A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Thanksgiving in Anguilla: How About a Quickie? (Part 1)

So, you know those "grocery grab" contests where contestants get, say, 3 minutes inside a grocery store to stuff as many items into their carts as they possibly can? They sprint through the store like maniacs, feverishly yanking items off the shelves and shoving them into their carts; when time's up, whatever they've managed to pile into their carts is theirs to keep, for free. Given the time constraints, the contestants usually come up with a pre-grab plan to maximize their time -- "Run straight for the Twinkies!" -- and then completely lose their minds the minute they're set loose in the store, never making it past the produce section. In the end, they're always amazed at how quickly the time flew by, and even though they ended up with nothing more than a cart full of green peppers and some turnips, they're just happy to have had the opportunity.

That was our Thanksgiving trip to Anguilla.


Given how short our visit was, I have decided against recounting it chronologically, as it would probably take you five minutes to read it and five days to berate me for being such a tease. Instead, I've structured this report as something of a "Best Of" list, the only contenders being the handful of people/places/nibbles we managed to squeeze in during this particular visit. And so, without further ado, I hereby present the Best Of Our "Blink-and-You'll-Miss-It" Trip to Anguilla. Read slooooooowly.


Best Way to Scare the Living Daylights Out of Me (Part 1)

On our first full day we decided to have lunch at Smokey's, not so much for the food as for the free lounge chairs.





Now, Angel and I have this thing where we will both look at a menu and, almost simultaneously, decide to have the exact same thing, from the appetizers down to what we'd like to drink. Often we will even order it prepared the exact same way, with the addition or omission of some ingredient, or sauteed instead of grilled, or with a different dressing than the one listed on the menu. (Yes, we are those people . . . which is why we tip well.) The server will take my order a la "When Harry Met Sally," then turn to Angel, who will simply hold up two fingers and say, "Two, please." As soon as the strangeness of this sinks in and becomes apparent on the server's face, we defuse the tension by joking, "See? That's why we got married." Like I said, we're those people.


Lately, however, in the interest of having more than just photos of identical entrees and look-alike cocktails on this blog, I've been encouraging Angel to get out of my brain and order something different. So you can imagine how annoying it was when, after studying Smokey's menu, I announced, "I'm having the chicken roti" . . . at the exact same moment that Angel made the very same announcement. When the winner could not be determined after a short bout of thumb-wrestling, I decided to be the bigger person and change my order to something that I knew he'd want a few bites of, thereby leveraging myself into half a roti. He may be the muscle, but I'm the brains.




We had just settled in with our matching set of rum punches when I saw this:


No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a boat filled with tens, no, hundreds of kids. Or so it seemed in my ensuing panic. As soon as the boat dropped anchor, the children began to disembark one by one, like Popes tumbling out of a Volkswagen.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike kids. The problem is actually how much they like me. You know how cats will home in on the one person in the room who's allergic and then spend the entire afternoon sleeping on that person's head? That's me and kids. Recent case in point: In the airport on our way home from Anguilla, I was standing at the end of the security screening, waiting for Angel to put his shoes back on and load the $412 in quarters that he carries around back into his pockets, when a little girl I'd never seen before wandered up to me, gently tapped me on the arm, and, apropos of nothing, asked, "You wanna come to my house?" Oh, sure, sweetie, I laughed, my eyes darting around nervously for the nearest exit. She immediately ran back to her mother and yelled, "Mama! Her said YES! Her is coming to my HOUSE!" She proceeded to jump up and down with giddy delight, still yelling "But her's coming ooover!" as her mother dragged her away. This is the inexplicable effect I have on children. So you can surely understand that when that floating day care rolled up on the beach, I was immediately besieged by images of children tugging on my arms and nuzzling their heads under my armpits and yelling, "Tracey, look at meeeeee!!" . . . and before you know it my food is cold and my rum punch is watered down and, as Bill Cosby would say, it is time for the beatings to begin.


After lunch we used every trick we'd ever learned about how to escape a grizzly bear attack (don't look them in the eye, don't leave food lying around) in order to outwit the children and sneak away unnoticed. We moved quickly down the beach to set up camp.



We were minding our own business when it arrived. One minute St. Martin was there in the distance, and the next it was swallowed up in a cloud so large that you'd have thought the Rapture was finally here and they really did just get the date wrong.



We watched for a while, fascinated, as the mammoth cloud sucked up all of St. Martin, then slowly spread its evil tentacles toward Anguilla. Finally, with the rain imminent, we could wait no longer and decided to beat feet out of there.



Quite literally in my case.


Best Place to Beat the Stuffing Out of Someone

After weeks of perusing menus in an attempt to find the perfect place to celebrate Thanksgiving, we eventually settled on Koal Keel, which won our vote because they were serving both a three-course Thanksgiving dinner and their entire regular menu. (Not that I was planning to order both, but it certainly couldn't be ruled out.) We received a very warm welcome and were given the choice of a private corner table or a table right next to two large parties of 8 to 10 people each. What kind of people, I wonder, choose the latter? Presumably the same people who will plop down right next to you on an otherwise empty beach, or take the seat right next to you on a completely empty train car and start chatting you up. I think the word you're looking for is Midwesterners.


People love free stuff, especially when that free stuff is vodka, and Koal Keel therefore started off on the right foot by offering us these cute little shooters before we'd even placed our orders.


Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, out came this free meatball.


After this delightfully boozy, beefy beginning, we decided to try the scallops with leek fondue and truffle cream for me, and the spring roll with tamarind dipping sauce for Angel.


Everything was delicious, but the scallops were really the standout (though at $22 for 3 scallops, those suckers should have serenaded me before dinner, too). They were plump, perfectly seasoned, and beautifully cooked, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving I even let Angel have a bite.


Our entrees, however, were a somewhat different story. Angel ordered the blackened jumbo shrimp with mango-ginger sauce and rice n' peas, while I decided to try the crispy snapper with leek stuffing and caramelized shallot reduction -- an entree I ordered specifically for the leek stuffing, as everyone knows that you can't have Thanksgiving (or any holiday, really) without stuffing.

Our expectations had been raised thanks to those extraordinary scallops, and the fact that the entrees took an inordinately long time to arrive sent our hunger pangs expectations soaring even higher. And so, when our entrees finally arrived, I couldn't wait to pierce the crispy skin of my snapper and have a go at that leek stuffing. So imagine my surprise when I received this instead:


Do you see that green thing on the right? That is one of two matchbook-sized pieces of leek on the plate, which were supposed to have been chopped up and sauteed in butter and made completely irresistible and then stuffed inside my fish. Instead, the poor leeks just sat there limply, the way a lowly sprig of parsley might be thrown on the plate as an afterthought. Now, I will say that while this fish was clearly some sort of stuffingless imposter, and rather overpriced for what amounted to a piece of fried fish, it was quite tasty -- the breading was flavorful and crisp and the fish was moist and flaky. But in general, if you promise me stuffing and I don't get any, I'm going to be pretty disappointed. But if you promise me stuffing on Thanksgiving and I don't get any . . . somebody's not making it to Christmas.

Because the wait for our entrees had been about an hour, we were offered an after-dinner drink on the house. Considering that we’d already had two cocktails apiece, a third drink was the last thing either of us wanted, so Angel ordered a coffee.


So the coffee arrives, and it’s . . . not hot. Some time later the waiter returns with a hot one, and it’s been sloshed all over the saucer. Not a big deal, of course, but the server noticed it, too, because a few minutes later he returned with a clean saucer and attempted to transfer the coffee to that one . . . and then sloshed the coffee all over the clean saucer, too. We really felt for the poor guy. But if he thought he was having a bad night, he obviously has no idea what it's like to go home stuffingless on Thanksgiving.

Best Use of Ground Beef (Non-Meatball Division)

On this trip we decided to stay at the Ferryboat Inn.







Now, I know that FBI, what with its lack of Guerlain bath products and Frette linens and locking doors, may not be some folks' cup of tea. And to those people I might say that the inn's gentle prices mean more money for splurges at Pimm's and Spice, or that Marjorie's warm hospitality could never be replicated at a larger hotel like the Viceroy, or that Christian's addictive rum punches best even the much-touted frozen mojitos at CuisinArt.





But the truth is . . . I really just like being close to the cheeseburgers.



If (and I cannot understand this) cheeseburgers aren't your thing, perhaps Christian is.


FBI's resident bartender is tall, nice-looking, and has the straightest teeth you're likely to see outside of a toothpaste commercial. More importantly, he lives near the cheeseburgers, which means that if Angel ever croaks, you'll know where to find me.


In the four days for which we were on the island at lunchtime, we had the cheeseburgers at FBI twice. You might have already read my stirring, heartfelt Ode to the Ferryboat Cheeseburger, so I won't repeat myself here, except to say that I am certain that this time around, I invented a whole new lexicon of strung-together curse words, groans of pleasure, and takings of the Lord's name in vain while enjoying my cheeseburgers, which I repeated over and over while marveling at their juicy, cheesy stupendousness, thoroughly embarrassing Angel.




The poor guy. His wife is the Linda Lovelace of FBI cheeseburgers.


On our first visit we were feeling ambitious, so we decided to start with a few appetizers before the main event. Besides rum punch and cheeseburgers, FBI is also known for its thick, cheesy French onion soup.


They're less known for their garden salads, but there was no way I was going to waste precious stomach space on soup when I was this close to cheesy nirvana.


I don't mean to be impatient, but . . . maybe the dingo ate my burger?



Oh, you think I left a little piece of bun there, unable to finish it? Don't be silly - that's for the dog.


That's right: Just when you thought there was no better reason to stay at FBI than to be near the cheeseburgers, you discover the inn's resident dogs, Angie and Shadow. These dogs are almost sweet enough to make me want to share my burger. Almost.



Unfortunately I lost focus at our second Cheeseburger Chomp-Down, when I was suddenly struck by a craving for Marjorie's excellent chicken marsala. That was the very first dish I ever ate on Anguilla, lo those many years ago, and I can still taste it like it was yesterday.

And so, when Christian came to take our order, I asked, "You won't tell anyone if I order a cheeseburger and the chicken marsala, will you?" To which he replied without missing a beat, "No . . . but you might."


Indeed I might.


Best Place to Get Sloshed, Go Broke, Suffer a Food Coma, and Still Find Yourself Thanking Them at the End of the Night

One of the things we were most looking forward to on this trip was dinner at Veya, which bills itself as "Cuisine of the Sun." I love anything having to do with the sun (except for sunburn, sun spots, sun poisoning, sunstroke . . . perhaps this statement needs a bit of fine-tuning), and I was especially excited to try someplace that so many before me have raved about.


Given Veya's location in the woods and its proximity to the salt pond, we filled the bathtub with Mosquito Milk and let Angel, a shining beacon of hope for hungry mosquitos everywhere, have a good long soak before heading out. That he has gone 44 years without contracting malaria is a miracle that cannot be explained by modern medical science.


Although we originally planned to order a bottle of wine, the cocktail list, with its Anguilla-inspired drink names, beckoned. I decided to try the Sandy Ground, with Ruby Red vodka, raspberry liqueur, and lime, while Angel went with the Savannah, made with Mount Gay, Patron Citronage, lime, and guava.


While we were enjoying our cocktails, an amuse-bouche arrived: a tiny, deceptively spicy, altogether perfect conch fritter. I have to assume that these tasty little nuggets are not on the regular menu because they would sell out in the first 10 minutes every night, and the resulting riots wouldn't be good for anyone.


For my appetizer, I decided to try the yellow pea soup with Indian spices, while Angel went with the justly-famous Moroccan shrimp cigars with roasted tomato. The cigars disappeared so quickly that before I could even get a picture, Angel had already started licking his plate and asking me if I was going to finish my soup.

By this time everything we'd tried had been so delicious that Angel decided to try the tuna, a dish he rarely orders in Anguilla because there are so many other local fish to choose from. But at Veya, the tuna is grilled with jerk spices and a rum-coffee glaze and served with caramelized pineapples and fried plantains, which means that the only way Angel could have been any happier is if it came with a side of Deep Woods OFF!.


I went with the sweet corn hush puppies, which came with some grilled shrimp and snap peas and oh who the hell cares there were sweet corn hush puppies!!


Although the desserts sounded wonderful, particularly the chocolate hazelnut mousse bars with chocolate malt ice cream, sometimes you should quit while you are ahead.

But only sometimes.


Most Unlikely Celebrity Sighting

Anguilla has long been known as an under-the-radar haven for celebrities looking to get away from it all, and if you visit often enough, you'll certainly see your share: Brad Pitt, Beyonce & Jay-Z, Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Kevin Bacon, Liam Neeson, and Uma Thurman are all frequent visitors. But this celebrity is not your typical starlet. She's never had any plastic surgery, she's certainly not anorexic, and her hair stylist ought to be shot. She flies commercial -- in coach, no less -- and after this latest trip to Anguilla, it's rumored that she might be nearly broke. She's a terrible actress, and her singing voice has been compared, generously, to a cross between someone skinning a cat and a kid with his head caught between some banisters.

So, just who is this elusive celebrity who's been spotted all over Anguilla?


Apparently, it's me.


Thanks to the loyal readers of this blog, as well as my nonstop blathering about cheeseburgers and meatballs and compotes on Trip Advisor, I was recognized roughly once a day while on Anguilla (and, impressively, twice by name over the phone and email), resulting in a number of lovely introductions, enjoyable conversations, and a net haul of 4 free rum punches, 2 free after-dinner drinks, and a free bowl of duck pappardelle. Forget the usual trappings of celebrity, like couture gowns and diamond tiaras and bags full of swag: I'll take the booze and pasta any day of the week.

And I'm not even going to mention that nice couple from Las Vegas who recognized Angel first, seeing as how it went straight to his head. Next thing you know he'll be writing a tell-all book about how insufferable it was to be my camera caddy, and I really can't afford that. You know how hard it is to find good help these days.

Best Way to Scare the Living Daylights Out of Me (Part 2)

It is no secret that I am obsessed with a dish served at Oliver's Seaside Grill called Oliver's Seafood Compote. The restaurant's web site describes it as "a selection of fresh local seafood cooked in a lobster sauce, enhanced with fresh coconut milk and served with a spinach polenta pancake," but all I heard just now was, "Blah blah blah lobster sauce blah blah crack cocaine blah blah blah polenta pancake." We'd called ahead to make sure that Oliver's would be open and that they'd have the coveted Compote, and were assured that everything was a go.

We settled in with our menus, which did not need the usual studying since we knew exactly what we were getting, times two (insert eye roll here). But of course I had to look anyway, which is when I discovered OH GOOD GOD THE HORROR! It was a prix-fixe menu, and there was no Compote in sight! Trembling with fear at the thought of leaving Anguilla without his beloved Compote, Angel staggered to his feet to find the waitress and ask her what happened to it. Before he could reach her, however, Oliver quickly stepped in and told us that they'd just reopened for the season, hence the abbreviated prix-fixe menu. He explained that the regular menu would be available the next evening, but we could have anything we wanted from it tonight. He then proceeded to describe nearly the entire menu, making it clear that our wish was his command. Although I tried to listen to the descriptions of the other dishes, all I heard was, "Yadda yadda yadda fish yadda yadda steak yadda yadda COMPOTE," so two orders it was, with an order of the lobster cakes to start. We tried to order our usual bottle of Sancerre but it was unavailable, so we went with two glasses of rose Sancerre instead, which was icy and tart and perfect.



The lobster cakes were delicious, but I would be lying if I told you that either one of us could have given two cents about them when a Compote was so close at hand. Finally it arrived and OH GOOD GOD THE HORROR . . . again. It was not the Compote. It was the snapper with lime balsamic sauce and, I have to admit, it smelled heavenly. The vinegar had caramelized into a sticky-sweet sauce and the fish was charred a bit on the ends the way I like it and finally I had to sit on my hands to keep from digging into this plate of non-Compotey goodness. We quickly sent the fish back, begging them to make sure that someone would eat it since it looked and smelled so amazing (I of course volunteered to eat both the fish and the Compote, just to be sure). A few minutes later a waiter came by and explained that the waitress had made a mistake conveying our order to the chef. But the damage had already been done: Those few minutes of heart-pounding terror at seeing the wrong entree had already shaved at least 5 years off my expected life span.

Finally, the real Compote appeared, and it was divine.


Perhaps because the restaurant had just reopened, the Compote was a little different than usual -- two spinach-polenta cakes instead of one, with the addition of spinach and collard greens and the omission of scallops -- but it was still loaded with shrimp and fish and everything nice. The chef even came upstairs to personally ensure that we liked it, at which point I jumped out of my seat, hugged him tight, and offered to have his babies.


And I don't even like babies.

Best Hand-Me-Down Souvenir From a Stranger's Garage

One of our favorite shops on the island is Irie Life, where we buy all sorts of AXA-branded gear to take home, then refuse to tell anyone what "AXA" stands for. It's all part of our two-man plan called Operation Save Anguilla From "The Bachelor"-hood.




We decided on an assortment of t-shirts, beach coverups, stickers, and magnets, and as we were checking out I pointed out the display of Anguilla license plates to Angel. Of course, they are not real license plates, but souvenir ones that look similar to the "new" blue ones Anguilla issued in 2006. Angel started telling the cashier, Pamela, about how I'd once found one of the old black-and-white "A" license plates online and gave it to him as a gift, and that he keeps it on his desk at work. "How much you pay for that?" she demanded. I told her, and she clucked her tongue. "I think I have a few of those in my garage. I don' need 'em. Come back tomorrow - you can have 'em!"


And if you're still wondering why we love Anguilla, well . . . I guess you already have all the used license plates you need.


CLICK HERE to read Part 2 . . .


Posted by TraceyG 05:53 Archived in Anguilla Comments (4)

Thanksgiving in Anguilla: How About A Quickie? (Part 2)

Best Dessert That Isn't A Dessert, But Darn Well Should Be

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the Great Deluge of 2011 descended upon Anguilla, turning all that had been bright and sunny and delightful into a wet, grey, sopping pile of sludge. When faced with the prospect of no beach time, we did the next best thing: We planned for a three-course lunch with plenty of booze, with a quick stop beforehand to see if anything could be done about the ungodly weather.


Off we went to Jacala, which is pronounced "Jacques-a-LA," not "Ja-CALL-ah,"as I'd been calling it, because I am a hick. Je suis desolee. Et aussi une barbare.




What with the gale-force winds, pelting rain, and old ladies in pointy hats flying by on bicycles, we arrived pretty much soaked to the gills, and I excused myself to go to the ladies room to dry myself off with some paper towels. Before I could do so, however, the hostess brought me a large, fluffy beach towel to dry off with, at which point I decided that I loved this place almost as much as I love my bed.


We started off with two frozen mojitos, and then ordered the two dishes that everyone recommends at Jacques-a-la, the grilled watermelon and goat cheese salad, and the chilled cucumber soup with spicy tomato sorbet.





I am not going to lie: I did not like the tomato sorbet. I LOVED the tomato sorbet. I loved it so much that I cannot for the life of me understand why it is not sold by the half-gallon so that you can take it home and eat it right out of the container with a spoon and not have to share it with your dining companion, who will invariably want to taste it as soon as they see your eyes roll back in your head. At the very least, it should be offered in a large bowl for dessert alongside the chocolate cake and tiramisu and other stuff that normal people like to have after a meal.


For our entrees, Angel ordered the risotto special with mussels. Jacques explained that the mussels are prepared mariniere style with white wine, garlic, and tomatoes, and then the same flavorful cooking liquid is used to make the risotto. That was all Angel needed to hear. Well, that and the sound of me kicking him under the table as a signal to order it or else.


I went with the lobster club, which broke the cardinal rule of Italian cooking by adding cheese to seafood. I guess it's a good thing this place is French, then, because the sharp cheese took the sandwich from really good to ooh la la.


For dessert we decided to share something called the Coffee Gourmand, which consists of a miniature chocolat pot de creme, a tiny creme brulee, a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream, and a shot of espresso. All of this was pretty good, considering that it was not the tomato sorbet.



Finally, Jacques arrived with two shots of liquor, one with lemon, chili pepper, and vanilla for Angel, and one with orange and lemon for me. Shots after lunch pretty much sealed the deal on a return trip to Jacques-a-la for me, but if the tomato sorbet comes off the menu, the deal is off.


After lunch we swam out to our car and headed back to Ferryboat. No way am I leaving the house again, I told Angel. I'm pretty sure there were some crumbs left in the bottom of those Pringles cans we threw out yesterday -- we can have those for dinner!

But what about Mango's? Angel asked. We have reservations, and they have that German potato salad with bacon that you like, he reminded me. BACON! Normally I wouldn't dream of leaving the house during a Category 12 monsoon, but for BACON? For that, I might even leave the house without makeup.

Best Reason to Always Carry Some Emergency Bacon In Your Purse

And so it came to pass that on the evening of the Great Deluge, we headed over to Mango's for some bacon dinner. This is one of our favorite spots on the island, location-wise, and I had fond memories of both the potato salad and the Cruzan Rum Barbequed Chicken that came with it. (By now you are probably noticing a pattern: I never order an entree based on what the protein is, unless we are talking beef. I order by how delicious the carb on the side sounds. Often I will eat my carb and Angel's, and in exchange I will give him the lion's share of whatever protein came with my dish. This kind of teamwork is how you stay married to a mirror image of yourself who has every annoying trait that you already possess.)


We started with a couple of cocktails, then sat back and watched the massive waves of Barnes Bay crash onto the shore. I decided to have the Painkiller, which was quite apt considering that I'd missed an entire day of sunning and swimming and was ready to beat the crap out of anyone who dared utter the words "Oh, the showers pass in ten minutes!" to me ever again.


I started with the lobster cake, while Angel had the thick, rich conch chowder with celery, leeks, onions, and potatoes. Here is yet another dish whose rightful place is on both the appetizer menu and the dessert menu. If bread can double as an opener (with butter) and a dessert (bread pudding), I ask you: Why not conch chowder?


For our entrees, I naturally went with the German potato salad with a side of barbequed chicken, while Angel decided on the fish special, a grilled snapper with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and artichokes.


The last time I had this potato salad, the potatoes were roasted and then tossed with some sort of balsamic vinegar and bacon concoction that was so delicious that all these years later, I still remember it. But this time around, the potatoes were somewhat bland and were covered with chewy pieces of tough, overcooked bacon jerky. You know the bacon is bad when someone leaves behind a whole plate of it, particularly when that someone is me. Bacon is just not one of those things that gets left lying around.

Luckily the chicken was fantastic, as was Angel's fish, and we decided to stick around for dessert, a tiny slice of airy key lime and lemon pie.


But don't think for a minute that I wouldn't have rather had some bacon and a tub of tomato sorbet.


Best House-Crashing Story . . . Since My Last House-Crashing Story

On Monday afternoon we decided to stop by Blue Waters Apartments on Shoal Bay West, in hopes that they might have a vacant apartment that we could take a look at. Since we like to change up our accommodations on each trip, we've been considering them for our next stay, having heard good things about how private and spacious the apartments are.

So we pull up in front of the office and Angel goes to knock on the door while I decide to take a look around. I wander up a lovely, shaded path and already I like the vibe of this place: I've entered a large patio area with a grill, table and chairs, and a large hot tub, all of which are shaded by a gorgeous pergola covered in flowers and vines. A friendly-looking man is grilling dinner while a dog stands by in case anything falls his way. I smile and begin petting the dog and ask if any of the units might be available for viewing, but the man indicates that he doesn't work here, though the office will reopen in the morning and he's sure they could show us around. I ask him if he likes it here, and he responds, "Well, sure -- I've lived here for 30 years!" I'm surprised to hear this -- I didn't know that Blue Waters apartments were available for private ownership -- but I don't want to get ahead of myself without even having seen one, so, gesturing to our surroundings, I instead say, "Well, this place is beautiful -- I'd really love to stay here!"

At which point the man points to the building next door and says, "Yes, Blue Waters is very nice. It's that building right down there."

Ohhhhh. Now I get it. Still, when a stranger wanders onto your property and interrupts your dinner and starts playing with your dog and asks if she can move in, shouldn't you at least offer her a little something . . . like a map?

Best Reason to Bring a Flea Collar to Anguilla (No, It Wasn't for Angel)

The next morning we decided to drive over to the Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation, known by the acronym AARF, to drop off some flea collars and leashes that I'd brought from the States. Well, at least that was our stated purpose. My real purpose was to spend the morning snuggling puppies and kittens and lamenting the fact that 10 puppies in a NYC apartment is probably the code-violation equivalent of one alligator.






Elsewhere around the island, there are plenty of other animals for your snuggling, and possible kid-napping, pleasure.



They're not baring their teeth at me, they're smiling.



This guy is cute, too, but it would be too tempting to take him home and make hamburgers out of him, so in Anguilla he stays.


Just when you thought puppies and baby goats were the cutest thing around, along came this adorable little thing:


Little girls with big brown eyes and caramel skin always make us think, Wow, maybe we should have had a kid -- look how gorgeous she'd be! But who are we kidding? Our kids would have hair like Diana Ross circa 1975 and teeth the size of tombstones, and we both know it.

After our visit to AARF, it was off to Rendezvous Bay for some soak time.




When most people go to the beach, they stretch out on a lounge chair under an umbrella, crack open a good book, sip a few cocktails, and occasionally take a dip in the water to cool off. And if I'm anywhere besides Anguilla, I do the same. But in Anguilla, the water is so blue, so warm, so clear that we dispense with all that and simply . . . soak.


We pick a spot where we can both touch bottom, then submerge ourselves up to our necks and stand around, marveling at the umpteen shades of blue, occasionally spotting jumping fish or a stingray, and chatting about everything and nothing. We swim a little, we float a little, and of course we each serve as both judge and participant in the E.C. Handstand Championships. But for the most part we just soak ourselves in the clear, warm water until pruney, towel off, reapply sunscreen, and repeat.






Afterwards, we drove around a bit to take in the sights. You know, like Squawk's Peep in Bar.










Best Way to Finish Our Visit, But Not Our Plates (Or, How I Finally Admitted Defeat)

About five years ago, Angel and I took a long-overdue trip to Paris. We devoured everything the city had to offer, trying everything and refusing nothing, dining at Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine and neighborhood bistros with equal abandon. One afternoon we decided to have lunch at Le Pamphlet in the Marais, a sophisticated spot that specializes in dishes from the Basque region of France. I remember this because the waitresses there were so impressed with Angel for ordering, and actually finishing, the blood pudding -- along with virtually everything else on the menu -- that they teasingly referred to him as a gourmand. Angel mistook the word to mean that he had a gourmet palate, and I didn't have the heart to tell him that they'd actually called him a glutton.


Later, we learned that while the word gourmand has traditionally meant glutton, increasingly it is used to refer to a connoisseur of good food, to someone who takes great pleasure in their food. Unlike self-proclaimed foodies, who eschew foods they deem beneath them and seemingly eat only to impress others with their oh-so-discerning palates, gourmands are different. They don't just like food, they love food, and they want you to love it, too. Indeed, some gourmands go so far as to take pictures of their food and write elaborate blog posts about it and prattle on endlessly about it on travel forums. Or so I hear.

One of the most hospitable, passionate, and knowledgable gourmands you will ever meet is the charming Abbi at Dolce Vita. Dolce Vita means "the sweet life," and nowhere is that more true than at this new beachside standout on Sandy Ground.


This was our favorite meal of this trip, thanks in no small part to Abbi. Abbi is so proud of how fantastic Dolce Vita's food is, so passionate about where the ingredients come from and how they are prepared, so eager to make your meal perfect, that he cannot help but describe, say, the restaurant's stellar veal chop or fresh fish, then disappear into the kitchen, only to return with the raw chop or just-caught fish on a plate so you, too, can take a moment to admire it.



At first, every dish sounded so labor-intensive and over-the-top fantastic that I wasn't sure that anything could live up to Abbi's descriptions. In addition, he'd told us that one of the dishes was finished with a 25-year-old balsamic, a bottle of which, he said, was also sitting right on our table. Given that most Italian restaurants won't even trust you with a mere thimble full of their precious Parmigiano-Reggiano, the idea of someone leaving a $35 bottle of vinegar on the table seemed dubious at best.

And then we poured it. And it was thick, sweet, syrupy, and most definitely not your run-of-the-mill balsamic vinegar. We knew then, the way you know when you taste those johnny cakes at Veya, that we were in for something special.


Soon the bottle of wine that we'd ordered arrived, and even though it was just a mid-priced bottle of Nero d'Avola, you'd have thought we ordered the 1961 Chateau Petrus, given the care and attention Abbi took in opening and pouring it. He even brought out a couple of enormous balloon glasses that were literally bigger than my head. With a soft rain drumming on the roof, a warm, candle-lit table inside, and the lights from a handful of sailboats twinkling in the background, I wasn't even too worried about that enormous wine glass getting suctioned to my face.



We decided to begin with the pumpkin tortelli, a special that Abbi described in exquisite detail. Although I was listening intently, all I can tell you now is that it involved something like a team of Oompah-Loompahs toiling in shifts to ensure that every last pumpkin seed was extracted by hand, 12 hours spent wringing out the pumpkin pulp drop-by-drop into a miniature beaker, two certified mustardologists candying apples and other fruits for the mostarda, and hours of painstaking work hand-stretching the pasta and cutting it into perfect little triangles using a protractor. You need only look at it, drenched as it is in an insanely rich butter and sage sauce, to know that no matter how many people slipped on the pumpkin seeds that surely littered the kitchen floor before all was said and done, it was still worth it.


For my entree, I desperately wanted to order the lasagna, but since I'd already had, um, quite a bit to eat for lunch that day at Ferryboat, I figured I'd better take it easy, so I went with the gnocchi. Angel decided on the veal chop, having already seen it in all its naked glory.


As soon as our entrees arrived, Abbi immediately came over to check on us, heaping mounds of real Parmigiano-Reggiano onto my gnocchi, happily reminding me of the time at Luna Rosa when I was served more Parmigiano than I could actually finish. Trust me, when you find someone who isn't stingy with the cheese, you'll follow them anywhere.


We had no sooner gotten started on the gnocchi, the veal chop, and the sinfully rich, creamy mashed potatoes that accompanied the veal, when Abbi came by and, in a near-perfect imitation of me at every almost every restaurant I've ever been in, said, "You know, you really have to try this!". . . and placed a large bowl of duck pappardelle on the table alongside our entrees.


The duck, as best I can remember, is flown in from France thrice weekly and cooked for 10 hours with a bottle of red wine until it falls off the bone. Chocolate, nutmeg, cloves, and some other spices are added, then the sauce is simmered for 2 more hours. Then it is tossed with freshly hand-stretched pappardelle and brought to your table and then you die of happiness, The End.


It is no accident that the word "pappardelle" comes from the Italian word pappare, which means "to gobble up." And gobble we did: Angel and I ate almost every bite of that duck, and of everything else, too. But everything was so delicious that we just couldn't help ourselves. And good thing, too, because Abbi personally checked our plates when our waitress brought them back into the kitchen, to make sure we'd finished everything. Doesn't he know that I'm not only a member of the Clean Plate Club, I'm also the President?

You'd think that I might finally be stuffed by now, and for once, you'd be right. Unable to eat another bite, I had reluctantly passed on dessert when Abbi showed up with this.


Assuring us that the Grand Marnier would help with digestion, he first rolled each tumbler over the open flame to heat it, then transferred the Grand Marnier back and forth between the glasses to slowly warm it up.



When it reached the desired temperature, he gently poured it over the juicy orange wedges waiting in the bottom of our snifters, careful not to extinguish the glowing flame.


The heated liqueur was strong, warm, and the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

And you know what? After a cheeseburger, half an order of chicken marsala, pumpkin tortelli in a butter and sage sauce, a bowl of gnocchi, half a wheel of parmigiano, as many forks full of mashed potatoes as I could steal when Angel wasn't looking, and a bonus bowl of duck pappardelle . . . somehow, inexplicably, I actually did feel a little less full.

Anguilla. It really is a magical place.

Want more Anguilla? Click here for my 6-part trip report!

Posted by TraceyG 05:51 Archived in Anguilla Comments (6)

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