Taste of the Caribbean
By Mark Glass
Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.
winter approaches here in the Midwest, it's time to start planning escape
from the inevitable onslaught of wind-chill factors in our daily regimen.
Images of azure waters lapping against sandy beaches, surrounded by palm
trees swaying in warm, gentle breezes leap readily into one's
consciousness. The word "Caribbean"
lags but a nanosecond behind the vision. The hard part is deciding which
island to target for whatever respites you can afford.
not let your stomach decide?
what the Caribbean Culinary Federation had in mind, in starting its annual
Taste of the Caribbean competition in 1994. For four days, teams from each
of its twenty member countries converge to attend seminars and vie for
prizes in various individual and group categories covering every aspect of
food and beverage preparation. It's a challenge for the professionals, and
a treat for those members of the public who attend, as well.
year's event was held at Miami's Doral Golf Resort & Spa - the first
time in the U.S. Each island's team is selected by preliminary competition
among all the inn, resort and hotel
staffs in its territory. Several hundred pros ply their trade in aspects
of cooking, drink mixing, and presentation.
most intriguing challenge is the "market basket" series of
events. Teams are given an assortment of ingredients - unknown in advance
- and a limited time to create a meal. The components will always be an
array of local fish, meats, produce and spices. The goal is creativity in
contemporary Caribbean Cuisine, defined by the Federation as, "a
unique, evolving foodstyle... (which) reinterprets
the diverse foods traditional in Caribbean cultures, using modern culinary
techniques and indigenous ingredients, with a demonstrated concern for
health and nutritional values." Besides the obvious use of the
ocean's bounty, and the region's unique cornucopia of exotic fruits and
spices, some contests include lacto-ovo vegetarian fare, spa cuisine, and
non-alcoholic mixed drinks.
a comparison of what two teams concocted from their baskets:
- ginger garlic seasoned seared shrimp, with a sweet potato (no
"e", Mr. Quayle) romaine lettuce pionono, served on grouper
vegetable saute, with a hot papaya passion fruit drizzle, balsamic vinegar
reduction and fried basil leaf.
- rubbed pork medallions and Creole stewed pork on fried funchi with
christophine, celery and plantain in red pepper coulis and herb oil,
sprinkled with roasted peanut pepper.
- allspice Pumpkin dessert on chocolate sponge cake, dusted with toasted
almonds, with a starfruit banana salsa, served with mango and carrot lime
sauces, topped with poached pumpkin and a cinnamon tuille crisp.
- chilled timbale of steamed diced grouper with fresh herbs and bell
peppers, topped with sautéed jerk-spiced shrimp, accompanied by a guava
and red onion mojo dressing, over mixed greens and a yam chip garnish.
- pork loin stewed with plantain and chayote, capers, raisins and bell
peppers, with spiced rum, served with steamed pumpkin and callaloo and a
side of pan-fried rice cake.
- sweet polenta with almonds and nutmeg, wrapped in a cinnamon crepe, with
a watermelon gelatin and sauce of mango, passion fruit and lemon, topped
with a pate a chou flamingo.
now, for your palate-driven vacation plans, here are some of the winners:
of the Year - Martin Maginay, SuperClubs Grand Lido Negril, Jamaica
for "Sav La Mar Medley" - sauteed chicken breast with wild
mushrooms, warm anato oil shrimp salsa and papaya marinated lamb skewer,
on a bed of chocho, mint and beetroot slaw.
innovative Caribbean dish - -
Team BVI's avocado ice cream, with curried mango compote and coconut
Chef of the Year - Linval Green, SuperClubs Sans Souci Lido Resort
& Spa, Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
if the Year - Ron Webster, Restaurant Ici, Sonesta Resort, Anguilla.
He also won an additional award for Most Innovative Drink - cocktail
swept the team events, with Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Trinidad &
Tobago also earning gold medals. Sixteen of the twenty competing countries
received awards for not only food and drink, but also decorative
categories - centerpieces and ice sculpting. In what might almost seem to
be an act of heresy, Puerto Rico's William Collazo, from the El Marlin
Restaurant, won in the category of Most creative Non-Rum Cocktail.
annual Taste of the Caribbean exists primarily for the industry. Its
seminars and workshops form a curriculum for participants to earn
certificates in continuing education. It's also a trade show for suppliers
to exhibit their merchandise. But the event is open to the public, and
there are abundant opportunities for "foodies" to join in the
fun. Many of the classes are open to registered visitors. Several
demonstrations are designed for those who want an insider's view of their
artistry. Tastings of the entries are frequent, along with various
receptions and a blowout-closing banquet to cap the four days in grand
I attended a couple of years ago, the opportunity to mingle with the chefs
was almost as enjoyable as sampling their creations. Despite the grind of
the events, camaraderie among the players was evident, as well as a
gracious responsiveness to questions of interested amateurs. I earned my
own stripes by agreeing to judge a tasting of all the islands' locally
brewed beers (about 20)... starting at 9:00 on a Thursday morning. We
picked a winner, but don't ask me which it was.
the CCF offers tourism packages (including accommodations) for those who
wish to attend, or tickets for specific activities of interest. As we went
to press, the dates and location for Taste 2000 hadn't been established,
but we'll provide that in a future issue. Or, for further information
about the organization and this year's results, check the Caribbean
Culinary Foundation's website - http://www.caribbeanculinary.com.
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Glass)
Mark Glass is a
Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers
and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and
now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis.
For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on
travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis
area. (More about this writer.)