15 July 2010

How I spent my summer vacation, part XI

The road to Caribella
Anguilla Day 6

Our last full day on the island always leaves us feeling a little melancholy, because no matter how much we’re enjoying ourselves, there’s the constant undercurrent of, “well, this is the last time we eat breakfast/ go to the PO/ visit with Vandra/ snorkel/ walk on the beach in Anguilla for another year.”

Isn’t it the way it happens? We discover our new favorite spots for breakfast and lunch on our last day. For breakfast we drove over to Koal Keel’s Le Petit Patisserie, where we sat at the single table on the balcony and lingered with our books over pastries and coffee. The elevated position on the balcony afforded us a wonderful breeze, the strong coffee reminded us very much of the chicory coffee served in New Orleans, and the fresh, flaky pastries were excellent. We remained there for nearly an hour, just soaking it all in, and marveling that the pastry chef’s shift begins at 1:00 am just so people like us can enjoy the fruits of his or her labor at the more leisurely hour of 8:00 am.

Our private balcony breakfast. We LOVED this place!

We went back to spend the morning at Barnes Bay, and this time we were the only souls on the beach all morning. The surf was up a little bit more than it had been in previous days, with waves about 18-24”. We read and walked and read and swam and read some more before heading back to the room to clean up.

Jacala for lunch

By 1:00 pm we had pulled up to Jacala where we spent the next few hours, first dining and then lounging on Meads Bay. The atmosphere was really lovely, a cool white background with brightly colored, tasteful accents. We drank iced tea like it was going out of style, meanwhile ordering the chilled cucumber soup with spicy tomato sorbet (DH) and the grilled watermelon & chevre salad (me). The soup was excellent, very delicately flavored and refreshing on a hot day, but my dish was no less than a revelation. The heat from the grilled watermelon caused the chevre to melt, and topping it all was a chilled salad of arugula, dressed with a fine balsamic reduction. It was perfect—a perfect balance of flavors, temperatures and textures that was just out of this world (but I won’t forget that it was the chef at Veya who first served up grilled watermelon). My husband doesn’t even like goat cheese and he was even raving about my salad. For dessert we shared the mint panna cotta, which was topped with a papaya-mint marmalade and accompanied by two coconut macaroons, and it was also perfect. (As of this writing several days later, I can still taste the fresh mint, the lightness of the custard, and the unexpected savory dimension of the marmalade.) The whole experience was superlative.

After lunch we gathered up our books to relax on the beach for a while. DH claimed the hammock while I reclined on one of their brightly colored canvas chairs that are structurally similar to bean bags. The day was bright, but between the palm trees and the open umbrellas, we had plenty of shade. Meads Bay was relatively busy, with lots of people walking or jogging along the waterline. Carimar, where we stayed for our first visit last year, had a couple dozen chairs & umbrellas set up, and though not every chair was occupied, it gave the effect of being crowded. (NB: In fact, when informed back in May by the staff that Carimar had about 2/3 occupancy for the week we were considering, we thought it would feel a bit too crowded for us. We really like Carimar and would return in the future, though.) By the time we left that afternoon, I had come to the startling conclusion that though Meads Bay is, in fact, stunningly pretty, it seems to lack the character of our favorite beaches on the island. I’m not sure I can put my finger on the whys and wherefores. Just lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, I suppose.

Looking left on Meads toward Viceroy the beach was fairly empty, but looking next door
toward Carimar, it was really packed. Relatively speaking, of course.

Late afternoon we headed back to do most of our packing and then enjoy a last walk and swim at Barnes Bay. It was nice to bookend our last day the same way as our first day, and though I was physically feeling much better at this point, my heart was certainly heavy. Even the sunset was appropriately subdued. ☺

We rallied ourselves for our final meal at Veya, which is hands-down our favorite place for dinner. We always choose it for our last evening meal on the island because anything else would invite comparison and come up lacking. This was our fourth visit over the course of three vacations, and Chef Carrie never ceases to impress with the consistency of the quality and her inventiveness. The atmosphere is a soothing, sophisticated one with the feeling of a treetop escape.

Ahhh, Veya!

After the hot johnnycakes (I LOVE those!) and the amuse-bouche of spicy pumpkin soup, I started with the Moroccan spiced shrimp cigars despite their cilantro content, partly because so many people have raved about them online, partly because I wanted to make the leap and trust the chef’s ability to balance flavors to perfection. I wasn’t at all disappointed. The cilantro was present, to be sure, but the other flavors were so intense that I honestly couldn’t detect it. DH started with the calamari and he also was quite sassified. For my main course, I had the appetizer of grilled watermelon (I guess it was just a grilled watermelon kind of day for me!) with poached shrimp, fresh mint, and candied pecans, and it was blissful. DH had the vanilla-cured duck breast accompanied by wilted spinach and au gratin potatoes. I really love the way the chef uses ingredients that seem counter-intuitive to me, like using vanilla and watermelon to a savory effect, but I also appreciate that nothing on the menu seems over-the-top—just the best, freshest ingredients served up in delightfully unexpected ways. Though we love the dense, rich coconut cake on the menu, it was simply too much after our meal, so we asked if we could just have a serving of the coconut-lime sorbet that they use as an accent on one of their other desserts and they were happy to comply. DH discovered a rum called Methusalen that just might supplant El Dorado as his favorite, and two shots of that, plus a rum punch and a glass of wine for me and a shared bottled water, brought our total to US $176, plus additional tip.

Some buildings around the island that I liked, including the Wallblake House.

It was a bit startling to see a ship from the Royal Navy in Road Bay!

Barnes Bay on our last day

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