Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mojito's, Bahama Style

Fresh Ginger-Lime Mojitos

Pear and Arugula Salad with Miso-Yuzu Vinaigrette

Sesame Crusted Seared Tuna with Long Beans and a Pyramid of Sushi Rice

Bittersweet Chocolate-Almond-Raspberry Cake with Gold Leafed, Rose Scented Raspberries and White Chocolate Shavings.

The birthday celebration continued throughout the day, Wahoo kabobs for lunch and while I was throwing that together with my right hand, my left hand was whipping up a chocolate cake… and with my other four spare arms I made a batch of Mojitos and also prepared dinner – another meal where we all sat together and once again celebrated our 1st Mates god dam birthday. What’s next, a national holiday?

I made two chocolate devils food cakes, recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipes cookbook – but rather than Hershey’s cocoa powder, I used Valhrona, my personal fave. It’s a failsafe recipe, works every time. I filled the cake with raspberry jam and did a crumb coating with raspberry jam as well. As I prepared to frost the cake with a deep, bittersweet chocolate ganache, I folded up four pieces of parchment paper and slid them underneath the cake so that when the frosting and decorating of the cake was complete, I could remove the parchment and the plate would be clean. I put a thick layer of chocolate ganache on the cake, and then pressed toasted almonds around the outside. I tossed fresh raspberries with rose-flower water and powdered sugar to give them a nice sheen and add a little flavor, and then I brushed them with gold leaf and rimmed the cake with them. I piped a layer of ganache on the inside ring against the raspberries and then filled the circle with grated white chocolate. Then, the piece d’resistance – 30 curly birthday candles…

The owners were calling for cocktails and since I’d boasted about making a good Mojito, I was put to the test – but time was running short and I still had to make dinner! I had made gingered simple syrup a few weeks ago which I had poached star-fruit in to make star-fruit chips for garnishing a panna cotta. I figured the gingered simple syrup would be a nice touch to the Mojitos.

Cristina’s Ginger-Lime Mojitos:

Simple Syrup:

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 lbs. fresh ginger – roughly chopped (don’t bother peeling, it gets strained out)

Bring water, sugar and ginger to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 10 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and allow steeping for another 20 minutes or so. Strain through a strainer and then through cheese clothe to remove any bits of ginger.


(This is a rough estimate of what I put in, I didn’t really keep track)

1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice

4 sprigs fresh mint, picked

Ginger Simple Syrup to taste (maybe a ¼ - ½ cup?)

½ liter Club Soda

750 ml. Bacardi Rum

Put ice and mint in a large pitcher and meddle with the back of a wooden spoon – smashing and breaking up mint. Add the rum, lime juice, simple syrup and club soda. Taste and adjust ingredients accordingly. Tasting and adjusting is essential, and when you get the formula just right – pour yourself one as reward, and a second because they’re that good...

For dinner I made a simple salad of pears, avocado, arugula and a miso-yuzu vinaigrette. I found a bottle of yuzu juice (a Japanese citrus fruit similar to grapefruit – only tart, tangy and addictively acidic) at a specialty food store in Fort Lauderdale and have fallen in love with the flavor. I hope one day I can find some fresh to play with! I made vinaigrette with about a teaspoon of miso, a few tablespoons of yuzu and canola oil. Simple, straightforward and tasty. Dinner was sesame encrusted pan-seared tuna with a pyramid of sushi rice garnished with flecks of nori, bonito and dried wasabi and a long beans with fennel and peppers sautéed in sesame oil. And dessert was, of course, the cake.

After dinner we went out for yet another night on the town. This time starting at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and finishing up dancing the night away to some reggae at a tiny island club called Happy People.

And yet another early morning the next day. At least the owners were flying back to Florida so I knew that I’d be able to get in an afternoon nap and have an easy evening as I’d prepared some Bolognese and froze it before the trip… Dinner the next night consisted of defrosting the sauce and boiling some water. Fortunately, the rest of the crew were all tired too. Our stewardess put together a lovely arugula, pear and honeyed-goat cheese salad and I made some garlic bread. We all enjoyed a simple dinner and an early night to bed…

Kiss My Whisk!

I cursed the heavens and the stars; I cursed the aquamarine ocean that I floated upon. I cursed my job; I cursed the yacht and the whole industry. But mostly I just cursed… as I whisked and whisked trying furiously to emulsify my cracked hollandaise.

In actuality, I cursed our 1st Mate because it was his birthday and I was tired from the previous night’s festivities and this morning the owners asked him what he wanted for his birthday breakfast; his request? A bed of spinach with artichoke hearts nestled in it, poached eggs on top and hollandaise (which just happens to be the owner’s favorite breakfast, too. Coincidence?). I hadn’t made hollandaise since culinary school – 7 years ago! It was a challenge I was not intimidated to take on, but I had to put out breakfast for seven hungry guests and crew and I knew they wouldn’t wait all day while I figured out how to make the sauce! And yes, I believe in shortcuts, but sauce from a packet just doesn’t fly with me. I have an aversion to powdered, just-add-water foods and/or anything with an ingredient list that reads like a HazMat identification manual…


-obviously, oblivious to my pain and suffering in the galley!

Having only a vague memory of what goes in hollandaise and how to make it – I thought about my father who always seemed to be able to whip up a tasty hollandaise in a blender, and in a snap… So, going into MythBuster mode, I decided to give the blender method an attempt. I figured that if I warmed up my clarified butter (which I had in abundance in the fridge) it would provide the necessary heat to cook the eggs. Right? Well, not exactly. My first attempt with two egg yolks and about a half cup or more of clarified butter and some lemon juice turned out a thin, very unappealing looking sauce. This just wouldn’t do. I tried adding another egg yolk - to no avail.

I quickly put together a bain-marie over the stove and began whisking. My already thin, anemic looking sauce began to separate. Discernable little droplets of clarified butter forming around the edge of my bowl, like the pearls of sweat now forming on my brow... I looked up at the heavens and shook my whisk. What was I going to do?

Attempt #3 was to pull out the trusty hand-blender, fixer of all manners of broken emulsifications. But again, to no avail. My sauce came together slightly more, but was still way too thin and I was not about to serve anything less than a perfect sauce. I had to put on my chef thinking cap – and quickly.

I started thinking about emulsified sauces and the process of emulsifying - and what, my friend, is the easiest and first emulsified sauce you learn to make in culinary school? Mayonnaise! And what is hollandaise other than mayonnaise with the oil replaced by clarified butter? I quickly whipped out another egg, cracking the yolk into a mixing bowl and adding the tiniest amount of Dijon mustard (Dijon mustard has a thickening quality which assists the emulsification process, with a bit of flavor!). I started getting busy on my yolk mixture with my hand blender and then slowly, very S-L-O-W-L-Y, began drizzling my broken sauce into the yolk while I blended away. Drop by drop, my sauce began to come together, the broken sauce going un-wasted, and thickening up perfectly. I added a bit more clarified butter, lemon juice, and salt – and voila, I had a perfect, and I’d recon to say, almost unbreakable, hollandaise sauce. When it came time to serve, my sauce was a bit thick and it needed reheating. I simply put it in my bain-marie on the stove, thinned it with the tiniest amount of hot water and whisked it until it was warm.

And yes, you purest out there rolling your eyes and cursing me for not knowing how to make a hollandaise – well, you can just kiss my whisk because my sauce was beautiful and tasty. And what is the cardinal rule of professional cooking, yacht cooking and catering? Make it work, baby, make it work…

After getting my sauce together, my next order of business was to poach off 14 eggs. How exactly would you serve eggs benedict to your guests, hot, and all at the same time? I didn’t happen to have my 14 egg-at-a-time-poaching mechanism on hand, which, again did pose a bit of a challenge. But once again, I looked at the wonderful learning opportunity I had in front of me and figured I would test out a method that a friend had told me about a while back. Poach off your eggs a few at a time, being careful to leave them very soft and slightly under-poached (which called for some very delicate handling), pull them from the hot water and shock them in an ice-bath to stop the cooking. Keep them aside and simply reheat them by plunking them back into the hot water for a minute before serving.

I’ve had some poaching failures in the past – everyone has a different method and I’ve tried them all; swirling the water before dropping the egg in, adding vinegar, etc. and those just haven’t worked for me. The method I use is to fill a frying pan (yes, a frying pan) with water and bring it to a boil. Crack an egg into a cup and when the water boils, pour the egg into the water – turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and let it sit for 3 minutes or so, until it’s done. So, this is the method I employed this time, poaching off three eggs at a time, dunking them (very carefully) into an ice bath and then scooping them out onto a plate. In the meantime, I cooked up my spinach and heated my artichoke hearts.

When it came time to serve, it all worked out really quite simply. I plunked my eggs back into some hot water, then scooped them out and plopped them (gently, of course) onto the artichoke heart and dressed them with a spoon of my golden, tangy, warm and perfectly unbroken hollandaise. 7 orders up at the same time, and hot. The owners and crew all sat down for breakfast together and I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride that I had met the challenge…

Lesson learned? Well, hollandaise is one of those things that, working on a yacht, I should really know how to make. And now, I can make it in abundance, hold it and reheat it without it breaking. And, I can also do poached eggs for the masses and get them all up at once, hot and perfectly cooked.

How ‘bout them apples?

Swimming With Sharks

We cruised down to the Exumas on Friday afternoon, and of course, just when I couldn’t imagine a place being any more gorgeous than where we were – we arrived at a place even more so – dropping anchor at Big Majors beach, on a small, unpopulated island near Fowl Cay, Sampson Cay and Staniel Cay. I looked out my galley window at a white sand beach and the bluest ocean I had ever seen, the sun smiling its shining face upon us. Two un-human looking mounds on the otherwise unpopulated beach caught my attention. I thought they were piles of sand – but one mound was dark brown and the other had a pinkish tinge. I stared hard wondering if it was driftwood or what those mounds could possibly be. Then they moved! And low and behold, it was two fat pigs – working on their tans! Local folklore says that the pigs were put on the island so that if a big storm ever wiped everything out, the locals from the other islands could come over and eat the pigs; another story being that pigs are put there every year, fattened up by the visitors coming by to feed them and then slaughtered and eaten on Easter. Whatever the truth, I won’t ever know – but there were two big, fat sows on the beach and about six all together on the island and all day long people pulled up in dingies and skiffs to feed and pet the pigs. Used to being fed, the pigs spend their day lounging in the sand and whenever a boat pulls up, they just trot right into the water and swim right up to the boat to be fed and petted!!! Now, those are some lucky pigs…

That afternoon I helped with the wash down of the yacht as our 1st mate had jumped on the Boston Whaler with the owners’ son about 50 miles back and they were fishing their way to us. The sky was smudged like a painter’s palette with pink, turquoise and gold as the sun began to set – a Boston Whaler off in the distance cutting across the skies reflection on the water, like a razor blade through a painting. The mate radioed in, and when we answered his call, he just yelled “WAHHHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, over the din of a roaring engine and VHF crackle. And Wahoo it was as they pulled up aside us with four giant fish in a cooler of ice on the back of the fishing boat. Within moments of tying up to us, our mate had whipped out a huge knife (I was waiting for the ubiquitous, “that’s not a knife. THIS is a knife”, Crocodile Dundee style. But it never came) and began filleting the Wahoo, handing me eight large fillets and tossing the bones, heads, skin and guts overboard. Apparently, Aussies don’t have the same affinity for eating fish eyeballs and cooking the heads as the South Africans and local islanders do. Those fish heads would start a war on some of the other yachts I’ve been on…

I carried the fillets to the galley in big, plastic bags. I’d never seen Wahoo before. It had a firm, white flesh, slightly transparent – I’d heard it was tasty so I was eager to cook with it. I cut out the blood line, trimmed it up and began portioning; wrapping the steaks in plastic wrap and sticking them in Ziplocs for the freezer – of course, leaving some aside for the next days lunch... I ended up freezing over 10 lbs. of Wahoo!

It was our mates 30th birthday and the owners were taking all of the crew out to celebrate! We had dinner reservations at a beautiful restaurant on a private resort on Fowl Cay. As time was cutting short to get ready for our reservation, I made a bee-line for my cabin and changed into my swimsuit. I had been wet and sweaty all day from the wash down, and now I smelled like fish. I ran down the corridor of the crew mess, out the door to the transom and dove off into the cool, clear Bahamian waters – feeling instantly refreshed. The fact that I was diving into freshly chummed waters not quite registering enough to give me pause. I pulled myself up onto the Whaler, rinsed off, and ran back inside to finish getting dressed.

We have underwater lights on the yacht which glow for another 80 feet off of the back end and as I was standing on the transom waiting to climb onto the tender to head to dinner, I looked out at the water just as a 7 FOOT SHARK swam out from underneath us! I hollered out, “SHARK! SHARK!”. We all watched in awe as this giant, beautiful creature swam off into the darkness. That vague notion that I’d had about diving into freshly chummed waters suddenly became very poignant. I don’t think I’ll be so quick to do that in the future!

Don’t think for a second that our 1st Mates birthday celebrating ended with our evening out… It extended into a weekend long event! After a beautiful dinner of steak and lobsters, margaritas and plenty of wine, we zoomed off in the tender heading for Clube Thunderball on Staniel Cay to hear a rake & scrape band. Rake & Scrape is the Bahamian answer to the reggae of the Caribbean. With a faster tempo and a definitively Latino flair, it’s like Salsa or Marengue, only island style… Oh, and the reason for the name of the music being called “rake & scrape”? It’s played with a washboard, saw and drums of course!

We pulled up to the doc at Thunderball and walked up the hill to a small, open-air, building sitting atop the island. Music blared out of the screen windows, but when we walked inside the band was sitting at the bar having drinks and the music was coming from a stereo. We ordered drinks – Anejo rum and ginger-ale being the beverage of choice for the evening. An hour or so later the band came on, played two or three songs then went back to the bar to drink. That’s island life for you, three songs and it’s time to call it a night…

In the wee hours of the morning we headed back to the yacht. It’s great going out and having fun with the owners – but the challenge is that we have to work the next day while the owners get to sleep in and relax!

For lunch the next day I made a spicy, gingered cole slaw with cabbage, carrots, peppers, scallions, and cilantro and sesame seeds. For the vinaigrette, I put into a blender a few shallots, lemongrass (the soft inner part, finely minced), ginger (peeled and minced), lime juice, rice wine vinegar, curry paste and a bit of coconut milk and blended it up.

After cutting the fish into big cubes for kabobs I marinated it in fresh orange juice and orange zest, a small amount of lime, Chinese 5-Spice, soy, ginger, scallions, lemongrass and sesame oil. I skewered the Wahoo and threw the skewers onto a very hot grill and pulled them off while the inside was still just a little pink so they would stay nice and juicy.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A few provisions

This is how you provision a yacht...

H. 3ft x L. 4ft x W 2.5 ft.

(This freezer is packed at least 4 layers deept - and there are still 3 more freezers!)

The drawers in the fridge
- packed so that I won't have to go shopping for at least 7 days!

The drawers of the fridge packed with produce.

Underneath the settee in the breakfast knook:
Dry goods - enough to last for quite a few months. The back of the settee, as well, is stocked with shelf-stable milk, soymilk, bottles of olive oil, stocks, etc.

Captain took a picture of the freezers. Says I'm the neatest and best provisioner of all the chefs that have been aboard! :o)

Shippin' Out

Tilapia Cooked in Brazilian Maquecca wth Green Bananas

Quinoa Pilaf with Soy Peas

Avocado and Tomato Salad

Manatee’s accompanied us on part of our journey down the river early in the day, from the Westport Marina to Pier 66. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent packing the yacht for our passage and getting a good nights rest for a very early departure. We escaped Fort Lauderdale under a midnight sky, the stars hidden by the bright lights of the shipping docks and cruise ships. Tight, four-foot waves and the wind on our nose; it felt as if we were on an ice-breaker in the Baltic Sea until we passed through the Gulf Stream, which only lasted about an hour; but four-foot waves were welcome compared to my first experience in the Gulf Stream, and the rest of our passage was as smooth as glass. The passage was a mere 10-hour trip spent snoozing, playing a game of checkers on a magnetized board, and as always, marveling at the endless expanse of ocean around us (and eating lots of pretzels). And yet, even for such a short trip, everything must be packed away as if we were doing a transatlantic; glasses and decorations packed tightly away, towels stuffed into cabinets so that nothing rolled or clanked, galley stuffed full of provisions and some pre-made sandwiches (just in case I got seasick)…

At mid-day we pulled into the resplendent sanctuary of Lyford Cay, in the Bahamas. A tiny, quiet marina with a handful of magnificent yachts; we tied up next to a classic 80 ft. (1977) Palmer-Johnson Schooner with a hand carved wooden mermaid at the bow, and rope and wooden foot ladders going up the sides of the masts. The marina is surrounded by well-manicured gardens of tropical flora and fauna; mangroves and palm trees hiding opulent homes in pastel pinks, blues and yellows; stoic cranes stand guard, protecting the privileged inhabitants of this regal cay. The crews big complaint was that Lyford was too far from the hustle and night life of Paradise Island and Atlantis with its casinos, night clubs and bars. But after spending a month in Fort Lauderdale surrounded by nothing but strip malls, fast food, car dearlerships and dry docks, I found the peace and quiet of this little tropical paradise, sublime. And when the rest of the crew took off to Paradise Island for a night on the town, I opted to throw on my trainers and go for a run underneath a brilliant Bahamian night sky with only the starlight lighting my way. The air smelled faintly of ocean and honeysuckle, a gentle breeze at my back. Where the waters run clear and warm, palm trees and sunshine are plentiful, worries, wars and inflation are forgotten, shoes are optional – this is where I feel the most at home. I am home again; finally, finally home again.

For lunch before our departure, I made the crew Maquecca; a Brazilian dish fist made for me by my Brazilian friend, Michelli, an awesome chef who worked with me when I had my catering business. I love this dish and I think it brings together all the flavors of the tropics and seeing as I was pining so hard to get out of Lauderdale, I made this for the crew on our last day to get everyone in the spirit of the adventure that lay ahead.

I started out by dicing lots of onion, about 1 ½ medium yellow ones; her recipe called for green peppers but all that I had were pablanos so I used 2 of those instead and diced them up, along with 1 ½ yellow peppers, three tomatoes and 4 cloves of garlic. I cooked the onion, peppers and tomatoes together in a big pan with a bit of oil until they were soft. To that I added sweet paprika, smoked Spanish paprika, cumin, chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and a can of coconut milk and let it simmer (and of course, adjusted the salt). When the flavors had all mingled and happily gotten to know each other, I added 4 fillets of Tilapia (properly seasoned) – laying them right on top of the Maquecca – placed a lid on it and let it simmer away until the fish was fully cooked. While that simmered, I boiled some (peeled) green bananas in salted water, chopped them up and served them alongside the Maquecca. Rather than rice, I made a quinoa pilaf with soy peas as a healthy alternative, and made an avocado and tomato salad with lime and cilantro vinaigrette. It was a hit and the crew gobbled it all down, with a few homemade chocolate-chip cookies for the road…

Monday, December 11, 2006

Like Sniffing Glue - Only Funner

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Rack of Lamb Marinted in Homemade Yogurt and Spices

With Fresh Mint Chutney

Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Apples

Grilled Asparagus

Chocolate and Orange Flower Pot de Crème with Komquats

Passion Fruit-Coconut Pana Cotta

The owners came aboard last Sunday just for the day, to meet me and try my cooking. There wasn’t much ambience to be had as we were out of the water and the boat was strewn with equipment and supplies and canvas covers over the floors and furniture.


The owners decided to have the crew join in and they all gathered around the dining table in the galley (it’s a big open kitchen with a country style dining table and bar stools at the counter), watching me cook. The butterflies in my stomach flapped madly trying to escape as I grew increasingly nervous having all eyes on me while I worked. I broke a sweat running up and down the stairs to check my lamb as it sizzled away on the grill outside on the fly deck. In a boat yard filled with the fumes of paint, apoxy and petrol – I’m sure it was the best smell ever to come off of a yacht “on the hard” (out of the water).


I’d made my own yogurt a few days before from a culture that I bought at the health food store. It worked out perfectly, although it took nearly 24 hours to set to my desired tartness and firmness – perhaps because of the air condition, the coolness slowed the process. The taste was tangy and fresh and the crew loved it when I gave them a try with some fresh mango sliced on top… Early in the day, I separated out the chops and marinated them in my homemade yogurt with turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, garlic, lime juice and cilantro.


The panna cotta I had made the day before; layering the passion fruit, letting it gel, then layering the coconut mixture. And the pot de crème came from a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, to which I embellished with Grand Marnier and Orange Flower water and garnished with homemade whipped cream and thin slices of tart, sweet komquats.

The first course went down, but I wasn’t in the galley to hear the comments as I was making my 15th run up the stairs, through the pilot house and out on deck to check on the lamb. All was good as the chops sizzled away, the cast iron grill leaving a beautiful grillage. Judging by the empty bowls on my return, the first course went over well.

I pulled the hot plates from the oven and plated dinner. All grew quiet as the crew and owners began to eat. The Mister looked up first and said that it was spectacular, next the Misses, commenting about how fresh and healthy everything was, the Captain (who used to be a chef!), saying that he loved how vibrant all the flavors were. Great, two courses down, one to go…

The butterflies started to settle. I went to plate dessert, but my panna cotta’s weren’t inverting as nicely as I had hoped. The coconut layer was separating from the passion fruit layer. Thank god I made extra! I decided, since I’d made them in nice, glass dessert bowls, to leave them and I garnished the top with a start-fruit chip that I had made earlier in the day by slicing the fruit, poaching them in ginger simple syrup, placing them on a silpat and baking them at 195 (farenheit) for about 2 hours – until they became paper-thin and crisp.

I put out the dessert. The Mister doesn’t care for chocolate and when I mentioned Grand Marnier and placed the panna cotta in front of him, he became noticeably sad that it wasn’t his dessert that contained the booze and that he had gotten something fruity instead of rich and decadent. But, the sad face quickly disappeared as he devoured the panna cotta, all the while asking me questions about how it was made, what was in it, etc.

I sat with the owners at the dining room table, we talked about wine and food and they licked their dessert bowls as I gnawed on a lamb bone. It was all very casual. They asked how I began cooking and we talked about their food preferences (they eat anything – lucky me!), and their holiday traditions. Looks like I’ll be whipping up my first oyster stew this Christmas Eve, and they love to fish and hunt so there will be lots of quail, pheasant and fresh catch… Looking forward to it.

I got a nice email from them the next day exclaiming their pleasure at my cooking. It will be a great season, I can already tell. The crew are more than thrilled to have me on board and the captain has already said that I am not allowed to quit, I’m the best chef they’ve had so far (and they’ve been through a lot!).

Fresh Mint Chutney

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 shallots, finely chopped

3 scallions, finely chopped

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground corriander

¼ teaspoon salt.

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. If chutney requires thinning, add a small amount of water or yogurt, until you reach desired consistency.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Thunder from Down Under

Cheese Toasties with Vegemite

Things have been absolutely hectic for the past week as we get the yacht ready for our departure to the Exumas, in the Bahama’s, on Tuesday. We were out of the water, in the yard, for four days having some work done on the engine and I have some really awesome pictures of the yard and us being hauled out that I will post as soon as I have internet access on my laptop. Being out of the water and surrounded by other mega yachts (they are so much bigger out of the water!) is like being surrounded by a dozen Titanics. It’s almost awe inspiring to walk amongst them. The crew that I work with are fantastic, they are all a bunch of monkeys and we got on well and are having a lot of fun as we work our fingers to the bone; cleaning, detailing, provisioning, etc.

I’m loving my new galley; yards of granite counter space, beautiful wood floors and cabinetry and extremely well equipped. And thankfully, my galley is on the main deck so I have a beautiful view out of my port and starboard sides; full windows all the way across, no more looking through a tiny porthole and watching the water slosh by. And, if I should want to watch some re-runs of Julia Child’s cooking series on PBS all I have to do is turn on the giant, plasma, widescreen television on the wall across from me. I have a four burner gas stove, and although it’s gas it is pretty responsive and works well. But, I am putting “induction stove” on my wish list as the owners are currently looking into upgrading to a 130” (45 meter) Fedship. Along with the fridge and freezer in the galley, I also have a coffin freezer in the laundry room and two more freezers down near the engine room, plenty of storage space – but it will all be packed to the brim before we depart.

My first order of business has been to get my pantry together and start provisioning for the passage which has required no less than two trips to Costco, at least a dozen trips to the grocery store (filling up two grocery carts per visit), six trips to the gourmet store and two large deliveries directly to the yacht from provisioners. There are two great shops down here; The International Market and the Grateful Palette. I was first told about International Market by some Australian yachties that I met at the crew house. They were talking about their excitement over finding TimTams, an Australian cookie (or biscuit, as they call them); a chocolate wafer, covered in chocolate and with a chocolate filling. The biscuits are rectangular in shape, and the Aussie’s do what they call “slammers” – bite each end off, put the biscuit in coffee and suck it through. I have yet to experience a slammer, as I haven’t wanted to sacrifice one of my shirts in the mess that is sure to happen, but I did get a pack of TimTams to try and I was really enjoying them until I read on the package that each cookie is 340 calories. I think I’ll wait another couple of decades before I delve into them again.

The international market is full of all sorts of goodies. Catering to yacht chefs, they carry everything from gelatin sheets, gourmet chocolate and vanilla beans to sumac, za’atar, pomegranate syrup and grape leaves and whatever they don’t have, The Grateful Palate, just a few blocks away, will. Unlike the International market, The Grateful Palate is a full fledged provisioner – meaning they supply fish, meat, produce, specialty ingredients, wine, kitchen equipment, etc. to the yachts. I can just call in my order and it will be delivered to wherever the yacht is in Fort Lauderdale, or shipped to the yacht anywhere in the world for that matter. It’s really quite an amazing world to be a part of; I mean a world where the best of everything and anything you could possibly want is, literally, a phone call away. And it’s my job to know that number…

My first season in the yacht world was all about meeting South Africans. But this season is setting out to be the season of the Kiwi’s and the Aussies. I landed this job through an Aussie that was staying at the crew house that knew a captain in need of a chef, and put me in touch. Our 1st Mate is an Aussie, and I’ve been making Aussie friends left and right. It was another Aussie that put me in touch with the Grateful Palate, as it seems to be the only place in town carrying Vegemite (Yes, that Men At Work song goes through my head every time I look at a jar of Vegemite), which I had to stock up on for our mate.

Vegemite is a “yeast extract”. It comes in a squat, brown, glass jar with a bright yellow label and in a big red triangle reads “VEGEMITE - Concentrated Autolyzed Yeast Extract”. What, precisely, that means, I’m not entirely sure but whatever it is, I am TOTALLY ADDICTED. It’s dark brown in color and thick and creamy, like peanut butter, or an overly reduced demi-glaze. But unlike peanut butter, Vegemite is meant to be used in a very small quantity. I find the smell to be quite pleasant; fermentation and must – like a wine barrel. It’s got a yeasty, fermented, savory flavor; exactly what I would imagine umami to be. Like The Colonels chicken, it contains that same secret ingredient that makes you crave it fortnightly. I love it; on toast in the morning with butter and a thin layer of Vegemite, or on a toasted cheese sandwich. I can’t seem to get enough of it! I tried Marmite last year when I was working with a bunch of Brits (Marmite is the British version of Vegemite) and I don’t recall reacting with the same fervor. In fact, I was very much put off by it. Marmite was quite pungent and had a funky aftertaste that clung to my mouth. I found it a bit overpowering. Whereas Marmite reminds me of something indiscernible, perhaps fish related, fermenting and rotting in a jar – Vegemite tastes like super concentrated beer. Perhaps that’s why I like Aussie’s so much! ;o)

Vegemite Sandwich:

Spread a little butter on bread, apply a thin layer of vegemite and then top with cheese. Put under the broiler until cheese is melty and warm. Eat. Savor. Enjoy.

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