Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio
Canaan Mountain, Negril
The staff at Zimbali, a twenty-minute drive east from Negril, hold a theory that Jamaica gets more interesting the farther out you get from the cities, and the eco-friendly retreat makes a strong case. It’s attached to a seven-acre organic farm, and the abundance of Jamaica’s bounty is delivered fresh and prepared exquisitely. The dinner begins with a blended juice made of fruit picked straight from the soil or tree, and then a guided tour of the land that grows the ingredients for the night’s meal. Then sit at the counter and watch the chef create a six-course culinary journey, with bowls of pumpkin soup, jerk shrimp, and perfectly seasoned fish wrapped in banana leaf. Try to snag a table on Wednesday night when African drummers provide live entertainment.
Stush in the Bush
Free Hill, Bamboo
Jamaica’s Rastafari prescribes a vegetarian-friendly, alcohol-free diet that strips food of all additives and preservatives to harness the life energy that runs through us all, and it birthed a food movement known as ital cooking (“ital” is Jamaican patois wordplay on “vital”). Stush in the Bush is a restaurant built on a fifteen-acre farm. Ital cooking is honored here, and dishes are prepared with fresh, local vegetables by a dreadlocked couple, Christopher and Lisa Binns. Expect vegan pizzas topped with plantain, cherry tomatoes, and roasted eggplant; ratatouille served with fresh basil; and tropical greens. The selection of fresh juices—watermelon and lime, ginger and lemongrass—are a necessary addition to counter the flamboyance of the flavorful Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce that accompanies several plates. It’s wise to make a reservation—and don’t come too hungry, because Chris begins every meal with a personal tour of the property. The on-site store sells local preserves, including vegan lemon curd, passion fruit butter, and vegan basil pesto, which make perfect gifts and even better pantry fillers.