If our run-in with bad bitterballen was the low point of our brief introduction to Dutch Caribbean cuisine, we hit a much more positive note at the snack bar at Playa PortoMari, a long swath of sand and coral about a half hour's drive from our hotel.
We scanned the menu for something to eat and found a platter of chicken satay to our liking. A major improvement on regular beach fare, the satay must have been another artifact of colonialism (in this case, a vestige of Dutch imperialism in Indonesia).
We washed down our chicken satay with two bottles of Amstel Bright. The light yellow beer, bottled in clear glass with a painted label and a wedge of lime propped in its neck, is a dead ringer for Corona. Brewed locally from desalinated Caribbean sea water at the Amstel Brouwerij in Curacao, Amstel Bright looks and tastes like the Mexican party beer, only with a Dutch Caribbean pedigree.
Travel Notes: 1. The Hotel Kura Hulanda (top row) is an outstanding boutique hotel and resort located in Otrobanda, one of the two districts that make up Willemstad, Curacao’s capital city. While the area directly surrounding the hotel is in disrepair, the Kura Hulanda (which include two pools and three restaurants) is a pristine complex of restored buildings comprising several blocks of the city. The property also houses a museum and institute devoted to African history and the slave trade. 2. The Curacao Liqueur Distillery produces Curacao liqueur in the Chobolobo Mansion, one of the island's historic landhuisen (plantation houses). Curacao liqueur is made from the dried skin of the Laraha orange (middle row, left), a bitter fruit so unpalatable that, according to legend, it was refused even by goats. We went to the distillery on a rainy day in search of a tour, as promised in our guidebook. However, the tours turned out to be "self-guided," and there wasn't too much else to see. Of course, there’s a gift shop selling the liqueur -- in customary bright blue, more subdued clear, and, oddly enough, chocolate and rum raisin versions. 3. The aforementioned Playa PortoMari is a favorite of snorkelers and divers, not to mention humongous reptiles, as pictured above (actually, we only saw one). The beach boasts a series of snorkel trails consisting of "reefballs." I’m not so adventurous, though. After spotting a menacing eel nestled in the center of one reefball, I headed back to shore for another Amstel Bright. 4. A less frequented and more attractive beach is Cas Abao (bottom row, left), located just up the coast from Playa PortoMari. There, on a late December day, you may just find a miniature snowman made of sand.