By Melanie Reffes
If it’s Saturday, you can bet at least half of Tobago is sitting down to a piping hot bowl of cow heel soup gussied up with dumplings, yam, sweet potatoes and herbs. As tropical as a swig of Carib beer on a hot afternoon, this soupy salute to starch is not for the faint of appetite although a fan favourite of gourmands and adventurous tourists.
M ReffesWith more than 7,000 islands making up the Caribbean, it’s no surprise its culinary history is peppered with international inspiration. Okra and plantains came with the West African slave trade. Columbus planted sugarcane, the Indians brought curry and the Dutch, Danish and British introduced rice and coffee. Bananas and limes are picked fresh each day, pepperbushes give stews a fiery edge and chicken and red beans are jazzed up with callaloo, which looks and tastes like spinach and adds a green pop to soup.
Whether it’s a bowl of cow heel soup in Tobago, mouth-burning jerk in Montego Bay or artisanal sushi in Anguilla, Caribbean cuisine is a delicious celebration of global flavours.
At the Native restaurant in Montego Bay, Boonoonoonoos (Patois for ‘plentiful’) is a big platter with a little bit of everything from piquant jerk and crispy plantains to smoked marlin and saltfish. Grab a window seat to enjoy the time-honoured Jamaican tradition of people-watching and Red Stripe sipping. www.visitjamaica.com
In Aruba, Taste of Belgium in the Palm Beach Plaza impresses with scrumptious lekkerbekje’ or fried grouper with crispy frites and for dessert, nothing satisfies more than Gaufres de Liege or waffles crowned with strawberries. http://tasteofbelgium.aw
Sake It To Me
As Anguilla’s first and only authentic Japanese restaurant, Tokyo Bay is the real deal with sushi rolled with Caribbean Yellow fin Tuna and shots of Hakutsuru Nama Sake. Prepared with vegetables from the on-site Hydroponic Farm, the swanky eatery at the even swankier Cuisinart Resort also dishes up mesmerizing 360 degree views of the sea. http://cuisinartresort.com
Across the pond in St. Maarten, Bamboo Bernie’s tempts the taste buds with Tiki Rolls of salmon, tuna and yellowtail topped with salmon roe and spicy eel. A fruity margarita in the Buddha Lounge sets the stage for a leisurely evening guaranteed to please every palate. www.bamboobernies.net
Desserts are the talk of the town at Oliver’s in the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada where Chef Jesson Church enchants with his sinful masterpieces like dark and white chocolate parfait and spectacular treats created with the fresh fruits of the island. “Jesson works tirelessly to ensure the highest culinary standards for our discerning guests,” said Sir Royston Hopkin, owner, “which is critical to our success as a luxury resort.” www.spiceislandbeachresort.com
On the tiny isle of Montserrat, ice cream at Chico’s is a refreshing elixir in fruity flavours like guava, tamarind and passion fruit generously scooped in homemade waffle cones. www.visitmontserrat.com
Move over, piña colada, these days the top cocktail in Puerto Rico is the chichaíto (cheeh-chah-ee-toh), a fusion of Palo Viejo rum and anise liqueur blended with chocolate, ginger and lemon. Poured in one-dollar shot glasses, the robust brew is a crowd pleaser at the many funky bars in Old San Juan. www.seepuertorico.com
South Beach meets the tropics at Vino Tiempo Wine Bar in Turks and Caicos. Hip and happening, the popular Provo hot spot is owned by wine connoisseurs Tony Garland and Murad Mohamad who are island-famous for choosing fine wines like a 2007 Duckhorn, Merlot and mixing potent cocktails with local Bambarra rum. “Tourists enjoy hanging out in our bar because it reminds them why they booked a vacation in the first place,” says Tony, whose knowledge of wine (and vacations) is legendary. www.vinotiempowinebar.com
Make This At Home
1oz Bambarra Gold Rum (substitute any Caribbean rum)
1oz Bambarra Silver Rum
1oz Coconut Rum
1oz Pineapple Juice
1oz Orange Juice
Splash of Grenadine
Combine all the ingredients in a glass and pour over ice.
Garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.
1 onion finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground Jamaican pimento (allspice)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 to 6 scotch bonnet peppers, finely ground
1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients into a food processor with a steel blade. Rub the paste on uncooked chicken, pork, beef, goat or vegetables. Grill or barbecue. Store in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator where it will last for up to one month.
Courtesy “Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica” by Helen Willinsky