The Brown Cow is doing its part to develop tourism in Tobago through the plate and palate. Senior writer (and food lover) Lara Pickford-Gordon visited the Milford Road, Crown Point restaurant.
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, a quote from Mahatma Gandhi is above the entrance to the Brown Cow restaurant, Milford Road, Crown Point.
The restaurant was recommended to me and I decided to check it out last November 12.
I step inside to see a space that is not very large but cozy. The thought that the menu would comprise fast food crossed my mind. A man in a white tee-shirt and patterned loose pants and brightly coloured mask offers me a menu and responds to my questions about the quote on the sign, the menu, how the business was surviving during the Covid pandemic.
This was my introduction to Chef Xenon Argon Thomas. He joked that his father was not into chemistry but gave him names of chemicals found on the periodic table.
He said of the sign outside, “I love that there is something I want to change, I want to see in the world or even in my little space here in Tobago so, I saw a need for a restaurant like this. I want to reciprocate to my team, to the guests; to be that change and inspire others to be the best that they possibly can.”
Originally from Trinidad, the former Fatima College student was in the insurance field before leaving more than 20 years ago to get into culinary arts. He worked with top restaurants and hotels gaining experience from “quality international and premier local chefs”.
Thomas said Trinidad was where he developed his roots, but Tobago is where the “fruits came forth”. He was invited to be a sous chef at the Magdalena Grand Hotel and “fell in love with the island”.
He worked in other restaurants in Tobago and also did street food. His experience is varied but he said, “from inception my passion has always been fine dining”.
Thomas said he always gravitated to the best and kept his standards at “military” level while in the kitchen. “I saw a need for something like Brown Cow restaurant and I jumped at it! With support from my family.”
Thomas said he was executive chef at Crown Point Hotel some years ago and at the time there was land across the road where the owner grazed a “baby brown cow”. An adult pit bull terrier was always with the calf, which followed the dog around and even slept on its side as the canine did. “It was very fascinating for everyone…I really admired that, yeah, that’s where the name came from.”
Working through Covid
The business opened its doors November 30, 2019, and was in “a really good position” then Covid happened. Thomas was forced to scale down his menu when indoor dining was stopped. One of the surprises was that the sushi menu took off. Takeaway became popular. Sushi went from being available once weekly to daily. There was also a scaled down takeaway menu of other dishes.
During Covid, Thomas started “taking seriously” planting a home garden. His yield included lettuce, patchoi, cucumbers, potatoes, ochroes, tomatoes, and seasonings such as tarragon, basil.
The halt of indoor dining impacted staffing. “I had to let go of the front staff, which is very tough on us…I’m still communicating with them…the staff as well, we had to reduce hours and some of them had to leave. I’m in a rebuilding process right now. It’s been a really sad time.”
Thomas said he spent most of his day with staff, so they were like family. He tried to be strong for them and offer encouragement but quitting at one time seemed an option.
“At my lowest point, just maybe a couple weeks ago, the flesh came out and I felt I was going to close down the restaurant. I did not say anything about it, I prayed to God and asked Him, ‘Father what to do?’ And He answered me immediately.” Three things happened including unexpected telephone calls from family members, and in the following days he saw a little change.
“I have to give all praise and glory and thanks to God. He is the only one I can rely on right now. At my lowest point, he was there for me,” Thomas said.
The menu offers a variety of choices for lunch and dinner. Sandwiches, pasta, soups, salads, entrees, and sushi. Thomas said, “Our menus are a fusion of local and international concepts, ideas and ingredients… fresh, exciting, homemade, balanced, unique.”
Some examples are the: fish water, oxtail, curry chicken and aloo puff pastry. The menu information is descriptive and enticing.
On the day I collected my order of Teriyaki Chicken sliders and Grilled Plantain Caprese, there were some foreign visitors also collecting their dinner. “I’m going to enjoy myself…this looks so good!” a woman said. She enquired what was on the Monday menu and commented how she loved his “Fish Water”. Chef Thomas enjoys interacting with his customers and the joy they get from the dishes prepared in his kitchen. He says they are creations which show the artistry of himself and his staff.
“We paint this picture on the plate which we give to our guests. And the hope is that they will be inspired as well that we have this talent right here in Tobago.”
Recipes from a Brown Cow
Brown Cow restaurant was invited to contribute a few recipes to our December 26 Christmas Cooking pullout. Here are three recipes that were not published.
Roasted Chicken with Shrimp and Plantain Stuffing
1 whole chicken, washed
Fresh, ground green seasoning, garlic, and ginger
Juice of one lime
6 oz fresh, cleaned chopped shrimp
1 ripe, diced, fried plantain
1 small, sweet pepper diced
¼ cup raisins
1 tbsp capers
¼ cup chopped onions
1 bunch of celery chopped
½ cup chicken stock and extra for basting
¼ cup milk
¼ cup softened butter
1 tbsp fine thyme
1 cup diced coconut bake croutons
Honey Mustard Ham Bread
4 cups flour
2 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar
½ stick of margarine melted
175 ml Malta (room temperature)
Thin slices cooked ham
½ cup chopped raisins
¼ cup honey and mustard (50/50)
Coconut and Apple Ratatouille
1 butternut squash
2–3 medium tomatoes
Roasted red peppers or use bottled roasted red peppers
1 large apple
2–3 ounces desiccated coconut
Salt and black pepper
2.Thinly slice even cuts of the other vegetables and the apple.