Sweets for your Sweetie

The month of February brings Valentine’s Day and definitely two  words we hear in the Bahamas, not just this month,  but all  year round, sweets and  sweetie.   Instead of candy, it’s more common to hear us say sweets and we give those sweets to our sweetie, short for sweetheart.

When it comes to the off the shelf, Cadbury is a commonly known, and desired, chocolate here.   But if you want to get something special, something uniquely Bahamian, there are two spots right here in Nassau where the sweets are custom made and are sure to please anyone’s sweetie.

Graycliff Chocolatier located just west of the Graycliff restaurant features chocolates made right on site, in delicious flavor combinations like salt and caramel, even  bacon, and displayed under glass just like a European chocolate shoppe.  Sign up for the tour so you can tell your sweetie exactly how every delicious drop was made.

If you’re looking for traditional  Bahamian sweets, look no further than Mortimer’s Candy on East Hill Street.  Started in 1928, with “a pot and a vision”, this sweet shoppe is a must visit for Bahamian favourites like coconut candy, pink and white coconut bars, peanut or benne candy.  Check out their website and you’ll see a pic of Mrs. Simpson shopping there for Bahamian sweets. (YES!   That Mrs. Simpson who cost the King his crown!).

If you can’t decide, it’s best to visit both!   Happy shopping for those sweets for your sweetie!

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Straw Obsessions

If you’re an island girl you know you need straw bags for every occasion, from  the carry all beach bag, to the  everyday tote, and don’t forget a clutch for evening outings.  With so many different plait patterns, colours, shapes, and add ons from shells to pom poms, the Bahamian straw bag is definitely a Mailboat Must-have.

This centuries old craft has now evolved to a level of artistry with general overall patterns featuring names like Fish Gill and Sour Sop. Straw weavers are found on every island from Andros to Inagua, with several islands having at least one or two unique plaits that trace their origin back to someone’s great grandmother who created and named that unique  never before seen plait style that is as popular today as the day she created  it. Straw plait rolls, come from the islands, and are shipped in on the mailboat to women who will sew up bags that will be offered for sale in the straw market and kiosks around hotels and on the beach.

Read more about this craft turned art here: http://creativenassau.com/strawwork/

No matter your personal style, when you live in the islands of perpetual summer, a straw bag is the perfect Bahamian  accessory. These artistic, environmentally sustainable creations will last through every adventure you take throughout the Bahamas and become pleasant reminders of long white beaches or evenings under the stars. Visit the Nassau Bay Street Straw Market to search through the aisles of local vendors where you’ll find straw bags of every shape and size. For chic versions visit  The Plait Lady at her shop in the Marina Village at Atlantis. Friend her on Facebook to see pictures of her one of a kind straw bags. Any authentic straw bag is a Mailboat Must-have!

If you’re looking for more of a modern, funky island style check out Ebb+ Flow Designs!

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Foodie Find: Benny Cakes

“Benny” seeds are the Bahamian nickname for sesame seeds.   Although they are common throughout islands, their origin is thought to be Africa, where a wild variety can still be found.   We love them blended with sugar, a little bit of island orange, and molded into small cookies we call Benny cakes.   You don’t need to be a top chef to create this favourite treat that has just four simple ingredients.   Follow the recipe below and enjoy this sweet Bahamian snack.

Ingredients

            1-½ cups of benny seeds

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of water

1 tsp orange peel, grated

Instructions

  1. Place seeds in frying pan and stir over medium heat until brown
  2. Combine sugar and gradually add water in saucepan
  3. Add browned seeds and stir consistently with spoon to keep from burning.
  4. Simmer until mixture is golden brown.
  5. Drop round tablespoonfuls onto a greased cooling pan or marble slab
  6. Allow to set until cool and firm

This easy sugary treat is perfect for the whole family, guests, or even a small gift to that old Bahamian soul.

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Out Island Hotspot: Highbourne Cay

Just a quick 35 miles east of Nassau, Highbourne Cay in the Exuma chain of islands is a definite Family Island must see. Come by boat or seaplane and experience the wide variety of activities on Highbourne from sports fishing to beach lounging, there’s something for everyone.

Known for its proximity to the capital, this paradise is a popular getaway for Nassau residents who fill the marina and guest cottages, often booking their next year’s holiday stay on the day of their arrival! With their newly renovated office and grocery store and the addition of the restaurant “Xuma”, you’ll find everything you need at your fingertips whether your visit is for a day, a weekend, or even longer. Sitting at the bar will give you a perfect view of boats coming and going from the marina, or another beautiful sunset after a long day at the beach. With the three mile beach on the eastern shore of the island, the paths for biking or running and the kayaks, paddle boards and sailboats to rent for exploring the ocean, who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in Highbourne Cay, Exuma?

Being one of the northern islands in the Exuma chain you can also travel by boat to many of the other Exuma attractions. Just north are the famous iguanas who welcome a little hand out.   Another option is taking a day trip to explore the mangrove channels of Shroud Cay to the “washing machine” where the tide creates a water slide ride out to the ocean. The Exuma cays have a number of great adventures you can experience, and if you may have overlooked it, do yourself a favour and make this year’s first stop, Highbourne Cay.

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January’s Word of the Month!

I know people all over the world laugh at what we call winter, but we do feel the seasons changing.   The Bahamian islands have been called the “Isles of Junes” and the “Isles of Summer” and it’s because the sun’s love affair with our palm drenched islands can turn up the heat. Salt, sea, sun and warm air brings on the thirst and we have a drink we’ve adopted from other countries’ that we’ve put our own island twist on. Switcha is our Bahamian lime drink nicknamed for the way it can “switch up” your face.

Allegedly the ancient Egyptians invented lemonade, but Switcha first landed on our shores with the Loyalists who came from the southern United States in the 1780’s. Back then, sugar was a scarce treat, lemons were no more local than hen’s teeth, but everyone still wanted a cool drink with a little taste.  Adapting a little for what was on hand was how Switcha was born and it’s still the same face puckering drink we enjoy today.

The recipe for Switcha can have many variations but the original is simple; island limes, water and, if you have it, cane sugar. In the Bahamas we’ve seen people drink it out of enameled tin cups, repurposed coffee cans, and even heirloom crystal glasses.

A local recipe from “Tru Bahamian Food Tours” is a little “fancier” but one of the best we’ve tasted:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup to 1 cup of key lime juice (about 10 limes)

1/4 cup of lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1 cup of cane sugar

1 gallon of water

Instructions:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water. Once boiled, add sugar to dissolve, making the simple syrup
  2. Using the remaining water, combine with the key lime and lemon juice and mix.
  3. Add simple syrup to the juice/water and let chill for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Serve cold with a wedge of lime.

There are many variations of switcha involving orange, ginger, mint, even grapefruit juice.   The adult’s only version even involves rum. A Bahamian refresher on a long summer’s day, or a simple cocktail to add to your home’s cocktail cart, this tropical, delicious Bahamian drink may switch up more than your face, it might switch up your mood! Plus it’s fun to say. Switcha!

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