From Pancakes to Sopicaldo!
In September, Don and I stayed a night in Hot Spring, Arkansas. From the Arlington Hotel, we could look down on these 2 very different restaurants and they both intrigued us.
Cute Place, Bad Photos
We were told the patio upstairs was open. I tried to snap a photo of the hallway that was part wall and part cliff. Very hard to explain, but it was an odd journey to get to the outside dining area.
Lights and Raccoons
The terrace was built right into the side of a cliff. The festive lights and mossy rock, made me think I was in a place created by Disney, but it was real. There was even real wildlife.
The busboy was in the midst of shooing away a baby raccoon... with a shotgun. That sort of freaked me out a bit, but he was using the gun more like a broom. We were in Arkansas, after all.
Food from Ecuador!
Chef Castro was from Ecuador, so I wanted something special from his country. The "Sopicaldo de Pollo" may not look that exciting, but I found it sort of intoxicating. I kept asking the waiter what was in it, because I was nearly giddy over it and I'm not really the biggest fan of chicken soup.. which was basically what it was. But our server wasn't sure. He just knew he often craved it as a comfort food, as well.
Don's El Plato Cubano
In the early morning, we headed across to the same spot. This time we slipped inside The Pancake Shop which has been family owned and run since 1940.
Years of Efficient Service
The hostess ushered us to a table so quickly, I would have thought she was trying to hide us, except she seated us in the center of the cafe. Menus and coffee nearly flew at our table. "What's all the rush?" I wanted to ask, since the cafe was only half full.
But this is the kind of place where lines must often go out the door. The place was filling up quickly and it was obvious... they had a system for doing things and Don and I were happy to oblige.
Maybe the real reason they were rushing was to make space for all the deliveries. While seated we watched a delivery guy roll through with a full load of chocolate milk.
Another cart brought boxes of oranges. Don quickly calculated one load must have been carrying 120 dozen eggs. When I chuckled with the manager, she laughed that it was Monday, after all. Then she introduced me to her "Sausage Lady!"
Lots of Photos, Lots of History
While Don paid up, I amused myself with photos of family and special guests over the years.
The Ardman Famly bought the business in the 1960's and have enjoyed a few interesting guests since then. I wonder what Liberace ordered? I could almost picture him giving one of those orange stools a spin, just for fun. I actually tried one out. I felt like a kid, but maybe that's because they were super low.
We were in and out, so quickly that we never got to see a line form. It's nice to see they have a cozy area with at least a couple seats for waiting. Kind of reminded me of a doctor's waiting room with magazines. Which gives me a thought. Maybe doctor's offices, should pipe in the smell of pancakes. That would be a very calming scent!
Bonaire Dutch Caribbean Food
Don and I had only been on the island a couple hours and we spotted this place
Hard to Guess
It was hard to get a feel for the place before it opened. The red shuttered doors and windows meant no peeking. The hand painted sign above the chalk menu, made the place look like a beach bar. But once the doors opened at 5, Don and I wandered in and found something quite different.
At a glance, this looked like a bar in Key West, maybe. But the little place felt more like a charming European pub to me. Maybe that was because of our Dutch bartender, Hans. Or maybe it was the Swedish looking, painted pannels on the front of the bar, or the funny stone "foot prop" that surrounded the bar.
Maybe the European feel was because Mona Lisa was staring at us from a wooden wall beam. Hans said the restaurant wasn't actually named for the character in the painting, but for the wife and daughter of the original owner. It was over 100 years ago a Mona and a Lisa lived in Bonaire and walked through these doors. As for the women in Hans' life? He says he belongs to 4 women. His wife, 2 daughters and Mona Lisa.
Hans seemed pretty relaxed and soft spoken to be the owner. But when he said he closes the place on weekends, I figured he must own the place. You know you're in a laid back tourist community when the owner of a restaurant chooses to be closed on weekends to be with family!
Later That Night
That's all it took. We made reservations before leaving and returned after sunset for a table on the sidewalk.
Pink and Wine
It doesn't take much to please me. Give me a pink tablecloth and napkin and a little wine with Mona Lisa etched on the glass and I'm pretty happy.
We sipped a bit and nibbled on some fresh bread that we had smelled earlier. Earlier, our bar stools had given us a great window view into the kitchen where the chef had been making last minute decisions on the menu.
When Dining on the Island...
Don is the seafood man and he went for the catch of the day, which was Wahoo, I believe. We also shared a serving of augraten potatoes.
As we dined away, we had some pretty good entertainment. There was a flow of tall, blond Dutch tourists on the sidewalks. As for the one-way street beside us, there was a constant stream of slow moving (and very loud) local cars. We should have done some counting, because there were quite a few cruising cars that we saw at least 20 times!
There were a number of decadent desserts to choose from. We went for the apple tart with cinnamon ice cream, both made by the chef.
By the time we finished dessert, we were pretty stuffed and had also had our fill of the throbbing rap and reggae from our passing cars. The speed bumps were meant to keep things calm, but I'm afraid they just made the noisy cars last longer.
This was our best and most memorable meal in Bonaire. A little noise didn't ruin it, but we would maybe go for the cute inside tables next time!
Food of Aruba
I love food adventures, but the 30 minute walk in the dark to find this little hidden treasure turned out to be a little more adventurous than expected. The area surrounding the restaurant (once a ranch) is a little questionable. Don and I made a couple quick moves to avoid shady characters and at one point it was so dark we could hardly see where we were going.
Home Sweet Home
Then we spotted an oasis of lights in a jungle of trees. Here we found this beautiful 127 year old house, all lit and welcoming. Numerous taxis were dropping and picking up, making us realize, arriving on foot is uncommon.
This is what the "cunucu" house looked like years ago when it was a riding school. Eduardo and Lenie Ellis raised their 4 children here, before they turned the home into Papiamento, a restaurant serving authentic Caribbean food. Papiamento is the native language, still spoken by locals in Aruba.
Inside the charming home, there were a number of dining rooms. The tables were inviting and comfy, surrounded by European antiques and framed art. The Ellis family must be big collectors. There were collections of copper pans and green metal dishes...
Where is Everyone?
There was only one small party dining inside, which made the place look sort of unpopular.
But we couldn't even get a reservation till 9 pm. That's because everyone wants an outside table!
We were escorted to ours, outside beside the pool.
Aruba was unseasonably hot when we visited in August. So we were lucky that on this evening, there was a nice breeze blowing over the pool. It felt a little like we were at a wedding with all the white seat covers and shimmering table cloths and flickering candles. Even the flower petals floating in the pool made it seem like a bride and groom had just paraded by... But really the petals had fallen naturally from the trees.
The tables around the pool were all set up for couples. Lucky us, being 2! The tables began to clear shortly after we were seated, which meant we got lots of good service. In fact, I'm not really sure who our main server was. There were so many attending to us.
We made sure to order some true Aruban dishes. We started with Soppi Oester, and Aruban oyster soup. The Caesar salad wasn't exactly with the Carribean theme, but it came with the meal and was delicious.
Chef Edward's Dishes
The eldest Ellis son is now the head chef and I'd say he does a pretty amazing job! Don ordered grouper, since it's always wise to order the catch of the day. It came with a pumpkin mash that was like dessert to me! I had Cazuela, which is Caribbean shrimp and rock lobster, stewed in Aruba style chowder and coconut milk. Both were excellent and there was no room for dessert.
A Curious Building
We Found Out
We asked and ended up with a tour of the "wine cellar" which holed 150 different wines.
Wonderful Little Place
What a great place for food and atmosphere. We did something special after eating, to make sure we only had good memories of the place. We took a taxi back to the hotel!here to edit.
A Taste of Peru in Oranjistad
Once again, Don and I found ourselves searching for a non-touristy place in Aruba. We found it!
A Little Mom and Pop Stop
This cozy 3-room cafe was just a few blocks away from the touristy, cruise ship area. We were glad to be the only tourists in sight. A local family was dining in the side room.
We figured they were local since their small son wandered the restaurant like he owned the place. We chose a table beside a wall of Peruvian decorations. I kind of loved the woven material covering the seats. They reminded me of the skirts you see women wearing in Peru.
Our 18 year old server, Valeria couldn't have been more gracious. She brought us a complimentary bowl of warm, roasted popcorn seeds.
They tasted a bit like soy nuts, but were as addicting as popcorn. We also sampled the Peruvian special drink, Pisco Sour. Don is very picky about the drink and he gave it a positive review!
Valeria offered to take this photo, making sure to include the decorative llamas , pipes of pan and woven wall hangings. As you can see the photo also includes Sebastian, who was making his rounds while his family dined.
We made sure to try one of the most traditional Peruvian dishes. Valeria, was born in Aruba but she knows Peruvian food well from her parents.
She suggested this dish called Arrisotada de Camarones, which is creamy rice and shrimps in a Chupe Sauce, made of milk, cheese and pumpkins!
What a treat!
This Peruvian creole dish was made with tenderloin stir fry, onions, garlic and cilantro. The sauce was pretty yummy on the fries and rice!
And 1 More Pic with Sebastian!
Our little buddy Sebastian, posed one more time on his way back from behind the bar. He was eager to show us his "Angry Birds" shirt and his collection of small flashlights.
Good Food and Good Chat
We spent quite a bit of time chatting with Valeria before we took off for the evening. What a gracious and mature young woman. She told us about her dream of one day going to school in Canada, to study Mathematics. She talked about her respect for her parents. And finally she wished us a safe trip home before shaking our hands.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.