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Thursday, May 26, 2011

yes, I have been a slacker, so to get back on track i've posted some quick grilling tips in the new blog post @ www.chefiriespice.wordpress.com check it out. Food on Fiyah Baby!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From Doubles to Chicharones..From Machel to Low Cash Cowboys. My stop at Calle Ocho, Miami's Latin Fiesta


Grilling Meat kabobs at Calle Ocho

As many of you know and hopefully been reading in my previous blogs, I am fresh off my first Trinidad Carnival, and yes it was an experience for the ages.  So here it is, a week later and another festival abounds here in Miami, Calle Ocho. Well, just like Carnival in Trinidad this visit to Calle Ocho was going to be my first. Man, seems like I have been getting my cherries popped all over the place these days. Didn't even know I had more than one to get popped, who knew. With Soca music still on my brain, tip of my tongue and on the ready in the cd player in the car I was warned not to expect the same kind of revelry and WOTLESSness at Calle Ocho. Well, this set me straight so I was well intentioned in my focus which was going to be the food, Latin street foods of all kinds. Here at Calle Ocho I have to switch my palette from doubles to Chicharones. Have you had some crispy pork skin lately doused with some hot sauce? No? What da hell is wrong with you? and don't gi mi that I don't eat pork thing..face it, pork rules, period. Several things are evident to me upon reaching the street fair, this after fearlessly parking my car for a $5 fee in a lot that belongs to someone I'm sure manned by three youths with skateboards and music box perched on a wall by the fence at the gate..I'm not skerred!! There are lots of folks here and the food smells are intoxicating. Food smells representing Mexico, Columbia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Jamaica, Argentina and more. Grills and steam tables lined the streets offering up food fares like Pintos (meat skewers, smaller than regular kabobs) from Brazil, Arroz con pollo, carne asada, grilled meat kabobs, grilled sausage dogs, chicken Paella, barbacoa on a lazy spindle (Columbian I assume), barbacoa on stick over the pit. 
Meat grilling over the pit

meat grilled Colombian Style 

Moros, boiled Yucca, fried Yucca, Alcuperias, boiled corn, and so much more. Surprisingly enough though I can;t seem to recall seeing any Mofungo (smashed plantain seasoned with garlic, adobe, herbs with shrimp or other meats) dishes or Mondongo for that matter. I would have forsaken all for some good Mondungo (tripe soup). What!!! If you don't know you better recognize. I know I wasn't going to eat my way through this festival but I was going to be very selective..hell, I was trying to avoid colic, did a good job of that in Trinidad.  Rounding out the scene were several food trucks that were parked in several locations along the route offering choices from sushi, sliders, sandwiches, ceviches and some of the more popular Latin fares  If you walked through the maddening crowds and couldn't find something to eat you deserve to drop dead from hunger. Either that or drink a Presidente beer or some guarapo (cane juice) which I had from a Jamaican dred. I've had this before but never mixed with pineapple juice. Most delightful and refreshing it was..tiefing that for sure.
Gurapo Stand
(Fresh Cane juice)



Papi on the drums, happy as ever

Being of African decent, It's hard to to be at Calle Ocho and not recognize the soulful African beats of the drums in the music whether it was blaring through speakers on stage or from speakers set up in the booths of the vendors to the Congo drums beating as singers and dancers in the crowd moved up and down the street. I may not understand most of what is said in the Spanish language but I do understand beats and rhythm. This obviously translates to movement in the hips and feet. You could hear it all over the place coming through in the Salsa, Bachetta, Meringue, Reggae and even from the Hip Hop stage which was packed by the youngsters. I found it rather interesting that Low Cash Cowboys, a Country and Western band was there rocking it out even sampling from Vanilla Ice, Salt & Pepper and the Beastie boys. There was something for everyone.  If you even owned up to a dash of Hispanic culture you were out rocking your colors for whichever country you represented. There was a deep sense of pride that filled the streets. This I know all too well.
Okay, so it wasn't J'ouvert or MAS carnival but I felt that all that were there were having a good time even if you were walking along aimlessly looking at beautiful faces and bodies..yes, there was lots of eye candy around. Security was evidently present all around...Gang Task Force, hmmmhm. Once again, if crowds aren't your thing well, a refreshing glass of lemonade in the back yard playing dominoes can suffice as the smoke hits you from the barbecue grill. See you next year maybe?
 


Last Lap - The wrap up to my first Trini carnival

Well gentle folks, needless to say I am still coming down from my carnival high. I think I left a part of me on the streets of Trinidad and probably on someone's costume as I whined mi waistline wid no behavior on them. It has taken me this long to finish jotting my thoughts down as I was slowly recovering and feeling totally WOTLESS. A week a go this Monday I was recovering from J'ouvert, buzzing form the high I felt then. It was magical for me...I must return to the scene of the scintilating madness, where the the crime of insanity played itself out as I and my fellow revellers rolled behind the "Big" truck where we whned, gyrated, jumped, imbibed on brown liquor concoctions - Rum, Hennessy, Johnny Walker Black etc. etc. - pranced and chipped our way to carnival Nirvana.  But Alas there is still one day left. I wana kno if you playing MAS..Did you? Well I didn't really play mas, but like a lot of people I was able to cross over. Yep, this J'ouvert rebel crossed the stage even though I wasn't with a band..get to that in a second.
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is the big MAS - Masquerade if you're wondering - and the day will start quite early for most especially if you have to meet your band someplace to begin the street procession and eventually crossing over the stage to be judged hoping to take the title of best carnival band. Unfortunately for me my ass did not roll out of bed till 9.30 only to find out that two of the bands that I wanted to see in full regalia had already crossed stage and was heading to some park to have breakfast, can you believe that..pissed I was. Carnival and fun waits for no one here in Trinidad. Oh well, after getting dressed it was off to the Savanah to see the rest of the bands and enjoy myself some more. I believe this is one of the few times if any other exists where at 11am I am downing a cold beer - Stag or Carib mi deh barkeep (beers from Trinidad) - this is insane even for me but when in Rome bra. .Bright colors and feathery plumage can be seen all round. Short tings, tall tings, big tings, small tings all kinda tings and gents in impy skimpy costumes carrying on wid no behavior, being just plain WOTLESS. And you know I am right there on the sidelines getting on just as bad..Si ya, not a soul out deh know mi so it's di perfect place and time fi let loose cause I an I jumping pon a plane di next day. Bands are rolling through, DJ's are killing the carnival songs, old and new and hyping the masqueraders as they chip their way to the stage. Large floats, individual pieces and individuals are getting last minute checks to make sure nothing is falling off after being on the road all day. The noise is deafening as big trucks - I counted 50 speakers on one truck powered by a huge generator - pass by.You just can't help yourself, you are whining like a lego beast. Time for another beer, may I just say it's 2pm and I still haven't eaten a bite yet..hmmmhm, pacing myself I was..lol..
So as I am here watching the madness, The All Stars Steel Pan band - Winners of this year's Steel pan Panaorama at carnival - is on it's way through accompanying one of the bands and I get totally lost in the music and my video taping that I realized I was behind the security check point. Well, no one stopped me to check for wrist bands and funny thing was I was dressed in similar colors as part of the band and I found myself getting powdered and readied. Who would have thought, and I said to myself we crossing di dam stage here come what will. Just then, Kwame, cousin of Marcia, Nicole and Gigi comes up and taps me on the shoulder. Turns out he's jumping in this band with his dad. I borrow a sneak from his hat to complete my blendage and I continue to render myself camouflaged..lol..ahhh boi, the things we do away from home. The Stage is in front of us time to get advantageous (song by Machel Montano-this was played mostly as bands got ready to cross the stage). Time to roll, we are about to cross over. This is so exhilarating, I feel like a nerdy and naughty school boy about to bruk his ducks (lose virginity, if you wanted to know). Yep, out come my flags, all six of them representing: Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis. Haiti and Antigua. What the hell we all kindred spirits..this was amazing, I found Kwame my hype man and danced together as we did at the Fete on Saturday night like brothers in arms, all in front of the stage's cameras recording for all to see. I was having a ball. We crossed over and I received I guess what would be a celebratory drink from Kwame's dad, Johnny Walker no doubt poured from a flask. Alas, this was not to be the end of the procession for the band now continued to link up with other bands that were in route to cross the stage later..Madness I tell ya..Real quickly, we stopped to get some boiled corn. God a Lawd, what a sumptin sweet. I haven't had boiled corn like that since I left Jamaica. I lament on this because of the type of corn I'm eating. A far superior variety if you ask me found here in the Caribbean than the softy we get in the States. Nice firm kernels on the cobb cooked in a flavorful broth. So tasty that after sucking the juice from the cobb one must proceed to Powda (chew) the cobb to shreds. Damn it's soooo good.
Okay, back to Carnival. Well after burrowing our way through ram jam packed streets, witnessing the line security (guys with ropes for the bands keeping people like me out :-)) trying to maintain order, seeing a thief trying to snatch a girl's chain from her neck, seeing a masquerader trying to fight with his own band's security...Guess what? I am back where I started several hours ago. By this time I had several beers and drinks along the way. It was time to feed this hungry beast and I could think of nothing else to have myself but a Shark & Bake. I couldn't leave here and not tear one up. I found a stall and ordered me up one and a bake and fried chicken for Kwame...Lawd Jesus dis sanguige ya is di bomb. Fried shark meat, with crispy cole slaw, lettuce, tomato, chadon benin, hot sauce..sclaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!! I tink I need bout dozen a dem..I may have to get a purge when I get back to the States...just saying..
I spent the rest of the evening watching and dancing, dancing and watching..and drinking some more beer of course, camera snapping away capturing my experience..God mi poor bladders (I feel like I have two now), liver and kidneys must all be crying bloody murder. I have seen what I came here to see, indulged like a midnight robber, had the time of my life. Time to head back to the hotel and chill. This has been a WICKED experience, you should check it out next year..See you in Trinidad next year perhaps..or Rio, or Jamaica :-).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Check out the the new blog post on www.chefirie.blogspot.com J'ouvert madness indeed..

J'ouvert Morning - The madness continues

I realised from early when I started to write the blog that this has been a wicked experience going down to Trinidad for carnival and that my mind and fingers if left to themselves would write for days..Sensory overload. It;s three days later and I can still hear the pulse of the music in my head..Gosh I was so WOTLESS in Trinidad..Hey you there, I need a rum drink. What, no rum, no rum!!! Man is you mad crazy? Then how about a Stag or Carib Beer or yes, a Guiness and Puncheon?..ummm, withdrawl symptoms it must be I tell ya, yep I'm still on that high. The bands, the people, the music, the vibes..It was all intoxicatingly insane. Now back to J'overt morning.
Amidst all the madness I am checking out the costumes from people mingling and mungling. Blue devils, red devils, guys in diapers, guys in drag, painted faces and bodies ready to roll with the bands. Did I mention that the alcohol is flowing? Flasks in pockets or bags were coming out pouring carnival spirits from Vodka, dark rum, white rum - Puncheon (75% proof Trini rum), Hennessey, Johhny Walker Black, you name it was flowing  - I was pissed that I left my flask at home but I improvised so don't worry uself one bit. Didn't have a flask, screw it just bring di whole bottle and shoob it in a pocket or your waistline for this soon would be gone too anyways. It's 5am and we push out with two liquor vans and two semi-trucks packed with speakers blaring all the soca hits I've heard since being here and then some. I was getting ready to be truly WOTLESS and be a Palancing fool that felt like he just won a Million Dollars who now had the power to tell everyone to go weh from me, MOVE!! :-) So when you pay your money to jump with any band or group, line men or security is there to kick any wayward interlopers out of the midst. No one should interfare with you 'chipping' - It's like a Charlie Chaplain like walk with ridim and intention, a shuffled dance that allows you to exert just enough energy to pace yourself through the procession . A god send for mad fools like myself who want to carry on bad like a merry Ninja throughout the whole thing.. I must say that when you do J'ouvert, good clothes is not a neccesity for keep in mind that you might just have to part ways with them after J'ouvert is done. Now, if yu too stoosh, and gwaan like u too nice better stay you ass home. Don't like crowds, don;t even waist you time come a Carnival. Don't want some strange man or woman grinding up on ya, give me you costume and money. Don't like Soca and can't wine, Cho I wi wine fi ya. See, wining is a true necessity if you are going to be a part of the carnival experience and showing off your wining skills is true bravado. Sorry, no time for teaching right now :-) What, what's that I see? Yesssss, out comes the paint, the baby powder, the water..We are getting dirty this morning and of course I'm not shy. Paint me up baby. I bum some from a new friend and lather that stuff all over my face and my head and some on my arms like it's Jergens lotion. I came for this and I was not going to be denied, I LOVE it!!! We are engaging in the ritual of carnival whereby you get dirty be cleansed and transition into prettiness of MAS, costumed glory, beautiful the Saints are on their way to Ash Wednesday.
J'ouvert for me is the ultimate rebel rousing adventure among newly found friends. Chip up to a girl and jus wine pon dat ting. Big ting small ting I'm wining up on all tings, Short ting tall ting I'm wining up on all tings..Ting Ting Ting Ting Ting Ting..Dats how we roll at carnival boi.  I guess all of Port of Spain must be out this early in the morning because if that was here in the States and Loud music from big ass trucks, all day and night somebody going to jail. Ahhh bugger off, live a little. Better get those sleepy bunched up draws out of that knot for this is not Kansas for sure. We haved chipped, we have wined, we have behaved scandalously..WOTLESS like nutin else I tell ya. We have wined off di back a di truck and wined up on di back a di truck. We have Palanced. Sadly though this part of the fun must come to an end...ahhhh, wait, not before I have one more beer. WOTLESS indeed!!!..frig, it's 8am in the morning. holy crud. Carnival doesn't happen without side stories and here's a quick one. Our band Jungle Fever has ended it's J'ouverrt tour and now it's time to get some food. We pack into the car and drive to the spot, If I remebered the place I would tell you. I just know it's right next to the Hyatt. We get there and order. I'm having me saltfish and bake with a side of Callaloo - textured soup like dish that's made from the leaves of the Dasheen plant with okra, coconut milk, crab, pumpkin and kick ass seasonings...ummm, damn good stuff, lik off finga bisness dis. Not too long after this it is announced that our ride, the car we drove in, mine and Stephanie's ride back to the hotel: Gigi's and Nicole's ride back to the house has been towed. Bloody hell!!! One would think that this would invoke cussing, threats from the voodo man. Instead, a chorus of laughter insued and breakfast was eaten. A lesson to be learnt here from my Trini friends indeed. We walked nearly two miles in the blaring sun to reclaim the bugger..After this I was fried, I wanted a shower and a hassock.  All I can say at this point is that I thumbed my nose at playing MAS and now I'm a J'ouvert Rebel. Oh, wait a minute, I did play MAS..stay tuned.....lol.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

blog post - episode 1 on J'ouvert morning at carnival in Trinidad. Check it out @ www.chefirie.blogspot.com

Carnival in Trinidad - J'ouvert morning

I will preface this blog by saying that I cannot be held responsible for the island language that may at anytime jus drop out a mi mout..see it deh alreadi..Can't even make through the first sentence. I am obviously writing this piece now that J'ouvert has passed and the Tuesday morning MAS has ended. my apologies, I was busy carrying on bad and jus being plan WOTLESS!!! J'ouvert morning is when we start to jam, carnival again..Iwer George.. Jus doh drag di flag ( Defend It) - Shal Marshall.. J'ouvert morning is here and I feel like a ball of excitement, almost the same way I felt when I was in DC for Barack Obama's Inarguration. Big difference here though, I'm ready to lose my ever loving mind. Oh yo yoy, ay ya yaye, oh yo yoy, ay ya yaye.. After a brief nap it was going too be time head out at 2am to head down to mas camp. Some place on Loius St.. We are jumping with the group 'Jungle Fever". I have been seeing big ass semis hauling ton loads of speakers since I have been here and you know, I want more.I want to have my collective J'ouvert cherry popped, I want to bruk my J'ouvert / Trini carnival ducks, I want my carnival virginity taken tonight, err this morning I tell ya!!. Wine mi dun till mawnin light. Of course I didn't expect the 4am start time to be gospel so when we rolled out at 5 am I was perfectly fine with that so what do we do, go hunting for some food..need to fuel up before engaging in copius amounts of alcohol intake...We trod up the street a bit and already the madness has started from the other bands and also from the wandering revelers. Need I say that traffic is crazy!! cars crawling through the streets, often times being surrounded by marauding revelers gyrating and sexually abusing the poor car. Did I say abuse, I really meant to say they raped that car. When that gal got up on the bonnet - when in Rome, for you non-islanders with no British broughtupsy, that would be the hood of the car..Americans..:-) -and that guy jumped all over her winding and grinding I knew I was in the right place..hmm, just so you know I only watched and filmed it on video..hmmhm...Hyped music pulsating from all directions driving adrenaline to incredible levels is just making me tingle all over.  It was insane I tell ya. It's now 3am and I'm having jerk chicken and fries. Oh yeah, and a sip of my coke concoction. I believe a purge will be in order when I get back to the States.
So I have a question,well rather a few questions for you:
So, if you're going to J'ouvert anywhere, a few things you might wanna take with ya. baby oil, bottle or two or three..oh hell a box of baby powder, a liquor sample in your favorite flask, providing of course you're a drinker..I am a Drinka..comfortable sneakers or some kind of flats. Well If you've never been and do end up going one day, the meaning of all this will be revealed.
Now question for you, seeing as you are reading so intently this carnival bog.
Have you ever been to a carnival of any sort? Have you gotten up from slumber of jus a puss nap to go to a party at 4am not finishing until noon? Have you danced for four hours straight - to soca? Have you gotten up at 2 am and filled a half empty coke/Pepsi bottle with liquor and popped it into a cooler to hit the road? Have you ever just danced up to a gal and jus started wining on her or a man for that matter?  And have you ever thought you were WOTLESS and don't even care? Ask Kes from this year's carnival, he'll tell you all about that one. J'ouvert encompasses this and more so I will not under sell it by no means. Why is that you say Chef? Because when you roll behind the big truck, powdered, painted and just a plain mess, having the water truck begin to hose water in the crowd you begin to understand that anything goes in Carnival. More exciting when we the revelers start begging for water. Mi seh wet mi up to sclaaaat!!! Very quickly a chant develops..wata, powda..wata, powda..wata, powda...wata, powda..It is frenzied like detox vagrants going through withdrawal..I was one of them and loving every minute of it..madness I tell ya, madness. It is now morning light..Hey, don't chastise me for saying it like that. I told you when in Rome heh. Once again, morning light and the party now seems like it is getting ramped up.
video
J'ouvert for me has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, by far. Kudos to me that my first happened in the land of Soca. I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was all I thought it would be and more and I truly enjoyed it all. I have been immersed in Soca Since I landed Friday night. It is now Tuesday and I could still squeeze some more in..Fiyah!! I believe i'll find some way to throw in some food thoughts later too...