Enjoy a culinary tour of Barbados when you visit during the weekend of the Barbados Food & Rum Festival, which celebrates the past and present epicurean history of this Bajan paradise (pawpaw, anyone?)
Whether you’re a devout foodie or just can’t resist a good meal, one of the best times to dine in Barbados—the beautiful island where Bajan and British collide—is during the annual Barbados Food & Rum Festival. The best chefs, mixologists, and rum makers congregate on the island for parties, events, tastings, and demonstrations. It’s a self-guided culinary tour of Barbados over the course of 4 days, from November 17-20, 2016.
The festival should be especially exciting this year because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of Barbados’ independence, which goes down on November 30. Countless events are happening around this time, so pencil some in when you aren’t snacking on papaya and sipping rum punch.
How to sample the whole island during the Barbados Food & Rum Festival
When you’re at the event, here are some classic Barbados dishes you shouldn’t skip, even if you can’t pronounce them:
1. Flying fish and cou-cou: This is the national dish of Barbados, and it’s served everywhere on the island, from gourmet restaurants to beach bars. It used to only be served on Saturdays, but now you can find it all week long. Flying fish is usually battered and fried, but you’ll also find it steamed, baked, and even pickled. On the side, cou-cou is made with cornmeal and okra, which can have the consistency of polenta or grits.
2. Pelau: This Trinidadian recipe — a one-pot meal that combines rice and meat seared in caramelized sugar — is also very popular in Barbados. There are several variations of pelau, so any version you find should be tasted.
3. Macaroni Pie: Good, no, great news for the kid in you — macaroni pie (usually just called “pie” in Barbados) is a Bajan take on traditional macaroni and cheese. The only difference is that they generally use long tube macaroni rather than elbow macaroni. Most local chefs have their own take on the recipe, so you can’t really have it the same way twice.
4. Pawpaws: If a mango, a banana, and an orange made a fruit baby, this would be it. It’s an explosion of every tropical fruit you can imagine in one bite. And because they have such a short shelf life, you likely won’t find one in your hometown grocery store (if you do, it might be handful of them in a specialty market around September or October.)
5. Bajan peas and rice: You’ll find this Bajan comfort food staple in any Barbados home. It’s usually served with a hearty and spicy stew. Peas may be fresh split peas, black-eyed pea, or green pigeon peas.
6. Cutter – Barbadian street food wouldn’t be complete without cutter, a savory salt bread sandwich stuffed with any type of protein (usually fish), plus lettuce, onion rings, some salad dressing, and spicy Bajan pepper sauce.
7. Fish cakes – These little fritters are fried balls or discs of salt cod (sometimes or flying fish), highly spiced and then served with more spice in the form of a hot pepper sauce.
8. Conkies – Usually conkies are only served around Independence Day, which just so happens to coincide with the Barbados Rum & Food Festival, so you’ll definitely be on the island at the right time to try one. Conkies are desserts made of pumpkin, sweet potato, corn flour, raisins and sugar, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
9. Breadfruit – You might think of these starchy little bundles like the potatoes of the sky. You can find them on trees everywhere. But the real delight is when they’re served with your meal—usually boiled, mashed, or fried into chips.
10. Bajan black cake – Remember that whimsical holiday line, “oh, bring me some figgy pudding, oh, bring me some figgy pudding?” They were talking about this cake right here. A rich, dark, Bajan rum-soaked cake, with dried fruits added..
Imbibing at the Barbados Food & Rum Festival
If you’re going to eat like a king or queen at the festival, you have to drink like one too. Mixologists from the major rum makers will be everywhere.
Don’t mistake your college “Captain and Coke” days for an afternoon experience of sipping genuine rum, which has been produced in Barbados for over 350 years, and is internationally renown for being among the best.
When it comes time to sample rums from Barbados, take an extra shot or two if you see these names:
- Mount Gay
- St. Nicholas Abbey
- Rum 66
- E.S.A. Field
- Tommy Bahama
It’s practically guaranteed, however, that you won’t just be tasting straight rum; rum punch is a Caribbean classic and will undoubtedly be served nearly everywhere you go. Be careful, though — rum punch goes down a little too easy sometimes!
Book your November trip to the Barbados Food & Rum Festival
Bring the whole family. Villa Crystal Springs in St. James, Barbados is a 10-bedroom villa located in The Garden within steps of the beach and minutes from shopping.
November is the perfect time to visit Barbados because you’ll find plenty of fun and excitement, but only have to pay the low season villa rates. And, with direct flights from New York, Charlotte, Miami, and London, you can enjoy a long weekend getaway for the Food & Rum Festival and be back to the office on Monday just in time for the weekly sales meeting. You could also call into the meeting and stay in Barbados for a few more days — but don’t worry, we won’t tell. Book your Barbados villa now.
Images used with permission from Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.