Jamaica “haute” Cuisine

I just got my new issue of Caribbean Travel & Life yesterday.  I love this magazine, since the Caribbean is truly Paradise to me!  One of my favorite destinations is Jamaica – I love the people, the beauty of the island – mountains and beaches, and the food.  There is an article in the May issue of CT&L about how the Caribbean in general is working to be more of a draw for foodies.  The food is fabulous, but not attractive (their words, not mine). 

The article focused on Round Hill Hotel & Villas and how they are reconstructing some traditional dishes to make turn them into more “haute cuisine”.  I have to say, the traditional method of cooking is fine with me.  They also stress how local ingredients are used, for instance using conch rather than importing escargot from France; yams & yucca from local farmers (they sometimes even offer loans for equipment) instead of russet potatoes; and they also grow some of their own herbs, beans and tomatoes.

Although they are working on elevating “road food” to make it more pleasing to the eye, they compete annually with 15 hotels to create the best dishes using traditional methods – 2 coal pots and a “pan” (one end of a 55 gallon drum). 

For those of you who don’t receive the magazine you can go to their website and get a trial issue.  If you love the Caribbean and consider it Paradise, you will be hooked and waiting every month for the new issue.

New Wine Bar in Gig Harbor, Washington

I know I usually write about exotic, tropical destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean, but I just have to share with you how wonderful this new wine bar is in my new home of Gig Harbor.  I had the house to myself last night and debated whether to just stay in and enjoy the silence, or venture out.  I needed a couple of things from the grocery store so as long as I was going out anyway I decided to check out the Forza / Harbor Greens Wine Bar.


When I walked in the door I was immediately greeted by Chad, one of the owners, who offered to help me find a table.  The little bar was packed and there were no tables available so he brought me a chair so I could sit at the counter.  He brought me a wine list and menu and explained that food is available Wednesday – Saturday, but wine is available 7 days a week.  He offered his wine suggestions and went off to get me my glass.  I liked that you could buy wine by the glass, ½ glass or bottle. 


By the time he returned with my wine, I had perused the food menu and chosen the Bruschetta.  It had mozzarella, prosciutto, a spicy red pepper jelly and balsamic vinegar (if I remember correctly).  You could also get salads, sandwiches, several other “small plates” and desserts. 


I relaxed with my wine and listened to the music provided by Dave Calhoun who does Jimmy Buffett style music and dresses in tropical shirts and shorts.  (See, there is a tie in with my tropical theme.)  The bar has music on Friday and Saturday nights.


My bruschetta arrived soon and looked really good.  I took a bite and the flavors just exploded in my mouth – I even mmmm’d aloud.  I thought to myself – these 4 pieces are not going to be enough, I could eat this all night.  About 10 seconds later, Nathan, one of the waiters stopped by and said “excellent choice” and asked how I liked it.  10 seconds earlier he wouldn’t have needed to ask because he would have heard me. 


I enjoyed good food, good wine and good music in the hour and a half or so that I spent at the Wine Bar.  The service was excellent – several employees stopped by to see if I needed anything.  They are all helpful in suggesting wines and food – the menu does suggest wine pairings that will go with each dish.  The bar was packed the whole time I was there so apparently others were enjoying the relaxed atmosphere as well.


I look forward to going back soon so that I can try some of the other delicious sounding dishes and wines.  And because this is also a coffee bar, my niece and her son can go with me – we can get a reasonably priced meal and glass of wine, then go next door to the Harbor Greens market for fabulous fresh produce, meats, fresh seafood and a huge wine selection. 


If you want to learn more about how Forza Coffee Shop became Forza Wine Bar click here for an article in the Peninsula Gateway.  This bar is not next to the water here in Gig Harbor, but it is only a couple of minutes off the Olympic Drive exit of Highway 16.  Just take a left at the light coming off the freeway (if heading west on 16) and look for Harbor Greens market on your right.  You won’t be sorry.



Puerto Vallarta’s International Gourmet Festival

Need an extra reason to head south when the cold weather gets cold here in the Pacific Northwest?  How about the International Gourmet Festival  in Puerto Vallarta in November?  Established in 1995, this year will be the 15th anniversary.  This 10 day, city wide event has more than 24 participating restaurants, educational gourmet programs and 20 renowned chefs from around the world. 


Every evening each of the participating restaurants offers a Gourmet a la Carte menu.  You can also enjoy Winemaker’s evenings; Cooking Demonstrations; Wine & Cheeses of the Worlds tasting; and don’t miss the Chef’s Hell Raising night!


You could even extend your stay and enjoy an escorted, food-focused package to other areas of Mexico including hands-on cooking classes and excursions to local markets and eateries. 


Just one more good reason to head to Puerto Vallarta this fall!