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The day of love may have passed, but if your Valentine's Day did not go as planned, then a "make-up" meal should be on your agenda right about now, according to Sandals Royal Bahamian Hotel Executive Banquet Sous Chef Jamal Petty. But if you really need to "make-up" he says forget a meal and plan a day's worth of decadent dining to spoil your significant other.
For the chef who is a fan of fusion cooking, he takes classic dishes like French toast and New England clam chowder and puts a twist to them with the addition of Bahamian ingredients.
To start things off right he suggests his Coconut Bahamian Toast with Dilly Yogurt for breakfast. For a delicious lunch or to end the day, his Coo Coo Soup he says is delicious enough to satisfy any palate. And rather than sip on champagne, he says the perfect option is a glass of his Sexy Switcher.
Even though Valentine's Day may have passed, he says chocolate is always fashionable so presenting a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, although simple, he says is perfect for any occasion.
"I love to play with flavors in my mind, and I wanted to create a breakfast that would take your taste buds on a journey ... almost like overexcite it in a comfort kind of way, which is how I came up with the Coconut Bahamian Toast with Dilly Yogurt," said Chef Petty who also hosts the Island Flare cooking show. "I wanted to infuse flavors of The Bahamas into dishes that are internationally recognized." He actually made his Coconut Bahamian Toast with Dilly Yogurt for a tourist who he says proposed to him after tasting it.
The toast is made similar to French toast with the addition of Bahamian flavors. But the one thing you must do the chef says is to always use bread that's at least an inch thick. The end result he says is so delicious it's a treat you'll want to recreate again and again. If you're not a fan of dilly, he says you can easily substitute mango in the recipe.
The toast is topped with a coconut syrup which is made of maple syrup infused with toasted coconut, cloves, cinnamon and star anise.
If you start off the day with his Coconut Bahamian Toast with Dilly Yogurt he says to take it all the way and make the coconut syrup as well. "When you're going to splurge, you should just go all the way, so if you're going to make this toast, then you might as well put the syrup on it. As real maple syrup is costly, he says you can purchase the imitation maple syrup, because the addition of the spices jazzes it up.
Coming up with his Coo Coo Soup, a riff on New England clam chowder also wasn't difficult. He added conch and goat pepper into a classic New England clam chowder recipe to give it a Bahamian flair.
"The conch does two things - conch is the Bahamian version of the oyster and one of the most powerful Bahamian aphrodisiacs, and I wanted that in there. The conch also has more chew to it, so people who like a bite will appreciate it."
That special heat that only goat pepper can give to a dish he says also comes through.
Since fresh clams aren't readily available, the chef says canned and even frozen clams will work well in this recipe.
"When I cook, I try to see where I can add Bahamian influence into what I'm preparing. When I thought about these flavors, I married them together in my mind and because just thinking about it got me so excited, I knew they would make sense when I put the dishes together. They exceeded my expectations."
A pairing of lemonade and mango rum is what makes up his Sexy Switcher. But he says to beware as the mango rum makes for a drink that sneaks up on you.
As chocolate never fails, to end the evening, he says a plate of chocolate dipped strawberries is a simple yet decadent end to make up for a ruined Valentine's Day.
COCONUT BAHAMIAN TOAST WITH DILLY YOGURT
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp finely ground nutmeg
1 tbsp toasted coconut
1 tsp brown sugar
½ cup coconut milk
6 large eggs
4 tbsp butter
8 slices Texas toast
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
1 medium ripe dilly, strawberries can be substituted
Yogurt, plain or vanilla
3 ozs grated, toasted coconut
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
8 ozs maple syrup
For coconut batter: In large bowl, combine all ingredients for the batter and mix well. Refrigerate until batter is needed.
For dilly yogurt: In food processor blend dilly until smooth. Place dilly in a medium bowl and fold in yogurt.
For coconut syrup: Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to steep 20 minutes or longer to develop flavors. Strain syrup and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter until foamy. Dip the Texas toast into coconut batter and coat both sides thoroughly. Fry the toast for two to three minutes on each side or until it is golden and cooked through. Remove from the pan. Arrange on plates as desired and dust with confectioner's sugar.
COO COO SOUP
2 medium conch
2 tins canned clams
4 thick slices bacon, cut into small strips
1 large onion, cut into small dices
1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch dices
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 bundle thyme
2 bay leaves
Goat pepper, to taste
Drain clams and reserve the liquid for later. Coarsely chop clams and set aside also. Tenderize the conch with a meat mallet and chop into small pieces.
Drizzle a few drops of oil into the bottom of the pot and toss in the bacon. Bring the pan to a medium heat. When the bacon has let off a lot of fat and become brown and crispy, toss in the conch and onions and season lightly with salt. Cook the onions until they are very soft and aromatic but have no color, seven to eight minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another five minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the yummy mixture and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice. When the clam juice has been whisked in and there are no lumps, whisk in the milk and heavy cream and toss in the bay leaves and thyme. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss in the reserved clams. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed and add goat pepper if using.
Makes: 6 servings
2 quarts iced water
4 large limes, cut and squeezed
Sugar to taste
Mango rum (optional for sexy switcher - adults only)
Pour lime juice into container with water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours. When chilled, pour into glasses with ice. Decorate with slices of lime.
Tip: Pour some of your switcher into ice trays and freeze them. This will allow you to enjoy the wonderful full flavor of your switcher without the ice diluting the taste.
CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES
3 ounces semisweet or white chocolate, chopped
1 pound strawberries with stems (about 10), washed and dried very well
Place the chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Gently stir until smooth.
Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet or baking pan with waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the wax paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Set the strawberries aside until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.
Tip: You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave at half power, for one minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted
With the opening of a chocolate factory just weeks away, investors behind the multi-million-dollar Heritage Village are poised to add more attractions to the menu.
While the deal is not formally "inked", Graycliff executives have come to a "firm agreement" to bring an Androsia clothing factory to the development. The traditional batik fabric, produced on Andros for decades, will be given a modern twist as part of Nassau's up-and-coming tourist attraction.
Phase one, including both the chocolate and androsia factories, represents a total investment of $20 million, according to Paolo Garzaroli, the president of Graycliff.
The entire project should cost at least $25 million, although by the time it's said and done, that number may easily rise.
"We're going to set up an auxiliary androsia factory in Heritage Village. We'll renovate the building," he told Guardian Business. "You'll be able to come in and make your own piece of clothing, and take it with you later that day."
The interactive element is reminiscent of the chocolate factory, Garzaroli explained, making Heritage Village a more interactive retail experience.
The androsia factory is slated to open by September, while the chocolate factory is just three weeks away, he added. The equipment for the chocolate factory has arrived, the Graycliff executive said, and awaiting final government approvals and duty-free exemptions.
"The cruise ships are just waiting for us to open, and then they'll include it in their itineraries," he told Guardian Business.
Garzaroli said Heritage Village will hire up to 50 Bahamians between the two factories.
Phase one is intended to "test the waters" and bring some money into the project. After that, more attractions should be added, including a soap and candle factory. Graycliff plans to offer all-inclusive family packages that gets families into the various attractions for one price. For tourists, access to the Graycliff lounge at the Lynden Pindling International Airport is also a possibility.
Heritage Village is intended to work independently of the downtown straw market, Guardian Business understands. West Hill Street would be completely shut down to traffic, with the project spanning several buildings.
The Graycliff Hotel is intended to serve as the centerpiece of the development. Renovations are planned following the opening of Heritage Village to improve amenities and boost room capacity. Garzaroli said he has just invested $80,000 in updates to the Humidor Churrascaria restaurant, including a large pizza oven unlike anything else on the island.
A new beer garden is also being constructed, and the cigar factory has been completed. The latter was moved off West Hill Street and into the hotel to accommodate the chocolate factory.
"During the day it (chocolate factory) will be set up for tourists as an interactive factory. At night it is all production," Garzaroli explained. "There will be a gift shop. The actual experience will not be looking through glass. That is not what we do. What we do is an interactive show where you come in, we sanitize you, and you are able to enter the factory. You'll learn about chocolate, and then at the end you'll get to make your own chocolates."
The first phase of the $25 million Heritage Village set for West Hill Street is scheduled to be completed sometime next year, as the project's funding details are being finalized.
Paolo Garzaroli, president of Graycliff Cigar Company, revealed to Guardian Business that the company is finishing up negotiations to bring an Androsia factory to Nassau.
"Everything seems to be going very well. We are just finalizing some details on it but we are feeling very positive about it. We are working with investors on that at the moment," he noted.
He confirmed that phase one of the Heritage Village will include the Androsia clothing factory, a soap and candle factory, the newly launched Graycliff Chocolate Factory and two small retail elements.
Once complete, Garzaroli said the experience will truly cement the idea of what it means to be "Made in The Bahamas". At the Heritage Village, customers will be able to make their own clothes, cigars and chocolates, making it a fun and pleasant place to visit.
"If it's not made here, we are not interested in having it in the Heritage Village. The goal of Heritage Village is to protect Bahamian heritage. Bahamian products are world-class and we have proven that. The Bahamas is a world-class destination with world-class products," according to Garzaroli.
The entire project should cost at least $25 million, although by the time it's said and done, that number may easily rise.
West Hill Street would be completely shut to traffic, with the project spanning several buildings, once it is completed.
"Once the full Heritage Village is active, we will close the street and put from 100 to 150 small boutiques filled with authentically made goods. One of the buildings is only for artisans. In total, Heritage Village is probably going to be a $25 million investment," he added.
Garzaroli's comments to Guardian Business come as the $2 million Graycliff Chocolate Factory prepares to open its doors.
"During the day it (chocolate factory) will be set up for tourists as an interactive factory. At night it is all production," Garzaroli explained. "There is a gift shop. The actual experience will not be looking through glass. That is not what we do. What we do is an interactive show where you come in, we sanitize you, and you are able to enter the factory. You'll learn about chocolate, and then at the end you'll get to make your chocolates."
Recently, $80,000 was invested in upgrades to the Humidor Churrascaria restaurant, including a large pizza oven unlike anything else on the island.
The buzz has been flying fast and furious about Blu Restaurant, Bar & Lounge. And it's all about the blending of flavors and timeless elegance of the Mediterranean fare with contemporary California chic décor.
To be honest, I've made quite a few attempts to get there since they opened, but something always got in the way -- specifically, it was the fact that the restaurant was downtown. Why do I want to go downtown after dark?
Well, with the prodding from a number of quarters, I finally relented and descended on the restaurant that I heard had an ambiance to kill for.
Going there I knew I had to have conch cake with roasted red pepper coulis and mango salsa that a friend had told me about. I also went with the seared Atlantic salmon with caramelized fennel green, lentil ragout and spring onion roll with a side of wild mushroom risotto with white truffle oil, shallots, thyme and spring peas.
The conch cake was cooked to a fine crisp on the outside and tender inside. The mango salsa added just the right touch of sweetness. It was conchy too and actually a welcome change from a conch fritter.
My husband went with his usual Caesar salad, which surprised him, as it did not come out as a composed dish, but rather a deconstructed dish of separate pieces that allows the diner to be interactive in putting his salad together. A wedge of grilled romaine heart, the pancetta, focaccia crouton and garlic Parmesan dressing, and a few slivers of anchovies all had their own space, with no intermingling. He settled on the 20 ounce grilled bone-in rib eye, after being told they were out of his first choice, the 12-ounce long bone veal chop.
He was a little disappointed at not having the veal, but the tender rib eye that he ordered medium well did not disappoint. Tender to the fork, it was topped with a lemon oregano butter that offered a tangy surprise addition and came with crispy potatoes and a vegetable skewer. Of course I had to take a bite, and I can vouch for the deliciousness of the salad and that steak, although I prefer my steak served medium.
We both opted out of dessert as nothing really struck our fancy. Not big chocolate lovers, Blu's menu was chockfull of chocolate inspired desserts from warm chocolate fondant cake with a chocolate chili gelato to tiramisu, a chocolate and amaretto cheesecake with almond brittle and baklava (a crispy phyllo pastry, toasted walnuts, drizzled with honey) which I always find too sweet to have no matter where I go. We opted out.
A cheese selection with mango compote rounded out the dessert menu offerings with a French brie (soft, buttery and mild), Greek Kefalotiri (hard, salty and sharp) and an Italian Dolcelatee (sweet, blue and creamy), but we really weren't feeling cheeses that evening.
Although it took a while for me to get there, Blu certainly did not disappoint. The menu celebrates the cooking techniques of the Mediterranean resulting in a menu that offers, a fresh updated selection of slow-cooked, flavor drenched Mediterranean classics. The restaurant is also a welcome addition to downtown.