Last night was a gorgeous night in town…
…and one of San Pedro’s most popular restaurants, Elvi’s Kitchen, was closed for a special event.
But let me back up a second.
I feel lucky quite a bit these days. Lucky to live in beautiful San Pedro, Belize. Lucky that I made this decision to move here almost 10 years ago at the age of 33. Trust me when I say that I wasn’t wise for my age – I didn’t understand life-balance – I just knew that Ambergris Caye felt right so why not give my life here a chance.
But last night was REALLY an honor. I was invited to an amazing party – large but very very intimate. The 40th Anniversary of Elvi’s Kitchen, one of the most popular restaurants in San Pedro and one I ALWAYS recommend to visitors.
Gift bags for all.
And gorgeous decorations and table settings.
There was a childrens’ and special invited guest table where Miss Elvi presided.
A cousins’ table and a huge, super fun grandkids table. And then the media – where I sat next to the only great grand child at the event – Madi from Ambergris Today. Elvi’s Kitchen was packed.
40 years is no joke. Remember that the first hotel for visitors was opened 50 years ago – the beachfront Holiday Hotel. Tourism was a tiny but budding industry.
Beautiful Miss Elvi.
Miss Elvi and her husband opened Burger Isle take-out – a small burger stand under a beautiful flamboyant tree. Burgers, fries, tostadas. San Pedranos would stop by on their way home from work. (You can read the full history here.)
(Also super interesting is this list of firsts – Mr. Enrique Staines owned the first telephone on the island.)
The flamboyant tree died in Hurricane Keith in 2000 but remains in the center of the much larger restaurant wrapped for the holidays in lights.
The show stopper of the night should have been the food – it was the very best meal that I have ever eaten in San Pedro. Jennie Staines, Miss Elvi’s youngest daughter outdid herself. She is a world renowned chef who travels the world sharing classic and updated Belizean cuisine. She also works HARD in the kitchen AND is opening another restaurant in San Pedro.
She has even served His Royal Highness Prince Harry…
The photo hangs proudly in Elvi’s Restaurant – but the only copy I could find in my photos files was this one. Carefully cropped.
The prince is shaking Jennie’s hand.
Her meal last night was based on all of her mother’s favorites.
Delicious DELICIOUS octopus and conch ceviche in a creamy, spicy sauce. I mistakenly had three not knowing what was to come! But it was so ridiculously good.
A lamb tostada with arugula and tiny greens.
Fried shrimp with a spicy watermelon reduction.
Gorgeous tender ribs with pomegranate.
Perfectly cooked lobster tail and filet mignon on vegetables that tasted as good as the meats. I need to learn how to make these sweet potatoes. I think I detected a hint of sage. SO GOOD.
So so so so tasty…but even more beautiful is this huge, warm, gorgeous family so rightly proud of what their grandmother has done.
Here is Miss Elvi standing for a champagne toast.
Some of her children and grandchildren spoke – you would recognize many of them from San Pedro – the family has stayed very close knit and many are pillars of our community.
Einer Gomez, Chairman of the Board at the BTB and General Manager of Ramon’s Village, spoke about when he was a young boy and he used to go pick up the burger bread with his wheelbarrow at the air strip and deliver them to Miss Elvi. (The $1 received went right to his dad 🙂 ) Minister Heredia talked about how he would enjoy one of Miss Elvi’s burgers after a day of fishing. And Mayor Danny about his uncle, Tio Enrique, Elvi’s husband and father of her 6 children.
All in all there were lots of tears.
I left just after 11pm, sadly the first to go, but I had a drive up north. There were many speeches and her family was getting ready for live music and dancing.
What an amazing honor to be present for this event. I fell a bit in love with the Staines family and a lot in love with Miss Elvi. Her husband passed away over 20 years ago and she has been a day to day fixture in the kitchen at the restaurant. She even bakes each and every coconut pie that is served.
***YOU MUST TRY THE COCONUT PIE. (Named SanPedroScoop’s best dessert in Belize.) Though the Key Lime pie is also the best I’ve had in Belize. You might want to save a tiny bit of room for both.
Elvi’s Kitchen keeps getting better and better – and I could not have been more honored to be at this event.