Hi there. I’m going to get straight to the point and ask you a question. Have you ever had a foodgasm? You know, the kind of meal that’s so damn good your eyes roll back and you start moaning at the table in ecstasy over what’s taking place on your palate? If you haven’t, well, I’m sorry. However, if you’d like to have one sometime, you should make a jaunt over to Hamilton, Bermuda, and head to the Barracuda Grill.
I had the opportunity to try this restaurant on a long weekend to Bermuda last November. This trip was rather impromptu – I was originally slated for NYC with friends and when that fell through I decided to head back to my favorite little island after a nasty month-long bout of pneumonia. November is not really the best time to go to Bermuda – it’s cooler and rainier than I prefer, but the ocean is still warm and it beats the upstate New York weather. Since I had recently recovered from the dreaded P-illness, I had the pleasure of bringing an inhaler around with me everywhere I went (thankfully the use of that has now subsided) and sleeping more than I would normally do on a vacation. When I visit Bermuda, I like to stay at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess for its hospitality and proximity to everything. As history would have it, Mark Twain often stayed there and there is a statue of him in the lobby. It is conveniently a five-minute walk from town, close to the ferry dock, bus terminal, shops, and restaurants. The hotel bar is a social hub of sorts for Bermudians and expatriates. They also host a high tea and offer a free ferry to guests to head over to the Fairmont Southampton private beach.
It was my last night in town and it was cool and rainy. I walked up to the restaurant which is located on Burnaby Hill, grateful I wasn’t in need of the inhaler and that I could finally taste food again and enjoy a few drinks. It is rumored that Barracuda Grill is where Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas enjoy dining. Well, if it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for Lady Sensory. I entered the restaurant and while I did not spy any celebrity guests, I found the ambience nothing less than beautiful. I commenced the meal with a glass of Pinot Noir and the Bermudian fish chowder, followed by the grilled fresh fig salad. Both were exceptional food foreplay. They top the chowder with the traditional sherry pepper sauce (optional) and the figs were served over feta, walnuts, bibb lettuce and dressed with a honey balsamic vinaigrette. If you have never tried Bermuda honey, you are missing out – it’s floral, delicate and has the slightest hint of an anise flavor to it. I planned on picking some up at the airport on my way back to the states (where I found it on the previous visit) but unfortunately the airport gift shop was sold out. I guess it gives me a good excuse to go back!
Anyway, onto the next glass of wine and the main course. I switched over to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and enjoyed the fish special: a citrus-soy-glazed Chilean Sea Bass that came with a salmon cake on the side. It was so good that I moaned at the server. Yes. I literally moaned at the man. He looked at me and made a face that suggested I might have escaped from the mental institution until I expressed my appreciation for the meal in actual words. When I practically licked the plate clean he asked me if I’d like dessert. I can take or leave dessert sometimes, but something caught my eye on the menu and I had to go for it. I mean, I was already emaciated from my pneumonia so I figured the extra calories would be a wash. It was the gingerbread toffee pudding – basically gingerbread topped with ginger ice cream, caramel sauce and creme anglaise. Yes, people. This would be the point in the meal where I started making the ‘O-Face’ and noises that could rival Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. It was time to pay the bill take my satiated self home. I’m happy to see that these items (minus the special) are still on the menu per the website (http://www.barracuda-grill.com) so you, too, can visit Bermuda and let your taste buds get their jollies.
When I returned home to the states I informed my girlfriends of the legendary foodgasm. We now substitute the word, gingerbread, for sex and it’s become rather comical. I have yet to duplicate this dessert at home. I don’t yet own an ice cream maker (that would be so terribly, awfully, dangerous for my thighs) to make the ginger ice cream. I have found a quick bread mix at Williams-Sonoma that does the gingerbread part justice, but it’s only available around the holidays. Williams-Sonoma also has a recipe online that I have not yet tried. So I’m going to give you one that I have tried from the Gourmet cookbook and we are going to vary that just slightly to add more ginger-y goodness because we don’t have the ice cream:
Lady Sensory’s Gingerbread ‘O-Face’ Cake (adapted from Gourmet, Ruth Reichl)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon (use Saigon Cinnamon if you have it – it really is better)
1/2 tsp cloves
pinch of allspice
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, unsalted & softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap or robust)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2/3 cup hot water
Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease/butter a 9 inch square pan OR a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan (we’ll adjust cooking time for each shape, depending on what you are using). Sift (or use a whisk) flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar at medium high until pale and fluffy. This should take 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add molasses (batter may look sort of odd and separated but that’s normal) and then the crystallized ginger. Reduce the speed (so you don’t wear all your ingredients) and beat in the flour/spice mixture. Add the water and beat until batter is smooth (approximately 1-2 minutes). Pour batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick (inserted in the center) comes out clean. 9-inch square will take around 35-40 minutes, loaf pan will run around 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan, on a rack (if you have one), for about 20 minutes.
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise (you will want to make this before your O-Face cake so it can chill):
Also adapted from Gourmet
1/2 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise)
2 cups half and half
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
Now if you are amusingly odd like Lady Sensory you’ve already made some vanilla sugar ahead of time and you can scoop a half cup of that (we’ll cover making vanilla sugar another day). If not, proceed like this:
Take a small knife and the half-bean and scrape the beans from the inside (those little black flecks) into a 3 qt pot and along with the bean-pod and the half and half. Bring the liquid just to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk eggs and sugar together until combined, continue to whisk while adding the hot half and half/vanilla mixture in a slow stream. Return the mix to the pot and cook over low-medium heat, continuing to stir until custard thickens. If you are into taking temps, Gourmet says 175 degrees is the magic number. I’m not big on taking temps; I watch my pot so that it never boils. No, really – I’m being serious – don’t let the custard boil or you’ll ruin it. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Put this bowl in another bowl that has been filled with ice water to allow the custard to cool and stop cooking. You will want to stir it as it cools. Once it does, cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour prior to serving. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for a couple of days.
Now, pour that fancy decadent sauce all over your gingerbread, and try not to wake the neighbors!