A Labor of Love in Paradise
Melinda and Robert Blanchard, authors of A Trip to the Beach, have made every traveler's fantasy their reality. After a lifetime of sun-kissed vacations on the gorgeous Caribbean island of Anguilla, they decided to trade their life in snowy Vermont for an existence of sea breezes, sandy beaches, and spectacular sunsets.
But don't get too jealous of the Blanchards' move to paradise -- it wasn't all palm trees and trade winds. That's because the Blanchards' decision to move included a unique twist on the familiar tale of the couple that ditches the rat race for a more laid-back way of life. The Blanchards, lifelong gourmands, decided to move to Anguilla to open a restaurant.
Getting a restaurant up and running is backbreaking work no matter where you are. But when you're on an island where the national pastime is "limin' " (sitting in the shade watching life go by) and every piece of equipment for the kitchen and every ingredient for the menu must be procured by traversing international waters, opening a restaurant that will cater to the world's most discriminating palates is an unfathomable task. To say the least, the Blanchards had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
For the Blanchards, the successful proprietors of the Blanchard & Blanchard specialty food business, planning the look of the restaurant and the dishes on the menu came naturally. But for foreigners living and working on the island, navigating the local rules and regulations was a real challenge.
Anguilla operates on "island time," a far cry from the pace the Blanchards were used to. But the countless frustrations they faced were mitigated by their carefully cultivated friendships with a compelling cast of island natives. With lots of help from their friends, Melinda and Bob were able to create an award-winning restaurant and transform themselves into true islanders.
Melinda and Bob's experiences with building, opening, and running Blanchard's make for a delightfully delicious and entertaining read. Tales of navigating customs, shipping building supplies from a Home Depot in Miami and importing food and wine from around the world are great comedies of errata, as are the amusing stories about pleasing discriminating diners and trying to serve a spectacular meal during a blackout.
The real highlights of the book are Melinda's mouthwatering recipes, taken directly from the restaurant's menu. If you can't get to the Caribbean anytime soon, try whipping up a crispy-crusted snapper with Thai citrus sauce with a side of the venerable Uncle Waddy's favorite corn bread. Thirsty? Try some rum punch, or the Blanchards' bartender's favorite drink, the banana cabana.
A Trip to the Beach is a wonderful a story of a labor of love that will make you want to hop the next flight down to Anguilla for a day on the island's gorgeous beaches and a night of fine dining at Blanchard's.
Emily Burg is a New York-based freelancer who burns, not tans.