What makes Caribbean Cuisine flavorful?  It’s about the seasonings.

  Here are some basic traditional seasonings found in the Caribbean.

Dominican Republic

Sazon & Sofrito  –  mixture of aromatic vegetables and herbs. Spices include Cinnamon, Paprika, Chili Powder, Oregano and Cumin. Of course, garlic, onion, ginger, and Achiote.  Check out blog (picture below – offerings in grocery stores)- shared from:


 Epis (Haitian Seasoning Base) peppers, fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.   Check out Haitian cookbook: Haiti Uncovered by Nadege Fleurimond


Basic Seasonings – Allspice, Thyme, Scallions, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Ginger, Garlic, Soy sauce, Annatto Checkout blog at Jamaicanfoodsrecipes.com

Puerto Rico

Sazon – a blend of coriander, cumin, achiote, garlic powder, oregano, salt & pepper.

Sofrito — a blend of garlic, onions, peppers and recao (culantro) — is the backbone of Puerto Rican flavor. Also referred to as recaito, it’s typically sautéed in oil as the foundation for sauces, braises, beans, stews and rice dishes.  Check out cookbook, Puerto Rian Cuisine in America by Oswald Rivera


Green seasoning  — lime, ginger, celery, green pepper, scallions, seasoning peppers.  Check out recipe pictured below https://unpeeledjournal.com/nardias-trini-green-seasoning-recipe/

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2023 National Caribbean Restaurant Week

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Celebrating NCARW2022 – DC Caribbean Restaurants, Markets & Food Events

How can we get the word out on the celebration of National Caribbean-American Restaurant Week 2022 (NCARW) when most Caribbean restaurants and markets are small businesses? Celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month by frequenting these establishments and events and spreading the word through social media is an opportunity to help these businesses recover from the pandemic.

Here is an example of what NCAFFA did in DC to get the word out . Please add to this list: GKIDS Yard Style Food , 6208 Georgia Ave NW, DC, 202-722-0702 – Caribbean/Jamaican

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Invitation to Merchants to Participate in National Caribbean-American Restaurant Week – June 12-18, 2022

Dear Merchant: 

During  June,  National Caribbean-American Heritage Month , you’re  invited to participate in the 2022  National Caribbean-American Restaurant Week  (NCARW) Campaign  to restore the health of  Caribbean-American  food  establishments to pre-pandemic levels.

 Customers  will be encouraged to enjoy Caribbean foods and frequent your establishment to take advantage of special promotions and fixed price offerings.

How will this Campaign be promoted?  NCARW’s   non-profit sponsors below will use a wide array  of efforts such as  kick-off events with elected officials, newsletters, restaurant trails, and  traditional and social media promotions to bring attention to this Campaign.

How can you participate to make this Campaign successful?

  • Offer a special dish or menu during NCARW 2022  or  a special priced   $7  and/or $19.99 promotional special  which will be incorporated into the Campaign.
  • Inform your customers and the community of the Campaign using  social media and other  efforts, incorporating flyers, posters and other materials provided to you in the Campaign.
  • Register your business at http://www.dehabroad .org, which  allows potential customers to search for your establishment.
  • Join  Caribbean foodies and food establishments at ncaffa.org sign-up and @ncaffa.org to share and keep abreast of  Caribbean cuisine happenings.

Let’s  bring  attention to our  “world-of-flavor” Caribbean brand which is without  comparison.

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A picture containing food, sandwich, snack food

Description automatically generatedAs she took a bite from her second mini-sandwich, she turned to me and said “ I really love  the combination of flavors in this. I can’t stop eating it. What exactly is this?” 

I smiled as I had noticed  that the young American woman sitting next to me at the Scholarship Awards  Dinner was enjoying  a bite-sized Jamaican Bun & Cheese sandwich.     While it  hadn’t occurred to me that this could be  unrecognizable,  I could easily relate to her enjoyment, as Bun & Cheese is  one of my favorite flavor combinations.   The deep flavors of the molasses, raisins and spices pair perfectly with the creamy, somewhat salty  cheddar-like-cheese, creating what one writer calls a   “compelling third-taste dimension – a hidden vault of flavor”. 

After I told her what it was, she commented that the Bun reminded her of Irish Soda Bread and a little like some Cinnamon Raisin Breads.  At this point,  I knew she was  a sister foodie.   I was surprised, however,  that she didn’t mention Hot Cross Buns.  Nevertheless,  her comment captured some of the influences on our cherished Jamaican Spicy Bun.   The Caribbean, with its Indigenous, European, African, Indian and Asian influences, has had a way of absorbing them and coming up with something different and sometimes uniquely inexplicable.

What is the origin of  the Jamaican Spicy Bun ?

Its origin is pretty obvious  as it bears  the same name as the English Hot Cross Bun.   Colonists brought to Jamaica the tradition of eating cross buns (to symbolize Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross) on Good Friday.  The  buns are finished with crosses traditionally cut into the surface of the bun. Some recipes dredge a paste of water and flour into the cut or add a sugared icing on top to form the cross. 

But what about the variations in texture and change in shape of the Jamaican Buns? These seem to  depend on the baker’s personal influences and tastes and might well explain  the Irish Soda Bread texture  of some buns and the Scots-Irish influences in Jamaica.  Locals further adapted the Bun by reshaping it into a loaf and adding dried fruit in some instances

And  what about the Jamaican Bun’s unique flavor?  it is very likely this is the African contribution which comes from  the easy access to molasses (instead of honey or the refined sugars) and their love of intense spices. 

What is the source of the cheese which completes the treat?

This is the tricky part.  Often it is the brand, Tastee Cheese,  a  New Zealand produced canned cheddar product, uniquely made for Jamaica.  Why did Jamaicans develop this particular taste profile for a cheddar cheese product? Cheddar,  an English cheese “produced since at least the 12th century”, would  have been brought to Jamaica. Did Jamaicans, however, develop their own unique cheddar cheese profile ?  I remember as a child, growing up in Jamaica, that our family was a member of a milk cooperative.  Was cheese or a processed cheese one of the milk products?   I also recall as a child that after a major hurricane, Jamaica received canned American processed cheddar cheese products.  Could Jamaicans  have developed an appreciation for this flavor and texture.  This requires further research.

In searching for this cheese profile in America, my Sister, who was a pastry chef, and is now living in France, once told me excitedly that she found a smoked gouda cheese which was pretty close with the added depth from the smokiness.  I am sure there are other interesting close cheese or cheese product approximations.  But you can find Tastee cheese in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, as this area has a significant population of persons of Jamaican heritage.

Now here is the puzzle—how did this pairing of Bun & Cheese come about?

According to one writer, “The inspiration for the pairing is unknown, but one thing is for certain: cheddar cheese and hot cross buns are neither Jamaican, nor eaten together. But Tastee Cheese and a spiced bun is as Jamaican as it gets”.

Memories of  Bun & Cheese

Writing this article, made me  crave Bun & Cheese.  As a child, before Good Friday,  my Father who was apprenticed as a baker in St. Elizabeth, would bake buns at our home in Chicago.  His buns were big, round,  had a texture closer to Irish Soda Bread and were individualized with each family member’s edible initials on top,  and,  of course, were Jamaican in flavor.  We ate it with a mild cheddar cheese on Good Friday as there was no cooking.   In my “memory talks” with a good friend, Dr. Basil Buchanan, he recalls when growing up in Jamaica there was no cooking until after 3pm on Good Friday.  “This was tied to church services  held in the afternoon, usually around noon or midday to 3pm, to remember the hours when Jesus hung on the cross”.

My  Bun & Cheese craving is greater this particular Easter as we deal with coronavirus disruptions and social distancing.  I  will indulge in a slice with cheese.  Of course,  I am unlikely  to stop with just one slice, so maybe I’ll just buy a whole loaf—an Easter Bun—and cheese. It will be comforting and will take me back to Family and Jamaica.

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Caribbean Cuisine Month 2021

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Carib Cuisine events 2016

List of 2016 Caribbean-American Heritage Month Food Activities in DMV

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Caribbean Cuisine Week 2016


Eat, Mangez, Come, Nyam  Caribbean!   JUNE 19-25, 2016 is Caribbean Cuisine Week. Attend Caribbean Cuisine Events, Talks & Workshops in June. (Events) .  Learn about Caribbean foods, drinks & history. Enjoy special menus, distinctive Caribbean dishes at participating restaurants and markets. TASTE – COOK – LEARN- LAUGH


Caribbean Heritage Festival, “Taste of the Caribbean”, Saturday June 4th, 12 Noon to 7PM, Bladensburg Park Water Front, Blandensburg, MD., 301-322-7497,  Sponsor:  The Caribbean Council of Prince George’s County, http://www.thecaribbeancouncil.org . Event is Free.  Food and other vending charge by vendors.   

Factory Tour of Chocolate from Cocoa single sourced in the Caribbean, Weekends – Spagnvola Chocolatier, 360 Main Street,  Gaithersburg, MD,  Free Factory Tour, reservations needed. Contact: http://www.spangnvola.com

DC Caribbean Film Festival Opening Night – Tasting of Tropical/Caribbean Beverages, June 10th.  Opening Night Film QUEEN NANNY: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess (Jamaica) w/filmmaker Q&A 7:30pm, VIGILANTE: THE CROSSING (Barbados) 9:30pm. AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road,  Silver Spring, MD.  Tickets available at AFI Caribbean Film Festival.  Sponsors: Caribbean Association of World Bank and IMF Staff, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Caribbean Professionals Network, Africa World Now Project.

Past opening nights have introduced film-goers to tastings of Caribbean street foods with a nod to the country show-cased in the film.   This year’s short break, between films from Jamaica and Barbados, will serve up a tasting of beverages unique to the Caribbean which use tropical fruits such as pineapple, guava, grapefruit, passion fruit, mango, June plum and coconut, and roots/ root vegetables such as ginger and carrot.

Introduction to a Traditional Trinidadian Breakfast & Folklore, Sunday, June 12, 11am-2pm, Crown Bakery, 5409 Georgia Ave NW, DC 202-291-3009,  Cost:  $ 20

Caribbean cultures share some breakfast staples  and then there are dishes distinctive to each Island.  Crown Bakery which specializes in Trinidadian foods adds bakes, saltfish, callaloo, coo coo, and buss-up shut (roti) to its all-you-can-eat brunch menu.  Past folklore talks have included Trini-Americans sharing the diversity of their respective heritage—and the impact of the many influences, such as those of the Chinese, East Indian and Africans.

Grace Jerk Festival, Sunday, June 19th, 12PM to 9PM, Pennsylvania Ave between 12th & 14th  Streets NW,  Contact:  WWW.dcjerkfestival.com 718-425.1177, Co-sponsored by the  DC Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs. Tickets Cost:  $20 in advance $30 at gate.  Food and other product vending charge by vendors.


 Grilling with Caribbean Spices & Jerk Seasonings, Thursday, June 23rd , 6-7:00 pm, Bazaar Spices at Atlantic Plumbing,   2130 Eighth St NW, Washington, DC, 202-379-:  http://www.bazaarspices.com   Cost:  Free

Caribbean Heritage Month Red Carpet Friday – Reggae, Soca & Jerk,  Friday,   June 24th Sandovan Restaurant, 4809 Georgia Avenue  NW, Washington DC 20011, 202-248-2161 , 4pm – 2am.

Sandovan’s  name and menu is not only  a fusion of  its Caribbean and American heritage but also reflects the diversity of its Caribbean heritage.  Sandy (American) and Donovan (East Indian-Jamaican)  and their children have successfully mixed their collective food heritage with traditional Jamaican dishes such as  jerk,  rice & peas with basmati rice complemented by American dishes such as macaroni and cheese and spinach.   Add to this menu is Chef Rox’s signature Caribbean artisanal drinks such as pine ginger and sorrel,  and on Friday, June 24th, a special musical journey throughout the Caribbean. Out of many, one people.








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Caribbean Cuisine & Restaurant Week 2014

Caribbean Cuisine & Restaurant Week 2014

For full schedule go to http://www.caribbeanamericanrestaurantweek.org/

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