Tag Archives: Jamaica

Berber Street Food offers a tour of Africa and the diaspora

When we heard that there was a new African restaurant in NYC with a chef from Mauritania, our ears perked up. The restaurant is the brainchild of chef Diana Tandia, who is originally from Mauritania, but has worked in upscale restaurants around NYC for decades. She decided that it was time to strike out on her own, so she opened Berber Street Food (35 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014). The menu is a mosaic of different African and African Diaspora cuisines, along with some interesting fusions.

Berber Street food is a tiny – and we mean tiny – restaurants with 15 seats. This counter-service is not a place for groups, or to linger over a leisurely lunch (though when we were there, the couple occupying the table in the window was having a simultaneous birthday party and photo shoot, so who knows). When we entered around lunchtime, the place was packed, and we were happy to see that they were doing a brisk takeout trade.  Many of the lunch orders were buying Afro-Fusion express bowls ($10), which were various combinations of grains, greens and proteins, including tofu curry, Berber-spiced meat and Jamaican jerk chicken.

For starters, called “street food bites,” there are Senegalese empanadas (vegetable or beef curry $3 each), Kofta meatballs with Berber spices ($8), or a Suya Nigerian beef brochette ($8), along with Jamaican jerk chicken wings ($7.5o). All of Africa and the diaspora seemed to be covered.We were excited to see akara, a black-eyed pea fritter that is the Nigerian descendants of Brazilian acarajé with tomato and onion sauce ($7), so we knew we had to order it. Though smaller in size to acarajé, they tasted pretty similar and were delicious. M topped his with some spicy kani, west African hot sauce made of habanero peppers (which were also placed decoratively in basket at each table).

The mains were a little more pricey, and covered the greats hits of the region, including Djolof Fried Rice (which is claimed by many West African countries – $17) rice cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with either chicken or tempeh and Moroccan vegetable tajine, served served in an actual tajine ($18). We had the Berber Feast ($24) which consisted of roast lamb, squash and couscous, the most Mauritanian item on the menu. The lamb was fall of the bone tender and not gamey at all (sometimes a problem with lamb), and we enjoyed the accompaniments and sauces, though we felt the price was a little steep for the portions. We washed down our dinner with Berber iced mint tea ($3) and ginger lemongrass drink ($5) – we also discovered that these two mixed together made an amazing riff on the Arnold Palmer.

The attention to detail in Berber Street Food restaurant is amazing. It is basically a one-woman show, with Diana cooking, taking orders and delivering food (though it did appear she had a sous chef helping her back in the kitchen). We enjoyed talking with Diana, who connected with us over having spent some time in Brazil. If we lived in the area we could definitely see ourselves having lunch here pretty often. We wish Berber Street Food nothing but success!

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Pastry Post-Doc: Caribbean Black Christmas Cake

Jamaican_FlagtrinidadIf you live in the freezing Midwest like us, the winter holiday season may not immediately get you thinking of tropical recipes, but the Caribbean has huge tradition of delicious Christmas foods worth sampling. One emblematic Caribbean food that is a holiday staple is the simply named Black Cake (it gets its name from its rich molasses color). The cake itself is filled with figs and dried fruit soaked in wine, rum and is flavored with cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Caribbean Black Cake is a descendant of British plum pudding, and has an special stronghold in Caribbean countries that were former British colonies such as Trinidad and Jamaica. However, you will find it throughout the Caribbean and in most Caribbean-American communities around holiday time with assorted named like Christmas Cake, Black Christmas Cake, West Indian Fruit Cake, Caribbean Christmas Cake, etc. A unique ingredient that is essential to the rich taste of the cake is burnt sugar syrup, or “browning,” that is available in Caribbean markets (or you can make your own). Here is a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake from the Cooking Channel (below),  Trinidadian Black Cake from Cooking with Ria and Caribbean Black Fruitcake from Chowhound.

blackcake

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How to Make a Festive Jamaican Sorrel Drink

Jamaican_FlagNeed an alternative holiday drink to eggnog or glögg? How about Sorrel, a spiced hibiscus drink from Jamaica, especially popular at Christmas? Sorrel, as it is called in Jamaica, is very similar to the drink called Jamaica, popular in Mexico. Confused yet? No worries, it’s easy enough to make. To make some proper sorrel you need hibiscus flowers, simmered with some sugar, ginger, pimento berries and spices (and maybe rum). I think we will make up a batch for New Year’s Eve!

Sorrel Drink

Holiday Sorrel Drink by Red Tail Panther

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