Experiencing Barbados Cuisine: Bajan cookin, ya!

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Harlequins in the Gap, Cutters in St Thomas, Brown Sugar near Pebble beach, freshly made coconut cocktails at the Crane, The Ocean Grille at the Hilton…

I wasn’t in Barbados for very long, yet I somehow managed to experience every aspect of Bajan cooking!

My husband and I stayed at the Hilton on the west side of the island of Barbados. There were three restaurants located within the hotel: The Grille, the Lighthouse Terrace, and The Water’s Edge. We initially planned on eating at the hotel for most of our trip so that we would have the full honeymoon experience – we just wanted to lay around and enjoy each other’s company…

Barbados Cuisine: Bajan cookingI arrived in Barbados Thursday afternoon and waited around the hotel for my husband to get off work. If you assumed that I spent the few hours strolling the beach and drinking Malibu and pineapple juice cocktails, you would be right.

We had dinner at the Lighthouse Terrace on Thursday evening, which was an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. At $110 Barbados dollars ($65 USD), I was disappointed. There were about 5 things to choose from and nothing was really any good. I expected more…but then I realized, I was eating in the hotel.

What was I thinking? So, my husband and I decided to have our dinners outside of the restaurant for the rest of our stay.

On Friday, we skipped breakfast so I was ravenous by lunch time. I went with my husband to the US Embassy for a tour and to meet his new coworkers. It was pretty cool…until the guard at the checkpoint lost my passport and we had to wait 15 minutes for him to locate it. I swear this kind of thing only happens to me! I brought my camera with me in hopes of snapping a few photos, as I’ve never seen an Embassy before, but I was told that it was against the law. Something about giving terrorists a layout of the Embassy, I don’t know, I was too busy being irritated that they took 15 minutes to find my passport.

I grabbed a cab back to the Hilton and had lunch at the Ocean Grille by myself while my husband finished his day at work. I had their classic chicken sandwich, which was grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, bacon, grilled bell peppers and garlic mayo…it was awesome. So simple, so fresh – it was perfect after spending the morning on the beach! If only everything else the Hilton served was as nice!

Barbados Cuisine: Bajan cooking

After happy hour at the poolside bar Friday evening, my husband and I planned on attending the famous Friday night fish fry in Oistins…but our cab driver had other plans! He took us to “The Saint Lawrence Gap” and told us that we were at Oistins.

The Saint Lawrence Gap is about a single block near the water that has quite a few restaurants (maybe 6?) and a few vendors selling island trinkets. When we got out of the cab and asked where to go, we quickly realized he had dropped us off miles away from our destination. We could either hire another $25 cab ride or take a $4 bus ride…so we decided to stay put and make the best of a crummy situation.

Thank goodness we stayed – because we happened upon Harlequins, a Zagat-rated treasure that wiped away any thoughts of fish we may have had!

I ordered a glass of Shiraz and the duck breast with red wine and strawberry reduction and my husband ordered the chicken breast stuffed with peppers and smothered in a chili sauce…my duck was cooked perfectly and the fried mashed potato balls? Oh. My. Lord. I need to learn how to make those at home!

Something that I noticed right away about Barbados cuisine is that they like to mix their fruits and vegetables. We noticed in our meal on Friday night that there were slices of cantaloupe and honey dew in our veggies, and they were actually seasoned and cooked, just like the carrots and whatnot. And while the Bajan cuisine does utilize spices and seasonings, they don’t really use a lot of salt – I am not a big salt fan but even I had to add a little salt to some of my food (not the duck, which was culinary perfection).

Saturday morning we ate breakfast at our hotel – it was a pretty decent breakfast buffet. Honestly, we were just too lazy to take a cab to the Gap to find a restaurant that serves breakfast. It wasn’t bad at all. I had a ton of fresh fruit, french toast and bacon. My husband stood in line for the omelet chef but I didn’t have the patient. I was already elbow deep in french toast and maple syrup by the time he got back to our table.

Did I mention that I gained 3 pounds on this 4 day vacation?

Saturday afternoon, as we left the world-famous Crane Beach, we stopped at Cutters Deli for BLT sandwiches, fresh fruit salad and rum punch. And lots and lots of water! As soon as we walked up to the restaurant, I was shocked and surprised to see FREE WIFI on their sign.

Barbados Cuisine: Bajan cooking

Saturday night, we walked over to Brown Sugar Restaurant, which was already recommended to us by a friend who had recently visited Barbados and every cab driver we met! It was a quaint little restaurant tucked in off a side street near our hotel, and only open for lunch and dinner. I ordered the bacon wrapped, plantain and bacon-stuffed pork tenderloin and my husband ordered the surf and turf. I had bread pudding with rum raisin sauce for dessert…everything was just so good.

Barbados Cuisine: Bajan cooking

I wish we had eaten there every day for lunch and dinner! We actually checked to see if we could have lunch there the next day before we left, but their hours didn’t match up to our departure times…so disappointing!

I loved the Bajan cuisine, it was not just your typical Caribbean food, but something entirely special and unique. The only time I saw curry on a menu was at the airport on the way home – and I had always assumed that all West Indian islands used curry as a staple!

My husband will be back in Barbados each month and I think that I just might have to join him the next time…

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