Sunday, September 26, 2010

my taste of taste t&t

this year, taste t&t took a different direction. instead of what i considered an irrelevant display of all the pricey restaurants this side of the lighthouse plus benihana, tdc took it to the communities. well, kinda at least. for three consecutive sundays, taste t&t issued culinary challenges that intended to name the best fish broth, the best curry duck and the best doubles. now that is what we talkin bout, so we made some trips to check out the scenes.

i didn't go toco for the fish broth competition (but baidawi went, and took some video), so my pics start from the curry duck session in tunapuna. big space. easy layout. i heard the food ran out in toco and there were only two or three stalls. this wasn't the case in tunapuna.

the ever popular jennifer benjamin was there with her range of tasty local products. her tamarind anchar is the shiznit! she has some innovative stuff, like a pumpkin paste that's a great addition to a pelau, or a nice veggie solution to top some pasta. pepper sauce, original chip chip sugar cake and more, made with secret ingredients and techniques handed down to her from generations. we forgot to pass back for our mango mango juice concentrate sample. next time fuh sure jennifer.

fish broth was in the mix. very tasty broth with heaps of shadon beni, and the fish of the day was fresh blue marlin.

a party ain't a party without a corn soup too. just the way i like it. all natural. no golden ray and heavily processed razzle dazzle. ital business.

provision with curry duck and curry rabbit.

and we're not going to forget the blue waters tent that was like an oasis in that blisteringly hot savannah. free water for all. bless these thy gifts blue waters. bless these thy gifts.

the actual competition happened in the competition zone. teams had to submit their recipes then they were given a time period to create their meals. the judges sampled their dishes and gave their final results based on authenticity, technique, presentation and most of all taste. pretty standard.

lots of spices were presentt.

lots of spices.

and the usual suspects like onion and garlic and these fellas.

some not so usual ingredients were present as well.

and of course the star of the show... duck.

the presentations were cool too.

they covered down the judges portions, but i took the damn shots anyway.

some had their spices on display. i think it created huge appetite appeal.

some went the route of creating custom utensils...


the food though. well the people didn't get to sample the competition dishes, so it was all judges' say. but there was tasty curry duck to enjoy, and enjoy we did.

well, on to the next one. the next one being the taste t&t doubles edition in penal. we made the trip to see what was the scene. traditional doubles making utensils sent the message that this scene intended to honor authenticity.

again, the competition area was full of action. barra fryin left, right and center.

the judges commented that they saw a lot of different methods. some used saffron in the barra...

some used curry in the channa... all of them smelled delicious though.

plus, all sorts of chutney, pepper, kuchela and what have you, served with real flair. doubles probably never looked so good. could be because there was none for us too. once again, the competition plates were only for the judges.

we did however have a wide variety of food that didn't necessarily conform to the doubles theme. one place sold doubles and pies etc, but i bought a curry duck buss up shut from this tent. somehow, i just can't say no to a good curry duck.

so what is my verdict? well, let me start by saying again that i think the idea was a fantastic one. doing away with the expensive ticket method opened it up to a wider crowd. though they had a VIP section (picture above) which i saw no need for in an event like this, it felt like a much more welcoming event. i also like the fact that local food took the spotlight this time.

the "kitchen stadium" feel with teams preparing their offerings on spot was also an exciting feature.

however, there were a few things that i think could have made a better event for me:

1. not enough attention was given to the competition. i was expecting all activity to stop while a ball by ball of the competition cooking was going on. instead, i think the real showdown for the best items went a little unnoticed. i had to ask to find out that the dude pictured above won the doubles competition. who won the duck and the fish broth is still a mystery to me.

2. i would have preferred to see more competitors, not necessarily in that competition zone, but just booths of competitors that the people could walk around and purchase samples or full meals. let the judges call a time and walk around. that way there would be room for a people's choice award. people like to feel like they have a say too. that would have boosted the experience.

3. and talking about more, i heard that food ran out at the fish broth competition. probably had to do with the fact that they had about 3 food booths or something like that. unfortunate i guess.

4. on a similar note, a lot of people said they didn't know how, when and where to enter. and i mean people who had booths at the event. some expressed that they would have entered had they known. so i had to wonder, how were the people who competed selected? how do i know the doubles that won is actually the best doubles? i think it could have been a little more credible. even if it was by district.

5. i appreciate consistency and themes. for that reason, i'd prefer not to see oil down at a doubles competition. give me a curry duck competition that serves curry duck all around maybe with other items that compliment that experience. in other words, not a fish broth.

6. personally, i hate "cultural performances" at things like these. especially when one of them is a chutney band that would select a song about "beating pum pum" (analogy to playin a bass pan) at a family event. how about some cooking demonstrations or give me some info like the history of doubles. something to make me appreciate the food experience. if you're bent on having song and dance, well maybe hire the mighty trini to sing "curry tobanca", or the youths who put out "doubles with slight" for the doubles competition. but that could just be me and my fete phobia.

anyway, it was still a fairly enjoyable series of events and i will look forward to them next year. hopefully with some upgrades.


  1. yeah it was a good showing... from what I understand, this format was much better than the taste tnts of the past but I still think they could have put a little more thought into the itinerary for the event to make it a little more interesting.

    I don't think every event in T&T needs to be a cultural showcase... they could have stuck to the idea and make the entire event about the food with a sprinkling of entertainment.

    All in all it was a job well done by the TDC and all those involved. Can't wait for next year.

  2. nice review and epectations for the next time around...

    i thought there was a People's Choice in Penal... i heard 4 people were randomly chosen and made the decision... maybe the judges were randomly chosen...

    agreed about the 'entertainment' as well i was sick to my stomach and it was from the curry...

    i too wondered why there was bbq chicken for sale at the doubles comp but summed it up to the fact that not everyone would like t have curry... and we still want ppl to attend these things to sell ourselves to ourselves...

    this incarnation was too short... 3 Sundays alone... geez an ages... i think they should just traverse T&T for the whole year... do one a month...

    until next year...

  3. Steuuups...I real friggin hungry now.

  4. My bougeois sect (hahaha) actually prefers the Taste TNT layout of the past. Basically because T&T offerings are not limited only to "cultural" cuisine, (as the Benihana's and the Angelo's and Zanzibar's would demonstrate) and it would be equally important to showcase that, because as much as we love to stand by the doubles vendor and buy a corn soup in St.James, the restaurant ambience and menu would also appeal to tourists and locals alike. We can also note that Woodford cafe, also showcases local offerings, pelau, crab and dumpling, cowheel soup etc. So I don't believe that they (restaurants) should be left out of the experience, but instead be somehow incorporated. That being said, I only actually attended the Penal/Debe/Barrackpore Doubles competition. Why? Because I found it to be poorly advertised. I only knew about Toco / Fishbroth through you guys, I saw Tunapuna fleetingly in a newspaper and after nothing. I was confused because it was being touted as “Taste TNT” however it wasnt the same event I looked forward to all year. This seemed community driven and based, which would probably mean a 50/50 chance of successful execution. So I called TIDCO and they explained why and such and I made a concerted effort to go to Debe (because this is what I was told) to experience this. To be honest, I didn’t expect many people because I believed the less adventurous from outside of the area would not travel so far. But I can understand the reason for the attempt and I appreciate it. So based on Penal/Debe/Barrackpore alone :
    1) I expected more Local Business booths and give aways. I saw NEDCO, I saw a girl doing Mahindi (doh ask meh why) and that was it. What about the man who selling the frozen cassava and sweet potato fries, the pastelle maker, or the person bottling they pepper sauce and seasonings, The punch man, Fruit Juice fella by the savannah, Some honey, the coconut oil man that was on Road less Travelled. Mabel’s, SWISS, Twist. If we showcasing community items, then let’s do so. The competition was the highlight, but its not a “taste doubles” event, especially if we cant sample the competition doubles.
    2) I fully agree with Q re: the sampling. Each one of those paying stalls (including those persons participating in the competition) should have had a sample tray, because let’s face it, people there for they stomach.
    3) I expected more experimentation in the food stalls: I loved the pepper roti, Mattar Paneer and the other type of paneer (stewed) and there was stew saheena (Saheena fried and then stewed down with a tomato something. Yes!
    4) Layout. They could have done so much more with regard to seating, (I agree do away with the pesky VIP area), the facilities available to the stall owners (The space was too small for some)and oh gosh and for a place with food, the bathroom facilities were seriously under par. But I understand, you work with what you have. But Location! Location! Location.. Because I’m sure some interested parties, just could not make the trek.
    Right so overall.. it was “aight”. The food that I sampled (some at considerably higher prices, makes me wonder how much they pay for the stall) but it tasted good. Not enough to keep me entertained for more than 2 hours. Maybe next year we could have a day in POS, dedicated to our restaurants, or incorporate them in someway in the new format, so those of us that are so inclined, can purchase our $400 tickets from A B C D group and let our inner Kandaff.. well yuh know nah.

  5. doh study length mandy. appreciated every word.

    pepper roti is de best!!! ah love dat.

    about the restaurants being included. this is how i see it:
    i don't mind, but maybe as wagonist said, it should be longer. then yuh do a weekend with restaurants. i agree that trinbago has a mix of all sorts of cuisine, but that isn't unlike a lot of places in the world. in my opinion, a taste t&t show should feature our local delights first. that's the difference between having a taste t&t and a generic food fair. and i quite like the essence of this new approach.

    a little more planning and attention to creating a real experience i think will make a real nice event.

    we went to the tobago blue food festival last weekend (pics and video coming) and i was impressed with the experience it offered. it was all dasheen. as in dasheen anything you can think of. no deviation. in other words, if yuh doh like blue food, daz not the place to be. and there were more people there than i saw in any one of the taste t&t events. mind you, the blue food festival has been running for about 10 years now. so i guess they have it down.

  6. Is there an "applaud" button? This was a totally enjoyable post, very informative and entertaining as a whole. But I want to applaud point #6 in your assessment.

    When are we going to pay attention what content is just totally inappropriate for our kids to be exposed to in a public setting? When did lewdness become the defining characteristic of our music and our culture (or at least what some would have you believe)?

    Nicole @