It's not often that you get to witness the beginnings of a nascent food festival firsthand. So The Daily Meal editorial staff is thrilled to have been invited to attend the first annual Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival. Check in here regularly for updates on demos, chef sightings, food notes, photos and more.
DAY ONE: FRIDAY, 11/19
1:55 PM Chefs Colicchio, Tsai, Samuelsson, all spotted at the airport upon arrival. Everyone smart is wearing light clothing as they disembark. Press heading to the Hilton Barbados to settle in for an afternoon of leisure. We all have a few hours left to our own devices until we have our first event.
3:30 PM Independently, two people have said that Cuz's Fish Stand (just a few blocks from the Hilton where many press people are staying) has one of the island's best sandwiches. A fish sandwich. Going to go check it out.
5:50 PM Okay, so not to speak for the rest of the island, but, Cuz's Fish Stand was pretty damn good. Not Richard's Bake & Shark good mind you, but really tasty. And it had something Richard's in Trinidad doesn't, a badass Scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Your option? Salt bread with blue marlin and your choice of either egg or cheese. Both come with pickle and tomato. Fish is lightly pan-seared, but it's a fish steak. Juicy, not fishy, but steaky and buttery, and man oh man, that hot sauce is awesome.
Also walked over to Bridgetown and saw several signs for barbeque pig tails. Had to have some. So, TNT Barbecue seemed to be the right place to try them out. Three tails, each like a rib, but really fatty, and smothered in sauce.
6:15 PM Interviews are skedded for 6:45 pm, but it's a festival, right? So... not expecting things to happen completely according to schedule. First event starts at 7pm, Moonlight Magic at the Hilton. Here we go!
10:05 PM Wow, it's night, but it's still hot. The event started with Fergus signing books up on a platform, fanning himself with a Chinese fan. The best food of the evening was definitely the fish cakes with Scotch bonnet sauce. Travel + Leisure Editor, Niloufar Motamed, introduces Barbados' Minister of Tourism, who notes the many successful food events around the world, praises local chefs for taking the reigns in significant local restaurants previously led by expats. Then asks everyone to enjoy not just the "next four days, or four years, but the next forty years" of the festival in Barbados. "There's a new player on the scene." Among the many players here notables included Ed Kelly of AEXP, and Christina Grdovic, Publisher of Food & Wine.
10:36 PM Heading over to Late Night on the Bay.
12:34 PM Tiki torches, wooden vegetated paths, live music, and people getting down. A couple of missing chefs, but was that Fergus getting down on the dancefloor at Wispers? Very cool.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY, 11/20
11:15 AM Chef Love set a high bar for the day's demos. He charmed the crowd with tequila shots and by serving them the food he cooked on a grill and a la plancha during the demo.
1:15 PM Press itinerary lists camouflage clothing as something not to bring because it's illegal here (apparently it's reserved for the Barbados Defense Force). There was some buzz today about Chef Marcus Samuelsson wearing camouflage last night and having to take it off. I overheard him talking about it goodnaturedly with someone at his demo (check out the jacket in the Moonlight Magic slideshow).
Chef Samuelsson prepared a coconut milk soaked and coconut flake crusted fried chicken that you could see doing really well at Red Rooster, or anywhere. Speaking of which, he said Red Rooster will open in a few weeks, "I've been saying that for a while, but a couple of weeks."
3:15 PM Listening to Chef Samuelsson discuss last night's visit to Oistins has me really bummed that I missed out on this Thursday, Friday, Saturday phenomena. Heading over to Baxter's Road to see if I can find some fried fish and macaroni pie.
4:00 PM No fried fish yet at Baxter's Road (not open until 6 or 7 pm), but Respect for Life, just a block away is selling macaroni pie, so I'll have my first try. Crispy top, Scotch bonnet sauce on the side. A driver gave me a full recipe that includes ketchup and mustard (will have that to come).
4:15 PM Found some Scotch bonnet sauce to bring back to the editorial team at The Daily Meal. And some pastries with dubious names: rock bread, leadpipes, turnovers, and pudding cake.
4:30 PM Let us never discuss rock bread or leadpipes again. But visiting the Chefette in Bridgetown meant finally being able to taste the local omnipresent fast food, and most of interest, the roti. Beef and potato, and chicken and potato were very good, though much smaller than what you will find in Guyana. The roti is thinner too. Cracked open one bottle of the Scotch bonnet sauce for some extra flavor. Had to be done.
7:30 PM Ambrosia: Savor Barbados event at the Lion Castle Polo Estate, St. Thomas. The most buzzed-about, and lined-up for dish at tonight's event was Rob Feenie's roasted butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli with black truffle beurre blanc. But they must not have yet tasted Chef Tim Love's black belly lamb sandwich (local lamb), which had to be the night's best bite. Chef Marcus Samuelsson's red grits and shrimp was probably third best dish there, but it was a thrill to see Chef Fergus Henderson serve his ox tongue with green sauce on lettuce leaf, which he noted is "meant to be wrapped like a parcel."
10:15 PM Hit Oistins. Supposedly not the same on a Saturday night as it would have been yesterday, but it would have been a crime to be in Barbados and not go (especially since it's supposedly only a Thursday, Friday, Saturday thing). Everyone has their favorite recommendation (have heard Uncle George's, Margaret's, and Roslyn's), but the only place really open is Mo's Grill. Had a huge swordfish platter with rice and peas, coleslaw, macaroni pie, macaroni salad, salad, and of course, hot sauce.
10:55 PM ABSOLUT Barbados After Dark on 2nd Street in Holetown is like the Buckhead of Barbados.
11:55 PM Lots of flashy purple lights and Lady Gaga. There's more Mount Gay to be had, but it's pouring more rain than rum at this point.
DAY THREE: SUNDAY 11/21
10:30 AM Apparently last night after the rain stopped there was dancing on 2nd Street in Holetown. This morning's event is a buffet, A Taste of Two Cities at George Washington House. Chefs Tim Love and Peter Edey are doing demos.
12:50 PM George Washington House is the place the president stayed as a young man with his ailing brother. The buffet features both Caribbean and American food. Stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, Cajun-spice rubbed roast pork, macaroni pie, flying fish, roasted poblanos and artichokes. The month of November marks independence for Barbados so there is food, like Conkies (banana leaf wrapped around an aromatic mix of shredded coconut and pound cake), as well as their take on American Thanksgiving fare. Never had Scotch bonnet sauce on turkey. It works well with everything apparently.
1:40 PM Chefs Tim Love and Peter Edey did demos with Nilou. Love did steak a la plancha and on the grill with campbread. His son came up to help. He busted out the white wine again. Edey did flying fish on the plancha wrapped with barbeque sauce in a banana leaf, and served it with cou cou and vegetables. It's noted this is the dish you have to eat before leaving the island. A tall, thin man dressed as Uncle Sam entered the pavillion with a woman wearing a Caribbean dress. They danced to the sound of a motley band of period costumed musicians. Much booty-shaking ensued. Like serious, booty-slapping. Interviewed Chef Love after the demo.
2:00 PM Heading over to Sandy Lane for a demo and hopefully an interview with Chef Fergus Henderson.
4:00 PM Chef Henderson talked about heart, jedi knights, timing, and was very funny. "How do you tell if the bones are done?" he asked. "You touch them like this [pinches fingers around imaginary bone], and if you... OW! then they're done."
4:15 PM Snagged a brief interview with Chef Fergus Henderson. Among a few other things he discussed his favorite music to dance to, offal preparations from other cultures, his upcoming new hotel, and his favorite sandwich in London
6:30 PM No more room for press at tonight's sold out headline event, Tom Colicchio at The Cliff. Several other press people going to Champers. Was going to try to hit much-recommended Lobster Alive, but found out too late that they're closed on Sunday. Have to have cou cou and flying fish before you leave, so heading over to Brown Sugar.
10:30 PM Brown Sugar was a disappointment. Hit all the must-have's: cou cou, flying fish, and had Barbadian hots. Oistins was better.
DAY FOUR: MONDAY 11/22
3:30 PM Rhythms of Rum Cuisine at St. Nicholas Abbey is the last event of the festival, but along with another member of the press, I was taken on an island 'safari' a tour of Barbados in an open-air jeep. You really get a sense of how undeveloped much of the coast is, and how much of the rolling hills, while used for farming, aren't built up.
11:00 PM Dinner at Champers. Calves' liver, barracuda, and bread pudding. Very nice.
DAY FIVE: TUESDAY 11/23
12:00 PM Doesn't seem right to visit Barbados and not tour the Mount Gay Rum Factory.
12:30 PM Party's over. Boarding the plane back to New York. Until South Beach...