Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Graycliff Wine Cellar

Graycliff Wine Cellar
January 2018


“Don’t leave me in here!” I hollered after Sudhir, Graycliff's Wine Cellar Manager, when he left the chamber to allow me to take a better photo and video of the cellar’s enchanting private dining room. I was inside a renowned wine cellar that was once a pirate’s dungeon 300 years ago.

Graycliff Wine Cellar Private Dining Room - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The Graycliff Wine Cellar's private dining room table.

I had already been in there two weeks earlier, touring Nassau's prominent wine cellar that carries the 3rd largest wine collection in the world.  But my intended hero shot – a unique angle of the opulent table in the private dining room – turned out blurry. I had to go back for a re-shoot.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
With 275,000 bottles, this is wine heaven. Watch video at the end of this story.

So there I was, hobnobbing again with the 275,000 bottles of the finest wines, ports, cognacs, and armagnacs underneath the historic Graycliff, the first 5-star luxury hotel and restaurant in the Caribbean.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
A stack of armagnacs (left) and a collection of ports (behind the green door)

It’s easy to lose your way inside the 5,500 square foot maze-like structure, but the wine bottles here are organized and compartmentalized by type. I followed Sudhir, weaving through the narrow hallways flanked by wine-filled shelves, ducking into low-ceiling areas and finally walking into a separate cavity with all the extravagant champagnes -- the symbol of luxury and celebrations.

One that stood out to me was a sophisticated bottle coated in gold and embossed with a distinctive insignia of the French monarchy, the l'as de pique or ace of spade. The luxury cuvee, Aces of Spade Champagne Armand de Brignac Brut, is produced using an artisanal method. Even the bottling and labeling is done by hand.

Aces of Spade Champagne, Graycliff Wine Cellar in Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This golden bottle of bubbly is the Aces of Spade Champagne Armand de Brignac Brut.

In another corner, I found resting in its special case, the limited deluxe 2000 millennium methuselah (a wine bottle eight times the standard size) of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. Priced in the thousands, the champagne blend was made only once and released in 1999 for Millenium celebrations.


Millenium Cristal Champagne, Graycliff Wine Cellar in Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The deluxe 2000 millennium methuselah of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, a limited edition specifically produced for Millenium celebrations.

I even met the oldest bottle of wine in the world here: the 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller in the Rheingau region, one of Germany's  reputable wine-growing regions. Graycliff owner Enrico Garzaroli (the visionary behind converting this underground into a wine cellar) purchased it at an auction house in 1968 to add to his valuable collection.

oldest bottle of wine, Grayclif Wine Cellar, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The oldest bottle of wine in the world rests here:
1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller 

As we walked past a stockpile of dusty bottles, Sudhir explained that it is ideal to keep wines undisturbed. It is only when the wine has been ordered and ready to pour that the bottle is wiped down ever so gently.

At the far end, I saw cooling fans. Through regular monitoring, they maintain the ideal temperature and they have a back-up generator in case of a power outage.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Precious wines must be undisturbed and handled very gently.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The rugged concrete portal reveal remnants of the original dungeon.

Finally, we made our way to the esteemed private dining chamber. You just can't help but be captivated by its Old World-style setting. Sudhir confirmed that numerous celebrities have gathered around the regal table for extravagant candlelit banquets. Some have even spent up to $80,000 in one evening just from the rarest and finest wines, cognacs, and cigars alone. The exclusive private dining area, which can be rented for a $1,000 fee, has also been sought after for lavish wedding proposals. This is why I wanted to show what it was like to be sitting at that famous table.

Private Dining Room, Graycliff Wine Cellar - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The wine cellar's elaborate dining table can accommodate up to 18 guests.

Navigating through the wine cellar, Sudhir led me to another section where other items of special interest are stored. It's where they keep precious finds for guests who might be interested in purchasing such items for their own collection. A top shelf held figurines depicting Caribbean folk and lifestyles. Sitting among wine cases was a rare box crafted from a piece of wood salvaged from Christopher Columbus’ shipwreck.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
A top shelf filled with figurines of Caribbean folk

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
A unique box crafted from wood that was salvaged from Cristopher Columbus' shipwreck.

I browsed around and noticed what looked like two talking sticks leaning up against a rack. “What are those?” I pointed.

“They’re voodoo sticks,” Sudhir replied, “to keep away the bad spirits.”  It's a Caribbean superstition, Haitian in origin.  And why not? This place has been in existence for 3 centuries, after all.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Voodoo sticks help keep away the bad spirits.

“So have you had any encounters with spirits in here?” I was expecting him to tell me about a regular phantom while we walked back towards the main entrance, passing through the original concrete prison door.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The concrete door that was once part of the pirate's dungeon.

“Sometimes when I’m alone here and everything’s turned quiet, I would hear some murmurings," he replied nonchalantly. "But the spirits here are always good to me." I guess the only dominant spirits around here are of the alcohol kind.

Once I emerged from the cellar and was back in the daylight, I eagerly reviewed the private dining room shots. Again, all the photos and videos, taken from the typical angle you’d easily find online, came out fine. But the one shot – that important shot that I was after all along – once again turned out blurry. (Deep sigh!) Maybe I should have asked permission from the good spirits.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
It's a blurry shot but you can still see the elaborate set-up of the private dining room's grand table.

Sorry folks. You'll just have to go see it for yourselves. While the wine cellar tours are not necessarily open to the public, you will be given an exclusive tour if you dine at Graycliff's restaurant or book a Wine Luncheon or a Wine & Cheese Tasting there.

Graycliff Wine Cellar, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Sudhir Kangath originally hails from India and has been Graycliff's Wine Cellar Manager for 11 years.

Here's a video to give you a better sense of the wine cellar.


Click here to read my previous post about exploring Graycliff.

The Wine Cellar is only one of the many experiences offered by Graycliff and the neighboring Heritage Village. Learn more about Graycliff here.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Graycliff

Graycliff and Heritage Village
December 2017

I was thrilled to learn that my friends were arriving via cruise with a port of call in Nassau. Although they only had a few hours to spend here, I knew exactly where to take them for an enjoyable and memorable time. I made sure I showed them the historic Graycliff -- the first 5-star luxury hotel and restaurant in the Caribbean.

You can't claim you've been to The Bahamas unless you've visited the acclaimed Graycliff and the Heritage Village. This iconic property, rich in history (spanning 300 years), is so much a part of Nassau and The Bahamas.

Graycliff - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Graycliff's rich history spans 300 years beginning from the Pirate's Era.

Graycliff location - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Graycliff is located on the corner of Blue Hill Road and West Hill Street

Nassau cruise visitors like my friends could easily reach Graycliff on foot. It's tucked away at the corner of Blue Hill Road and West Hill Street but a leisurely walk from downtown (only a block away from the British Colonial Hilton).

My guests were instantly enamored as we walked up the steps to enter the old colonial style mansion. They agreed that it was like being transported in time. The parlor, main restaurant, and private dining areas were all brimming with Old World charm.

This style of decor is best described by Houzz: "...the look always calls to mind a sense of antiquity and the stately air of bygone centuries." It's formal but warm and inviting; comfortably worn but elegant; grand yet homey.


Graycliff parlor - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The parlor inside Graycliff

Inside Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
One of the stately private dining areas inside Graycliff 

Private Dining, Graycliff Restaurant, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Another private dining room already set up for a private event.

The property is massive and there's so much to see here. I took them for a walk into the meandering gardens and surprised them with the stunning pool. I was also blown away the first time I saw it. I've never seen such a picturesque pool tile design.


Graycliff Pool, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The stunning pool with its unique tile design.

From there, we wandered inside the humidor and cigar factory where we witnessed a torcedor (cigar-rolling expert) in action. In 2013, Graycliff released a premium cigar blend and named it John Howard Graysmith, in honor of the famous pirate who originally built the Graycliff mansion in 1740.


Graycliff Humidor & Cigar Factory - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This way to the humidor and cigar factory

I led them to the spacious piazza, then up towards the terrace to show them the beer garden, churrascaria, and the pizzeria. I heard that on Fridays, they serve Happy Hour at the beer garden from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m. with pizza and beer for a very good deal. I have yet to check that out.

Graycliff Churrascaria, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Inside the churrascaria, where they serve all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue fare

Graycliff Pizzeria, Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Fresh pizza at the Giotto Pizzeria

Past the pizzeria is a short path that takes you to the chocolate boutique with a wide selection of gourmet chocolates. I told my friends that my favorite Graycliff chocolate flavor is the key lime pie. It tastes just like it. Connected to the boutique is the chocolate factory where they offer chocolate-making classes. It's a fun and educational activity for both adults and children.

Taking just a few steps outside the Chocolatier, we explored the neighboring Heritage Village that houses the Bahama Barrels winery (first and only in The Bahamas), the Drawbridge gelato place, The Artists Studio, The Heritage Museum, and the charming boutique shop. Everything was painted in cheerful Bahamas colors and was such a delight to see.

Graycliff, Chocolate Factory, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Just outside the Chocolatier, you can explore Heritage Village

Bahama Barrels winery, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Bahama Barrels is the first and only winery in The Bahamas. Originally built in 1937, it was once a chapel of the Sisters of Charity Academy.

Artists' Studio, Heritage Village, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The Artists' Studios showcase crafts designed and produced by local artists.

Drawbridge Gelato Shop, Heritage Village, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The adorable Drawbridge is a gelato shop. See more in the video at the end of this story.


Heritage Museum of The Bahamas, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The Heritage Museum of The Bahamas

Boutique Shop, Heritage Village, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The darling boutique with souvenirs and novelties. I love its sand-covered floor.

Oh, and there's more! Underneath the restaurant is a wine cellar and cognateque. History tells us it used to be a dungeon, where pirate's prisoners were held. It also holds the 3rd largest wine collection in the world. You can read more about that story in my upcoming post.

After exploring the iconic Graycliff, I was rewarded with this feedback, "I've never enjoyed Nassau as much as I did during this visit!"

Here's a video of our day's adventure at Graycliff.



As I mentioned, the Graycliff mansion was built in 1740 by the feared and famous pirate John Howard Graysmith who had earned a reputation for successfully plundering ships in the pirates era. Although captured by the British, he later received royal pardon after he finally surrendered his buccaneering days. Over three centuries, the mansion transformed from that Pirate's Era, ending with Enrico Garzaroli and his wife finally purchasing the property in 1973. You can find the historic timeline here on how it evolved into what it is today.

Thanks to Tru Bahamian Food Tours, I discovered the magical world of Graycliff.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tru Bahamian Food Tasting Tour

November 15, 2017

Athena Cafe and Tru Bahamian Food Tour - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The Tru Bahamian Food Tour is a great way to get to know The Bahamas. 

I owe it to a fellow blogger who commented that the Tru Bahamian Food Tour is one of the best in Nassau. The Bites of Nassau Tour is a food tasting and a cultural walking tour...which is brilliant. How else could one better understand The Bahamas than through its food? Moreover, the heart of downtown Nassau, which is rich in hues and history, is best explored on foot.

Our tour guide Murray, highly knowledgeable and personable, led us on this educational journey, sometimes taking us back in time as he related the stories behind local delicacies and colorful edifices. Occasionally, he pointed out plants endemic to The Bahamas islands and cited their medicinal benefits. Murray made us feel like he was welcoming us to his home and even introduced us to some of the business owners.

The information overload from this 4-hour cultural and culinary immersion would be impossible to transcribe. So for this blogpost, I'm doing something different by sharing the interesting things that caught my eye during the tour.

While walking the streets of downtown Nassau, you'll witness a color explosion that will be imprinted indelibly in your memory. Come walk with me via this travelogue and I'll show you what I mean.

Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The designated meeting place is Christ Church Cathedral, one of the most prominent landmarks in Nassau. Our tour guide encouraged the earlybirds to take a peek inside this lovely church while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.

Pirates of Nassau Museum - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
In front of the Pirates of Nassau Museum where we were briefed prior to the walking tour. 

Stop 1:  Bahamian Cookin' - authentic Bahamian cuisine

Bahamian Cookin' and Tru Bahamian Food Tour - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This is THE place for traditional Bahamian cuisine.

Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Inside Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant where our group had our first Tru Bahamian food tasting experience.

Bahamian Cookin' in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This colorful art piece was on the wall behind our table. It reminded me of a piñata because of the papier-mâché material. It was likely used to decorate a float during a Junkanoo festival.

Conch Fritters, Bahamian Cookin' - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
 Conch fritters: A must-try in The Bahamas.
The correct pronunciation of conch is "konk" (rhymes with "honk")

Bahamian Cookin' and Tru Bahamian Food Tours - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Sampler plate with steamed chicken, peas n' rice, mac n' cheese, cole slaw, and plantains 

Note on the Steamed Chicken: Don't be fooled by its name. It's prepared much like a stew with a tomato-based sauce. But because it's been braised, the chicken is utterly tender and packed with flavor. Murray explains that in the past, chicken here had to be steamed twice in order to make it edible. It's so good, I wanted more than just a taste. I'll have to go back there and bring my husband so he can try it too.

Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant and Bar - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The bar inside Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant and Bar

Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant and Bar - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Another eye-catching framed art at the bar.
See the drink on the bottom right corner of the photo above? That's the local lemonade called Switcha, prepared with key limes and sugar cane. We were treated to this drink on our way to the next stop. Refreshing and tangy, it was the perfect treat on a late afternoon.

Balcony House in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The historic Balcony House, now a museum, is the oldest residential building in The Bahamas (about two centuries old).

Stop 2:  Talking Stick Bar & Restaurant

Towne Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Towne Hotel, a 46-room hotel on a three-story building, houses The Talking Stick Bar & Restaurant. This Bed & Breakfast place is bursting with visual delight.

Max inside Town Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The central attraction of the hotel lobby is Max, the adorable blue macaw.

Lobby of Towne Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This colorful lamp is just one of the lobby's eclectic decorative pieces.

Talking Stick Planters Punch, Towne Hotel Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
While I sipped on Planters Punch (a classic rum punch), I feasted on all the eye candy around me.

The Jazz Singers inside Towne Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
On our way up to the rooftop, we were greeted by "The Jazz Singers" -- created by local artist Antonius Roberts.

Talking Stick Bar & Restaurant, Towne Hotel Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Among other things, the Talking Stick Bar & Restaurant exhibits the owner's collection of talking sticks.

Street Art in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This vibrant mural is impossible to miss while walking towards Heritage Village.

Heritage Village in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
This way to Heritage Village. You could easily spend an entire day here.

Stop 3:  Graycliff Chocolatier
Discovering Graycliff is like unearthing a hidden treasure. The entire property (consisting of hotel, restaurant, humidor, churrascaria, pizzeria, wine cellar, and chocolate factory) plus the history behind it are all fascinating. Graycliff has evolved from the 1700s Pirate era, to the 1860s American Civil War, to the 1920s Prohibition era (think Al Capone), to what it is today after Enrcio and Anna Maria Garzaroli purchased the estate in 1973.

Graycliff restaurant in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Just one of the dining rooms at Graycliff restaurant.

Pool at Graycliff in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The stunning pool inside the expansive Graycliff mansion.

Graycliff Chocolatier in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The Graycliff Chocolatier, Chocolate Factory & Boutique, is where you can buy elegantly hand-crafted chocolates.

Graycliff Chocolatier and Tru Bahamian Food Tour - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Our guide Murray explaining the chocolate-making process before giving us samples of the exquisite chocolate treats.

Stop 4:  The Drawbridge by Graycliff - a Gelateria & Patisserie

Drawbridge in Heritage Village, Nassau - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Here is where we stopped for a gelato break.

Stop 5:  Athena Cafe & Bar - This place opens up to a jewelry store and a winding staircase takes you to the restaurant on the upper level.

Athena Cafe & Bar in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The main dining room of the Greek restaurant, Athena Cafe & Bar.

We sat around the bar where we sampled their tasty conch chowder (like Manhattan clam chowder) and their authentic Greek salad. My wandering eyes caught sight of the top shelf with some "interesting" items on full display. Opa! I'll let you find that for yourself when you take this tour. ;-)

Athena Cafe and Tru Bahamian Food Tour - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The bar top at Athena Cafe where we had Conch Chowder (a la Manhattan Chowder) and authentic Greek Salad.

Stop 6:  Tortuga Rum Cakes

Tortuga Rum Cake & Factory in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
The rum-infused cake contains only 1% alcohol. Tasting it might make you think different, though.

Murray Sweeting of Tru Bahamian Food Tours - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Our affable and gracious guide, Murray Sweeting. A tru Bahamian himself, he loves history, food, and meeting people.

I can't believe I waited so long to take this food tasting tour. All the stops, which are highly rated on TripAdvisor, are places that I've driven past so many times. These treasures were just around the corner waiting for me to find them.

If you're ever in Nassau with time to explore the town, make sure to join this engaging activity. I highly recommend it. The walking tour takes place rain or shine. But worry not, Murray comes equipped with rain ponchos should you need them. Wear comfy shoes, bring a curious appetite, and remember to keep those eyes peeled!

View from Government House in Nassau, Bahamas - curiousadventurer.blogspot.com
Joining the statue of Christopher Columbus in taking in the fantastic view of the Nassau Harbor from the Government House.

Learn more about their tours by visiting their website here:
Tru Bahamian Food Tours



Graycliff Wine Cellar

Graycliff Wine Cellar January 2018 “Don’t leave me in here!” I hollered after Sudhir, Graycliff's Wine Cellar Manager, when he left ...