Ho-o-o-o-o-ly shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, it’s been a long time since’t I wrote an “Eat of The Week” for you guys! It’s just that I haven’t eaten anything in weeks on end… just kidding. But I haven’t eaten anything good in weeks and weeks… again, I kid. Everything is business as usual, in the Stuffing-My-Face-With-Amazing-Food Department, it’s just that, well, I’ve been fuckin’ busy as fuck with other shit lately. Sorry! I know that’s lame, but it’s so true.
For example, you may or may not have heard that I co-produced the 2nd annual Asheville Coffee Expo not long ago, with my friend and partner Angie Rainey from CoffeeCrate.co. So, yeah, that took a ton of time and energy. Plus, I also took a vacation, and went on a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the U.P.) with Dawn, where I ate a whole buncha of great food including a Clyde’s burger and a pastie. Plus I found and made camp at a little cafe / coffee roaster up there called Superior Coffee Roasting Company, and we discovered a really great breakfast and lunch place called Penny’s Kitchen that would fit-in here in Asheville. It was fucking GOOD!
Oh! And on top of all that, during the Summer I have to spend a ton of time… like a ton of time… in pitched combat with Mother Nature: Chopping, cutting, digging, mowing, pruning, pulling, killing, destroying, annihilating, eradicating everything entirely!!! Because if I don’t, my whole fucking yard, house, and pretty much my life will be over-run by grass, weeds, kudzu, poison ivy, burrs, brambles… stabby things… no joke, it’s like a full-time fucking job for a couple of weeks in July… through September. So, yeah, tough to find time to write.
So I took a little break from writing for Ashvegas, so sue me. Please don’t. Because now I’m back, and I’m rarin’ to start sharin’ the latest, greatest thing I ever ate in my life… this week. Drum roll please… it was…
Yup. Not kidding. I went into Calypso St. Lucian Caribbean Cuisine on Lexington ave, and I totally ate a big ol’ portion of the very ass-end of an ox, and I loved every fucking bite. On the menu it’s called “Oxtail Esther” — Esther being the owner of Calypso — and I first heard about it from my fellow Asheville Food Tours guide, Paddy Riels, who goes into Calypso with a tour once a week, and usually gets styled-out with samples of this Oxtail Esther dish. When Paddy first told me that they serve his tours oxtail, I raised my eyebrows, and gave him that, “are you fucking kidding me with trying to get a group of 16 food tour patrons to eat something that so clearly comes off the ass-end of an ox” look.
Paddy admitted that, yes, oxtail is a tough sell to the tour patrons… every… single… time… but he told me that once they taste it, BOOM, it’s a hit with 99% of them. I was intrigued by that assertion for sure, but when Paddy told me that he loves it too, I was like, “Hmmm… Now that’s interesting, because Paddy knows things.” Paddy is not your average food mook. If he says something is good, it’s probably fucking good, so I guess I was about to eat the ass-end of an ox.
So, as you can see from the wee picture in the text exchange that I had with Paddy above, there was a ton of food on my plate. Rice & beans, sauteed fresh vegetables, plus a heapin’ helpin’ of carrots and potatoes were all part of the Oxtail Esther experience. I was glad that I showed up to Calypso super-hungry, and without delay, I tucked right into the giant bowl of goodness that was set in front of me. I was fully confident that Paddy, Esther, Chef Nigel, aaand several hundred fussy food tour patrons couldn’t be wrong. They weren’t. It was real fucking goooood. Here’s a bigger picture…
Can you say “comfort food?” Oxtail is usually stewed slowly, or braised, and all braised meats have a “comfort factor” that is undeniable in my opinion. I grew up in New England, where the winters are brutal, and the houses are heated with oil, which is ASS expensive, so basically, you slow-cook meats all winter with your gas stove to help heat the kitchen. True story. So, in my mind and heart, braised meat will always be associated with a warm, cozy feeling. Comfort food, man. It comforts us because it conjures good feelings, often nostalgic feelings, often “warming” us both physically and emotionally. This bowl of Oxtail, rice, beans, and vegetables gave me such a big warm hug. One more picture, even closer…
In addition to the braised ox tail being completely amazing, tender, rich, stringy (in a good way!), and umami-y as fuck, all the other stuff on the plate was also cooked to perfection, and I ate every single thing in this bowl except for a few peppers and onions, but that’s just personal preference.
The funny thing about this dish, which I must assume originates from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where Esther herself comes from, but the flavors whisked me straight back home to New England, where I grew up eating pot roast, with potatoes & carrots of course, and many of the same herbs and spices that I found in the “Caribbean Jus,” that the ox tail was covered and sitting in. Esther comes from a way different background, and a very different place than I do, and yet, and I’m going to guess that it hits all the nostalgia nails squarely on the head for her, in the same way it did for me. Yay, cross-cultural bonding through food!
So, obviously, I totally recommend that you go into Calypso, and try the ass-end of an ox yourself. You might be surprised, like I was, like Paddy was, like a few hundred food tour patrons from Whitebread, Indiana were, and end up loving it! Also, the rice and beans were fucking GREAT, and how often do I feel that strongly about rice and beans? ( Answer: This is the first time ever. ) Also it’s really cute inside of Calypso these days. Also they have the coolest outdoor seating in downtown…
Anyhoo… yeah, Oxtail Esther. It was awesome, and I want you to eat it, so I’m writing about it, and calling it my…
Calypso St. Lucian Caribbean Cuisine
“St. Lucian eats such as rotis & West Indian curries, plus island cocktails, with weekly DJs/dancing.”
18 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Tuesday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Wednesday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Thursday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Friday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Saturday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Phone: (828) 575-9494
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org