Day two in paradise. Awoke to blue skies, steady breezes and temperatures in the high 20’s. We made our way down to breakfast around 8:30 and found our little table set with coffee awaiting us: pretty much the only way that morning could’ve gotten better. We were greeted by the staff and were promptly brought out a bowl of fruit to start our breakfast. Renita introduced us to Seth, a 20-something recent journalism graduate who was taking a month off before plunging into a full-time job. We chatted about travel and Belize and about the camera equipment he took with him everywhere he went. In the meantime, plates with beans, scrambled eggs with cheese and Johnny cakes were placed before us. As we munched away, I mentioned to Renita that I had found a chocolate manufacturer via Twitter in San Pedro and that we’d love the chance to visit. “Oh! You mean Belize Chocolate. I have Chris’ number in my phone. Let me just call him up and see if I can arrange for a tour.” Just like that, we had a tour of an organic, fair trade, locally-grown chocolate factory.
Have I convinced you to go to San Pedro yet?
A few other guests joined us and we all headed down to the south end of the island, roughly three miles from the B&B. Orlando, our taxi driver, was very entertaining, pointing out local landmarks and describing the various foliage which could either heal or seriously harm, apparently. We arrived at the Belize Chocolate Company and were greeted by one half of the team, a British ex-pat named Chris Beaumont. (His partner, Jo, works there in the afternoon.) He took us right into his work space and explained the basic chocolate making process. It was all we could do not to dive in greedily as he showed us the raw cocoa beans, the various stages the beans must go through in order to become beautiful, silky chocolate, the just-picked oranges that would be incorporated into some of the chocolate…seriously. It was tough even at 10:30am.
They make a number of different chocolate bars on-site and we had a little taste of each: dark, ginger, orange, chili and sesame. They were all (predictably) wonderful, but J and I agreed that the significant heat of the chili and the creaminess of the sesame were our favourites. We bought some to bring back to his dad as a thank you gift for driving us to, from and around the mountains, though it was hard to part with it.
The raw product
Oil gets reincorporated back in for a shiny finish
I'll take them all, thank you.
A quick note about the grounds. Even though making chocolate for a living is most kids’ (and adults’) dream, if I worked there I don’t know how I’d ever spend any time inside. This is the view Chris & Jo enjoy:
Sure beats a pavement and cement intersection.
What does one do after a morning spent sampling chocolate? One finds lunch, obviously. We headed to George’s, a local spot recommended to us last year by Josimar, the always-charming Jack of all trades at the B&B. Located just a couple of blocks away, George’s is a great spot for local food cooked up by George himself. It’s not the sexiest spot for lunch but man, is it ever good! J went for the stewed fish lunch; I opted for the stewed chicken. Importantly, both came with plantains and not just any plantains: of all the ones we tried all over Belize, these were the best. The caramelization on these puppies was just perfect:
It came with 2 plantains...I ate 1 before remembering to take the picture.
We passed the afternoon reading, swimming at the pool next door and chatting with Renita. (Tough life, I tells ya.) She mentioned that Red Ginger, an affiliate restaurant to Blue Water Grill where we’d eaten the night before, had excellent food. A little more upscale than the other restaurants in Belize, their food had gotten excellent reviews of late and she had enjoyed it immensely as well. Sold. Later that evening, we moseyed north up the beach, past the centre of town where kids were enjoying the enormous play area while their parents caught up with friends and music played through giant loudspeakers.
The staff at Red Ginger was unfailingly charming and courteous during the several hours over which we dined. We started off with a round of Ginger Punches, an evil concoction of white, dark and coconut rum, pineapple and orange juices, Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, a dash of bitters and tiny pieces of shaved ginger as a garnish. Those little pieces of ginger were a genius addition as they helped to balance out the sweetness of the rum and the juices. This cocktail will appear at our next party, that’s for sure.
For dinner, we ordered the grouper ceviche. Mixed with mango juice, ginger and cucumber, this was a lovely and refreshing appetizer served in a beautiful martini glass with a compartment for ice underneath to keep the ceviche properly chilled.
Next up: snapper fillet with Caribbean garlic-cilantro mojo, served with coconut rice and wilted spinach and bacon-wrapped scallops with a maple cream sauce on a bed of pappardelle pasta and julienned zucchini and carrots. Bacon-anything usually gets my vote as is, but wrapped around scallops and served over fresh pasta with a sweet maple cream? Oh my, yes. Really, this was a stellar meal in a beautiful restaurant. If we’d had room, certainly we’d have indulged in dessert but we were pretty full as it was. Shame, really, as the rum-glazed bananas and the trio of crème brulée looked fantastic.
We casually made our way back to the B&B through the buzzing streets of San Pedro, passing both locals and tourists out enjoying a Friday night on the caye. We were to leave the next afternoon for Caye Caulker, a full-on hippie paradise where life is even slower than in San Pedro. While I looked forward to it, I was saddened by the thought of having to leave a place that I could call home. Maybe one day…