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VOL 3. NO. 24 Monday, June 25 - Sunday, July 1, 2001

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Not Jus' Any Ole Jerk
By Michelle CARR
Click here for recipe
I absolutely love hot and spicy foods. Food so spicy you sweat while eating it. Knowing this, a few years ago some friends introduced me to jerk chicken, a popular Jamaican dish. Since then I have to have jerk chicken at least four times a month, typically for lunch. One of my favorite spots in the Washington DC area is Caribbean Delight on Riggs Road in Beltsville, Md. The food is great, but often the service leaves a lot to be desired. I refuse to spend my money and be treated rudely.

Leery of going somewhere else but tired of the rudeness, I attempted to make jerk chicken myself. How hard could it be? Let the chicken marinate with chopped onions and seasoning (1 teaspoon my friend tells me. Hmmm, in that cas e 2 heaping tablespoons ought to be enough). Bake until golden and serve with steamed rice. I was so excited. `Wait until you taste this,' I kept telling my husband. The chicken turned out was so HOT my husband jumped up from the table and gulped water directly from the kitchen faucet. I sat there playing it cool, but all the while shoving bread into my mouth. To no avail. My lips burned like they were on fire. Eventually we cooled down, but my husband vowed to never eat jerk again.

As for me, well I found another restaurant - Negril in Mitchellville Shopping Center. Negril proved to be a winner all the way around - the food is great, the service is good, and it's relatively close to my job. Negril takes care of my craving during the day, but what about after work hours. Since I live in Baltimore County I've been searching for a restaurant closer to my home.

A few months ago a Caribbean restaurant opened just a few miles from my house. I drove by the restaurant every day trying to work up the nerve to go inside. Finally I did. I watched the chef prepare food for others as I contemplated my order. "Jerk chicken", I said, "with rice and peas, coco bread, and beef patty, spicy." Please let this be good, I thought. It wasn't. At least not by my standards. The chicken was dry and tasteless and the meat inside the beef patty resembled anything but beef. I threw the food away and vowed never to patronize that restaurant again.

Still I clung to the hope of finding a good Jamaican restaurant close to home. When I mentioned this to a couple of friends, I was told about another restaurant close by. Still resistant to spending my money and being unsatisfied, I make no note of the name or location. Several months went by and on a Sunday afternoon not too long ago I set out to find this restaurant. I knew the general vicinity, or so I thought. I drove back and forth, up and down the street searching for a restaurant that "looked Caribbean," but couldn't find it. Ready to give up, I pulled into a parking lot and called 555-NEED. Tell them the category and location and they'll give you a list of matches. No connection, the recording tells me. Must be a wrong number.

I turned my cell phone off and pulled out of the parking lot ready to go home. I look to the right. I look to the left. I squinted because I couldn't believe my eyes. About one block down on the right was a restaurant with yellow and green trimming and a marquee that read "Island Café." Excitedly, I pulled into the parking lot - no cars but a sign said `Open.' Hesitantly, I walked inside - no customers. It was Sunday perhaps folks aren't out of church yet. The hostess greeted me and I requested a carryout menu. Not seeing a lunch section I requested a lunch menu. I'm told that lunch isn't served after 1 PM. I look at my watch - 2:30 PM. What kind of restaurant stops serving "lunch" at the height of lunch "hour?"

The menu indicated that you could sample the food prior to ordering. I requested a sample of the jerk chicken. The hostess leaves then returns and informs me that the jerk chicken was not ready. Reluctant to spend $12 on a meal I probably won't like, I ordered coco bread and a beef patty. Five minutes later the hostess comes back with a brown bag and requests $3.05. I pay and leave anxious to examine my food. It's hot, but I can tell the food had been microwaved. The coco bread was ... well coco bread. The outer edge of the beef patty was dried out and tough and the middle was mushy. Disappointed, I threw the food away. Needless to say, I won't be going back there.

In my quest to find good jerk chicken, I'm finding that any ole restaurant just won't do.

If you have a favorite spot that serves good jerk in a pleasant atmosphere, drop Michelle a line at editor@metroconnection.info.

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