The Boyfriend and I went to Jamaica for a week and I have come home with a lot of food inspiration! Those who know me, know how much I love Habaneros (Scotch Bonnets.)
The food was definitely hit or miss. We stayed at the Rose Hall Hilton near Montego Bay. They had a daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also had several restaurants. I was able to put in a request for tofu and beans to be added to my meals in the restaurants. The first dinner was great! Tofu with veggies, marinara and pasta. Excellent! I didn’t take any pics though. I actually did not bring my camera with me to Jamaica, only my phone and kindle, so there are hardly any food pics. I was more interested in the scenery than food anyway when it came to taking phone pics.
On the two excursions (Bob Marley House in Nine Mile and the Black River Safari) I requested vegetarian food since lunch was included in the tour. The first lunch was really really good! Rice/Beans and very flavorful cabbage and veggies with the most amazing, scorching hot scotch bonnet sauce. I think the sauce was just scotch bonnets, garlic, spice and vinegar. I was so thrilled with the taste of the veggies even without the sauce, I found the Chef (we were at a little roadside restaurant) and hugged her! It’s so lovely to express gratitude to someone for preparing you a great meal! The Boyfriend loved his Jerk Pork/Chicken too. It was served with rice/peas and a fried something or other that I assume must have been fried in lard, since it wasn’t on my plate. No pics of the lunch..
The second lunch on the Black River Safari was decent. They didn’t have the habanero sauce, only bottled sauce that kind of tasted like a cross between Tabasco and Wing Sauce. It was rice/beans and cabbage and veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the food and especially enjoyed the fact that I was given grains/beans and veggies, which are very satisfying and filling. No wimpy salad considered a meal!
Our second fancypants dinner (we ate at the buffet the rest of the nights, which was great.. I could always find food. I did end up eating a lot more beans and veggies than normal, but I am slowly getting better, so the consequences weren’t as bad as they have been in the past.) was really horrible. It was my fault, I’m sure, because I should have had them prepare the tofu/marinara/pasta for me like they did the first night, but instead I ordered the pesto pasta sans salmon. I took two bites. bleh. gross. I’m sure the salmon added some element to the dish that was severely lacking without it. I was impressed that the server knew to tell me there was anchovy paste in the salad dressing. It made me feel confident they cared about what I was ordering. That means a lot.
The last dinner was excellent! It was a Jamaican Curried Beans and Veggies served with coconut sauce, basmati, and mango chutney. They brought me a lovely HOT scotch bonnet sauce too. YUM! Again, no pics. We were eating outside, our last night, under the full moon. You can’t get much better than that!
Finally, I want to talk about the meal in the picture at the beginning of this entry. I am not going to name names of the restaurant, but it was a place I found on Yelp. It was said to be “The best vegetarian food on a budget in Montego Bay.” They Boyfriend and I took a taxi into the city and walked for a while to try to find the place. As we were walking, it became apparent that we were not being well received by the locals. Frankly, I don’t blame them for the way they react to us (tourists) and I somewhat blame myself for not researching more about the Jamaican culture and the restaurant. Naive American for sure at work here! For the record, I don’t recommend walking around Montego Bay. We should have known when the taxi driver wanted to drive us from place to place and was shocked we wanted to be dropped off. (We love going to local supermarkets and checking out the produce, hot sauces and everything else. I’m a sucker for prices, and love to see how much things cost in other places. Yes, I’m weird and my amazing boyfriend totally indulges me!)
So, we finally found the place and I have to say, they did not want to wait on us. I was super excited to find the vegetarian restaurant and had envisioned talking to the Chef all about vegetarian (actually vegan) food if he wasn’t busy.
When were were finally able to order, I expressed how much I loved spicy food and was really looking forward to eating here, since I had found the place on Yelp. Stony silence. We tried to ask about the food, but the woman did not explain anything (the menu wasn’t that clear).. They had BBQ Soy (I asked if it was tofu and she said it was. It wasn’t it was a soy/gluten nugget, which I can’t stand by the way!).. I ordered the “Soy” BBQ plate and The Boyfriend ordered the Two Pea and Rice plate. They were beautifully presented. We also ordered a vegetable hand pie, which we both liked, but wanted some spicy sauce with. The crust of the hand pie was a lovely whole wheat crust and was beautifully prepared and flavored.
What I liked about the meal:
- The food was obviously very fresh and of good quality.
- Portions were generous
- Lovely flavor of bulgur and brown rice
- You can’t go wrong with collards!
- I felt good after eating it.
- Prices were more than reasonable.
What I didn’t like about the meal:
- Literally no spices or seasoning.
- No salt (no salt/pepper or any seasoning on the table either)
- Gluten/Soy nuggets and not tofu
- The fact that I did not feel comfortable sending my food back
- No salt at all in any of the food
- No sauces offered, only cayenne powder
- Literally just a plate of boiled squash, plantain, grains and beans with no seasoning whatsoever.
- The collard/cabbage/carrots had no seasoning/dressing/acid at all
- The negative energy being projected towards us.
The restaurant apparently serves Ital food, but not really. I guess Ital food is totally up to the chef. Since they offered gluten/soy processed products, I assumed they would also season their food with salt. If you aren’t going to use salt and acid in your food, then you better use a lot of herbs, but they didn’t use ANY.
So disappointing on so many levels.
Yes, very much First World Problems!
I just had this built up in my head to be an experience and a way to connect with the people running the restaurant.
That being said, I am now VERY inspired to create my own versions of this food. I have already written a recipe for a Rice, Pea and Veggie dish that I plan on making later today and if it’s as delicious as I think it will be, I will share the recipes with you guys.
It’s kind of hard cooking right now, because it’s only me. The Boyfriend has been working out of town 5 days a week, and there’s only so much I can eat. My freezer is super stocked with single portion meals, that’s for sure!
On the bright side, he is collecting Hilton Points! When we went to Costa Rica, he had enough points so all he had to pay for was air fare.
I had an amazing time and I am so grateful for the experience. We traveled with The Boyfriend’s parents and they are lovely people. I hope to go back to Jamaica some day!