“Was that pig ear?” I exclaimed to my colleague. He nodded yes, and I reflected for a moment… “that was DELICIOUS.” Last night we found ourselves at Gout et Saveurs Lakay (“Taste and Flavors of Home”) , an experimental expo created “to promote and bring value to Haitian culinary art.” As we strode from sampling table to sampling table, it was easy to forget you were in Port-au-Prince. That is, of course, until someone explains the delicacy they’ve just ladled onto your plate with such delicate precision is a pig ear stew. I’m sure there was additional information that went along with that, perhaps an explanation of how the rosemary accentuates this and that. I kind of lost focus once I learned it was pig ear.
Gout et Saveurs Lakay is a deliciously (pun intended) simple concept. Take ordinary Haitian cuisine and make it fancy. Or, I’m sure there’s a better-suited term. Classy? Four-star-restaurantish? Delicassy-esque? Hmm, perhaps fancy is the best word, which is apt because most cuisine by nature is not fancy. Most people don’t come home and throw together a serving of saffron rice topped with braised oxtail and drizzled with what-have-you (my own technical term for any sauce that’s not immediately identifiable). No, we make meals out of convenience and sometimes add a touch of oohs and ahs. That’s why we go to fancy restaurants; to get what we normally can’t get at home. And yet, do you ever imagine that you could sit down to one of these same fancy restaurants and be told they serve exclusively Haitian food? That’s the underlying notion behind Gout et Saveurs Lakay.
Haitian food has the same potential as any other food. Throughout the night we sampled pig ear stew, some sort of au gratin served with roast pork and topped with a spicy slaw, passion fruit parfait, and many other foods I honestly didn’t even bother to ask about. I simply piled them on my too-small serving plate and enjoyed the flavors. Oh, and there was alcohol.
Haiti is known for its Rhum Barbancourt, the 5-star version of which is internationally acclaimed as one of the world’s best aged rums. At the same time, not many people are aware that Haiti boasts several other rum masterpieces. We ordered a re-invented version of the rum sour, named anAmelie, from the Rhum Labbé table. While sipping on that we sampled some liquers from Ivresse des Tropique,which boasted flavors such as cherry and apricot, an amazing feat since I’ve yet to see one apricot in Haiti. The winner, of course, remained Rhum Barbancourt, which transformed into everything from a mango infused mai-tai inspired cocktail to a Haitian Cuba Libre to a cocktail adorned with chunks of fresh pineapples.
Haiti is versatile. This is what I took away from the evening, and the message Gout et Saveurs aimed to show the world. Notice of the event made the front page of the local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste. If only we can transfer that same local notoriety to the front pages of the New York Times.
Below are a few of the treats at Gout et Saveurs and contact information if interested in knowing/tasting more:
Folies Gourmandes – Pâtisserie-Service Traiteur (Pastry Catering)
Peché Mignon – Gâteaux faits sur mesure pour toutes les occasions (Tailor-made cakes for all occasions)
Sawa Restaurant – Tapas | Sushi | Kebab