Carnival Village booths offer variety of food and drink
Published: April 26, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The aroma of Caribbean cooking was in the air Friday night with the opening of the Carnival Village in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
Chefs made last-minute touches to their cuisine just before the 6 p.m. ribbon-cutting by the village's honorees, Percival "Percy" Taylor and David "DeeDee Sharp" Dawson.
While almost every booth claimed to have the best johnny cakes, only a few could claim the fame of having the best looking booths. Booth No. 16 won first place for best booth, with booth No. 1 winning first runner-up, and booth No. 5 being named second runner-up.
Booths were judged by their quality of construction, relationship of the booth to the village, accommodations and decorations and graphics.
The "Party Shack" is named such for a reason, according to its owner, Medic. "It's a party all the time," he said, noting that they serve conch, whelks, lobster and shrimp. "The only thing we don't do is pates," Medic said Friday night. The "Party Shack" is booth number one for a reason, he said. The booth, nestled in the northwest corner, is orange and features dancing people on the front.
Cheryl and Ira Gumbs are in that large group of people claiming to have the best johnny cakes, and they welcome epicureans to validate their claim. The booth also offers a great dish of goat water. The booth, which is a light yellow and has clowns on the front, has been around for a quarter-century in the village.
"Everything" is a special at the third booth in the village. They claim to cook up a mean mac and cheese, along with some scrumptious fried shrimp and chicken. This booth, which has been around for about eight years, is butter yellow and is located just west of the stage.
Rosalind Titley also claims to have the most outstanding johnny cakes. She also recommends her whelks and rice, seafood chowder, salmon casserole, dove pork and fried conch. Her booth, which was a 2009 honoree, has been around for 29 years, Titley said. "I've been cooking a long time," she said. Her booth is a yellow-orange color with people dancing on the front.
The hot orange fifth-booth, right next to the stage, is one of the oldest booths in the village, according to Lisa George, who is helping out the booth's owner, Ismay Frett. "We don't focus on anything. Everything is delicious," George said. The booth offers goat head soup, corn pork and pig tail. They call the booth "A Family Affair," or "The Tortola Booth."
"Helen's Kitchen," is the first booth on the eastern side of the stage. The booth is named after Helen Hart, who said that she has been cooking for "too long," about 15 years. Hart said she never relaxes and, though she has the help of family and friends this year, she likely will stay busy frying up johnny cakes, fish, conch and seafood rice. Her booth is white with pictures of herself, and the honorees, Dawson and Taylor.
This booth is hot, and not just because it serves hot soup. The booth has a firefighting theme, because one of the owners is a firefighter, according to his partner, Lynn Cooper. The men will serving up stiff rum drinks, as well as a selection of soup throughout the week. The booth is painted with pictures of women and firefighters.
Pick up some "Spanish" style cooking from this booth that brings the flavors of the Dominican Republic to St. Thomas. The chefs will be featuring yellowtail, chicken, rice and empanadillas. They also will be serving saltfish and pork. "Drunk in Love" is written across the top of the orange booth.
Go to the "Try ah Ting" booth for some quality conch soup or seafood kallaloo. This booth has been around for about four years, according to Cheryl Bougouneau, one of the family members running it. The booth sports a picture of a steaming pot of kallaloo on the front.
The "Dominica Connection" is a lime green hot spot that serves fried chicken, saltfish, banana, bullfoot soup, goat water and fish soup, according to Mary John-Lewis. The booth, which offers a taste of Dominica, is located in the northeastern corner of the village.
Anyone craving Ital-style cooking should take a peek at "Queen Bee's," where Queen Bee, also known as Bordeaux farmer Eudella West, is whipping up some vegetarian dishes from her own produce. "We grow all of our own food," West said. Aside from mashed green bananas, homemade chips and dip, lentil balls, stir fry and quinoa, West also serves barbecued tofu.
This lime green booth with arching windows and Carnival posters covering its facade is switching up its dishes daily, so don't be afraid to keep going back, said owner Reynika Patterson. Its staples will be fried chicken and fish, but who knows what you will get for the sides from day to day.
The light purple, gray booth decorated with characters from Carnival also claims to serve the best johnny cakes in the village, as well as a killer seafood soup. The booth specializes in seafood, its chefs said. The booth is owned by Emanuel Jarvis and is on the east end of the village.
Visit the "Grass Roots" booth for something a little different. Galene Varlack is serving up roti, potato salad and fig pie, or green banana casserole. She is also serving up some of the classics, such as chicken, fish and conch. Her booth is a yellow-green color.
"We've got lots of cold beers," said Amber Alexander, who is helping out with this music-themed booth. Sidle up to the bar and find it painted like a keyboard. Around it are pictures of people playing different instruments, including the trumpet and steel drums. Aside from the beer selection, the booth also will be serving a selection of fish, including ole wife and yellowtail.
"Rum and Riddim" - this year's winner for best booth - also claims to have the best food. Saitah Aubain, who has been cooking at the village for three years, has some unique courses. "I'm famous for my shrimp scampi," Aubain said. "And my salmon." Aubain did not want to reveal too much about how she makes her salmon, but she said that she grills it. That is all she could say about it, she said with a smile.
The booth features a geographical painting of St. Thomas as well as people celebrating Carnival. The owners were unavailable for comment Friday evening.
This orange booth has detailed, spray-painted images of people, including honorees Taylor and Dawson, enjoying the fun of Carnival. As far as the food goes, the chefs will be serving oxtail and conch and rice, among other items. The booth has been in business for six years, according to Henry Alexander, who said he will be posting promotional discounts for the booth on his personal Facebook page.
Fatt's Roti Shack features a picture of a person laying out in a long hammock. The owners were unavailable for comment Friday evening.
"Barbado" is a booth known for its flying fish, said Avery Wells Jr., who is helping run the family booth this year. "It's that good that you'll have to come back," Wells said. The Wells family originally is from Barbados, which has inspired much of their cooking during the 30 years that the booth has had a place in the village. The booth has a picture of a flying fish on the front.
The "Rhum Shop" is an orange booth with purple trim on the south side of the village. It is run by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and has been for the past 27 years. "If you're nobody, you'll be somebody here," said Dwayne Benjamin, one of the fraternity members. Every penny goes toward a scholarship fund that helps two young men each from Charlotte Amalie High School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School to college. The booth's specialty drink this year is the "Rhummy Gummy."
The Captain Morgan booth specializes in rum, and its specialty drink this year is called "Walk the Plank," a mixture of all its flavored rums and then some other "special stuff," according to Glenn Michael Andy. The booth also serves quality food, including stuffed lobster, conch soup and the "fishtrap," a food mix of "special stuff."
"Steddy's Place" is a quaint booth featuring conch and rice, whelks and rice, fish soup and curry chicken, among other classic items. The booth has been around for five years in the village, according to Shareeke Frett.
The "Dominican Republic" is a white booth with purple trim. Its specialty is a drink called "Mama Juana," a drink that combines rum, wine and honey soaked in bark and herbs. "We try to make it every day so that it is fresh," said Alex Caraballo. They also serve johnny cakes, chicken, Spanish rice and Spanish chicken. The booth has been in the village since 1998, Caraballo said.
For those with a sweet tooth, "Set deh Trend" is the place to stop. The booth is serving fried sweets, including fried cheesecake, fried Oreos, fried Snickers and Jell-O shots, according to the chef, Aisha Akimo Martin. It also has fried tofu and other vegetarian goodies, she said.
This yellow booth is another place where "everything" is special. The booth serves pretty much all the classics, including johnny cakes, chicken and fish. It features paintings of dancing women on the front.
This booth, which features a mural of a beautiful St. Thomas beach scene, is also another place to get some Jell-O shots, including fun flavors such as cheesecake and Cruzian Confusion, said Martha Luis. The booth also has an assortment of fried fish.
This lime green booth decorated with a mural of people dancing, features seafood rice. Hungry visitors can also try the conch and welchs, said Carlton Stevens.
Villagegoers can't miss the "Positive Vibes" booth, which is painted bright pink. The booth specializes in seafood dishes, including conch in butter sauce, kallaloo, crab and rice and lobster any style.
The green "On the Run" booth has been a village staple for nine years. It offers "everything," including conch in butter sauce and oxtail soup.
This green, red and yellow booth, with the moniker "Grass," features vegetarian cuisine and Italian food. The booth also offers a variety of pates. Thirsty folks can grab local drinks here, including banana punch.
This booth, which has been around for eight years, has a wide variety of local fare, including mahi mahi with stew, fried chicken, pate, johnny cakes, stew beef, rice and peas and salmon, said Carmela Descanes.
The "18-Karat" booth features "Tortola-style" conch. It also offers welch, salted pork and corn pork.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.