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A visit to the ‘Brown Cow’

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.”

 

Culinary experience

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

Ingredients

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

1 egg

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

Method

  1. Season chicken with green seasoning, ginger and garlic, lime, salt, black pepper. Set aside.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and mix well; lightly season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stuff mixture into the chicken cavity; fold wings back under bird to prevent burning.
  4. Place on a roasting pan and bake at 350⁰ C for about 2 hours 30 minutes basting with additional stock every half hour. Internal temperature should read about 170⁰ C.

 

Honey Mustard Ham Bread

Ingredients

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)

Method

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add margarine, Malta and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes until dough is elastic and smooth.
  3. Cover and allow to double in volume.
  4. Pound to deflate; scale dough into four equal portions.
  5. Cover and let rest for another 15–20 minutes.
  6. Roll out dough on flat surface to make a rectangular shape about 9 inches by 6 inches.
  7. Sprinkle raisins on the surface and then place ham over it. Leave ½ inch on the edge and bottom (side closest to you); baste with honey mustard.
  8. Roll up as tightly as possible from top to bottom.
  9. Place side with seam facing down on greased 9-inch bread pans and leave to proof in a warm area for 10–15 minutes.
  10. Bake at 375⁰C in a pre-heated oven for 30–40 minutes.

 

Coconut and Apple Ratatouille

Ingredients

1 zucchini

1 butternut squash

1 eggplant

2–3 medium tomatoes

Roasted red peppers or use bottled roasted red peppers

1 large apple

2–3 ounces desiccated coconut

Minced garlic

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

Method

  1. Puree bell peppers lightly season with salt and pepper and place at the bottom of an oval baking dish.

2.Thinly slice even cuts of the other vegetables and the apple.

  1. Keep all separate and season lightly with garlic, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place vegetables and apples alternatingly around the inside rim of the dish and come inward until filled.
  3. Bake at 375⁰C for about 25–30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle oil and coconut on top and bake for a further 10 minutes at 400⁰C till top is lightly toasted.





 

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