Discover a country's cuisine and you'll know what makes its heart beat. Belize dishes up its diversity in tasty spoonfuls. Belizean cooks are big on comfort food and patriotically ubiquitous staples. From north to south they serve up rice and beans with stewed chicken or fish, creamy coleslaw, and searingly hot sauce. Garifuna people, descendents of shipwrecked African slaves and indigenous Caribs, create their own classics such as hudut-mashed plantains, yams, or cassava drenched with slow-cooked fish in coconut broth (called sere or lasus). Piping hot soups have a regional flavor including zesty, onion-rich escabeche—favored in the largely Latino and indigenous south and west—and sticky cow-foot soup conjured up by Creole communities in the country's heartland. Truth be told, I struggled with the texture of the latter and yet I was rewarded for setting aside squeamish preconceptions and sampling barbecued pigtail. Teamed with white rice and stewed beans, it was utterly moreish and delicious. If you're hankering after down-home dishes then you won't be disappointed in Belize.
Just as inspiring is a growing group of chefs who are taking Belize's unique combination of Caribbean and Central American flavors to a new level. Journeying to the South, I encountered Dutch Chef Rob Pronk in the beachside Garifuna village of Hopkins. His signature dishes include Caribbean bouillabaisse and grilled local rib eye with rum sauce, served on the veranda of his charming clapboard building. Mr. Pronk is an epicurean force to be reckoned with in the region. After chefing for nine years in Aruba, he modernized dining at Belize City's Radisson, launching his own TV show and establishing the country's chief culinary competition: A Taste of Belize. I travelled north to San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, to sample the creations of the contest's two-time winner, American-born Amy Knox, chef-proprietor of Wild Mangos.
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November 08, 2010
Mention Oregon wine country to a budding oenophile, and they'll likely be able to rattle off the state's most popular grape-growing regions: the Willamette, Columbia, and Walla Walla valleys. Oregon's wines have certainly made their mark on fine menus all over the country. But there's another style of "wine" taking hold of Oregon: rice wine, more commonly known as sake.
Now that sushi is available all over the States, from Nobu to your local Whole Foods, sake has become a more familiar item to the American palate. Unfortunately, the cheapo carafe served hot in most restaurants is very low-quality sake. Premium sake is brewed to be served slightly chilled, and oh is it a fine experience.
I've enjoyed my fair share of premium sake throughout the years. And if you had asked me a week or so ago if fine, craft sake could come from anywhere other than Japan, I might have reacted as a wine snob would when presented with a bottle of muscadine wine from Tennessee. That was before I got my hands on a bottle from the SakeOne collection, Oregon's finest...probably America's finest. SakeOne crafts four brands, with something for every taste, from full-fruit flavors that would appeal to the American wine drinker to reliable Jumnai Ginjo variations that will please traditionalists.
If you're in the Forest Grove area, just outside of Portland, stop in for a visit to the Kura (brewery), meet the Toji (brewmaster), sample some of the delights, and leave with a heck of a lot of sake! If you can't make it to Oregon, you can order online (assuming you live in a state that permits alcohol shipping...and here's hoping that you do).
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October 18, 2010
You might not know it, but the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America. Spanning approximately 200 miles from Havre de Grace, Maryland, to Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay is a veritable playground for die-hard boating and fishing enthusiasts as well as vacationers who are simply seeking a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of their home towns.
The Bay is a special place, with a long history dating back to its first settlers in the 1600s. Part of what is so unique about the Chesapeake Bay, especially along Virginia's Northern Neck (the northernmost peninsula in Virginia), is that not a whole lot has changed over the past hundred years. Sure, you might find one or two fast-food joints along the highway, but they are few and far between. In fact, one Subway sandwich shop recently opened in the small town of Heathsville, Virginia, to eager patrons who quickly formed a line that extended out the door and into the parking lot. So it goes without saying that fast-food, high-rise hotels, and even Walmart's are more or less nonexistent in this virtually untouched area. Instead, you will discover an array of white-washed Norman Rockwell-esque waterfront towns, where locals and visitors are happily united by their sincere appreciation of this timeless and beautiful landscape.
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