22 July 2013

Our Last, Perfect Day in Anguilla

The luminous waters of Rendezvous Bay
Unless you've been to Anguilla, you have no idea how terrible it is to wake up on your last full day on the island. Sure, you might be a little sad that your vacation is over when you're somewhere else. But on Anguilla? Leaving is nothing short of tragedy.

I was compelled to plan the perfect last day, eating breakfast and dinner at my favorite places, spending the day at my favorite beach location, and squeezing in a bit o' shopping at the last minute 'cause we hadn't done that yet.
The main pastry case at Geraud's 
Thus it was that after packing our beach bags, we began the day at Geraud's over coffee and pastries.  I got my confirmed favorites, lemon and coconut Danishes, and DH opted for boring ol' cinnamon roll, but of course even the plain items at Geraud's surpass the normal.
My breakfast perfection: iced coffee with coconut & lemon danishes
From there we stopped at the ATM to fortify our wallets and then made our way to Devonish Gallery, a place where we always stop in when on the island.  Courtney Devonish was out, but he had arranged for a friend to cover the shop. We made our usual passes through the aisles, pausing here and there to touch one of the many mahogany sculptures that are Devonish's trademark.  We picked up three of the carved hearts as gifts for folks back home (two already grace our home, along with a vase and a pelican sculpture), and I quickly de-fortified my wallet by finally purchasing a small original oil of a seascape by Antoine Chapon, an artist whose watercolors I've been admiring for years but which, alas, are beyond my budget.

One of the mahogany hearts: image from Etsy 
Some of the colorful images in the gallery
The painting, even unframed, was too big to take home in our suitcase, which we found out only after having taken it back to Caribella, so we drove it back to the gallery and I asked to have it shipped.  I'll post a photo of it once it arrives. Thus delayed, we finally arrived at The Place, where we had promised Mo and Dave the day before that we would be all day.

Interior shot of The Place
Thumbs-up from Dave
Some folks were already lounging on one of the daybeds, so we claimed the other one, but it was the first time in our multiple visits that we didn't have the separate little pavilion to ourselves.  We had a lot of reading to work into our busy drinking schedules, so we set to right away.

We were so engrossed in our books that we didn't notice that a storm was encroaching until we were in the middle of it.  The wind was really whipping the rain in, hard enough that we had to put our books (and in my case, an e-reader) back into our bags for protection, but there are few things I love more than enjoying the liquid sunshine of the Caribbean.

Cf: with photo above
Eventually the rain let up enough to go up to the dining area for lunch.  We both wanted to keep things on the light side so we'd be plenty hungry for the spectacular feast we had coming up for dinner, so I had the jerk chicken salad and DH opted for the grilled fish with salad.  His was definitely better than mine.  My chicken was only okay, and not spicy at all.

Jerk chicken salad
Grilled fish with salad
After lunch, Mo and I spent a few minutes planning our health pact: he and I both would like to lose a similar percentage of body weight, so we're going to be penpals, encouraging each other across the miles. The only thing was that he was already moving toward his goal, and I clearly needed to wait until I got home before starting anything in earnest. Because otherwise I wouldn't be able to say things like, "I'll have a BBC, easy on the colada, and keep 'em coming every hour or so." Okay, so by the time I said that, it meant I actually only had two of them, but still.  NB: BBC in this context stands for Banana Bailey's Colada.
Here we are, clinching our pact
BBC, easy on the colada
Eventually it was time for us to head back to Caribella, but we were sad to leave The Place for the last time this trip. We had one last dip in the water, made a few photographs, and hugged & kissed Mo goodbye until next year.
A very comfy chaise
Looking directly up at the palms shading my chaise
DH and Mo
Thank goodness we had the piece de resistance ahead of us: the tasting menu at Veya. It's no secret that Veya is my favorite restaurant in Anguilla, but it's also my favorite in the entire Caribbean.  It may not have quite the ambience of, say, The Cliff in Barbados with its flambeaux and over-water tables...
Photo courtesy of The Cliff website
...but Veya beats the pants off it for food and inventiveness of cuisine. Every. Single. Time. It also lacks pretension: I'll never forget a travel forum discussion about appropriate attire for dinner at Veya, where people were bickering back and forth about what was acceptable (the original poster wanted to know if long shorts were okay for men). Chef Carrie wrote in to settle the matter, saying that she would be happy to serve anybody in her restaurant, no matter what they wore, as long as they were dressed. Full stop.


As many times as we'd visited Veya (and we counted that this was our 11th visit over the course of seven visits to the island), we'd never done the tasting menu, but we decided that it would provide the perfect endcap to our vacation.

Fun with mirrors
More fun with mirrors
We started off each with a cocktail: DH with his usual gin on the rocks and me with the Sandy Hill,  comprising tequila, grapefruit juice, and Ruby Red liqueur.  Love it, with or without salt.  Omari Banks was playing that night, and it may be the first time we've heard him, but it won't be the last. Monica and Yolanda took care of us very well, and Carrie and Jerry also stopped in at our table multiple times--we felt completely spoiled!

The amuse-bouche turned out to be a red pepper & local vegetable bisque with sambuca:

I personally did not taste the sambuca, but it was delish.
After that, Jerry and Carrie came out to see if we had any food preferences or aversions, other than my known one for that foul herb, cilantro. We allowed that we did not, and that we were prepared to eat whatever she thought was best and fun. Moving on to our first course, she had prepared a tiradito of yellowfin tuna with cashews, pickled onion, with fried basil & chili threads.  Who knew you could fry basil and that it would be amazing?!  Unlike DH, I am not usually a fan of raw fish, but there was nothing about this dish that wasn't excellent. We both loved it.

The yellowfin tuna
At this point, we requested that Jerry pick out a glass of wine for us. Not knowing what lay ahead in the menu, we figured that was best.  He poured for each of us a glass of La Crema chardonnay.  Again, I'm not generally a fan of chardonnays, as I prefer the brightness and slight minerality (for lack of a better word) of sauvignon blancs, but this one worked really well with the upcoming courses.

For our second course, Jerry was suddenly a little cagey.  As he presented the plates to each of us, he asked if we recognized it.  Peering at it, I realized that while it looked a little like lobster and a little crayfish, it was actually neither.  He walked off with a smile, saying that he'd tell us what it was after we ate it.
Mystery course #2
As above, different view
Which was probably best, because if he'd said, "Here's your sea lice," it would have been distinctly less appetizing.  Thinking that sea lice were only the jellyfish-like larvae that can sting you, I was agape, but he explained that though that's what these creatures are known as locally, to the rest of the world it's known as Spanish lobster.  Well, I don't know about you, but I'd say that whoever first called this crustacean "sea lice" probably wasn't employed in the marketing field.

Sea lice provide less meat than crayfish or lobster, but it sure was terrific. Carrie prepared it similarly to the crayfish on her regular menu, grilled with a ginger-shallot beurre blanc.  This dish (or more probably its name!) also caught the eye of our neighbors, so we struck up a conversation about it, Anguilla, and food in general.  Jerry later obliged us by bringing out an uncooked sea lice (sea louse?) for us all to view, informing us that for every 50-60 lobster or crayfish that the fishermen catch, there's usually only 1-2 sea lice. Anguillians consider them a delicacy.

'Twas a brave soul who first ate this.
It was fortunate for us that there were pauses between these courses, as we were both filling up fast. Nonetheless, we did request that the next two courses be as small of a portion as could be managed (though not, naturally, the dessert course).

For course the third, we revisited the yellowfin tuna, but this time it was seared with smoked paprika, carrot sauce, and an herb salad. I've had carrot puree before (notably at Mango's), but this was of a higher order altogether. Again with the yum.

Seared yellowfin tuna
Our last savory course was a pork tenderloin with Thai flavors, accompanied by a coconut sauce, curry butter, and crispy parsnips. By the time we finished it (and truthfully, despite my best efforts to finish, I left a bit behind on my plate), we begged for a short breather before dessert.  Carrie came out again to verify that she remembered correctly that we're not big chocolate fans. We confirmed that, but allowed that a little bit of chocolate would be fine.

Pork tenderloin with crispy parsnips
We ordered a dram of rum to accompany our final course, which we sipped while we waited and enjoyed Omari's music.  When it came, it was actually a selection of four different desserts: chocolate hazelnut mousse bars, coconut-lime sorbet, mango sorbet, and my favorite of all favorites: the dense coconut cake with a caramelized toffee sauce, served with vanilla bean ice cream and a golden sugar crown.

Our dessert assortment 
Close-up of the coconut cake
They were all amazing, with my least favorite probably being the chocolate hazelnut mousse bar because duh, it's chocolate, but even a least favorite in this scenario was pretty special.  The mango mousse was without a doubt the best of the various ice creams and sorbets we'd sampled on the entire trip. But nothing compares to the coconut cake in my book.

My opinion of the chef's tasting menu?  Worth every penny and possibly then some. It will stay with me as one of the most memorable meals I've ever eaten.

Post-prandial smiles

21 comments:

  1. Ohhh you make me want to go on vacation there so badly :) Wonderful photos!

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  2. Emily, once again another fabulous read!

    Thanks for educating me on Sea Lice - LOL!

    Your picture titled "The luminous waters of Rendezvous Bay" is absolutely gorgeous!! It would make a great avatar for the Anguilla forums.

    Roxanne

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    1. sea lice: who knew?

      I'm a little surprised about that photo of Rendesvous. if i'd had to identify it without knowing where I took it, I'd have said Shoal Bay East, instead.

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    2. Emily, I immediately thought it was Shoal Bay East until I read the description. Beautiful :)

      Roxanne

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  3. oh, it looks heavenly. i am a city traveller and I have never been to a place like that, but it looks wooooonnnnderful!

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    1. I used to be a city traveler until i met my husband. for our first trip together I wanted to go back to Italy. he wanted to go back to the caribbean. The only way he could convince me to try it was with the promise that I could plan the next five vacations. he smirks about it, but the next five vacations we went back to the caribbean.

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  4. Between repeatedly going to The Place and trying sea lice for the first time, I think we had the same vacation! I had never heard of sea lice until my last trip. I was introduced to it and had it for dinner one night. I almost like it better than crayfish and definitely liked in better than the local lobster. I highly recommend it.

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    1. Sounds like we're vacation twins! When were you on the island, sampling The Place and sea lice? Did you have sea lice on the tasting menu at Veya, too, or was it elsewhere? I'm so intrigued by that now! I agree with you--I'm not a big lobster fan in general, so I definitely liked the sea lice better.

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  5. I want. all of it. Maybe not the sea lice (eeew!) but I love shellfish so I'd have to try! I'm trying to talk my wife into a trip to Anguilla now!!!

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    1. Oh, y'all should TOTALLY plan a trip to Anguilla. And if you do, let me know and I can share all sorts of helpful info with you and we can get together and drink rum punch!

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  6. Congratulations on your Chapon purchase!! I also love his work but, like you, find that his large oils are outside my budget. So a few years ago when he had an exhibition at the Devonish Gallery, I stopped by on the last day and asked if I could buy the exhibition poster - which also mentioned Anguilla and the date! For $35, plus $200 or so for the frame, I ended up with a lovely piece that I get to admire every day at work, daydreaming about Anguilla! :)

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    1. Good work on snagging the poster! I actually prefer his water colors to his oils, but the small oil was the only thing in my price range. Maybe one day I'll own one of his water colors.

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  7. Emily - if this is the end, then you sure are going out with a bang! What a fabulous read and tribute to all. We have not been to Veya in several years as the stairs are too much for my DH, but I always love to hear about it, it always sounds so darn good.
    Your pictures are spectacular, really well done!
    Thanks so much for all your time, it has been a true pleasure.
    Ellen

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    1. I'm sorry that the stairs make it impossible for you and DH to eat at Veya. I wonder if they would ever do takeout so you could pick it up and rush home to eat it with DH? They might if you explained the situation.

      I'll probably do one wrap-up post, but I'd better get back to my book reviews soon or else I'm going to lose all of my bookish followers! (I had two people un-follow me during these trip reports--oy)

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  8. Look at your fancy dressedness! I am a fan. ALSO -- sea lice. Damn. You are fired, naming person. Spanish lobster sounds awesome, though. That person gets a bonus.

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  9. I am so 100% happy to hear that the sea lice you ate are not the sea lice that sting me all the time back home - because that added a bunch of terrifying imagery that I'd rather not deal with next time I'm in the ocean! Also, it's a terrible name for food - no one wants to eat lice!

    Looks like an amazing holiday!

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  10. As always a great report. Sea lice are also called slipper tail lobster which sounds a lot nicer. The locals certainly consider them to be a delicacy - for every 50 lobster caught only one is likely to be a slipper tail. They don't often find their way into the restaurants so you were very lucky.
    I look forward to reading about the rest of your stay and seeing a picture of your painting - what a great memento.

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  11. This looks so wonderful--every bit of it. I can't wait to see that painting!

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  12. Thanks for sharing such a great ending, and wow - what a night with so many beautiful dishes. I'm looking forward to seeing the painting too!

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Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)