25 September 2009

Holy hammerhead, Batman!

Hammerhead just offshore at Carimar

We got up with heavy hearts, knowing it was our last full day on the island. The night before we had talked about setting up for the day at Rendezvous Bay since we hadn’t really seen it yet, but when it came down to it, neither of us felt much like stirring away from Carimar. So DH commenced to frying up some bacon & eggs for breakfast while I hied myself back to Christine’s to buy another baguette since the remnants of the one we bought earlier in the week had already molded. Lucky choice we made, as we would have missed the great hullabaloo on Meads Bay otherwise. While placidly dipping my spoon into a passionfruit to scoop out the last of its seeds, the downstairs neighbor shouted up to me, “Look—dolphin!” What we both thought was a dolphin at first turned out to be a hammerhead shark so close to shore that I was afraid it would beach itself permanently. A crowd gathered around while it was thrashing to get unmoored from the sand—two staff members had to hold back a couple of guests who got stupidly close to it. I watched it all from the balcony, so I was a little distance from it, but my best guess is that it was about 6 feet long, perhaps just a tad longer (somebody who saw it up close later estimated at more like 8 feet, so who knows?). Once it freed itself and got back into the water, it circled around a few times about 20 feet off shore before heading out to sea again. From my guess it had been chasing another fish and was so intent on catching it that it didn’t pay attention to the depth of the water and came aground. The other fish, a very narrow one, maybe 2.5-3 feet long, swam hurriedly away toward Frangipani, parallel to shore, only a couple of feet from the beach. After we lost sight of the big one, though, I saw a much smaller shark circling offshore—I couldn’t see what kind it was, but my neighbor who had gone down to the beach said that it was also a hammerhead.

What a commotion that shark caused! People were pouring onto the beach from the gardens and the office and possibly from the street outside, just to get a glimpse of it. It’s the first time I’ve seen a shark without an aquarium wall between us and it was just beautiful, glistening like pewter in the sunlight when it was stuck halfway in the sand. Still, I’m thankful that I wasn’t actually in the water with it! Someone from Malliouhana declared that in his 20 years of working there he had never seen a fish that big in that cove.
The pleasant bar at AGH

Later that afternoon we drove over to Anguilla Great House so that we could have a drink and see more of Rendezvous Bay. The place was empty of guests but they were getting busy for a wedding to be held there the next day. We each had a couple of drinks (I don’t recommend the rum punch) and read our books and enjoyed the strong breeze coming off the water. I think the beach at AGH is a much nicer section than what we saw outside Dune Preserve the day they were closed, and in fact was nicer than the beach at Shoal Bay West. Despite the lukewarm reviews for food at AGH, we would definitely consider planting ourselves there for a day in the future.
Windy day at Rendezvous Bay

For dinner we debated between trying someplace new and returning to Veya, and Veya won out. It was a very pleasant evening, despite our melancholy for having to leave the next morning. DH ordered the conch carpaccio and I ordered the fish soup for starters after making sure that it didn’t have cilantro in it. The amuse-bouche was a conch fritter with a mango sauce, but when my husband asked about the Thai lemongrass soup that had been served earlier that week, they brought us out some of that, too, and were kind enough not to add the cilantro garnish to mine. It was excellent, spicy but well-balanced. Unfortunately, when my fish soup arrived, it did have cilantro in it. Or at least, I can attest that I tasted it in there. To make sure I even isolated a small green piece to taste on its own and sure enough, the unpleasantly familiar soapy-ammonia taste was very strong. However, the chef had personally assured me that there was no cilantro in it at all, that most of the green matter was, in fact, scallions, so who can say? I definitely know the difference between scallions and cilantro, as I love one and loathe the other. Could it have been my imagination? Possibly. Could the chef have been mistaken? Possibly. But it was an awkward situation when I sent the soup back and ordered a simple green salad instead. In fact, my embarrassment hung over me for the rest of the meal. God, if only I were part of the normal population who can embrace cilantro!

Fish soup. With cilantro? Who knows?

Anyway, as it turned out, halfway through the first course the owner came out to inform me that my second small plate, the Moroccan shrimp cigars, couldn’t be made without cilantro, so I ordered the steak lettuce wraps with avocado and pickled onion. It was just as good as it had been on our first night. DH took a chance on the vanilla cured duck and it was simply amazing. The vanilla was certainly a dominant flavor and the rest of the seasonings balanced it out to perfection so that it didn’t come across as sweet at all. We ordered two desserts this time: a chili chocolate cake with caramelized bananas and banana ice cream (yum!) and mango served three ways as a sorbet, a mousse, and then sliced in a minted ginger syrup (double yum!). Two cocktails and one bottled water brought the total to about US $150. Despite my discomfort re: the great cilantro debate in the fish soup, I felt that Veya was again the best meal I’d had on Anguilla, and by the time dessert was finished, even DH agreed that it was tops in his mind, too.

Self-portrait at Rendezvous Bay
Pretty pool area at AGH

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