I strongly believe that culinary love is not about having a French Passport, but about what you feel.
It’s a promise in our relationship that no matter what the circumstances may be, there will be an annual vacation…a vacation that can only be classified as overindulgent and mind-numbingly relaxing. We take turns planning and treating, and despite the fact that we both vehemently despise the actual act of traveling, nothing could make us turn down a 12 hour day of airports and cramped planes for what inevitably awaits us once we arrive at our final destination.
For me, the true gauge of what makes a great vacation is the food. In my everyday environment, I am obsessed with food. In a vacation environment, I’m an absolute sociopath. When it’s my turn to plan, I seek out the places defining themselves as having great restaurants, local flavor, and access combined with availability to ensure a full realm of choices.
Case in point-our trip to St. Lucia. It was my turn to plan, and I stumbled upon this gorgeous island with a bevy of all-inclusive resorts. Having never gone that route, I was a bit nervous that we’d end up in some scary compound and I’d be banned from all future planning. I chose a resort and spa with four restaurants, certain that I’d cover the bases. Coconut Bay Resort and Spa delivered on all accounts. The service was exceptional, the staff friendly, the scenery to die for, and the food…wow. Readily available whenever we felt the slight pang of hunger (which wasn’t often, considering I maintained a steady flow of food intake throughout the five days), and obviously cooked with care by a staff of professionals.
A daily lunch and dinner buffet stretched along an enormous expanse of wall and contained regional fare, as well as comfort food that made us feel as though we were still at home. The fish and veggie lasagna was rich without being too strong, tender without being mushy, and included a perfectly balanced Mornay sauce. The salads with grilled corn and fresh peppers, topped with fresh tuna, were a perfect way to cool off from the heat. Hot and sour seafood soup filled with fresh shrimp, mussels, and squid, was flavored delicately and allowed the seafood to come forward and be acknowledged instead of hiding behind the broth.
The highlight of the trip was our last night there, when we finally managed to obtain a reservation at Bellagio, the Italian restaurant on the property. It was worth the wait in every aspect. The potato and mushroom soup, which I hoped would be neither too salty nor too bland, did not disappoint. Smooth and velvety, it started the best meal I’ve had in ages. Add to that the salads (Caprese for him, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil; for me, mixed greens with walnuts, mandarin oranges, gorgonzola, and an incredible balsamic vinaigrette), and I could have easily walked away fully satisfied. I could not be happier that I resisted that urge. His pumpkin and risotto ravioli in a creamy marinara tasted as incredible as it smelled. Sweet with a hint of nutty flavor, it balanced perfectly. I made the right choice with my filet, which was served with a peppercorn cream sauce, grilled vegetables, and asparagus risotto that made us both moan. This risotto was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It was cooked to perfection, creamy yet delicate, loaded with fresh pieces of bright green asparagus that was crisp yet tender. I finished my plate, which rarely happens, and even passed up tiramisu, which resulted in me receiving a look of disbelief from across the table. I have NEVER passed on tiramisu.
All in all, I’d endure the misery of airplanes and annoying travelers any day of the week for a chance to go back to Coconut Bay…even if only for one meal. It would undoubtedly be worth it.
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