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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time in Paradise

It's been far too long, my lovelies, what with a trip to Aruba to visit with old friends and haunt my old stomping grounds, coming home to sick kiddos, and trying to set the house to rights after being away.  But, all is back to normal, and I have so much to relate!

First, let me tell you about all the wonderful places and food we had the pleasure to see and taste.  My husband and I stayed at Cunucu Arubiano, a small luxury inn/b&b. Set in the middle of the cunucu (Papiamento for 'countryside'), it consists of 3 brightly painted casitas that open to the warm, comforting Tradewinds that are a constant in Aruba. If you just have to have the a/c, they are fully equipped with remote controlled units, but trust me, it felt so lovely, you didn't want to turn it on! 

We were greeted with a lovely bottle of merlot when we arrived and plenty of bottled water to take with us as we hiked and swam. Each morning Andrea would start our morning with freshly made Dutch coffee (for me) and herbal tea (for my husband).  We would sit and have a lovely chat on the patio, and shortly Lissette (owner and breakfast cook extraordinaire) would arrive with fabulous farmer's omelets with mushrooms, green peppers, onions and Dutch gouda cheese. Perfect way to start the day!

Since Aruba was my home as a child, the places I wanted to see most were close to where I used to live, Seroe Colorado, or as it used to be known as, The Colony.  First, we visited Baby Beach, known for its pink tinged sands and calm, protected water.

Yes, this really is the place where I spent my childhood-peaceful, warm, and fun. There is a snack stand there, and we had the best sate (pronounced sah-tay).  Sate is street food.  Marinated pork or chicken, grilled or fried, served with the most heavenly peanut sauce and french fries.  I know, I know, not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but, dear God is it delicious.  Now this is not like Thai satay.  This is spicier with (in my opinion) richer flavors.  The meat is marinated in onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and tumeric.  The sauce is also more complex.  Peanut butter, soy cauce,red pepper flakes, brown sugar, anchovy paste, garlic, ginger, onion and the secret ingredient-tamarind juice.  Look at the picture above, look until you can hear the waves and the feel the warm breeze of the salty sea air-now imagine sitting under a palm thatched stand eating sate.  Ah, that's heaven.

Next, we visited Bachelor's beach, so named because back in the day, that's where the bachelors would go to swim in the buff.  Now, it is best known for kite surfing.

There are loads of these little lean-tos along the coast, made from the flotsam and driftwood that finds its way to the shore.  The water is a little rougher here, but still swimmer friendly.  the strong wind and the relatively calm water creates the perfect conditions for kite surfing, and you can watch them zipping back and forth as they flip and jump up in the air.

The next day, we visited Roger's Beach back in Seroe Colorado.  When I was a child there was a lovely long dock to jump off of, and people would store their sunfish sailboats on the sand.  It had a pavilion with a bar and tables.  The pavilion is still there, but the dock is no more.  The beach is still gorgeous, and if you want to be in a quiet beach this is perfect for you.  No crowds of bussed in tourists and the beach is calm and gentle.

Off to the left of the above picture, is the fishermen's boats.  You cannot be anything but happy when you see them.  The bright colors of the boats against the happiest of all colors, turquoise, is enough to banish all unpleasant thoughts away.  Don't believe me? Take a look.

Now, tell me I was wrong.  Nope.  Can't do it, can you? The answer to all weather related depression problems-go to Aruba and look at the boats and the water!

The next day we picked up some pastechis at a little take away and headed for Seroe Colorado Point and the rough side of the island. Pastechis are like empanadas, but the bread enclosure is lighter and the fillings have a various influences.  They come in many flavors.  The Dutch ham and cheese, the fish stew, a decidedly Chinese vegetable (like an egg roll filling), chicken curry, and meat (really more of ground beef jerk).  We chose vegetable and meat. Up we drove to the top of Seroe Colorado Point, packed away our pastechis and water, slipped off our flip flops and slipped on our sneakers, and we were off. Down the side of the cliff towards the blue, blue deep water, crashing and foaming below us. We skittered around the edge of the cliff, shimmying to the edge to cross a small natural bridge carved by millenia of waves and wind pounding into the hard rocky coast.

So, with this as our view, we tucked into our pastechis and water. Nom, nom, nom.

Since our hostess had an fundraiser for her son to attend the next morning, she arranged for us to have breakfast at a absolutely wonderful restaurant in downtown Orangestad called De Suikertuin.  It means 'sugar bowl,' and they serve Dutch cuisine for breakfast and lunch.  I had the traditional Dutch breakfast-brown bread toasted with two boiled eggs, thin slices of gouda cheese, salami, Dutch ham (oh so good!), sliced tomatoes, and a homemade croissant with strawberry jam.  If you didn't know already, I can really eat! My husband ate the Dutch pancakes, which are like a thick eggy crepe baked in a oven, with walnuts and bananas.  Topped off with freshly squeezed orange juices and a top notch lattes (with homemade sugar cookies, I might add), and we were set for the day.

Since we were meeting my old school mates for dinner later that evening, and we didn't want to be exhausted, we returned to Baby Beach to lie, lizard like, on the warm sands (with loads of sunblock, of course!) and swim in the shallow water.

That night, we met with my two school friends to catch up on the many years since we had seen each other at a locally owned, but in the heart of the tourist area, restaurant called Gianni's.  As you guessed, Gianni's is an Italian restaurant, and it is fabulous! My husband and I each got Spaghetti Formaggio e Tomati. Made by taking fresh, homemade pasta (cooked to perfect al dente), sauteed fresh tomatoes and garlic and placing these in a massive bowl made from a wheel of parmesan reggiano.  The server then takes a ladle of vodka, lights it, and tosses the pasta and tomatoes with it inside the bowl of parmesan reggiano.  The effect? A masterpiece of showmanship and flavor.  The heat from the vodka melts just enough of the cheese to coat everything with the sharp tang of aged parmesan.

For dessert, salami chocolati, a dense flourless roulade with almonds and dark chocolate mixed in, sliced thinly and served with fresh whipped cream. So tasty!

Alas, we had to return back to home after a trip of wonderful old friends, fabulous new friends, beautiful beaches, incredible food, and marvelous weather. Already we have replicated some of the dishes we had in Aruba (posts to be coming soon! I promise!), and when we return in the summer, I will learn even more.

Oh, I know I did not comment on my clothing, but in a nutshell-a silver grey bikini and a fab retro black and white polka dot one piece both from J. Crew, MEK jean shorts, a white Massimo shirt from Target as a cover up, plenty of Neutrogena sunblock SPF 100+, flip flops and that's it!

The retro.

The grey-and, again, no that's not me!

So, for the Aruba post that is all.  I have more things to tell you about what's been worn and cooked since my return, but that must wait for another day! In the mean time, eat well, look fabulous, and watch the new episode of What Not to Wear tonight!

Cheers, my lovelies!

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