Business

Young restaurateurs take Jamaican cuisine to Vermont

Friday, June 15, 2018

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MONTPELIER, United States (AP) — Kool Runninz is an apt remodelling of an old Jamaican tradition that takes advantage of the full flavour of a tropical island's favourite fare.

Named for the legendary Jamaican bobsled team and hilarious Hollywood movie Cool Runnings, the Rasta restaurant on Barre Street is the latest taste treat addition to the culinary offerings of the Capital City in Vermont.

Open Saturdays only, from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, the restaurant sprang up three weeks ago on the edge of a parking lot at the corner of Barre and Granite streets. Its bamboo-screen walls surround outdoor camping-style tent canopies where cooking and dining take place and allow breezes to flow through the site, adding meaning to the restaurant's name. There's an amusing, rustic charm to the restaurant, redolent of the many makeshift beachfront restaurants on the Caribbean island. Jamaican flags and use of its colours — gold, green and black — add to the atmosphere.

But it's Jamaica's famed jerk chicken with all the trimmings that will be the big draw. Word, mon, it's time to pepper your prose with a little patois when you pay a visit and dig in.

For the dynamic duo who are making it all happen, Tiffany and Richard Knibb, the eatery is still a work in progress, with new additions to the site and changes to the menu each week.

Both are transplants from Jamaica, travelling from the island to be with family in the US. Richard, 33, travelled from Portland to be with his mother in Montpelier 11 years ago. He works as a shipper at HB Hood in Barre. Tiffany, 27, travelled from St Mary to visit her father in Michigan six years ago. She was introduced to Richard through a friend in Harlem, and they married five years ago and live across the street from the restaurant. Tiffany also works a day job as a personal care assistant at Lincoln House in Barre.

Both are passionate about sharing their culture and culinary delights with the community. Menu choices include jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried dough, plantains, okra and other offerings.

“It's just something we're doing, taking our time, starting small,” Richard said. “It's not a big restaurant or something fancy. It's just a little Caribbean spot where you can have some jerk chicken and hang out.

“You feel like you're hanging out on the beach having some Jamaican food. If you're looking to do something a little bit out of town, it's a great spot to visit. Instead of having to go all the way to Caribbean, you can do it right here,” Richard added.

Tiffany said the menu will feature staples of Jamaican food, like roasted and fried fish, including the popular favourite snapper — stuffed with cabbage, carrot and okra, and seasoned with jerk sauce before being wrapped in foil and steam-cooked. Other favourites include oxtail, goat, curries, stews, dumplings, vegetable combos, and tropical fruits.

The couple have added a fire pit to complement the “jerk pan”, a drum cut in half and used to slow-cook chicken flavoured with a combination of spices.

“We have the rice and peas (kidney beans), shredded veggies, cabbage with cucumber and tomatoes with a little vinegar, that goes well with the rice and beans and chicken,” Tiffany said. “We have fried plantains and festival (fried dough).”

Tiffany said they are constantly adding to the menu, décor and amenities.

“It only gets better the week you came,” she said.

The couple are also testing the waters to measure the appeal of the restaurant, with a view to going indoors on a more permanent basis.

“We're starting off this summer to see how it goes and if people love it,” Richard added.

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