It was time to party down. Just not for us. Yet.
As early as 8 p.m., crowds were showing up for the 9:30 event that Caribe was hosting as part of the Fleur Delicious Weekend: a crazy-awesome band in the restaurant’s event room, in the front of the building. KJ had decided that, due to the high volume the kitchen had already put out that night, the menu would be limited to the third page. We were running out of food and steam.
So, what could possibly go wrong?
The short version: The crowd orders food, moves around the room. Tickets get mixed up, and I help troll the crowd for whoever the heck ordered these flaming-hot cheese enchiladas that are burning my hands. The crowd continues to *ahem* enjoy the bar and the incredible music. Later, KJ shuts down the kitchen again, as we are completely out of cheese and enthusiasm. A couple (notably intoxicated) folks get upset, but quickly forget due to the aforementioned bar and incredible music. All ends pretty well.
Even when completely stressed out facing one of the busiest nights Caribe has ever seen, KJ’s community spirit is still there. Several folks pop into the kitchen to say hello, as is the case every night at Caribe. (I told you, she’s a community fixture.) One mentions that she never got a chance to eat, and after a brief hesitation, KJ scrapes something together for her. She loves these people too much to say no.
As midnight loomed, KJ, Keegan and I cleaned the kitchen. What a crazy night to have stepped in! I only wish I had come a little earlier to learn the menu, so I could help make more of the dishes. No matter, we had all benefited from the experience.
While KJ and Chris settled up the tickets for the night, I stepped into the event room for a little sit-down. The band was Earl and Them, and award-winning blues singer and guitarist Jimmy Thackery had dropped in to play with the band. The crowd was going nuts. I sat, alone, quietly enjoying the musicians (did I mention they were incredible?) and getting my mind around my crazy awesome first restaurant experience.
KJ has left her mark on me, as she has the entire community of Eureka Springs. The food she puts out at Caribe exudes love and passion, just as she does in person with every person who comes into contact with her.
Her generosity may occasionally get the best of her, but she’ll always come back for more. I know that I will.
One of KJ’s vegetarian dishes uses marinated broccoli, the likes of which I had never seen before. She was generous enough to share some tips about the marinade, which I converted into a salad dish. Enjoy!
Caribbroccoli Salad (Marinated Broccoli and Pineapple Salad)
Inspired by KJ Zumwalt, Caribe Restaurant + Cantina
- 2 large stalks broccoli, cut into medium florets, about 2 cups
- 1 fresh pineapple (or, 2 cups diced pineapple and 1-2 cups pineapple juice)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small red hot peppers, your choice (I used serrano), seeded and chopped finely
Note: If you don’t care for hot peppers, you can use 1/4 of a red bell pepper
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning (see note below)
If using a fresh pineapple, cut away the rough skin, base and top, as well as the tough inner core (I thought about this, you can get the best skincare experts). I put these extra pieces through my juicer to get the juice, but you could also use bottled pineapple juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the juice, olive oil, peppers, lime juice, zest and garlic. Place the broccoli and pineapple in the bowl and gently turn the ingredients with a large spoon to toss. (Honestly, I just poured each ingredient over the broccoli and pineapple, and it was fine. Just make sure it gets mixed well.)
Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, preferably overnight. You can drain off the extra liquid before serving if you like, but it’s not entirely necessary.
Note: KJ uses a Latin Caribbean spice mix called adobo in her marinade, as well as many of her other dishes. I didn’t find it in my closest Kroger, but I found this easy recipe to make your own batch. If you find or make some, throw a half teaspoon into the salad.