An exciting community blog by Linda J. Mazurek.
With all of the last year's events in Haiti, a trip to East Somerville's only Caribbean/ Haitian Restaurant is long overdue. This month Linda J. Mazurek takes us to Blessing Caribbean, where she uses her French to help us through their delicious menu and find out a little more about the family behind the food.
If you’re eating at Blessing Caribbean, a relatively new spot on East Broadway, it helps to know French (and I do!), as most of the daily specials – ragout, ca la lou, bouillon – are listed only in French. In fact, all menu items are listed first in French, then in English. And the main decoration in the dining room is a sign in French, announcing: “C’est de l’eternel que cela est venu. C’est un prodige à nos yeux.” (Roughly translated, it means “It came to us from God. It’s a wonder to our eyes.”)
Fritz Richard is a native of St. Martin, a French island in the Caribbean, and he learned French – and to cook – there. He met his wife, Lavita, now the main cook at Blessing Caribbean, there, too. They left St. Martin in 1989 and landed in the Boston area, via a stint in restaurant work in Orlando, in 2007. (They live in Everett.)
Blessing Caribbean, at 89 Broadway, is in the spot formerly occupied by Bistro 509, owned by Edwin Joseph, who is in the book. Fritz took it over and opened Blessing Caribbean in November 2009, having operated a similar place in Orlando. “My wife loves restaurants and to cook, it’s something she loves,” explained Fritz, “and we wanted to open something of our own.” Why the name? “In everything you do, put God in there first. When you have a mountain in front of you, ask God to do something about it. This restaurant is a blessing, a God-given gift, so I thought, why don’t I call it that, a ‘blessing,’ because that’s what it is!”
Bistro 509 was a Haitian restaurant, and Fritz kept many of the dishes and added his own favorites, which turned into daily specials. There’s a large buffet table to the right of the entrance, and that’s where all the food, cooked in the kitchen in the back, is served from. The restaurant seats 24 and is busiest on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Bouillon, one of their most popular dishes, is served on Saturdays, beginning at 8:30; it’s a traditional Haitian breakfast dish made from all kinds of vegetables (including carrots, potatoes, and watercress), cow’s feet, tripe, and goat’s head. “The bouillon is a very popular dish, and people like it a lot,” said Fritz. “We start it on Friday night, and half-cook it, so it’ll be ready for Saturday morning.”
Other popular dishes, all tracing their roots to Haiti, are ça la lou, fish gros sel, and légume. “People love la lou. Every day, people come in and ask, ‘Do you have la lou?’” Ça la lou is basically a vegetable dish that looks a lot like spinach (but isn’t) and includes meat. Those who know French know “gros sel” mean “coarse salt,” and the fish dish is roasted on a bed of coarse salt with butter, onion, and spices. Légume mirleton/aubergine appears untranslated; it’s another medley dish, made of beef, lots of seafood (like crab and shrimp), sometimes pork and, of course, vegetables, including eggplant (aubergine). “It all cooks together, and it’s delicious!”