By the time I knocked back the last of the Rum Punch I was already feeling it. I casually fished the cherry stem from my mouth as my tongue played with grains of freshly grated nutmeg. To date, this is still my second favorite Caribbean cocktail. I looked at my wife and smiled. I could tell that she was feeling it too which was good. We had kayaked a few times in the past and I find that it’s always better to start a voyage with the edge off. I gave a good tug on the yellow canoe and caught a receding wave just right. I jumped in with a clumsy Dukes of Hazard slide smacking my thigh against the side causing a sobering thump. Within seconds we were in full stride cutting through the placid azure Grenadian water with ease.
As La Luna’s hillside cottages grew smaller behind us, we steered with intention toward the bend in the crescent beach. Above us, a Rorschach test of clouds cast shadows on the horizon. The same trade winds that were manipulating the sky were giving a little extra chop to the water in front of us. As we rounded the next curve, a Rastafarian looking fella stood tall, wielding what might have been a three or four-foot machete in his left hand. On the base of a craggy set of cliffs just above the waterline, a small fire of broken tree limbs, coconut shells and dried seaweed crackled. Instincts made me reach for the would-be door lock to our sea bearing vehicle. Now I know what you might be thinking, that seems a tad bit ignorant, but I assure you I judge all knife wielding strangers the same; no matter sex, race, creed or age.
We caught a fleeting glimpse of him as he dove into the sea and disappeared. We made distance focusing our direction on the crescent Morne Rouge Beach and headed our
vessel for the wooden hut on the far edge of the white sand beach about a thousand yards away. Like Olympians, our oars swung in unison. Left, right, left. We sliced thru the bay, the fuzzy wooden structure coming into focus. A motley set of painted and unpainted fence panels hid the first floor of a two-story shack. A white stripe of wood with pink lettering spelled out the name of the bar LA PLYWOOD. Each letter was hand painted with inconsistent thickness. The
words Beach Bar stacked on top of one another followed on a slant. In front of the bar, two aqua blue picnic tables sat unattended. The beach was packed with locals enjoying a day off for Corpus Christi, a public holiday in Grenada. We secured the kayak high up on the beach and I removed my debit card and crumpled Eastern Caribbean currency from a previously used zip lock baggie and headed up the orange steps toward the bar. The open aired cantina was a mix of pastels…blue, green and pink stools clashed with aqua and yellows. All heads turned at our presence. A hearty and sincere “welcome to La Plywood”, the barkeep and proprietor introduced himself as Nigel, a Canadian expat living his best life back in Grenada.
The outdoor bar was snug and quintessentially Caribbean. We bellied up to the countertop which was sticky from remnants of the prior sugary cocktail that the couple next to us was enjoying. Behind Nigel; island rums, homebrewed bitters and display bottles of the local craft brewery crammed a few uneven shelves. We could make out the erased wording Fish Tacos that were ghosted into the chalkboard. We found out were only recently Eighty-Sixed (Note- Our Second trip we were luckier)
As my wife pursed her lips into her second drink, she accidentally lost grip and in slow motion fashion we watched the Caribbean elixir fall to its demise. “Taxiiiiiii”, Nigel yelled
with stand-up comedian timing and quickly replaced the drink. As we apologized for the accident, Nigel responded, “If she didn’t drop it, I wouldn’t be doing my Job”. Just when we thought this excursion couldn’t get any better, we eyed the very same Rastafarian from minutes prior walking the beach toward us. Now clothed in a faded Yello Mello tank and carrying a plastic child’s beach pale, he was absolutely void of any menace. Nigel, eyeing what we were looking at walked toward the man. Nigel peeked into the bucket and reached into his pocket pulling out a wad of red backs. The deal was done. They exchanged items, shook hands with a rehearsed fist knock and spoke a few parting words in what we assumed was patois.
Nigel walked over and instructed us to “take”. I lifted a banana leaf and blindly reach into the bucket. It was warm and heavy. I pulled out what looked like, a giant stuffed mushroom; not a portabella type, more like a Smurf House with little spikes. Puzzled, Nigel pulls out his own and hands my wife a fork. “You eat it. It’s, how do you say, uni. Sea Urchin.” My wife and I look at each other and telepathically agree, well when in Grenada…I dug the fork in and pull out a healthy portion of the cooked urchin. See you in the emergency room I think to myself as I bite down. Immediately I knew I made the correct decision. The warm rich taste of the sea had a smooth unctuous texture and immediately made me think of Asian cuisine. There was smoky, yet pleasing grit in my mouth. As my wife summed up the courage to take a bite, Nigel explained how the Islander spent his afternoons diving for the sea urchin that he cooks waterside.
Maybe it was the influence of the delicious rum cocktails; was it two or four, but my wife and I devoured the tasty treat in a matter of moments. With a full belly and carefree vibe, my wife and I said our goodbyes to our new friends. As we set off for our return voyage, we shared a look back at the shack and agree that we would be back.
Update: I have indeed made a return trip and had the good fortune of experiencing that
fish tacos. The fish was fresh caught red snapper. I paired that with a Blue Light Caribbean Gin & Tonic. Blue Light is a new boutique distillery located in Saint George.
Morne Rouge Road
Morne Rouge, Grenada