Caribbean Tastes

Fancy tuck­ing into some ‘lé­chon asado’ or drink­ing ‘ti-punch’? The Caribbean bursts with flavours to be en­joyed ev­ery­where, from cast­away beach bars to top-end restau­rants

Your Guide to the Caribbean - - Contents -

The Caribbean’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing cookup of cul­tures is re­flected in its di­verse food and drink spe­cial­i­ties.

Fer­tile soil, a plen­ti­ful ocean, abun­dant sun­shine and var­ied ter­rains mean is­land chefs have ready ac­cess to a wide choice of fresh fruits, vegeta­bles, fish and seafood.

Or­ganic farms are com­mon through­out the Caribbean, and a her­itage of us­ing spices and lo­cally sourced pro­duce – not to men­tion a love of hot sauces – means menus in­vari­ably re­flect the na­tive cul­ture. His­toric culi­nary in­flu­ences from Africa, Europe, Latin Amer­ica, In­dia and the UK are ob­vi­ous, along with modern con­cerns such as healthy eat­ing, sus­tain­abil­ity and prov­i­dence.

Is­land flavours

Spices are a sta­ple of Caribbean cui­sine, par­tic­u­larly in Gre­nada, where nut­meg, cin­na­mon and cloves are grown com­mer­cially. In Ja­maica, they are rubbed onto meat and chicken then bar­be­cued as jerk, while roti – flat­bread wrapped around cur­ried meat and vegeta­bles – is pop­u­lar in St. Vin­cent and The Gre­nadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Rice and beans are fre­quently eaten in Haiti and Belize, and stews are widely pop­u­lar – meat is the core in­gre­di­ent in the spicy ‘goat­wa­ter’ of Montser­rat, while salt­fish is used to cre­ate the na­tional dish of St. Kitts and Ne­vis, Saint Lu­cia and Ja­maica. In low-ly­ing, beach-fringed des­ti­na­tions such as An­guilla, The Ba­hamas and Turks & Caicos, the bounty of the sea is to the fore, with fresh tuna, mahi mahi, conch and spiny lob­ster com­mon on restau­rant menus.

From posh to party

Whether you want to dine with sand in your toes while lis­ten­ing to a live band, or strap on your best heels and sip an el­e­gant cock­tail, the Caribbean can de­liver. Noth­ing is more free and wel­com­ing than the road­side bar­be­cue held ev­ery Fri­day night by the ‘Wa­ter Depart­ment’ on Ne­vis. On Saint-martin, Grand Case is a packed strip of beach­side lo­los (bar­be­cue stalls) and gourmet restau­rants serv­ing French Caribbean dishes; while in Cuba, Ha­vana’s pal­adares (pri­vate restau­rants) of­fer in­ven­tive dishes in a homely set­ting.

The smartest din­ing out ex­pe­ri­ences are of­ten found in ho­tels: in Gre­nada, Gary Rhodes over­sees the restau­rant at the up­scale Cal­abash Lux­ury Bou­tique Ho­tel, which re­cently joined the haute cui­sine-fo­cused Re­lais & Chateaux col­lec­tion, while at The Cliff at Cap, in the Cap Mai­son re­sort on Saint Lu­cia, the French West In­dian-in­spired dishes in­clude roast bouil­l­abaisse and pineap­ple and co­conut souf­flé.

Rum doings

Rum is the sig­na­ture tip­ple of the Caribbean – it’s at the heart of the ubiq­ui­tous rum punch. Premi­u­maged rums for sip­ping are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, too, so do take

the op­por­tu­nity to try one… or two!

Bar­ba­dos is con­sid­ered the birth­place of what was once known as ‘rum­bul­lion’, and its Mount Gay Dis­tillery dates back to 1703. Much of the mo­lasses used to­day comes from Guyana, but there are still small-scale pro­duc­ers that use lo­cally grown su­gar cane, such as Ma­coucherie on Do­minica and River An­toine in Gre­nada (in ac­tion since 1785).

In Mar­tinique, where rhum agri­cole is pro­duced di­rectly from crushed su­gar cane, you can fol­low a self-guided Route des Rhums cov­er­ing 12 dis­til­leries, while in Haiti, tours can be ar­ranged of the Bar­ban­court Rum Dis­tillery. Some ho­tels take a spe­cial in­ter­est in rum, such as Itz’ana Re­sort and Res­i­dences in Belize which has a ‘rum­me­lier’ of­fer­ing tast­ings, and the Four Sea­sons Re­sort Ne­vis on Ne­vis which has the 101 Rum Bar, boast­ing over a hun­dred dif­fer­ent bot­tles.

Guavaberry is the Na­tional Rum Liqueur of St. Maarten, made right on Front Street in his­tor­i­cal Philips­burg. The fac­tory of­fers free tast­ing sam­ples.

In Cu­raçao, try the epony­mous lo­cal flavoured liqueur. Made with the dried peel of the Laraha cit­rus, its bright blue hue makes it hard to miss.

There’s a fes­ti­val for that!

Barely a month goes by when there isn’t some kind of cel­e­bra­tion of Caribbean cui­sine tak­ing place. In Jan­uary 2018, Saint Lu­cia launched an in­au­gu­ral Rum and Food Fes­ti­val; while An­thony Bour­dain was one of the head­line chefs at the an­nual Cay­man Cook Out held at the RitzCarl­ton Grand Cay­man re­sort in the Cay­man Is­lands. Puerto Rico holds its Mar­i­cao Cof­fee Fes­ti­val ev­ery Fe­bru­ary and in An­guilla, the Fes­ti­val del Mar (March) in­cludes awards for the best pre­pared seafood dishes. Chocoholics won’t want to miss the Gre­nada Choco­late Fes­ti­val (May), while bar­be­cue-lovers should head for the Port­land Jerk Fes­ti­val (July) in Ja­maica. Tobago stages a Blue Food Fes­ti­val (Oc­to­ber) that cel­e­brates dasheen, a root crop that turns blue on cook­ing, while on Turks & Caicos, there’s a pop­u­lar Conch Fes­ti­val (Novem­ber). The same month also sees the Ane­gada Lob­ster Fes­ti­val in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and a Food and Rum Fes­ti­val in Bar­ba­dos. •

Bar­ba­dos is con­sid­ered the birth­place of rum and was once known as ‘rum­bil­lion’. Its Mount Gay Dis­tillery dates back to 1703. Much of the mo­lasses used to­day comes from Guyana

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