt.

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Best of all, we got to watch some of the artists at work.

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It was hard to choose a favorite piece, but I think this gorgeous jellyfish by San Francisco-based fine artist and muralist Amandalynn might be it.

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Even the shops along the main drag weren't content to be run-of-the-mill.

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We'd spent hours wandering among the various murals, and soon it was time for refreshments. We ended up at The Butcher Shop, an outdoor beer garden and grill with an actual butcher shop out back.

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We loved the design of the Concrete Beach Brewery pint glasses, and even though the brewery wasn't open yet, they were kind enough to let us in early to pick up a set.

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That evening we met up with our friends Steph and Ari at Cecconi's at the Soho Beach House, a members-only club whose hotel rooms and restaurant are open to the public.

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The romantic garden at Cecconi's is lit with hundreds of twinkling lights strung among the trees.

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Cecconi's plays along with the Soho House's exclusivity theme, offering a "Friends of Cecconi's" key chain to loyal diners, which entitles them to special offers on meals, exclusive cooking classes, and wine tastings.

Of course Stephanie had a key.

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I don't know what Steph's key got us that night, but I do know that there should have been some kind of discount for ordering virtually everything on the menu.

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Then again, if that was the case, we'd never pay full price for another meal again.

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Ever wonder what we eat when we're not on vacation (and secretly hoping it's celery sticks and kale)? Follow me on Instagram @thewayfaringfoodie to find out!

Posted by TraceyG 05:52 Archived in USA Tagged graffiti miami lulu south_beach wynwood morenos_cuba bazi coconut_grove cecconi's Comments (3)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 1: My Cheatin' Heart

Do you remember when golfer Tiger Woods was married to the gorgeous Nordic goddess Elin Nordegren? She was stunning in her perfection, all tawny skin and baby-blonde hair and centerfold-worthy beach body. She bore him two equally stunning children, and even feigned interest in a sport so boring the players hire caddies to walk around with them and keep them awake. And then Woods cheated on her with a troupe of tramps sporting too little clothing and too much silicone, and everyone was left scratching their heads. What on earth was he thinking???

That's the best analogy I can come up with to explain why, after first discovering the island paradise of Anguilla back in 1997, we didn't just quit while we were ahead. We didn't accept perfection when it landed in our laps and, instead, like a fool who trades in a Rolls-Royce for a Ford Pinto, we flitted off to other islands, sure that something even better must be just another flight or ferry ride away.

It wasn't.

What we found instead were islands with so-so food, spotty electricity, and plastic wine glasses. What they lacked in modern conveniences, they made up for in spiders.

Some of them didn't even have ironing boards, for God's sake.

Anguilla, I'm sorry I cheated on you. You are Armani couture in a sea of saggy sweatpants; Dame Helen Mirren in a crowd of Kardashians. You are a Ferryboat cheeseburger in a passel of pink slimes. You are my everything.

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Our long-awaited reunion began during the 10-minute flight from St. Maarten. We cleared the island's lush green hills, then spent a few jumpy minutes over open water before Anguilla came into view. Flat, scrubby, and brown in spots . . . it was as breathtakingly beautiful as we remembered.

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Anguilla is known for its luxury hotels, and on past visits we've stayed everywhere from the oceanfront suites at Cap Juluca and Frangipani to the villas at Arawak and Rendezvous Bay Hotel, with stops at Ferryboat and Carimar in between. On this visit, though, we decided to forego the hotel altogether and rent a villa.

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Our first indication that we were going to love Sweet Return was the road leading up to it: An old-school dirt path so rocky and rut-filled that it prompted Ronnie Bryan to ask if perhaps there was another way up to the house, since the car we'd rented from him had just been painted.

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There was, but that path was even worse. And so the car rattled, our heads bobbled as if on springs, and our luggage took a beating . . . but there was no wiping the silly grins off our faces as we bounced along through the underbrush.

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Perched high on Isaac's Hill, Sweet Return was bright and open, with a gentle breeze flowing through the numerous windows positioned to catch the cooling trade winds. The stylish main house consisted of a combined living and dining area overlooking the pool, bookended by two spacious master suites with enormous stone baths. (I am not even going to mention the fact that those bathrooms were bigger than our kitchen in NYC. Then again, I use my oven for shoe storage, so who am I to complain?)

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You noticed that ultra-luxurious household appliance on the right, yes? That's how we knew we were back where we belonged.

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In fact, that kind of attention to detail turned out to be our favorite thing about Sweet Return. Umbrellas conveniently lined up right next to the front door. Baskets filled with towels handily placed right next to the pool. Bins full of sunscreen, bug spray, and first aid items all neatly organized and labeled. (With typed labels. Swoon.) They even labeled the light switches. Light switches! Forget the pool and the view: You had me at the dimmer switch.

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How to top all of these thoughtful touches? With a kitchen map, that's how. Sure, it was nice not having to haul my own iron and ironing board to Anguilla, but knowing that someone took the time to make a map of the kitchen so I didn't have to open five different cabinets to find a drinking glass? That is the stuff OCDreams are made of.

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The house even had a small, detached studio apartment, which would provide the perfect escape if you happen to be traveling with the kind of people who do not appreciate a good kitchen map.

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Best of all, the property manager at Sweet Return, a lovely woman named Catherine, confessed to being a longtime reader of this blog, and as a welcome gift she went out of her way to track down a favorite wine that I'd previously written about.

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Oh, and a cheese platter so generously Tracey-sized that we knew the wine couldn't have been just a lucky guess.

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It had been a long morning of travel, and the beach was just a stone's throw away. The sparkling pool beckoned. We'd traveled in our swimsuits to avoid missing a single minute of sunshine. But that cheese plate wasn't going to eat itself, so we slid into chairs at the dining table and gobbled up half a pound of goat cheese instead.

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Soon we were thirsty, and it was no accident that the villa was just across the street from CuisinArt. Nothing beats makeup sex when you patch things up with a lost love, but makeup mojitos run a close second.

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The afternoon slipped into that golden hour when the beach has emptied but the sun still lingers, and we embraced it like a friend we hadn't seen in a long while.

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Okay, fine, we almost squeezed it to death. Like I said, it had been waayyy too long.

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We were scheduled to spend nine nights on the island, but had approximately 42 restaurants on our list. If we were to make any headway, we were obviously going to have to double up. And so that evening, we set off for SandBar . . . and Dolce Vita. You know, in the interest of economy.

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We arrived at SandBar just in time for sunset, settled in at a waterside table, and kicked things off with a round of SandBar's eponymous mango and rum concoctions.

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We knew we'd be indulging in the divine pastas at Dolce Vita, so we stuck to the protein offerings at SandBar, sharing an order of the chicken satay with peanut sauce, along with the spicy pork tenderloin with chili-tamarind sauce.

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Once the sun had set, we walked the short distance down the beach to Dolce Vita.

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Dolce Vita, however, is not the kind of place where you can just show up. Preparations must be made. First, menus must be studied, past meals analyzed, and stomach capacity evaluated. Proper attire must be carefully chosen; billowy dresses for women and elastic-waist pants for men are preferred (potato sacks may be substituted in cooler weather). On the big day, breakfast is skipped and lunch entrees are kept on the light side to avoid spoiling dinner. (Hence, only half a pound of that goat cheese back at the villa.) You may whet the appetite with, say, some chicken skewers or spicy pork tenderloin, but anything more and you run the risk of having to leave behind an errant gnocchi or bite of lasagna.

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And you know Abbi checks.

We settled in to our "usual" corner table near the sand and ordered up two glasses of wine and Dolce Vita's heavenly tuna tartare.

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Then it was on to the melty, light-as-air homemade lasagna for me, and the evening's pasta special -- Anguillian lobster and shimp in a fragrant, garlicky white wine, butter, and lemon sauce -- for Angel.

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Abbi was his usual charming self, and after a few glasses of wine it seemed like a good idea to pose for a silly photo, sticking our bellies out in homage to the incredible meal we'd just enjoyed.

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Well, at least Abbi stuck his out. Ours just look like that.

After dinner, we bumped along the road back to Sweet Return, a star-scattered sky lighting our way.

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The hour was late, and it had been a long day of travel, but we somehow found the energy for a quick dip in the secluded pool before bed.

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We'd been back on island less than 12 hours, and already we'd enjoyed frosty drinks, delicious tapas, and a log of goat cheese. We'd been welcomed like old friends at Sweet Return and Dolce Vita, and stuffed ourselves silly with lasagna and lobster. Now, as we sunk our travel-weary bodies into the water, we plotted the next day's adventures: Lunch at Ferryboat Inn, an afternoon swim at Rendezous Bay, and tacos and tequila at Picante.

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And then, at long last, we fell into bed, as visions of cheeseburgers danced in our heads.

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Click here to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 10:49 Archived in Anguilla Tagged sandbar anguilla cuisinart dolce_vita sweet_return_villa Comments (17)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 2: And So We Meat Again

The next morning was the Happiest Day of the Year. No, not the day the kids go back to school -- the day we go to Ferryboat Inn for cheeseburgers.

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In order to give such a momentous occasion its due, I have begun petitioning the Government of Anguilla to do away with Whit Monday, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples of Jesus, and replace it with FBI Monday, which would celebrate the descent of hungry hordes upon Marjorie and Christian. Obviously it could be celebrated on any day of your choosing, except on Sundays when FBI is closed.

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Regular readers of this blog know that my love affair with the FBI cheeseburger is a long and passionate one, as I've spent many years swooning over its meaty magnificence both here and in numerous online forums. But for the newbies among us, I thought a little "how-to" guide for celebrating FBI Monday (as it shall henceforth be known) might come in handy.

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1. Prepare Accordingly

This one should be obvious: Do not plan to eat for two or three days prior to your visit. Getting too full to finish your burger is widely regarded as the second-worst possible outcome on FBI Monday. (The first would be waking up dead.) Tips for avoiding other unfavorable outcomes are described in sections 2 and 3 below.

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2. Plan a Diversion

The delightful and charming owners of Ferryboat Inn, Marjorie and her son Christian, have an equally delightful and charming dog named Angie. She also happens to be quite clever, because instead of begging at your table while you eat your burger, she simply hangs around nonchalantly near the steps and does this:

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It's almost impossible to say no to that face, but it's even harder to live with the guilt and regret of not hoarding every bite of that burger for yourself while you had the chance. I therefore recommend that you plan a diversion to keep Angie busy until you've finished eating.

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3. Take Extra Precautions

Obviously falling into a deep well or an open manhole is never exactly desirable, but falling into a deep well or open manhole on FBI Monday would be an absolute @#$%*& nightmare. Look alive, people!

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4. Dress Appropriately

As for clothing, you'll want to wear dark colors to avoid any potential grease, cheese, and/or drool stains, as well as something extra-forgiving to avoid public ridicule. (If you can arrange to spend the rest of the day in your pajamas, all the better.) Afterwards, under no circumstances should you consent to be seen in the nude by anyone other than your spouse, and even that is iffy unless his or her eyesight is as bad as Angel's.

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Appropriate footwear is also recommended.

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5. Patience is a Virtue

Most restaurants in Anguilla operate on island time, and Ferryboat is no exception. Luckily FBI has the island's best rum punches to keep you occupied while you wait patiently for your burger to arrive, along with a fantastic French onion soup to grease the skids.

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6. Assume the Position

Chances are good that once you start in on that burger, your dining companion, and possibly even other patrons, may start to get some ideas. It is therefore advisable to look as threatening as possible to avoid beggars, thieves, and those dreaded food-sharers who needle you for "just a bite" until the whole damn thing is gone. Not that I would ever do that, of course.

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In the event that you do not look tough enough to ward off the aforementioned cast of unsavory characters, sharp elbows will have to suffice.

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If, however, your bony elbows do not double as miniature harpoons the way mine do, a bodyguard may be necessary. If he happens to have a distracting set of dimples, consider it a bonus.

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7. Rebuff All Attempts at Interruption

Attempting to engage someone in conversation while they are eating a Ferryboat Inn cheeseburger is like calling the biggest football fan you know during the final minutes of a tied Super Bowl while his team is on the one-yard line: You just don't do it. Emergencies are no exception, though apologies may be offered: "I'm very sorry that alligator just amputated your foot; we can work on a tourniquet as soon as I'm done with this cheeseburger."

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Depending on your priorities, this advice also applies to consumption of rum punches.

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8. Safety First

A burger this good is bound to get messy (see #4, above). Extra protection, including safety goggles, beekeeper suits, and shower caps are recommended, but not required.

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9. Postpone the Inevitable

They cut pizzas into slices for a reason -- so people like me don't eat the whole thing in three bites. Consider applying this same logic to your burger to prolong your eating enjoyment.

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10. Declare Victory

Did you finish your burger without (1) ending up covered in a large Anguilla-shaped grease stain, (2) grudgingly sharing half of it with a sad-eyed dog, (3) stabbing your spouse in the hand with a fork, or (4) being hauled off by ambulance to the nearest cardiology center? Then congratulations, you've successfully celebrated Anguilla's newest holiday, FBI Monday!

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Even Angie was happy. Look at that smile!

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Having snatched victory from the jaws of Angie Angel defeat, we hung around for a bit to chat with Marjorie and Christian and our sweet waitress Rhona, which provided the perfect excuse to have another rum punch.

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Or two.

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Although conventional wisdom states that you should never go swimming after a large meal, I find that the benefits of submerging myself in water after FBI Monday are twofold: I am able to feel somewhat weightless (or at least as weightless as one can feel after consuming the equivalent of a week's worth of beef), and the general public is spared the terrifying sight of a 100-lb. woman who looks like she swallowed a hippopotamus.

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It had been a busy day at FBI -- you know how hectic the holidays can be -- so we decided to pick up dinner instead of going out. And so we set off for B&D BBQ for, well, more meat.

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We couldn't decide between the ribs and the chicken, so we ordered both, which come with rice 'n' peas, coleslaw, French fries, an enormous, pillowy Johnny cake, and a fight with your spouse over who gets the last rib.

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After all that, there was only one thing left to do.

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How else to cure a case of the meat sweats?
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Click here to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 04:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged ferryboat_inn feb_19 Comments (12)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 3: To Beet or Not to Beet

We awoke to another gorgeous day, with blue skies and warm breezes. Angel had inexplicably brought along a series of workout videos on his iPad, so we quickly settled into a morning routine: He cranked up the air conditioning and did his workout, while I lounged on the couch with a bowl of potato chips and shouted encouragements like, "Pick up those knees!" and "Move, maggot, move!"

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As for me, I descended the few steps into the pool, took a quick dip, got back out of the pool, and counted it as stair-climbing.

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We decided to head over to Smokey's for lunch because Cove Bay is usually calm and crystal-clear, and that cornhole game keeps everyone occupied at the west end of the beach, while we enjoy the peace and quiet at the east end.

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A friend once told me that the drunkest she'd ever been was not at a frat party, or on her 21st birthday, or when George Clooney announced that he would be marrying someone else. It was at Smokey's, and from the looks of this drink menu, you can understand why.

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We kicked things off with a tall, frosty pina colada topped with freshly-grated nutmeg, along with Smokey's "special" rum punch, which is exactly the same as their regular rum punch, except that you will need fewer of them before ending up face-first in the cornhole.

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We decided to share an order of the melt-in-your-mouth tuna tartare garnished with citrus, then wrapped things up (heh-heh) with a couple of savory chicken rotis, which were fragrant with yellow curry and loaded with tender chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

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Those roti had two vegetables in them, which is at least two too many for a vacation, so we ended up sharing some with our dining companion.

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The day was shaping up to be somewhat cloudy, leaving Cove Bay an otherworldly shade of green, and leaving us blissfully alone for the entire afternoon.

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Well, just us and Captain Morgan.

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Back at Sweet Return, we took a late afternoon swim before cleaning up for dinner.

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That evening, we had reservations at the lovely Jacala for dinner.

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Yes, we have heard the occasional rumblings about Jacala's host, Jacques, being somewhat brusque. (Someone recently asked what came with the hamburger and he responded, "Bread.") But just as Mango Dave wasn't really a jerk, he was just from New Jersey, Jacques isn't actually brusque . . . he's just from France. And in our experience, the French aren't gruff or snobby; they just appreciate politeness, succinctness, and good manners. And so we return here again and again, knowing that as long as we keep our elbows off the table, our napkins in our laps, and Freedom Fries, Napoleon, and Gerard Depardieu out of the conversation, we will not be tossed out like yesterday's poisson.

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With all of this in mind, we had just settled in at our candlelit waterside table and were expertly swirling and sniffing our glasses of Sancerre and congratulating ourselves on our impeccable table manners when the unthinkable happened.

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An amuse-bouche arrived, two small shot glasses filled to the brim . . . with the vilest substance known to man. No, not Mountain Dew. It was my bête noire . . . BEETS! Beet soup, to be exact, not that the form mattered: Those tiny shot glasses might as well have been oil tankers, such were my chances of actually being able to choke one down.

I stole a desperate glance at Angel, who looked as though Jacques had set a very large tarantula in front of him and asked him to eat that instead. He bravely took the tiniest of sips, then winced and forced down a gag. So much for my plans to pawn my shot glass off on him.

We knew that we were probably on shaky ground at this most Francophile of restaurants already, being both American and fat, the latter thanks to yesterday's cheeseburger and rum punch-a-palooza. But both of us absolutely détestons les beets. So there we sat, frozen by fear, smiling uneasily as we frantically racked our brains for ideas on how to politely dispose of the beet soup without offending Jacques or, worse, actually having to eat it.

And so we did the only thing we could do. We waited until the coast was clear, then I pretended to fiddle with the strap on my sandal, while discreetly returning the beets to the sandy soil from whence they came. Just like it says in the Bible.

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I'm sorry, Jacques. My apologies, Alain. Everything else you served us was absolutely delicious, and gloriously beet-free. That includes this beautiful timbale of tuna tartare with wakame, olive oil, and ginger . . .

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. . . and the cool, refreshing cucumber gazpacho topped with a perfect little scoop of spicy tomato sorbet, which I maintain should be sold by the half-gallon and come with a spoon so you can get started right away.

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On this visit, however, I think I may have found something even better than the justly-famous tomato sorbet: A massive pile of succulent grilled crayfish, served with a tiny seafood fork for picking the little suckers clean.

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And, finally, two complimentary shot glasses full of Jacala's sweet, smooth vanilla-bean vodka.

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Which sure beats beets.
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Suddenly have the urge for a trip to France now? Click here! Just want more Anguilla? Click here for Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 05:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla jacala smokey's cove_bay feb_22 Comments (10)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt 4: Cast Away on Sandy Island

Of course, there are worse places to be stranded. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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Our plan for the day was to have lunch at Roy's, then hop aboard "Happiness" for the short ride over to Sandy Island for an afternoon of rest, relaxation, and rum, though obviously not in that order.

We hadn't been to Roy's since they moved from Crocus Bay, so we were excited to check out their new digs on Sandy Ground.

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It didn't take long to peruse the short menu, and we ordered up a couple of tasty fish dishes -- the fish 'n' chips for me, and the mahi-mahi Creole for my spicy counterpart.

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We finished our lunch just in time for the next departure on "Happiness" and were soon on our way.

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We were then informed that the cost for the ride would be $20 per person, which is not expensive but is nevertheless a significant jump in price since our last visit to Sandy Island, which was free. (It also happened to be double the published price, which is $10 per person.) No matter. We were already under way, and I certainly wasn't going to walk the plank over a lousy $40, so we anted up.

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Unfortunately, the day was a bit too windy to fully enjoy the water, so after disembarking we headed up the beach to a scattering of sunbeds. Delighted to find all but one unoccupied, we picked the shadiest of the bunch and sat down, discussing what we should order from the bar. However, before our behinds could even warm the cushions, a Sandy Island employee was upon us, requesting yet another $25 for the privilege of sharing a sunbed (which I suppose explains the occupancy rate). We stared dumbly at him, as it slowly sunk in that we were about to be $65 in the hole, and Mama hadn't even had a drink yet.

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Of course, back home we're lucky if $65 is enough to buy breakfast, so the price wasn't really the issue. And between living in NYC and spending weekends in the Hamptons, we are used to having our pockets unmercifully picked all day, every day, by everyone from our local dry cleaner to the mercenaries who run our parking garage. (Only in New York can you leave the house in the morning with $100 in your wallet, and by lunchtime be down to your last $3. "All I did was walk to work!" is the phrase Angel and I most often text to each other, followed closely by, "I'm hungry. What's for dinner?") Still, I was galled, since what used to be "free" (if you don't count the couple hundred bucks you'll drop on food and drink here) was now starting to feel like a tourist-trappy shakedown.

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And so, before they could levy a sand tax on us or require a credit card to use the restrooms, we asked to return to Sandy Ground, figuring we could spend the remainder of the afternoon there instead. Only . . . they wouldn't take us back. "Next boat 3:30," we were told. When we asked someone else, the time was pushed back another half hour. We asked a third person, and now the boat wasn't departing until 4:30. Stranded and broke, we did the only thing we could do.

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I don't know, maybe we look like easy marks. It wouldn't be the first time we've been mistaken for people with money.

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Finally, the boat was ready to depart, and you can bet whatever's left in your wallet after an afternoon at Sandy Island that I was the first one on it.

Back at Roy's, we were treated like returning royalty, and at least half of that statement is true. And so we nabbed a couple of (free!) loungers and dug our toes into the (free!) sand and even used the (free!) rest room.

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The enjoyable afternoon melted into early evening, and we walked the beach one last time before heading back to Sweet Return.

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After cleaning up for dinner, I forced Angel to pose for a few pictures with me, which is his very favorite thing right after root canals.

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I, of course, am always a model subject.

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We then headed off to the one place on Anguilla where you're almost sure to get some bang for your buck: Picante.

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And if not, you'd never know it after a few of their potent margaritas anyway. We perused the various offerings, ultimately settling on a couple of local passion fruit margaritas. Although this thing is pulpier and seedier than an issue of the National Enquirer with a blurry photo of Sasquatch on the front, do not be put off. It's actually quite delicious.

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Naturally, I ordered the one dish that you should never leave Picante (or even Anguilla) without having: The seafood enchiladas with crab, prawn, and lobster in a creamy seafood bisque, topped with a blanket of melted cheese.

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I'm sure Angel had some food, too -- the grilled chipotle prawn burrito? -- but who can focus when there's that much cheese on those enchiladas?

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For dessert, our waiter convinced Angel to try to the flan, while I stuck with the classic Mexican chocolate pudding, accompanied by a tiny shaker of cayenne to add some heat.

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The flan and pudding may have been dessert, but in true Caribbean style, the real finale to the meal was a couple of boxes of Chiclets.

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Back at Sweet Return, we enjoyed a languid night swim before heading to bed.

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And if we happened to need some swimmies to keep us afloat after those passion fruit margaritas, well, that'll be just between us.
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Not tired of food, drink, sand, and sun yet? Click here to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 05:17 Archived in Anguilla Tagged sandy_island roy's picante sweet_return feb_26 Comments (6)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 5: Revenge of the Herds

After a quick morning dip in the pool, it was off to Maunday's Bay for lunch at Cap Juluca.

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One of the island's oldest and most beloved resorts, Cap greets visitors with simple Mexican-tiled paths and spare white Moorish architecture, offering little hint of the stunning beach just beyond.

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Lunch at Cap's beachfront restaurant, Blue, is an elegant affair, with cobalt stemware, turquoise chairs, sapphire vases, and a view of the sea in all those shades and more.

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The food ain't too shabby, either.

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The sandwich above is lobster salad on a Johnny cake. Which is to say, the only way to improve upon it is to serve it with a side of cheeseburger.

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You can even get your daily serving of fruit here.

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Although Cap's beach is technically public, the cushy chaises are for hotel guests only (in past years, Angel's smile -- or a crisp $50 bill if the beach attendant wasn't female -- was enough to secure two loungers and an umbrella, but sadly not anymore). So we headed off to Mead's Bay for piña coladas and some shade at Blanchard's Beach Shack.

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And, as it turned out, hordes of people.

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Just look at them all!

Now, I live in New York City, and I know a crowd when I see one. And that day on Mead's, there was a crowd. We tried to enter the water, and there she was: A lady with the audacity to be floating almost within shouting distance on a noodle. We immediately made a break for the beach, but at that same moment, an older couple had the gall to pass by hand-in-hand. Practically close enough to say hello to us! What was this, Grand Central Station at rush hour?

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Oh, the humanity!

Exasperated, we retreated to our loungers, only to find that someone had parked themselves on the lounger next to ours. Right beside! I'm telling you, it was like Times Square up in there.

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The noise was deafening.

And so, we made a beeline for the bar at Blanchard's Beach Shack to order some frozen drinks . . .

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. . . only to find that there was a line.

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Sure, back home there's a waiting list for everything from delivery rooms to burial plots, but in Anguilla? It was just too much.

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I've seen shorter lines at the post office on tax day!

We grabbed our drinks, left our stuff to the mercy of the multitudes on the beach, and sprinted away, down the beach to the little cove at Malliouhana.

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There, we delighted in the tiny fish nipping at our ankles and reminisced about the Mead's Bay of yore.

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Circa 1999

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Finally, as the day wound to a close, we were left in peace at long last.

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That evening, we set off for the Viceroy's Sunset Lounge for you-know-what.

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Okay, fine, there was a sunset, too.

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Can you believe this was our first visit to Viceroy? Well, except for a little stalking when they first opened.

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We'd of course heard that the Viceroy vibe was more Miami than Mead's, and that the crowd could be a little New York-y (which ranks just behind sun poisoning and shark bite as the last thing we want to deal with on vacation). But we found that the Viceroy struck a sophisticated, elegant tone, and though we'd probably never choose it over the privacy of a villa or smaller resort, it was the perfect spot for a tasty pre-dinner cocktail.

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Though some of the interior décor seems a little dark (both literally and figuratively) given the surroundings, overall we loved the inventive use and rich textures of the wood, marble, granite, and other natural materials.

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Though I have to draw the line at these creepy chairs.

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One of several restaurants on the property, Cobà is perched on a bluff with views of both Meads and Barnes Bays.

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Though the Viceroy is known for its sunsets, it's an even better spot for a Sunrise, which I ordered specifically because the menu said it came with "grapefruit cubes." As soon as I saw that, I immediately began pondering all the different ways molecular gastronomy could convert a grapefruit segment into a cube. Did they vaporize it? Anti-griddle it? Emulsify and then gelify it? My mind ran wild with the possibilities.

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Regrettably they did none of the above, though for $18, I think they should have at least attempted it. (Perhaps there'd been an unfortunate incident with a sous-vide machine?) But, cubes or no cubes, this was hands-down one of the best cocktails I've ever had, in Anguilla or anywhere else, and I'd happily fork over the dough for another Sunrise next time we are on island. (I won't pay $25 to rent a sunbed for the day, but I will happily spend that same amount for a single cocktail. Priorities!!)

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When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, we headed off, once again, to the only place we deem worthy of a repeat dinner: Dolce Vita.

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It was to be our last visit to DV on this trip, so we doubled up on the pastas to carry us through until next time.

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Sadly, however, one thing was missing: Abbi was not there, which meant we wouldn't get a chance to say a proper good-bye.

But about halfway through dinner our beloved Pastafarian finally appeared, looking exhausted but nevertheless happy to see us. He later confided that he hadn't planned to come in at all that evening, but changed his mind when he saw our names on the reservations list.

I'll bet he says that to all the gluttons.

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Posted by TraceyG 09:35 Archived in Anguilla Tagged viceroy meads_bay dolce_vita cap_juluca march_1 blanchards_beach_shack Comments (3)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 6: Little Bit O' Sweet Love

The next day we decided to do a little sightseeing on our way to Shoal Bay East.

Translation: I'm going to chase around a bunch of goats and buy $300 worth of Anguilla magnets on our way to Shoal Bay East.

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Raise your hand if you thought it was the goat...

Our first stop was at Irie Life, a brightly-colored shop overlooking Sandy Ground.

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Here, we loaded up on t-shirts, key chains, license plates, bumper stickers, magnets, and baseball caps. I get the feeling that if Irie Life sold used gum wrappers with the letters "AXA" stamped on them, we'd probably buy them, too.

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Then it was off to the Sandy Ground roundabout for a combination rodeo/episode of "When Animals Attack."

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At least they smiled pretty for the camera.

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We passed through The Valley, then headed north toward Shoal Bay Village.

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Only in Anguilla would we pull off to the side of the road in order to admire a chain-link fence studded with old license plates.

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Our journey took us past Wallblake House, a former plantation whose sad history includes the use of slave labor to harvest sugar and cotton.

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We also passed a few local churches, whose sad history includes keeping people from sleeping in on Sundays.

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We decided on lunch at Elodia's, a colorful spot at the end of Shoal Bay near "the point."

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The day was hot and humid, so we stuck to a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches at Elodia's, allowing us to maximize our soak time.

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Of course, there are other ways to cool off, too.

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Elodia's rum punches are quite tasty, and while ordering a second round Angel said as much to the bartender and asked what was in it. Her brown eyes sparkled and she smiled. "Oh, just a little bit o' sweet love!" she chuckled.

We hung around as the beach emptied, enjoying a last rum punch before Elodia's closed up shop.

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If we'd had a little bit o' sweet love at Elodia's, we were in for a whole lot o' sweet love that evening for dinner.

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Though I'm not sure "love" is a strong enough word to convey my feelings for the FBI cheeseburger.

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It was Wing Night, but because I hate the smell of Tobasco, Angel is always kind enough to order his wings for dessert, so the smell won't interfere with my celebration of FBI Monday.

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He even eats them at the bar so I can bask in the burger after-glow.

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Not that he has any ulterior motives, of course.

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Click here for Part 7!

Posted by TraceyG 05:51 Archived in Anguilla Tagged goats ferryboat_inn irie_life elodias march_4 sandy_ground Comments (9)

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