Tag Archives: beer

Drinking for Two

30 Jul

The “before” picture.

There have been a whole lot of changes going on in foodNURDland, not the least of which is the ever-closer arrival of the foodNURDling in December. As someone who loves food – and many, many of the alcoholic beverages under the sun – this has required some alterations in my normal routine. It was not easy to give up some of the foods and drinks I love. Prosciutto, wine, raw fish, tiramisu, beef (steak, at least. I am a firm believer that beef should not be cooked to more medium rare at most, so that’s pretty much out, too) and beer. While I’ve chosen to have a little bit of wine here, some beer there, I’m obviously no longer unwinding after a long day with a glass – or two or three – of cab sauv.

And what’s a wine-loving woman to do when she goes out with friends for dinner and can’t face another ginger ale or glass of water? She asks the bartender to get creative.

The easy option is a virgin mojito. All the bartender has to do is remove the rum et voila: drink. In my experience, though, virgin mojitos are far, far too sweet. J makes a much better version than any I’ve had at a restaurant: it’s nowhere near as sweet. My girlfriend, the Hot Biscuit, doesn’t drink much and her tasty stand-by is a mix of cranberry, orange juice and 7-Up. It’s definitely sweet, but the cranberry juice’s tartness helps.

When I was out at Murphy’s Law over the July long weekend, I asked the waitress what she could recommend that was,  “non-alcoholic but looks like it could get me tanked.” She thought about it for a moment and then suggested a virgin pina colada. Given that pina coladas generally don’t taste like alcohol anyway, this seemed like a pretty solid option though certainly one I’d think of off the top of my head. (Pina coladas = beach resort drink.)

…and after.

The most entertaining drink I’ve had so far? A Shirley Temple, made for me at Salvador Darling. The bartender seemed a little stumped initially, so I suggested she just throw some orange and cranberry juice in a glass. Seconds later, it was like a light bulb went off over her head: “I can make you a Shirley Temple!” Awesome. I haven’t had a Shirley Temple since I was ten. I was asked repeatedly if it tasted like I remembered and it pretty much did: sweet, a little fizzy and…sweet.

The best drink so far? That was created one night while I sat at the bar at The Grove. I was a few minutes early for my reservation, so I hopped up on a stool and presented the bartender with my now-standard request. As usual, there was a moment’s pause while he got over the shock of someone not wanting alcohol and then started processing the quandary. “Well, I’ve been experimenting with ginger lately…do you like ginger?” Oh, I do. “So long as there are no olives involved, I’m in!”

A tall, frosty glass of tastiness arrived in front of me a few minutes later. Filled with ice, mint, ginger, homemade lemonade and a couple of other delicious ingredients, this was pretty much my perfect (non-alcoholic) drink. It was refreshing, not overly sweet, and complex. I’m hoping to be as pleasantly surprised elsewhere as I was that evening but so far, still searching.

Anyone have any suggestions for a great drink or bar?

Belize 2012 – Day Eight: How to Do Nothing…Perfectly.

1 Apr

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the amazing aquatic adventures and the relaxed atmosphere, the thing that J and I remembered most about Caye Caulker was the pineapple grilled cheese sandwich we had for breakfast at Amor Y Cafe on our first morning there. It sounds a little weird, I’ll grant you that. Let me make the case for it, though: the cheese is mild and a little salty; the pineapple is juicy and sweet; and the bread is light as air, buttered and just toasted enough to get a nice crunch without being overly crisp. The cheese is gooey and when you bite into this gloriously simple sandwich, the cheese oozes out and mixes with the fresh juice from the pineapple slices. It was so good J spent the better part of the following year perfecting the Toronto-made version. (I was more than happy to be the guinea pig for these taste tests and even happier when he figured out the key to recreating it.)

So when we found ourselves back at the caye, we knew we had to head to Amor Y Cafe as soon as we could. They’re only open for breakfast and are busy from the time they open til they close at midday. The service is always friendly, if not always terribly expedient; but, you’re in Caye Caulker. Nothing moves too quickly there anyway. There is a fairly large breakfast selection and you can order any of the sandwiches to go, should you want a snack for later. We chose seats at one of the tables that’s right on the street – a great spot for people watching – and ordered our coffees.

The most important meal of the day.

We did, for just a moment, ponder ordering something aside from the pineapple grilled cheese, but quickly dismissed those thoughts. We put in our orders and soaked up the atmosphere. We recognized a few people from neighbouring businesses that we’d met last year, including the guy who gave us the most epic directions ever. (“I know where you need to go. See those two girls over there? Yeah, turn left at them and then walk til you see some trees…”) Not much later, our highly anticipated meal arrived. I must tell you: it was as good as we remembered. Maybe a tiny bit better.

Grilled cheese heaven.

Did I mention this thing is enormous? It’ll keep you going for a while.

Leisurely breakfast finished, we parked ourselves beach-side with some books and magazines. We were to meet J’s cousin and her friend some time in the early afternoon but had not been able to communicate exactly when. No matter: we sat in a lovely, shady spot between the two water taxi piers and spent a couple of hours doing…nothing. When the scenery looks like this, that’s a perfectly acceptable – and recommended – activity:

When they arrived in the early afternoon, we changed into our bathing suits and headed up to the Split. We spent the rest of the daylight hours watching the parasailers perform their stunts, swimming, drinking from our bucket o’ beers and generally enjoying ourselves immensely. When dinner discussions arose, we suggested heading back to Syd’s. Syd’s, however, was closed on Sundays (ah, travelling in a Catholic country. Gotta remember what day it is or you may find yourself outta luck) so we needed another option. That ended up being the Rainbow Grill, a restaurant with an enormous open-air dining room right over the water. Hard to beat that. I went for the curry chicken; J was feeling the chicken burrito. Both plates were gigantic but as we hadn’t eaten lunch (unless beer counts. And it could.) that was no problem. We polished those suckers off with no problem.

We parted ways after dinner, heading back to our respective hotels. We made plans to meet up around 10am for breakfast and said goodnight. Another fabulous day on a beautiful island with wonderful people.

Belize 2012 – Day One: Ready for it All…Right After a Nap.

2 Mar

3:30am comes really, really early these days, especially when you’ve got to take on Pearson International Airport half an hour later. It helps to know that you’re headed on vacation to a beautiful country where friends, family and food await you. Last year’s day of departure was a total gong show; this year, a relatively painless experience. Most of the first flight was spent asleep or blankly staring at the seat in front of me. J and I were travelling with his aunt and upon arriving at the Miami airport we decided to go in search of breakfast. While I generally loathe the Miami airport and it’s ability to turn normal, reasonable people into shoving, rude, insane jerks, I must admit that they have a great selection of restaurants. We popped into a Tex-Mex place that had a surprisingly good huevos rancheros plate, served with warm flour tortillas. Beats a McD’s breakfast sandwich any day.

Two hours later we were on our way to my adopted country, Belize. My in-laws were waiting for us at the airport and took us off to the house they had rented in Belize City. After a quick clothing change (there is no place for pants while on vacation, as far as I’m concerned), I sat down with my in-laws to catch up. “Are you ready for a beer?” my mother-in-law asked. Oh, how absurdly ready I was.

The sign you've officially arrived

This light, cold beer was exactly what I was craving after 11 hours of travelling and to accompany it, she had some chicken tamales for us to inhale. What a welcome!

Beer and late-lunch taken care of, we went to visit some of J’s relatives, including his 97-year old great aunt who is an inspiration to anyone who meets her. We only stayed for a brief visit as it was pretty close to dinner and we didn’t want to disrupt anyone’s routine. Additionally, we were pretty exhausted and were very much ready for a nap.

And since we were on vacation, that is EXACTLY what we did: dropped our bags on the floor in our hotel room and fell dead asleep for an hour. Naptime was proceeded by a nice, hot shower. Feeling much more human, J and I headed to the Baymen’s Tavern in our hotel (Belize City is not a place to explore at night by yourself). We ordered a couple of beers and J went for the fried shrimp platter while I opted for the grilled snapper – both with rice & beans and coleslaw. When in Belize, you’ve gotta get the rice & beans. It’s different everywhere you go but always delicious.

There is nothing – nothing – like fresh seafood. The fish had a great flavour from the grill and was cooked perfectly, served with a lemon & garlic butter sauce on the side.  More of this, please:

Grilled snapper, rice & beans, coleslaw: standard Belize fare.

Seafood cravings temporarily fulfilled, we took a little tour around the hotel grounds. There’s something about dipping your feet in a pool that’s instantly relaxing. We returned to our room and sat on our balcony, breathing in the salty night air. Champagne was delivered to our room (part of the package we booked) but we were too wiped to enjoy it. No matter: we had plenty of other nights to enjoy it! Off to bed we went like responsible adults, knowing we had a long trip ahead of us into the mountains the next day.

Next up: road-tripping with the in-laws.

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