By Eileen Ogintz
JUMBY BAY, Antigua (DAY 2) — How is the fish seasoned?
“With a lot of love,” said the chef Michael Prentice.
Chef Prentice fesses up that the secret to the whole grilled snapper is probably the Cajun Salt—and that the fish is caught right here.
This afternoon, Chef Randolph Looby shows us how to make an Antiguan fish soup—part of a weekly series of food demonstrations/cooking lessons he does for adults as well as kids.
“Make this when you’ve had an argument with your husband,” he jokes. “This is exactly how my mother and grandmother made it.”
He’s using Mahi Mahi –fresh today—but any fish will do. The tarragon and dill are grown here in the garden; the veggies—celery, fennel, red peppers, onions, sweet and white potatoes –are all local. “I’m planning to have a larger garden,” says Chef Looby, who has a lot of family in the Northeast. His aim: to have guests come into the garden with him to choose what they want to use.
“Go to the market on a Saturday morning to just see what is Antigua—how friendly we are—how everyone says hello!” “Family is very important here!”
Only 80,000 people live on the island of Antigua, independent from Britain only since November, 1981. “If you think the internet is fast, you should see the gossip network here,” he said. “Everyone knows everybody.” He said he buys fish from the same person his mom bought fish from.
On Wednesdays here, there is a pool buffet to showcase local foods including pepper pot, a kind of gumbo, conch chowder and fritters, “to introduce our guests to Antiguan food,” he explains.
Every lunch menu offers some Antiguan street food—fish cakes and fish tacos, fish and chips and a sticky pork wrap (shredded pork with sweet pepper and lettuce); One morning we try a traditional Antiguan breakfast that includes cornmeal “Funghi, tomato creole, salt fish, poached egg and fried plantain.
The chef seasoned his soup with a dollop of local hot sauce and rum. It’s ready in less than a half hour. It tastes as if the broth had simmered for hours. Delicious!
A lot of times I don’t expect much food-wise at all-inclusives. But this resort certainly sets the bar a lot higher. “And if you or the kids want something else that’s not on the menu, all you need to do is ask,” said Sue Venton, who has been coming with her family from London for more than a decade.
Returning guests look forward to the White Night Beach Dinner, dressed in their casual white best.
We sat with our toes in the sand at white-covered tablecloths, a band playing and feasted on grilled vegetables, shrimp, couscous, mussels, grilled lobster and roasted Mahi dMahi, a whole suckling pig, ribs, steak, chicken, and a whole array of deserts—including s’mores and all varieties of pastries—pecan pie, chocolate cake, cheese cake, chocolate mousse.
“It was magical,” said Daisy Collins, honeymooning with her husband Ed from London. “The food is really great!”
The next night, we sample conch fritters, lobster cakes, pork chops and a shrimp-noodle stir fry—delicious. I feel like I’m on a cruise ship—I can sample what I like because all of the food is included—even afternoon tea with home-made scones and banana bread.
My one complaint—rather than bottled water, I wish they gave us reusable water bottles and had stations to fill them up.
Somehow, we make room for breakfast. We have to fuel up to go snorkeling just a short boat ride to the mile-plus Maiden Reef where we see all varieties of fish—green Stoplight Parrotfish, striped Seargeant Major, Yellowtail Snapper. The high point for me—the pink jellyfish that swims right by me! Our captain Sean Ashby reminds us that Antigua is known for 365 beaches–one for each day of the year!
The water is so calm and clear that a family visiting from London Is able to happily snorkel.
As this is an all-inclusive resort, the snorkeling is included as are the rest of the activities. This afternoon while I hit the spa, my friend Elise tries water skiing for the first time in decades and has a blast.
And unlike other tony resorts, kids are welcomed everywhere,” says Elaine Qwan. She and her husband Paul felt totally comfortable leaving their two young daughters in the capable hands of the kids club staff while they went out snorkeling. “I’d definitely recommend this resort to our friends,” she said, adding that the kids have been welcomed everywhere. “That is a real bonus,” she said.
“It’s really hard to leave this little island.” Said Daisy Collins.