Groups of guests fill the Black Orchid Hall ready to eat full plates of stew chicken and rice-and-beans. The smell of the coconut rice and savory spice gravy fills the air inside the palm thatched roof, and tiny finger-petaled orchids curl up the outsides of building.
A pool, surrounded by polished wood carvings and plantings, sits between the main house and the guest rooms. Inside the main house, laughter comes from the kitchen. The dining room’s warm colored walls spill out on to a wrap around porch that overlooks the river, and guests sit looking relaxed and happy as they sip their fresh lime juices.
This is Black Orchid Resort, on the banks of the Belize River in Burrell Boom. At a time when the mahogany trade was at its peak, Burrell Boom was named after the square-set logs that were bundled together in a “boom” and floated from the jungle to the sea. Now, the village is home to a few residents, shops and hideaway guest homes. The resort’s namesake, the black orchid, is a small spring green and deep purple orchid, the size of a large spider. It grows pervasively throughout the country.
The resort is the brainchild of Doug and Karen Thompson. “Doug wanted to open a bed-and-breakfast and here we are, with a full-fledged resort, pool, tours, and a place on the river.” said Karen. “We were living in the US and had worked there for years. Doug kept saying he wanted to come back to Belize. When I realized that we had sold the house and the movers were there and I said, ‘Well I guess we’re moving’ and we were on our way.”
“It was not such a big leap for me to get into hospitality. I had been at patient’s bedsides for years as a nurse. I was used to cooking for large crowds so I got right into the kitchen when we first opened.” Karen added. “Its always new and we love taking care of people.”
The resort is well appointed with clean stylish rooms and private baths. The peaceful quiet that pervades the grounds is due in part to the physical setting in the jungle, and also to the demeanor of the staff.
This is evident in the Assistant Manager Beverly Dawson. She has a hand it that feeling. “I want the full experience to be the best, from what you eat to how you sleep.” Beverly arranged for visit to the kitchen. “We get such a good response from our guests about the food; how fresh and good it is.”
The kitchen is staffed by three women: Miss Evelina, Miss Dawn and Miss Adriana, and Karen Thompson. Each works to create Belizean, Spanish, Mayan and American dishes.
“You get a taste of Belize through the freshness of the food, even if you are eating chicken fingers or rice-and-beans.” said Dawson. Each cooks knows the full repertoire of Black Orchid dishes, and each has their specialties: Evelina the breads and sweets, Dawn the savory dishes, and Adriana the Mayan dishes.
The three cook for the restaurant and large tour groups that come up the river from cruise ships. They start early, preparing ingredients so that dishes can be served quickly when ordered.
Karen showed me how she uses Jamaican limes to cut the bitterness of the local spinach, squeezing the juices over the fresh leaves. She then sautéed them with garlic and salt, mixing in local farm-raised shrimp. She folded it with cheese into a freshly made flour tortilla, creating one of the most popular dishes, quesadillas.
The texture was chewy and crisp, with a give-away center filled with tender shrimp and bright spinach. The restaurant is at the center of the resort and is open to both the public and to hotel guests.
Black Orchid Resort is located a #2 Dawson Lane, Burrell Boom, Belize District, Belize CA.