Prep 15 mins Bake 35 mins Eat 50 mins
Traveling to the Society Islands of French Polynesia, aka Tahiti was a “dream of a lifetime” trip for me.
It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. But that’s only part of what made it so dreamy. It was the camaraderie of being with 31 delightful women and two men from the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay, who all love to sail. Swimming and snorkeling revealed that half of the beauty of these islands is below the water and to have so many “buddies” to swim with safely, our spirit of adventure was off the charts. One of the men commented during the trip that we should call it the “Women’s Snorkeling Association” because that became our quest, to find the best snorkeling spots in the islands. The picture of the motu above is near our very favorite snorkeling spot just north of the island of Tahaa.
The gradations of blue marked how deep the water was and as we sailed up to it, we could look down to see the bottom in 20-30 feet of water to know exactly where to set our anchor. The whiter blue, as we called it was about 2-5 feet deep, so we didn’t want to have the bottom of our sailboat go aground in that. The islands were all inside shallow reefs, so thanks to the smart women of the Women’s Sailing Association, we were educated and prepared for all the markers that would get us to our destination safely.
So we all spent three weeks off the grid, 31 women, two men, five islands, four boats, sailing two weeks in French Polynesia’s Society Islands.
We flew from the states to Papeete on the Island of Tahiti, then flew to Raiatea where we chartered four large sailboats and sailed among the Society Islands – Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Huahine. The other dreamy part about this trip was the food. After all, we are in “French” Polynesia, which meant delicious French food, wine, baguettes, cheese and “Polynesian” ingredients like fresh red tuna, papayas, mangoes and pineapple. Combine these ingredients and any ‘Chef du Bateau’ would be in heaven and be able to please the hungry crew of seven women on our boat.
The French don’t fool around when outfitting the sailboats we chartered. As sailors, we were not accustomed to having anything “glass” on the boat…so fancy! So after awhile, we affectionately called our boat “the Ritz Carlton” instead of the name printed on it “Hair” named after the ’70s musical.
After our first “provisioning” trip in Uturoa on the island of Raiatea, we could not understand why there wasn’t more fresh produce in the stores. We learned a day later as we travelled, that the food is so local that you purchase it on the street from the locals who grow it in their own yards.
Five hundred francs ($5) would buy you not one but about a dozen mangoes or papayas. They were so sweet that we ate them in many of the meals I prepared in the tiny 10-square feet called our “galley”. Breakfast was always fresh cut fruit with French yogurt but they would also go into salads and salsas for our dinner…and the sweetest pineapple in our Pineapple Bread Pudding.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting a Pearl Farm.
You see these structures in the water all over but not sure what they are there for. One day we learned that they were Pearl Farms. We made a reservation and our group was taken by a speedboat along with our snorkel gear to see how pearls are formed. We snorkeled under the structure to see the oysters first hand along with amazing reef fish and coral.
The stunning fresher than fresh Red Tuna encrusted with lemon grass and served with the Coconut Peanut Sauce and Cucumber, Pickled Ginger and Chile Salsa became a staple on our menu. At $10 a pound, forget beef steaks, we enjoyed the delicious red tuna in a lot of our meals on the sailboat and on land.
We were enjoying the French baguettes with our breakfast and with our cheese during cocktail hour and I kept telling the girls if we didn’t eat all the bread, we could make bread pudding. Finally, I just bought 4 baguettes at a time, so I could start drying some out for the Bread Pudding, particularly when our boat offered to host a “dessert and cocktail party” after dinner.
Sunset cocktail parties were held almost daily on one boat and the rest would dinghy over to the host boat.
Wherever we landed, the group of mostly women made a big hit with the locals in the out-of-the way ports we were able to access. One night we enjoyed a lovely dinner at a restaurant on Huahine, where one of the men, Fred, sat at the head of the long table with most of the women. The waiter asked Fred “if he was a king?” and then gave him a free dinner.
After dinner at Huahine, most of the group came over to our boat for this delicious Pineapple Bread Pudding at our “dessert and cocktail party”.
Here’s the recipe for the Pineapple Bread Pudding that you can make in your own galley or kitchen. Adapt as your ingredients dictate as we did on the boat. If this story has you wanting to be “on the water”, whether you are a beginner or salty dog, man or woman, come sail with us at the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay. Click here to read all about it.
Bread Pudding with Pineapple, Raisins and Tequila Sauce
1 pinch Cooking spray
8 cups stale French bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice or 2+ cups diced fresh pineapple
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup tequila
1 teaspoon lime juice
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Spread bread cubes evenly in the pan. Pour 1 cup milk over the bread, mixing it around so that the milk is soaked up.
3. In separate bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup milk, melted butter, eggs, and sugars, Stir to combine. Add in pineapple, vanilla, raisins and pine nuts. Stir again. Pour mixture over bread tucking the raisins and pine nuts in between the bread.
4. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until the custard is set. Serve with the Tequila Sauce
5. While the bread pudding is in the oven, make the tequila sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and egg. Fold this mixture into the butter with a whisk and whisk until the sugar melts and the sauce is thickened by the egg. Add in tequila and cook a few minutes to cook out the alcohol. Remove from the heat and whisk in the lime juice. Pour over servings of the Bread Pudding.
Servings: 12 – 504 calories per serving