Food: Jumby Bay Island, Antigua
In the second part of “Feed Me Dearly's” review of Jumby Bay Jessica takes us through her recent culinary experiences and the delights of locally island grown produce and the riches fresh from the ocean.
Published on 22 February 2018
Hey, are you guys still there? Fantastic. Because it’s time to dish up part two on Antigua’s Jumby Bay Island, and it’s all about the food.
As in fresh-from-the-farm organic food. Plucked from the lady hen herself. Did I tell you that I’m now a chicken farmer? It’s all true. I learned how to enter a chicken coop without any of the residents escaping (harder than it seems) and cautiously step over forty or so chickens who like to greet their visitors like some kind of frenzied poultry paparazzi. It was all very zen, believe me. There was no screaming, no panicking, no running, no clinging to a ledge for dear life, no Hail Marys before plunging my bare arm beneath the feathered breast of a she-hen guarding her egg with a fierce case of stink eye. I may pick up the hobby this summer. Nothing beats fresh, still-warm chicken eggs. Nothing. And I’ll sacrifice life and limb to do it.
Fortunately Jumby Bay’s supremely talented kitchen and farming staff were there to help out with the remainder of our meals. Leaving that one joyous experiencing of plucking my own tomatoes, snipping some kale leaves, trimming herb flowers from the organic garden, and yes, even harvesting my own eggs…to an isolated incident of tomato salad-making for two. Forever encased in that memory box in my brain with the boldface letters A-N-T-I-G-U-A printed on the front. It’s a good set of memories.
Meals taste infinitely better if you’ve gone to the trouble of harvesting the ingredients yourself. Just one of the benefits of staying at a resort where you’re able to make your food choices on a whim: Shall I cook? Shall I eat out? Shall I saddle up to The Verandah Restaurant, the Beach Bar, The Pool Grill, or The Estate House, that 1800s-era former plantation house just recently restored?
But if meals taste better if you’ve handcrafted them with love, then you’re already in solid standing at Jumby Bay where many of the ingredients come from the resort’s organic farm. A special plot of land where fruit trees loom large, and flowers are grown with the express purpose of beautifying an already stunning location.
Our diet consisted light lunches, hearty dinners, local beer, and a steady infusion of cocktails, many of which featured juiced garden greens. We even made friends with a parting margarita, sweaty and resplendent with shots of El Jimador and Triple Sec. Leading us down memory lane to that year, 2004, when 75 guests showed up at a beach resort in Mexico for 4 days of questionable liquor-infused behavior (otherwise known as our wedding), fueled by gift bags of Jimador and good time vibes.
Seafood reigns supreme in this island paradise known as Jumby Bay. Vibrant red tuna comes from the surrounding waters where regular deep sea fishing guarantees the freshest catch. Ceviches are as good as it gets, lively with the addition of chile and lime..
But if seafood isn’t your thing (though it out to be!), have no fear. The island’s restaurants have plenty to choose from. Executive Chef Matthew Liddell of the Estate House restaurant comes to Jumby Bay with Michelin-star chops having cooked under Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. I had a private cooking class with Chef Matthew and learned the technique behind his indulgent dish of roasted sunchokes with truffle cream. Made even more special with the addition of olive oil harvested from the chef’s family olive grove in Southern France. Chef witnessed me shamefully considering a finger swipe of the truffle-scented emulsion and offered a second ladling of sauce. I complied and it was worth it. Clearly.
After a nap on the beach, I came home, changed for dinner (which involved finding my most billowing, least bodycon dress), and spent the night listening to tree frogs while feasting on foie gras & pork belly. Those minding their bikini bods or who didn’t bring a proper muumuu for occasion might want to select lighter fare, of which there’s much to choose from on the well-curated menu.
But it was our last dinner in Antigua that was perhaps the most special. Chef Paolo from The Verandah restaurant called me in advance to discuss the menu, seafood-heavy of course, featuring ceviche, squid ink risotto with scallops and crisp asparagus, spiny smoked lobster, and pineapple carpaccio. Under a blackened sky, Rodney and I were led to our table for two, surrounded by nothing but stars and tiki torches, and treated to an event that can only be described as dinner theater. It was romantic, it was entertaining, it was delicious….and although I didn’t receive a rose that night, I have a feeling that my husband will keep me around.
Credits: Jessica Fiorillo, Feed Me Dearly