Flashback Friday – The Private Chef Experience in Antigua

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Posted under Antigua

Lots of stuff that I’ve never written about. Welcome to Flashback Friday…

Our 2014 trip to Antigua was pretty significant for the TAO Family as it was the first time that Husband J’s family had been to my lovely island homeland. Being who I am, I wanted to make sure that they were able to taste some local food. In the end, we didn’t get to eat much Antiguan food, but I made sure that I’d arranged a special evening of cuisine to introduce the TAO In-Laws to local eating.

For one night, the lovely ladies of Taste’T Catering made us a meal of gourmet versions of some of my local favorites. To say that I was in heaven and this meal was exactly what I wanted is an understatement. These ladies were able to create a meal for us that was both refined yet had the down-home feel of the food I grew up eating at home and in the summers I spent in Antigua.

Here’s what they made:


Fried Conch Fritters with Sweet and Spicy Sauce 

Everyone has their own version of conch fritters. For the uninitiated, conchs are essentially hard shelled sea creatures, and their meat is eaten throughout the Caribbean. You can find them in a spicy curry sauce or in a salad, but you will find them in the Caribbean. I liked this version’s accompanying sweet sauce that toned down the spice just a bit.



Fried Cassava, Fried Sweet Potato, and Fried Plantains with Eggplant and Tomato Relish 

Cassava and fried plantain are favorites, but I would have never thought to make them crispy fried like this. We all enjoyed crunching on these before the main course.



Baked Fillet of Red Snapper with Creole Sauce, Coconut Rice, & Steamed Vegetables with Herbs

This wasn’t the first thing I thought of when imagining local favorites but for my in-laws who didn’t have a ton of exposure to Caribbean food, I thought this dish was a great introduction. Lovely fresh from the Caribbean sea fish with enough spice (I love things even spicier than this) to make everyone happy. Also crispy fresh vegetables. I actually need to ask them for their vegetable hook up because I have problems accessing fresh vegetables when I’m in Antigua. No joke!




Rum Cake or Black Cake

Black cake, as it’s called, is a favorite of mine. It’s the type of cake you eat on special occasions. During the holiday season in Antigua, if you’re invited into someone’s home for dinner, there is most likely a black cake available. Depending on the version people make, it will include bits of rum soaked dried fruits. People will soak these fruits for months to get the right level of alcohol. Hey, I’m from a place with its own national rum. What do you expect? 🙂

Antiguans call this Nu Nu Balsam Tea (a close cousin to  lemongrass?)


I wish I could have the smell of this tea come through your computer screen because it is heavenly and relaxing. I squealed when I saw this tea, as it reminds me of nights sitting around and talking with my family while drinking tea. Many Antiguans have bushes of this herb growing in their yards. It’s common to have folks pick the herb from their yard, run to the kitchen, and drop it into their tea. My mother-in-law loved it.
In addition to being wonderful chefs and hosts, the ladies of Taste ‘T Catering were very friendly. Being the small place that it is (Antigua’s population is less than 90,000 people) one of them knew my cousin. Small world, right?!




Thanks, ladies! If anyone is ever in need of a private chef experience in Antigua, I highly recommend these lovely ladies and their soulful yet refined cooking. How did  I find them? I consulted Freda Gore, a fellow Antiguan and owner of Caribbean Culinary Tours. We’ve been social media connections for a while, and I’m glad that I was able to support her business.*

Have you ever had a private chef experience at home or while traveling?


*I like giving Freda’s business a shout out, and yes, we paid for our meal. You know I have to write that. Thanks, U.S. FCC.


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5 Reasons Why I’ll Never Be a GOOD Travel Blogger (& Why I’m OK with That)

Friday, January 22nd, 2016 | Posted under Blogging, Personal

Am I starting off the New Year on a negative note? You tell me….

That’s not really the best title of a blog post for a blogger who has been gone for a very long time, is it? I realize this, but I feel like I need to be truthful. I’m never going to be a “cool” or “good” travel blogger. I’ve thought about this post, and I think it will be rather therapeutic for me to just be honest with you all. I’m never going to be a GOOD travel blogger. As I make the slow march towards middle age (I am much, much closer to 40 than I am to 30 these days), I think I am much more secure about not  giving a f&*k. Does that make sense? Since my mind works in lists, I’m going to whip out this list below.

1. I’m usually NOT traveling. Many travel bloggers are always on the road, are expats, or are just about going somewhere and anywhere constantly. Even in my pre-child days (I’ll get to that part of my life, don’t you worry about that), I usually went just to 1 to 2 international destinations per year with domestic side trips here are there for varying lengths of time. I gotts a job, y’all; and I’ve got to battle this horrible U.S. work culture that doesn’t allow for much time off to go much of anywhere. Husband J (remember him?) and I have no current plans to be expats, so this means that I am in New York City more than I’m not. Sometimes I feel like this makes this blog not as good as others, but I’d rather go in-depth into a country on this blog life rather than tick off countries. At least you know where I am most of the time.

2. I have a child. While there is a whole family travel blog community out there (I’m still discovering it), there is often a anti-child/family undercurrent in some (not all, just some) travel blogging and travel communities. There’s often this sense that having a child makes you somehow less “evolved” or less committed to travel. I’m not going to sugar coat my travel experiences with Toddler C, but I don’t think the fact that we’ve chosen to expand our family means that I don’t love travel. I get the desire to be free from commitments and attachments so that I can travel non-stop all the time, but I don’t get to indulge them at this point in my life. That doesn’t mean that my life or my travel is any less interesting.

Also Husband J and I live away from our families, and we’re trying to be the best parents we can be. That means Toddler C has to come first sometimes and that may mean that we don’t go on a trip at all, or we decide on certain locations over others because she has joined our travel brigade. I’m cool with that. It just means that I’m not going to be telling you about the most “authentic” of places, how to survive on $18 per day in western Europe, or about the best nightlife spots (although did I ever blog about that? Not really.). Besides, I think she’s cute, and I like hanging out with her.

4. I’m Black. Woo chile! I done did it! Yes. I went there. This is not about why I don’t travel, but I think it’s a factor in why my blog was not as big as others even at its height. Since I started this blog over 5 years ago, there are so many more Black bloggers talking and writing about travel. I’m so happy to see them!!! Yay!!!  That said, the upper echelons of this genre and still very lily, and folks that are doing good work don’t get the credit they can or should. Bloggers seems to stick to the same circles of people who look like them and that can hurt others ability to get opportunities to grow their blog.  Again, this is changing, but I still find many of my fellow travelers to be surprised that I have gone where I have. As one of my favorite travel groups would say: “We out here!”, and we’re writing about it.

5.  In my professional life, I do things that have nothing to do with travel, blogging, or travel blogging. I feel very lucky that my job has lots of meaning to me. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to do the most good for the most people that I could. I had been given a lot of great educational opportunities and I’ve always wanted to give back and help others. I do have a bit of creative saide but the “do gooder” in me always seems to win out. That means those “heal the world” tendencies often beat out travel when I’m searching for things to do professionally and sometimes in my free time. I don’t know if this will stay the same, but it is where I am now. That said, does this doesn’t mean that my latent desire to be the Black female Anthony Bourdain hasn’t gone away. I just plan a little differently.

5. Blogging is a habit, and I’m out of practice. This one is just me being honest. When you blog regularly it becomes a part of your life. It’s like exercising. Once you’ve started you need to keep it up. Being an engaged writer takes work, and I’m so much more of out practice. It takes a lot more of me to produce a good post these days, so please bear with me.

Anyhoo, these are where my thoughts are right now…I’m still here chugging away. 🙂 Stay with me!


The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 2 – The Good

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Personal

Way back when, I wrote about why it can be tough to travel with a baby or toddler, but there are two sides to everything, right? So it wouldn’t be fair to make you all think that you should swear off traveling with young kids. I thought about why traveling with young kids might actually be pretty cool. Here’s what I came up with:

People love kids (well, at least outside of the U.S.). I remember our last real trip outside the U.S. to Antigua late last year. I could not begin to describe the Side Eye I got from a young couple at the sight of Baby C running around the airport gate. Yep, she’s a ball of energy but that doesn’t mean she’s going to ruin your flight, people. Contrast that with our experiences in Montreal and Costa Rica, where folks just smiled when Baby C even entered a restaurant. I’m not saying we’re curmudgeons in the U.S., but children are often welcomed and accepted in other countries in ways that they are not here. It’s made it easier to not feel so bad when we’re chasing Baby C around a restaurant knowing that people are a bit more accepting.


Kids are conversation starters. A small baby will cause many people to stop and say hello or make comments. If anything that becoming a parent has taught me, it’s that people are nosy and like to make comments about kids whether you want them to or not. Strangers have initiated conversations with us in airplanes, airports, buses, and restaurants all because of Baby C. A woman in Montreal even offered to hold Baby C while I ate. That definitely made eating that dinner a lot easier. Baby C made interacting with locals a lot more fun. In a way, she made the introduction for us.

Babies and toddlers force you to travel slowly. I’m a New Yorker, and I walk pretty quickly. In the old days, Husband J and I used to run all over a city all day and collapse at the end of the day in our hotel room before what we hoped to be a great dinner somewhere. Now due to Baby C’s naps, we’ve got to take a break in the middle of the day. I gotta say it can be nice to stop and chill for a few hours and maybe even take a nap myself. Sometimes as travelers we try to cram every moment/historical site/fun activity into our travels. Baby C makes me figure out the highlights, take a breather, and then keep going. Instead of rushing to see everything we can, Baby C forces us to choose where we want to go in that country, stay in one place, and get to really explore it. Some people call it “traveling slowly”. I call it “traveling with a kid”. This is not to say that you can’t jetset with a little person, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a place for awhile.


Babies and toddlers get something out of it, too. As I’ve said before, I can only speak for Baby C, but I have to disagree that you shouldn’t travel because kids “don’t get anything out of it.” For some reason, I’ve been seeing that statement everywhere, and I’m a little puzzled by it. Baby C’s avid people watching is something I’ve noticed a lot when we go away. I’ve also discovered her love of yucca, grilled fish, and other foods that surprised even me. She is seeing new colors, experiencing different environments, smelling new scents, and eating things that I wouldn’t usually cook. Plus, just getting Baby C out of New York isn’t such a bad thing. To me, my child is definitely getting something out of our travels. Maybe she doesn’t get the historical or other significance of everything we see and do, but she’s still experiencing something.

So like I said, it’s not always easy or fun, but travel with a baby or toddler opens up your travel experiences in ways that you might not realize.

For those of you who have done so, what have been the good points of traveling with a small child?



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My Only Costa Rican Meal in Costa Rica

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Posted under Costa Rica

Whenever I start thinking about a trip, I start to think about the food at my destination. Do I build in time to research restaurants and local cuisine? You betcha. For Costa Rica though, my research was a little less taxing because there wasn’t quite much to research. It’s not that Costa Rican food isn’t good; I just found that descriptions of local food weren’t super enticing. What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the Manuel Antonio area is pretty darn touristy. You can find falafels and pizza in Manuel Antonio much easier than local food. Just step outside your hotel.

Where did I finally have this elusive local Costa Rican food? On the beach of all places. While Manuel Antonio beach was not necessary the prettiest water, the water was as warm as bathwater and the food service phenomenal. You want a beach chair and vodka tonic? Check! A full on meal? Here you go.

Here’s my beach lunch (a little on the heavy side but delicious).


Nothing too earth-shattering here. White rice, black beans, some lovely, and simply grilled fish, and fried plantains. The most delicious part of the meal was the fried yucca. Almost anything fried is good, but when you can make a root vegetable this crispy, it takes this bland vegetable to a new level. This fried yucca was magic, and I realized that I don’t get enough yucca in my life. I wouldn’t call yucca the most flavorful of veggies, but the crispy texture of this fried version made me a feel a little less guilty about all of the fries I’d been eating that week.

My sense of this meal is that it’s pretty representative of a local lunch. Maybe? Maybe? The local soda (Costa Rican family-run restaurants) would probably be much cheaper than what I paid though. I wished I’d have had access to more places or sought them out more, but maybe with Baby C and no car it wasn’t as obvious where to go or even easy to get there. Costa Rican food is still a bit of a mystery to me. I guess this means I need to go back!

Have you been somewhere before and not eaten any of the local food?

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The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 1- The (Not So) Bad

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Family Travel, Personal, Travel Tips

I am not going to sugar coat traveling with a baby or toddler. If you’ve read anything online that is telling you that it’s easy, THEY’RE LYING. Ok, fine, maybe not lying completely, but they might not be telling you the hard parts of traveling with a small one. Because I love you all, I am going to give it to you straight — no chaser. Traveling is still doable, but there are definitely some things that you need to think about more fully than when traveling solo or traveling with your buddy/significant other. Here are some areas to think about while you prep for your next trip with the little person in your life (You ARE going to keep traveling by the way… because I said so. :))


Getting ready to head to the beach in Antigua

Sleep – Some people are blessed with children who will sleep anywhere everywhere at whatever time. If you happen to be one of them, then please bow down and worship any deity that you choose or at least thank the Universe because many kids aren’t like that. I kid you not as I am drafting this post Husband J and I are trying to figure out where to go in 2015, and part of what is holding us back are time zones. People travel with kids all of the time across time zones, but when you’ve got one like mine that seems to have low sleep needs and wakes up at the butt crack of dawn, wanting to brave a drastic time zone change just doesn’t sound fun. Time zones definitely played a part in our experience in Costa Rica, and I can tell you that it is dark at 3am in Costa Rica in August…in case you were wondering. Our trip to Canada in 2013 was before Baby C was even sleeping through the night. With a little co-sleeping we took care of that, but good dear, we were a little bleary eyed for parts of that trip.

 P1090380Hanging in the Park in Montreal – She’s going to kill me when she’s older for posting this. 

This is all to say that sleep is real, maybe more for some kids than others, but if your kid sleeps well or even if he or she doesn’t, it will still be a factor in how you experience your trip.

Oops…I almost forgetting napping. Baby C needs to nap in a room. She’s fallen asleep in a stroller a total of five times her entire life. When she was a smaller baby, she would nap in the carrier and that was helpful because we just kept it moving during the day.


Carrier naps are your friend! 

These days, Baby C needs to have things shut down, or she won’t shut it down. She really does need to be in a room in some sort of a crib to get that necessary nap. Yes, that nap is necessary. Baby C is great kid, but she’s even better in the afternoon after a nap.

Activities – Baby C is still at the age where activities can be tricky. Unlike during her small baby stage where we just took her almost wherever we wanted to go, we now have a mindful little person who is beyond curious and is absolutely ready to run everywhere and touch everything. I know not all kids are like this, but this is one we’ve got, so we’ve got to work with this little bundle of energy. One of the reasons I was hesitant to go to Costa Rica was the fact that we’d be limited in some of the activities we chose. Zip lining? White water rafting? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t able to do fun things. We just needed to be more particular.


Off for a walk in Manuel Antonio Park 

Food – Okay. I’m not going to totally count this as a possible difficulty for us while traveling with a small child. Baby C gets modified versions of things on our restaurant of choice’s menu. We try to steer clear of the children’s menu, but boy, does she love her some French fries like her mother. I know some kids are a little pickier than others; so for some, having to be limited in where to eat can be challenging. I do remember the time we went to Antigua, and Baby C wasn’t totally eating regular solids (we did start with pureed food). Food pouches are your friends in that case, but we did bring some of our own food for her. Depending on where you are, some hotels are helpful in preparing baby–friendly foods or staying in an apartment like setting with a kitchen can help if you just need to have a meal in for the night.

Rooms – I don’t really know if I can stay in a small, little hotel room anymore. Baby C goes to bed early (often by 7:30pm!). I have no desire to go to bed then. None. We’ve stayed in a larger hotel room, but even that wasn’t much more comfortable. We’ve had a much better time with Air Bnb and other rental apartment set ups where we could spread out with the gear we try to limit bringing with us (that’s another post). I will say that I did like our hotel in Costa Rica, which had the benefit of essentially being a large apartment. It was actually bigger than where we live now! If you’re okay with smaller spaces and have one of those kids mentioned above that sleeps through anything, then a traditional hotel room might work. Being choosy about accommodations is just another aspect of travel that just changed for us.


Don’t look down, Baby C!

Did I forget anything? I hope this post hasn’t dissuaded anyone from traveling with your young one. I’ve actually enjoyed many wonderful travel moments with Baby C. Seeing her observe the parts of the world we’ve visited since she was born has been one of the best parts of being her parent.

There are absolutely great things about traveling with small kids, and I’ll highlight those in a separate post.

If you’ve traveled with a small child, what was the hardest part for you?

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