It’s hard to believe that just two days ago I was laying in a sun lounger, rum punch in hand, staring at this…
Now I’m cold, landlocked, and surrounded by laundry! I guess I can’t complain…
Anyways, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT JAMAICA!
In case you missed it, here’s the first update I posted from our hotel in Negril. It was all sun, rum, and relaxation for the first couple of days, as we quickly learned that there are truly no worries when you are on vacation in Jamaica. I repeat, there are no worries in Jamaica!
At first it was kind of unnerving. I mean everyone’s all, suuuure, mon. No worries, mon! Respeeeect, mon, to pretty much anything you say, and there are no clocks – anywhere – even in your room. We’ve never experienced this kind of laid-back lifestyle! It literally took us 2 days to just…submit. Surrender. Enjoy.
Then we got antsy and booked ourselves an all day tour of the island.
As awesome as it is relaxing in the sun and sand, Ben and I still love to explore so we contacted Talk of the Town Tours and hired Omar and Delomar to show us around for a day!
Choosing to go with a private tour company, instead of a larger one, gave us the opportunity to go places that a large tour bus can’t – and won’t – go. For an extremely reasonably price, Omar and Delomar spent the entire day showing us more of Jamaica than we could have ever hoped for. We stopped off at dozens of places during our time together to splash around in secret streams,
stare in awe a trees that were as old as the island itself (and wider than a bus!)
pick fresh flowers right from the vine,
and stare at sea views that made our jaws drop.
We did more that day than I could ever type out, so let me show you a few of the highlights, starting with the fresh coconut stand we visited right out of the gate!
Jobs in Jamaica are very limited (which I will talk about in another post,) so a lot of people have to make their own jobs.
The owner of this coconut stand purchases coconuts from a farm, then sells them on the side of the road for about $2 US – all day long.
We purchased just one coconut, as Ben claims to loathe them, and I immediately started slurping out the pure coconut water inside. IT WAS SO GOOD! Ridiculously refreshing, with just a hint of coconut flavor. It only took a few seconds before he was asking for a taste.
The coconut we were drinking from was a jelly coconut, so after all the water was gone, the stand owner hacked off a piece of the shell with his machete to use as a scraper/spoon, then sliced the coconut in half, leaving us to scrape out and eat the hard-jelly-like coconut flesh inside.
Due to the fact that I am quite inexperienced in the art of jelly coconut scraping, I needed some help with my half. Ben, on the other hand – Mr. I Hate Coconuts – had no trouble with his, and was literally inhaling it in seconds. I. Love. Coconuts! he declared as he finished.
Later that morning, we were cruising through the Jamaican countryside when Omar stomped his foot on the brake and took a hard left into what appeared to be a random field.
2 bumpy minutes later we come across a secret, “only Omar knows about” bridge – which we were to jump off into the mountain fed spring below it!
At this point, my mother’s voice rang fairly clearly in my ear, If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?
Sorry Mom. WHEE!!!!!!!
It. Was. Awesome!!
Our adventures continued into the morning when we stopped to descend into some caves,
which included jumping into a 160 foot deep body of water inside the pitch black pit of the cave (EEK!)
and stopping at one of the dozens of fruit stands that dot the sides of the roads in Jamaica.
At this fruit stand, Omar bought Ben and me a couple of Neesberries to snack on. OMG MY NEW FAVORITE THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!! Neesberries are the size of kiwi, and you kind of split them in half, then pull out the segments inside with your teeth. They taste like straight up brown sugar. I shall crave neesberries ’til the end of my days.
Next we headed to the Black River to find some crocs!
Guides by our side.
The boys and I jumped inside a boat where the Black River meets the Caribbean Sea, about 1.5 hours southeast of Negril, and headed into the mangrove tree covered river. The water is actually crystal clear, but a thick layer of peet on the bottom makes it appear black.
Oh yeah, there’s also 350+ crocodiles that inhabit the area!
Our boat driver got us upcloseandpersonal with several of these pre-historic looking creatures which don’t move a muscle when you come close, but would most likely snap your face off in a second if given the chance.
The one we saw on the banks of the river near the dock was the biggest!
He was at least 7 feet long.
As we wrapped up our Black River tour, we picked up a couple more tourists, and headed out to the spot I’d been waiting MONTHS to see. It is truly Jamaica’s hidden gem, as it’s not advertised anywhere.
I can’t remember how or where I learned about it, but I’d been dying to go since we booked our trip.
I told Omar at the beginning of the day that our itinerary was up to him as long as it included a stop at…
The Pelican Bar!!!
Ok – here’s the scoop! The Pelican Bar is located on a small sand bar about a mile offshore. Story goes that it used to be a popular spot for fisherman to stop at on their way home from a day at sea, but then Hurricane Irene came along and blew it to bits. The owner didn’t have enough money to get it back to 100%, so he patched it up and opened it up to tourists instead! (Please notice the Hawkeye flag in the ceiling!)
It is the COOLEST!!!!!!!!!
After climbing up the driftwood stairs,
and leaving your stamp,
you sit out on the dock,
take a sip…
or a dip…
then dig into the dish of the day – ie whatever the owner has caught from the dock, then prepared in the small Dutch oven he’s got bubbling over a one-burner stove.
When we arrived, he had just put the finishing touches on a plate of Heaven knows what, but it included lobster and it was sweet, creamy, spicy PERFECTION. Mmm, I will never forget it!
You can stay at the Pelican Bar for as long as you like – or until the cold Red Stripe in the cooler runs out. Boats come and go…
and eventually yours will too.
By far the best day of our trip!
In honor of the dish we devoured at The Pelican Bar, I made a copy-cat Midwestern version called Rasta Pasta for dinner tonight!
An island-spiced coconut sauce smothers fluted pasta, which is studded with fresh vegetables and chopped chicken. Just close your eyes, pretend it’s lobster, and that you’re enjoying it in the middle of the clear Caribbean Sea.
Adapted from Jay Solomon’s “A Taste of the Tropics” cookbook
4oz short pasta like mafalda or penne
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon minced or microplaned fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces & seasoned with salt & pepper
6 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small zucchini, quartered and chopped
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
1/4 cup corn kernels, canned, fresh, or frozen
- Melt 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper flakes, then sauté until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add butternut squash and chicken broth, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain then return to the pot and set aside.
- Add coconut milk, thyme, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice to the large saute pan with the butternut squash, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Carefully pour the mixture into a food processor or blender, and process for 15 seconds or until smooth. Set aside.
- Using the same skillet, melt remaining Tablespoon butter over medium-high heat and add in chicken. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in mushrooms and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes, then add in broccoli and corn, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add in cooked pasta and the amount of sauce you prefer. Stir to combine and heat everything through, then serve.
Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. I had 99% of the spices in my cupboards, and only had to buy the fresh vegetables and coconut milk.
The resulting dish was outstanding. The coconut milk lent a slight sweetness to the dish, and such creaminess. The spices were jammin’ mon!
The sauce, vegetables and chicken would be perfection when paired with a heaping side of fluffy, white rice. I used pasta since I’ve got other rice plans to show you later this week!
More recaps to come, including the hotel we stayed at, additional important information on what to expect when visiting Jamaica, and pictures from our underwater camera – whee!
Amanda Catherine Designs Giveaway
The winner of the Amanda Catherine Designs Giveaway is,
Liz: I really like “You are my anchor”. I’d love to give it to my sister for her graduation present in May!
Congrats, Liz! Email your full mailing address to IowaGirlEats@gmail.com, and we’ll get that out to you!