Day 11: Trinidad and Tobago
When I woke up, my stomach was not in a good place. The cause of this phenomenon could easily be attributed to some combination of beer, shochu, raw fish, cold beef, spicy red things, crispy fried things and ice cream. Plus this all happened the day after I ate a lot of Serbian meat, so I’m beginning to realize why people think this whole “every day” thing is a little crazy. But there’s a wonderful side to this as well: every day I get to seek out a cuisine which may be able to rescue me from the damage done by the previous one. It’s a mental state more than a physical one, I think. An emotional cleanse. After a day like North Korea, my mind and body seek a calm to follow the storm. Lucky for me, I found one.
Caribbean Treehouse in Inglewood, California on a Sunday afternoon. There’s a football game on by the bar, regulars are chatting it up with employees like it’s old times and there’s a casual, relaxed air to this place that puts me at ease the moment I walk in the door. Even the sign out front has endearingly misspelled itself as a “Restaurat”. Mr. Meatball and I sit down near a thick fake tree coming through the floor (to give the impression, I suppose, that you’re in an enormous treehouse) and I take my first deep breath of the day.
A woman who seems to run this place strolls casually over to us and gives a smile that I’ve come to know at most of the better restaurants on this project. It’s the smile that says “I want you to have a great meal today.” It’s the aura of a person who takes pride in where they work. They want you to love their food because they love their food. “What do you recommend?” “Ooh, the Sunday brunch. You get all kinds of stuff. Great combination.” Sold. “You want something to drink?” “What do you think goes best with it?” “Oh, beer. You want beer.” Has ordering lunch ever been so easy?
A nice young girl who has been sitting at the counter hops off the stool and grabs our food from the kitchen. Even she looks happy to be here as she sets down our numerous plates and bowls. The fifteen dollar Sunday brunch of traditional Trinidadian fare comes with chicken, beef and pork (all stewed together), macaroni pie, callaloo (leafy veggies and okra all mashed up and cooked together with other mysterious ingredients), sweet potato salad, white rice, plantain, more root starches and some stewed pigeon peas. It is all, I must say, really nice. The herbs and spices are what take these dishes to another level. The meats are tender and flavorful. The callaloo has a slightly sweet and deliciously cheesy taste to it and is great over the white rice. The stewed pigeon peas are a casual delight, the sweet potato salad is a nice variation from all of the regular potato salads this project has seen so far. Then there’s the macaroni pie. It’s the macaroni and cheese you want to take on every picnic you ever go on.
Now the jovial proprietor comes by and asks how we like the food. We tell her we love it and she smiles before asking “You don’t like spicy?” Wait, what? “We love spicy.” Mr. Meatball and I look around the table for the hot sauce we’ve missed. There’s nothing there. “Hold on.” She saunters back to the kitchen and comes back with a little cup of orange chili sauce. “Be careful. It’s very spicy.” We pour it over our food and…wow. This is some great stuff. Really spicy but with great flavor. The food starts to take on a life of its own. Mr. Meatball orders another beer.
The nice young girl from earlier comes to collect our credit cards and asks with genuine interest how we liked the food. We give our praise and she smiles happily. She knew that would be our answer but probably just wanted to make sure. We rise slowly and make our way out the back and into the parking lot, thanking our hosts once again for the meal. As we open our car doors, the chef comes out to smoke a cigarette. “How you like the food?” she asks. “We loved it. Really good. Thank you so much.” She doesn’t even smile. “Good…” she says casually, knowing there wasn’t any other answer to give.
1226 Centinela Ave
Inglewood, CA 90302
Food Breakdown: 3 alcoholic beverages, 2 brunch specials
Distance From My House: 5.9 miles