PEELING LAYERS IN BERMUDA
Bermuda is a British island territory in the North Atlantic, off the eastern U.S., known for its distinctive blend of British and American culture and pink-sand beaches such as Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay. Its massive Royal Naval Dockyard complex combines modern attractions like the interactive Dolphin Quest with a look at maritime history at the National Museum of Bermuda.
What seems simple, 65,000 people on just 21 square miles of land that’s Bermuda, is anything but. The land is strung out over 181 islands and islets with a society that has many layers like those of its famous sweet and mild Bermudian onion. Peel it back and each layer has special joys and surprizes.
The Bermuda onion is renown in culinary circles around the globe. Bermuda grass, fast growing and tough, is a preferred choice of hot weather golf courses the world over including Augusta National. Bermuda shorts, originally worn by British military officers serving in tropical British colonies, became a trend not only in Bermuda but all over America. Now bright coloured and worn with long socks, shirts and ties, they are business attire on the archipelago. Bermuda’s national cocktail, the Dark ’n Stormy, a mix of Gosling’s Black Seal rum with ginger beer, is the first modern classic cocktail inducted into the Institute for Cocktail Excellence (a US based organization) “Mixology Hall of Fame” which honours the best-of-the-best drinks. Gosling’s which celebrated its 200 anniversary in 2006, is the oldest business in Bermuda and still family owned. Seventh generation Malcolm Gosling is President and CEO of Gosling’s Export, producers of the rum, and now eight generation Malcolm 3rd Junior is working in the business.
Gosling’s is the official rum and the official ginger beer of the 35th America’s Cup, a competition for the oldest trophy in international sport (dates back to 1851) that features the fastest boats and the best sailors in the world. The first racing in Bermuda took place with the American’s Cup World Series in October of this year. For the challenge of the 2017 America’s Cup, there will be six teams, including defending champion ORACLE TEAM USA. Gosling’s rum is so much part of Bermuda that the famous Bermudian fish chowder is served with a cruet of Gosling’s Black Seal rum (and one of Outerbridges Sherry Peppers sauce). Roofs of homes in Bermuda are designed by boat builders with wood beams and ribs, covered with limestone slate and painted with a lime wash or non-toxic paint – all to collect rain water for household use. Once completed a “roof wetting ceremony” is held using Gosling’s rum, primarily an excuse for a party. “We all acquired a taste for rum at a very young age,” said Andrew Holmes, Brand manager at Gosling’s Export. “Black Seal rum was traditionally rubbed on teething babies gums to calm them down.”
Having a fine time with a drink or three is also part of local tradition. The capital of Hamilton has an official Front Street Mile running race that launches Bermuda Marathon Weekend (January 15 – 17 in 2016). The unofficial Front Street Mile Crawl takes place every Friday. It’s a “nine bar” night. Locals start after work at the Hamilton Princess bar and then go to Harry’s at 5pm. Next stop Little Venice Wine Bar, then the Muse Rooftop Skybar, followed by the Tiki Bar at Lemon Tree. Fifth stop is Red Steakhouse and Bar, then the elegant Port O’ Call and the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach. The final stop is Docksider Pub – though regulars tell me that people who make it there are likely in a sorry state. Cocktails are great in this city. Just about every bar has their version of the national cocktail. At Marcus, the hot new eatery in the Hamilton Princess, they call it the Darker & Stormier, as they make it with a powerfully spicy house-made ginger beer. The Reefs does a Dark and Stormy float.
Devil’s Isle, a trendy and terrific new restaurant that opened in October 2014 does “Farm to Bar” cocktails, using fresh squeezed juices, home infused syrups, homemade bitters and great creativity. Bar Manager Matt Francis is the 2015 Stoli Bermuda Cocktail Master Competition winner and his cocktails are fab. Rumballiach is a Gaelic twist on the Dark ’n Stormy mixing Gosling’s Black Seal rum with Drambuie, fresh lime juice, Bermuda honey and ginger beer. With more than 150 restaurants, food also has its traditions and winning formulas here. At the Fairmont Hamilton Princess which first opened in 1885, a $90 million renovation is underway. The new flagship restaurant Marcus’, by famous New York based Chef Marcus Samuelsson, highlights Bermuda’s fresh local ingredients in fun ways in dishes such as fish chowder “bites” and jerk pork belly cooked over the kitchen’s birch wood and lump coal fire pit. Devil’s Isle, along with great cocktails and on-island roasted coffee, serves up healthy flavour packed food such as kale Caesar salad, cumin pork sirloin on mixed greens and octopus watercress salad. At Barracuda grill, grilled fresh artichoke hearts, Bermuda rockfish and local hogfish are winning dishes.
Harbourfront has a beautiful waterside setting, refined ambiance and an incredible selection of sashimi, nigari and maki along with a full menu of seafood, steaks and Italian inspired dishes plus an extensive wine list. They serve the local rock lobster Bermudian fashion with a tasty lobster “stuffing” in the head cavity. Delicious! The Reefs Resort has a knockout location on a cliff overlooking a pink sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The casual Coconuts, right by the beach serves up a stellar fish chowder and yummy toasted coconut pina colada. At Aqua Terra, their fine dining restaurant, Chef Douglas Sisk offers a special seven to eight course food and wine pairing Chef’s Table on Wednesday nights. Friday night is a seafood buffet extravaganza. This British Colony may be tiny remote speck in a vast ocean (over 1000km from the nearest land mass) but it’s far from dull or limited.