Flying Fish and Macaroni Pie
Shooting the on-location part of Taste the Islands Season 2, there were only four team members that made the trip, but we made the most of it! We were able to visit the small, warm island of Barbados on the east end of the lesser Antilles. Our camera operators Adam and Tyler are both from the US south, and it was their first time on the island. They were more into the fresh fruits and coconuts than they were into the fish and seafood, but Lisa Lee and I did quite a bit of sampling with all that was available at almost every stop on our Taste the Islands culinary Barbados tour.
After a restful arrival night and continental breakfast the following morning, we were off to the races. Our first day started at historic Mt Gay, the oldest documented rum factory in the world. While no one gets access to the inside of the processing facility because of the secret methods they use, we were given some clues as to how the unique flavor of the rums is developed. Some elements include a double distilling process using traditional copper pot stills, the use of charred oak Kentucky Bourbon barrels to cure the rum, and the unique coral filtered water only available in Barbados. (Apparently even their water is different because the island was not formed by volcanic activity, unlike many of the others in the Caribbean). The rums were certainly nice to look at… but we couldn’t drink on the job so it was on to the next location on our Taste the Islands culinary Barbados tour!
Bay Tavern is a large dive restaurant by the seaside, fairly removed from the city, but attended by the locals for their Thursday afternoon “lime”. Liming is the eastern Caribbean word for hanging out. We saw karaoke singers, pig’s tails on the grill and folks enjoying flying fish, cou cou and cold Banks beers. But the highlight of that stop was our interview with Alison Hinds, where we learned about the liming culture and the traditional food that is enjoyed around the time of Crop Over, Barbados’ carnival season. The queen of soca music who is actually pescatarian, refused to leave the location without her requisite fried fish, and hugs and photos with her fans.
Day one ended in a sunset conversation with the head chef at the upscale Cliff restaurant. Paul Owens, a British native, travels the world visiting Michelin 3 star restaurants to find inspiration, and then returns to his current home of Barbados to present high end menu options to the island’s most affluent visitors. The restaurant sits on a rocky cliffside by the edge of the ocean. Fiery torches light the columns all around, and you can see huge tarpon fish swimming in the deep waters nearby at a certain time in the evening. Although we only partook of cocktails and arancini (rice and cheese balls) from the more casual sister restaurant The Cliff Beach Club, we were intrigued by the Kobe beef from Japan, fresh vegetables from France, and local seafood like scallops and shrimp being served at the main restaurant.
Throughout the following days we made quite a few memorable stops on our culinary Barbados tour. The adventurer’s spot, The Souse Factory, is where we found vinegar cured pig’s feet and other unusual animal parts that both locals and visitors swear by. Mustor’s is the place for the “bread and two”, that’s a salt bread sandwich made with two fish cakes (saltfish fritters) or two meatballs. Locals and foreigners, officials and men on the street, all lunch at this downtown eatery run by the third generation of its founding family. Cuzz’s Fish Shack wasn’t too far from our hotel. One of his customers was visiting from Australia and confessed that he had eaten there on all three of the three mornings he and his friend had been guests on the island. Cuzz’s “cutters”, fish sandwiches made with Bajan salt bread, fresh mahi mahi or kingfish, and any combination of egg and / or cheese, are a favorite of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, so of course we had to try them too. Oistins is the Friday night “lime” where tourists and locals mingle over seafood caught literally steps away. And the unassuming rasta man that runs Bonzo’s Vegetarian serves up macaroni pie, veggie fritters and rice and peas made the “ital” way, with no meats and only sea salt and fresh herbs as seasoning.
On this Barbados tour, we were able to see and share so much of our host island. We told stories about the variety of food, warm people and the rich culture we learned about in a most authentic way. I think we’re all looking forward to doing more of that in upcoming seasons. Cheers!