When I think of my recent trip to Belize (with 6 other women, most of them family) I think of laughter, adventure and sunshine. But I also think of the food.
Our 9 day adventure led us from the jungle in San Ignacio to the ocean breeze and sunshine of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that none of us expected the food to be as consistently good and beautiful as it was. While I have many more photos to share and stories to tell, I figured it made sense to first share the most important aspect of our travels: all of the delicious and beautiful things we ate.
Everything Claudia cooked at Vanilla Hills Lodge – San Ignacio
No really, everything. During our stay with Claudia and Franklin at Vanilla Hills Lodge, (a small yet gorgeous eco-lodge/B&B outside of San Ignacio – please go there now) we ate every single meal with them (with the exception of lunches, and one dinner). We only went out because we were gently encouraged to explore.
Claudia is passionate about cooking, immediately evident in her careful choice of dishware (an extensive and jealousy-inducing collection) and natural ability to make food look as beautiful as it is delicious.
Breakfast included homemade breads, jams, brie, banana pancakes, farm fresh eggs and local fruits. For dinner, there was no menu. It was more a game of sit down and be surprised/amazed at what Claudia cooked up for the evening. This is a fun game and I highly encourage you to play it someday.
The food here was art. Delicious art. I am still dreaming about it. If you have any interest in staying here, I highly recommend it. The TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves.
Fry Jacks and more at Estel’s Dine by the Sea – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
I’d read about Estel’s (and pretty much every other place we visited/ate/drank) from San Pedro Scoop, which is an AMAZING guide to Ambergris Caye (and beyond) should you ever decide to visit Belize. Really, I don’t know how I would have planned this trip without that website – it’s perfect.
Anyway, the fry jacks at Estel’s just came off as one of those specialty items you need to try in San Pedro, so we all did.
To put it simply: fry jacks do not disappoint. I appreciate that I can go into a restaurant for breakfast, order not one but TWO giant pieces of fried dough and nobody judges me. It’s also really fun and mature to put them in front of your mouth and pretend they are your mouth. They also taste really good when you are hungover and need comfort.
Fry jacks stole the spotlight here, but the fresh juices (Grapefruit and Limeade) and my lobster omelette were equally amazing. If lobster is in season when you visit, that omelette will make you very, very happy.
It’s worth mentioning that Estel’s also has one of the most fantastic breakfast views. Sitting in sand, looking out over the Caribbean sea while palm trees sway and rustle gently in the wind, stuffing your face with fried dough and fresh lobster…it’s the stuff of dreams.
Ceviche at Wild Mango’s – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
As much as I love food, I’m sheltered. There are so many things I tried on this trip that I’d never tasted prior (lobster and ceviche to name a few). Yet I found myself ordering ceviche with confidence, like I’d tasted it a million times before.
When I took my first bite, I wished I could taste it one million times more. I taste tested everyone else’s ceviche, and then ordered ceviche again when we returned here for our last dinner in San Pedro. Not quite a million times, but hey, I did my best.
Should you find yourself at Wild Mango’s, there’s not a ceviche there I wouldn’t recommend. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back for more. Don’t forget a panty ripper – they are ridiculously good here.
The Belize Chocolate Company – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
The Belize Chocolate Company should actually be called Heaven on Earth, or My Favorite Place Ever, or if I Could Control My Dreams I’d Go Here and Eat This Every Single Night or maybe The Place Where Chocolate Dreams Come True.
At first, I tried to be practical. We were on our way to an early dinner, so I figured I would just try one. Then I really wanted 3. Then I lost all willpower and just decided screw it, it’s economical to just buy a box of 6. And then eat them all. With a milkshake on the side. (Isn’t being a grown up awesome? Nobody can tell me not to have dessert first.)
I love chocolate, so it’s no surprise I loved this place. Do not miss it.
Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans & Plantains at Ko-Ox Han nah – San Ignacio
This is a meal that made my ex-vegetarian sister proud to be an ex-vegetarian. It prompted her to exclaim how much she loves chicken. It made her want chicken…for breakfast. Actually, I think it made everyone want chicken for breakfast.
The service here was friendly and warm. The restaurant is incredibly small and open air, but colorful and inviting. Stray dogs ran by the open door and peeked in while we ate, trying to appear curious but really just trying to pick out who the biggest dog lover in the group was. (It was Karen. She abandoned her meal for dog pets outside.) I loved this restaurant and meal so much that I had to go home and learn how to make stew chicken for myself.
In the end, Belize pushed me out of my culinary comfort zone. It taught me about all of the delicious things that can happen when you just say yes. It also taught me that taking an extra 5 minutes to present your food beautifully can magically make it taste better. And that there is truly no better thing than lingering over a meal, surrounded by people you love, laughing and eating something delicious in a beautiful place.