Trinidad and Tobago is a true diamond in the rough with a topography that retained some of the rainforests and biodiversity from its South American neighbours before the Pangea split. This southernmost twin island republic is situated just outside the hurricane belt. This means the destination has been fortunate to avoid the wrath of cataclysmic storms and hurricanes during the tyranny of the rainy season. The destination was formerly inhabited by native Amerindians; the Tainos and the Kalinagos. They would soon fall under the ‘protection’ of the Spanish colonizers. European settlers like the French, the Portugese and the Dutch also become part of the changing demographic before its final ownership and freedom from its British colonizers. India, Africa, China and the Middle East would soon call Trinidad their new home before the destination gained their independence in 1962. Today, the country is a diverse blend of cosmopolitan races and ethnicities enriched by tradition and cultural practices. It is this blended ancestral lineage that births an indescribable energy which serves as the impetus for creativity and innovation. Unmistakably, this is evident in the design of Trinidad Carnival, the fashion and creative experiences within the lingering notes of the island's music and the delicate balance of flavour in the destination's sumptuous cuisine.
Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago is another opportunity for visitors to truly experience the warmth of the destination and the multifaceted Trini Christmas menu. Caribbean islands share similarities in the historical origins of some of the items that appear on the Trini Christmas menu. Trinidad Black Cake is a dense and moist fruitcake darkened by homemade or store bought browning. Its origins are traced to the British colonizers and their savoir faire for plum pudding. Pastelle is another tradition. It is similar to the Latin American tamale but quite different in the complexity of its preparation, pressing and wrapping process. It has several origins with stories of its arrival from the cocoa panyols (the Venezuelans who came to work on the cocoa estates) , the native Amerindians and even bearing a resemblance to a cooking technique shared by African and European settlers. The same cocoa panyols are credited for the ponche de crème/ponche ah crème. Unlike the Venezuelan’s thickly constituted ponche crema, the Trini adaptation is a thinner yet smooth and creamy libation of Trinidad rum, milk, eggs, sweetened condense milk or sugar, homegrown spices like nutmeg and a hint of lime zest. The flavour dimensions of ponche de crème is guaranteed to intrigue and excite the senses every year.
The older folks are keen on their ginger beer popularized by the Spice War and also bearing British birthrights. The ginger crop was brought to Trinidad and has survived to date. The classic ginger beer exists with its fermented starter base but Trinis have added their own twist with the addition of cinnamon spice sticks, nutmeg and aniseed. Finally, there is a Trini Christmas condiment that packs a full flavour punch but often goes underestimated and overlooked. Picalilli or chow chow is a relish of combined vegetables and sometimes fruits sharing a similar pickled taste to its British relative Picalilli. This condiment has been manufactured and packaged by Matouks and it is available at most leading supermarkets nationwide. It usually accompanies a serving of ham and hops bread, pastelles and more. The seasoning, flavouring and fusion methods of preparation and creative experimenting transforms the taste of Trini Christmas.
The gastronomy of Trini Christmas is further elevated by Trini entrepreneurs and professionals in their various culinary fields. They were forged from the birthplace of fusion culture and now they champion culinary innovations backed by patriotism, passion for the culinary arts and premium quality ingredients and high standard processes. They continue to push the limitless boundaries of their craft and stand out in their respective culinary professions.
Here are our Editor’s 6 picks for The Christmas Wish List – To Taste
This architect turned chocolatier is taking her award winning chocolate making to higher heights. In addition to her chocolate creations this year Isabel Brash has released yet another alluring Trini Christmas dessert menu that is tempting everyone to treat themselves this Christmas. These gourmet delicacies save time and energy. All the hard work is already done and readily available for pick up with carefully sculpted and hand painted culinary delights. The options are so divine that there is a 100 % guarantee that each item will be a rock star to that Trini Christmas office party or that Christmas breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner party that begs for a gourmet facelift. These items are novel housewarming gifts and act as an exceptional ice breaker to the homes of the dreaded ‘in laws’ (especially if they have a sweet tooth you know you will instantly be dubbed a ‘keeper’). Cocobel’s Christmas desserts are always gone in the blink of an eye so place those orders early for pick up at Cocobel Chocolate located on #37 Fitt Street in Woodbrook Port of Spain just upstairs from The Medulla Art Gallery.
Craig Smith’s local family owned ice cream brand is a beloved favourite for locals and tourists. International culinary enthusiasts rave that this family owned ice cream is on par with Italy’s best gelato. Fans familiar with the regular menu can attest to Dreamy Creamy’s cheeky ice cream names, their gratuitous serving sizes and their availability in several leading supermarkets and shops nationwide. This year, Dreamy Creamy’s Trini Christmas ice cream flavours are back on the menu and they are going pretty fast. Visitors or Trini Christmas ‘bantons’ wishing to snag a cup, a cone, a liter or two must act now. This is a great addition to the Christmas menu for kids and adults alike. Conveniently located on Saddle Road Maraval, Coffee Street San Fernando and S.S. Erin Road Debe Penal, these are the best gifts for the ice cream aficionado in your life.
Red hibiscus is brewed into a drink that the Caribbean has long consumed on their Christmas menu. Trinis call this red drink Sorrel and serve it ‘on the rocks’. A local winery has captured the rich full bodied flavour of the red hibiscus in a classy bottle of port wine. This perfect Christmas gift is available for direct order and pick up at selected wine shops locally. This sorrel port is almost always sold out every year for those who are too late in their Christmas shopping. It is the quintessential wine that accompanies a delectable Christmas dinner and even the right dessert pairing. For the daring home chefs, it is an accoutrement to their specially designed gourmet Christmas menu.
The art of making Ponche de crème or Ponche ah Crème comes with a learning curve. It is okay to admit this minor defeat in the kitchen and leave this skill to the experts like Tamara from Tami’s Dee-lightful Ponche de Crème. By Trini birthright, she understands the dexterity of fusion food and beverage and its industry. In addition, to the original flavour of Ponche de crème she offers her moniker in a collection of holiday flavours for ponche de crème lovers. Her unforgettable creations are available in several sizes and for this reason they are perfect as a gift for visitors and an excellent choice to serve at the Christmas office party or Trini Christmas lime.
Trinidad has award winning chocolatiers like Gina Hardy. Gina’s Chocolates is an artisan chocolate brand with Gina at the helm. She has perfected the divine art of chocolate making to the point that the discerning food critics can distinguish, award and celebrate the difference. Visitors to the island and locals looking for that signature gift for that special someone can look no further. Gina’s Chocolates has launched fifteen of their best chocolate truffles since opening shop and they are all available in boxes of several quantities. She has also designed some fun stocking stuffers with individually wrapped chocolate coins available in a variety of flavours. This season her fine flavour chocolates include Trini Christmas fillings that will surprise and satiate the taste buds of everyone from the untrained palette to the chocolate critic to the foodie adventurer. For anyone who has a fear of missing out, orders are to be placed early for pick up before or by the allotted deadline.
Visitors no longer have to wait until they get to another world famous factory with this namesake to enjoy cheesecake. The culinary entrepreneur has been throwing cheesecake parties ever since she can remember in New York and Trinidad. Jineal Chichester has as much passion and flair for cheesecake as her adoring cheesecake fans. Her discipline and training as a former graduate of the University of the West Indies and a former Royal Naval Officer does not permit her to shy away from her endeavors and her creativity. Trini blood flows through her creative veins so much so that classic Trini Christmas flavours have become a staple in her innovative cheesecake cones, shakes and slices. The diaspora and visitors to Trinidad and Tobago don’t leave without visiting her food truck at Cross Crossing in San Fernando and they never fail to place their orders to pick up. Dessert lovers have already adopted Cheesecake House TT as a staple to their Trini Christmas menu.