What’s a golf trip without great food and drink? From fried bammy in Jamaica to a tall, cool mug of Bootlegger Brown Ale in Quebec, a few of my favourite after-golf nibbles and tipples.
It’s official. According to a Canadian Tourism Commission survey, compared to the average vacationer, golfers are far more likely to dine out and to enjoy wine, beer and food tastings as part of their golf travels. But you don’t need market research to confirm what you know from experience. Whether it’s a buddy trip or a family outing, what’s a golf vacation without great food and drink?
In the second of a two-part series, here are a few of my favourite — and highly recommended for 2013 — Après Golf taste experiences.
Craft Beer and Artisanal Cheese in Charlevoix, Quebec
While the golf is spectacular — the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Golf Club offers stunning clifftop views of the St. Lawrence River — the Charlevoix region is also renowned for its local cuisine. Farmers, artisans and chefs combine their talents to offer visitors a true taste of Quebec. At Le Saint-Pub Restaurant and Microbrasserie Charlevoix in charming Baie-Saint-Paul, the popular beer-tasting menu offers the opportunity to sample a variety of inspired, award-winning brews. Highlights include Dominus Vobiscum, a Belgian-style Witbier with flavours of orange peel and coriander; and Bootlegger Brown Ale, a wonderful taste sensation of caramel and hazelnut with hints of coffee and chocolate. And the food menu makes use of the house microbrews in unexpected ways, including their take on a traditional Quebec “tarte au sucre,” a maple sugar pie made with beer.
What better way to end a memorable dining experience than to sample the local cheeses? The Charlevoix region is home to a staggering variety of wonderful products, including Fleurmier (a soft rind cheese) and Le Ciel de Charlevoix (a creamy sharp blue-veined cheese).
Tea and Homemade Welsh Cakes in Wales
After a bone-chilling round of links golf, buffeted by wind from the Irish Sea and drenched by microbursts of rain, we settled in to the homey lounge at Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club to experience the warmth of true hospitality. Our host and tour guide, Dylan Williams of Wales Golf Vacations, had invited us for a quick visit to his home club, where we were soon joined by his charming parents, both former club captains. Earlier in our tour, Dylan had mentioned to his Mom how much I enjoyed trying Welsh cakes for the first time, and now Mrs. Willams had stopped by to deliver a fresh batch of her homemade cakes to her son’s Canadian visitors. Served with a pot of steaming tea, the scone-like dessert (made with currants or sultanas, nutmeg and cinnamon, and lightly dusted with sugar) were not only a delicious treat, but also a touching reminder of the generosity and kindness of the people you meet while travelling.
Fresh Limes and Scotch Bonnet Peppers in Jamaica
Having grown up in a meat-and-two-veg household, where a dash of salt and pepper were the seasonings of choice, I had little previous exposure to the lively spices and flavours of the Caribbean. So I was thrilled to be introduced to the vibrant dishes of Jamaica during a visit to Montego Bay’s famous Half Moon Resort, home of one of the Caribbean’s top golf courses. I started my taste test with the most intimidating staple of Jamaican cuisine: scotch bonnet peppers (delicious, in very small amounts, in a pineapple salsa with fresh lime juice and olive oil), and then ventured on to try traditional Jamaican dishes, including ackee and saltfish, callaloo, fried bammy, curried goat, rice and peas, jerk chicken, and steamed local snapper and grouper. Wash it down with Ting, Red Stripe or a rum punch, and you’ll soon be in a laidback island frame of mind.
Lunch at Casa de Campo’s Beach Club by Le Cirque in the Dominican Republic
Mid-way through our morning round at Casa de Campo’s famous Teeth of the Dog course, we were already looking forward to a refreshing ocean swim, and then lunch and a cool drink at the Beach Club on Minitas Beach. Operated by Le Cirque, the legendary New York restaurant, the Beach Club’s sophisticated take on open-air beachfront dining is the ultimate in casual chic. Fragrant smoke from the wood-burning pizza ovens whet our appetites as we arrived. And it was difficult to choose from among menu offerings that include fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and Le Cirque’s trademark mini-cheeseburgers. Well fed, lulled by the sun glittering on the azure ocean and with a tall glass of the sneaky strong signature rum drink the “Casa de Campo” in hand, we gave in to the lure of the beach chairs and slowly drifted off under the swaying palms.
Raising a Pint on Ireland’s Arthur’s Day
We arrived at the Lodge at Doonbeg in southwest Ireland, jet-lagged and exhausted. As veteran travellers, we knew the cure was to carry on, despite the overwhelming urge to crawl under the eiderdown duvet for an early bedtime. As Irish luck would have it, we had arrived on Arthur’s Day, a country-wide celebration in honour of Arthur Guinness, brewer, canny businessman, and the genius behind his namesake meal-in-a-drink, Guinness stout. A visit to the pub was just the thing to re-set our clocks.
The Lodge at Doonbeg is built in the tradition of a grand Irish country house with courtyard suites and villas. Across the courtyard is Darby’s Bar and Restaurant, our new local. From the large picture window, we watched the final golfers of the day battle against the weather as they struggled up the finishing hole of the Doonbeg Golf Club. At 5:50 p.m., the barkeep began the ritual of his precision pour, lining up pint after pint of the black brew along the wooden bar, allowing each the time to settle and form the perfect creamy head. Drinks were dispersed, and at precisely 5:59 (or 17:59, with a nod to the year the Guinness Brewery was founded) the bar erupted in cheers as we raised a glass in salute to the man himself.