Must Have Bajan Experiences in Barbados

The term Bajan or Barbadian is referred to the people of the Caribbean island of Barbados. Bajan is also an English based creole language that is spoken on the island. It can be quite confusing to a native English speaker, as the locals have a very fast slang way of running the words together.

During my recent visit to Barbados, I discovered that one can discover the authentic cuisine and culture at all-inclusive resorts as well. Elegant Hotels is a Bajan company that employs a majority local staff, from the chefs, waiters and beach ambassadors, to the management. They pride themselves in creating experiences that expose guests to the Barbados style of living – be it engaging in a game of road tennis, tasting rum while “liming”, or taking lessons in steel pan drumming. Here are a few Bajan experiences offered by two of the resorts that are in the western and southern parts of the island.

Crystal Cove is on the platinum west coast of Barbados where the gentle waves lap at the stunning shoreline with the resort on an elevated position offering fantastic views out to sea. The all-inclusive four-star property is in a charming traditional Bajan style and has an elegantly intimate feel that makes it popular with families and parties. Crystal Cove features three freshwater lagoon swimming pools, a swim-up bar, two restaurants, complimentary watersports for all guests, two tennis courts and a free water taxi to other Elegant Hotels Group properties on the west coast.

New Elegantly Bajan initiatives at Crystal Cove include:

Oistins Night – A weekly culinary sensation, Oistins Fish Fry on a Friday night is where locals and tourists alike head to the south coast to savor some rustic dining on local seafood and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere. Crystal Cove recreates the vibes of Oistins with a range of local authentic dishes at Drifters Restaurant for some beachside dining. Dine on a feast of local fish marinated and cooked live on George’s BBQ grill. Delicacies include granny’s fish cakes with Mount Gay Rum cocktail sauce, fried flying fish with Bajan pepper sauce, grilled sweet potato, fried plantain, calypso rice and pumpkin & ginger soup. Musical entertainment is in the form of a local popular DJ mixing sounds of Oistins with everything from calypso to reggae, as local artisans at the resort display local crafts and souvenirs.

Bridgetown Heritage Tour – Barbados’ capital is often overlooked by guests and offers a genuinely fascinating array of attractions for visitors to the island. Exclusively for Crystal Cove guests, this day long tour will soak up the most beautiful architecture and historic buildings in the capital as well include visits to the Mount Gay Visitor Centre, Kensington Oval, St. Mary’s Church, Parliament Buildings, Garrison Savannah and the Prime Minister’s Office. There will even be time in the itinerary for some duty-free shopping in Bridgetown followed by lunch and a trip to one of Barbados’ most beautiful beaches, Brown’s Beach, for a spot of snorkeling and relaxation.

Heritage Night – For an evening like no other, Crystal Cove puts on a Caribbean cabaret floor show with dancers wearing carnival costumes and performing a range of dances and feats including fire eating and limbo dancing. This is accompanied by the Tuk Band and the famous Calypso King; authentic dishes from around the Caribbean and The Chattel House Bar which serve a variety of coconut cocktails.

Steel Pan Classes – One of the quintessential sounds of Barbados, this is a chance for travelers to get to grips with the steel pans and have a go at producing well known songs as well as calypso classics with some of the best professionals on the island.

Road Tennis Classes – Road tennis is the little known national sport of Barbados – unique and exclusive to the island, road tennis involves a ‘skinned’ tennis ball, a stretch of road for a court and wooden paddles to bat the ball between two players. Easy to learn and fun to play, Crystal Cove staff show guests how to master this local sport as well as set up some tournaments for a vigorous work out.

Rum Shop initiation – It is said there is a rum shop on every corner of Barbados and that liming (Bajan slang for relaxing) at a local village rum shop is an essential part of the Bajan experience. To test this theory, Crystal Cove staff coach guests on how to ‘lime’ and really learn to relax, chill and clear their minds of any stress, by teaching them rum shop games. Dominos is a national obsession in Barbados and Crystal Cove staff teaches guests how to play slam dominos like a real Bajan as well as drink some rum based forfeits. Guests can also sample local rum shop snacks including corn beef and biscuits as well as cheese cutters made with local salt bread.

Turtle Beach, on the south coast offer a host of Elegantly Bajan experiences for families, couples and parties alike. A premium all-inclusive property in the lively St Lawrence parish of Barbados, Turtle Beach is popular with families and couples who love the relaxed atmosphere, 1,500ft beach and general feeling of space and tranquility the resort offers. With two swimming pools, three restaurants and bars, two tennis courts and the infamous Captain Sam’s watersports center with free water-sports including dinghy sailing and surfing.

Bajan initiatives at Turtle Beach include:

Turtle Pioneers – Get the inside scoop from locals. Turtle Pioneers – Hermanius, Maradonna, Nigel and Captain Sam are an elite team of Barbados experts and are a powerhouse of knowledge about what to do, where to go and when to do it in Barbados.

Pastry School – Guests at Turtle Beach can take part in a weekly pastry class with award winning dessert chef Ezra Beckles. Known for his sinfully tasty treats, Ezra uses unusual ingredients including noni flour and cactus as well as traditional ingredients from Barbados including local tamarind, cherries and coconut. He takes guests through how to create local delicacies and most importantly, how to enjoy them!

Chef Spotlight: An Interview with Chef Fernando Franco

Executive Chef Fernando Franco’s name may not be as globally recognizable as that of restaurant tycoon Wolfgang Puck or television personalities Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsey but, to individuals within dining distance of Hyatt Regency Trinidad, his star power shines just as bright.  Anyone who has been been fortunate enough to taste his culinary creations –in the hotel’s full-service restaurant, its lobby lounge, sushi bar, or the rooftop bar and grill – enthusiastically sings his praises in between indulgent bites.

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Born in Argentina, a country of diverse culinary influences, it almost seemed predestined that he would eventually make a seamless transition into life in the equally eclectic Trinidad. For the past eight years, Chef Franco has been using his love for food and his dedication to his craft to produce memorable and tasty meals in downtown Port-of-Spain.

In the following interview, Chef Franco discusses his early inspirations, his global experience, and his intense passion for the culinary arts.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a chef and why did you decide on this career path?

I was 21 years old. I had just finished high school and I was still undecided about my future so I was doing odd jobs related to cooking to earn pocket money. Fortunately for me, I landed a job at Las Leñas, one of the largest Andean ski resorts in Argentina and there I had the privilege to work with many of the best chefs in my country. I enjoyed it so much that the experience set me on the path I am still on today.

What were your biggest food influences while growing up?

My biggest influence was my father.  We spent a lot of time cooking and bonding over food when I was growing up. But the truth is, I also grew up in a country where eating and drinking are deeply-ingrained pillars of our culture.  Unlike the fast-food type trend that has caught on in many places today, back in Argentina we take our time in the preparation and enjoyment of our meals. It was routine to go to a butcher to buy meat and then visit separate markets for poultry, fish and produce. Plus, mealtimes were unrushed affairs when friends and family got together to catch up on each other’s lives.

You have an illustrious 27 year work history and because if it you’ve lived in many different countries.  How have your experiences in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Hawaii and now Trinidad impacted your love and appreciation for food?

My love for food began before I ever set foot on a plane but working in several countries and traveling to others gave me the opportunity to learn about many different types of cuisines. As my knowledge grew, so did my understanding and appreciation of the international language of food. Working with other chefs who also shared my passion certainly added to the experience.

What attracted you to Trinidad and Tobago?

Before I moved here, I had never been to the Caribbean before so I was very thorough in my research prior to deciding to relocate.  I was attracted to Trinidad and Tobago because of its many festivals, and its rich diversity and culture excited me.  The local foods also seemed like a culinary adventure that would only expand my repertoire.

Trinidad is home to innumerable culinary influences that melt together in a multicultural pot of scents, tastes, spices and aromas. How does that inspire you to create new recipes?

The variety of local spices and produce, as well as the aroma from the Indian influence in the dishes and the way in which they are marinated with different meats all provide great inspiration for me. Fusing those elements with Hyatt’s food philosophy creates memorable dishes and flavors and tasty seasonal treats.

What are your best kitchen moments?

The moments associated with the opening of the meal period. The adrenaline rush I get from preparing multiple dishes side-by-side while adhering to the finest standards for all of them is unparalleled. It gives me true purpose in the kitchen.

What is your biggest worry?

That a guest many not be totally satisfied with my dishes. I am not successful if the diner is not pleased with what we have prepared.  I enjoy meeting the hotel guests and getting their feedback as it allows me to understand their likes and dislikes. Those open exchanges give me the impetus to be even more creative with my menus.

Are there any emerging trends on the food scene you’d like to tell us about? What types of menu inclusions are travelers requesting more of?

I think travelers are aiming to eat healthier foods and they increasingly expect their meals to be prepared by utilizing only the freshest ingredients. Here at Hyatt Regency Trinidad, we receive a lot of vegetarian and vegan requests from our guests and we have included a separate section on our menus for these options. Travelers also look forward to tasting the new spices and flavors used but they are not limited to any particular fruit or product. As food and beverage is also critical to the success of international meetings and we do so many of them here, I also ensure our menus reflect cultural or religious dietary needs and I inject local elements wherever possible.

Final question: do you have a favorite cook book? If so, what is it?

When I was younger, my favorite cook book was “La Cocina del Mercado” by Paul Bocuse. He is a famous French chef who is known for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine.  After I left the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I added “The New Professional Chef” to my must-have list. I think any aspiring chef should have both.

~ Contributed by Lesley-Ann Thompson of Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications

Notable Alternative to Hotels in Nice

When considering lodging along the French Riviera one might think of high priced fancy hotels that only the rich and famous can afford. What if there were lodging facilities with more space than the average European hotel room: offering a nice bed, complimentary WiFi, free parking, and free breakfast in a more intimate yet traditional setting?  Does having an authentic French experience by staying in a Niçoise home and catching a glimpse of the life of the locals peak your interests?

If this sounds like the experience of your dreams, then strongly consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Nice.  Unlike the hotels that line Promenade des Anglais, the major street along the coast of Nice, these properties are found in residential areas.  Most of the bed and breakfasts in this region are not located in the city but in the countryside, and many are older homes.

Just 2.5 kilometers outside Nice’s city center exists a secluded and charming estate surrounded by an abundance of aromatic flowers. Le Castel Enchanté, run by Alberto and his family, is an authentic French B&B. It sits high atop a hill at the end of a lengthy, narrow winding private road. The road is just narrow enough to fit one car, a true French experience.

Castel Enchante driveway

 

Entering the doorway of Le Castel Enchanté, has the feeling of being welcomed into a private home where your visit is excitedly anticipated. Alberto exclaims, “Bonjour madam,” with a big smile.  There is no formal check-in, just a quaint verification of identity and on to tour the estate. The building of Le Castel Enchanté has an old-time feel with modern day amenities as it was built in the 1850’s but restored over time.  The establishment was originally built as a hotel and named “Castel Enchanté” meaning enchanted castle.  In the 1960’s the hotel, which had its own restaurant, was downsized and later transformed into a smaller bed and breakfast by 1980.  The historical facility has been under the current owner Alberto’s care for just over a year and is thriving.  Its rustic feel and homely appeal delight visitors from all over the world.

Alberto at castel enchante Nice

Alberto carries the bags and escorts guests to their assigned accommodation, then gives a quick walk through of the chamber.  Each of the five rooms at Le Castel Enchanté has its own personality and name.  The room, Nemuphar is a soft salmon color with large windows facilitating great views and natural light. The wood furniture is of a rich hue and appears to be antique. Floor to ceiling french doors open into a second smaller room that has a single bed, full length mirror and ample space.  The suite is charming and easily accommodates a family of three.

Castel Enchante Room Nice

The suite has all the basic amenities a person would require. The floor of the bathroom is tiled in an ultramarine blue color.  The oversized bath towels are plush with high thread count and work well with the overall scheme. Shelving in the bathroom creates ample space to place toiletries, and the temperature of the shower water does not disappoint. Sufficient seating, wardrobe, coffee maker, iron, a mini fridge, and free WiFi bring together the essential necessities ensuring relaxation and comfort.  Before leaving, Alberto explains all about breakfast.

The remainder of the establishment is comprised of Alberto’s personal living space and common guest areas.  Breakfast is served in a semi-formal dining room in front of a fireplace reminiscent of home and a coziness that ignites emotions of being a member of the family.  During the colder months breakfast is served indoors but guests can enjoy cool Mediterranean breezes and views of Nice from the gardens while dining alfresco in the summertime.

Castel Enchante Terrace

Additional outdoor spaces on the property include patios and a swimming pool.  Loungers, benches, and chairs are abundant and allow the stunning nature and city views to be relished while relaxing. Many of the herbs and fruits that grow on the grounds make their way to the morning marmalades and juices. Fragrant flowers, towering trees, and creeping vines fashion an illusion that the bed and breakfast is no longer in a residential community but completely cut off and secluded, creating a sanctuary for your retreat.

Residential Area Nice, France

Le Castel Enchanté is a bed and breakfast for seekers of an authentic French experience in Nice, France.  Alberto’s attention to customer service and comfort during a stay at the Castel will be a delightful diversion from the sea of hotels in the touristy city center of Nice.

When visiting Le Castel Enchanté a car is strongly recommended.  February to March is a very quiet period.  In April there is a Lemon festival.  May rings in the Grand Prix race and international tennis matches in Monaco with many people staying in Nice.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious.  Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Le Castel Enchante now with TripAdvisor

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Coffee getaway

If you are looking for cool air, warm sun, lush greenery and an insight to coffee making, El Carmen Estate in El Salvador offers you all that. Located in the Eastern part of the country known as Ilamatepec, the estate lies in the heart of a stunningly beautiful coffee forest, at 1300 meters above sea level. El Carmen is located on the banks of Concepcion de Ataco, in the district of Ahuachapán, which is close to Guatemala border. It was founded in 1930 by Mr. Agustin Alfaro Moran and has been maintained through four generations.  Continue reading “Coffee getaway”

Leela’s Lobster Malai

I spent New Year’s Eve 2011 at the Leela Palace Kempinski hotel in Bangalore. It was a magnificent palace converted into a 5-star hotel, rated as one of the best in India. The architecture and gardens of the property are worth considering a tourist destination itself!

Even their restaurant is rated the best in town. The hotel advertised a special party to celebrate the occassion. At a steep entry fee of $100/ person, you would get access to an open bar, a mile long multi-cuisine buffet, entertainment and dance floor. Since I could not afford to stay there, I decided to splurge for New Year’s Eve at least. The place was adorned in a carnival theme, with colorful drapes and masks of every origin. There were two rooms with buffet tables that would put a King’s banquet to shame. Needless to say, it was worth every penny!

Here is a recipe from the web site that I tasted in the buffet. I love lobster and am always looking for ways to incorporate it into ethnic cuisines. Hope you like it too!

Lobster Malai –  Serves 4

Ingredients   Qty.
Large Fresh Lobster : 04 No (600-800 Gm. Each)
Fresh Onion Paste : 250 Gm.
Ginger Julienne : 20 Gm.
Green Chilli Finely Chopped : 15 Gm.
Fresh Coriander Chopped : 15 Gm.
Fresh Coconut Milk (Ist Extract) : 200 Ml.
Fresh Coconut Milk (2nd Extract) : 250 Ml.
Bay Leaf : 02 No
Cinnamon Powder : 02 Gm.
Spice Clove Powder : 02 Gm.
Coconut Oil : 110 Ml.
Turmeric Powder : a pinch
Salt : To taste
Ginger : 75 Gm.
Cumin Power : 08 Gm.

Preparation

  • Blanch the whole lobster in hot salted water. Take out the meat from the tail and cut length wise slices.
  • Heat oil in a kadai, put chopped green chilli and ginger julienne. Fry for sometime. Add fresh chopped coriander and fry well.
  • Add ginger, cumin powder and sauté well.
  • Add onion paste and sauté till the raw smell goes out.
  • Now add second extract of coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  • Put salt and turmeric powder and reduce the sauce to half.
  • Add cinnamon, clove powder and bay leaf.
  • Add first remove of coconut milk and lobster meat slices and simmer for sometime.
  • Garnish with ginger juliennes and fresh coriander sprig., serve hot with Malabar Parottas or Appam

 I appeared in the local newspaper the next day for being at the Faces and Masks party. You can see my picture on the DNA India web site.


Bangalore, India: Offering More Than Technology

India seems to have becomes a popular destination for many in recent years. In addition to the 5 million visitors each year, there are the corporate executives looking to expand business, spiritual seekers headed to an Ashram, novelists and films crews capturing local stories, nonprofits discovering opportunities to solve some deep rooted problems and cultural enthusiasts who just want to see it all! Not surprisingly, Tourism is the largest service industry in India.

Bangalore (aka Bengaluru) located in southern India is India’s third most populous city and fifth-most populous urban agglomeration. Hit by a strong wave of globalization, Bangalore is now a popular IT hub and is known as the Silicon Valley of India. It is home to many multinational corporations, colleges and research institutions.

While Bangalore doesn’t have a lot to offer as a tourist destination, it is a popular choice to live in India. Also, it is a good halt for business meetings and close to other popular cities. It is a bustling metropolis, full of young people from all over India who like to unwind in the numerous malls, bars, restaurants and lounges after work. The weather is always temperate (80F even in December) and it’s very green (despite the outrageous traffic.)

Whether you have a couple of days or a week to spend here, your visit to Bangalore would not be complete without seeing the LalBagh Botanical Gardens, a 240 acre vast expanse of flowers and plants built in 1760. Come here before sunset to take a stroll, watch people and get some fresh air. The Shiv Mandir depicts an interesting mix of traditional Hindu religion God’s with modernized spiritual teachings. Even if you are not a devout, it’s worth watching the giant statues of Lord Shiva and Ganesh, walking through the array of caves made to look like a tour through some of India’s famous religious sites. Also, there is a small bazaar where you can shop for gifts of statues, jewelry, etc. If you have time left, visit the Palace of Tipu Sultan and the Bull Temple as well.

For dining, the choices are endless. One can find any cuisine of the world here, but being in the South, I highly recommend giving Kerala and Andhra foods a try. A word of warning, spices and chilies are used wholeheartedly in the preparations.  For International flavors, try Medici, 100 Ft, Chamomile, BBQ Nation, Catch Marine, Italia or Sunny’s. Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road, Old Airport Road, Indiranagar are streets full of great restaurant options. The Jamavar restaurant at The Leela Palace Kempinski is rated the best restaurant in Bangalore. There is also a Sunday brunch served at the hotel which is the talk of the town.

No trip to India is complete without some good old shopping. Commercial street, although chaotic and crowded, is perhaps the best option for both Indian and Western fare. You can find everything from traditional wear (sari’s, suits, stoles), accessories (bangles, bindis), handicrafts to contemporary wear.  While some stores here are fixed price, many can be haggled at. Bargaining is not considered a negative concept in India. The Mantri Square is the largest mall in India with over 250 outlets, a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema. For higher end brand, head to UB City where you will find Louis Vuitton’s and upscale cafes. Finish the day with a cocktail at one of Bangalore’s hip lounges or clubs Fuga or H2O.

As appeared in Do It While You’re Young in January 2011.