Thursday, April 2, 2009

Barbados, Mount Gay Rum and the Caribbean Reconnaissance Mission

As a rosy glow comes up over the Caribbean horizon, a man on a sailboat settles into a deck chair, sips his Mount Gay rum with soda and a splash of lime, and finds serenity.

Next night, same thing. Ditto the night after that.

By the time I’ve finished reading the book about the man and his wife and their expat island-hopping journey, I can taste that drink. When I crave a crazy-day-at-work rescue, I picture that man on that boat with that drink, and I’m there.

So when we landed in Barbados (home of Mount Gay) for New Year’s, naturally I was thinking:

Fish. Flying fish, mostly; the Bajan Big Mac. Can’t drink on an empty stomach.

And I’d heard that Barbados cooks some fish. Most famously, the Friday Fish Fry at Oistins, a charming seaside village. (Which, I have to say, is quite like the dozens of other charming little villages along the scenic coast, creating a 20-mile ant trail of rental cars.) Flying fish, blue marlin, dolphin, and barracuda are all on the menu at Oistins.

Crowding the plate are carbs that called to me for months from the pages of Fodor's Barbados: cou cou (similar to polenta, just as uninspiring), “pie” (a dense mac-n-cheese), breadfruit fries (yee-um), peas and rice, and paw paw (papaya) pie.

The fish fry was all that and more – the “more” being bottles of the local Banks beer for US$1. (A dollar! Why, that frees up a few bills for some of that sweet potato pie…)

And the rum?

The Mount Gay distillery/tour facility was locked up tight at 2:00 on a Tuesday during high season (maybe the 1,000-plus rum shacks on the 21 x 14 mile island were fully stocked?). But I finally managed to scare up a bottle from one of the thousands of mini marts, gas stations, doggie day cares, Chefettes, and shoe shine stands that stockpile it like malt liquor in a 7-Eleven. (Kidding. Never saw a shoe shine stand in Barbados.) I picked the best of the best – Mount Gay Extra Old golden rum.

Andy at awards this special liquor the coveted RumReviews “Ten Bottles” rating, noting:

“This is one of my absolute favorite rums. Oh what I wouldn't do for one right now.”

His partner, Adrian, is a tad more circumspect, awarding only nine bottles, but giving perhaps an even more heartfelt recommendation:

“After trying it with Coke, I really think I could drink this off the floor.”

Back at our idyllic B&B, the Rosalie, on our final evening, Rick and I sat on the beach, tumblers in hand, as a rosy glow made its way across the horizon. Barbados was the last planned stop on the Caribbean Recon Mission we’d started five years earlier; a semi-serious look into which island could claim our affection, if and when we leave our work-a-day lives in Virginia for fabulous new work-a-day lives in the tropics. A perfect drink could tip the balance in favor of this pink- and blue- and caramel-colored charm of the West Indies.

I lifted the Mount Gay with soda and lime to my lips, closed my eyes, and said,

“Uh, we got any of that wine left?”

So the search continues.

And we’ve been hearing that Grenada has some kickin’ yellowfin tuna…

Photos (c) Take a look at Rick's site for more pics of Barbados.

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