Oh my dear sweet home. Being born and raised here on St.Croix I feel that I’ve been really blessed to soak up the natural beauty of my island. I can’t speak for others but being born in such a tiny place with such a huge back story and history is amazing to me. Whenever I feel down or just need inspiration, all I need to do is step out of my front door and take in the sights, smells and sounds of Twin City. I always say on a good day you can see everything but on a clear day you can see forever. And we have tons of clear days so when they come I love to take advantage of them,  that’s why I knew I had to take this opportunity to get out and enjoy some of the local sunshine and sights to see. I don’t care what you’ve heard there’s nothing like the Crucian sun, if you let it it will kiss you with the most golden glow.

 

 

 

Top: Primark Denim Shorts: Old Navy

 

Have you ever seen water so crystal clear and blue?

 

 

In honor of my Springtime glory I wrangled up the crew for a shoot on the west side of the island. But first let me give you a little history on one of the most beautiful places on earth, America’s Paradise, mi tierra, my home. St.Croix is the largest of the 4 islands that make up the U.S.Virgin Islands. About 90 miles south of Puerto Rico, St.Croix has at one point and time been under the rule of 7 different countries: England, France, Spain, Holland, the Knights of Malta, Denmark and most recently the United States. Marked by white sand beaches, warm people and an up and coming food scene, life on St.Croix is not without its charms and simple delights.

 

Goddess Twist Dress: Fashion 2 Figure

 

 

We drove North of town out to the Butler Bay ruins, many moons ago St.Croix was one of the top producing sugar cane plantations. And do you know what comes after sugar? RUM! St.Croix is also home to two rum distilleries, the age old Cruzan Rum and more recently Captain Morgan. So when you visit know that you’re in rum country and we take our spirits seriously.

 

Oh hey! Just hanging amongst the ruins…

 

 

Floral Kimono: Marianne’s               Dress: Forever21              Floral Headband: Claire’s

 

 

Butler’s Bay or Bottler’s Bay as it was originally listed according to Florence Lewishon’s St.Croix Under Seven Flags, was gifted to a new settler to encourage agriculture production in the Northwest area of the island. (Can you imagine being gifted an entire plantation? (Oh to melanin deficient in those times.) Back to story…the plantation and great house that were constructed on this property were very extravagant. Today the Great House has been restored to it’s former splendor and if i’m not mistake is available to purchase for a cool $1 million. The ruins  below still tell the story of a time long gone where sugar reigned supreme. I love coming here to shoot pictures or just on a long Sunday drive. It’s quite peaceful.

 


Do you have any warm weather historical haunts that you like to hang out at or visit often? Let me know in the comments!

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Photo credit: Icy Moonlight Fotografie Makeup: Fierce Fusion by Jai

Dry Meat CurrySo while I was studying in London some Uni friends invited me out for lunch at Tayyab’s, I’d never been a fan of Indian style food so my first reaction was to say no. But seeing as I was new to London and I decided to give it a try. I figured it be a great way to get to know my new classmates and just hang out and try something different. Let’s just say the foodie in me was extremely satisfied.

Since it was a group of us we ordered a bunch of different dishes, off the top of my head, I recall us ordering Karahi Chicken, Channa, Pilau Rice, Tandoori Naan, Garlic Naan, AND a side of lamb chops because one of my friends INSISTED that we needed them (in her defense, we did and they were delicious). We also ordered Dry Meat, which, when I initially saw it on the menu I wondered to myself what exactly is Dry Meat? Is it like jerky? In the US when you say dry meat that’s what would initially come to mind. But on that splendid day that we went to Tayyab’s I came to find out just what exactly Dry Meat was, one word…AMAZING!

Note: Dry meat is not jerky in any way, shape or form; it’s more of a curry/stew without all the sauce (if that makes sense). So the real focus is on the flavor of the meat, not the sauce that can sometimes over power a dish. In dry meat curry, the meat and the spices are what take the spotlight. I’m no food connoisseur but to me the spices used add a level of depth and complexity to the meat, it’s savory, smoky, warm, spicy, with an underlying hint of sweetness all at the same time, and the meat in itself is so tender and just falls apart. In a way it reminds me of Masitas de Puerco a Cuban pork dish, which is delightful as well.

After our massive lunch we had to have dessert. If you ever meet my circle of girlfriends from London, you’d learn a few things:

1.) They’re all insanely smart and good-looking, super funny and down to earth. (What can I say, birds of feather…)

2.) They really like to eat… A LOT.

3.) Dessert is a necessity, NOT an option.

So after our sensational, spice filled meal we needed to get our sweet on. We settled on a pista kuftis and some other confectionary delights.  I didn’t even know what I a kufti was, but I sure did find out. It’s basically ice cream on a stick, this version is made with just a few ingredients: fresh cream, sugar and pistachios. It sounds so incredibly simple but the flavor is so decadent it should be outlawed. It should be noted after the first one, we were all in heaven and thought we couldn’t (more like shouldn’t) have a second, but my dear friend Ori quickly stated, ‘Don’t think about it, just do it before the feeling passes.’  So there we were…with yet another pista kufti each and relishing in satiated glow of a leisurely early winter afternoon lunch. It was simply divine.

Since then I’ve been in deep love with Tayyab’s, I sing its praise. I think about it often. I can taste it even when I don’t have it. This is one of my favorite meet -up spots with friends.  I recommend it to anyone I know living in London or visiting London. I Yelped about it, Four Squared it, Tweet it, it’s that good. Here it is almost 2 years later, and I’ve moved on from London, spent some time living in Thailand, then back to the US and made my way back to London for graduation this past Spring. And you can imagine Tayyab’s was one of the places that I just had to go to, matter of fact, on my last visit to London this past Spring I made my way to White Chapel in the middle of the most freakish, cold, dark and dreary Spring day, with my mother in tow.  Because I would be damned if she came all this way and did not partake in the deliciousness that was Tayyab’s. I actually took her to some of my favorite London eateries because that’s you do when you’re playing tour guide to your Mum.

We battled the elements and then waited in line for almost an hour before she was turned into a believer, and she was sold. She loved it!

I find myself from time to time craving that Dry Meat Curry from Tayyab’s so I’ve been doing research off and on for the past year because I decided, ‘As God is my witness, I will never be without Dry Meat again (in my Scarlett O’Hara voice)! So it’s been a thought in my mind the past couple of months that I need to get this Dry Meat project underway. So in September I rediscovered this recipe fromRice & Pickle that I wanted to try.

Since then it’s been like an Amazing Foodie Race, to collect the ingredients, to me the ingredient/spice list seemed long but I’m assuming its because many of the spices called for I don’t readily have available because I don’t normally cook Indian/Pakistani/South Asian type fare, beyond the occasional curry, which is more Caribbean style.

In the past month I’ve made several trips to the Farmer’s market, Halal market, grocery store, foraging for ingredients and comparing prices, trying as not to break the bank on what I like to refer to as my most epic meal project to date. Some ingredients I had a hard time finding (lamb stock), and others I’d seen and then they disappeared (ghee) so I ended up making my own. So as you can see this has been a Foodie labor or love.

 With almost ALL the ingredients, I set forth to get to work on this epic meal of yum-ness. Which took two days, in between the ghee and lamb stock making and the marinade prep. It finally came together in the wee hours of the morning and I can say without a doubt that I am truly pleased with the results.

Here’s the recipe below.

Dry Meat (adapted from Rice & Pickle)

500g lamb shoulder, fat trimmed, and cut into 2.5cm cubes

For the meat marinade

6tbsp -plain yoghurt

1tbsp -gram (chickpea flour)

1tbsp -mustard oil

1 thumb sized piece -ginger, peeled and blended to a paste

7 garlic cloves -peeled and crushed or blended to a paste

3 green finger chillies-finely chopped (**I substituted 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes because I refused to go back to the farmers market to find finger chillies!)

1tsp -white sugar (**I substituted organic cane sugar)

2tbsp -lime juice

2tbsp -coriander leaves, finely chopped

3/4tsp -salt

Directions: For the marinade: combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, mix with the lamb until well covered.  Then, cover and leave in the fridge overnight. I combined all ingredients and blended them in my Ninja.

 

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For the curry paste

2 ½ cm -cinnamon sticks

½ tsp -mace, ground to a powder (**I used ground mace)

4 -black cardamom pods, ground to a powder

4 -green cardamom pods, seeds removed from pods

8 –cloves (**I used ground cloves)

1 tsp -black peppercorns

1 tbsp -coriander seed

1 tbsp -cumin seeds

½ tsp -fenugreek seeds

1 tbsp -dried fenugreek (methi) leaves

1/2 tsp -chili powder

For the masala paste: you need to get toasting your different spices, which will take different times.  Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat.  When hot, toast your different spices. Once all tasted, remove from heat and leave to cool.  Then, grind all the spices together until a fine powder.  Combine with the chilli powder and mace.  Add 2tbsp water and combine to make a thick paste.

 

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Time to to cook the curry!

3 tbsp -ghee, butter or groundnut or vegetable oil (**I used homemade ghee)

2 large -onions, peeled and finely chopped

500ml -lamb stock  (**I used homemade lamb stock as well)

1 tbsp -white sugar (*cane sugar)

1 tsp -garam masala

Small handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped

– When you’re ready to cook, heat a large heavy frying pan over a medium-high heat.  When hot, brown the pieces of lamb in batches (shaking off as much marinade as possible as you go, but reserving the marinade).  This will result in smoke – you want to ensure you don’t leave too many burnt bits in the pan.  Once all browned, set the lamb aside.

 

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-Put the frying pan back on a low heat, add the stock and scrape up the all the browned bits in the pan (taking care to try and avoid too many very burnt/blackened bits).  Keep the stock to one side.

-Heat the ghee/butter/cooking oil in a medium, heavy saucepan or pressure cooker.  When hot, add the onions and sugar.  Cook over a low heat until the onions are completely softened and lightly browned – around 25 minutes.

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Add the masala paste to the pan, turn up the heat slightly and cook for a further four minutes until incorporated, and the oil is separating from the paste in the pan.

Add the lamb and marinade to the saucepan and stir and cook for a further five minutes.  Then, add the stock and bring up to the boil and then turn down to a low simmer, covered, and cook for around 2 hours.  If you are using a pressure cooker, at this point, clamp on the lid and take up to pressure, maintaining this for around 40 minutes.

-Once cooked, uncover, turn up the heat and cook down the sauce until it is just clinging to the meat (it’s not called dry for nothing).  Add the garam masala, stir and cook for a further five minutes.  Add salt to taste, the coriander leaves and serve. 

 

Dry Meat Curry-Finished Dish

 

Et voila! I served my Dry Meat Curry with a side of homemade channa and some tandoori roti I got from the halal market.

I’m so happy that I was able to successfully recreate this dish! I will definitely be making it again, since it takes a bit of work I think I will keep this in my arsenal for special occasions. Hopefully soon I’ll make some Pista Kufti.

Just for fun, my friend (Hey Andy!) suggested since I still have all my receipts I should create an itemized price list to compare with what I’d spend at Tayyab’s. Total ingredients cost roughly around $75, the cost for this meal at Tayyab’s  (kufti not included) would run £15-16 (around $25), in addition to my round trip airfare, hotel and Oyster. So I think I came out ahead! 🙂

Have you ever had a meal from a restaurant that you just couldn’t get enough of? Let me know!

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Getting around the A is not for the faint of heart. Traffic is endless, there’s a lot of street names that start with Peachtree and public transport while great for commuting to the city for work and big events, like Braves games, concerts, expos, etc.. It’s not so great to get around town if you live, work and play OTP (outside the perimeter).

It’s inconvenient at best. What would usually be a 25-30 minute ride from my neighbourhood to a local mall, takes about an hour or hour and a half  via public transport. So for the past year I’ve been relying on alternative modes of transport, namely Zipcar, and more recently Uber and Lyft.

I love Zipcar’s ride sharing concept of wheels when you want them. They are easy to find all around the metro area and come in handy when I’ve got errands to run across town and don’t want/feel to commute for hours just to get things done. You can reserve cars for hourly rentals if you just have a few quick errands to run or for the entire day. If I’m not mistaken the max you can rent for is 3-4 days. Which makes it great for  short weekend trips. In comparison to a regular car rental company the price may seem more expensive, but you should know that gas and insurance is included with your ride. Add to that the convenience of finding them all over the city,  on or near many college campuses and at the airport. It’s currently my preferred mode of transport. They keep a cool set of car choices available and tend to rotate them every couple of weeks. (*Update 11/2016- I still love zipping but I’ve noticed that their featuring their logos more prominently on their local fleet. I don’t mind too much when I’m running errands, but for a night on the town I don’t want to ride thru the city with their logo splashed across the hood, doors and rear end of the car.)

Zipcar has major points in my book and I’ve even had the opportunity cruise around Philly, Baltimore and Denver in them. So much so that I don’t think I’ll be purchasing another car anytime soon. The only con for me in regards to zipping all the time is that the nearest car is about 20 minutes away from me. I wish one was available closer to my neighborhood but who knows time will tell.

(*Update 11/2016- Vehicles have been added at a closer metro station to me but their never available when I want to book.)

I use Zipcar when I have tons of errands to run all over town. If I’m staying local to my area I use Uber, and more recently Lyft. I’ve used Uber in the past while traveling and after many a late night out partying. The drivers are cool for the most part, I had one try to hit on me but I think resting bitch face told him that I’m not the one for that nonsense. So far the female drivers I’ve had were my favourite, very nice, warm and talkative, but not overly intrusive or disruptive. They’ve got some good stories.

Today I took my first ride with Lyft and was very impressed as well and will probably be using them more in the future.

How do you get around your city? Have you ever used or considered using ridesharing? If you haven’t you’re in luck! Below you’ll find my referral codes so that you get your first ride free with Uber here, or if you rather just get a Lyft (pun intended), that’s cool too, click here. If you prefer to  drive instead you can find my Zipcar referral link here. You get $25 worth of credit when you sign up.

Take a ride, cruise around town and let me know what you think.

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*The following post contains referral links for rideshare and car share services that I use, and have not been sponsored by the companies listed.