Sunday, July 15, 2007

Baltimore Festivals: Caribbean Festival

Sometimes I just hate Druid Hill Park. Today I spent half an hour trying to find the Caribbean Festival. I made just one wrong turn, and before I know it I am making a U-turn in the Maryland Zoo parking lot and then am back on I-83! Eventually I just threw my hands up in the air and took Keswick Ave. through Hampden into the park, and even then it was a bitch trying to find where I was supposed to go. I almost gave up in frustration! I have no idea why the Gay Pride Festival was so easy to get into.

But I did find the parking ($5), and walked over to the festival (also $5). And for all the energy and frustration I spent trying to find the durn'd thing, I was surprised at how small it was! In contrast, PrideFest was gargantuan, and it is considered quite small by gay pride standards. Also, there weren't many people there at the time. It was probably early, or maybe they were also having trouble finding it. I don't know. But fewer people means not trying to navigate around others!

The Caribbean Festival was divided into three sections, as are most of these festivals: stage, food and stuff for sale. Among the stuff for sale were soccer jerseys, flags, West African art, CDs and DVDs, and other memorabilia of the West Indies - the Caribbean Islands, Central America and the northwestern coast of South America - that'd be Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana, with Trinidad and Tobago right off the coast. Above all, however, a few countries were best represented: Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The same was reflected in the food. The wonderful (yet expensive) food! I started out at the booth for Hannam's Jamaican Cuisine (I cannot find them anywhere on the internet - and yes, I did spell it correctly). From this kiosk I got a tender yet robust and spicy jerk chicken with beans, rice and cole slaw. I liked the cole slaw, and even the rice, sadly treated as a throwaway item too often, was quite good. To this I added, from a Trinidadian booth, a cup of mauby bark tea on ice ($3). It's difficult to explain the flavor of mauby. It's tangy, a little woody and very sweet!

I went back for more food, thinking I'd get a little something to nibble on while I went back to the car. Instead I went to yet another Trinidadian kiosk for a helping of that classic West Indian dish, roti ($8). The guy sold me sort of a make-it-yourself roti kit, with a heaping helping of goat (surprisingly few bones) and a large roti to wrap it up in (you wrap the filling in the roti, almost like a burrito). I took it home, and microwaved it (it had been sitting in my car for a while). I had planned to just nibble for a bit, but I found myself finishing off the whole roti! The bread itself - like a massive tortilla of sorghum or, in this case, wheat flour - was buttery and flaky, and fell apart quite easily. The goat filling easily fell out as a result. No matter - I just stuffed it back in. Very tasty, in fact some of the best goat I have had.

I need to find some of the West Indian places in and around the city to find more! A few places I should get to, that I didn't try at the festival, were Aunt Iffy's Kitchen, which was at the International Festival at Poly Tech last year. They serve West African as well as West Indian foods. I have no clue where they are. They only seem to pop up at festivals (I think they will be at Artscape next weekend - they were last year). Another, Callabash, I will have to make a special trip to try - they came all the way from Dorchester, Massachusetts, to be here today!

Other photos:

Lots more flags for sale - most did not feature Bob Marley.

This was the festival. The entire festival.


danielle said...

Wow. That's a tiny festival. I had no idea. I assumed it was much larger.

The TriniGourmet said...

wow that's really small for DC. glad trinidad represented well tho :) the recipe you linked to though for mauby is not Trini mauby, i think that's a puerto rican version :)

Trini mauby is here:

you can also learn more about it in a trini context here :)

John said...

Trini: Thanks for that correction! Probably DC's is bigger - this one was Baltimore's, so it's bound to be smaller.

The TriniGourmet said...

oops i reposted the same link twice :) i just realized! well there's a mauby overview article too hehhe :)

ah yes, baltimore vs. DC .. i've been away so long i forget the two would not share a festival :) my fave memory of baltimore is being in some paddle boats :) It's also where I had my first cannolli :)

John said...

Uh oh, now you've got me thinking about cannoli. I did change the link to the mauby recipe, by the way.

Cham said...

What is going to be the strategy for next weekend?

John said...

Oh, I don't know. I'll just go when I have some time to spare.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard about the Caribbean Festival this weekend at Clifton Park? Trying to find information.