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 from Elvi's Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/street-food-saturday-empanadas-elvis-kitchen-belize/ #food #travel #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Empanadas from Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize Restaurants: Sunday Brunch at Red Ginger inside The Phoenix Resort

One of the “must try” Ambergris Caye Sunday Brunch spots I keep hearing about from my friend Rebecca at SanPedroScoop.com is Red Ginger at The Phoenix Resort.  When I was down in October I had hoped to make a visit, but like usual, ran out of time.  Ironically, we were spending a couple nights at The Phoenix (including a Sunday) during my trip last month, so we planned a morning dive with my friend Robbie, giving us just enough time to hit brunch before it ended.

Red Ginger has developed quite a reputation both on and off the island for its tapas, wine specials, and of course, its Sunday Brunch.  The menu is simple as compared to other restaurants you might be used to back home, but the options are excellent, and there are some lunch entrees and flatbread pizzas available as well.

Red Ginger at The Phoenix Resort in Ambergris Caye, Belize http://ourtastytravels.com/restaurants/ambergris-caye-belize-restaurants-red-ginger-sunday-brunch-at-the-phoenix-resort/ #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Bar inside Red Ginger at The Phoenix Resort in Ambergris Caye, Belize

We asked our server what he recommended, or the menu item(s) Red Ginger is most known for during brunch, and he quickly replied with the Huevos Rancheros being number one. Despite my deep-rooted love and passion for Mexican food, Huevos Rancheros is something I typically never order nor have I really ever been a fan of.

Deciding not to shy away from what was said to be the best item on the menu (despite the orange crepes that continued to call my name), I went with the Huevos Rancheros ($18 Belize).

Best. Decision. Ever.

Red Ginger Belize Huevos Rancheros http://ourtastytravels.com/restaurants/ambergris-caye-belize-restaurants-red-ginger-sunday-brunch-at-the-phoenix-resort/ #breakfast #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Huevos Rancheros ($18 BZE) from Red Ginger

Especially hungry after scuba diving, the plate arrived and I may have audibly let out a squeal of delight.

If you aren’t familiar with Huevos Rancheros, it’s a classic Mexican breakfast dish that is quite popular in the Americas as well.  Traditionally, it is simple fare of fried eggs on corn tortillas with a tomato-chili like sauce.  Some restaurants may serve it with rice and/or beans on the side as well.

Red Ginger’s take on Huevos Rancheros was a bit more hearty and all-inclusive.  Starting with a large, thick flour tortilla, there was a generous slathering of beans, eggs over-easy (you can choose how you want the eggs cooked), chunky salsa, queso fresco (love the cheese on Ambergris Caye!), and some chopped cilantro.  You can choose a side of bacon, ham, or sausage and I went for the bacon, my favorite artery clogging part of the pig.

Despite being starving after diving and the fact it was nearly 2pm and we were eating our first meal of the day, I could barely finish it — don’t underestimate that thick tortilla!

The Huevos Rancheros had a little spice, but definitely was mild enough for non-spicy eaters.  The thick tortilla with the beans, gooey egg yolk, and fresh crumbled cheese was a definite win.  The bacon was crispy and thick with just the right amount of fat.  Sounds odd, but not all bacon is really the same and I’ve become quite picky about bacon in my world travels.  I’ve found that bacon in Europe is often pretty boring and bland, and pigs in Taiwan make for great sausage, but fall short in the bacon department as well.

Huevos Rancheros at Red Ginger inside The Phoenix Resort http://ourtastytravels.com/restaurants/ambergris-caye-belize-restaurants-red-ginger-sunday-brunch-at-the-phoenix-resort/ #breakfast #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Thick tortilla, beans, eggs, queso fresco, cilantro, and a side of bacon

Sadly, I was fairly dehydrated from diving and all the travel the day before, so I opted not to drink any alcohol, but I have heard fantastic things about Red Ginger’s Bloody Marys and Mimosas.  Given the fact I have been craving the Huevos Rancheros since that day, I think it’s safe to say I need to come back on my next trip in June to get my Huevos Rancheros craving satiated and report back on Red Ginger’s Bloody Marys!

Red Ginger can hold large groups for brunch as well http://ourtastytravels.com/restaurants/ambergris-caye-belize-restaurants-red-ginger-sunday-brunch-at-the-phoenix-resort/ #belize #ourtastytravels #cayetobelize

Red Ginger can hold large groups for brunch as well

Red Ginger is open for Sunday Brunch from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and the menu offerings can change every week, but rest assured I think the Huevos Rancheros is a regular menu staple.  If you are a guest of The Phoenix Resort, you are entitled to 10% off your bill at Red Ginger, along with the other affiliated food outlets — Caliente, Wine de Vine, and Blue Water Grill — during your stay.

I was hosted by The Phoenix Resort for this particular (lodging) portion of my media week in Belize, but all views and opinions expressed are my own. For more on travel in Belize and upcoming posts and articles from this media tour, please join my new Belize Travel Examiner page on Facebook.

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