Dining in Belize: Casa Picasso Offers Caye Coffee Experience

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.

Caye Coffee Roasting Co. in San Pedro, Belize http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Caye Coffee Roasting Co. in San Pedro, Belize

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.

Casa Picasso Espresso Martini Aperitif http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #cocktail #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Espresso Martini Aperitif

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.

Grilled Grits and Shrimp Latte http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #food #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Grilled Grits and Shrimp Latte

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.

Coffee Crusted Jerk Chicken http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #food #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Front Street Coffee Encrusted “Jerk” Chicken

Wine Pairing: Duck Pond, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Lobster Cappuccino

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!

Casa Picasso Lobster Cappuccino  http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #food #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Lobster Cappuccino

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.

Turkish Coffee Pork Ragu http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #food #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Turkish Coffee Pork Ragu

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.

Casa Picasso Irish Coffee Crème http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/belize-casa-picasso-caye-coffee/ #food #dessert #coffee #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Irish Coffee Crème

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!

Street Food Saturday: Empanadas from Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize

I will never forget the first time I ever tasted an empanada. I was 18 and working with a girl from Argentina who brought them in one day for us to try.

I was immediately hooked. 

Those empanadas were definitely integral in opening my eyes to the world of culinary travel an unmentionable number of years ago.

For today’s post on the A to Z Blog Challenge, I can’t resist sharing a photo of my favorite empanadas here in Belize. They are masa based, stuffed with fish and served with a cabbage relish that is divine. They are lighter and less filling than many other empanadas I’ve had, which means I can easily scarf down an entire order on my own.

If you visit Belize, I definitely recommend giving these a try! Also, try the coconut shrimp curry – it’s one of my favorite dishes of all time! 

Empanadas Elvi's Kitchen Belize

Empanadas from Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize

Photo of the Week: Horse Conch Ceviche at Hurricanes in San Pedro, Belize

When I’m in Belize, I have ceviche at least once, and in some cases, like four times a week. Belize’s coastal location provides for some of the best seafood finds in restaurants throughout the country — especially on the cayes.

Shockingly, I’ve been in Belize now for nearly 10 days and I have not had ceviche once!

Thankfully, my amazing friend on the island helped me remedy that situation last night. After listening to some live music on the beach and chatting with friends (such a rough Sunday afternoon I know), we headed to Hurricane’s Ceviche Bar for dinner and drinks.

Horse conch ceviche at Hurricane's Ceviche Bar in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Hurricanes Ceviche Bar is one of the few places I’ve found that has horse conch ceviche on a regular basis. If you are up on the seasonal foods of Belize, you might be thinking this is not conch season.  If you didn’t already know, horse conch and conch are not the same thing. While it has “conch” in the name, horse conch is a mollusk that is similar to “regular” conch, but belongs to different family classification and is locally referred to as Maimula or Mymula.

I find the consistency to be a bit less tough as compared to regular conch and the flavor more mild. It’s a good mix for ceviche as it really lets the flavors of the fresh onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime share the spotlight.

If you want to know more about horse conch ceviche in Belize, check out this article on Ambergris Today that tipped me off about it in the first place.

 

 

Belizean Cuisine: Breakfast Style Johnny Cakes from Belize (Recipe)

The more I travel within Belize, the more I fall in love with the cuisine, and I have barely scratched the surface of what really makes up the country’s best dishes.  Breakfast in Belize is one of my favorite meals and this is easily attributed to an overindulgence of fry jacks and Johnny Cakes over the years.

Johnny Cakes are really just like hard sandwich rolls, but there is something so homey and addicting about them.  You might be familiar with them from other cultures around the Caribbean and Native American Indians.  Some people refer to them as Journey Cakes as they would stay fresh for weeks, making them the perfect travel food.

Johnny Cakes served on a mainland Belize tour last month

 

Also called Jonnycake, these are commonly eaten in places like Jamaica, the West Indies, Dominican Republic, and more — especially along the Atlantic seaboard.  You might know them in the Southern US as hoecakes.

Traditionally, Johnny Cakes were made with cornmeal, salt, hot water (or milk) and may or may not be sweetened.  However, in Belize, the Johnny Cakes you find are made with flour.

I recently became friends with Tanya, a very talented cook in Belize who recently started a food blog dedicated to Belizean cuisine.  Through the good fortune of a number of mutual friends and Facebook, I was immediately hooked in by her blog.  This week, she mentioned on Facebook that she was going to make Johnny Cakes and post a recipe.  She sent me the link and I gave it a whirl Sunday morning. Well, I have a long way to go in getting these right, but it will be fun trying in the meantime.

My problem has been baking in Taiwan with the humidity and the differing flours.  Most flours, even the general all-purpose ones, are high in gluten, which I’ve been told need extra kneading and special care when trying to use in traditional bread making.

Tanya’s recipe for Johnny Cakes on her Tizzle Sizzles blog is quite easy, although if you are hungry when you start making them, better nibble on something as these are not a quick 30 minutes in the kitchen.

I will refer you back to her blog for the actual recipe, but it is quite simple in that you only need:

  • White all-purpose flour
  • Crisco shortening
  • Baking Powder
  • Coconut Milk
  • Salt
  • Water

Personally, I think this is a good excuse to travel back down to Belize and sample more Johnny Cakes — for research sake!

My first batch of Johnny Cakes that came out pretty flat

Although mine did not rise as much as I had hoped, they were still quite tasty. Most people use them to make a breakfast sandwich with meat and cheese, and I learned a great tip from Tanya — Cheese Whiz is heaven! I added beans, eggs with onions, Cheese Whiz, and of course Marie Sharp’s hot sauce from Belize (a must try!).

I didn’t bake all the dough and let a few balls sit up overnight in the fridge. Surprisingly, these actually fluffed up a bit and were much better than yesterday’s batch (lowered the oven rack and used the convection setting today as well). Still have some work to do, but making progress!

Let's try round two of baking Johnny Cakes!

These Johnny Cakes aren't looking too bad this time!

And now, I am munching one of my fresh and fluffy Johnny Cakes today while writing this post — thanks Tanya!

Made an open-face Johnny Cake with Cheese Whiz, beans, eggs, onions, and Marie Sharp's hot sauce!

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