Fes­ti­val food and lo­cal hotspots take seafood to an­other level in Bar­ba­dos

The Chatham Daily News - - ENTERTAINMENT - twit­ter.com/pe­ter­hum PETER HUM

Year-round, for Bar­ba­di­ans and va­ca­tion­ers alike, a week­end trip to Oistins Bay Gar­dens for the tra­di­tional fish fry din­ner is al­ways a good and tasty time.

But on the open­ing night of the 9th Bar­ba­dos Food & Rum Fes­ti­val in mid- Oc­to­ber, the pro­ceed­ings at the ven­er­a­ble but low-key gath­er­ing spot on the is­land’s south coast were es­pe­cially bois­ter­ous.

As usual, flames leaped high as fish ven­dors tended their grills. At pic­nic ta­bles, hun­dreds of din­ers savoured over­sized slabs of mar­lin, mahi-mahi and king­fish, served in Sty­ro­foam take­out boxes with help­ings of plan­tain, coleslaw and mac­a­roni pie.

Splurg­ing eaters de­voured spiny lob­ster, dip­ping chunks of tooth­some tail meat in glis­ten­ing melted but­ter. Be­tween bites, they drank rum punch and lo­cally brewed Banks beer.

But that Thurs­day night, there was plenty of post-din­ner en­ter­tain­ment, too. In the best car­ni­val tra­di­tion, a troupe of drum­mers and horn play­ers vis­cer­ally ex­horted brightly clad fe­male dancers wear­ing more feath­ers than clothes to shake them­selves silly. Later, on a nearby stage, celebrity chefs and mixol­o­gists demon­strated their cre­ations.

In all, that night at Oistins was an en­thralling kick­off to a sig­na­ture cel­e­bra­tion for food­ies on an is­land that calls it­self the Caribbean’s culi­nary cap­i­tal.

The rest of the week­end in­cluded up­scale gath­er­ings on the is­land’s west coast that were packed with el­e­gantly but ca­su­ally dressed folks liv­ing the good life.

On Fri­day night, at the high-end shop­ping des­ti­na­tion Limegrove Lifestyle Cen­tre, and on Sun­day af­ter­noon at Hold­ers Polo Field be­fore an ex­hi­bi­tion game, the is­land’s top chefs served cre­ative small plates, al­ways paired with killer cock­tails. The all-you-caneat-and-drink events re­spec­tively cost $200 and $220 in Bar­ba­dian dol­lars, or roughly $130 and $145.

Fri­day’s rev­ellers sam­pled in­no­va­tive treats such as a pick­led fly­ing fish roulade, braised black belly lamb shank and even Asian­in­spired fried BBQ pig tail.

Af­ter the last small plates were served, a soca band and a dy­na­mite vo­cal­ist — never for­get that Bar­ba­dos gave the world Ri­hanna — kept peo­ple danc­ing for a few more hours.

On Sun­day af­ter­noon, as ponies coursed on the field, food­ies noshed on treats such as bread­fruit Parme­san soup with rum-braised lamb and ba­con jam, smoked snap­per on a sweet potato rosti and mango and pas­sion­fruit-filled drunken cho­co­late cup­cakes.

Mean­while, on the fes­ti­val’s Satur­day night, al­most 20 par­tic­i­pat­ing restau­rants wooed guests with spe­cial menus.

At Cock­tail Kitchen, Damian Leach, who was named Bar­ba­dos’ 2018 chef of the year, served a five­course tast­ing menu with match­ing rum-based cock­tails. Among Leach’s dishes were li­on­fish ce­viche and pan-seared scal­lops with vanilla-braised plan­tain purée, but­ter-roasted wa­ter­melon, pick­led beet­root and cilantro co­conut crum­ble.

Leach keenly cham­pi­ons an emerg­ing Bar­ba­dian haute cui­sine. “I like to use these flavours and these dishes and el­e­vate them,” he says.

“Food is a big rea­son for travel now,” he adds. Tourists “are com­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence our cul­ture through food and our dishes.”

Pig tails at TimÌs in Bar­ba­dos.

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