I love New York. I really do. But if you don’t get away from the city every now and then, it eats you up and spits you out. Your senses are subjected to a chaotic cacophony of stimuli: movement, sounds, stress, deadlines, angry people, unpleasant weather, hot subway cars, traffic, $8 beers, etc, etc.
So what do you do? Book an impromptu vacation to a tiny island you’ve never heard of and get away. (duh)
I stumbled onto this vacation idea while cruising around on Jetsetter. Up until then, I had never heard of Canouan. For those of you who were in the same boat as me, allow me to 411 you: Canouan is one of the islands in the Grenadine Island chain, about 100 miles southeast of Barbados. The biggest of the Grenadine islands is St. Vincent.
Canouan itself is about 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It’s tiny, intimate, and not all that well known. It’s probably due to the fact that its not all that easy to get to- we flew to barbados via Jetblue and then had to take an (expensive) charter plane to the island. Still, it’s totally worth it.
Canouan is small and intimate, unsullied by the open-mouth-breathing bro’s of spring break. It’s not touristy. The scenery is immaculate, and the people that live and work there are genuine. Somehow they’ve escaped the epidemic of being jaded tourism-locale residents.
We stayed at the Tamarind Beach Hotel- a Tiny, 40-room hotel. Being as we came during the off season, we pretty much had it all to ourselves. Every morning we woke up and were greeted by sunlight and ocean sounds gently intruding through the slatted doors, which opened up directly to the beach. It’s not a super deluxe hotel, but I’m glad that it wasn’t. You had no reason to go to your room except to sleep.
There’s something to be said about doing nothing on a beach for a few hours. My most pressing to-do was to put on sunscreen, which actually was a big deal, considering how close to the equator the island is.
We spent a good deal of time beach bumming and consuming the duty free booze we brought along with us. My new favorite summer drink is now Rum and Bitter Lemon Soda.
Bitter lemon soda is a caribbean soda bottled in St. Vincent. Made using tiny limes known as “bitter lemons,” the soda has bits of lime pulp swimming in it. It’s the best citrus soda i’ve ever had. It makes Sprite look like the Frank Stallone of citrus sodas. Pair it with a good Bajan rum such as Foursquare Rum (yes, i know), and you’ve got a drink that’s refreshing, easy to drink, and an all-star at getting you drunk.
Being surrounded by crystalline azure waters also means that the Grenadines are a bangin’ location for snorkeling. We spent one day sailing around on a Catamaran that took us to 2 neighboring island: Mayreau and the Tobago Cays.
That day trip was one of the best we ever took. We napped on the netting on the catamaran as its billowing sails pulled us to the islands. When we got there, we snorkeled with Sea turtles and swam through coral reef, which is an uncanny experience.
The reefs are teeming with life. The longer you stare at it, the more you see. All of these beings and organisms exist and interact with each other in a beautiful display of life an nature. It makes me sort of wish I had kevin costner-style gills so that i could hang out down there for hours without worrying about air.
As for the food, it’s was a bit two sided. The hotel food was, well, hotel food. It was overpriced and not all that good. As the hotel was owned by Italians, it featured a robust italian menu, which was the opposite of what I wanted to be eating in the caribbean. That being said, on an island that small, pretty much everything is flown in. I wasn’t there for the food, so I didn’t let it ruin my trip.
All was not lost, though. When we left the hotel we found a few pockets of delicious, authentic sustenance.
The Mangrove restaurant was a little restaurant on the beach that was built out of an industrial storage container. They served only one or two items a day, and it was dirt cheap and delicious. we went there a few times and had awesome dishes such as stewed chicken, jerk fish, and Roasted Jerk Pork, which was my favorite. It was simple and genuine food. I wished the hotel would serve food like that. No one goes to the caribbean to eat pizza and pasta.
That aside, one of the best features of Canouan was the sunsets. the hotel faced west and gave us a front-row seat to daily solar naptimes. With Rum & Bitter Lemon in hand, we watched the day give way to night, temporarily free of the static and noise of our lives back home.
We’re back home now, but those 4 days on an island I had never heard of was exactly what I needed to get through the rest of the hot, humid, busy NYC summer.
Sometimes its a bit fun to play into stereotypes. For the 4th of July weekend my girl and I headed up to Cape cod for the first time. We had nothing planned except for an epic combination of seaside relaxation and eating seafood.
I’ll be honest, I was sort of (ignorantly) expecting the worst out of people from that area. I thought it would be full of Mass-holes and “those guys” that go to Dorrian’s (the bar, not the fishmonger), wearing red pants and vineyard vines belts.
What I found was a gorgeous part of new england that largely didn’t stand up to the stereotype. I met wonderful people, relaxed along beautiful seasides, and ate the best New England seafood that I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaining weight over.
On Sunday we jumped on a ferry and headed to Martha’s vineyard to meet up with my friend (and chef extraodinaire,) Jake Klein. You may remember him from my Morrell Wine Bar Post. It seems that hanging with Jake automatically results in semi-hedonistic eating experiences.
We drove over to Menemsha, a little fishing village on the island. We walked into a little building right on the dock that housed a fishmonger-slash-seafood shack. Behind the building, fishing boats unloaded freshly-caught seafood directly into the shack. Literally ocean-to-plate.
We sat on lobster traps on the dock, and jake disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with 2 lbs of succulent steamer clams, oysters on the half shell, and 4 steamed lobsters. By the way, all of that only cost $100 buckos.
The four of us suddenly became a pack of ravenous seagulls and devoured everything in minutes. It was the best lobster experience I’ve ever had (sorry, Red lobster).
Apparently this little seafood foray was just an amuse-bouche for the rest of the day. We walked around a bit, check out fantastic antique shops ful of old salty seafaring equipment, and stopped by for some fantastic friend clams, which were eaten too quickly for a photo op.
Round 1 done. Onto round two.
We traipsed across the island picking up supplies for our early dinner at Jake’s parent’s place. Lo and behold, his stepdad is the BBQ master himself, Steven Raichlen. We arrived at their gorgeous house on Chappaquiddick Island and marvelled and the myriad grills and smokers Steve had ready to go.
Grilling was the perfect medium for the food we picked up: Freshly Harpooned Swordfish, Morning Glory corn, garlic scamps, baby leeks, asian eggplant, and more. The fresher and better the ingredients, the less you typically should do to it.
Everything came together wonderfully. Swordfish stands up to grilling rather well, and the simply seasoning on lemon, EVOO, capers, and other herbs I didn’t ask about complimented it to the max. The super-duper-ultra-mega-local veggies where amazing in their own right, and made me understand vegetarianism for about 4 seconds.
While this post makes the weekend sound like a food centric trip, it was more than that (that’s just my fat boy personality taking over). The weekend was a summer mix tape of great people, beautiful scenery, summer breezes, sunfish sailing, kayaking, amateur fireworks, the smell of the ocean, people digging for clams, drinking Dark ‘N’ Stormy’s, and swinging on a hammock while the world goes by.
Living in the city makes you a bit dull to simple experiences, and separating yourself from it for a few days lets you reconnect with the un-manufactured pockets of goodness that are still around if you’re looking for them.
Take a deep breath. it’s the weekend. Life is great (and delicious).
I’m here spending the July 4th weekend on Cape Cod. I had never been out here before, and have to admit that its now one of my favorite spots in New England. We’re right on one the bays, and we’ve spent the last two days kayacking, laying in hammocks, sailing on sunfish, and eating the monstrously delicious Lobster Roll pictured above (and below)
That my friends, is a lobster roll from the Raw bar in Popponessett. It’s rated as one of the best Lobster Rolls in New England. I’d tend to agree. As far as sheer amount of lobster used in a roll goes, this one handily wins. It’s a banana split sunday made with lobster, mayo, and bread.
My one gripe? The sides of the roll aren’t buttered and toasted on a griddle, as i’ve had elsewhere in MA. I think it would add something to the texture and flavor of the roll in general.
The roll is $25, but stuffs 2 people, effectively making $12.50 per person. I’m guessing this thing has more than 1 lobster’s worth of meat in it.
The restaurant itself plays the part of a new england shanty dive bar well enough. They don’t serve fries- you have to get them next door. you can’t use your cell phone at all, and the closest thing they have to a local beer is sam adams summer ale. The beer selection could use work, but it’s kind of charming in its uncompromising-ness. They know what you’re there for, and that’s all that matters.
Now back to doing nothing by the water!
To say that I’m not a frequenter of the midwest would be a gross understatement.
Aside from a quick, two-day long visit to chicago 6 years ago, the midwest had been a mythical place that I knew absolutely nothing about.
Cue this weekend’s trip to Iowa.
Say hello to Jello salad in its various incarnations. The green one with marshmallows and canned pears is known as “Cute Jello“. The one in the center is a tropical jello flavor embedded with mandarin orange slices. To the right, my favorite of the bunch: a napoleon-like concocoction of layered graham crackers and an apple sauce/Jello mix filling, wrapped in cool whip.
Sure it’s kitschy, but frankly they’re pretty inventive combinations given that the two main markets in the area are a Wal-mart and a Hy-vee.
More importantly, the company that went along with the bright desserts was great.
In the background are a few bricks of fudge we obtained from a local artisan chocolate shop in Marshalltown. It was a cute spot full of great smells and fattening concoctions.
When in Rome, right?
While it looks pretty horrific, it turned out to taste way better than I thought it would. It also makes me want to explore the world of aspics and terrines (especially considering my documented love of headcheese).
More to come.
I learned how to ski on the east coast.
Correction: I learned how to downhill ice skate on the east coast. The loud CHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH of ski edges begging the ice for some grip are all too familiar to me.
Cue a trip to Utah. Bigger. Better. Mormon(ish).
I headed out there with an ex-coworker friend of mine who I worked with back in the days of shit-eating in trade support at a hedge fund. I like reminiscing about those soul-crushing times because it makes me happy that I’ll never again have to deal with the abhorrent personalities that the industry tends to create. You know the type: People with chips on their shoulders that can’t bear the thought of people who haven’t ascribed to the misery of the ugly house in the suburbs, the crazy wife and kid, the outer-borough commute, the fantasy football league talk by people who don’t play sports, etc. There are exceptions to that type, but the experience of working in that environment was rendered rotten by the former.
I love vacations that let you forget about your responsibilities for a few days. You don’t think about rent, paychecks, Metrocards, health insurance, and issues at work. Going to Park City, Utah is the perfect antithesis to the city. Tons of space, tons of snow, room to breathe.
The day-to-day in the city overruns your senses with static- you’re subject to a constant barrage of input. It makes you numb after a while. The occasional tryst with nature is exactly what the run-down New Yorker needs to get their game face back.
We skied the Canyons resort for 3 solid days. For some east-coast perspective: it’s 4 times the size of Killington. We skiied about 5 solid hours a day and didnt get bored after 3 days. The views are epic, and there’s a ton of mountain to explore. The runs are way longer than out east, and they’re steeper and wider as well. As a side note- make sure you hit the gym a few times before skiing, your legs will thank you.
Après ski is a blast: The douchey nomenclature for happy hour. You can almost see the Tucker Max-like character nonchalantly mentioning it on the slopes. Might as well play the part.
I now see why being a ski bum is so appealing. Wake up, eat, ski, eat, ski, drink, eat, sleep, repeat.
PS: the award for Best Utah beer name goes out to Polygamy Porter. In addition to being hilarious, its delicious (assuming you like chocolaty porters)