Friday, November 21, 2014

Jamaica Inn Blows my Mind

Jamaica Inn Ocho Rios is simply fantastic.  A boutique hotel with only 53 suites and villas nestled around a perfect crescent shaped beach, it's comfortable, elegant and casual at the same time. I was most impressed with the staff who were so proud of their tenure and keenly aware of your every need.  The inn has been owned by the Morrow family for over 50 years and Eric Morrow goes out of his way to meet new arrivals.

Jamaica Inn is all about gracious service.  Breakfast can be eaten in open air dining rooms or delivered to your room.  Every morning it's quite a sight to see all the young men moving quickly and gracefully through the resort with huge trays balanced on their heads.  Complimentary afternoon tea is served buffet style and there is always someone there to describe and serve what's on offer. I'm not a fan of strangers touching the food I eat so I especially appreciated the service. Before dinner, there are complimentary hot and cold appetizers in the bar as well as bowls of home made crisps and ridiculously addictive coconut chips.  Dinner is served under the stars with a live band playing.  The atmosphere is magic and the food and selection exceptionally good.  The menu rotates every 14 days so there's no chance to get bored.

The wine list  included a fine selection from the US as well as impressive old world offerings.  The wines were served at a good temperature, a somewhat difficult task when room temperature is about 30 Celsius.  I also really liked the fine wine glasses. Many resorts skimp on this and I don't care if you call me a wine snob, the glass matters.

Many guests at Jamaica Inn are regular annual visitors, it's the kind of place that you confirm next year on departure.  I think that says it all.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Craving smoked marlin yam balls from the Round Hill Hotel, Jamaica

Round Hill Lobby at Night

Eating with Cathy

Dining at the Round Hill in Montego Bay Jamaica is a pleasant surprise.  I didn't expect to find a place in the Caribbean so passionate about their food, but a conversation with Billy who proudly heads up the organic gardens is enlightening. His enthusiasm for the project is infectious.  The hotel sources as much as possible from its own gardens and maintains a special relationship with other organic farms on the island to supply the rest.  Salads are super-fresh and dressings are bright with herbs from the garden. 

Breakfast can be served on your private veranda or eaten on the terrace overlooking the sea.  All of the breads and pastries are made in-house.  The “akai and salt fish” is delicious.  Full of deep umami flavours, it harkens back to the beloved “fish and brews” of my childhood Newfoundland.
Smoked Marlin Yam Balls
The very best dinner was the farm-to-table menu on Thursday night.  The theme reminds guests of the hotel’s eat-local commitment.  The star dish is the very special smoked marlin and yam balls.  The grilled snapper from the regular menu is possibly the best I've  eaten; and the coconut rice and beans aren't to be missed.  Calaloo is a popular dish of bitter greens with onions and grated carrots that grows on you over time. (I can envision Jamaican mom’s fighting the good fight with their children over this spinach-like dish.)

If you are lucky enough to stay at the Round Hill Hotel in Jamaica, the food will be a pleasant part of your stay. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prince Edward County, Ontario gets another jewel in the Drake, Devonshire

Eating with Cathy

Chevre Chaud Factor:  Sadly none but Chicken Fried Oysters filled the gap

There are many good dining options in Prince Edward County and the Drake Devonshire had a good buzz going all the while it was being developed.  A beautiful and lovingly restored property on the lake in Wellington, the dining room is casual, comfortable, lively and fun.  We'd  booked 7 of us in for dinner on a Monday night and expected it to be quiet but it had a happy atmosphere going.
Pommes Frites Drake Devonshire

As I often say "you can't be my favourite restaurant if you can't get fries and a glass of bubbly on the table in under 5 minutes". A couple of cast iron bowls of Pommes Frites with rosemary salt were delicious but the drink service was slow and I ended up passing on the bubbly because the fries were gone before our drink order was taken.

Chicken Fried Oysters
I can no more pass up fried oysters than I can a chevre chaud so the Chicken Fried Oysters - Fanny Bays, kimchi mayo, celeriac and pumpkin seed remoulade were an easy choice for me.  Sadly the oyster arrived overcooked but were quickly replaced and proved to be very tasty on top of the outstanding celeriac salad.

Popcorn Shrimp




Pan Seared Pickerel
The Popcorn Shrimp with maple mustard vinaigrette and watercress salad was a popular dish and good value. Perfectly cooked large shrimp, the watercress salad more of a garnish than a salad but I bet these will be the most popular item on the menu.  Delicious.



Most of our table ordered Pickerel.  We all love pickerel and order it whenever it's on a menu.  This one, served on a mushroom, walnut and barley risotto was exceptionally good.


The Drake is still finding it's legs, there were a few small issues, but they were cheerfully managed and I'm confident that a little time will see them resolved.  I would recommend making reservations well in advance.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Palm Springs has lots of good restaurants. We chose Workshop Kitchen & Bar.

Workshop Kitchen & Bar Palm Springs

Chevre Chaud Factor: Outstanding 5 Yums UP


Roasted Mushroom Salad
While at a conference in Palm Springs four of us escaped the conference food one night for a more interesting dining experience. A bit of research led us to Workshop Kitchen and Bar, a farm-to- table restaurant with a menu offering something for everyone.
We started with 3 dishes to share, one being a roasted mushroom salad with endive, radicchio, arugula, goat cheese and truffle vinaigrette - a tasty and attractive dish, although it would have benefited from more mushrooms.


Shaved Brussel Sprout Bowl
We also had a shaved brussel sprout bowl with toasted hazelnut, bartlett pear, balsamic, olive oil and pecorino. It sounds better than it tasted. There was something lacking and oddly, it wasn’t served in a bowl. We didn’t finish that dish, so I’d have to give it a "Yum Down."

Crispy Goat Cheese
 Our final sharing plate was crispy coat cheese with braised lentils, glazed beets and scallions. Crazy delicious - a bowl of lentils topped with sliced beet and a crusted ball of warm goat cheese that melted into the beet and lentils as you ate it. This one hit it out of the park, and I know I’ll be trying to recreate it at home.



Scallops

For main courses, two of us had scallops with spaghetti squash in a 5 saveurs (flavours) sauce. It was an interesting and tasty dish, but I thought it was too expensive. I guess that’s what you get when you order scallops in the desert.

Flat Iron Steak





The flat iron steak, served with fries, mushrooms, rapini and pearl onions offered much better value and was given a thumbs up.




Black Cod 
One entrée was amazing: white shoyu glazed black cod with roasted cauliflower,
cauliflower purée, golden raisins, pink beets and beet greens was the star dish. The menu offered many interesting dishes, so based on the ones we really loved I’m willing to bet there were more great dishes to be had.

 I recommend Workshop Kitchen & Bar.