Best of the Maldives: Coconut Danish – Rihiveli Beach

Rihiveli Beach - coconut danish

I’m a big fan of everything coconut and always surprised that resorts do even more with this ironically indigenous ingredient. Rihiveli Beach had an impressive array of pastries (particularly impressed with their lemon meringue which had a soft crust as so many resort use hard crusts, which I tend not to eat), but my favourite was their coconut Danish on the breakfast buffet. Yum, definitely went back for more.

Bunch of Coconut Lovelies

Eryka Yar (USA) and Aleona Lynx (Russia) – AaaVeee

Coconuts are the most common fashionista prop (that they don’t sit on like a tree, boat, swing, surfboard, float, lounger). So in the interests of equal-time, here another serving of Cocos nucifera fashion cocktails with a more favourable look at the humble coconut…

  1. Eryka Yar (USA) and Aleona Lynx (Russia) – AaaVeee [ABOVE]
  2. Farah Yasmine (Tunisia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Farah Yasmine (Tunisia) - Sun Siyam Irufushi
      
  3. Anastasia Karpukhina (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Anastasia Karpukhina (Russia) - Sun Siyam Irufushi
      
  4. Kozue Yokoyama (Japan) – Gili Lankanfushi
    Kozue Yokoyama (Japan) - Gili Lankanfushi
      
  5. Lisa Hamilton (Australia) – Soneva Jani
    Lisa Hamilton (Australia) - Soneva Jani
      
  6. Inna Star (Russia) – Meedhoo
    Inna Star (Russia) - Meedhoo
      
  7. Yulja Gritsyuk (Russia) –NIYAMA
    Yulja Gritsyuk (Russia) -NIYAMA
      
  8. Malinka (Russia) – Gili Lankanfushi
    Malinka (Russia) - Gili Lankanfushi
      
  9. Tamara Omel (Russia) – Milaidhoo
    Tamara Omel (Russia) - Milaidhoo
      
  10. Farina Opoku (Germany) – Kandima
    Farina Opoku (Germany) - Kandima
      
  11. Scarlett De La Torre (Hong Kong) – LUX South Ari Atoll
    Scarlett De La Torre (Hong Kong) - LUX South Ari Atoll
      
  12. Alessandra Ambrosio (Brazil) – Shangri-La Vilingili
    Alessandra Ambrosio (Brazil) - Shangri-La Vilingili
      
  13. Caroline Deisler (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Caroline Deisler (United Kingdom) - Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
      
  14. Jessica Lee Buchanan (South Africa) – NIYAMA
    Jessica Lee Buchanan (South Africa) – NIYAMA
      
  15. Manuela Mosca (United Kingdom) – LUX South Ari Atoll
    Manuela Mosca (United Kingdom) - LUX South Ari Atoll
      
  16. Yulia Schastlivaya (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah 2
    Yulia Schastlivaya (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah 2

      
  17. Cvety Vassileva (Russia) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
    Cvety Vassileva (Russia) - Cheval Blanc Randheli
      
  18. Madeleine Schneider-Weiffenbach (Germany) – Six Senses Laamu
    Madeleine Schneider-Weiffenbach (Germany) - Six Senses Laamu

       
  19. Tammy Chan (Japan) – Vadoo
    Tammy Chan (Japan) - Vadoo
      
  20. Pia Muehlenbeck (Australia) – Maalifushi
    Pia Muehlenbeck (Australia) - Maalifushi
      
  21. Papic Sanja (Panama) – Velassaru
    Papic Sanja (Panama) - Velassaru
      
  22. Emma Lapin (Serbia) – Sun Island
    Emma Lapin (Serbia) - Sun Island

      
  23. Ksenia Plyusch (Ukraine) – Thodoo
    Ksenia Plyusch (Ukraine) - Thodoo
      
  24. Churee Porn (Thailand) – Veligandu
    Churee Porn (Thailand) - Veligandu
      
  25. Natasa Mijatovic (Croatia) – Summer Island
    Natasa Mijatovic (Croatia)
       
  26. Ella Anziferov (Israel) – Medhufushi
    Ella Anziferov (Israel) - Medhufushi

  
  

Best of the Maldives: Themed Movie Refreshments – Mirihi

Oscar weekend so pull out the popcorn and get ready for a cavalcade of 2016’s best cinema. A bucket of popcorn (with extra bucket) is standard fare, but Mirihi doubles the fun of the double features with their cinema themes treats when you pull up a seat at their film nights…

  • “To enhance the experience, the charming hotel will be twinning the screening with drinks and nibbles to match the movie. For every film shown the team will strive to accompany it with inspired drinks and canapés: pastries for The Grand Budapest Hotel; martinis for James Bond; chocolates for Chocolat; milkshakes for Pulp Fiction. The memorable evening is an affair designed to suit varied tastes, with films ranging from The Godfather to Notting Hill. The setting is mesmerizingly charming, with comfy bean bags and cushions scattered in the sand. As the water laps against the shore and the Milky Way shines overhead guests can curl up in front of a classic with their toes in the sand. Munching on popcorn, guests will relax into serene island life whilst watching one of their favourite films on the big screen.”

VIEWER ADVISORY: Films to be wary of…

  • Monte Python’s The Meaning of Life – wafer thin mint
  • Silence of the Lambs – liver with a nice Chianti
  • Sweeney Todd – meat pies
  • American Pie – apple pie
  • The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – table d’hôte
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – any “local specialty”

For further inspiration, check out Time Out’s “50 best food-on-film moments of all time”.

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Oil Making Class – Soneva Fushi

Extracting the very essence of the magic coconut fruit is so easy a child could do it. In fact. at Soneva Fushi, children do do it at the resort’s exquisite summer camp programme

“We head to the spa, where the spa therapist will help the children make fresh coconut oil using coconuts of the island, the children are given the opportunity to take part in all aspects of making the oil.”

Sounds a bit better than the “bug juice” and frigid lake swims when I went to Camp Belknap as a child. If you want to give it a go at home, I’ve found a pretty handy video guide above.

Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

Sexy coconut

Happy World Coconut Day! Well, one could say every day is ‘Coconut Day’ in the Maldives. It is the national tree and definitely considered the most valuable vegetation grown there…

A coconut tree is also included in the country’s national emblem or coat of arms. Coconut trees are grown on all the islands. Before modern construction methods were introduced to the Maldives, coconut leaves were used as a roofing material for many houses in the islands while coconut timber was used to build houses and boats… Green coconut fruit strands on the tree are featured on each Maldivian rufiyaa banknote.” – Wikipedia

The day celebrates all the magical qualities of this tropical nut. I came across the texting humour above in Buzzfeed last week which made me smile. But if you really want to feel ‘dumb’ underestimating the sex appeal of the Cocos nucifera, count on the Maldives to make even the humble coconut more alluring…

Amanda Vich (UAE) – JA Manafaru
Amanda Vich (UAE) JA Manafaru
Claire Chanelle (United Kingon) – Kurumba
Claire Chanelle (United Kingon) – Kurumba
Ednyr Marie (Canada) AaaVeee
Ednyr Marie (Canada) AaaVeee
Tanya Burr (United Kingdom) – LUX South Ari Atoll
Tanya Burr (United Kingdom) – LUX South Ari Atoll
Else Virtanen (Finland) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
Else Virtanen (Finland) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
Eva Padberg (Germany) – Soneva Fushi
Eva Padberg (Germany) – Soneva Fushi
Sarah Ashcroft (United Kingdom) – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Sarah Ashcroft (United Kingdom) – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Pina Perfection

Perfect Pina Colada

Coconut Full Moon tonight. The perfect time to toast that essence of equatorial elixir – pina colada.

Maldives is not my only tropical love. I am also an epicurean devotee of the pina colada. It is my tropical cocktail. I only really drink it in the Maldives because I do believe that ambience and context is as much a part of an exceptional drink experience as the drink itself. Like port with cigars and cards. Or Pimms at one of The Season events. I have occasional sampled pina coladas when I am at establishments renowned for their mixology just to explore their spin on this classic. But the experience is more clinical and investigative than my sensual savouring in the Maldives.

My pina passion has reached a higher profile as a part of my annual Maldives Tour posts to the Trip Advisor Maldives Forum. I post a daily thumbnail sketch of each resort highlighting things like the weather, my favourite dish, snorkel spottings. And I include a headline assessment of the resort’s pina colada.

For me the pina colada is as iconic a tropical drink as the Maldives is a tropical destination. And it can be an emblematic indicator for the resort overall. It’s complicated and varied enough that the resort’s own quality of ingredients, attention to detail, creativity, flair and even personality can shine though in this little alcoholic microcosm. You can have foamy vs. flat, shaken vs. blended, iced vs. chilled, not to mention a range of ingredient variations (eg. coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut flavouring). And it can be presented in simple tall glasses with a sprig or garnish to coconut shells with a cornucopia of fruit and frills.

Last year, the epicenter of all things coconut, Kurumba resort, rose to the “Pina Colada Challenge” with an unprecedented flurry of pina colada artistry on the occasion of my visit. The exceptional evening got me questioning my first principles. With all of the options and variations, what was I looking for in the “perfect pina colada”. That led to a bit more “research” and now my own recipe and guidance for the quintessential pinoconut concoction.

FUNDAMENTALS – What are my basic principles for the ultimate pina colada?

  • TemperatureFrozen. This is the counterfoil to the sun drenched tropics. You are melting away in the warmth and so part of the experience is the frigid coldness of the drink. The best pina colada is the coldest pina colada. Some tips to achieving this frigorific chill…
    • Store all of the ingredients in the freezer. Including the rum and the glass along with frozen coconut cream and pineapple juice. Note that you will need to freeze the coconut cream and pinapple juice in small chunks or cubes in order for them to blend effectively on mixing.
    • Serve in a “stem” glass so the hand does not warm the drink while holding it.
  • ThingsFresh. Fresh, top shelf ingredients should be a given, but I am always surprised at how many top resorts try to get by with inferior ingredients.
    • Fresh pineapple juice. Not from a can or concentrate (which almost always has added sugar).
    • Coconut cream (not coconut milk, coconut flavouring, or pina colada mix)
    • Top quality white rum. Not the cheap stuff. Not dark rum.
  • TextureFine. Another bad bit are…the bits. Yes, it is a “style” thing. Much like the difference between the more finely textured Parisian bisque as opposed to the more rustic and thicker Normady bisque. The pulp might seem to add to the appearance of freshness, but the mouth feel distracts from the focus on the flavours and the frozenness.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 parts Coconut Cream – (not Coconut Milk, it’s too thin and not coconutty enough)
  • 4 parts fresh Pineapple Juice – (not pulpy, see above on Texture)
  • 2 parts White Rum – (not flavoured)
  • 1 part medium sugar syrup (3:4 ratio of sugar to water)

Despite many classic recipes call for it, I first tried to avoid the Sugar Syrup ingredient. I thought one could get the desired sweetness with the pineapple juice and even the coconut cream would contribute a bit. However, in depth experimentation showed that the syrup really helped to smooth out and mellow the final product in a way no other balancing could (without sacrificing the rum kick). If getting or making the sugar syrup is just a step too far, then actually using Malibu Rum (the exception to the “not flavoured Rum” rule) provides the same sweetness and some of the mellowing effect (but unfortunately does introduce a distinctly “artificial” or even “chemically” tinge).

Also notice NO ICE. Ice just waters down the drink and interferes with the smooth sipping. The frozen ingredients provide all the frigidity that you need (and more than shaking over ice will ever do).

Perhaps the key objective here is balance.  You don’t want any individual ingredient overpowering the flavour.  You want all of the tastes to blend harmoniously.

RUMS

  • Baccardi Carta Blanca Superior White Rum – The classic and default option.
  • Brugal Especial Extra Dry Rum – The premium option for smoothness and distinction (“clean, dry rum which contains fewer of the heavy alcohols which tend to provide other rums a sweeter flavour profile. The Especial Extra Dry is blended from a mix of rum spirits which have been aged a minimum of 2 years and up to as many as 5 years in White American Oak casks. The rum is triple charcoal filtered, and was developed as a high-end cocktail spirit”).
  • Malibu Caribbean Rum with Coconut Flavour – The oft-resorted to shortcut for coconut and sweetness boost.

DIRECTIONS

Blend ingredients until smooth. Not too little so that it is lumpy. Not too much that it overly thaws the drink. Depending on the type of blender you have, you might want to pre-crush the frozen coconut cream as this can freeze quite solidly.

GARNISH

You can let your inner Carmen Miranda go crazy if you like, but there is only one classic garnish – a skewered Maraschino cherry and pineapple slice perched on the edge of the glass. Some say the cherry is dated and even twee, but I guess I am just too old school.  And no straw! The drink needs to be sipped from the glass like a fine wine. Straws are mostly for drinks with ice (see note above on “no ice”).

The Guardian has also published their pina perfection path “How to make the perfect piña colada”. It’s an okay recipe. I’m against the use of ice for a truly “perfect” pina, but I understand how it is an expedient way to achieve coldness. And the piece provides some in depth perspectives on some of the dynamics of the drink.

Happy Hour Coconut Moon everyone!

(special thanks to our friends Wayne and Lucille who contributed as research assistants in the methodical lab testing)

 

Best of the Maldives: Pina Colada Variety – Kurumba

Kurumba - Pina Colada samples

One of the highlights of our summer tour this year was a pageant of a different sort. Less appealing to the sense of vision and more enticing the other senses of smell, taste and texture feel. The first ever “Pina Colada Off”.

When I tour the Maldives, there are a few non-negotiables in the itinerary. I must get a shot of us in front of the resort sign. I must snorkel every house reef (I’ve even jumped in during a few quite rough seas at times just to get a look at the seascape below). And I must sample the resort’s pina colada.

The pina colada is the iconic tropical drink. And like port with cigars and cards, or schnaps on the ski slopes, there is something that makes it irresistible in this setting. I rarely have pina coladas outside the Maldives (and when I do, it never tastes as good).

For me, the pina colada is a very useful acid test for a resort. It is complex enough that there are quite a range of possibilities in both style and quantity (more on the pina colada drink itself in a future post). I started including my “Pina Colada Test” assessments as a part of the Tour highlights reports posted on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. And frequent Forum Contributor, GM Jason Kruse, felt that the gauntlet had been laid down and he was not going to take this colada challenging lying down (even if it was on a lying down on a deck chair under the tropical sun with the water lapping inches away).

This virtual drinks derby was a point of pride for Kurumba. The resort whose very name embodies the coconut essence of the colada. So Jason’s Beverage Manager Courtney Hendrick (far right picture above) organised the first ever “Pina Colada Off” for out visit and served as our effervescent mistress of ceremonies.

And a lavish affair it was. In all my years as a pina colada aficionado, I have never experienced such imaginative and well-crafted coconut cocktails. The judging was intense with Craig Revel Horwood levels of scrutiny and discernment.

Bandara won “Best All Arounder” (he prides himself on his pina colada). Rohan’s was the “Coldest” (a criteria as important to me as heel leads are to Len Goodman), and Oliver was the “Most Inventive” (always an exceptional kudo here on Maldives Complete).

I think they are all definitely contenders for some of the top pina coladas in the Maldives. Not sure I have enough data points to crown any of theirs the absolutely #1 (also, an amazing one I had at Constance Halaveli haunts me). But their inventiveness and variations on the theme is unmatched completely.

It turns out that Courtney and Jason held their own not-so-dry run the day before and this is what Courteney reported…

“I was brand new to Kurumba and upon receiving an email of [Maldives Complete’s] expected arrival I decided to challenge all those willing to participate (those I had met and some I had not yet met) to come up with their very best version of the all-time island classic the Pina Colada. I cannot begin to describe how blown away I was by all team members who participated, their creativity and determination to not only produce their best Pina Colada but also to win the challenge was simply astonishing. However, Jason, Morgan, Ross and I had to make the very tough decision (I know hard life right!) which Pina Colada’s do we present? We decided on 3: Bandara’s, Oliver’s and Rohan’s. I chose Oliver’s Pina Colada as the tops because I was so impressed with his thinking behind the making of his Pina Colada. When Oliver got behind the bar the first thing he said was ‘A Pina Colada should be consistent from beginning to end it should not separate…’ and thus the most creative and inspiring Pina Colada was born!”

Kurumba has been gracious enough to share their recipes for anyone dying to sample these delightful variations (add your own palm trees, sunsets and turquoise seascape):

  • Bandara’s: Athiri Bar Supervisor and Pina Colada Extraordinaire!!!
    • Ingredients: 30mls Coconut cream, 30mls Monin Coconut Puree, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 90mls Pineapple juice (half fresh half concentrate).
    • Method: Blend all ingredients without ice in a blender, FILL Pocco Grande glass with large cubes of ice and pour over.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.
  • Oliver’s: Brand New Bartender to Kurumba
    • Ingredients: 5x Cubes fresh pineapple, 30mls Coconut cream, 3x Ice cream scoops of house-made Coconut Sorbet, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 30mls Monin Coconut Puree.
    • Method: Blend pineapple chunks in a blender to create a finer texture. Add all other ingredients without ice to the blender and blend for 1 minute. FILL Pilsner glass and garnish.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.
  • Rohan’s: Long standing Bartender and Shaker Extraordinaire.
    • Ingredients: 10 grams Fresh pineapple, 30mls Coconut cream, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 60mls Pineapple juice
    • Method: Muddle 10grms of pineapple in a Boston glass. Add all remaining ingredients to the shaker, shake and strain over ice in a Highball glass.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.

Have a Kurumba Krimbo!

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Bar – LUX* Maldives

LUX Maldives coconut bar

  

  

If you would like to be treated like a god(dess) on Coconut Full Moon weekend (or any other day of the year), then one of LUX Maldives’ omnipresent surprises is a ‘Coconut Bar’ where fresh coconut is provided for passing guests. Just about all resorts have some worker who will retrieve a fresh coconut for you and prepare it, but at LUX’s Coconut Bar, it is already prepared for you to sample this tropical treat offering.

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Beer – Kurumba

Kurumba - coconut beer

Coconut Full Moon today. Of all of the special “moons”, the Coconut Full Moon must be the most apropos to the Maldives. And of all the Maldives resorts, the eponymous Kurumba – which means “Coconut” in Dhivehi – is the most apropos to toast it. Kurumba offers a number of coconut specialties including its recently introduced, “Mongozo”, coconut beer. It is brewed in nearby Sri Lanka using normal processes but with a touch of coconut essence. Truly exotic brew.

Full moons have a number of colloquial names around the world. In the subcontinental region, the Coconut Full Moon is actually a cause for celebration, in particular the Coconut Day festival or “Narali Purnima” takes place in coast communities on the Indian Ocean to thank the sea God for calm waters…

“Nariyal Purnima, also known as the Coconut Full Moon, is celebrated with great merriment in many states of western India. Nariyal Purnima falls in the month of Shravana Purnima, which symbolises the end of monsoon season, and marks the beginning of the new fishing season for the fishermen as they avoid going into waters before this. Post festival, monsoon starts to recede; the sky becomes clear and the sea calm, as the tides too recede. All this makes fishing in the seas easy and safe. Therefore, the festival is very significant for the fishing community which is completely dependent on the sea for its livelihood. On this occasion, the sea god Varuna is worshipped and his blessings are sought; people offer coconuts to the sea as a symbol of thanksgiving.”

“The fishermen celebrate this festival by adorning their boats and putting flags on them, painting the coconuts and taking them to the sea to offer them to the God Varuna with prayers for bountiful fish catch and to protect them from all the risks and allowing them to sail safely…Thus, this time of happiness is rejoiced in the community gathering by singing and dancing in groups. As a coconut has three eyes, it is believed that it represents Lord Shiva and this is why it is considered an auspicious offering to the holy deity. In addition to this, it is believed that, it is the purest offering which is available on the earth and also, the water and the kernel inside it are considered to be pure. Coconut is broken in front of the divine beings as a mark of respect and also to take their blessings before setting off on to a new fishing season. The pieces of the broken coconut are given as prasad and the delicacy prepared during this festive time is coconut rice.”

The increasing ‘clear sky’ and ‘calm sea’, is something that all visitors can appreciate. So raise a glass of purest Mongozo!

 

Kurumba - Mongozo cocnut beer

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Arrack – Bathala

Bathala Arrack

 

This week’s posts have all been in the spirit of coconut, so why not end the week with its very essence. Most resorts will carry some sort of obligatory coconut spirit. Typically, Malibu Rum for inclusion in the ubiquitous pina coladas (my favourite tropical cocktail). But if you want the authentic taste of the Indian Ocean, the “Old Arrack” is a something a bit more distinctive produced locally in Sri Lanka. The only time I have come across it is at Bathala who include it in their AI selection.