Un-BELIZE-Able: Day 2
I woke up ready and excited to explore Belize on day two of my trip. I decided to start with my hotel.
The grounds were beautiful. From birds chirping to waves lapping the shore, the sounds of nature enveloped me.
The hotel where I stayed had the largest pool in Placencia, complete with swim-up and walk-up bars, and a swing set. My favorite thing about the pool was its proximity to, and view of, the Caribbean Sea.
From the hotel, I headed just a few minutes east into town to go on a food tour.
The tour kicked off with a chocolate tasting, accompanied by fascinating information from a true chocolate farmer about how chocolate is made. On the left of this picture are chocolate pods. To the right, are the chocolate or cacao beans. This is what they look like prior to roasting.
The inside of a cacao bean contains the cocoa nibs which have a distinct chocolate flavor, some added bitterness and a crunch. If the nibs are ground, they produce cocoa butter and chocolate.
As our tour guide continued to teach us about chocolate production, I kept looking around for the chocolate we were about to taste. Sensing my distraction, he asked what I was looking for and when I told him, he explained that pure chocolate melts at body temperature and was consequently being stored in the refrigerator until the time of our tasting.
Dark, Orange, Milk, Cardamom, Coffee and White Chocolate
The pure chocolate finally arrived and it was well worth the wait. Sure enough, it began melting onto my fingers at first touch. I would not have considered myself a chocolate fan prior to this experience. This chocolate however, converted me.
From there, it was onto the savory portion of the food tour.
We started at Carmen's Kitchen. This one-room shack serves some of the best Spanish style, fast food I have tasted. The place was packed with mostly locals and some tourists who had caught on to what a gem this place is. A note to visitors: lines can be long, so be prepared to wait.
Freshly squeezed, orange, tamarind and lime juice.
The tamarind was my favorite!
Garnaches topped with beans, chicken and locally made goat cheese.
I actually got to meet the goat that produced the milk that made the cheese. Now that is true farm-to-table dining.
Salbutes topped with fresh caught fish, Belizean pico de gallo and hot sauce.
Mestizo style chicken with rice and beans and plantain.
After Carmen's Kitchen, we made our way to the Tipsy Strip. The Tipsy Strip is the center of town, filled with restaurants, galleries, bars and shops that are situated on the sidewalk parallel to the beach. It is easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering up and down the main strip and stopping to walk on the sand and gaze out at the sea.
Our first stop on the Tipsy Strip was at the Barefoot Bar. This place has great food, drinks, views and live music at night.
We kicked things off with a Belizean Bitters shot that our tour guide ordered for us. This shot is made from cedar bark and cats paw roots and infused with white rum. Cheers!
*Don't fret all you feline friends. Cats paw is a type of tree and has nothing to do with an actual cat's paw.
Then we had the smoked mackerel dip made from mackerel caught that very morning.
We stopped just a few shops down the strip at Bomboyaz to cool off with a gelato.
Sweet corn gelato
This flavor is a must-try Belizean specialty.
Our last stop was at Brewed Awakenings where they serve coffee, smoothies, shakes and over 30 types of seaweed.
This is Eucheuma isiforme. It is a mineral-packed, edible seaweed that is harvested along the Belizean coast. It is high in protein, fiber, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and selenium. Oh, and did I also mention that it is delicious?
If this conjures up the salty taste of nori, you are not alone. The reality however is that this drink tasted like a vanilla milkshake. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Did you know that Francis Ford Coppola, the genius filmmaker of movies like Apocalypse Now and The Godfather series, has had a decades long love affair with Belize? He has two resorts in Belize, including the Turtle Inn which was minutes from where I was staying. As a previous member of his Napa Valley winery, I decided to visit the Turtle Inn to see what his resort on this peninsula had to offer.
The resort was absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite aspects was this bar that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. While I was here, I enjoyed a drink, took in the sunset, chatted with the bartender and...
...was serenaded by one of the local residents who happened to be getting a drink with friends at the same bar. This local, unbeknownst to me when we met, is a professional singer and a Belizean celebrity, who has since become a friend.
And while he initially indulged me with a Frank Sinatra classic in English, we quickly moved on, hanging out with friends, relaxing and singing one of my favorite songs, Despacito, in Spanish. While his talent singing covers is unquestionable, please check out Kylon Eiley singing his own music and support this extremely talented artist.
I took a short boat ride with my new friends (because that's how these locals travel in Belize) from the Turtle Inn to a nearby bar. We sang more songs, danced, and toasted to a birthday and new friendships. With that, I closed the books on my second day in Belize. More to come...