During a recent visit to Carnival in Trinidad, our vehicle -- in this case a mini-bus -- began making its way out of the urban sprawl of Port of Spain. Before very long, some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Caribbean began to unfold. Mountains and the sea below emerged as we began our climb, and our mouths were already watering. On our way, we were treated to various lookout points, where travelers can pull their vehicle over to take in the breathtaking scenery from the mountain landscapes out to the waters of the Caribbean Sea below.
Of these, the most popular lookout point, known by some as "Marcacas Lookout," doubled as a "candy stand," of sorts, serving up local treats like dried red mango, prunes, and other fruits from a selection of vendors, as well as childhood favorites like gummy bears and red fish. We each enjoyed our own "Trini treat," but personally, I was sold on the coconut fudge made, of course, from local coconut.
After stopping to satisfy our sweettooths, we continued on our way. Our destination, about an hour from Port of Spain, was Maracas Beach, the most well known of Trinidad's few-and-far-between sandy beaches, and reachable by mountainous trip via the North Coast Road. Here, at what is considered to be one of the nicest beaches in Trinidad, visitors will find its famed stands selling a true culinary treat: Shark and Bake (or Bake and Shark or Shark n Bake, if you prefer).
The name has a number of variations, but the results are pretty much the same -- a filet of flakey, white, batter-dipped, deep-fried shark meat stuffed into a soft yet crunchy bun that causes diners' pupils to form cartoon-like pinpoints of prolonged pleasure -- and that's before condiments are added, when things really begin to pick-up. Bake and Shark is a traditional Trinidadian dish, with the "bake" component actually referring to the bread – "bake" – which is a thick, kneaded flour, used either as a bottom bun or as a wrap for the fish before it is fried (depending on which shack you decide to go to).
On our culinary expedition, we chose Richard's Bake & Shark, which quickly creates the piping-hot sandwiches and then leaves it to individuals to add their own toppings -- all sorts of dressings, and chopped tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and even sliced pineapple. However, the condiments can sometimes vary and so can the prices – on the day we were there, the sandwiches were $8 apiece; on other days, they can be sold for as much as $20. Not that price should deter you from trying this island delicacy, but be prepared to either spend more or split a bake if you're traveling on a budget.
Following our meal, we washed our masterpieces down with another Trinidad treat: bottles of Angostura's Lemon Lime & Bitters, a soft drink created by the people who make Angostura Bitters, a secret blend of Trini spices that has been tantalizing cocktail fans for years (think Old Fashioneds). But kids of all ages can enjoy this refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, and on a hot Trinidadian day, it's the perfect way to cool off.
Maracas Beach is where Trinis and visitors alike come to swim, relax and catch some rays, especially when the last soca song ends and Mas Tuesday turns into Ash Wednesday. It's a true Trinidad treasure, and there is no admission charge. Come for the Bake and Shark, stay for the sunshine and sandy beaches. It's hard to go wrong at Marcacas Beach.