Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Break from Winter

I've been catching myself a lot this winter in the habit of eating out multiple times a week or repeatedly making comfort food. Our honeymoon was a nice change of pace in many ways, and it reminded me that fresh, simple food is still accessible even when the days are so short.

Davy and I stayed in a condo on Ambergris Caye, the largest island off the coast of Belize. Seafood was prominent on the menus at every bar and restaurant, as were stewed chicken with rice and beans and various dishes featuring tortillas. We made sure to eat a lot of ceviche, which is almost like a seafood salad or salsa in which the shellfish or fish is cooked by citrus juices. Conch, shrimp, lobster, and various types of white fish are all available off the coast of Belize, and I think we tried all of them in ceviche throughout the course of our vacation.

The best ceviche that we had was on an all-day fishing and snorkeling trip. We went out on a boat with two guides, Clifford and Eric, and Eric's seven-year-old son Dylan. The three of them caught sardines for bait, and then we went outside of the reef to try to catch big fish. Unfortunately they weren't biting, aside from a baby grouper, so they took us back inside the reef and we caught a bunch of red snapper.

I also caught one yellow-tailed snapper, which Clifford said was good for ceviche. He proceeded to clean the fish, cut it into strips, and place it in a clear plastic cup with several limes' worth of juice. After Eric stopped the boat to work on the other fish, Clifford set a big pan of ceviche before us with a bag of chips. He'd diced onion, green pepper, tomato and carrot, and mixed the vegetables with the fish, cilantro, Season All, and a lot of black pepper. All of the flavors and textures blended together perfectly so that each bite was a burst of freshness.

Eric and Clifford roasted the rest of the fish in a foil packet over a fire on the beach. One packet contained fish, green pepper, onion, and different seasonings, and another had sliced potatoes with similar ingredients. It was definitely the freshest seafood I've ever eaten.

One of our favorite restaurants, Ak'Bol, was about a 10 minute walk down the beach. It was open until 5 PM and served breakfast all day, and most of the items on the menu were very affordable. I tried a breakfast burrito one day and a granola and yogurt parfait on another visit, both of which exceeded my expectations.

My cousin recommended that we try fry jacks for breakfast, and Ak'Bol offered fry jacks with various fillings, including chicken, bacon, shrimp, and veggie eggs. Davy tried both the bacon and the chicken, and on our last day in Belize I ordered a chicken fry jack all to myself. I think the best way to explain fry jacks is that they look like puffed up pancakes and taste like an airier version of a biscuit (i.e. delicious).

Lime is prominent in a lot of Belizean dishes, and the server/bartender at Ak'Bol squeezed at least 3 limes into his bloody marys. You could order them in varying degrees of spiciness too, and he used the local Marie Sharp's habanero hot sauce to adjust the heat. I definitely want to try his version of the drink for brunch or breakfast for dinner.

Adding lime or other citrus is a foolproof way to lighten the flavors of any cuisine. It's not always an appropriate addition to comfort food cuisine, but methods like that one will definitely help me out of my winter eating rut.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 Farm Show

The apple dumplings, baked potatoes, milk shakes, and fried cheese were just as good, if not better, than last year. Check out some fried cheese pictures below, and stay tuned for a post about Belize!