The day after the worst Christmas since 1978, when I accidentally glued my eye shut with the sticky remnants of a chocolate-covered cherry, we hopped a ferry to Jost Van Dyke, where I planned to spend the entire day eating cheeseburgers to make up for missing lunch the day before.
I even matched my outfit to the ferry for good measure.
We enjoyed the short ride over to Jost, taking in the sights along the way.
Soon we arrived at the ferry dock at Great Harbor.
That's where we met up with taxi driver Gerald Chinnery, who kindly stopped the car so I could take a few photos on our way over to White Bay. "You think I'm stopping for you," he quipped as we admired the stunning view, "but really, I'm stopping for me!"
Soon we found ourselves at White Bay, where we had arrived at the Soggy Dollar bar early enough to claim the best chairs (a pair of slouchy Adirondacks) on the best part of the beach (as far away from everyone else as possible, without being accused of stealing said chairs).
Up at the bar, Mic whipped up a batch of Painkillers, grated fresh nutmeg over them, and mugged for the camera.
On our last visit to Soggy Dollar, we'd eaten lunch on the boat and came ashore just long enough to have a round or two of Painkillers and then swim back to the boat. That was also enough time for me to sniff out the charcoal-grilled cheeseburgers they were serving out back, which I have naturally been thinking about ever since. And so when it came time for lunch this time around, Soggy Dollar had the unenviable task of making up for Lunchless Christmas and living up to the cheeseburger that I'd been dreaming about for the past six years.
I am happy to report that it rose admirably to the occasion, serving up a great burger, more fries than we could eat, and the best pasta salad you're likely to find anywhere, coated as it is in a creamy, garlicky Parmesan cheese dressing.
After lunch, it was back to our chairs for more Painkillers (or, in my case, Banana Bombers) and some more soak time.
Later that afternoon we decided to take a walk over to Ivan's Stress-Free bar, which entailed a short walk down the beach, then up and over a small rocky outcropping, with helpful signs to guide the way.
Ivan's is at the quiet end of White Bay, away from the crowds at Soggy Dollar.
We took a swim, chatted with Ivan, and ordered up a round of rum punches, but His Highness the Rum Connoisseur snubbed it after noticing that it was made with Captain Morgan's instead of a locally-made rum. (I harbor no such pretensions when it comes to booze and happily drank them both.)
I like to think that instead of those stupid team-building exercises where one person falls backwards and the team catches him, Brenda Davis and the good folks at Starkist get bombed on Painkillers, then play strip poker and naked Twister before leaving their name badges at the scene of the crime.
Too soon, it was time for Gerald to pick us up and return us to the ferry dock. We'd learned that morning that he was currently enjoying a long visit with his baby granddaughter, Arianna, and I'd half-jokingly suggested that he bring her along when he came back to pick us up, so we could meet her.
I guess I should have clarified that he should bring her in a car seat.
On the ferry ride back to Tortola, I had the good fortune to be seated next to Mic from Soggy Dollar. "Let me get this straight," I teased. "The most famous bartender on Jost Van Dyke actually lives on Tortola???" Mic responded with some delicate euphemisms about cocks and henhouses to explain that he's slept with everyone on Jost, and therefore had no choice but to move to Tortola.
Which I suppose is the Caribbean equivalent of Harry having to move back to New Jersey, because he's slept with everyone in New York.
As we approached Tortola, we noted the huge black cloud affixed to its highest point, and patted ourselves on the back for having had the good sense to spend the day on sunny Jost.
But by the time we arrived back at the house, happily the cloud had moved on, and we were able to share some wine on the patio as the sun sunk below the horizon.
We toasted to our enjoyable day -- "Here's to lunch! With food!" -- then headed back over to The Dove for dinner.
By now we were on our second reservation in three days, so we were treated to the best table in the house: a cozy banquette in the tiny, private "porch" room adjacent to the main dining room.
Over the past two days I'd eaten just three measly meals, and scurvy or rickets or whatever was starting to set in. I listened eagerly as our waitress described the specials.
And then I ordered the meatloaf. Or, more specifically, the sage meatloaf en croute with walnut Merlot gravy.
Which was served in a puff pastry crust.
And stuffed with foie gras.
And pork belly.
And is also known as "how to out-heart-attack a fried egg yolk."
Now, you might have noticed that this meatloaf was preceded by a large cheeseburger earlier that day at lunch. And there is a very good reason for that. It begins with that other time that I almost starved to death, during the East Coast blackout of 2003. I had just graduated from law school, and my graduation present from Angel was six weeks at a rented beach house in the Hamptons, at which I would get to be gloriously alone Monday through Friday while he was at work back in the city. One Thursday afternoon I picked up 2 lbs. of ground beef at the grocery, planning to grill a burger or two for myself that evening and have the rest on Friday night when Angel arrived. As soon as I got home, however, I realized that the power was out, along with my cell phone service, and when neither had returned after a few hours, I started to panic. Was I going to have to spend the night here in the pitch dark, alone? I wouldn’t have a stove, or a refrigerator, and all that meat was going to go bad! Most importantly, how long would it be before I’d get to eat again?!? In my ensuing panic, I formed all 2 lbs. of that ground beef into burgers and grilled them up on the gas grill outside. . . and then proceeded to eat every. single. one. of them. Later, through tears of laughter, Angel asked me, “But why didn’t you just grill them and put them in the fridge? They would have stayed cool overnight, and then you’d have had some cooked burgers to reheat on the grill the next day.”
I'll tell you why. Because, in the heat of the moment, it just never occurred to me to ration them out. All I knew was that the power was out and it wasn't coming back on and god only knew when I might get to eat again. And so I ate two pounds of ground beef in one sitting . . . just in case.
Which also explains why I ordered that meatloaf/insurance policy at The Dove.
For his part, Angel started with the tuna ceviche, followed by the ribeye in a black peppercorn brandy sauce that came with a ridiculously good spinach, oyster, prosciutto, and potato mash. Prosciutto: That's how you get people to eat their vegetables.
One of the things we noticed about the food at The Dove was that each entree was like its own little tasting menu. So instead of serving, say, a slow-roasted chicken breast with sweet potatoes, The Dove serves a slow-roasted chicken breast with "cinnamon ginger rub / cherry orange glaze / carrot / fennel / apple braised cabbage / sweet potato bacon apple hash / green bean parmesan salad / mustard vinaigrette." Which was just fine with us, though we did worry that this place was going to go bankrupt buying ingredients if it served one more New Zealand rack of lamb with "cocoa chile rub / mint raisin chutney / fennel asparagus ragout / pear pistachio pumpernickel pudding / preserved lemon / red pepper arugula salad / sesame vinaigrette."
The next day, we ventured up and over the mountain again, this time lured by the promise of a bottle of Sebastian's rum.
You might be wondering why I didn't just take over the driving at that point. I tried to, but Angel's insistence that I stay in my own lane and yield to oncoming drivers and stuff like that took all the fun out of it. I mean, why apply the brakes when you're barrelling down a hill, when you need the momentum to get back up the next one anyway?
Anyway, Sebastian's may not be the the best rum, or the strongest, or the most famous, but in a world where virtually anything you desire can be ordered online and delivered directly to your door, usually overnight, a rum that can only be purchased in person, and only at Sebastian's, is way too much catnip for spoiled New Yorkers like us to ignore. Plus, we really like it.
And we love Sebastian's rotis, which are soft and puffy on the outside and filled with tender, white-meat curried chicken, diced potatoes, and carrots on the inside.
After lunch we took a ride over to Long Bay and Smuggler's Cove, checked out the beach bars, and then headed back to the pool to laze the afternoon away.
Soon it was time to eat again, so that evening we headed over to Bananakeet.
To watch the sunset.
To take in the panoramic view.
For free shots.
Take a tip here, Key West. Clapping for the sunset is for amateurs.
We decided to stick with the fresh seafood at Bananakeet, which included an Asian-accented scallop dish for Angel and the coconut-rum shrimp for me. Both were delicious.
The next morning, we started the day with a little shopping at Soper's Hole before lunch.
Soper's Hole, also known as the West End, is home to a full-service marina, customs house, provisioning market, and nearly a dozen charming shops, including Latitude 18, Arawak Surf, and the Pusser's Company Store.
Of course, my favorite is the one that sells food: Sunny Caribee, a spice shop selling everything from hot sauces and marinades to curries and West Indian hangover cures.
After snatching up everything in sight, including t-shirts, beach cover-ups, spices, and rum, we headed over to Cruzin's for lunch. I had heard great things about the food here, and we were excited to give this place a try, but I cannot deny that I was secretly somewhat relieved to find that it was closed when we arrived for lunch, seeing as how the surrounding area reminded me of an old episode of "Sanford & Son." In addition, it had begun to rain, so we jumped in the car and headed back over the mountain in hopes of seeing the sun. Lacking a backup plan, we took the easy way out and ended up back at Soper's Hole and Pusser's.
There, we started with a round of Painkillers served in tin cups to keep them nicely chilled.
Those were followed by an order of the bang-bang shrimp, and then fish and lobster sandwiches that were as good as you might expect a place that primarily sells rum.
In short order the sun returned, so we headed back to Peach Cottage, where we lounged in the sun, immersed ourselves in our books, and took refreshing dips in the pool while sipping on frozen pina coladas with lots of fresh nutmeg.
Angel and I struck a deal: As long as he continued to bring me drinks, I resolved to put my new squirt gun away for the afternoon.
Marriage, it's all about compromise.