Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival Wraps Up With Tim Love’s Grilled Pickles, Fergus Henderson’s Bone Marrow, and a Nearly Perfect Fish Sandwich

Grilled artichokes and about-to-be-grilled langostinos a la Tim Love. (Photography by Sarah Reiss)

For a debutante, last weekend’s Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival (featuring, among others, local boy Tim Love of Lonesome Dove and Love Shack) was both a figurative and literal hottie. From searing grills to humidity that felt like getting a big wet one from Mother Nature, heat was both constant companion and inspiration as foodies from all over the world tripped between the Fairmont, George Washington House, and the tony, tony Sandy Lane for demos and tastings by chefs Tim Love, Tom Colicchio, Ming Tsai, Marcus Samuelsson, Anthony Giglio, and Rob Feenie.

Luckily, I took the good camera with me. Jump here for the awesome photo gallery.

Barbados is famous (and Zagat rated) for its roadside fish shacks and rum shops.

Time was tight, but I’m glad I committed to some quality time inside  Tim Love‘s 100-ft. circle of fun (made even more jolly by the lubricating presence of senor Jose Cuervo) where I was introduced to another hot idea: that nearly everything — from ricotta cheese to pickles to beets — is made better by spending a little time on the plancha. Searing soft cheeses (if you can manage to keep your hands off them and let the bottom sear before you try flipping — from the back; always from the back) renders them nutty and roasty, prime for coatings and toppings (see beets and hash brown pics below).

Down the coast, tail-to-snout genius Fergus Henderson elaborated on his Jedi-master approach to assessing doneness (use the force, Luke) while oven roasting bone marrow and spinning yarns that involved his honeymoon, a sleepy wife, and a plate of trotters. Meanwhile, his assistant shaved beef heart into transparent slices, flavored it with rum and olive oil, flash grilled it, and presented the tender result with freshly grated horseradish in creme fraiche. (Henderson is one of the coolest guys around; if you do not know him already, check out his St. John Restaurant, Hotel, and Bakery next time you’re in London. He’s the only guy I know who can make a pig’s ear sandwich sound appetizing. Hey, no judgment.)

Craft’s Tom Colicchio combined roast pork and … wait for it … steamed clams in an inspiring, albeit dubious, flavor pile-up, while advocating for national childhood nutrition reform and fielding Top Chef Q&A.

At the risk of ruining a good thing, I have to mention the fish sandwich from Cuz’s beach shack that my friends and I picked up on our way to the airport. The first bite of this fried fish/fried egg/cheese/Bajan hot pepper sauce pile-up literally caused my 6 foot, 200+lb. friend Ben to well up with tears of joy. (Hey, what did I say? No judgment.) The tears of sadness came later, with the last bite.

The only thing that was not so hot: the 13-hour, two-leg travel day — an inconvenience that is about to become a distant memory thanks to American Airlines’ introduction of direct flights from DFW to Bridgetown starting Dec. 17.

Did I mention I took the good camera with me? Here’s the payoff:

Tim Love's grilled, pickled cucumbers.
Tim Love proving that you can grill ricotta. It's all in the wrist. Be patient, then flip from the back.
Et voila! Grilled ricotta over grilled beets. Sounds weird; tastes amazing.
Cuz's shack, next to the lifeguard station at Pebbles Beach (left) sells, quite possibly, the best fish sandwich on the island (right).
Leeks ready for the grill (left), Tim's can't-fail camp bread (right).
Pina coladas at Tapas restaurant (left); Tale of Two Cities parade during brunch at The George Washington House.
Tom Colicchio's clams over roast pork.
Fergus Henderson's oven-roasted bone marrow (left); the effervescent king of offal himself explains his Jedi-master approach to assessing doneness. Yes, that is a beef heart he's holding.
Tim Love's plancha-grilled cheese atop crispy hashbrowns.
Event hostess (and Travel + Leisure food editor & features director) Nilou Motamed introduces Tim Love at The George Washington House brunch cook-off.
Tom Colicchio's groupies at his cooking demo at Sandy Lane resort.

Want to join Tim Love’s circle of fun or the cult of Fergus Henderson? You’ve got plenty of opportunities both here and abroad. Look for them in 2011 at food festivals around the globe (check their respective websites for details). Or, if you find yourself  in the UK, head to Henderson’s new St. John Hotel. If Fergus and his wife Margot’s love of partying in Barbados was any indication, the hotel, and anything associated with it, should be a rockin good time.

Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Food Festival was a joint venture between Barbados Tourism and American Express Publishing’s Travel + Leisure, FOOD & WINE, Departures & Executive Travel magazines.