With a “you are beautiful” and a “you are gorgeous” we are welcomed at the airport of Trinidad. What a great start of our first culinary expedition!
We take a taxi to the capital Port of Spain and immediately hit the street (food). It is 2 weeks before Carnival and we are happy to find the big Queen’s Park Savannah bustling with food stalls. We take our job seriously and immediately get to work.
We start with a portion of Pholourie. This is a popular streetfood and consists of fried dough balls served with different kinds of chutney. The balls taste rather bland, but the combination with a delicious mango chutney makes up for any lack of flavor. When we also try the Geera, which is flavorful curried chicken, we are already convinced that the Trini’s know their way around the kitchen. Of course, this expedition requires that we try a lot more of the local food and we are happy to indulge.
The next couple of days, we are busy eating our way through the local menu. We eat Doubles for breakfast (a flat bread with curried chickpeas) and have lunch at the delightful Veni Mangé restaurant. It is situated in an old colonial home on Ariapita Avenue and decorated with colorful furniture, local art and tropical plants. On the menu are typical Trini dishes like Coco Bake, Callaloo Soup, Saltfish Accras (fritters) and Stewed Beef with Dumplings. We eat the famous Bake & Shark at Richards in Maracas Beach, which consists of deep-fried shark served in a fried dough pita. Served with lots of fresh toppings, delicious sauces and chutneys, it quickly becomes one of our favorite dishes.
One day, we stop at a roadside food stall to try Chow, which is made with unripe fruits marinated in a brine of water, garlic, hot pepper, chadon beni and salt. Our favorite is the one with green mango. Chadon beni, or culantro, is the country’s national herb and is used in many dishes. Its taste resembles that of cilantro. We love it, particularly as a chutney.
We drive through the beautiful Northeastern part of the island, down adventurous jungle roads, and make our way to Grande Riviere, a small fishing village on the North Coast. On the way, we see banana trees, cacao trees, lots of mango trees, papaya trees, nutmeg trees and fairy-tale pomerac trees filled with beautiful red fruits. To us it feels like being in a jungle candy store. The unspoiled beauty of the island amazes us. We pass deserted beaches without any big resorts or hotels. Trinidad is pure and is, as one of the few Caribbean islands, not affected by the results of tourism. Unbelievable that we are only a 1,5 hour flight away from Curacao!
In Grand Riviere we spend two nights in the Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, a lovely small beach hotel. It is owned by Piero, an Italian photographer who came to Trinidad 21 years ago for a photoshoot and never left.
We almost forget that this is a food expedition, instead of a holiday. But we pick ourselves together, manage to leave our bikini’s in the suitcase and make our way into the kitchen for some Trini cooking. We spend the day making Pone (a delicious dessert made of grated yucca, coconut and pumpkin), Callaloo Soup (made with huge jungle leaves) and Kingfish cooked in Banana Leaves. Fresh coconuts are bashed open, grated and used in many of the dishes. With only a few ingredients and no cook books in sight, the chefs of Mt. Plaisir manage to make many flavorful dishes. We are impressed.
Too soon, it is time to leave. We load up our suitcases with lots of jungle fruits and some tasty local cheeses made by Piero and hit the crooked coastal road to get back to Port of Spain. We have not yet seen the scorpion pepper plantations (which we learned is the hottest pepper in the world!) or visited the organic market in Santa Cruz, but it is time to go. We have learned (and eaten) a lot and will definitely come back for more.
Because Trinidad, you are gorgeous!