Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year’s Eve in the Caribbean

Mark and I never used to eat out much, mostly for financial reasons. But, once in a while we would like to celebrate something or we (think we) deserve a treat. Those times, we expect some good food and service for the hard earned or hard saved money we spend on a meal. The prospect of no dishes and no cooking in a hot kitchen would be an added bonus.

Performing such an easy task as having a decent, affordable dinner and be pleased is challenging in the Caribbean. Over the last one and a half years, we have tried multiple times and failed more than not. Bear in mind, though, that we are not on vacation, always ask or check prices ahead of time, always look at our bill, hate it to be taken advantage of and, that we have certain expectations, like a friendly face and an honest atmosphere, and certain principles in the lines of “Don’t play (tourist) games with us”! Is that too much to ask for?

So, when Mark and I go out to eat, we never know what to expect, except not to expect too much. We still get excited about treating ourselves sometimes and do give it another try, only to find out that the restaurant of our choice is closed, the prices have gone up, Darwin is not allowed, people are not friendly, many items on the menu are not available, a surprise tax or mandatory tip is added or the bill is wrong.

On Christmas Day, we tried our luck in St. Pierre, Martinique. The only restaurant that looked alive closed at 3 pm and was pretty expensive. Dinner (packaged stuffing, eggplant and slices of lunch meat ham) on Irie was tasty and cheap and I did leave the dishes until the next morning. Not too bad.

On New Year’s Eve, we were serious about eating out and decided to go to Big Papa’s near our anchorage in Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica. The town of Portsmouth doesn’t have much to offer and we were pleased by the atmosphere of this restaurant and by our meeting with Big Papa himself, about five months ago. We started off with a few Happy Hour drinks. The Big Papa rum punch was half price, we were told, so we would get two for EC$ 10 (US$ 4). Two small plastic cups with a yellow liquid showed up and we enjoyed the taste of it, but wondered about the size. It’s a common trick here. They offer a drink for Happy Hour, but reduce the size with the price…

When I asked about the size of the drink, one of the waitresses admitted that the normal rum punches came in a bigger “real” glass. But, it was New Year’s Eve and we were trying to have a good time, so I ordered another Big Papa rum punch, the only thing that seemed to be on special. Mark ordered a local (Kubuli) beer. My ordered drink was orange this time and tasted different than the previous one, not as good, and I inquired. Now, this was the Big Papa rum punch and the previous one was a normal rum punch. OK. Well, then I wanted my second part of the order to be a normal one! This appeared to be the only option, because one of the women declared there was no Big Papa rum punch available. One of the waitresses was leaving, there was some confusion, I made sure they realized that this drink was the second part of my “two for one” rum punch and got another beer for Mark, while wondering what they would charge for my two different punches in the same order.

After three drinks each (three 2 for 1 rum punches for me and one 2 for 1 rum punch and two beers for Mark), we decided to swallow hard about the unfriendliness and incapability of the staff and go for a Big Papa Hamburger. It was New Year’s Eve after all! When we ordered, the waitress announced that they didn’t do the snack menu in the evening, so we gave in and asked for the bill. Big Papa recognized us (or was it Darwin?) from our last visit and we had a friendly chat. He wouldn’t make us burgers, though, a “cook’s nightmare”, apparently. Not sure why, apart from this being a good way to make more money by “forcing” you to order a more expensive meal. Not us…

We were a little hyped up by now and sure anticipated the bill to be wrong. The drinks should cost EC$ 30 (US$ 12). How bad would it be? Bad! We owed Big Papa’s EC$ 60. Twice the price! They charged EC$ 10 for every single tiny rum punch and EC$ 10 for every beer, which has a fixed price of EC$ 5. Mmmm… After some questioning, the mistake about the beer was obvious, but some more arguments later, the Big Papa rum punch (of which I had 1 instead of 2) appeared to be EC$ 15 during happy hour (????) at which point we gave in and paid the EC$ 35. We’ve learned to sacrifice small amounts of money for everybody’s peace and just never go back. Needless to say, no tip was given and we were very happy about not purchasing a meal there that night.

On Irie, some cheap champagne, a delicious spaghetti carbonara and Belgian chocolates for dessert pleased our tummies and our moods. Once again, we were better off having our dinner at home, but that evening we had realized it in time!

Last year, Mark, Darwin and I thought about the recent loss of Kali and wept ourselves asleep on the trampoline, to be woken up by fireworks at midnight, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (USVI). This year we didn’t make January 1st at all, until the next morning. We tried to stay up for a few hours, but were sound asleep by 10:30 pm! New Year’s Eve was pretty much a day like any other day.

No comments: