From deceivingly potent punch served free at lunch to hand-shredded coconut confections sold street side, the French-Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe is 629 miles of pure eating indulgence.
If they serve sandwiches in heaven, they’re probably bokit — the delicious, deep-fried pita pockets sold by food trucks all over Guadeloupe. Convoys lined up along the oceanfront main street church as many as 70 bokits per day, so locals have streamlined production to a swift, fry-stuff-top routine.
First, six-inch dough rounds are deep-fried in a vat of bubbling vegetable oil. Then they’re cut in half and stuffed with any combination of fish, chicken, conch or lobster. The whole shebang is topped with a scrambled egg and shredded cheese, and dressed with ketchup, mayonnaise and peppery sauce. The end result is a hot and hearty sandwich that’s simultaneously comforting and exciting.
It’s served in brown paper bags, which are inevitably speckled with grease, and best enjoyed on the breezy, waterfront wall nearby the cruise port. Priced at a couple of euros each, bokits are an affordable — albeit indulgent — way to sample the local cuisine while in port.
2. Punch aux Fruits
When a Guadeloupean offers you punch aux fruits, they’re not giving you fruit punch! It’s actually a rum drink made with macerated fruit that’s served as an aperitif throughout the archipelago. Dine at any local restaurant and you’ll see displays of mason jars containing the tropical tipple — filled with pieces of passion fruit, cherry, apricot, pineapple or cashews steeped in alcohol for as long as anyone can remember! Over time, the gold rum blends with these fruity flavors creating a cordial that’s delightfully sweet and dangerously strong. In most eateries punch aux fruits comes complimentary with the meal, so feel free to grab a ladle and help yourself.
3. Gâteau au Coco
When your cruise ship docks in Pointe-à-Pitre chances are you’ll be heading into the city’s Le marche Saint-Antoine to shop for souvenirs. After you’ve loaded up on homemade preserves, spices, coffee and madras tchotchkes in the covered market, make sure you make time for a visit to Mme Gaetane, a pastry vendor stationed on the corner of Rue Frébault and Rue Peynier inside the covered market.
Madame’s claim to fame is her gateau au coco, a coconut cake she’s been making and selling here for more than 30 years. Light and fluffy with an angel cake-like texture, the ambrosial confection features an inch-thick base of moist, sweet, hand-shredded coconut beneath a generous layer of crumbly white cake baked to a firm, golden crust.
Sold by the slab (it yields four generous slices) for just two euros, it too is a bargain. And although coconut cake is a traditional local treat, Mme Gaetane’s is made according to a top-secret recipe, which she fervently claims makes her gateau better than the rest. One bite and we bet you’ll agree.
4. Tourment D’Amour
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it brings you heartache, make dessert. At least that’s the case in Terre-de-Haut, one of the Guadeloupe islands, where luxury cruise lines like Azamara Club Cruises and Seabourn drop anchor. Here they’ve been baking a tempting tart called tourment d’amour (torment of love) for generations.
As the story goes, Caroline (a young girl from Terre-de-Haut, one of the five islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe) and Fréminville (a visiting ship’s captain) fell in love. But in the middle of their courtship, Freminville was given orders to leave immediately for a mission overseas. He left Caroline a letter that detailed when he’d be back, so on the appointed day of his arrival, Caroline baked a special dessert to celebrate his return.
The captain was delayed, and when days passed with no sign of her lover, the distraught Caroline took her own life. When Fréminville finally returned he found Caroline dead and the pastry she’d lovingly baked for him still sitting on the table, now hard and stale. Legend has it that ever since then the women of Terre-de-Haut have made the dessert, which became known as tourment d’amour in honor of the tragic couple, when their husbands go off to sea, praying that they’ll return safely and in time to eat it while it’s still moist and fresh.
So how does heartache taste? Imagine a tart with a rich “crust” of hand-shredded coconut that’s been sweetened with sugar harvested from the island’s cane fields, and then topped with a moist, sponge-like cake baked until golden brown. The decadent combination is irresistible.
The place to enjoy the original (and best) is in on two-square-mile Terre-de-Haut, where you’ll encounter several colorfully dressed women carrying straw baskets laden with the passion-fueled pastries. Coconut is the traditional filling but other varieties such as guava, pineapple and banana are also for sale. A couple of euros will buy you a freshly baked confection but no amount of money will get you the recipe for this indulgent pastry. Numerous restaurants in all the archipelago’s islands offer tourment so even if your cruise ship stopped at the more popular Pointe-à-Pitre you can still get a taste. Who knew sadness could taste so sweet?