On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: The Perfect Proposal

When I was in college there was this show, I think it was on TLC, called The Perfect Proposal. The premise of the show was helping someone, usually a man, plan an elaborate marriage proposal for the person he loved. Sure, it was a little over the top, but it was fun to watch. There were hot air balloons and sky writers, surprise visits from far away family members, and I even recall a marching band or two. But beyond all of the cute animals and spa days and bespoke productions, beyond the scenic locations and giant diamond rings, there was always this moment. This moment of fear and hope, of expectation. In that beautiful, vulnerable moment, one person asked a question full of hope and promises, a question that imagined a future and nervously took the first steps toward it. And then the next moment when another person joyfully said yes to a life full of unknowns, to both the sorrow and happiness of all the years to come. That moment is the magic of life. It’s terrifying and brilliant to have so much wrapped up into one tiny, humongous question and an even tinier, momentous answer to that question. It was that moment that would be the sweetest, most wonderful memory I would take from Jamaica.

I’ll be honest, the morning before the proposal I was kind of pouting. I suspected and hoped that Brandon was going to propose sometime during the trip because, really, how could there be a better place to propose than Jamaica? But we were nearing the end of our weeklong trip and it had not happened. So, like I said, I may have spent portions of Thursday pouting and pretending not to. However, like an adult I reminded myself that I was in a gorgeous place having a fantastic time with my favorite person. I was not going to let the lack of a piece of jewelry take away from that. We had a fun day snorkeling, relaxing at our hotel, and swimming in the pool. We had decided that we would go out that night for a fancy dinner at Ivan’s, which was just down the road from our hotel. We got dressed up, which meant that Brandon actually put on pants instead of the shorts he had been wearing the rest of the week. He suggested that before going to dinner we stop by the bar and get a couple drinks and then find a spot to watch the sunset. He did not exactly have to twist my arm.

There was this little cabana right on the edge of the cliff that was just the spot. We sat and I sipped my drink, choosing to simply enjoy the moment. I did notice that Brandon seemed a little nervous and distracted. Despite this, we soaked in the moment and savored the beauty and the company. We took a few pictures and then right at sunset (6:15 on Thursday September 14 to be exact), he suggested we get up and take some pictures together. He maneuvered us to the edge of the cabana and then dropped down on one knee. He had something in his hand, but I could only look at his face as he asked “Will you be my Mrs. Hart?” I could not speak. I could not even say yes, so I just nodded my head and leaned over to kiss him. I eventually looked at the ring. He had even found a ring box that was shaped like a shell. After a few blissful moments of cherishing the newness of being engaged, of privately celebrating suddenly being more than boyfriend and girlfriend, Brandon set off to find a random person to come take pictures. We recreated the sweet moments of our engagement for the patient man behind the camera.

I feel like this accurately captures how we look at each other in real life – I look (and was probably being) bossy and Brandon just looks like he wants to kiss me.

It was sincere. It was joyful. It was perfect.

That evening, we had a celebratory dinner at Ivan’s.

Yes, there was champagne

The restaurant is known for their jerk chicken pasta – a unique and quite delicious take on the classic dish

The food may have been delicious, but even more amazing was sharing my first meal with my fiancé.

This man. I love him beyond words and cannot imagine someone loving me better than he does. This sunset proposal in Jamaica will be a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. On the days when life is hard or when love is hard, I will recall the love that came easily and the happy tears shed in one of life’s perfect moments and remind myself of the all the many reasons I said yes to the unknowns of forever.

And, if you are wondering, I spent the rest of our vacation telling every.single.person. who we met that we had just gotten engaged.

On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: The Food

So I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve talked all about the gorgeous beaches, the stunning sunsets, the adventures, the chill vibe. But what I haven’t mentioned, at least not in much detail, is the marvelous food – spicy and flavorful, the food we had in Jamaica was a true highlight of the week. And did I mention there was lobster? Lobster for days.

Rockhouse has three restaurants. The Rockhouse Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers room service for the resort. This is also where the Juice Bar is located. The Pool Bar & Grill is all about the tropical poolside drinks and small, casual meals. And finally, there is Pushcart, an upscale interpretation of local Jamaican jerk centres. We had the chance to enjoy all of these options during our week in Jamaica.

Slightly jet lagged, desiring a tropical beverage and our first Jamaican meal, we made our way to Pushcart after settling into our room and briefly exploring the property. As we looked out over the ocean, the salty breeze mingling with the scent of rum and grilling meats, it was impossible not to feel happy.

My handsome date

But enough about that. What did we actually eat?

Well, we of course had to start with a cocktail or two. We were in Jamaica, after all.

If you can get a drink made inside of a coconut, you probably should. Many coconuts were harmed in the making of this vacation.
And something fruity for me
These seafood fritters had an excellent seafood to batter ratio – substantial bites of seafood in a savory batter were a delicious beginning
And jerk chicken skewers that were sweet and spicy deliciousness

We really struggled to narrow down what to order and eventually settled on a platter that included curried goat, braised oxtail, curried chicken, and bushman stew – a hearty and flavorful stew of lentils, red peas, black beans, and vegetables, this vegetarian dish was a take on Rasta fare. These were served with variations of rice, including callaloo rice, which is made with a leafy green such as amaranth.

We tried each dish and tried them again, doing our best to decide on a favorite. I think we eventually decided that the bushman stew was the best, but just barely. By the end of the meal, our mouths were on fire and our bellies were full.

We would return to Pushcart a couple more times that week for dinner and we did our best to try every dish on the menu.

The view from the restaurant was as fabulous as the food
Regardless of what we ate, we paired it with this scotch bonnet pepper sauce that was oh-so-spicy while still managing to add flavor.
Fried calamari served with a sweet tomato relish
Peppa shrimp that was equal parts messy and tasty
Fried chicken and the classic Jamaican side dish, rice and peas

We would find ourselves at Pushcart one last time the night before going home. It was a bittersweet night, as we listened to live Reggae music and reminisced over the loveliness of the previous week, while the sadness of leaving began to sink in. Thankfully we could take comfort in more amazing Jamaican food.

Unable to decide and feeling the pressure of this being our last island dinner, we again chose a combination platter. This one included jerk pork and jerk chicken and jerk sausage (all delicious) with traditional sides including roasted yam, plantain, and festival (sort of a fried dumpling). Every bite was amazing.

As I mentioned above, the main restaurant at the resort, Rockhouse Restaurant, was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner at Rockhouse was more of a fine dining affair than at Pushcart. This was also the restaurant that provided room service, which we ordered for breakfast once or twice. Like Pushcart, there was an emphasis on local foods with much of the produce sourced directly from the Rockhouse’s organic garden. And like Pushcart, all the food was delicious. Seriously, I don’t think I had a bad dish the entire week.

When you have a headache, breakfast on your balcony overlooking the ocean with a giant pot of coffee is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jamaican rancheros made with plantains rather than tortillas, stew peas rather than refried or black beans, with the spice of scotch bonnet peppers. It was a cast iron skillet of deliciousness.
Can’t hate this breakfast view. Like literally. Hating this view would be impossible.

Other mornings, we chose to have breakfast in the restaurant. It was wonderful to wake up and drink coffee overlooking the stunning blue ocean, enjoying the still cool air as the day began to warm. We would make our plans for the day while we marveled at the beauty and perfection of it all.

One of the most unique breakfasts I tried was the Jamaican Special. Included with the breakfast was the iconic Blue Mountain Coffee, which some consider to be the best coffee in the world. Served alongside the coffee was the national dish of Ackee and Saltfish. Ackee is a much-loved fruit that, to me, seemed somewhat similar in taste and texture to an avocado. Salt cod and ackee are sautéed with spices to create this iconic dish. The Rockhouse breakfast also included other Jamaican foods, such as callaloo, fried dumplings, plantains, and, because that was not enough, even banana bread.

I enjoyed trying the different traditional foods, although I think ackee and saltfish may be a bit of an acquired taste.

Lunch at the Rockhouse Restaurant was also good. We were typically out and about during lunch, but on the day I went to the spa, we decided to check it out. Maybe because we had the coconut chicken at a pool party the day before and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Coconut shrimp, which might be one of my all time favorite foods
Crab quesadilla
And some of that coconut chicken, just for starters
Brandon ordered Jamaican jerk chicken fajitas
And I ordered a grilled fish sandwich
I now realize just how ridiculous this amount of food was. My only defense is that it was a gorgeous afternoon and a long lunch with my love was just perfect.

We also had dinner at Rockhouse once during our stay.

Plantain chips with ackee dip
We also shared an incredible seafood stew, simple perfection in a coconut shell bowl

The food may have been amazing, but the real highlight of the evening was this:

There are no words.

I think it is pretty obvious that the food at Rockhouse was stellar. But our favorite restaurant was just down the road, within a short walk of the resort. We first ended up at 3 Dives Jerk Centre after a somewhat disappointing experience at Rick’s. I am so glad we did.

This place was a quintessential dive, in the best way possible. At first I was a little leery. We arrived as very last of the sun set, walking up to the dimly lit building. After a moment, we realized that we would place our order at the counter. We perused the daily chalkboard menu, getting a glimpse of the large stew pots bubbling in the small kitchen. We initially ordered jerk chicken. When we expressed some uncertainty about the lobster, we were pointed toward a table located by the water. It was laden with the freshly caught crustaceans. After that, how could we not order lobster?

We found a table and drank Red Stripe as we waited for our food. The smells, man, they were incredible. The scents wafting from the kitchen made us more and more hungry. This is not a place where food was hurried. The jerk chicken and lobster were prepared after we ordered it, which meant plenty of time to take in the scene. Someone by the water was playing reggae music, which drifted underneath the conversations of locals and tourists alike.

Every bite was worth the wait.

The sides that night were rice and peas and callaloo. We also ordered some plantains because obviously this was not enough food. The immensity of the portions did nothing to diminish our determination to eat every single bite. It was one of the best meals of my life. No exaggeration.

This place was so good we had to go back again before we left. It was just was good the second time. This time we ordered curry goat. And more lobster.

The sides this time were rice and peas and some type of slaw. The curry was so good. So, so good.
And then there was the lobster
If you’re wondering how jerk anything is made, this is how – in grills made out of repurposed barrels, the sweet and savory spices blended into an ideal combination of charred flavors as they’re slowly cooked over smoky wood.

I actually feel sad as I write this because I’m not there right now eating this food. Just looking at the pictures makes me want to hop on a plane to Jamaica just for dinner. But since I can’t do that, I will content myself with staring at this rather attractive picture of my man.

If you’ve somehow missed this point, Jamaican food is kind of awesome. I think you should go to Negril and eat jerk chicken and grilled lobster and curry and plantains. I promise your life will be better for it.

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On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: Booby Cay

As they say, all good things must come to an end. Apparently this includes Jamaican vacations. It was Saturday morning, the day that would be the last of a series of sunshine and fun-filled days that had been spent relaxing in paradise. The week had been everything and more than everything and I, for one, was not ready for it to end. As our final day began, we decided to return to the beach one last time. We had no real plan in mind, but asked Nelson to again take us to Seven Mile Beach. We found a spot for a quick breakfast while we pondered our options. Afterward, we stopped by a nearby watersports shop and asked about trips to Booby Cay.

Located within view of the beach, Booby Cay is a small island off the coast of Negril. We were able to arrange a day trip to the island and then waited on ocean front loungers for our glass bottom boat to arrive. I imagine that in busier times, the boat is closer to full and it could be more difficult to just walk up and book a tour, but on this particular day, we had the boat all to ourselves.

Even after days in Jamaica, the clear blue water was still a stunning sight.

Although Booby Cay was our ultimate destination, Brandon could not resist another opportunity to snorkel on the reef. We had as much time as we wanted to snorkel and explore, with freedom to branch out while still having a guide to show us around.

But snorkeling was only the beginning. After one last chance to take in the colorful sight of the reef, we hopped back on the boat (I mean that literally), and headed toward the island.

We dropped an anchor near the island and jumped into the warm, shallow water to walk to shore. Salty and barefoot, we walked through the sand toward the scent of smoke and garlic.

You see, this small, uninhabited island is also known as the place to get lobster. We made our selections out of a faded orange drink dispenser and waited with anticipation while our lobster was grilled.

As we waited, we wandered down the beach, buying a couple of overpriced Red Stripes from a lady selling them out of a cooler.

And then, the lobster was ready. Grilled over charcoal, topped with a garlic butter sauce, and served alongside grilled toast, this was the best lobster I have ever had.

I am not exaggerating when I say that we had lobster pretty much every day while in Jamaica (tough life, I know). And it is also no exaggeration to say this was the absolute best. It was perfectly grilled, the sweetness of the lobster wonderfully balanced by the richness of the garlic and butter. I used the grilled toast to soak up every last drop of the sauce. Food doesn’t get better than this. I was glad we had each had our own lobster, rather than sharing one as we initially discussed. I wanted every last bite. And more.

After a lovely day, we reluctantly made our way back to the boat and back to Negril.

The day may have been simple, but it was the perfect way to end our week. But just because Booby Cay was the last place we went while in Jamaica, doesn’t mean I’m done writing about Jamaica. After all, I have yet to really talk about all of the delicious food we ate. Which was, almost, the best part of the vacation.

 

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