Last night I sat out on my balcony at the Aruba Marriott listening to whisps of music drift up from the beach. My hotel had a great reggae band, so good that people were out dancing on the sand. And then there was Neil Diamond playing at the hotel down the beach. Singing Sweet Caroline. Well, not really Neil Diamond but a good rendition of it. Good enough to get me doing a sing-along.
My white island pigeon didn't reappear this morning looking for croissant crumbs so I headed down to the Vista Restaurant in the hotel for their breakfast buffet and discovered miniature doughnuts with warm caramel inside. I ate six. Amazing little temptations.
Next? A luxurious massage. The spa here offers a traditional island method of massage they call Massage de la Aruba, and I wanted to try it.
I was pretty relaxed already having spent two days on this happy island. But honestly, I felt like floating after my massage here from Mercedes with the healing hands. It was so gentle it lulled me to sleepy submission. I shuffled out and slowly strolled down to that beautiful beach.
I sighed and sank down into a chair at the beach restaurant. Too perfect. I ordered an Aruba Ariba to round out the perfect factor.
The recipe for this frosty wonder: banana liquor, orange juice, pineapple juice, good vodka, Myers rum. So yum!!!
The slight tang of the sauerkraut in my Reuben of most tenderness was a nice counterpart to the sweet drink. I took so long relishing both of them that I almost missed my cooking class. I had booked one ahead with the chef at Ruth's Chris, one of the many restaurants at the Aruba Marriott. Chef Marlon Damian was waiting for me with a warm smile. No worries.
Because he is Aruban, he decided to teach me something I could only learn on Aruba. First, we would make Frekedel from his grandmother's mother's recipe. And we would also make Pan Bati. We started with the freshest of ingredients laid out before us, including beautiful red snapper.
He first poached the red snapper in a court boullion. (recipes to follow when I return home and post it here! Stay tuned!)
We put two pieces of white bread to soak in milk. We chopped red pepper, green pepper, onion, tomato, and garlic to make a Creole sauce to top the Frekedel with. And Chef Damian told me he picked the fresh island basil we were using that morning from his mother's garden.
What I loved was that he brought his grandmother's own Kazuela pan to make our Pan Bati recipe today.
Pan Bati are slightly sweetened pancakes.
You know, I have over 400 cookbooks and read all sorts of food books, and I have never ever heard of these dishes or seen them anywhere. As a culinary destination, Aruba is fascinating and I'm glad the winds of fate landed me in the good teaching hands of Chef Damian because he values the island's traditional cuisine.
This was the finished dish, which we consumed immediately. A golden fish Frekedel with a side of Pan Bati. Masha Danki, Chef Damian! (Thank you very much!)
My just about perfect day continued. I communed with the sea. Drifted then swam then just drifted atop clear acquamarine water. More Aruba Aribas and one Mango Daiquiri to round out yet again the perfect factor happening today. Then I closed my eyes and drifted again.
When I awoke the sun was setting. I had just about an hour to make it back to my room to get ready to out for my last night here with my new friends.
We decided to try a local Dutch hangout for drinks.
If I lived here on Aruba, this neighborhood bar, cafe 080, would be my local. Because the Dutch owners draw the Dutch who live on the island, and the Dutch love to socialize! They love to party. They love to laugh. They love good food. And they love life.
My group settled into a table and one of the owners came over with treats and drinks. I ordered the "special" which tasted of coconut and rum and pink.
Yes. Food was available as well. You had to speak Dutch to know what to order though. We again trusted our waiter and feasted on salty tastes.
Members of my group and Yappi, one of the owners, enjoying the warm Arubian night.
Eventually we migrated to dinner, to Gostoso Restaurant, that served a blend of Portugese and Aruban cuisine. I started with deep fried sushi with (instead of nori seaweed) plantain wrapped outside and cream cheese and crab inside.
Then a grouper fish dish with banana and passion fruit sauce. I kissed the chef on the way out. Yay, it was very good!
You know, when I am very happy, I have chocolate dreams. Tonight, I think I will order Aruba dreams. I'm happier than happy.