“While you’re waiting for your room, please have some breakfast in the serenity dining room.” That’s what we were told after we had checked into the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, at Savusavu Bay on the big island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. It was music to the ears of the jet lagged.
After hearing, “Welcome home,” several times, we were seated in the dining room, which overlooks the pool, beach and pier, and enjoyed a delicious meal of pesto omelet and pineapple pancakes.
The ripe pineapple, papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe – fresh from the local market or the resort’s organic garden – overwhelmed us with juicy flavor and made us realize: we’re in the tropics, baby. Dig it.
The five-star Jean Michel Cousteau Resort is located on a lush pennisula that was once a coconut plantation. Their Fijian employees all live in a neighboring village, and they walk to work, live off the land and sea, and are so genial you’d think they own the place.
The resort is completely eco-friendly. Not only does it run a marine preserve in Savusavu Bay, it also employs a full-time marine biologist to guide visitors through its underwater world.
What arrested my palate the most was a dish called palusami. This is a mix of onion, tomato and other veggies wrapped in taro leaves and soaked in coconut milk. Coconut milk is a key ingredient in Fji and is made fresh daily at the Cousteau resort.
Cooked in the lovo, palusami is smoky and satisfying enough to turn me into a vegetarian.
Every day we went swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, but culinary adventure immediately became one of our daily activities.
We drank wines by the glass, which included the Redbank Chardonnay from Australia and Gunn Estate Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Both worked perfectly with all of these dishes, including the beef. The resort has an impressive wine list peppered with French, Italian and a few Californians, but the dominating producers proved to be Aussies and Kiwis, naturally.
On our first night, we were treated to a traditional Fijian feast, cooked mostly in the lovo – a fire pit lined with heat-resistant stones. The buffet included lovo-cooked pork, chicken, beef as well as a whole walu – or Spanish mackerel. Chunks of baked taro, sweet potato and plantain tasted like nothing we’ve found in Vancouver.
I always travel with wine and this time I brought four bottles of BC wines to pair with Fijian food. Resort manager Bart Simpson (really his name) is an eager wine aficionado and worked out a Fijian menu with chef Raymond Lee to pair with our wines. After allowing the wines four days in our bure’s compact fridge to settle themselves down, Bart and his lovely wife, Lindey, joined us for a romantic wine dinner by the pool. The wines tasted awesome with the food, and we finished with two mini icewine bottles, with cheese. Later, the kava tasted better.
Read more about that dinner.
Here are a few more dishes we enjoyed. Almost everything gets topped with sprigs of Thai basil, fresh from their garden. Vinaka to Jean Michel Cousteau Resort for feeding us so well!
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