Saturday, February 4, 2017

You'd better Belize it!

pics courtesy of Stephen Wilson

That headline had to be written. Trust me, it's not even close to some of the more memorable ones you will see if you just happen to visit Belize, nor does it match the eye-roll inducing moments of some of my previous blog headings. But, you have to appreciate the cheeziness right? No? Ah well, how about we focus on the pics above then shall we? Beautiful, and yet not really a fair idea of what to expect should you drop books, work and trousers and run to the heat, sun and sand of Belize.

Before any holiday vacation, my partner and I always do a fair bit of research. We have our criteria: we usually prefer adult-only resorts on the smaller scale - if it is private, even better. We love clear, warm water and direct access to the breach. I will also add in exceptional cuisine. Pretty easy right? Ok, maybe not, but we do try to aim for the best our budget will allow us.

It sounds like a typical search most couples would do, but as a gay, interracial couple we need to think not only about our dream wish list, but things people generally don't have to consider. We add in to our research what countries are truly LGBTQ-friendly, what resorts or hideaways will except gay couples, and thoroughly read as many reviews as possible. We even take the extra steps to dialogue with staff at whatever resort we chose, to find out as much as we can, and maybe to also prepare the staff for our arrival.

I understand how it reads: two high maintenance, grandiose travel snobs being overly precious about a trip. But let me be clear - all of this done for safety reasons. Please remember that a majority of countries within the hot sun and white sand zone tend to view homosexuality from either an illegal perspective, or just plain, outright hostility. Safety is of paramount importance to us, which is why all of these extra precautions can add an extra hour or ten to what should be a typical search for a vacay holiday.

After all of our research, we decided on Belize. It checked off all of our precautions and wish lists, and the resort we chose - Matachica Resort, had everything we wanted and then some. As this blog is a Hungry Man travels, what else would I babble about but Belize cuisine?

There are two food stories here: the resort and the country. The two do meet, but tend to oftentimes run parallel to each other. How is that possible? I'll explain.

The resort works very hard to provide its guests with the best quality and variety of food. Most resorts want to make sure that its food will please a variety of people, and Matachica does not differ from that viewpoint. The food at the resort is delicious, fresh and beautifully presented, but I found that local dishes on the menu tend to either be buried or not provided at all - unless of course, you ask for a local dish to be made (which Chef will happily comply to when asked and within reason).

The resort menu is mostly focused on fresh seafood, and why not? With the ocean literally beside the kitchen, Chef has to/must take full advantage of that access, plus - who would say no to fresh seafood? What I did find slightly disappointing, was that the food at the resort tended to be Italian influenced - pizza, calamari, pastas. Now I love Italian cuisine, and I didn't mind prior to the trip that it was so heavily featured on the menu - we knew what to expect about the resort cuisine before we picked it. After a few days, however, I started craving a bit more of a Belizean taste in my mouth.

There is hope though my fellow foodies. If you are looking for an escape of resort eating, and crave the true taste of the country, ditch the resort and head to town. As Matachica Resort is located close to the town of San Pedro, we took advantage of the proximity and went for lunch. With Caribbean and Latin influences on the cuisine, there are some great choices in town - from fresh shrimp tacos to Jamaican jerk chicken. We stumbled on Caprice Bar and Grill, and I am so glad we found it - the restaurant provided, hands down, the best meal I had on the entire trip. I had asked for and received a true Belizean local dish - red beans and rice cooked in coconut milk; the most succulent, delicious curried chicken, and beautifully prepared fried plantain.

pic courtesy of TA

Plantain is from the banana family, but unlike bananas it cannot be eaten raw. The best way to cook it is to fry it, although it can be boiled too. Either method softens the fruit and releasing it's sweet taste. Most people would squirm knowing that the best plantains to cook are the ones that are overly ripe. When the fruit skin is black, soft and squishy, that is when it is ready to cook. Peel it, slice it and fry it, and you'll be in sweet, tasty heaven.

With great food, excellent and personalized service at Matachica, not to mention meeting and interacting with incredibly friendly locals, a cabana right on the beach with direct access to the gorgeous, warm blue water you can see in the pics above. We really hit the jackpot, and after a week of hanging out, we started to think about planning a new trip to the country in the new year.

Heading to Belize was the prefect way to end what was quite a craptastic year last year. While I was there, sunning it up and trying to keep my mind in the lazy zone, I couldn't help but think about the future of this blog. I have not been keeping it up to date, but it's still a part of my life.

I may have to change the settings from occasional blog postings to the odd time to time post. Eventually, I know I'll get to the point where I will close it down. But there are lots of adventures to be had, and I do want to record it. So I'll keep going - for now.

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