I Got My Life After Trying A French Resort...In Jamaica
Some might say I'm a Jamaica fanatic, and I'm okay wearing that crown. I'm crazy in love with the island and I won't apologize for it. I fell for "the land of wood and water" 20 whole years ago after a cruise to Ocho Rios with a friend's family. I’d never really liked cruises, but when I found out the destination, I just couldn't say no. The trip was both enlightening and stifling since, many of my family and friends—a loud and feisty mix of Black American and Caribbean women mostly—were always the all-inclusive-resort-only, we-only-travel-to-Jamaica-on-a-ship, don't-mix-with-di-rastas-dem type of people.
I knew, back then, that I'd return on my own terms, get all up in the local mix, and create adventures of my own.
I even rebelled with the parish I chose to frequent since my folks were Saint Andrew (Kingston) and Saint Ann (Ocho Rios) enthusiasts. Westmoreland is my all-time favorite parish, and I’ve tried almost every type of tourist or digital nomad experience (other than ziplining and the like, which I refuse to do but will gladly watch). From staying at hotels and Airbnbs overlooking the beautiful cliffs of Negril’s West End and locally owned boutique spots along the alluring shores of its Seven Mile Beach to the enjoying countryside rivers and ranch-style living in Sav-la-Mar and Ft. William, journeying through the lush bush of Bluefields, seeking out the mysteries of Blue Hole, and everything in between.
So when I was told about a French restaurant and resort in Negril, my eyebrow immediately went up. French? In Jamaica? Why? How? Charela Inn came on my radar, and I knew I had to give it a try. I mean, I’d tried sushi (yes, authentic Japanese sushi, and outside of a resort buffet, at that), and French cuisine has been a favorite of mine since I started studying the language at 12. Let’s just say, a sis got her entire life being transported into a utopie française right on the beach. It was like being in two countries at one time, with a special mix of Caribbean swag and European je ne sais quoi, an experience, that, as the saying suggests, can’t be aptly put into words but can transform the way you think about vacationing in Jamaica.
Charela Inn has been in operation for 43 years, one of the longest-running hotels on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, and expanded from a 10-room property to one of more than 50 rooms that have garden and sea views. “We just tried to create a place where everyone feels welcome. You feel like you’re visiting family, and you’re able to meet people from all over the world here,” said Daniel Grizzle, a Jamaican-born farmer, and the hotel's owner. He bought the property in 1980 and began running the inn with his wife, Sylvie, who had a love for cooking and brought her own French recipes to the hotel’s menu. His wife passed away in 2017, but her legacy of instilling an appreciation for French culture and cuisine lives on.
“My mother was a great cook, and he loves good food,” said Grizzle’s daughter, Sophie, who also works in the business. “Today, he’s always challenged our chefs here, and he’ll say, ‘I went to France, and I had this, so we’re going to try and make it.’“ The family continues to push boundaries, offering tastings that include classic French dishes like escargot (a delish fav of mine that I don’t mind telling you is snails sopped in delectable butter and herbs), offering fresh fruit juice in their rum punches (versus the pre-mixed stuff you might be used to getting at a resort) and serving crepes for breakfast. It all makes for a divine experience in what I think to be the best of both worlds in my wildest foodie fantasy. (And you can’t tell me that there’s any better food than the dishes you find in Jamaican or France. I debate you not.)
Check out three major highlights of my time there and why you should add this to your next trip itinerary for my favorite island in the world:
A Graceful Welcome
Ever thought about how you might be welcomed into a chateau if you had the luxury of living in or staying at one? Charela offers that vibe as soon as you step on the property. There’s an open driveway area and a porter who stands on a small winding staircase to welcome you, and later take your suitcases to your room.
Now, if you’re a resort girl, you might think: Well, I get welcomed with champagne or a margarita when I stay at Insert Bland All-Inclusive Hotel Name Here. This is different. You feel like the place is all yours and you’re not just a number among hoards of tourists who will be staying at the same hotel, breathing the same air, hovering over the same buffet, and crowding the same pools as you. There’s an air of exclusivity that’s both welcoming, peaceful, and special upon entering Charela, like visiting your favorite relative for a private staycation.
Locally Cultivated and Beautifully Crafted Artistry, Landscaping and Decor
The property is dominated by beautiful woodwork, specifically the in-room dressers and veranda doors, window and door arches, many of which were custom made by local artists and woodworkers. Even the door handles add a French antique-like touch to the rooms, and the cream marbled hue of the floors, the bathroom bowl basin (another nod to a popular French style), and the whirlpool tub just set things off that much more for an experience unlike other popular boutique hotels on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. Even the key you’re given to your room is attached to a silver engraved tag with your room number on it.
Another awesome factor of the decor of this place was that the building itself sent my mind back to being in awe of the awnings and structure elements you might find walking down Paris streets in the 6th and 7th arrondissement and visiting cafes like Le Saint Germain or Cafe de Flore.
You’ve still got your bright tropical colored drapes and accents that just make being in Jamaica feel like paradise, and all of this is French rendezvous at its best, smack dab in the middle of palm trees, Caribbean breezes, and scents of salt, beef patties, and jerk chicken mixing perfectly nearby.
A Refreshing Nod to Fine Dining That's Sorely Missed
Their Le Vendome Restaurant, adds a special draw to the actual hotel and many people come, via reservation, just to dine when in town. When you sit down to eat, no matter what time of day, you’ll have a white napkin laid on your lap, water is offered, and the staff caters to you with kindness and, of course, a bit of soul. There’s a farm-to-table factor as well, as many of their dishes are made with ingredients like grass-fed beef from their local farm.
Dinner was a standout moment for me. We sat literally a few feet from the beach, watched the sunset, listened to live renditions of both Top 40 and reggae classics with a live band, and enjoyed a five-course meal over candlelight once the sun finally set. The portions are elegantly plated, and there’s even a five-course dinner option that can be adjusted based on your tastes. Champagne and wine bottles are chilled in silver buckets and served just like you’d be at any top-tier restaurant in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles except the difference is, again, you get that one-of-a-kind vibe of Caribbean allure that is Jamaica.
I enjoyed every course, but I particularly loved the soupe à l'oignon (French onion soup) served with their in-house-made bread and cheese, to the salad, to the vol-au-vent (a flaky pastry with a creamy mushroom-and-chicken filling) to the cotelettes d’agneau (lamb chops in wine sauce) with cheesy cauliflower, yam fries, carrots and string beans. They have their own versions of Jamaican mainstays as well. Their curry shrimp, for example, had a delicate flavor of curry and cream and had a spice that while not quite traditional, gave you a sense of fusions of flavors that just hit different for your tastebuds.
Trust me, if you want an experience outside of the usual enjoyment of the larger resorts, the smaller, traditionally Jamaican hotel hotspots, or your auntie’s house a yard, Charela Inn is a refreshing retreat that will have you Googling how to say, “Wha Gwan,” and “Yea Mon” in French without feeling like a total idiot. If not that, at least you’ll get to try something off the beaten path to add to your list of Caribbean escapades abroad.
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I love my air fryer… real bad. And if you’re like most low-maintenance millennials in the kitchen, you’ve probably noticed how air fryers have eased their way into our kitchens to make our lives that much easier. As if arriving at our doorsteps like a surprise gift from the cooking gods, these compact kitchen appliances have changed the way we cook, making meal preparation both seamless and more convenient.
Who would have thought that using hot air circulation to cook food would not only make our meals taste better but provide just the right amount of crispiness and golden brown exterior, all while using significantly less oil? These days, it’s hard to even imagine my life without having this baking contraption by my side for delivering meals in 20 minutes or less, all while allowing me to experiment with my culinary skills.
The Retro Electric Air Fryer has been a godsend for making tasty meals in little to no time. The retro-style air fryer comes with a convenient adjustable timer and temperature control, making it quick and easy to adjust to various recipes. And with so many recipes at our disposal to try and get creative with, it’s safe to say that me and my air fryer are locked in.
From side dishes to main course, we’ve put together a list of must-try air fryer meals that will have your taste buds singing. Thank us later.
10 Easy Air Fryer Recipes
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Crispy Air Fryer French Fries
Air fryer French fries are perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Cut potatoes into fries and toss with olive oil, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Air fry at 375°F for 18-20 minutes, and your side dish will be complete.
Spicy 🌶 Ranch Wings! Let’s make them! 🔥😋 #airfryerwingsseasoning #ranchwingsrecipe #ketofriendlyrecipes #crispywings
Air Fryer Spicy Ranch Chicken Wings
Chicken wings made in the air fryer are the best for whipping up a flavorful meal, with less oil than traditional frying. Toss your wings with a mixture of olive oil, seasonings of choice, and your preferred wing sauce. Air fry at 375°F for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway throughout. Top it off with ranch seasoning, and you have a crunchy, delicious delight.
crispy air fried ravioli is a must make (recipe in bio) 🤩 #airfriedravioli #airfryer #airfryerrecipes
Crispy Air Fried Ravioli
If you’re looking to transform store-bought ravioli into a delicious appetizer, we’ve got the recipe for you. Dip ravioli in beaten egg, then coat with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. Cook at 325°F for 8-10 minutes, and once golden and crispy, dunk it in a side of saucy marinara sauce.
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Air Fryer Salmon Filets
Air-frying salmon yields a perfectly cooked, flaky fish with a flavorful crust. Season salmon filets with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and salt and cook for 10-12 minutes at 375°F depending on thickness, and dinner is served!
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks ↓ •4 mozzarella string cheese •1/4 cup flour of choice •1 egg, whisked •1 cup Panko breadcrumbs + 1 tbsp Italian spices 1️⃣ Cut mozzarella sticks in half. 2️⃣ Dip in the flour, egg, flour, egg then the Panko/Italian seasoning blend. 3️⃣ Freeze for 10-15 mins. 4️⃣ Place in a single layer in the air fryer. 5️⃣ Spray with avocado oil, air fry at 390 for 5 mins. #mozerellasticks #airfryermaster #airfryertiktok #airfryerrecipes #airfryerrecipe #mozerallacheese #airfryerhack
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
You can’t go wrong with cheesy, gooey mozzarella sticks for a quick snack or appetizer. To try it for yourself, cut mozzarella cheese into sticks, dip it in beaten egg, coat it with breadcrumbs, and freeze. Once frozen, pop them in the air fryer at 375°F for 8-10 minutes until golden and melty.
Air Fryer Pizza Hot Pockets 👨🏻🍳🍕 #airfryer #hotpockets #pizzapockets #macros #lowcalorie #healthyrecipes #homemadepasta
Air Fryer Homemade Hot Pockets
There’s something so nostalgic about old-school hot pockets that will have your grown-up self craving this cheesy and saucy goodness. Grab a pack of store-bought or homemade pie crust dough with your choice of fillings from ham, cheese, pepperoni, mozzarella, or spinach.
Roll out the pie crust dough and cut it into rectangles, placing your desired fillings in the center. Fold the dough over the fillings and press the edges to seal. Add to the air fryer and cool for 10-12 minutes at 375°F. Let cool slightly before serving ,and enjoy your childhood treat.
Crispy brussel sprouts in the air fryer 😍 Seasonings (measure with your <3 ) - olive oil - salt - pepper - garlic powder - onion powder - paprika - parmesan Air fry at 375°F for 10 min Top with lemon juice & more parmesan cheese! Enjoy 😋 #airfryerrecipes #brusselsprouts #easyvegetablerecipes #vegetables #brusselsproutsrecipes #airfryer #sidedishrecipes #sidedish #vegetarian
Crispy Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts may be a vegetable that is an acquired taste, but with the right ingredients and a little finesse, you’ll turn your “ick” into a “yum.” Toss your Brussels sprouts with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and lemon, then air fry at 350°F for 15-20 minutes. What you’ll uncover is a new love for this underrated green.
Onion rings #recipetok #easyrecipe #onionrings #mozzarellaonionrings #recipe #airfryer #cheesyonionrings
Air Fryer Onion Rings
Crispy, flavorful onion rings are a classic comfort food made just a bit healthier in the air fryer. To make, slice onions into rings, dip in buttermilk, coat with seasoned flour, and air fry at 375°F for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway. Once golden brown, enjoy with a side of ketchup, honey mustard, or chipotle sauce.
Buffalo tofu bites - recipe on my website #airfryer #easyrecipes
Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Bites
For vegans and vegetarians looking for an easy snack to power through their day, tofu bites are the way to go. These bite-size grubs create a crispy texture that is perfect for adding to salads, bowls , or enjoying by themselves. Toss cubed tofu with cornstarch, soy sauce, and your favorite seasonings. Cook at 375°F for 15-18 minutes, and we promise you won’t be able to put them down.
Air fryer sweet potato fries ✨ Whichever method you decide to try, you can’t go wrong! #airfryer #sweetpotatofries #crispy
Air Fryer Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries
While some enjoy the classic flavor of traditional french fries, sweet potato fries provide foodies with an alternative to indulge their sweet tooth. Not only does it only take minutes to make, but they provide a nutrient-rich alternative to traditional fries. Cut sweet potatoes into fries and toss with olive oil, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cook at 375°F for 18-20 minutes, and you’ll have a side dish that’s both sweet and savory.
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