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Anguilla, Part 3: The Ultimate Backstage Pass

The next morning, we stopped by the Village BakeHouse so I could thank Pascal in person for Angel's birthday cake. It seemed like as good an excuse as any for stuffing ourselves full of jelly donuts and apple tarts.

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Housed in the 1700s-era former Koal Keel restaurant, the building was originally constructed by slave labor for a Dutch family from St. Maarten, who used it as a sugar and cotton plantation.

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When things dried up -- the slaves were freed and years of drought took its toll -- the plantation owners abandoned the building. Eventually, however, descendants of the very slaves who had worked the plantation bought the building, and if that is not a fitting end to this story, I don't know what is.

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Today, Pascal and his wife Suzan use the charming space to whip up decadent French pastries, tasty sandwiches, and gorgeous cakes like the one Pascal made for Angel.

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I did my best to remove the thick layer of powdered sugar from my face, then rounded up the camera-shy Pascal for a quick photo.

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Looking to kill some time before our next meal, we decided to take a ride over to the former site of Oliver's on Long Bay, where we could reminisce about prior meals.

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We spent a few minutes poking around the abandoned restaurant, each of us lost in our own fond memories of Tracey's Seafood Compote.

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Soon it was time to eat again, and only one thing can cure a bad case of Compote Fever.

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And as far as I'm concerned, there's only one place to get one.

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Drinks in hand, Angel chatted with Christian and I snuggled up with Basil while we waited for our burgers. Or maybe Angel chatted with Basil and I snuggled up with Christian. Who can say when FBI's killer rum punch is involved?

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I came prepared with snacks, which made for one very smiley girl.

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And Christian surprised me with this fabulous "backstage pass," hand-crafted by the talented Daryl Thompson at Alloyd Enterprises, which made for another very smiley girl.

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You're probably noticing that most of these photos are a bit blurry. I'd like to chalk it up to the fact that it was about 1,000 degrees in that kitchen and I was on the verge of passing out, but I think we all know it could have been a comfortable 68 degrees in there and I'd still have been on the verge of passing out.

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You might think that seeing where the magic happens would satisfy me for a while, but the effect was just the opposite: Being in such deliciously close proximity to those burgers sizzling away on the grill only made me that much more anxious to dig into my own.

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Even Basil was anxious, knowing she might score some leftover scraps.

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Finally the mother of all burgers arrived and, as usual, it was spectacular.

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As my eyes rolled back in my head, Christian simply stood by with a justifiably arrogant look on his face that said, "That's right, b!tches! My burger smokes all you fools."

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Well-earned, Mr. McClean. Well-earned.

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As is our habit, we typically steal away to a less-populated section of beach after FBI Monday, in hopes of sparing innocent beachgoers the sight of two adults who look suspiciously like hippopotamuses -- large, somewhat grey, 3/4 submerged, with nothing but two tiny ears sticking out in case someone yells, "Last call!"

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There we bumped into Paul, whom you might know from the Facebook forum as the guy who spent his last trip to Anguilla on a quest to rank all of the island's fish sandwiches. (I don't have a photo of him because he bravely approached the two hippopotomii while they were submerged.) I really wanted to like this guy, especially given his hobby of ranking foods, but he was swimming in Rendezous Bay -- not idly bobbing, but actually exerting energy and moving his limbs and everything. Other than that, though, he seemed like a really nice guy.

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Toward the end of the afternoon, the sun dipped behind a cloud, creating vibrant turquoise stripes across the water.

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Later that evening, we decided to stop by the new Four Seasons (formerly Viceroy) for a round of cocktails before dinner.

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I usually refer to the Four Seasons as "FS," but after seeing these obscene drink prices, I've decided to change that to "FFS."

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As if the prices weren't off-putting enough, we were not permitted to sit in the lounge seats of our choice -- a table surrounded by 4 low-slung chairs close to the water -- because FFS wanted to keep those open for a theoretical party of four. Even though the place wasn't full . . . and the sun had already set.

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We watched as another couple -- guests of the hotel who, as it turns out, had just arrived after a long flight and were visiting Anguilla for the first time -- were told the same thing. As they stood there bewildered, we discreetly approached and asked if they'd like to join forces. They readily agreed, so we claimed the four seats and enjoyed a lovely conversation over a round of (overpriced and tiny) drinks.

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At least Larry was smart enough to just order a beer.

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Too soon, it was time for our dinner reservation at Jacala, so we exchanged contact information with our new friends before heading off. (If you're reading this, Anne, I know that 50-page annotated Excel spreadsheet of restaurants I gave you was probably a bit overwhelming, as was my detailed PowerPoint presentation of menus, recommended dishes, and reviews. Still, if you made it through the first two dozen or so restaurants on the list during your weeklong visit, I will consider my job here to be done.)

Over at Jacala, we cozied up at a candle-lit table and prepared for what we knew would be one of the best meals of our visit.

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We started with a couple of old favorites, the creamy cucumber gazpacho with tomato sorbet for me and the tuna tartare with wakame, olive oil, and ginger, also for me (and, fine, Angel too).

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For mains, we both decided to branch out a bit, foregoing our usual pile of grilled crayfish in favor of two new-to-us dishes. Angel decided to try the evening's special of grilled swordfish with ratatouille and roasted red pepper sauce, while I took a chance that the breaded chicken with lobster and shellfish sauce would not turn out to be a strange experiment gone awry.

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I needn't have worried. The chicken was incredible -- tender, juicy, and perfectly complemented (surprise!) by the shellfish sauce, with a creamy carrot purée to round things out.

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All in all, it was a perfect meal, as usual.

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And nary a beet in sight.
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Need more Anguilla right now? Click here to read Part 4, or check out our quickie stay at Cap Juluca, which we tacked on to the end of this trip, here.

Posted by TraceyG 07:56 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla jacala ferryboat_inn cheeseburgers village_bakehouse Comments (7)

Anguilla, Part 4: Fancy Meeting You Here

The next morning, we awoke at Fountain to another cloudless sky.

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We decided to spend the day at one of my favorite spots, Ocean Echo on Mead's Bay.

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It was hard not to feel welcome here when Del somehow managed to remember both of our names, even though it had been nearly a year since we'd last seen him.

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Soon a round of Rumzies beckoned, so we headed up to the restaurant for drinks and some lunch.

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After lunch, we decided to walk down to the other end of Mead's to check out the beach in front of Malliouhana.

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As lovely as this part of Mead's is, I have to admit: At Malli prices, I would not expect to have to sand-luge my way down this cliff every day.

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Later that afternoon, on our way back to Shoal Bay East, we stopped at SeaSpray Boutique to say hello to our friend Pam.

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We might also have stopped by to pick up some of her killer rum punch mix, which comes with freshly-ground nutmeg.

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Pam's boutique is chock-full of beachy jewelry, scented soaps, original artwork, and postcards.

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Oh, and the cutest selection of tropical Christmas ornaments you're likely to find anywhere, plus delicious jams and sauces from Anguilla's Jammin', which are made from locally grown ingredients.

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Back at Fountain, we enjoyed a round of rum punches, with a sunset colored to match.

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Having loved our dinner at Falcon Nest the night before, we decided to take another one of Hal and Donna's recommendations tonight. And so we set off for Ben's Pit Stop in Island Harbour.

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Formerly of Big Spring and Cafe de Paris, Ben knows his way around a baguette . . . and, apparently, a killer pizza crust.

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Much of the pizza on island is what I'd call "good for Anguilla," but it's certainly nothing to write home about -- especially if your home is in New York. But at Pit Stop, the pizza is so good that I found myself fantasizing about a "Pit Stop NYC" spinoff, which would be located across the street from my apartment and stay open 24 hours a day.

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Besides their fantastic pizza, Pit Stop offers a small menu of French classics, including what Angel described as the best escargot he's ever had . . . including all the ones he's sucked down in Paris.

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On this night, Ben's was a riot of local sights and sounds -- dogs barking, kids crying, parents yelling, engines revving, and two sloshed guys at the bar loudly debating American politics -- but that was just another reason to love it.

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The next morning was July 4.

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And what better way to celebrate 'Murica than by waking up with a food hangover, then spending the morning lazing around like a slug?

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After our swim, we decided on a return visit to Trattoria Tramonto for lunch. So far on this trip I'd had the lobster pasta at Dolce Vita, the penne arrabbiata at Tramonto, and a pepperoni pizza the night before, so I decided to do my patriotic duty and get to work on my carbs quota.

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We settled in at a table for two and ordered up a bottle of Clos Beylesse.

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But that chilled bottle of rosé was no match for the day's heat, so I left Angel at the table and headed down to the water for a quick dip while we waited for our food to arrive. As I walked by the dining pavilion, I heard someone call my name. To my complete surprise and delight, it was Nicolee and Pierre -- owners of one of our favorite villas on the island, Sweet Return.

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Nicolee and Pierre graciously invited us to join them, so we grabbed our wine and headed over to their table.

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Where they even more graciously stood by as I photographed not only my food, but theirs, too.

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We enjoyed a fabulous lunch, catching up with Nicolee since our last meet-up in New York and getting to know a bit more about Pierre. In fact, we'd probably have spent the whole afternoon chatting away, if we hadn't been suddenly and unceremoniously rained out. We said our good-byes as we dashed for our cars, and while Pierre and Nicolee headed back to the villa, Angel and I decided to check out one of Anguilla's newest resorts, The Reef by CuisinArt.

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The two-story lobby are of The Reef resembles a luxury yacht, with sleek lines, multiple "decks," and lots of polished wood.

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The hideous black box that towers over the sleek lobby, however, looks exactly like the kind of soulless office complex that you go on vacation to get away from. Just one glance at it made us both suddenly crave an alcoholic beverage, so we headed down to The Reef's beach bar, Breezes.

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There, we enjoyed a Painkiller topped with rum and nutmeg and a frothy B.B.C.

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The weather hadn't improved by that evening, so we didn't feel much like going out. Instead, we picked up a couple of rotis from the Roti Hut . . .

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Along with another one of those fabulous pizzas from Pit Stop.

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Just trying to make my quota, you know.
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Click here to read Part 5 . . . and then check back for another pre-Irma post from last May. I'm obviously way behind, so my New Year's resolution is to put down that cheeseburger and type with both hands.

Posted by TraceyG 08:28 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla sweet_return trattoria_tramonto shoal_bay_east bens_pit_stop Comments (8)

Anguilla, Part 5: Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

The next morning we decided to have lunch at Straw Hat. We were hoping for a redo, as our last meal there had unceremoniously been cut short after I poisoned Angel.

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The day was hot, and we needed cold drinks, stat.

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After perusing the menu, we decided to share a couple of appetizers -- the tuna tartare and the plaintain chips with fresh salsa -- followed by the mahi sandwich with spicy jerk aioli for Angel and a fantastic Greek salad for me. (I know, I know: Another salad. But I'm a sucker for a favorable feta-to-greens ratio and really good dressing, and Straw Hat nails it on both counts.)

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We whiled away the rest of the afternoon floating in the blue water and sipping a succession of Ti punches.

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Later that afternoon we headed over to Island Harbour to see a friend's new home, and got caught in a quick pop-up shower on the way. We decided to pop up ourselves . . . at Tropical Sunset for a couple of guavaberry coladas.

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We fell in love with guavaberry coladas on our first trip to Anguilla 20 years ago, and over the years they've become harder and harder to find. Kudos to Tropical Sunset for going old-school, especially given that guavaberries do taste vaguely of Pepto-Bismol.

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That evening was our last night, and we'd saved one of the best for last: E's Oven.

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And we'd saved one of E's best dishes for last: The famous oven-roasted chicken.

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There are worse ways to spend your last night on Anguilla than with the coconut-crusted grouper and a plate full of chicken skin pilfered from your husband.

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As usual, we tried to squeeze in as much beach time as possible before departing. And so, on our last day, we decided that we had time for one last swim before heading out. And to make it worth it, we made a beeline for Ocean Echo on Meads Bay.

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There, Del hooked us up with our last Rumzies of the trip.

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But not our last drinks of the trip.

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We even managed to work in a quick lunch.

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And the very best bon voyage treat I could have asked for.

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(Yes, that's Kraft macaroni and cheese. Yes, I saw a little kid eating it and asked our waitress if I could get some too. Yes, I am a ravenous five-year-old girl trapped in the body of a ten-year-old boy.)

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We had time for one last soak before heading back to Fountain to pack up.

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Later, as the plane took off and the island grew smaller in the distance, I thought about what a perfect celebration of milestones it had been: Angel's 50th birthday, Anguilla's 50th birthday, and our 20th anniversary of visiting the island.

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That's a heck of a lot of cheeseburgers.
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You know what else I have a heck of a lot of? Blog posts! Coming soon: A mojito-borne illness in Havana; the wrath of grapes at the Key West Food & Wine Festival; yours truly roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!); homemade hooch in the Hudson Valley, a birthday blowout with my sissy in Brooklyn; and another pre-Irma trip to Anguilla (remember when Seaborne lost Angel's luggage? I sure do). Check back soon, or click here to subscribe and Travellerspoint will do the checking for you!

Posted by TraceyG 06:44 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla straw_hat ocean_echo es_oven Comments (11)

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

Do you remember when 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 Bentley for a Buick, 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 water 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. 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. 9: Giving Me the Rum Around

It was our last full day on island, so a morning swim was in order. We jumped in the car, bumped down the path to the main road, and made the short drive over to Angel's favorite beach, Maunday's Bay.

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The beach was deserted, and the water was glorious.

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And thanks to the early hour, we were spared the pitying eyes and pointing fingers of the resort guests, whose sixth sense for an interloper like myself is stronger than that kid who sees dead people.

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Soon it was time to clean up for lunch at Straw Hat.

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Do you know what's better than the lobster mac & cheese at Straw Hat?

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That's a trick question -- nothing is better than the lobster mac & cheese at Straw Hat. But it wasn't on the menu, so we were left to order soup and sandwiches containing cheese instead.

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We later learned that Straw Hat's new chef took the mac & cheese off the menu, which I find highly suspect. I mean, what kind of chef doesn't want to make mac & cheese?!? It's like a race car driver who finds driving around in circles kind of boring.

Luckily, hardly anything is boring when accompanied by passion fruit coladas and ti punch.

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After an extended visit to the Petals boutique at Frangipani -- where I spent an ungodly amount of money on a bunch of dresses that even I have to admit look exactly like a bunch of dresses I already have -- we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and sunning at Mead's Bay.

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Oh look, my ride is here.

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Back at Sweet Return, we enjoyed one last afternoon swim before cleaning up for sunset cocktails and dinner at Malliouhana.

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Built in 1984 as one of Anguilla's flagship luxury resorts, Malliouhana was reborn last year after an 18-month, $80 million renovation. And as is usually the case, we kind of missed the old place . . .

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But really loved the new place, too.

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Indeed, our only quibble with the new design is that it's like the Odessa Steps up in there, with people tripping, slipping, and tumbling about on what seems like dozens of steps, most of which are steep, dimly lit, and downright dangerous for anyone old, infirm, wearing heels, sipping rum, or (ahem) all of the above.

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I'd arranged for Angel to enjoy a surprise rum tasting before dinner, which I hoped would distract him while I took 3,000 photos of the sunset. And I'd timed it perfectly: Rum tasting at 5:30, dinner at 6:30; sunset at 6:50.

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My plans were almost foiled, however, when Malliouhana tried to delay our rum tasting by half an hour in order to accommodate another couple who'd also reserved the 5:30 tasting, but decided at the last minute to first get massages instead.

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That's right: There are at least two people on this planet who would rather spend an hour getting rubbed down than liquored up. Like I always say: There's no accounting for taste.

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Luckily, the manager noticed our confusion and quickly stepped in, and after we explained in the nicest way possible that we didn't give a flying fig about anyone else's last-minute change of plans, we carried on without them at the appointed time.

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After the rum tasting, we successfully completed the obstacle course from the bar to our table, rewarding ourselves with a round of cocktails, including this vibrant Caribbean Hibiscus made with Mount Gay dark rum, hibiscus nectar, slivers of fresh ginger, and lime.

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We sipped our cocktails and studied the menu as the sun began its slow descent into the sea.

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The offerings at Malli are unusual and delicious, including the white garlic gazpacho with Guadaloupe melon and almonds that I ordered, and the curried goat sausage with whipped bananas and sweet potatoes that Angel was allowed to have some of.

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That was followed with Angel's choice of the yellowfin tuna paillard, a carpaccio-style presentation that served as the base for artichoke, pickled fennel, roasted garlic, arugula, tonnato sauce, and crispy veal sweatbreads.

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I decided on the gnocchi cacio e pepe, which was studded with caramelized cauliflower and brightened with a bit of lemon.

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As the sky deepened to an inky blue, I was forced to contemplate how I was going to make it up 28 flights of stairs in heels, in the dark, after a rum tasting followed by, well, more rum.

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Truly, it was like the blind leading the blind.

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The next morning was our last before departure, so we lounged around the pool for a bit, then took a final walk along the beach that first captured our hearts almost twenty years ago, Rendezvous Bay.

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We had time for one last lunch before departing, and if you think I was leaving the island without one last visit to Ferryboat Inn, I've got some Flat Earth Society literature that may be of interest to you.

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Plus, is there any better sound in the whole wide world than your car tires rumbling over that little bridge?

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As we sipped our rum punches -- more slowly than usual to make them last -- reality slowly crept back in as we confirmed our flights and checked our email and carried on other important work, such as posting photos of French onion soup on Facebook.

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Or, at least one of us did.

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Soon our food arrived, and it was time to get down to some real work.

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We'd dragged out lunch as long as possible, but eventually it was time to depart. We said our good-byes to Marjorie and Christian and made the short hop over to the dock.

As our boat sped away toward St. Martin and Anguilla grew smaller and smaller in the distance, I would like to tell you that my thoughts turned to the island's peacefulness and tranquility, or the kindness and generosity of its residents, or the talcum-powder sands and crystalline waters of its incomparable beaches.

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But really, I was just thinking about cheeseburgers.

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Are you tempted to share these Anguilla blog posts with your sister-in-law, best friend, next-door-neighbor, or mailman so they, too, can discover what's so magical about our favorite island? If so, step away from the keyboard and contemplate this:

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And remember, if anyone asks . . . you were in ANTIGUA.
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Posted by TraceyG 07:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla ferryboat_inn cap_juluca malliouhana may_13 straw_hat Comments (5)

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