"Lady." The voice shouted from somewhere outside the galley.
It wasn't the first time I had heard it. I hoped it would not be the last. I dried my hands and stepped on deck. The Bahamian sun sizzled against my delicate northern skin. I was going to have to remember to wear sunscreen, even inside the boat. I raised a hand to my brow to shield my face from the shimmering bright light and smiled.
"Good morning, Swannee." I peered over the rail into the worn wooden skiff below. "What have you got for me this morning?""
We had been in the Bahamas for the last few days and each morning, like an alarm clock, Swannee's boat would putter up to ours loaded with conch, grouper, lobsters, and yellowtail. I had been cooking my way through the local recipes of conch salad, guava duff, and Johnnycakes, using Swannee's daily visit as my recipe book. "'dis mornin', I gots you something special." He twisted his upper body to reach behind him. Each bone of his ribcage rippled down his dark skin. His hand-me-down shorts were cinched tight with a length of fisherman's line. Bare feet and a Gilligan's hat, frayed at the rim, completed his uniform. Life was simpler here in the islands. From behind his back, Swannee pulled two slender white stalks, looking like thick white asparagus without their heads. Swannee looked at me with all seriousness. His eyes squinted, his voice lowered. "You ever ate fresh hearts of palm?"
Fresh hearts of palm? Did he mean those soggy, smushy things in a can? I shook my head.
Swannee twisted again on his gnarled, weather-beaten stoop. If he was pricked by the inevitable splinters, he did not wince.
He pointed. Along the white-sand beach in the distance, beyond the sulight sparkling off the still water like sapphires and aquamarines, stood half a dozen coconut trees curved low over the shore.
"I just gots them for you." He held the stalks out for inspection. I knew hearts of palm were, like the name inferred, the heart of the coconut palm tree, but hadn't ever had a fresh one.
Swannee pulled a machete from under his seat and with the palm heart in his left hand, he began shucking the tough outer sheath to get to the delicate inner core. He shaved a thin slice across the diameter, miraculously not cutting into his thumb with the blade, and handed it up to me.I let the new experience sit on my tongue, feeling the velvety flesh before chewing. This was not the same thing as what came out of a can. This vegetable had a soft creamy bite and was delicate and firm, all at the same time, crunchy with a mild nutty flavor, similar to an artichoke. I loved it. My mind whirled with the possibilities for salads. I smiled at Swannee and he grinned a toothless smile back at me.
I looked across the intricate pattern of clear turquoise water to the trees along the steamy tropical beach, and back to my new friend from the island. I nodded. "I like."
Hearts of palm come from the palmetto palm. Traditionally, harvesting in the wild kills the tree, but Costa Rica is now sustainably farming fresh hearts of palm from the self-regenerating peach palm. They are available through Whole Foods.
Using a Japanese mandoline, slice the hearts of palm into thin matchsticks.Whisk together shallot, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, sea salt, sugar, and black pepper. Toss with hearts of palm and serve. Serve as a salad, or as a side with fish or chicken.
“What do we do with a drunken leprechaun? Early in the morning!”
The same way mysteries of mischievous leprechauns in Irish folklore have transcended through time, the original recipe for this drink is also a mystery. A few variations of this St. Patty’s-themed cocktail are served in local pubs, but most of them include its most important ingredient — good ol’ Irish whiskey. Like a fun twist on the Irish Screwdriver, check out our favorite version of this green concoction.
2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz Blue Curaçao
3-4 oz orange juice
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add whiskey, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh orange wedge.
This drink is not Irish, but its green color makes for a perfect St. Patty’s Day drink to enjoy at sea. Using the same ingredients but replacing whiskey with tequila, try another easy twist on the classic recipe for a Tequila Sunrise. Sail off toward the horizon while enjoying this beachy beverage.
2 oz Blanco Tequila
1 oz Blue Curaçao
3-4 oz orange juice
1 lime and 1 orange wedge
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add tequila, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh lime and orange wedge.
For the salty sailor who could use a sweet kick on V-day, this sweet yet tart drink is perfect for your anti-Valentine’s Day party. This ocean-inspired twist on the classic margarita also makes for a perfect waterside cocktail.
1 ½ oz blanco tequila
1 oz Blue Curaçao
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Splash of orange juice
1 lime and 1 orange wedge
For a salted rim, fill a small plate with lime juice and swirl your glass rim in it, then dip it into a plate of margarita salt and fill your glass with ice. In a separate cocktail shaker with a light amount of ice, pour in tequila, Blue Curaçao, lime juice and a splash of orange juice. Shake thoroughly and strain into your glass and garnish with a lime or orange.
Also known as “The Isaac,” this romantic red drink was created by original Love Boat cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender. Inspired by his signature bright red jacket mixed with the show’s sweet theme, the delicious libation is a perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail for boat lovers.
2 oz white rum
2 oz pomegranate syrup
½ oz fresh lime juice
Splash of club soda
2 pineapple leaf spears
Fill highball glass with ice. In separate cocktail shaker, fill with ice, white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into highball glass and top it with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a fresh lime slice and two pineapple spears.
*Check out a special segment from Princess Cruises where actor Ted Lange gives a demo of the Love Boat cocktail that debuted on the cruise line in 2015.
In my quest for the best Caribbean Rum, I’ve sampled a few. From Appleton to Ron Zacapa rum, my tastebuds have celebrated the luscious flavors borne from fermenting sugarcane into smooth amber elixirs.
In the pursuit of rum perfection, I’ve noticed that a well-designed label can give clues about what awaits inside the bottle. Many simply present the distiller’s name and location where a rum derives its unique flavors. But it’s hard to resist the image of a crusty old captain, pirate ship or sassy sea wench when pouring a hefty splash into a tumbler.
Curious rum aficionados like myself are always eager to hear the back story behind the libation in our hand. Like a slice of pineapple or lime wedged upon the rim of a glass, the history of a rum’s journey from the Caribbean to our lips can make a cocktail taste even sweeter.
I recently stumbled upon the extraordinary tale that intertwines Jamaican rum, world- class musicians and James Bond. To fully appreciate this unique saga, follow my lead and shake up a GoldenEye Cocktail (see recipe below) to sip while the story unfolds.
Our story begins in 1939, when a London journalist named Ian Fleming joined the British Navy Intelligence Service. His unit specialized in military espionage and covert plans to thwart German aggression in Europe and the Caribbean.
During World War II, Fleming was engaged in Operation GoldenEye, and in 1942 he was sent to investigate suspicions about Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. During this deployment, he became enamored with Jamaica and vowed to live there some day.
When the war was over, Fleming returned to Jamaica and bought 15 acres of plush land that was once used as a donkey racetrack. In 1945, he built a house not far from the banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, and the seaside property became Fleming’s tropical sanctuary where he could focus on writing and the discrete task of taking previously tight-held secrets into a public, fictional genre.
He named the estate GoldenEye as a tribute to his Navy service and began working on a book that evolved around the dashing spy and Special Agent 007, James Bond. This protagonist would emerge as the amalgamation of agents he’d met during his maritime service. As an avid birdwatcher, Fleming took the name for his lead character from American ornithologist James Bond, an expert on Caribbean birds, who wrote the definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies.
Fleming’s first spy novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1952. This book and all 13 in the James Bond series were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of them — Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun — take place in Jamaica.
Not only did the breezy island life at GoldenEye inspire Fleming’s novels, but so did his fetching neighbor, Blanche Blackwell. She was the muse who helped spark his creative drive. The Blackwell family had lived in Jamaica since 1625, exporting bananas and coconuts and crafting a distinctive brand of rum.
Blanche’s son Chris Blackwell grew up between England and Jamaica, and in his childhood spent a good amount of time with Fleming. In 1954, after Blackwell got booted from an elite British school for rebellious behavior, he came back to the island to get involved in the family rum business. Contrary to plan, he followed his instincts and made a career choice that would dramatically alter the global music scene.
For a while, he kicked around working as the aide-de-camp to the governor and as a waterskiing instructor. But after hearing the blind pianist Lance Heywood play at the Half Moon Resort, Blackwell recorded the musician, and in 1959 he launched a music studio called Island Records. In sync with his unconventional style, it became known for discovering and nurturing innovative performers who had been shrugged off or overlooked by bigger record labels.
Island Records introduced the world outside of the Caribbean to Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jamaican reggae music, showcasing island culture and universal struggles of indigenous people. It launched British bands such as Traffic, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Fairport Convention. It also cultivated artists such as Cat Stevens, Brian Eno, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and the Irish band, U2.
Throughout his success in the music industry, Blackwell remained in contact with Fleming and his projects. When the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica in 1962, Blackwell was hired as a location scout and consulted on the soundtrack. Sir Sean Connery, whom Blackwell had met during the filming of Dr. No, remained a friend until his passing in 2020. Using a family recipe, Blackwell launched his boutique rum in 2008 that is distributed around the globe.
Live and Let Die was filmed in 1973 on the Blackwell Estate, which now includes The Fleming Villa. Scenes from the movie were shot near GoldenEye, Blackwell’s luxury hotel in Jamaica. The latest Bond flick, No Time to Die, returns to the exquisite Jamaican backdrop of GoldenEye, and the production team was treated to a supply of Blackwell Rum for inspiration while filming.
TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS OF JAMES BOND, a special bottle of Blackwell Rum has been released, along with a new memoir by Chris Blackwell, The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond. If you’re cruising around Jamaica this winter, cue up some Bob Marley tunes, open a bottle of Blackwell’s 007 Rum, and shake it (don’t stir) with pineapple juice and ice to create the GoldenEye Cocktail. And if you’re nestled in at home in a colder climate and dreaming about the Caribbean, we suggest watching a Bond flick and warming up with the Toasted Toddy.
-1 part Blackwell Rum
-1 part pineapple juice
-Lime or pineapple wedge
Shake together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime or pineapple wedge
-3 parts Blackwell Rum
-2 teaspoons brown sugar
-1 1⁄2 parts fresh lemon juice
-6 parts boiling water
Add all ingredients to a mug, except for the water. Pour in the boiling water, Stir well to blend
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