Jamaican Food out in the Boondocks? Irie!
Last Wednesday, I checked out the new weekly reggae party, Summer Outbreak, situated way-the-F-out west at the Seminole truck stop off U.S. Hwy 27. I've got a preview of the event in this week's Night & Day section, detailing a little bit about its formation at the hands of Harry Sinclair, a Jamaican chef and the guy who runs all three Island nights out at the truck stop. It's a completely underground operation, built totally on word of mouth and authentic, good times.
Sinclair's little venture is called Truck Stop To Go, and it's basically a street food-type operation set up next to the little trucker cafe they have there. After 9 p.m., the place packs in with islanders who come to listen to reggae (with a little hip-hop thrown in), drink a few Red Stripes from the truck stop's tiki bars (oh yes, tiki bars), and chow on Sinclair's homemade grub. The night I went, Sinclair and co. were cooking up barbecued jerk chicken, jerk pork, and fish served either jerked or steamed with a heap of bell peppers, squash, and onion. Seven bucks gets you a Styrofoam container heaped with the stuff, plus a couple of slices of good ol' fashioned white bread.
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The jerk chicken was damn fine stuff -- white or dark meat chopped up into golf ball-sized chunks, smoky and blackened in spots from charcoal flames lapping at it as the fat renders off. You can smatter it with as much thin, spicy habanero jerk sauce as your mouth can handle, but a couple of cold beers really up your tolerance. The pieces are bone-in, a Jamaican cooking tradition that's not without its problems, but one I've grown to enjoy. There's something primal and almost reverent about mawing down on meat that's still attached to its frame. When you're picking out jagged pieces of bone and sweating in the night time summer heat, you start to feel like this is a meal you're lucky to be enjoying.
The fish was king mackerel, a mercury-laden but delicious beast. It's got a fleshy texture and a flavor that's similar to, but a bit milder than swordfish. It also went great with the jerk sauce.
The folks around there were having a great old time. Sinclair has been doing nights like this at the truck stop for 2 years, so even though this Wednesday gig is a new addition, people knew what they were coming for. It's a sweaty, wild outdoor party, with gals in sundresses dancing on the clay tiles next to billowing industrial metal fans, and guys grinding alongside, pausing only to grab whiskey drinks at the frond-covered bars. Behind the cafe some guys were running a poker table for cash, with truckers, bikers, and islanders all taking part. There was definitely an anything goes feel. This is Seminole land, after all, so you could probably do just about anything you wanted out here and it'd be alright. Play some poker, eat some island food, hide a body... it's all good.
I haven't been on a Friday yet, which I'm told is when the place gets a little more family-oriented and Sinclair cooks up more complex dishes like roti, curry goat, and lobster. Don't know if I'll make it this week, but I'll get down there soon and post more findings asap. If any readers head out there this weekend, send me some pics and your comments and I'll post em on Short Order.
-- John Linn
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