Barbados Food & Rum Festival celebrates the island’s star chefs, delicious Caribbean specialties

The annual fall event is a social and culinary focal point for the popular eastern Caribbean island.

Year-round, for Barbadians and vacationers alike, a weekend trip to Oistins Bay Gardens for the traditional fish fry is always a good and tasty time.

But on the opening night of the 9th Barbados Food & Rum Festival in mid-October, the proceedings at the venerable but low-key gathering spot on the island’s south coast were especially boisterous.

As usual, flames leapt high as fish vendors tended their grills. At picnic tables, hundreds of diners savoured oversized slabs of marlin, mahi-mahi and kingfish, served in styrofoam takeout boxes with helpings of plantain, cole slaw and macaroni pie.

Splurging eaters devoured spiny lobster, dipping chunks of toothsome tail meat in glistening melted butter. Between bites, they drank rum punch and locally brewed Banks beer.

But that Thursday night, there was plenty of post-dinner entertainment too. In the best carnival tradition, a troupe of drummers and horn players viscerally exhorted brightly clad female dancers wearing more feathers than clothes to shake themselves silly. Later, on a nearby stage, celebrity chefs and mixologists demonstrated their creations.

In all, that night at Oistins was an enthralling kick-off to a signature celebration for foodies on an island that calls itself the Caribbean’s culinary capital.

The rest of the weekend included upscale gatherings on the island’s west coast that were packed with elegantly but casually dressed folks living the good life.

On Friday night, at the high-end shopping destination Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, and on Sunday afternoon at Holder’s Polo Field before an exhibition game, the island’s top chefs served creative small plates, always paired with killer cocktails. The all-you-can-eat-and-drink events respectvely cost $200 and $220 in Barbadian funds, or roughly $130 and $145.

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