Published: December 28, 2012
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ST. CROIX - The Festival Village booths this year offered their usual tempting variety of Crucian cuisine and local drinks.
Shermira Mercado's booth "Spicy Sugar" is in its first year. Along with typical festival fare, specialties include goat water, conch water, coquito and all kinds of drinks. The name "Spicy Sugar," is a tribute to her parents, one of whom is from Puerto Rico - the spicy part of the equation - and the other from St. Kitts - the sugar part, she said. Mercado decided to start a booth because she always wanted to. "I enjoy cooking. I cook with my family all the time," she said. As for why people should give her booth a try, she said: "We have everything. We are friendly, we are young." The orange booth, right by the stage, is decorated with the Puerto Rico and St. Kitts flags.
The white booth with red trim in the number 2 spot actually has the number 25 painted on it. Seafood and drinks are the specialty there, although a variety of dishes are to be served, including alcapurrias, pates and conch water. It's the first year for this booth, which will be called Elizabeth's Kitchen, said Domingo Erarte. People should come to the booth, he said, "because we have the best alcapurrias."
Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal's booth, "El Coqui," is in its typical place, in one of the corners near the stage. The pink booth featuring Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico flags offers a variety of her specialties, which include alcapurria, conch salad, conch pates and crab and rice. Like most of the booths, there are a variety of other foods as well. Her family has had a booth at Festival for more than 30 years, she said, adding that people come to her booth because her food is well-known. "I have to thank my clients because I have developed such a reputation that people wait for me," she said.
Booth 4, a blue booth with a Festival lady painted on front, is sponsored by the local IHOP restaurant. Specialties include wings, fries, silver dollar pancakes and funnel cakes. The booth also offers local drinks, including coquito. "All the fun stuff," said Sana Joseph-Smith, the owner. "We just want to have fun with the community." It is the second year for this booth in the village.
Angel Rodriguez's booth, "Angel's Infinity Band," will offer traditional local food and drink. Rodriquez runs a bar, Klassic Korner, in Golden Grove, and this is the fifth year she has operated a booth in the village to serve her customers there. The orange booth is trimmed with lighted garland. Workers said that revelers come to the booth to "enjoy the food, enjoy the drinks, and enjoy the good customer service."
The white, red and green booth in the number 6 spot is Kwality Cook Up and is run by another first-time booth owner, Owen Stanley. "This has always been a dream of mine to do," Stanley said. "I finally decided to take the plunge this year." Specialties include local drinks, johnny cakes, chicken and fries. "We got great food, great prices, great service," he said.
Rachel Gilbert said her booth, which is purple, is simply known as No. 7. This is the fifth year that the family-operated booth, run by Gilbert and Oral Stanley, has been in the village. Gilbert said she is known for her johnny cakes. "My johnny cakes and my food are great," she said.
Booth 8 is yellow and features paintings of mocko jumbies and the words "Queen City" across the top. It was not open at the time The Daily News was there.
This booth, painted light green with a woman carrying a vegetable basket on the front, is called "Island Flavor," and specialties include conch in butter sauce, goat water, bullfoot soup and souse with potato salad. "Everything we serve here is local," said the owner, who would only identify himself as Paris or Mr. P. It is his first year running a booth at village. "I just wanted to take part in the culture," he said.
Elsie's Legacy, the Super Best of the West is in the number 10 spot. The booth is run by the three daughters of Elsie Blanc, who died in April 2010. The family is continuing the cooking traditions Blanc started. Specialties include seafood kallaloo, johnny cakes, chicken legs and wings, souse and potato salad and local drinks. Blanc's three daughters running the booth are Brenda Lewis, Sharon Kherat and Dawn Rey. This is their second year running the booth, which is white and green, with a Santa perched on top. It is decorated with paintings of palm trees and candy canes.
The pink and white booth at number 11 specializes in kallaloo, goat water, rice pudding and bullhead soup. Babash and local drinks are also offered. Owned by Dora Wigley, the booth has been in operation at the Festival village for about 15 years. Stephanie Nelson, Wigley's niece, said the fine flavor of the food at number 11 has drawn regular customers through the years.
The blue booth with icicle lights at the number 12 spot, The Hangover, features all manner of drinks. It is the first time that Kwame Allen has had a booth in the village. "We decided to try our luck," he said, noting that those who come to his booth "going to have a good time when they finished."
The Crazy Iguana T-shirt Company occupies the number 13 spot. Those who enter the booth can have their photos taken with whatever backdrop they choose, then transferred to a variety of objects, including T-shirts and keychains. Kurt Wilkinson said it is his first year having a booth in the village and that he brought Chalaine Berry-Wade over from St. Thomas to do the photography. The booth features a painting of a man playing a steel pan.
The "Goodies" booth features specialties such as fry fish, johnny cakes, chicken wings and banana fritters. The cream-colored booth features paintings of the woman on the Tourism Department's commemorative Festival poster, along with the words that are the theme this year: "Live the dream, music, mas and history for Crucian Christmas Festival 2013."
The specialty offered at Booth 15 - Kallaloo Man - is self-explanatory. In addition to pork kallaloo and seafood kallaloo, owner Edwin Thomas also offers chicken legs, fish and other foods. It is the first year in a long time that Thomas has had a booth at the village, he said. "If you want to taste some real, authentic Crucian kallaloo, stop by," he said.
Joycelyn Gore's booth - Pate Specialists - features a wide variety of pates, including saltfish, beef, conch and chicken. Gore has had a booth in the village for about 10 years. The blue booth with yellow trim features a mural of palm trees.
Diane Muhammad Noel, owner of "Diane's Roti Master," is teaching her daughters, Asmahan, Amatullah and Adilah, to take over her booth, so that it is a family affair. The green booth, with the words "Trini Flava" painted on and flying the flag of Trinidad, features a variety of rotis, including shrimp, beef, conch, chicken and vegetable. Soups and curry are also on offer. The family has had a booth at Festival for about 16 years.
Foto Fantasy, at the number 18 spot, is owned by the honoree of this year's village, Pearl Lake. The village has been named Pearl's World in her honor. Foto Fantasy takes pictures and then transfers them to a variety of objects, including posters, T-shirts and key chains. It is Lake's 24th year having a booth in the village. Lake was excited to receive the honor and said she enjoys having a booth at the village. "We meet all kinds of people," she said.
Richmond's Hidden Treasure, a yellow booth with lilac and pink accents, is in the number 19 spot. Specialties include conch pate, conch water and the "best johnny cakes," said Kerri Roberts, daughter of booth owner Yvette Roberts. Kerri Roberts said that the booth has lots of personality and "they'll love the food." Roberts has had the booth for a number of years.
Booth 20 is orange and blue with a painting of hands clasping and the words "United We Stand." No one was there when The Daily News was.
Catherine Joseph-Cornelius' booth, which she is calling "Triple S," features a red hibiscus flower painted on front. The triple "s" is for Joseph-Cornelius' three daughters, whose names all begin with that letter. Specialties include goat water, conch water, salt fish pate and salt fish cake.
The blue booth in the number 22 spot is named "HOPE" and has that word painted on. Melba Williams, the owner, has had the booth for a long time, her daughter Akitha Williams said. Specialties include chicken legs, johnny cakes, souse and potato salad and kallaloo. Guavaberry is also on offer. Williams said the johnny cakes at the booth are "the best."
Kallaloo is the specialty at Booth number 23, which is owned by Corliss Nathaniel. The green booth features a picture of a woman in Festival wear on it.
"Alda and Evie," Booth 24, is cream and green. The operators were unable to speak to The Daily News on Thursday.