Chaud Cafe & Wine Bar

My first impression of Chaud Cafe was “this does not feel like Trinidad & Tobago,” and the realization that I was standing in a manifestation of a step in our culinary evolution thrilled me.

"Order up!" Inside Chaud Cafe
Like most developing countries we mimic the trends of the first world, usually the big commercial ideas (and our versions are poor imitations at best), but every now and again we see the learnings of the good stuff; international standards, professional skills and intelligence applied to art and service.
Chaud Cafe another child of Chef Khalid Mohammed (one of three in the capital), is a restaurant/bar with big, bold ambitions well suited to a young developing city. It is a true Cafe, small in size, serving light meals , wine and  cocktails along with European style preparations of coffee.

Seafood Penne Pasta
Their fabulous Nicsoise Salad [love the anchovies]
The atmosphere is one of informal urbanity, while the menu remains fresh and metropolitan with something for everyone. Sandwiches on artisan breads, sweet and rich vegetable marmalades, caviars and tapenades to compliment the herb infused and encrusted with hints of Creole complexity mixed in with clean [feed the hungry man] simplicity.  There are choice selections of fish or meat and ripe crisp vegetables - nothing seems stale, everything has balance.

A Cafe Wagyu Burger [Wagyu Beef is prized and top class]
Affordable lunch specials of the day like Seafood Penne and Soup of the Day from scratch, an 8 ounce Wagyu Burger with Smoked Cheddar Cheese [which by the way is truly Awesome], Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels with Applewood Bacon and Beer are all available to dine in or take away.

We’ve tried just about everything with stand outs being the Wild Mushroom Salad on Toast with Spinach, Manchego Cheese and Aged Balsamic Vinegar, their crisp French Fries with Arugula Mayo and oh that Wagyu Burger. All others seem to vie for favorite (we are such suckers for good food).

Wild Mushroom Toast
With proposed changes to the menu to take effect this September, we hope this little Cafe that apparently could, continues to move our taste-buds and appetites for good food and good service in one place forward.

Open-air Dining in the Plaza which houses Chaud Cafe

Chaud Cafe is located at Woodbrook Plaza, 189 Tragariete Road, Port of Spain. Phone: 1(868) 628 9845.

See our Chaud Cafe samplings on Foodspotting and follow our pursuit for the Best Food in T&T on Facebook - it’s all good.



Carnival remains both a spectator festival as it is a player's festival, all happening on the streets and mobile for the most part. Food from our diverse ethnic backgrounds in a rage and better still, the portables - Rotis, Wraps, Sandwiches and Burgers (to name a few) all available from vendors on the streets, but holding its own not only at Carnival but all year round is a Trinidad and Tobago favorite - Doubles.

A Doubles - Skillfully Wrapped in Paper 

Doubles is of Indian origin and gets it's name from the two (double) fried dough 'flat breads' called bara each about palm sized, which holds the curried chick peas filling. This messy sandwich of sorts is usually dressed with tangy chutneys, hot pepper sauces and cooling cucumber and coconut preparations. It is eaten with the hands and best when hot (not warm).

Curried Chick Peas (or Garbanzo Beans)

Vendors are all over the country, in most every neighborhood, selling at make shift road side stands or out of car trunks (seriously).  Some have been an established family business for years, perfecting family recipes and gaining loyal followers while putting generations through school.

Wildly Popular - Soft Bara and Delicate
Chickpeas in a Sea of Curry Flavor

To find out where to get the best I thought may have taken time, effort and the fielding of much fierce debate - turns out not. Though the average citizen may enjoy and recommend his neighborhood doubles man's offerings, he will also agree that three vendors rise to the status of Best in all the lands: U-Wee, Medford Boys and Sauce. Don't take my word, poll the forty-six thousand fans of the Facebook page 'I Love Doubles' or the  thirty-six thousand strong of 'I love Doubles by Trinbago' (we did) and see for yourself. The three names topped the list.

U-Wee Doubles & Roti Shop near to the
University of the West Indies (UWI)
Campus in St. Augustine, Trinidad

U-Wee (my favorite) is for those who like a thick bra, filling with body and great condiments (thick too) :)

Medford Doubles: Located on the Main Road
Opposite the Medford Gas Station

The boys near the Medford flyover in have a yellow bara, not too thick not too thin and flavorful curried chick peas (channa as we call it). Their pepper sauce is wicked good. Have it slight if you are not accustomed to spicy foods.

Soft and melt in your mouth fried 
dough called Bara (Medford's)

Sauce (d Original) is at a busy junction in Curepe (North) Trinidad. Theirs is thin bara and slightly 'runny' curried chick peas but really tasty. The hot sauce is nuclear but addictive. Take it ever-so slightly.

Famous 'Sauce' in Curepe, Trinidad

Doubles remains very affordable ($3TT - $4TT) on average, with a few exceptions: D Doubles Den also in Curepe is one such extreme selling larger bara and choices of curried meat and fish to go with the chick peas for around $15TT - something new for the adventurous.

If you want meat....
D Den is the Doubles place for you. 
A Spicy Chicken Doubles

For more on the Best Food available in Trinidad and Tobago visit our Facebook page and our sightings on Foodspotting.


Never Far Away

I'm back!

Its not that I have not been inspired to write all this while, more like I have been overwhelmed. 
From Valentine's Day into pre-Carnival festivities, Carnival and its post season (Lent) I remain in awe of the place I call home. 

Infectious Soca/Calypso music, gatherings of friends & family that lasts all night into the morning with great food & wine. I found myself many times, stepping away form the party or the thick of the 'lime' just to drink it all in. My cheeks in pain from constant laughter, clothes stained from a spilled drink or sauce and leg muscles throbbing from dancing or standing for hours - then happily returning to the fun, having taken note (& being grateful). All joy.

Taking it all in


Valentine's Day in Paradise

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food," so says George Bernard Shaw, playwright and Arch-Better Foodie and this Valentine's Day I want to express love with love.

I married a hopeless romantic on Valentine's Day (no less) and every year while dating and thereafter, we do a version of the romantic time away; just two of us with hotel, dinner, flowers and chocolates-the whole sha-bang. You would think I would get tired of it but no, any opportunity to be whisked away, wined and dined and I'm a happy victim. There is however, noted with each passing year a growing desire to reach out and share the love with the other sweethearts of my life in a meaningful and less commercial way than semi-home made heart shaped cookies or a Hallmark card, and in keeping with my Foodie quests of finding and sharing the best, enter Chef Khalil Ali for the occasion.

Mini Chocolate Créme Brulee

Individual Tiramisu: Creme de Cacao infused 
Mascarpone, Amaretto and Vanilla Bean Ladyfinger....Oh Wow

Chef Ali of Pêche Pâtisserie makes me want to be a better food writer and photographer. At present I cannot adequately convey the intoxicating scents of their Chocolate Creations, the amazing textures of his Danishes, the silky richness of their Vanilla Bean Mousse, the sensuous feeling you get from his Truffled Belgian Chocolate Cookies or the food porn-like compositions of some of his Miniature Desserts. He is an artist and this Valentine's his art will speak for me.

Strawberry Danishes: Light Flaky Pastry 
with Savory Sweet Fillings

BaBa Au Rhum: Pate a Savarin in Citrus &
Vanilla Bean Syrup & 1 Shot of Angostura 1919 Rum

Tucked away in the residential area of Chaguanas' Lange Park, Chef Ali's Pêche Pâtisserie is inconspicuous but its fame burgeoning. People of all stations seek out this shop which is off the beaten path for sure, but once there you are made to feel welcomed, French Pastries are demystified and secrets of taming Chocolate are revealed.
Most surprising to me at first was the accessibility to a pleasant and personable Chef Ali himself, usually busy at work in an open work area to the front of the Pâtisserie. If not totally engrossed in some intricate pastry or chocolate detailing, he'll answer a question or two or encourage you to try a sample of whatever is featured that day. It doesn't hurt that this Le Cordon Bleu and French Culinary Institute graduate, who worked at two of the finest Pâtisseries in Toronto and under one of the top ten American Pâtissiers is young and good-looking too.:-)

CoCo: Coconut Dacquoise
Sandwiching a Coconut Buttercream

Truffled Chocolate Cookies: More like a
cross between a Brownie and a Cookie with a
Velvety Chocolate Taste you also Feel (seriously)

My V-Day plan is to deliver some of these treats to special friends and family; a little ribbon and soft paper lining is all that may be needed; the Pastries are the star and I'll let them spread their joy, I know I'll be feeling it (a Danish and a Tiramisu for me please). 
Even if you don't have a sweet tooth or the commercialism of Valentine's Day gives you nausea, I guarantee you'll feel loved the moment you feast your eyes on one of these delights and taste what dedication, determination and truly loving food can make, no matter where you end up in this paradise on February 14th.

Vanilla Bean Eclair - Divine

Delicious Sweets for my Sweets with love
from 'Belly in Hand'

To learn more about Pêche Pâtisserie and Chef Khalil Ali visit his Facebook pages or visit the Pâtisserie at 1020 Soldado Road, Lange Park Chaguanas (phone: 1 868 223 2433).

The Pêche Pâtisserie in Lange Park Chaguanas

Check out more Pâtisserie Food items at Foodspotting or the Belly in Hand Facebook page.


Fried Chicken Fancy

Make no mistake, Fried Chicken is a beautiful thing. 
Though it may not be the healthiest of preparations, frying chicken certainly is one of the more delicious. The most epicurean of palates can appreciate the delights of chicken achieved in a way which could only come from being cooked submersed in fat. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, some like it spicy and well battered, some prefer no batter at all, well seasoned and super crispy. Whatever the preference, it is beloved by Trinbagonians.

Trinidad Fried Chicken with Local Seasonings
Saying we love Fried Chicken would be an understatement. We consume it in large quantities; home-made, Chinese-style, from street vendors, from mega international fast food chains or our local brands. Chicken with fries is a staple here, and while we acknowledge its high caloric count and health issues if overindulged, the pleasures some recipes give must be termed as addictive. 

The Royal Castle Local Brand of Fried Chicken
is well known and liked on the islands
The Good, (which may also be the Bad, but never the Ugly): 
In keeping with the goal of this blog and presenting to you the best, I can't detail all the good places - tried and tested like Anne's Chicken at the old Piarco Airport concession stands, Georges (Chinese Style) in Tunapuna and Piarco, (their peppery version) or Royal Castle with outlets nationwide with its aromatic pepper sauce, crinkle cut fries and loyal following. 
Bar hoping around the country, to the neighborhood watering holes along the roadsides you stumble upon some great recipes which are perfectly matched with sunny weather, cold local beer and high spirited conversation. But a commercial giant has put a twist to their recipe making it the best in the land and unique to our islands: KFC and their Spicy Crispy.

Closeup of KFC's Spicy Crispy Coating
Peeping out of the KFC Box
I don't know for sure what is in the recipe that makes ours different (can't quite put my finger on it, and I have asked KFC employees, with no joy), it just is. Crispier, tastier and crunchier. It remains a phenomenon which fascinates me to this day, seeing visiting rational, health conscious professionals 'get down' on a Two Piece with Fries, while donning suit and tie after getting their first taste. Witnessing Caribbean Heads of State (yes more than one), when coming to Trinidad, have their staff purchase buckets of the stuff for them at the Airport outlet when leaving, though the KFC franchise exists in their own countries. I also did a great deal of leg work myself (awful, torturous stuff) testing KFC Spicy/Crispy in countries I visited around the world, UK, Germany, Singapore, Costa Rica, Guyana, US and Canada to name a few, revealing none is as good as ours!

Spicy and Original - And they Deliver Nationwide
Crunchy on the Outside and Juicy on the Inside
Referred to as 'Chicken and Chips', 'Fowl and Potato' or my personal favorite a 'Box of Dead' (as dubbed by the seriously vegetarian Rastafarians) two pieces with a side will cost you $25 TT (about $4 US) and a twenty one piece bucket $170 TT (or around $27 US). The well battered coating has an audible crunch and the spiciness brings a heat that is not so much a burn as it is a warming of the senses accompanying moist, succulent meat when you bite into it. Delicious!

Japs: Local Seasonings you can See and Taste
Japs' Menu at St. Helena Branch.
Love the Fried Chicken Border :-)
With a KFC Facebook page of over fifty-five thousand fans and many more bordering on the fanatical, loyal to and patronizing 52 outlets nationwide its hard to not say they are The Best (I may be lynched). Honorable mention must be made though to a growing brand Japs, which is slowly eating into the market share. With six branches in St. Helena, San Grande, Valencia and Rio Claro, Japs brings a few good things to the Fried Chicken fight on the local front: seasoned with our traditional 'Green Seasoning' (a ground up blend of herbs like chives, thyme, celery and garlic in vinegar or lime) and always large pieces of meat, their fried chicken has a home made, fresh familiar flavor. In addition, they manage to sell for less, a two piece with fries for $22 TT (always a crowd pleaser).

Chicken and Chips
This Carnival as with the Carnivals before in recent history, this great tasting and easily portable favorite will be on the lips and in the bellies of hundreds of thousands, I hope there is enough fowl to go around. :-)

For KFC Nationwide info visit: http://www.facebook.com/kfctt

For Japs info visit: their FacebookPage

For more pictures and food details check out the Belly in Hand Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/bellyinhand 


Traveling To and From Trinidad and Tobago - Airport Fare

On the move again.

Stop, before you unsubscribe to this site and curse its name, I concur; Airport food is generally not a good thing. But having the experience of working in the Airline industry for a very long time (way too long to divulge) Airport staff  and Airline employees let you in on finding the good stuff, road tested: which restaurants/vendors, what items on their menu and even what time of day or week to buy.

En Route
Airport food is very much like airport culture itself, an ever moving collection of the mainly unwashed, weird and bizarre, in a place that is neither here nor there, where it matters not who you really are (only what security profiles make of you). Its one of those places where almost anything can happen: transit points - Twilight Zones. The larger the Airport may mean only much more of the nutritionally bankrupt, overpriced, mass produced and the watered down. But once in a while, particularly when its new, in the International Terminals you get a gem or two.

Brass Artwork Embedded into the Floor
of Miami Airport Concourse
The new and improved Miami International Airport Terminal is impressive, down to the brass detailing in the floor. Functional but not yet fully complete, the long departure gate lined corridors are filled with beautiful shops, food stands and restaurants of all kinds, spankingly new. Two places to eat and drink, to date stand out: Sushi Maki and Beaudevin on Concourse D. Sushi Maki, with twelve locations in Florida and Beaudevin Internationally (I visited the one in Brussels Int'l Airport - Fab!) they offer what I call a great way to kill a few hours - good sushi and good wine.

Inside the Beaudevin Wine Bar/Lounge on Concourse D
Wine Dispensers at Beaudevin
At Beaudevin you may order Wine by the glass, bottle or credit a wine card with cash and sample what is on the dispensing machines. Menu items are fast and designed to complement wine (except for the breakfast items) all Tapas like stuff. The wine selection is large and the staff knowledgeable and helpful (hope this is not only because they are new). This can be a stimulating experience for those now learning and interested in wine.

Sushi Maki's Commitment to Quality and
Sheer Volume Turned Over Daily at MIA Guarantee Fresh Product
Sushi Maki Decor
Sushi Maki, yes, they do have the pre-prepared/pre-packaged, typical rolls you can pick up and run with in the take-away section up front, California, JB and Spicy Tuna Rolls etc.  But even if you are not eating in, order off the menu some of their cooked or raw rolls to take on your flight. Their Volcano Roll: Smoked Salmon, Kanikama Crab, Cream Cheese and Scallions topped with Spicy Lava Sauce. Seven Seas: with three varieties of Whitefish and Tobiko Wasabi and a roll called The Beast: BBQ Eel and Avocado filled. All delicious and slightly larger in portions than what you usually see, portable and satisfying.

My 6:30am Breakfast: Miso w/Tofu
Traveling to and from Trinidad and Tobago, your year round international connection hubs are limited - Miami (MIA) or New York (JFK) and if you travel often its good to know where you can get a good or even exciting taste experience. 

Miami International Airport's Concourse D
More pics and insight on food adventures on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BellyinHand


Taste the Possibilities

An amazing year indeed! With so many more high points than low, I must say 2010 was stellar. What made it so delicious was how unplanned and organic most events and milestones were (this from the quintessential project manager, slightly OCD'ed natural organizer) :-) This blog being a major highlight and joy in 2010, though only 'live' for the last three months, the positive feedback, growing following and requests dictates only good things for 2011.
Resolutions 2011
Without returning to over-planning and detailing every breath, distinct stories must be told, certain trips/visits made and specific fears overcome for Belly in Hand to attain its goals. To sum it all up, this is the year of perpetual improvement: we aim to eat, write and live even better in Trinidad and Tobago. To me that sounds like a great plan and I hope it does to you to and you will visit often to 'take a taste.'
Happy New Year and all the best for 2011!