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The Taste of Travel: The Delicious Sequel

Sometimes you travel to experience a new culture, sometimes to delve into a destination's history. Other times you just want to relax and immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings. But no matter what motivates you to travel, you have to eat-and that, too, is an important part of the journey.

We love getting feedback from members who've had amazing meals during their travels to the hotels we recommend. Many of these getaways offer regionally inspired dining choices, wine cellars, cooking classes, and other culinary-related pleasures-not the least of which might be a spectacular oceanfront or rooftop restaurant view.

In the last issue of Hideaways Life, we introduced you to some of the unique flavors and recipes offered by a handful of our favorite hotel restaurants in Asia, France, and the Mediterranean-and we told you to stay tuned for more. True to our promise, we now bring you "The Delicious Sequel." Here are some savory reports on hotel restaurants in Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as a couple of culinarily inclined cruise lines. And once again, we'll waft a few "chef's-favorite" recipes under your nose to really get your taste buds going.


For the full array of recipes from both "As You Like It: The Taste of Travel" reports, visit www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes.

The Flavors of Paradise

Little umbrellas skewering chunks of pineapple in a rum punch are fine, but tropical wining and dining certainly has gotten much more sophisticated these days. Sure, it still centers around freshly caught seafood and just-picked tropical fruits. But it also has elements of Cajun, Asian, and European flavors woven throughout for a more interesting fusion dining experience.

For instance, Banyan Tree Mayakoba sits squarely on Mexico's Riviera Maya, but has its roots in Thailand. As a result, its signature Saffron restaurant does an enticing job of combining local produce and fresh fish with Thai influences like tofu, lemongrass, bean sprouts, and Chinese chives. In fact, Banyan Tree brought a team of Thai chefs from Phuket to the shores of Mexico to ensure an authentic dining experience. But despite the Thai food and ambiance, there's no mistaking where you really are if you enjoy your meal on one of the restaurant's "floating" overwater decks that look out at Mayakoba's mangrove lagoons.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba also offers a Mediterranean-influenced dining experience at Tamarind, where ingredients like veal and quail are subtly linked to tropical flavors of citrus, pineapple, and avocado-all served in a tranquil, romantic setting. Signature dishes include Hamachi Steak marinated in chili oil and lemon juice and topped with seaweed salad, and Chilean Sea Bass with pineapple, fennel, and orange. For a light lunch, Chef David Andrews suggests the slightly exotic fresh tuna salad with quail egg, spinach, black olives, green beans, and other fresh vegetables, topped with his unique lemon vinaigrette.

On the island of Antigua, Blue Waters takes full advantage of its seaside setting and spectacular sunsets to bring you exceptional dining served with some of the most breathtaking views in the Caribbean. Perched on a cliff top, The Cove Restaurant greets guests with flaming torches and a dramatic entryway that leads to a candlelit dining terrace. Once you tear your gaze away from the view, you'll be eager to try the chef's take on Caribbean dining with a French twist. Fresh local seafood is the star here-try recreating The Cove's delicious Shrimp and Snapper Tango at home (find the recipe at www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes).

Blue Waters also has one of Antigua's only restaurants that offers a traditionally romantic and elegant dinner setting in air-conditioned comfort. Bartleys is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion with classic fresh fish or steak entrees and a bottle of fine wine. For something more casual, The Palm Restaurant gives you a decidedly Caribbean dining experience-think Spiced Creole Soup and West Indian Seafood Cakes-in an al fresco terrace setting.

Barefoot and beachy in the Florida Keys doesn't necessarily mean the dining experience isn't up to snuff. In fact, at Cheeca Lodge & Spa-which, incidentally, won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2011-it means just the opposite. While your days may be filled with fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling, your evenings present a plethora of fine dining choices, like the Italian-inspired Limoncello or Cheeca's elegant flagship restaurant, Atlantic's Edge. You won't want to miss sampling the Florida-Keys-fresh seafood from Atlantic's own "saltwater pantry" that displays hogfish, grouper, and yellowtail snapper. Better yet, if you caught your own fish and are darn proud of it, you can have the chef fix it up grilled, onion-crusted, fried, or blackened, and served with Yukon puree and seasonal vegetables.

Chef Richard Smith recommends his favorite dish, Local Yellowtail Snapper a la Plancha and Sweet Plantain Purée, served with seasonal baby vegetables and a citrus-coriander sauce (find the recipe at www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes). "This dish focuses on local ingredients and seasonality," says Chef Smith. "The Yellowtail Snapper is a staple here in the Keys. It's a fish that is absolutely delicious, irrespective of the cooking process. When complemented with the Sweet Plantain Purée, it takes it to another level of tropical elegance."

Jamaica's Round Hill Hotel and VillasTHC is Montego Bay's answer to award-winning fine dining. As the classically elegant hotel celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, it also introduces a delicious new farm-to-table menu at The Grill restaurant, which overlooks the ocean and features Jamaica's only indoor pimento-wood-fired grill (wait 'til you taste the rich, smoky flavor!). All aspects of these meals-from the meats to the herbs and dressings for the salads-are sourced strictly from Round Hill's own organic gardens and from farmers in the community.

You'll appreciate lighter, more flavor-packed dishes like Chigwell Farms' Jerked Chicken, Guava-Glazed Slow-Roasted Pork Loin from local farmer Theodore Williams, and Pedro Banks' Snapper Steamed in Parchment Paper. Oh, and did we mention finishing your meal with homemade Scotch Bonnet Ice Cream? The new farm-fresh menu, prepared in the restaurant's open, live-action kitchen, is available every Thursday and Sunday night.

Round Hill's Head Chef Martin Maginley encourages guests to visit his ever-expanding organic vegetable garden as part of the resort's See, Touch, and Taste Program. When the veggies are harvest-ready (typically November to December), you can wander out and pick your own bibb lettuce, arugula, pole beans, cherry tomatoes, and herbs, then hand them over to the chef to be used in your next meal. Talk about fresh! You also can take a tour of the gardens with head gardener David Hamilton, and enjoy a live cooking demonstration during winter months.

Haute Cuisine on the High Seas

Gone (thankfully) are the days of bland, endless buffets on cruise ships. You may still pack on a few pounds during your sailing, but at least you'll be treated to lighter, more flavorful dishes along with specialty restaurants that can easily hold their own among the finest restaurants in the world.

As if cruising the glorious, crystal-clear lagoons of Tahiti weren't enough, this summer you can sail with Paul Gauguin Cruises THC and enjoy a cooking demonstration by one of America's most celebrated culinary experts. Chef Alan Wong is a renowned master of melding East and West in his creative dishes, taking elements of his Asian roots and combining them with his French culinary background for an oh-so-delicious festival for your taste buds.

Shortly after opening the Canoe House Restaurant on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1989, Chef Wong joined a team of local chefs to organize the concept of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, showcasing the Islands' fresh beef, fish, and organically grown fruits and vegetables through the signature dishes of 12 of Hawaii's top chefs. But more famously, Wong appeared as a guest judge on TV's Top Chef when it aired in Hawaii, challenging the contestants to cater his birthday luau.

Chef Wong will sail as a guest chef on the m/s Paul Gauguin's seven-night, July 27, 2013 voyage through Tahiti and the Society Islands, giving an on-board lecture plus a cooking demonstration of a recipe from his recently published Blue Tomato cookbook-the 'Ahi Poke Stack with Avocado Salsa, Crispy Won Ton, and Wasabi Soy. Chef Wong shared with us that his favorite dish, however, is Ginger-Crusted Onaga (find the recipe at www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes). "Perhaps that is because onaga (long-tailed red snapper) happens to be my favorite fish," he says. "And the ginger crust is so ono-or delicious-I eat it on its own with rice."

Even if you don't cruise with Chef Wong, you'll love dining aboard the two small, elegant ships of Paul Gauguin Cruises: Tere Moana and Paul Gauguin. At al fresco-style La Veranda, you'll be treated to the culinary creations of Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, who launched the world-renowned, two-star Michelin-rated Restaurant Apicius in Paris. Chef Vigato says he was influenced by his mother's cooking and the aromas that came from her kitchen, and likes to focus on "simple and honest" dishes from his childhood-like duck pie and his grandmother's liquorice crème brulée. The chef graciously agreed to share his recipe-served at La Veranda-for the appetizer of Green Asparagus Salad with Mascarpone Quenelle (find the recipe at www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes).

Perhaps no other cruise line is as well known for its culinary program as Oceania Cruises. After all, how many lines have published their own coffee-table-style book showcasing the amazing on-board food-and-wine experience-complete with recipes? Yes, Oceania Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin literally wrote the book, called Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises (available through Amazon.com for $54.95). It showcases not only recipes from each of Oceania's six unique restaurants, but also a storyboard about a day in the life of its chefs and culinary team.

That team is responsible for the delicious dishes served in the Grand Dining Room, as well as in Oceania's specialty restaurants: Toscana (Tuscan-inspired Italian cuisine), Red Ginger (contemporary Asian/sushi), Jacques (classic French, and Jacques Pépin's namesake restaurant), Polo Grill (classic steak-house experience), and La Reserve by Wine Spectator.

A true indulgence, La Reserve is basically a private seating of no more than 24 guests in a beautiful and elite setting high atop Deck 12 on both the Marina and Riviera. The evening unfolds with an exquisite seven-course wine-pairing gourmet dinner featuring seasonal menus created by Oceania's own sommelier and executive chef, who work closely to come up with perfectly balanced pairings like 72-Hour Slow-Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi Au Jus accompanied by Gordon Brothers Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon of Columbia Valley, Washington. La Reserve dinners range from $110 to $175 per guest, gratuities included, and are a special event not to be missed. During the day, you also can visit La Reserve to sample a flite of hand-selected vintages from the wine cellar, each chosen to reflect the region of the world you're sailing in.

Of course, Oceania also is famous for having the only hands-on cooking school at sea, the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. This professional-grade kitchen has 12 stations manned by just two students each, giving you a chance to rub shoulders with Master Chefs as you learn the secrets of creating homemade pasta, delicious crepes, and other regionally inspired dishes.

We've arranged to share the recipe for Miso Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf, the popular signature dish of Red Ginger (find the recipe at www.Hideaways.com/chefrecipes). For even more yummy info about Oceania's restaurants and dishes-with lots of mouth-watering photos-check out its blog at www.oceaniacruisesblog.com/taste.

Ah, food, glorious food! No matter where your taste buds take you, always rely on your Hideaways Travel Specialist (800-843-4433) to get you there in style, and with member-only perks and privileges.

May/June 2013

 
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