Entertaining While On Vacation

By Judi Gallagher.

Entertaining while on vacation sounds like an oxymoron. Come on, we are on vacation to relax – no dishes, no chopping, no grocery lists, right?

But, a culinary experience that I enjoyed recently at the Hyatt Siesta Key Beach residence club changed my attitude. While I definitely enjoy getting out and discovering new restaurants when we vacation, my husband and I sometimes choose to be ‘home-bodies’ for a few days when at our favorite relaxation spots.

With the new trend of fractional ownership, one can go on vacation, have luxury accommodations, and even more important, luxury kitchens. But, can you fully savor that vacation feeling and still cook? It depends a lot on the equipment in the kitchen and the setting. Our kitchen had a view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. And the appliances were state-of-the-art, better than mine at home. I wanted to try them out.

We spent one evening, lifting our wine glasses on the terrace of our tree-top apartment, toasting the sunset and nibbling on St. Regis Bleu cheese and sliced mango and papaya while enjoying the company of friends. We sampled incredible sun coast flavors presented by the best local chefs from the Siesta Key area. Siesta Key, by the way, is a charming barrier island off the west coast of Florida just across the bridge from the Sarasota mainland. Siesta Key Beach is routinely named one of the best white sandy beaches in the world. The reality lives up to the reputation, my toes said so.

The kitchen in our Hyatt Siesta Key Beach apartment was gourmet and expertly designed. It invites cooking. But if you don’t want to be the chef, simply ask the concierge to find a talented local chef to come and offer you and your guests a cooking class on the local flavors.

If you are so inclined to prepare a meal or two in a fractional ownership, rental, or time-share resort dwelling, here is a guide on how to remain in that vacation zone and still prepare simple and delicious meals:

  • Purchase a small bottle of high quality olive oil, salt and pepper,Chinese five spice, a bulb of garlic and a few lemons. Keep lemons on the counter at room temperature so you can extract the maximum juice. Besides, nothing is prettier than a glass bowl piled with lemons sitting on a counter. Opt for simple seasonings and recipes with only a few ingredients to keep meals fresh and easy to prepare. Cooking in a luxury kitchen should be a stress-free indulgence. If it isn’t, choose another recipe.
  • Ask if there are local farmers markets and, by all means, visit them. Plan on having breakfast there.
  • Purchase a fresh potted herb such as basil or cilantro. (This also makes a lovely table centerpiece for patio dining.)
  • Find the nearest fresh seafood market. Grill or broil a piece of fish drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon. Then add the fish to big bowl filled with cooked linguini that’s been tossed with a few diced grape tomatoes and hint of minced garlic. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil and enjoy. This is an easy one-dish vacation meal sure to satisfy.
  • And, yes, relax; housekeeping is happy to do the dishes in the morning.

Since October is National Seafood Month, I want to share with you one of my favorite vacation dishes. Served with a crisp Pinot Grigio wine, this dish might make you decide that cooking and vacations make a destination culinary paradise.

Pan-seared salmon with citrus yogurt sauce on spinach salad

1 (3-pound) piece salmon fillet with skin (1-inch thick at thickest part;
preferably center cut)
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Chinese allspice


1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt or plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mild honey (to taste)
1 bag baby organic spinach
1-tablespoon zest of lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
Sliced oranges
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat sauté pan to medium heat. Pat fish dry and check for bones by running your hand over fish from thinnest to thickest end. Remove any bones with pliers. Sprinkle fish with olive oil, salt and pepper, then pan sear or broil about 7 minutes per side. While salmon cooks, whisk together all sauce ingredients in a bowl until combined. Toss spinach with olive oil and lemon zest and season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place salmon on top of spinach and top with yogurt sauce. Garnish with orange slices.

Flavors And More Magazine – October 2009

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