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It’s Batter in the Bahamas!

Apr 24, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

I’ve finally discovered why writing a negative review is so much easier than the reverse. There’s a certain drama to it. I don’t like sounding negative but I like still less feeling negative. So here goes—at least on the positive side I’ll get it out of my system and perhaps you will be forewarned of what to expect should you chose to plan a trip to this area:

I really was expecting to enjoy the experience. Last time in the Bahamas—about 10 years ago—it was a lot of fun but then we didn’t stay in a humongous amusement park type of hotel like the Atlantis (it should have stayed mythically submerged under seas), nor was it Spring break, nor was the weather stormy every single day making swimming in the ocean impossible. This didn’t seem to stop people from crowding around the many swimming pools but I suspect they were using extra towels to keep warm as there never seemed to be any available by the time my husband was finished with his morning seminars and ready to give the pool experience a chance. There weren’t enough lounge chairs either—not that I like lying around a crowded pool. I guess I was hoping for a secluded beach with the shade of a palm tree and gentle breezes transporting me into a dreamy state, rather than the gales of wailing wind and rain that made me start thinking tsunami one night. The security alarm going off for 10 minutes in the middle of the night for no explained reason didn’t help to assuage my sense of panic and unease.

Our room had a splendid view of the raging ocean and hypnotically staring out to sea was my favorite and most relaxing part of the trip. Unfortunately wireless internet access was available only in the library ($10 for 24 hours no less). Other than the room, this was the one place that was mostly quiet. Everywhere else I don’t think I’ve ever heard this many screaming kids at one time.

[Read about the rest of Rose's trip on the full post page.]

The major problem with food on Paradise Island was the exploitation resulting from being on an island. Someone referred to it as feeling like a captive extortionate!) Even reliably consistent Starbucks skimped on the amount of coffee used for cappuccino. Throughout the US I routinely use 2 packages of sugar per cup and here one was more than sufficient. And this was the only half way decent coffee I found in our five day stay. I was not alone—there was always a long line.

Nobu, located in one corner of the casino was mostly a disappointment. I thought it would be a fantastic choice since I love his restaurants in New York and LA and given the availability of fresh fish I thought it would be really special. But when asked, they were quite honest about the fact that it was all flown in! Actually the conch sashimi was local and excellent. And the charming Hawaiian executive chef gave us a complementary tasting of eel: Sweet water, salt water, and wild (anago and two type of unagi). This was the highlight of our eating experience in the Bahamas. The sweet water variety was, of course, the most delicate, the salt water the most intense, and the wild salt water the most intriguing. I also had one exquisitely silken piece of toro sashimi for $20 while people around me (probably the high rollers) were ordering what was purported to be the signature dish: 6 slices of toro topped with thin rounds of hot fresh green chili peppers (which no doubt overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the tuna) for $90 a plate. Makes me think of patting a soft angora cat only to discover unsheathed and unexpectedly sharp claws lashing out to confuse the experience.

Most of the rest of the food, on and off the island, was coated in a batter—even the french fries. Most disappointing were the much anticipated conch fritters. Tasty but not a single one contained more than one tiny piece of the conch.

The Bahamians are lovely super friendly people and happily one advised me where to eat off Paradise Island in Nassau—a place called “The Poop Deck.” We returned twice to have the local snapper, delivered straight off the boat twice daily. We tried it grilled and also deep fried. Grilled was the winner though both were excellent. Fish this fresh is hard to come by and it was a major treat. Twice we had the spicy rice and peas side-dish, which I loved, and the third time the battered potatoes that were delightfully crispy on the surface and fluffy inside. The coleslaw was excellent—not too much mayo and very fresh. The grouper fingers, however, looked too heavily battered to contemplate. For dessert, the frozen lime pie was lovely—not too sweet and light in texture. I was hoping to love the ubiquitous rum cake but it was, to my taste, hideously irredeemably sweet.

I offer this photo of the bench in front of the Paradise Island ice cream parlor as the best metaphor (can a photo be a metaphor?) for the tone of the resort. Though I'll admit to thinking it was kind of cute in a hokey/grotesque sort of way. The ice cream served inside was good except that by the time one got to the end of the line to pay it was either melted or consumed, and eating ice cream while smelling antiseptic disinfectant is not worth the calories. Of course if they hadn’t used it the smell of tropical mildew or worse wouldn’t have been an improvement.

On our return, the Nassau airport was a continuation of the appalling overcrowding—actually worse. Flights were over-booked and delayed. Weekend home to New Jersey cherry blossoms and other flowering trees was a delight. Never has home seemed sweeter.

Comments

Hi, i need one chair like this.. Do you know whede do i buy it? Thanks. Contact me!! fimo84@yahoo.it thanks

REPLY

no i don't but it was part of the resort at paradise island so i'm sure you will be able to find them. i seem to remember it was a hagaandaz franchise.

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cindy Bekkac
cindy Bekkac
01/28/2009 12:37 PM

Hello Rose,

I was just wanting to know if you had a website for that ice cream shop in the bahamas were you took the picture of the bench???? I would love to contact them and see if I could get one for my shop I'm located in Orlando,Florida area.

Thank you
Best Regards
Cindy Bekkach

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sorry i have no idea.

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Marcy Keohane
Marcy Keohane
03/09/2007 02:14 PM

Do you know where I can buy Godiva or good chocolates in custom shapes in Nassau, Bahamas? Do you do that?

Thanks!
Marcy

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i do apologize for not stressing enough how lovely the bahamas can be if one chooses the right place as i experienced last time--terrific snorkeling etc. and i should add that people who had young kids loved all the activities and water slides available to them. thanks for pointing out some of the special places.

re the neoclassic--i'm quite sure you're right that the humidity is keeping the syrup from getting hot enough. i bet if you made the traditional classic it would be fine because when it reaches 238 degrees F the right amount of moisture is in the syrup. the point of making the neoclassic is that you don't have to use a thermometer but in the case where there is high humidity i think boiling the syrup for a minute or 2 after it has reached a full boil might accomplish the same thing.

sorry i don't know of a cake box supply place but if you call sweet celebrations in MN. i bet they either have them or could tell you where you could get them as people who buy cake decorating supplies from them often need to transport the cakes they make.

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Eulona C. Dean
Eulona C. Dean
05/27/2006 10:25 PM

Dear Rose,

"The Cake Bible" is absolutely heavenly! I have learned a great deal from this book. I have just purchased your other "Bibles" and can't wait to explore. I am sorry to hear of your trip to The Bahamas. I am a Bahamian and would have to agree about your disappointments on Paradise Island. However, since The Bahamas is an archipelago of 700 islands and cays, there are other options to suit your mood and needs. Perhaps you should visit Long Island, Abaco, Cat Island or Exuma next time. They still maintain an island flair, with beautiful, secluded beaches and innovative, scrumptious food. Abaco is my personal favorite.

I have made your Neoclassic buttercream recipe several times. It is never firm enough to pipe borders. I have followed your directions with timer in hand. I don't know if the humidity here is a factor or if I am neglecting to do something. Is there anything I can do to improve the firmness of the buttercream. Also, can you recommend a website where I can purchase boxes suitable for transporting multi-tiered wedding cakes, in tact.

Thank you,

Eulona.

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karyn this is wonderful news. thanks for reporting back!

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Hi Rose,
Well, I made the white butter cake again, and this time I measured the baking powder by spoon instead of weight and I let the mixer go for another minute before I put the batter in the pans. My cake came out PERFECT! Thank you so much for the tips!!!

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Courtney Gidts
Courtney Gidts
05/23/2006 07:34 AM

I've managed to save up roughly $38417 in my bank account, but I'm not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?

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hi rose & zach,
you can also try sugarcraft.com for acetate. this site is truly a headache, but there are many great things to be found!
caitlin

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thank you so much laurel for your lovely note. you have a great background already with english major and all the experience of baking on your own. the pastry program should fill in any gaps, enable you to realize how much you already know, and give you the credentials for a great career!

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Hi, Rose,

Just writing to say thank you; I made the Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Tart from the Pie and Pastry Bible yesterday and it was heavenly!

I grew up looking longingly at the pictures in the Cake Bible until I was old enough to bake, and then I baked my way through junior high and high school. I wanted to go to culinary school, but I ended up with a BA in English instead.

Now I'm leaving graduate school to start a pastry program in July. You were really my first inspiration; your books are so helpful that I just kept cooking through my mistakes and finally got it right.

Thank you again!
Laurel

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/28/2006 09:48 AM

Next, I was going to resort to ordering 1,000 pieces of Napolean in Paris and just saving the paper wraps. ha!

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we got there together zach! this is WONDERFUL!!!!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/28/2006 09:35 AM

Rose,

UNBELIEVABLE! I'm as giddy as a kid in a candy store. FINALLY, after all this time I have found exactly what I was looking for - perfect! I went to Cakecraft.com but was completely overwhelmed by the site because it's just a portal to other sites based on broad topics. Somehow, however, I managed to stumble upon this link: www.qualitapaper.com out of California and found it! They are called "Fresh Wraps." Take a look and you'll see what I mean. I'm excited because they are of the European-style you see in patisseries (such as a mille feuille would come wrapped in). They even allow you to customize! Christmas came early this year! (don't you just want to slap me?)

Thanks!
Zach

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zack, got the answer re the plastic protection against cut cake slices: check out www.cakecraft.com
friends tell me they get theirs from a cake decorating supply wholesale place call unger and they are pretty sure cakecraft carries this. they say it's a difficult to navigate website but very useful for all sorts of great decorating things.

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i think my génoise in the cake bible is probably very similar to the ones in france and i do use melted butter. if anything, the french cakes tend to be sweeter than mine. i can't speak for other recipes though!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/27/2006 09:25 PM

Hi Rose,

As I prepare for my trip to France, I'm thinking about cake (what else?). Genoise of course is used both in the US and in Europe. The recipes for genoise that I read in the books I buy in France tend to differ slightly from what you may read in books in the US. What is the principal difference you've found between genoise made in Europe (what I believe may be termed as "classic") vs. that in the US? It appears to be the addition of melted butter, but is it that simple?

Thanks!
Zach

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wonderful!!!
re the plastic to put against cut cake sides--i've been wanting to get that for years. i always put plastic wrap up against cut sides of cake, bread, even pies bc it dries out so quickly but the official stuff would be much easier to use and probably create a better seal.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/26/2006 06:59 PM

Rose,

I often use JB Prince and don't recall that product, though I'll check again. I'm really having a hard time finding this. Even though there is a bakery paper supply company here, they do not carry this. I'm going to check again at local bakery shops and may just ask them.

About Paris, that's great! If I stumble upon some unique find, I'll make a suggestion for you in return. I have a friend who owned a restaurant in Ouistreham, Normandy (until she just recently sold it) - fantastic cook, French. She used to own a creperie that I loved but she moved from that to open the restaurant in Normandy. She's now back in Paris and promised on this trip to give me her recipe for chocolat fondant.

The whole point of this trip is a trek for recipes, so if I find something unique, I'll share it with you and get your input.

Thanks!
Zach

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try the jb prince co. they have acetate so maybe they have something like this. i'll also check around.
by the way--just made plans to go to paris in sept. motivated by my note to you!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/26/2006 06:02 PM

Hi Rose,

I have been looking for quite sometime for "bakery paper" that is used to fold up the sides of individual cake slices when pre-sliced and left in a bakery case. This paper serves the purpose of protecting the slices from drying out. I often see these in professional bake shops (and sometimes for individual brownies) but I have not been able to locate a supplier of these - either in Dallas or on the internet. I don't even know if they have a technical name. I've tried cutting up grease proof paper and using that, but it's time consuming, not attractive and doesn't stick well. I know that professional bake shops use something (and sometimes it's very decorative, such as a scalloped edge), but have no idea where to locate this paper product, or what an improvised solution would be.

Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Zach

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magi strips are great for creating a more even surface but if the center is falling it's more a structural problem in the center. the strips just keep the sides from baking too quickly.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/26/2006 03:45 PM

Do you think magi strips will help this problem?

REPLY

your very welcome! maybe your measuring spoons are a little larger and it is less significant with the chocolate cake that has more structure. do let me know. i do know that if using a hand held mixer if you don't increase the beating time even on high speed it will dip in the center so possibly just a little more beating will also correct the problem.

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Rose,
Thank you so much for your quick reply! Actually, I didn't let the white cake sit - I make that one first (no cleaning up the mixer that way ;)) and bake it while I am mixing up the chocolate cake... then bake that. I will try again with a bit more mixing and less powder. Thanks again, I appreciate it so much.
Karyn

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Thanks, Rose! Those are new places for me so I'm excited to try them. I've been to Fouquet's, but it's been many years. I didn't realize I could get those items there you suggested.

I'm looking forward to it. If I find any new finds myself, I'll let you know.

Zach

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karyn, regarding the white cake: when a cake dips in the center it means it doesn't have enough structure.you intuited that when you suggested that maybe you weren't developing the gluten enough. but i suspect what's happening is that the gluten is getting destroyed by the leavening activating before baking and setting the structure. my guess is that you mixed the white cake first and it sat while you were mixing the chocolate cake. since you say you baked them at the same time one or the other had to sit! am i right? if this isn't the case, try cutting back on the baking powder a little.

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zach--you sure know how to live! thanks for the great advice about cancun. if and when my husband retires we won't have to be limited to where his conferences are held. actually the ski one in deer valley is fantastic as i noted!

and now france!!! in paris, aside from the obvious places, fouquets on the right bank has the best candied ginger i've ever tasted--i always buy some for my scones, and the best chocolate covered caramels. i always bring back amora mustard from the super market--it's much different from what we get here. one of my fav. bistrots is les violins d'ingres fairly near the eiffel tower and it's more reasonable than most as well.my favorite indian place near there is called goa.
check out dorie greenspan's book paris sweets. she covers most of the best places and she lists them with addresses in the back of the book. one we both love that is lesser known is rollet-pradier, 6 rue de bourgogne. oh i'm getting so home sick!!!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/25/2006 10:55 AM

Rose,

I'm leaving for France on Sunday for a couple of weeks (I'm on a self-guided dessert/chocolate tour). I'll be dining at Le Cerf near Alsace (Michel Husser is the chef who once appeared on Iron Chef w/ Chairman Kaga), having his incredible chocolate soup.

I'll be visiting my usual places, but do you have any recommendations that might be an undiscovered experience for a baker? I'm spending the majority of my time in Paris, 4 days in Alsace and then who knows.

I'm also hoping to visit some kitchens in various patisseries if I can get my foot in the door.

Just thought you might have a recommendation or two.

Thanks! Zach

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/25/2006 10:48 AM

Rose,

A comment about your trip. I'm sorry it was so disappointing. Nothing is worse than looking forward to a travel experience and having it be so disappointing. For the future, let me give you a recommendation (that might surprise you) if you're seeking a Carribbean getaway: Cancun. But you have to go end of August/beginning of September when the crowds are gone but the weather still great. When I'm looking for peace, quiet, beautiful water, no crowds, total slothfulness, etc., Cancun during this time has never failed me. But of course, it's all about what resort you choose among the many! I stay at the JW Marriott resort with superb views of the water from the majority of its rooms, an edgeless pool that blends in with the ocean, a huge non-crowded pool area, very few kids, waiters bringing you frozen monkeys (a type of drink) while you're swimming, a private beach with plenty of thatched umbrellas, great restaurant options in the hotel (over the 3-4 days that I stay, I never leave the hotel), and a 32,000 square foot spa just an elevator's ride up from the beach. It's truly a relaxing experience. I lie out all day under the umbrellas staring into the ocean, placing an order for a drink or some food on occasion as the waiters walk by in the sand or by the pool. The weather during this time in Cancun is great and the airport crowds acceptable. Check out Marriott's website for a view of their wonderful resort there. Of course, there are many other fantastic resorts, but JW Marriott has never failed me and is worth every penny. Maybe it's time for a vacation from your vacation. :)

Zach

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Hi Rose,
I dont know if this is where I am supposed to be typing my question, but here goes....
Firsty, it's a pleasure to be able to write to you, I have enjoyed reading your Cake Bible, and plan to make a lot of the recipes in there. Now for my problem.

3 times now, I have baked both your white butter cake, and chocolate butter cake at the same times. Each time, the chocolate cake comes out perfectly, yet the white cake sinks in the middle and is dark golden, yet the edge of the cake is much whiter. I read in your book about the possible problems, and I think that my circumstance eliminates the baking powder, and temperature problems since I'm making the chocolate cake at the same time. I have used fresh egg whites also. I think maybe the problem is not developping the gluten, even though I follow your times to a T, even using my timer. Please help if you can. Thank you so much in advance.
Karyn

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