Friday, November 28, 2008

It turns out you CAN make friends with salad

I was on the wee sun-swept Caribbean island of Anguilla a couple of weeks ago, doing a story for the Globe & Mail on this British territory's delectable lunch truck culture, whereby locals join the cue at food vans sprinkled throughout the Valley to lunch on everything from primal goat stew to smoky barbecue. Great stuff. I mean, really great stuff. But that's all I'll say for now because my story hasn't come out in the paper yet.

In addition to eating at several lunch trucks a day, I also found the time to fit in an additional three meals or so on this island paradise, where spiny lobsters abound and there's never such a thing as too much rum punch. (In other words, my kind of town.)
And that's how I came to eat The Best Salad I've Ever Had. 
It was at Anguillian chef Dale Carty's Tasty's restaurant. Dale, a hard-working chef with a winning smile, was recently profiled in the pages of Bon Appetit magazine by Alan Richman. And for good reason. 
When not running his own colourful, casual restaurant, chef Dale can be found doing West Indies-inspired barbecue over at the Dune Preserve, an awesome beachside tree house bar for adults, owned by reggae legend Bankie Banx (you can see him on the cover of some of Jimmy Buffet's CDs.) 
But back to my salad: It was the crayfish salad. It's not on the menu. You've got to ask for it. The local fishermen bring in the crayfish and if they don't catch enough that day, you can't have this salad. In which case, don't get your shirt in a knot, just order the seafood salad, a close second.
The salad is a symphony of temperatures and texture; there's a base of pert leaf lettuce, then comes the warm grilled local crayfish -- like a sweet cross between lobster and shrimp -- fresh fried plantain chips, pickled peppers, hard boiled egg, a few olives, some carrot shreds and tomato wedges, all perfectly dressed in an unassuming yet vital vinaigrette. It's one of those holiday dishes that you'd love to recreate back home. 
But you just can't. 

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