“It’s a great place to hang out to really sample the diversity of Trinidadian cuisine,” says Prime, 47. “So that’s sort of the concept for St. James: We do small plates, shared plates, so that our guests can get a bit of that experience. Trinidadian food is influenced and shaped by a range of different ethnic groups that have made Trinidad their home, and that makes for really interesting and unique food.”
With Prime pulling the strings as owner and chefs Alfredo Romero Contreras and Emma Hernandez overseeing the kitchen, St. James opened earlier this year. Among the offerings at the airy 14th Street location: callaloo, a vegetable dish of West African origins; aloo pie, a fried dumpling with Indian roots; and pork pows, a Trinidadian spin on Chinese steamed buns.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Prime spends her perfect day embarking on a diversified food tour, starting with savory pastries and ending with Thai delicacies — while tasting a cocktail or two in between.
Review: St. James brings on the Caribbean fun and flavor
My dream day would be very food-oriented — not surprisingly. It’s nice when I’m not working at the restaurant to be on the opposite side of the fence and actually get to enjoy being a diner. I often, on my days off, like to hang out with some of my best girlfriends, sampling the great food that the D.C. food has to offer. And I love to support other women-operated or -owned and minority-operated or -owned businesses.
I’d start at Souk, which is a bakery owned by a childhood friend, Winnette McIntosh Ambrose — we went to the same middle and high schools together in Trinidad. I love to go to Souk because she has these really delicious savory turnovers — I think my favorite is the mushroom and goat cheese version. She also has a golden milk latte with turmeric and even a little bit of cayenne. That would be a really great way to start off the day.
I love all of the waterways in D.C., because it’s such a scenic city, so I’d go to the Georgetown Waterfront for a stroll, then take a water taxi to the Wharf. I really love oysters and I like to do a light lunch, so I’d probably go to Hank’s Oyster Bar for Jamie Leeds’s proprietary Salty Wolfe oysters and a burrata salad.
Then I’d head over to Union Market, which is developing and changing and adding so many interesting restaurants and shops. I’d have a rose daiquiri at a lovely cocktail bar there called Serenata. I also really love the sidecars at St. Anselm — they have a really delicious grilled potato salad with smoked trout, so I actually go there quite a bit just to have that and cocktails.
For dinner, the flavor in Thai food reminds me of the Caribbean — the use of coconut and peanuts and all of the chiles — and I’m a huge fan of a pretty new restaurant called Sura. Everything I’ve tried there I’ve really enjoyed — the cocktails, the quail egg wontons, the spicy chili noodles.
I live in Brookland, where one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants is Primrose, and I often have drinks there, since they do an amazing sidecar, too, and a French 75. So I might stop there on my way home. And that’s a dream day for me: a day of eating, and just not being on a schedule, not having to be anywhere and just taking the day at my own pace.