Only in Tobago: 5 essential food experiences
Posted Nov 27, 2020
Boasting ideal growing conditions and abundant waters, Tobago is often referred to as the breadbasket of this twin-island republic and thrills visitors with its many tasty culinary experiences and specialities.
Here are five not-to-be-missed Tobagonian tastes that’ll get your mouth watering at the thought of your next visit to this beautiful and bountiful destination.
Crab and dumplings
Sampling the island’s most popular dish, crab and dumplings are messy, spicy perfection for your palate. Grab a plate at Miss Trim’s in Crown Point that you can then eat on the beach the lunch shack sits on, and experience the tingly heat of the green curry that goes so perfectly with the sweet of the dumplings. Expect to get messy as you pull the crab apart with your fingers to suck out every delectable morsel of meat from the legs and claws - eating crab Tobago-style isn’t glamorous but my oh my, is it worth it! You can also pick up other authentic island tastes at Miss Trims, including conch and dumplings, macaroni pie, and curry goat.
Lobster in the branches of a treehouse
Dining at Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen in Speyside is a magical experience. Better known by its unofficial name of Jemma’s Treehouse, guests are seated in platforms built into the branches of a massive almond tree perched over a gloriously pretty beach. The food is incredible, and the idea is that you order your protein -chicken, shrimp, spiny lobster, curried goat, fish - followed by a bunch of sides - breadfruit pie, plantains, vegetable fried rice, pigeon peas, callaloo - then dig into the massive plates family style. Super fresh and authentic, everything served at Jemma’s is superb. The cucumber ginger salad that they serve to start is so simple but refreshing, and be sure to order a glass of the fresh-squeezed homemade fruit punch too.
Served only on Saturdays (the clue is in the name) you’ll find this hearty soup served up across the island. It could be made of beef, cow heel, oxtail, or any protein, and comes packed with cassava, squash, corn, carrot, and fat pieces of green banana in a rich broth. Oh so tasty, and always served as a massive portion, the soup is what Tobagonian moms traditionally serve their families on a Saturday when they are too preoccupied with cleaning the house and don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Everything gets thrown in the pot in the morning and simmers away to deliciousness until served. Enjoy a bowl at the Fairways Restaurant and Golf Lounge in Tobago Plantations, which offers several different varieties.
Cocoa straight from the tree
The chocolate made from Tobagonian cocoa beans is considered some of the finest in the world, and on a tour of the Tobago Cocoa Estate, you get to see the entire bean to bar process with some unique tasting opportunities along the way. Walking through the leafy estate you’ll see cocoa beans growing alongside coffee and other fruits, then sitting in a pavilion for a brief education on the cocoa bean you get to taste them in various stages of ripeness. Cocoa beans taste nothing like chocolate, and the tart fruit tastes like Jolly Ranchers or Sour Patch Kids depending on how mature it is. The beans have to be dried and processed to become actual chocolate, and at the end of the tour you get to taste the chocolate in liquid form with a shot of rum, and in bar form (I’ll take a double of both, thank you very much).
Coconut cheesecake that the whole island talks about
Before I’d even boarded the plane to Tobago, several people had told me that I really must try the coconut cheesecake at The Fish Pot in Grafton. Once I got there, the cheesecake kept getting mentioned, and by the time I ate there towards the end of my trip I was sure tasting it would be an anticlimax. Wrong. With a cinnamony crumb base and covered in sweet toasted coconut, the cake is so creamy and has a flan-like texture that caramelizes at the edges. This was the best cheesecake of my life, and I’m still dreaming of it six-months after my trip. I should say though that the rest of my meal at the Fish Pot was excellent too, from the silky rum and liver pate and crab cakes to the forkful of grilled snapper I took from someone else’s plate.
Everything I ate in Tobago was memorable, and I left the island craving more of the fresh flavours it served up. My daily breakfast of bakes (fried dough), saltfish, and mountains of fresh pineapple and papaya at the Mount Irvine Resort were always a treat, as was the double (sweet dough filled with spicy chickpeas) grabbed from a roadside stand. The island is a treat for all your senses and your stomach!
-Article by Lola Augustine Brown