Friday, July 07, 2017

Hunting the Exotic Ice Creams of Trinidad and Tobago

We slept through breakfast today and later on our 5 year old friend Mira let us know that she was not pleased.

We finally met a non-crazy taxi driver and he drove us a few places around the island. Ram was so chill that I don't think we talked about money once. At the end of each ride I'd hand him what I thought was fair and he'd be like "cool". I'd been hunting soursop ice cream since we got here and was hoping that with Ram's help this might finally be our chance.

We passed a line of people being served out of the back of a van. The business had an unfortunate resemblance to the vans that give food to homeless people in downtown St. Louis. But our driver said that this food truck was selling doubles, one of the Indian fusion local foods we wanted to try. We drove a bit and I chimed in "oh how about we stop next time we see one of those vans". "That was the only one, it's mostly a morning food." Foiled!

 We were headed to eat lunch at Store Bay Beach.

This place was great because there were lots of different food stalls selling a variety of the stuff that we were looking for. Everything seemed a lot cleaner and more accessible to us than just wandering around looking for the real street stalls.

The picnic bench area was really nice too. The awning came in handy later when it rained. We came during the rainy season and it probably did rain once everyday but usually lightly and not for a very long time. It didn't really impact our stay at all I'd say.

This food was crazy good. I could easily have ordered another of the same thing.  The meat is pelau which I seem to recall has some sort of African origin. It's beef that's been seared in oil and caramelized sugar on a bed of rice. The green stuff on the top right is called callaloo and it's made from the leaves of the dasheen plant. Had sort of a stewed spinach thing going on. If you recall our tropical chips taste test from yesterday one of them was dasheen chips.

Had to have another of my favorites: local coconut water.

We got tricked. There were a couple of ice cream places and one even listed soursop on their sign. We were super excited to head over there after lunch. But when we entered, there was neither a sour nor a sop of any sort to be had. Sad.

Lydia bought a more normal flavor of ice cream but I was unimpressed. I wanted something weird or nothing at all! It was funny because Lydia wanted the ice cream immediately and I was fine with waiting. So we agreed to disagree and she went to buy her own in a huff. She returned sheepishly needing a loan: her dollar bill had a tear in it and the ice cream lady wouldn't take it! 

People in other countries like their American bills crispy and new. They do not mess with crinkly money. They always complain that the local banks won't accept anything but perfect bills and I'm always thinking "Uh don't exchange it all at dummy. Use it as a hedge against inflation." Maybe they know something I don't know. The one thing that I do know is the best part about going to a beach on a tropical island is pondering international monetary policy.

It was a really nice park/beach. I don't know if I've written about this before but I really liked Tobago because it was obvious that they were wealthy enough to themselves be here on vacation. Often when I go to tropical countries the locals are so poor that the only people enjoying themselves are foreigners. Here I could just enjoy the place without being hustled by some poor desperate person to buy crappy sunglasses. I'm looking at you rest of Caribbean. There were a couple hustlers hanging out on the beach at our hotel so we weren't completely unaccosted but the difference was clear.

In fact, T&T is "the third richest country by GDP (PPP) per capita in the Americas after the United States and Canada." I'm sounding like some sort of money nerd. Whatever. Turns out money nerds can also be airline miles nerds and go to Trinidad for free.

While reading a local newspaper I learned that Trini cyber bullies have terrible imaginations.

It was raining a bit when we got back to the cab. I explained to Ram the terrible injustice of me not getting my preferred flavor of ice cream. I suggested we call the police but Ram had a better idea: drive 10 minutes to Pigeon Point Heritage Park. Pigeon Point seemed like an upscale version of Store Bay. It had an entry fee but when our driver explained we were only there for ice cream they both laughed and the guard let us pass for free.

We stopped at Below Zero Ice Cream. The first thing you need to know about them is that they. do. not. play. Not only did they have my soursop, they had some crazy crap I didn't even know I wanted. Bay Leaf?! Friggin' Bay Leaf? Yes I want that. Barbadine? The hell is a barbadine? I'll have a taste spoon of that madam. These ladies treated me so good they got Lydia's nasty tear dollar in their tip jar. Boom!

I believe we settled on soursop and pumpkin. Turned out Bay Leaf tasted like you might expect. The soursop was my favorite because you could tell by how the texture of the icecream was interrupted now and then that the actual fruit was inside. You may be wondering, what the deuce is a soursop?

Whelp, it looks like this. I'm terrible at describing exotic tastes so I will do something I am good at. Stealing. Wikipedia here says "The flavour of the fruit has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana." Well put.

There is a strange phenomenon that happens when you are traveling. It sounds stupid but watching a movie at a movie theatre in another country becomes some sort of unforgettable experience. I remember in Japan I would go to see an American movie and be so engrossed in it that when I left the theatre I would get a weird vertigo sort of sensation. Like "wait a minute, I was just listening to a conversation in English taking place in Los Angeles in that movie but now I'm in Tokyo this is weird". Off the top of my head I can remember seeing Cinderella in Cancun, Jurassic World in Dubrovnik, one of the Transporter series in Bangkok, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe in Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

So after that rambling setup, I like going to movies in cool places. It imbues them with awesome. Why not try that here? Taximan, to the local movie theatre please! We arrived at a decent looking multiplex but the times just didn't fit with our schedule. Oh well. We poked around the connected mall a bit as our consolation prize.

We were doing pretty well so far according to this t-shirt.

Ol Highway Star picked us up and we headed back to Turtle Beach.

I had a sickness. I could not stop taking pictures from the hotel restaurant.

The sunset was ridiculous.

This place seemed to be some sort of German hangout. I have no idea.

We took a nice walk along the beach on our last night in Tobago. No dinosaurs laying eggs this time but it was nice to just listen to the waves.

After several froufrou island cocktails and probably a whole bottle of the expensive Campari I realized they had, I made sure that there weren't any last corners of the included drink bar menu that I hadn't tried. Turns out there were a last couple notables. They had these nice ginger shandies that I liked a lot. They were pretty weak on the alcohol scale though at 1.2%. Pretty much just a nice refreshing ginger beer/ginger ale drink.

On this trip I learned that creme de cacao is amazing. It tasted exactly like a chocolate Tootsie Pop. And it was as black as the ocean on our last night in Trinidad and Tobago. Wow that was poetic.

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