05 July 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part III

Grenada Day 4

Like previous days, this day started out with rain, but this time it was a torrential downpour. Undaunted, we ate breakfast, packed a bag, and headed north with our map. The rain was crazy heavy and there were several moments where we thought about just turning around—the runoff on the road was substantial and every time we plowed through the standing water, it blinded us for a split second until the wipers cleared it. But then we lucked up by getting behind a large dump truck that was traveling very slowly. We stuck behind it through the worst of the storm. Cars behind us were clearly frustrated with our slow speed, but we were relieved to follow the tortoise instead of trying to keep pace with the hare. Past La Sagesse the weather finally let up to a light rain, so we spent the next hour and change just enjoying the drive.

photos from around Belmont Estate

Our destination for the day was Belmont Estate and we arrived there approximately two hours after leaving the villa. After getting out and stretching a bit, we made our way to the visitors’ center where we met Kelly, the young man giving tours that day (only EC $10 per person, plus tip). He was both energetic and well spoken and we enjoyed learning the history of the plantation and getting the full scoop on the way the cacao is harvested, fermented, dried and processed—all by hand! I was even invited to “walk to beans,” a task traditionally allocated to women, to get a feel for it. The tour concluded with our watching a short video of how the Grenada Chocolate Company then processes the chocolate nibs into their fine chocolate whilst Kelly prepared some cocoa tea and chocolate samples for us. Yum--I’d bought cocoa balls at the market during previous vacations, but making cocoa tea at home never tastes as good! For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a treat. Chocolate, ground cinnamon, and ground bay leaves are mixed to form balls, which are then boiled in water and then sweetened with a lot of sugar.

Some photos from around the estate

Belmont Estate used to supply Lindt and other European chocolatiers with their chocolate, but now it all stays on island, going to the Grenada Chocolate Factory, a solar-powered, all-organic locally owned chocolate company. Because of its small size, the factory doesn’t give tours any longer, but it was quite fascinating to see the process even on video.

more photos from around the estate

Belmont also has recently imported goats and is now the source of most of the goat cheese served in local restaurants on the island. They’re hoping to increase the production of the goat cheese in order to sell it to individuals and stores. We bid adieu to Kelly to walk around a bit on our own before lunch, so we wandered through the gardens, visited the land tortoises and parrots, and made snapshots for about a quarter of an hour.

Lunch was a combination of full service and buffet. Joan, our waitress, took our orders for drinks, appetizers (pumpkin soup for me, fish chowder for DH), and dessert (bergamot ice cream for DH, mango mousse for me) while our main course was a large buffet table filled with a variety of both local dishes and more standard American fare—green salad, potato & papaya salad, green bananas, rice & peas, pepper pot, fish, chicken, and breadfruit pie. It was my first time to try pepper pot, whose flavor I really liked. The food was all perfectly good but not particularly outstanding—hard to achieve ‘outstanding’ on a buffet, after all. But we enjoyed the experience immensely, not least because of Joan’s pleasant mien and the lovely breeze. Two prix-fixe meals, plus one bottled water, one coffee, and two fresh cane juices, came to around EC $120, including tax and additional service charge.

This cute little boy jumped into my photo!

After lingering there for a while, we continued our journey north to Sauteurs, our mouths rather continually agape from the stunning views of the lush mountains and gorges. We had intended to follow the signs all the way to Carib’s Leap but the road was blocked off with police signs in town. Changing gears, we followed the road out to Bathway Beach instead, which was a wild swathe of sand etched with breakers. Apparently along this windward coast the island loses up to 7 feet per year from erosion, at least according to the tourist literature left in our villa. We got out to make some photos and enjoy the salty tang of the air and the rare kiss of sunshine on our faces. Then back in the car following the road to River Antoine distillery (“get thee to a rummery,” my husband commanded as we drove by). By this time, school was getting out for the day, so driving again slowed down as we navigated through seas of small, uniformed children, each more adorable than the last.

Bathway Beach looking north/ Bathway Beach looking south

It was, we decided, a wonderful day, a perfect way to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. Wanting to continue the celebration with a nice meal, we chose the Beach House, remembering it as having a very nice ambience. Dinner was not quite as successful as we had hoped, however. Part of it was simply the wet weather and the resulting increase of bug activity. The restaurant has some attractive sconces, one on the wall above each table, and while in the past they’ve never attracted insects to the point of being bothersome, that night it was distracting and unpleasant.

I also had a misunderstanding with our waiter (or perhaps it was between our waiter and the kitchen), which resulted in a very odd first course, indeed. I originally ordered the summer salad, comprising mixed greens, fresh goat cheese candied pecans, apple slices, and a mango vinaigrette. Upon being told that the kitchen was out of mixed greens but that I could have a Caesar salad instead, I asked if I could have the romaine lettuce used in the Caesar salad, but prepared like the summer salad. “Of course,” was my response. Well, what I got was a Caesar salad, complete with anchovies(!) and parmesan cheese, but with the apples and candied pecans from the summer salad. It wasn’t exactly dreadful—it was more bizarre than anything else—but I couldn’t really bring myself to finish it.

The kitchen was out of the first two items DH tried to order so he ordered a simple steak, medium rare. It came back well done and so full of gristle that it was pretty tough to cut. The side dishes were the saving grace, including the seasonal vegetables, the baked mashed potatoes, and the sautéed mushrooms, all done to perfection. I had more luck with my second dish of beef skewers served with a peanut sauce called the Thai Teepee—they were absolutely succulent and tender. Our dessert, a cloud of meringue, filled with lime curd, a passionfruit reduction, and cream, was perfectly balanced and very light. Three cocktails, plus tax and tip, brought our bill to EC $301.

Were we overall disappointed? Perhaps a little. Our server could have saved us some disappointment up front by telling us what the kitchen had run out of, for example. And I am still shaking my head at that salad, but that was probably a miscommunication more than anything. There was no excuse for the awfulness of my husband’s steak, certainly, but we don’t really like to send things back, either, so we just sucked it up. We still had a pleasant evening because we thankfully still really enjoy each other’s company, but our good time was only intermittently connected to our food.

photos from the Beach House restaurant

Today I read a really good young adult novel called Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchette, enthusiastically recommended to me by friend and former co-worker, Rebecca Fabian.

1 comment:

  1. oh Emily I love your travel blog..and we are kindred spirit even more loving Grenada Chocolate..


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