If you are looking for a way to truly connect to the food culture of Jamaica then I have the culinary adventure for you! It turns out that the white-knuckle, hair-raising journey over the mountains from Montego Bay to Saint Elizabeth Parish, the breadbasket of Jamaica, is worth every minute. It is advisable to take a Gravol before embarking if you suffer from any motion sickness.
Enroute to your delicious destination, Jakes Hotel, I highly recommend a stop in Middle Quarters for some pepper shrimp -- ask for spicy if your pallet loves heat-fresh fruit (think honey bananas, oranges, sweetsop and mangos) and raw peanuts. Grab a few chilly Red Stripes to add to your picnic basket and make your way to YS Falls.
The falls are located in a stunning nature reserve nestled in the rain forest. It's the perfect place to cool off, go ziplining and enjoy a break from the road before heading to Treasure Beach. Remember to pack your bathing suit and be sure to get your photo taken swinging out and dropping into the river pool!
About 45 minutes from YS Falls you'll come to the "home of Community Tourism" at Treasure Beach. Jake's Hotel, a small (30 rooms) boutique resort, located on the south coast is committed to offering an authentic taste-of-place and while you can rent a villa with a kitchenette and prepare your own meals, I would highly recommend letting Chef Dockery Lloyd and his crew cook for you.
Breakfast is served on the patio and cooked in an outdoor kitchen. Dishes include smoked marlin and poached eggs served on a bed of callaloo, breadfruit with ackee and salt fish, coconut pancakes and more. The menu changes daily and takes in the freshest ingredients from the farms and waters that surround the resort. Desserts at dinner are outstanding -- I long for a piece of their coconut cake and a dish of their sorrel sorbet! If you're looking for a more casual but no less delicious choice, you can dine at Jack Sprat's -- my favourite dish is the jerk lobster with rice and peas.
Hire Captain Dennis and his boat to the Black River for a visit to Sister Lou's shore shack for fresh crab, and a stop at the world famous Pelican Bar for a few cold ones and your vacation will start swimmingly! If you're interested in a fishing trip and shore lunch Captain Dennis is also your man. Plan your trip to during the full moon and you can experience Jake's monthly farm-to-table dinner that takes place at Farmer Dull's-an al fresco dinner on his organic farm. Guests gather at a harvest table in the light of an enormous moon under a mango tree canopy to share authentic dishes featuring ingredients fresh from his soil.
From Treasure Beach make you way to Negril and be sure to visit the very contemporary restaurant Pushcart for great local flavours and a gorgeous view. Less hectic and touristy than Ricks Café and you don't have to go jumping off any cliffs. Be sure to order the Drunken Coconut-trust me you won't be disappointed.
Before you reluctantly head home, pay a visit to Scotchies in Montego Bay for the real deal when it comes to jerk. Order chicken, pork and sides including rice and peas and carnival-and don't forget their (in)famous hot sauce. I still dream about the grills of smoking pimento wood and the chilled vibe before I headed for the airport and a return to reality, sigh.
Jamaican Culinary Adventure Check List:
• Ensure you drive in comfort and safety-travel with Richard Russell from Jamaica Co-Operative Automobile & Limousine Tours,
• Make your vacation uber-romantic and reserve one of the Octopussy cabins at Jakes Hotel,
• Book your fishing and Black River adventure with Captain Dennis,
• Reserve a table with a water view at Pushcart,