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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
From Doubles to Chicharones..From Machel to Low Cash Cowboys. My stop at Calle Ocho, Miami's Latin Fiesta
Grilling Meat kabobs at Calle Ocho
As many of you know and hopefully been reading in my previous blogs, I am fresh off my first Trinidad Carnival, and yes it was an experience for the ages. So here it is, a week later and another festival abounds here in Miami, Calle Ocho. Well, just like Carnival in Trinidad this visit to Calle Ocho was going to be my first. Man, seems like I have been getting my cherries popped all over the place these days. Didn't even know I had more than one to get popped, who knew. With Soca music still on my brain, tip of my tongue and on the ready in the cd player in the car I was warned not to expect the same kind of revelry and WOTLESSness at Calle Ocho. Well, this set me straight so I was well intentioned in my focus which was going to be the food, Latin street foods of all kinds. Here at Calle Ocho I have to switch my palette from doubles to Chicharones. Have you had some crispy pork skin lately doused with some hot sauce? No? What da hell is wrong with you? and don't gi mi that I don't eat pork thing..face it, pork rules, period. Several things are evident to me upon reaching the street fair, this after fearlessly parking my car for a $5 fee in a lot that belongs to someone I'm sure manned by three youths with skateboards and music box perched on a wall by the fence at the gate..I'm not skerred!! There are lots of folks here and the food smells are intoxicating. Food smells representing Mexico, Columbia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Jamaica, Argentina and more. Grills and steam tables lined the streets offering up food fares like Pintos (meat skewers, smaller than regular kabobs) from Brazil, Arroz con pollo, carne asada, grilled meat kabobs, grilled sausage dogs, chicken Paella, barbacoa on a lazy spindle (Columbian I assume), barbacoa on stick over the pit.
Meat grilling over the pit
meat grilled Colombian Style
Moros, boiled Yucca, fried Yucca, Alcuperias, boiled corn, and so much more. Surprisingly enough though I can;t seem to recall seeing any Mofungo (smashed plantain seasoned with garlic, adobe, herbs with shrimp or other meats) dishes or Mondongo for that matter. I would have forsaken all for some good Mondungo (tripe soup). What!!! If you don't know you better recognize. I know I wasn't going to eat my way through this festival but I was going to be very selective..hell, I was trying to avoid colic, did a good job of that in Trinidad. Rounding out the scene were several food trucks that were parked in several locations along the route offering choices from sushi, sliders, sandwiches, ceviches and some of the more popular Latin fares If you walked through the maddening crowds and couldn't find something to eat you deserve to drop dead from hunger. Either that or drink a Presidente beer or some guarapo (cane juice) which I had from a Jamaican dred. I've had this before but never mixed with pineapple juice. Most delightful and refreshing it was..tiefing that for sure.
(Fresh Cane juice)
Papi on the drums, happy as ever
Being of African decent, It's hard to to be at Calle Ocho and not recognize the soulful African beats of the drums in the music whether it was blaring through speakers on stage or from speakers set up in the booths of the vendors to the Congo drums beating as singers and dancers in the crowd moved up and down the street. I may not understand most of what is said in the Spanish language but I do understand beats and rhythm. This obviously translates to movement in the hips and feet. You could hear it all over the place coming through in the Salsa, Bachetta, Meringue, Reggae and even from the Hip Hop stage which was packed by the youngsters. I found it rather interesting that Low Cash Cowboys, a Country and Western band was there rocking it out even sampling from Vanilla Ice, Salt & Pepper and the Beastie boys. There was something for everyone. If you even owned up to a dash of Hispanic culture you were out rocking your colors for whichever country you represented. There was a deep sense of pride that filled the streets. This I know all too well.
Okay, so it wasn't J'ouvert or MAS carnival but I felt that all that were there were having a good time even if you were walking along aimlessly looking at beautiful faces and bodies..yes, there was lots of eye candy around. Security was evidently present all around...Gang Task Force, hmmmhm. Once again, if crowds aren't your thing well, a refreshing glass of lemonade in the back yard playing dominoes can suffice as the smoke hits you from the barbecue grill. See you next year maybe?