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Bonney Barbados: A Travel Retrospective, 1996 - Page 3 PDF Print E-mail
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Dining from Jerkit to Sandy Lane

Of course, it was our duty to eat at as many restaurants as possible. One thing we had not counted on was dining with birds. Since most of the restaurants are al fresco, dining with only a roof or umbrella over your head, the birds will readily help themselves to your food. They are nondescript but industrious sparrows and ravenous small grackles, jet black with brilliant yellow eyes. As we found out at breakfast at the Sandy Beach Island Resort, they are particularly fond of croissants.

There were several interesting restaurants near the Sandy Beach, where we enjoyed nice rooms and a great view of a truly sandy beach. At the tiny restaurant Jerkit on the Worthing Main Road, Al Knight and his son Ian told us that they went to Jamaica to study jerk technology and then changed the cooking style to meet Bajan tastes. The Bajans, as it turned out, would not eat crispy grilled pork. "They like their meat with gravy," explained Ian. So now they use typical jerk spices, but stew the meat instead of smoke-grilling it as the Jamaicans do. The jerk chicken was grilled however, because Bajans are accustomed to barbecued chicken done on a grill.

True local cuisine was the main menu at the Bonito Bar, in Bathsheeba on the wild east coast. Swimming is banned here but the site of the Barbados Surfing Championships is opposite the restaurant. Enid Worrell, former home economics teacher and now owner and cook at the Bonito, was proud to inform us that her first name spelled backwards is "dine," which was propitious considering the quality of her food.

I had to experience the Fried Flying Fish, a Bajan specialty that’s exquisite when slathered with the mustardy hot sauce. Mary Jane had the Creole Dolphin and our meals were accompanied by Fried Plantains and Breadfruit. Then Enid brought us her pride and joy, corned peppers. She described this use of bonney peppers in her thesis, Local Nutritional Satisfying Foods: "These peppers were ‘corned’ with vinegar and salt after extracting the seeds to reduce the strength of their flavours and these pickled peppers were stored for future use, when the fresh ones became scarce."

Continuing our search for local food, we tried with great delight the Planter’s Buffet at Brown Sugar in Bridgetown. This classy, open-air restaurant had mahogany accents and delightful prints of the early days of sugar production and colonial Bridgetown on the walls. The buffet included Creole Eggplant, Pepperpot, Fried Flying Fish (again), Creole Okra, Saffron Rice, and Gooseberry Tart. The pepperpot, with its sweet and spicy, slow-cooked meat was particularly memorable.

The Waterfront Cafe alongside the Careenage, in downtown Bridgetown took the worship of local flying fish to the next logical step with Melts, flying fish roe that’s battered and fried. I loved shad roe when I lived in Virginia, but this roe was much milder and tasted more like a delicious fried clam. It was washed down with the local island beer, Bank’s.

A Beachfront Café Filled with Tourists

A Beachfront Café Filled with Tourists

The Waterfront’s owner, energetic Susan Walcott, recognized Emerson and quickly pried out of us our purpose for hiring a Taxi Driver of the Year. In the true spirit of Mary Jane’s philosophy of "it’s a small world and you gotta be good all the time," when Susan heard that we were from New Mexico, she said that a famous musician from Santa Fe was having lunch on the patio. A few minutes later, jazz great Herbie Mann and his wife Janeal Arison dropped by our table to introduce themselves. Herbie was in Barbados for a concert and was dining at the Waterfront because it the main jazz bar on the island.

Speaking of musicians, we were fortunate enough to interview Eddy Grant, best known to North Americans for his hit reggae songs "Romancing the Stone," "Electric Avenue," and "Baby Come Back," but now is becoming famous for his efforts to preserve the history of calypso music. He is planning to open a Calypso Museum in Barbados.

Eddie Grant

Eddie Grant

On our last day on the island, we went from the ridiculous to the sublime. We flew back from a short visit to Trinidad on a Sunday around noon, and not only was it too early to check into the hotel, very few restaurants were open for lunch. Jerkit was closed, we eschewed the fast food of Chefette, and ended up at Bubba’s Sports Bar in Worthing eating hamburgers and watching Germany beat the Czech Republic in soccer. We felt a bit guilty, but hey, it was all part of the Bajan experience. And the burgers weren’t half bad!

What a reversal for dinner! I changed from shorts and t-shirt into a coat and tie and Emerson drove us to the fanciest resort on the island, the Sandy Lane, where the room rates start at $800 a night. We were the guests of executive chef Hans Schweitzer, who had led the Barbados team of chefs to victory in the most recent Caribbean Culinary Classic.

The Sandy Lane was extremely classy and for a moment I worried about my garish chile pepper tie. But Hans professed to love it as he greeted us and kissed Mary Jane on both cheeks. Swiss chefs must do that in Barbados, I thought.

Dining in a covered verandah open to the gentle breeze, we could hear the soft sound of the surf and gaze on the softly-lit tropical foliage below us. It was quite romantic and fortunately, the Sandy Lane management had thoughtfully provided netting to keep out the grackles. Chef Hans himself brought out the sinfully rich foie gras, imported from--where else--Long Island, New York.

As if that wasn’t overkill, we shared a large portion of Lobster Ratatoille that was extraordinary. Then it was time to order the main course and there it was! Oven-Roasted Leg of Black Belly Sheep with Yams and Local Vegetables. Mary Jane opted for the Gently Fried Dolphin with Pommes Duchess and Tomato Basil Fondue. The sheep was lean and tasty, much like a cross between lamb and venison. Chef Hans’ food was every bit as elegant as the venue. When we return to Barbados, we’re thinking about reserving the Sandy Lane Penthouse Suite at $2,200 a day and staying for as long as we can afford: about four hours.

Because of sugar cane and rum, Barbados became the wealthiest European colony in the Caribbean. It’s still wealthy. During high tourist season years ago, two Concorde flights a day from London landed at Grantley Adams Airport. And because none of the other powers in the Caribbean--Spain, France, or Holland--ever captured it, Barbados has remained staunchly British in attitude and custom. The literacy rate is 95 percent and you don’t see the shantytowns, grinding poverty, and crime I’ve witnessed in Montego Bay and Port of Spain. Even the money is easy: Two Barbados dollars for one American. The Bajans speak English clearly, have a great sense of humor, and love sports and hot and spicy food. What more could you want in an island paradise? Oh yeah, the beaches are perfect, too. The recipes are on the next page!


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