I think my Mom would cry if she saw me in quarantine. Not because I’m going on benders or retweeting The Lincoln Project in earnest or anything - but because, like many people right now, it’s not always easy to take care of myself. My sleep schedule is beyond f*cked, I have a penchant for overdrafting, and I’ll often go weeks without eating a single vegetable. And it’s in these moments when I wish I could give myself one of those full-body, soul-warming, “It’s all going to be OK” hugs that only a mother can give.
But that’s like, super-physically impossible at the moment. So I’ll just place an order at Caribbean Gourmet instead.
Run by Guyanese chef Yonette Alleyne, this twice-a-week pop-up (Saturdays at at Crenshaw Farmers’ Market, Sundays at the Atwater Village Farmers Market) makes use of the Caribbean’s rich abundance of flavors, pulling elements from Africa, Portugal, India, China, Europe, and the region’s aboriginal native cultures.
Jerk chicken comes bejeweled in a rub made from paprika, allspice, thyme, and freshly roasted cumin. Jamaican beef patties half the size of your head arrive as flaky, golden envelopes packed to the brim with spiced meat. And the oxtail stew… phew. By far one of the best dishes here, the tender meat all but falls off the bone and is complemented by a rich, flavorful broth brimming with habanero peppers, garlic, and sea salt. It’s a well-balanced dish that showcases Alleyne’s greatest strength - food prepared with so much care, it feels like your mom made it. If your mom was a world-class chef, that is.
Takeout food can be a bit of an inelegant art, much like attempting to weave your personal life into a restaurant review or Pete Davidson’s “sketch acting.” But luckily, Caribbean Gourmet’s at-home reheating instructions are as simple as they come, usually involving some combination of the words “microwave” and “2-3 minutes.” And from the jerk chicken to the oxtail stew, each plate winds up fresh, warmed all the way through, and never overcooked - making it the perfect meal for (almost) any situation, and an ideal salve for all that pesky melancholy, especially in times when you happen to be far away from home and in need of a good, wholesome meal. That is, of course, until we learn how to properly hug ourselves. But that probably won’t be for a while.
Ooh, the meat is so tender here, it’s basically the food equivalent of this interview with Yo-Yo Ma. Both have made me emotional, left me questioning the meaning of life, and go really well with fried plantains.
Take notes, Quentin Tarantino, because this is how one excels in the art of subtlety. Rather than hitting us over the head with a sea of sauce, this jerk chicken comes bathed in an understated Jamaican dry rub, made with allspice, black pepper, paprika, and nutmeg. And the chicken somehow stays moist, even after three minutes in the microwave? Make it make sense.
Listen up. There’s nothing fancy - or even particularly Caribbean - about this dish, it’s just a good ol’ mac & cheese. And I did devour it all in one sitting, thank you for asking. Although, if you want to be a real gourmand (like me), I highly recommend preheating the oven for this one.
Wrapped in a buttery, flaky crust, this dense Jamaican patty comes stuffed with heavily-seasoned beef and is perfect for everything from a light afternoon snack to breakfast at 2pm in bed (my go-to move).
Not too sweet and packed with tons of pineapple, this Guyanese treat is less of a dessert and more of a fruit-filled side dish. Which, for the record, I really like.