Spending most of my time in Belize doesn’t afford me as many opportunities to attend the fancy wine pairing dinners I was so fond of in Taiwan; however, every once in a while something interesting pops up that I just can’t resist.
Casa Picasso in San Pedro, Belize, has become one of my favorite restaurants for a nice night out. Each week, the creative culinary minds come up with a new theme for “Tasting Thursday,” a multi-course Chef’s Tasting Menu dinner, usually available with a paired wine flight.
This month they came up with a tasting menu that instantly caught my eye — coffee. We have a local coffee roasting company here on the island, Caye Coffee Roasting Co., that is quickly climbing the ranks as one of my top coffees from around the world.
For the special event, all five courses were created utilizing Caye Coffee products as an integral part of each dish. Wondering how a five-course dinner paired with coffee and a wine flight turned out? Here you go!
Casa Picasso’s Espresso Martini on the Rocks
Not your average espresso martini. Made with Caye Coffee, vanilla vodka, creme de cacao and Kahlua, this was the perfect pick-me-up to start the dinner off right.
Grilled Grits and Shrimp Latte
We started off with the first course, “Grilled Grits and Shrimp Latte.” Local shrimp, flash sautéed with garlic, espresso, and a touch of cream, served over crispy, grilled cheddar grit cakes and a bourbon espresso glaze.
I loved so many aspects of this dish, but it was a little much for my palate when put all together. Not sure if it was the “bite” from the espresso, combined with the sweet glaze, heavy cream, etc., but with the acidity of the wine, it didn’t work strikingly well. That being said, the dish on its own was great and so was the wine.
Wine Pairing — Yalumba, Y Series, Sauvignon Blanc, South Australia
Front Street Coffee Encrusted “Jerk” Chicken
Each of the Caye Coffee products is named after one of the three main streets here in San Pedro, Belize. While the streets have official names, we typically refer to them as Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street.
Casa Picasso nailed a home run with this course in my book. The chicken breast had a spicy jerk marinade, crusted with the Front Street grounds and then slow roasted. It was served over fried plantains with a chipotle mole sauce. I have to admit, while I love a good mole sauce, I found myself eating the chicken and sauce separately. I loved the coffee crust on the chicken so much I didn’t want anything to detract from it. And the mole sauce? Trust me, not a drop left on my plate! I could’ve brought home a to-go container of the mole to use on everything.
Wine Pairing: Duck Pond, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Throw out the Italian rule of no cappuccino after 11am here. I was excited for this course after having a number of cappuccino soups in Taiwan over the past few years. Certainly a heavy dish, but worth it. Casa Picasso’s Lobster Cappuccino was made with buttery poached lobster, served in a rich Caye Coffee cappuccino-infused lobster jus, and topped with lemon thyme cream. This is how all cappuccinos should be served!
Wine Pairing: Antinori Bramito del Cervo, Chardonnay, Italy
Turkish Coffee Pork Ragù
This was a hard one…my pick for the best course of the night was between this and the jerk coffee crusted chicken. The creativity in this one really impressed me. Caye Coffee does not make a Turkish coffee, so Casa Picasso made a Turkish-style coffee ragù using the bold Back Street blend.
The dish was made with a braised pork shoulder in the Turkish coffee ragù, complemented by hints of balsamic, black olives, cardamom, and sweet tomatoes. The noodles it was served over — delicious homemade vanilla-scented, buttered noodles.
I have to comment on the wine pairing with this course again…surprisingly, I loved it. I was never a fan of Seghesio Zinfandels despite so many people raving about them in Northern California. Living close to Lodi’s famed Zinfandel region and drinking 100-year-old ancient vine Zins out of Contra Costa County probably keeps me a bit biased. This is the first time I can say; I really loved a Seghesio Zin!
Wine Pairing: Seghesio, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California
Caye Coffee Dessert: Irish Coffee Crème
Prior to attending this dinner, I politely offered to take all donations of this course from any local CrossFit people who are bulking, shredding, avoiding carbs, eating paleo, or whatever else I’m missing. Sadly, no one took me up on it. Guess they wanted this for their “cheat day,” and who can blame them! If I could’ve gotten away with it, I might’ve tried to smuggle a couple of these out of the kitchen (sorry Jackie!)
This was a miniature chocolate cup filled with Jameson’s whiskey and Caye Coffee liqueur, topped with a Bailey’s whipped cream and chocolate covered coffee beans.
So, what will a dinner like this set you back in Belize? Try only 75 BZ for the dinner itself and the wine flight was another 45 BZ. In US dollars, that is only $60 for a five course chef’s tasting menu and four glasses of wine.
If you’re coming to Ambergris Caye, I highly recommend reserving one night to visit Casa Picasso. They are closed Sunday and Monday and open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday. Be sure to try one of Nicolai’s amazing martinis, and tell the owners, Jackie and Adam, I sent you! They will take excellent care of you on your special night out. And, since you won’t experience this particular tasting menu, be sure to grab a bag or two of Caye Coffee to take back home with you — it’s better than Starbucks…sssshhhhh!