by Sandra Sealy
It’s evenings like this that make me really love my job.
Evening Reserve which also launched the opening of the Fusion Rooftop restaurant, was the place for the second evening of the 2015 Barbados Food Wine Rum Festival.
A bit earlier on, patrons were greeted in the Limegrove Center courtyard by live music compliments Williams Industries. Then from about 7:00 p.m., a sizeable crowd gathered on the 3rd floor to mingle, pose for selfies and sample cocktails and hors d’œuvres created by this season’s celebrity chefs at the new eaterie. I was no exception. As a foodie, it was a thrill to be able to meet visiting celebrity chefs Carla Hall, Andrew Pern and Marcus Samuelsson and yes, our very own mixologist Phillip Antoine.
First there’s the immediate welcome with smiles and “Bay Passion” – the signature cocktail of the festival created by Antoine. The award-winning mixologist was ably assisted by fellow bartender Damien Williams. Beyond the eye-catching Barbados colours the NIFCA award-winning beverage – with the main elements of bay leaf, Mount Gay White Rum, fresh passion fruit juice and Angostura bitters, topped with Blue Curaçao – was really good and quite refreshing. The dynamic bartender’s aim is “to put the amazing flavours and flair of the Caribbean in a glass”.
Above the buzz of excited chatter, soft strains of acoustic guitar music by Stefan Vandenbossche matched the ambience. Several areas for lounging and dining were highlighted by a water feature and a fire pit as well as a starlit terrace for foodies and chefs to gather.
Chef Carla Hall of “Top Chef” and “The Chew” fame revealed it was her first time to Barbados.
“I hope to come back,” Hall smiled. When I asked her about what Bajan culinary elements she planned to use for her featured meal at The Crane for The Gourmet Safari, the chef and soon-to-be restauranteur anticipated using flying fish – her first time – and black eyed peas. The TV personality is in the midst of creating her first restaurant, Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, slated to be opened in early December – with cuisine from the Southern US being connected with flavours of West Africa.
In contrast, Michelin Star Chef Andrew Pern from Yorkshire, England has been to Barbados “at least six times”. However, like Carla, it’s also his first time as part of the festival and he’s all about “combining what [he] loves from home with the flavours and spices of Barbados so everyone’s happy”.
But back to the appetizers.
The menu comprised a selection of hors d’œuvres by some of the celebrity chefs Carla Hall, Andrew Pern, Chris Cosentino and Craig Harding and in-house Fusion chef Eddie Classic. Unfortunately I didn’t get to taste any of Chef Carla’s Black Bean Empanadas With A Hot Scotch Bonnet Aioli but I did sample all of the rest. They were delicious but if pressed to choose, my favourites were Pern’s Banks Beer Battered Shark With Yorkshire Caviar served English style in a ‘newspaper’-lined cone and Classic’s dessert bite, the Mini Piña Colada Pavlova.
The only thing overshadowing the event was the slow speed of food and drink delivered to patrons, leaving some grumbling. Though quite friendly, I think the staff was overwhelmed and would’ve been better served with some items available at food stations rather than have all passed.
Evening Reserve’s appetizers definitely whet my appetite for Day 4’s Feast In The Sun at the Hilton on Sunday. Yum.